Karnamrita.das's blog

Nrisimhadeva, Every Day, Everywhere

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Shri Nrisimhadeva's appearance is one of my favorite holy days. His lila is so illuminating and important. Though I wanted to prepare this offering by the actual day, it wasn't meant to be--occurrences and other duties diverted me--and yet, that is also part of the teaching: to see everything in relationship to God and to keep a humble service mood throughout. Whether pulling weeds and planting, or having one's car battery die--everything is instructive. In this case, reminding me to keep my devotional creeper free of "weeds", and that I must recharge my batteries with spiritual practice. May the fire of spiritual life burn brightly in our hearts and souls!

Unusual life events
intersect with special days
strange creatures prepare us
emerging from the ground
shedding their skins to fly
teaching us to transform
if we want to dwell in the sky
realizing our true self
keeping our purpose in mind
always vibrating the primal sound
the great chant for deliverance
17 year cicada’s ballad serenades
Lord Nrisimhadeva’s appearance.

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Eerie sounds like alien starships
reminding us of the extraordinary
half man, half lion incarnation

Teachings of My Mother

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Monday, May 20th is the death anniversary of my mom. I usually post the blog I wrote a few days after she “left her body” (as devotees call death of the physical body, since the soul moves on) three years ago. Although, I’ll give some links for a whole series of blogs I wrote around that time, I would like to express some thoughts for your consideration, and perhaps, for thinking of your own mom, or your relationship to your parents in general. One of the questions I am thinking about is: “How has your relationship with your parents affected your life in terms of your relationships with your spouse and children (if you are married), or to friends, people in general, or yourself?”

There are many events in life which are like initiations into stages of growth, the first being birth and the last death—the number and type of “initiations” in between those two periods are as individual as people are. For me, some of my significant growth opportunities were: moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco at four years old, the shock of going to Junior High School from a tightknit grammar school, when my parents divorced and I had to live with my father, when my High School met Haight-Ashbury (so to speak), or how I let hippiedom appear to torpedo my education but also lay the ground work for my spiritual quest, my second girlfriend, spiritual initiation at 20, my guru Shrila Prabhupada’s leaving his body, marriage, the struggle to find an occupation, and to the point of this blog, the “death” of my parents.

I haven’t spoken about my father’s death, though I should, as he died by his own hand with a 38 Special revolver. He was obviously miserable, felt his life unmanageable, and had no spiritual knowledge to help him. Although I later went to the place where he committed suicide in an attempt to release his soul, in case he had a ghost body, his death was not as fortunate as my moms. I was able to surround her with prayers and a spiritual environment as she passed on.

Give to Live (The Book)

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This was originally the introduction for Give to Live, but we decided to cut it, since the size of the front matter and whole book, had to be reduced. Still, I think it gives a good introduction for the book for those of you who don’t have a copy. Adding further to the mystery of this piece of writing is that somehow it disappeared after being posted last week. So I am reposting it again. Do keep an eye on it for me. Additionally, there is a 15 video at the end giving a glimpse into the journey of creating the book.

As an introduction to my book, Give to Live, I am thinking about the blessing (or curse) of being a writer. Part of being a writer is the desire to share experience, which is equally true of photographers, artists and the like—people who try to share their perceptions, feelings and thoughts with others through some different medium of one or more dimensions. Yet, sometimes thinking of an experience (or extracting the creative angle) as it is happening makes one less present in the moment. I have taken photos and videos at some temple functions, and felt like I missed the whole thing!

My usual means of sharing experience is what you are reading—words. I think I am very balanced in my “observer’s eye” in that I really have to work at turning it on. It doesn’t come that naturally for me like with some writers. A friend sent me a book about a poet/gardener now in his 90’s who has always loved words, and writing about nature and his garden. His mood of observation and being in the moment is very impressive to me, as I was such a dull, unobservant, and uncreative child. In my current “later years” I am much more present than I could have ever dreamed as a child, though still very inferior to this poet! It is always good to take the humble position regarding our Krishna-given abilities. We are always dependent on His mercy and help in any endeavor and yet we will always find people much better than we are in anything we do. Never the less, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to use our talents and desires in the service of the Lord, his devotees, and people in general.

Painful Impetus for Spiritual Practice: Good Grief!

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Restrictions, limitations, impositions
though my heart doesn't like them
the rules of the body and mind
embodied by suffering souls
with difficult pasts and issues
my own and others combined
bring me pain and regret
that they can’t deal with me.

Saintly Association and the Power of Urgent Hearing

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One of the principle ways we make spiritual progress in unalloyed devotion (uttama bhakti) is by saintly association, or sadhu-sanga. We are advised in the Vedic scriptures to not just see a saint, but to hear from them. In a general sense we tend to become like persons we spend time with, and specifically if we associate with saints, we can be affected by their faith, taste, and spiritual standing, according to our receptivity and the condition of our spiritual heart. This means that to actually benefit from the company of a sadhu, or sadhvi, we are required to carefully listen to their realizations with faith, and thus appreciate them beyond external appearances, or without our ordinary worldly judgment of attraction or repulsion based on the desirability or undesirability of the body, or personality. We may, by conditioning, upbringing, or religious bias, think a saint must appear or speak in a certain way, or be a particular age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sect, or any numbers of what are actually material conceptions, rather than the primary quality of purity and spiritual standing.

Another way of saying this is that we may construct, even unconsciously, a particular external criterion, or lens, for recognizing a saint which has the undesirable effect of excluding persons who don’t fit what may be a rigid conception from ecclesiastical edicts, or bad or limited experience. Human beings seemed wired to simplify things through labels, like creating an internal file cabinet with so many folders. Thus we create one folder for saint, and other for non-saint. Then we don’t have to think about those in the non-saint box, since we believe they are a known quantity with so many reasons not to listen to them.

According to Shrila Rupa Goswami in his UpadeshAmrita text 6, a pure devotee may have a “body born in a low family, a body with a bad complexion, a deformed body, or a diseased or infirm body,” or, we may infer, have mental quirks or personality eccentricities. He compares such a pure devotee to the Ganges River, which during the rainy season may contain bubbles, foam and mud, and yet is still considered pure.

The Rama Green of Spring Inspires

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Lord Rama

Krishna is Flower Bearing Spring
an easy time for reflection
encouraged by saintly company
both are heart opening
by accepting the spiritual goal—
not officially, but determinedly—
the world changes toward us
everyone becomes our teacher
no situation is unfavorable
informed by scriptural study
taught by spiritual adepts
keeping us fixed in practice
regardless of our work.

Hands & knees on the moist Earth
biological grounding created
attuned to country living

Shri Chaitanya Continues to Give the Holy Name

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43 years ago, from out of the blue
a radical change took over me
everything else fell away:
girlfriend, college, bad habits;
giving away my possessions
spiritual thirst became my life
ancient wisdom informed me
the forest my classroom study
my heart yearned for truth
my prayers to transcend the world
I thought, “I must become a monk”
Shri Chaitanya answered me
thru Prabhupada’s loving disciples
the holy name knocked at my heart
through tumultuous street (san)kirtana
inspiring me to follow their example
I began my journey with japa.

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Being Challenged to Grow Spiritually—Being Fixed yet Flexible

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After reading, and remembering, very heated discussions—often intense arguing or worse—between those with seemingly great differences of opinion, I was reminded that often the issues are not that important in the larger scheme of devotional, or spiritual, advancement. Such conflicts are often more about both person’s ego of being right, than in trying to understand the real truth—which, after all, one already has. It is sad that for the most part no attempts are made to understand the other person, find a middle ground, respectfully agree to disagree, or sympathetically search to discover if there could be value in the other position. The study of psychology has revealed that we tend to find what we have defined as our aim, or what we’re focused on. If we are not careful, we will only notice what supports our premise, perhaps missing an important opportunity.

I am reminded of a story Shrila Prabhupada tells to outline how stubbornly opinions can be held: “One man declared that a piece of paper had been cut with a knife. A second said no, it was done with scissors. An argument ensued, and the first man, being stronger, took the other to a river. There he told him, ‘Now, if you don't agree that it was a knife I shall throw you into this water!’

“The other man boldly continued to insist, ‘It was scissors!’

“So the ‘scissors advocate’ was tossed into the river and began to drown. Still he would not concede. As he disappeared for the last time, his hand emerged from beneath the surface with two fingers moving together like a pair of scissors, while he kept thinking. ‘No, it was by scissors! It was scissors!’ " And so he died for no good reason except to be right.

Country Living, The Holy Name, Merciful Deities: Snapshots in Bhakti

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Every day my short evening walk to and from the temple is different for many reasons. The subtle changes in the seasons provide an interesting backdrop for my trip, and of course the weather either brightens or clouds over the vast sky and blinking stars—or rains/snows on my foot parade. When I began the evening readings it was pitch black as I left the house, and then gradually the sky has become lighter with the horizon illuminated increasingly, day by day. Such simple pleasures can give great joy, and are an opportunity to remember Krishna, feel gratitude for His rich bounty , and for finding our path to Him. We live only by mercy!

If I come up with a tune for chanting in the shower or in the beginning of my walk, I sing to myself, and listen to the sounds of nature, along with my steps punctuated by the thrust of my staff, which leads the way. In the silence of the country, even small sounds can be fascinating, while loud ones seem booming—like at one house, there are two very excitable dogs that bark aggressively at any person. Even though the barking isn’t esthetically pleasing, I have had to accept it as part of country living, since in a radius of a mile there are often barking dogs which are part of the night.

City jokes abound about slow country bumpkins, and yet in my experience slowing down to notice our surroundings and their lessons is very helpful for developing a progressive, awakened life—many drops of experience, make the ocean of a rich life! I have discovered how living in the country and being apart from the ever increasingly fast pace of modern society, is so spiritually beneficial, and even for the health of the mind and body. While devotees should be everywhere, including the cities, the question is: What will be our consciousness, or how much are we remembering and serving Krishna and His devotees with feeling?

Mindfulness, Coming Attractions, The Life of the Soul

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Sometimes I am aware of the great number of things that can happen in a day, building step by step into a week, month, year, and then years, and it seems time is flying by. In life’s fast forward blur we may wonder where our life has gone. If we can stop our harried pace, rewinding to look back, awake with grateful vision, we can see the rich tapestry of our life, appreciating our many blessings. This will help us live more fully in the eternal, “now,” which as many have said, is all we have. Mindfulness, or being as fully present in the moment as possible, although considered a Buddhist term, is very much an aspect of bhakti yoga; it's part of having a full life when used in relationship to service to Krishna. Seeing, or sensing, Krishna in our life means appreciating how minute details are actually significant, and combine together, as colors, to create a painting of devotion.

For a devotee of Krishna, mindfulness means not just being in the present as an end itself, but to facilitate remembrance of Krishna, with the sense of being His, and our guru's, servant. In this spirit of mindfulness, and service, I share my thoughts about life, and the details of what I go through. My prayer is that by reading the reflections I make about life, you will be inspired you to appreciate the spiritual opportunity you have and how those can be dovetailed as devotional service. Life, after all, isn’t lived well as a spectator, or to be merely entertained through made up tales, at the cost of our valuable time, and future destination. Unfortunately, the modern world is awash in media in movies and TV, providing endless distractions with narratives about other people’s lives. Rather than having meaningful relationships or endeavoring to solve our own problems, we are tempted to watch how badly or fantastically other people live. We live vicariously through others, rather than making our life the best it can be.

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