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).
There are different opinions regarding social issues or philosophy among devotees. Any perspective, side of an issue, or point of the Krishna conscious philosophy can be carried to an extreme in relation to others.
I tend to me on the middle of most issues, much to the chagrin of those who strongly advocate different perspective or causes. I do have strong opinions on certain issues, yet I am usually not on the front lines of confrontation. Ideally, even when I disagree I try to see the other perspective, and understand why the person holds the conviction they do.
I wrote an early blog which was titled "Your life is in your hands: a story", so am I contradicting myself here? Not at all. I am just making the point that in our progressive Krishna consciousness, we have be able to entertain ideas that may appear contradictory, yet are actually complimentary.
The two ideas that our life is in our hands, and in Krishna's hands, go with the idea of yesterdays blog, that in order to be successful in any activity we require both our effort and Krishna's mercy.
I wake the Deities 5 days a week in "the Village" as we sometimes call Prabhupada village . I have been doing this for a year and half. On occasion, like this morning, I don't make it for some reason. Usually (this makes 3 times I have missed my service) I forget to pull the plug for the alarm, and sleep in blissful ignorance that I have missed my service.
I like doing this service, yet it is an austerity. I have to be very conscious of getting to bed by 8:30 PM, so I can get enough sleep to properly function in the morning. I often say that "tomorrow begins tonight", because if you want to get up early, you have to go to bed early (or as devotees say, "take rest". My brother in-law used joke with me, "Take it where?)
A small idea or concept when practiced can truly change our life.
A human being is wired to run on habits. That is good and bad.
We have to reflect on our habitual ways of doing things, even or especially our spiritual practices or sadhana, and see if they are really serving us. Are we keeping the original intention in mind, or have our habits become dry rituals, ends in themselves?
We shouldn't be so busy that we don't make time on occasion to really evaluate our sadhana---chanting, attending Temple programs etc. Newcomers can take note of this as well.
Due to his spiritual empowerment and his purity Shrila Prabhupada was able to explain the deeply esoteric philosophy of Krishna consciousness in a way that could be grasped by people with no external background in Vedanta (philosophical conclusions of the Vedic scriptures) or Bhakti. Certainly in essence our philosophy is very simple, as stated in many verses in the Gita, such as 9.34 where Krishna tells us how to be Krishna conscious:
"Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me."