This could be a trick question if you look at it from a certain perspective. However, this is not a math question. In math zero is important in relation to numbers having value as a placeholder, and in other ways. There would be no computers as we know them without zero etc. Anyway I never liked math, which says something about me I suppose. One thing it says is I am not good at finances, but that is of no importance for this discussion.
My question is in regard to the goal of religious or philosophical paths. Some interpretations of the Vedas arrive at a conclusion of no eternal individual soul, but one supreme formless energy that temporarily manifests as individuals. Another popular conception posits that there is reincarnation, and suffering, yet ultimately all there is, is matter, and liberation or nirvana really amounts to.....well nothing---to be straight.
I changed the title of the blog from "Relationships are the key to success, spiritually or materially", because I didn't say what I originally intended. That happens often when I write. Certainly who we "associate" with is a person we have a relationship with. Yet in this blog I have focused on the general principle of the importance of the company we keep. In another blog I will focus more on HOW we relate to each other.
It is said that, "A person is known by the company they keep". That is true in any sphere, and certainly our spiritual life can sink or swim by the company we keep---or we could say with what we imbibe from our company. Associating with others really means taking up their habits and adopting their mentality. The heart is like a crystal that reflects whatever color it comes into contact with.
I was requested to write about holy month of Kartik even though we are fast approach its' end ( on the 23rd of November--Vedic months begin on the full moon). According to Shri Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita [10.35] next month represents Krishna (masanam marga-shirsha: Of months I am margashirsha [Nov-Dec.]). The present month of Kartika represents Shri Radha, who is Krishna's sakti or his expansion as his greatest devotee. Her month precedes his.
First Radha, then Krishna. Therefore we say "Radha-Krishna", "Radha-Shyam" or "Sita-Rama". Krishna's sakti always comes first, and is always glorified as the dearest to Krishna.
I am an advocate for studying Prabhupada's books and other works by our Gaudiya acharyas (exemplary teachers) as part of our program for understanding our tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. As important as scriptural knowledge is, just to be able to quote verses doesn't mean you really, practically understand them. Wisdom (vijnana) or realized knowledge is more important than just book knowledge (jnana). [see Shrila Prabhupada's purport to his Bhagavad-gita as it is, 6.8]
Wisdom comes from the experience of putting into practice the knowledge (theory) upon which Krishna Consciousness is based. Practicing what the scriptures teach means engaging in devotional service, like hearing and chanting about Krishna and activities whose goal is to please him.
Tuesday the 13th of November is Shrila Prabhupada's disappearance day from this mortal world and his return to the Nitya-lila (Krishna's eternal pastimes). It is the 30th anniversary. Wow---that is over half my life!! How things have changed for me, in the lives of so many devotees present then, and in the Movement.
I was a young man of 27 years, and now I am 57. I became a devotee at 19 1/2, so really I had about 6 1/2 years of him being physically present. During those years most of us never considered that he could leave us at any time, though he did remind us of the possibility. Somehow we just expected him to always be present with us. If only I would have known!
I was hoping to post something this morning, which here in America is Govardhana Puja day. It obviously didn't happen. Even though there are some articles on the front page about this day, I was inspired to share a few personal things with you about my day in preparation for this joyful and uplifting festival.
I had to sleep in a bit because I haven't taken my quota for the last few days, and it was wearing on me. As much as sleep is ignorance we still need it to stay healthy and in good spirits. I do push the envelop at times, but I always pay for it.
Last night practically all the residents of Prabhupada village came together to celebrate the life and passing of our friend and former community member, Nirguna Krishna Prabhu. We joined together at the straw bale house that he built for an evening of singing, shared remembrances, and incredible prasad (spiritual food).
What a contrast to some religious or cultural traditions where everyone is in black, the women veiled, speaking in hushed tones, somber, in the mood of mourning, where to laugh is like sacrilegious.
Our friend and Godbrother passed away (left his body) on Saturday in Sridhama Mayapur, India. He was a member of the community where I live for many years, building a house here, preaching, and helping out in so many ways. We are having a "celebration" in his honor tonight at 6:30 PM.
We could call it many things: a memorial service or something like that, yet it is really a celebration, especially since the way he left the world was so auspicious. He left during the holy month of Kartik, on an auspicious day, in the holy place of Lord Chaitanya's appearance (Mayapur) and surrounded by loving devotees chanting the holy name.
The subject for today's blog came out from a letter to the Editor of Back to Godhead in the current issue (Nov/Dec). The letter was by a Godbrother and friend of mine, which made a distinction given by Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, between "duties of the world" that are connected with Bhakti, and "direct" Bhakti which is generally thought of as the 9 processes of devotional service. (Actually from one perspective, "direct devotional service" is only in the Lila of Krishna and Mahaprabhu, but that is a side point.)
(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
In the Gita's 7th chapter Shri Krishna tells us that four kinds of pious people approach him to render service: the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of he Absolute. And once we have come to Krishna, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur describes four levels or motivations for service: fear, prospect, duty, and love. One point in these two types of analysis is that there are many ways people come to Krishna, and different stages to aspire for once we do---the highest being serving out of love.
Another way to look at how we are motivated to serve Krishna is by dividing them in two broad categories, of positive and negative.
Negative impetus for serving Krishna is by our experience of the miseries of the material world. Preaching based on this emphasizes how bad the material world is, entangling its' relationships, simply awful and gross the body is plagued by, bad smells, imperfections, disease, old age, death, and even birth (which is touted as being such a happy thing).