Karnamrita.das's blog

Spiritual Work: Uncovering our Darkness, To Reveal our Light

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Every day as I sit to chant japa
my heart naturally empties,
showing me my anarthas
if I’m honest, without pretense—
my default conditioned desires revealed
past karma manifested in lust, enviousness
attracting me to fleshy illusions and plans,
castles in the air of past and present—
What about you dear friend,
have stared into your heart
at your cherished illusory desires?

The Middle of “Nowhere” is “Somewhere” to Someone, and Two Other Short Essays

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I love sitting in our sunroom, really anytime. Rain or shine both have their special charms, though the variegatedness (a good devotee word) of storm clouds, rain, and exhilarating wind are far more interesting to write about. Actually this year is a very wet year, which makes the sky even more different and varied than usual at any time one goes outside--that is, if one takes the time to look up! In our society if you stare up at the clouds for more than a casual glance in a major city, people think you are on drugs! Sad testimony to society’s busy-ness or preoccupation with doing “productive” things—i.e., that are good for the economy, as if that were a key to an individual’s happiness. Where I live things are different—in what some would call the middle of nowhere. Maybe nowhere near some congested city, but very much somewhere. Just ask the trees, flowers, creepers, insects, deer, groundhogs, frogs and humans. This is the middle of their little piece of somewhere called home—and home is where the heart is.

The Way Out is Through

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This is a follow up to my last blog which spoke about how over-attachment to our family can distract us from spiritual practice. For the purposes of this blog, “over-attachment” is the key word, although in modern culture this term is practically unheard of—while at the same time “under—attachment,” or neglect of the family is also not recommended. I am speaking about a balanced approach to family life informed by keeping our spiritual goal always in mind, applying the maxim, “always remember Krishna, never forget Him.” In the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna teaches us how undue family attachment can cause our reluctance to serve Krishna—in this case to engage in his duty of fighting— because of his identifying his family as himself (my and ours) rather than seeing his family in relationship to his primary relationship with Krishna, or God.

Vedic culture is big on detachment and renunciation, but this has to understood properly and maturely through the eyes of devotion. In the early days of the Krishna movement, it was primarily composed of young single devotees with few married ones, and was strongly influenced by a culture that frowned on married life and all that went with it. Thus families and children suffered due to our immaturity and lack of mature elder guidance. Many individuals went into marriage feeling fallen into the “deep, dark well” of family life, being afraid to be kind and affectionate—so they wouldn’t get too attached—and were practically dooming themselves for failure. A more positive view of marriage and family has gradually evolved, though much work remains to be done to prepare the current generation of "grihasthas", or spiritually minded married couples.

Which People are “Ours,” or Our “Own Men” [or Family]?

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I was listening to a lecture by my guru, Shrila Prabhupada, on the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita and I wanted to share some of his points, my reflections on them, and other related ideas. Sometimes this chapter is skipped over, or we recommend newcomers begin reading the second chapter, since that seems to be where the real spiritual philosophy of the soul begins. Besides (we may think), the first chapter has so many difficult to pronounce names of people we don’t know anything about, speaks of foreign social customs, and begs the question of how a spiritual book takes place on a battlefield. However understandable such a perspective might be, it misses the important concepts and teachings of this chapter, which are fundamental to understanding the whole book. Although some prep time is required to help a person navigate this chapter, it is well worth the time.

The book is based on solving Arjuna’s (and all thoughtful people’s) dilemma regarding life, death, family, suffering, and duty. We are given the whole problem of material existence in the first verse, and later verses spoken by Arjuna. These verses speak about “my” and “our” in terms of those one favors or wants to protect, based on family, bodily relations.

A Second Chance at Love

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My dear friend! It has been so long since I have been able to sit down to write you. One of my many prayers is to do better from now on. Though it takes discipline to do so, it is one of my labors of love and service. When I write about my life, I want to connect it with Krishna, and bhakti, and though this medium is an informal talk between friends, (or potential ones) I want it to also have substance. I realize there are many things that you can read, and that today’s reader can be overwhelmed by so many demands in life, and with online reading material. As I was out shopping a few days ago, I happened to hear an old Rock song, “A Second Chance at Love” or something like that. As is so often the case in such songs, if one listens with a Vedic ear (from years of study of the Gita and other such spiritual literature), the whole struggle for existence in the material world is outlined. Although music is ultimately meant to elevate our consciousness through being combined with words about God, spiritual philosophy, and especially His holy names, when we do hear ordinary songs or experience mundane media, we can endeavor to see it in relationship to the interest of our soul.

Saved From Comic Crud

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Remembering my material sojourn:
Caught up in the waves of a Cosmic storm
ever-increasing change and uncertainty
swirling, frightening energy @ mind speed
lightening wind, amidst thunderous explosions
bewildered, I go all directions at once, but nowhere,
I’m desperate for stability, fulfillment, truth, peace
a lasting resting place with loving feelings
understanding who I really am through and through,
asking what’s my relationship to life & the Universe
searching to find meaning in chaos and misery—

When it Rains, it Pours, and then Janmastami

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Have you lived the adage,
“When it rains, is pours”?
or, “Either feast, or famine?”,
well, this describes my current life,
from having extra time to
being busy with many activities

which could be a “busy-ness” burden
or simultaneous multiple accomplishments
of important tasks and goals—
we still must remember Krishna
in all circumstances and endeavors
identifying ourselves as servant
but never the enjoyer or controller
though we plan and work to accomplish.

Narada’s Previous Life Demonstrates His Dependence on Krishna

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(The final installment of the 3 part series.) One of my favorite accounts in Shrimad Bhagavatam is Narada’s sharing of his previous life with Vyasadeva in the first Canto. This volume was all of the SB that was published when I became a devotee, and I have read it more than any other passage. Still, even with whole 12 Cantos of SB in print, I still find this story very inspiring. I like biographies anyway, and “coming to Krishna” stories are especially interesting and relevant to sadhakas (practicing devotees of Krishna). Although Narada is an eternally perfected devotee, he still has this aspect of his life as a way to teach us about the essential importance of Vaishnava blessings and association to jump start our spiritual lives. Narada embarks on the pilgrim’s journey to attain spiritual perfection, and he seems like one of us as he faces a personal tragedy which catapults him toward Krishna. We read how he depended on Krishna in all circumstances and was not independent in his endeavor to successfully meditate, but had to abide by Krishna’s timing for perfection.

Deck-mates—Tiny Construction Instruments try to Remember Krishna

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I have had a busy week, and haven't been able to complete the last part of the "True Independence..." series. However, during my busy week, I gradually put together the following poem, documenting some of my thoughts during construction of a deck. After the short poem I share some thoughts about my writing, even though I have do so often. I am still in awe of the writing process, and I come up with a few new intentions behind my blogs.

Accomplishing even the smallest task
requires assistant facilities and prerequisites
both seen and unseen, past karma, current desires
like so many subtle pillars giving support—
the Gita teaches there are five factors of action
each component essential for accomplishment
and only one is the actual endeavor!—
this requires philosophical and spiritual thought
since today, endeavor and luck are thought supreme—
keeping this in mind my son and I build a deck
praying to remember Krishna and offer the work to Him.

True Independence Comes from Dependence on Krishna Part 2--False and Real Independence Taught by Ajamila

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After setting the mood with six verses and excerpts from Shrila Prabhupada’s purports in part one, in the next two blogs, I will do my best to unpack some of those ideas through appropriate stories from the Shrimad Bhagavatam. The foundational understanding to gain the most from this, or any Krishna centered talk or writing, is that our lasting identity is spiritual—we are eternal awareness, or a particle of consciousness imbued with the serving tendency. Presently, by identifying ourselves with the material body and mind and their attachments, we are forced to serve the needs of physical survival, and are also led to fulfill our desires for enjoyment and accomplishment. By conditioning, we think fulfilling our personal desires is freedom, yet our proclivity to be attracted to specific material tastes is relative to the type of body and mind we have—not to our spiritual selves, or who we truly are. We are the perceiver or animator of the body, but have a different nature than we are currently identifying with.

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