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Practicing Krishna Consciousness

How can I be consistently Krishna conscious, without deviation?

Hare Krishna! Thanks for your wonderful question.

First, you should understand that "being Krishna conscious" is a way of life, a way of thinking, not just a series of right and wrong acts. In order to be Krishna Conscious, you have to know something about Krishna; because one thing you must do is think of Krishna and develop love for Him. This is a positive state of mind which requires chanting, reading, talking with persons who know Him and are striving for the same goals!

Association is such an important part of developing love for Krishna and faith in the process that I can't stress it enough. And association goes two ways; good association can help you, and bad association can discourage you and drain your enthusiasm! People who respect what you're trying to do and who are willing to support you are very, very important. Find such people and keep them in your life. Those who try to challenge you and pull you down should be avoided.

Imagine trying to give up overeating while hanging out with people who are always cooking great food and offering you some; it's very unlikely you'll succeed. People who think they're getting their enjoyment from material life will try to get you to think the same way. It's better to avoid their company. This includes TV, radio, and other mundane media that try to attract your mind to sense gratification.

If you gradually take up the process, building your strength little by little, that will also help. For example, begin by chanting one or two rounds each day, early in the morning. Do that for two months or so, and then increase to four, and keep increasing, gradually. Try to keep your schedule of eating, sleeping and chanting regular. Don't eat at night; go to sleep early and rise early. This type of schedule will give you an opportunity to do your Krishna Conscious things before others are doing non-Krishna Conscious things. It will keep you on a different schedule.

There are many other things I can say, but association is most important of them all. So try to come to a temple, meet devotee people in person and on Krishna.com, and read as much as possible; these things will really help. Regulate your life and develop your Krishna Conscious "muscles." It takes time and patience!

If I can be of further assistance please let me know.
Sincerely,
Laxmimoni dasi

I just started chanting 16 rounds, but for my new job I have to leave home at 8:30, work 9:30-6:30, and come back home at 8:00. How can I get up early enough to finish my rounds?

Hare Krishna! Thanks for your question! It is a common dilemma, especially these days, when everyone is working hard just to maintain a simple lifestyle.

You ask about getting up early. Getting up early depends on going to sleep early, so actually your early morning japa starts the night before!

The habits you maintain during the day will greatly influence your ability to get to sleep at night, for example: what you eat and when you eat it. It's very important that you don't eat heavy meals just before bed. Since you get home from work at 8, you're probably ready for dinner, so you'll have to arrange that dinner isn't too heavy a meal; not fried, no yogurt, not too much dahl and rice either. Vegetables and light roti/bread will be best, and eat only enough to satisfy your hunger. If you eat heavily, it will prevent you from rising early and also make you dull-headed when you first get up. Drink a lot of water during the day and, in general, eat fresh fruits and vegetables as much as possible.

You will also sleep best if you "wind down" by hearing something transcendental. Read a few pages or hear a tape, until you feel drowsy, and then go to bed. If you can get to bed even by 10:00 you will be able to rise by 6 and still get 8 hours rest. If you get to bed by 9, then you can rise at 5. Actually, you probably don't require 8 hours of sleep, but gradually work toward sleeping less if you're already used to more. If you can get down to even 7, that will give you more japa time before you go to work.

Also, when you rise in the morning, rise quickly. Don't allow your mind to lull you into lying around in bed. Get up and offer a prayer to your spiritual master or Lord Krishna, go directly to a cool shower (brush your teeth, etc.), then begin your japa...don't check e-mail or talk to anyone, etc., etc.; just chant.

Sometimes I find it helpful to chant in batches of 4 rounds at a time and then take a bit of a break, walk around, or stand if you were sitting, then chant another 4. Try not to stop before you have completed 12 rounds, or even 16...that will be best.

I hope these tips are helpful.

If I can be of further assistance please let me know.
Sincerely,
Laxmimoni dasi
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Krishna facial markings

Question: 
What do Krishna's and His devotees' facial markings mean?

Tilak, in general, is a mark of auspiciousness. Lord Krishna, the original Person, wears "Vishnu tilak," which signifies His divinity. In the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, the Deities of Krishna wear tilak that reflects the philosophical position of the worshipper.

The different Vaishnava sampradayas ("schools of thought") each have their own distinctive style of tilak which depicts the siddhanta ("philosophical conclusion") of their particular lineage. Some examples are:

In the Vallabha, Rudra-sampradayas, the tilak worn is generally a single vertical red line. This line represents Yamuna devi. The form of Krishna worshiped in the Vallabha line is Sri Nathji or Govardhana. The consort of the Govardhana hill is the river Yamuna. Their process of surrender goes through Yamuna devi.

The Madhva sampradayas mark two vertical lines representing Krishna's 'lotus feet'. In between is a vertical black line is made from the daily coal of the yajna-kunda (fire sacrifice). In their sampradayas, the process of worship involves 'nitya-homa', or daily fire sacrifices to Narayana or Krishna. The coal remaining from the puja (worship) is used each day to mark the forehead. Underneath the black line, a yellow or red dot is added to indicate either Lakshmi or Radharani. Those who did not perform daily fire sacrifice wear the simple two line tilak only.

In the Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradayas the tilak is usually made out of mud from Vrindavan. The main tilak is basically identical to the Madhva tilak. The slight difference arose due to the emphasis on the chanting (japa and kirtan) in the Gaudiya tradition. In Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's line, chanting is given as the essential devotional (bhakti) activity to be performed in Kali-yuga in preference to fire sacrifices. As such, the black line made from fire sacrifice ash isn't included.

The second difference arose due to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's process of approaching Krishna. In the Gaudiya line devotees do not approach Radha and Krishna directly, but always indirectly through their servant. To indicate this, the red dot representing Radha is replaced with a Tulsi leaf offered at the base of Krishna's feet. In Gaudiya belief, only through the mercy of Tulsi Devi (or another pure devotee) can pure devotion to Radha & Krishna, or Krishna & Balarama be awakened.

Why don't Krishna devotees eat eggs?

Devotees of Krishna refrain from eating eggs because they are unfertilized embryos. They are largely artificially produced, with great neglect and torture to chickens. Chickens naturally create eggs, which in turn are meant to naturally become chickens, but that process is aborted in order to facilitate the sale and eating of eggs. Since persons who are sattvic ("mode of goodness") approve of neither abortion nor the eating of aborted and/or unfertilized offspring, we don't eat eggs.

Ultimately, the reason Krishna's devotees eat or don't eat something is because Krishna gives a list of what we should offer Him. Eggs are not on the list. Therefore, we refrain from eating them because we offer everything we eat to Him first, and take only the prasadam (spiritualized food – "the Lord's mercy") left after the offering.

Hope this is helpful.
Sincerely,
Laxmimoni dasi

Is it wrong to be pleased with myself for the spiritual progress I feel I'm making?

Hare Krishna! Thanks for your question.

Certainly it's not bad to be pleased with yourself for achieving some spiritual insight or success. Generally a sadhaka, or aspiring devotee, holds his progress up to the test of guru, shastra and sadhu to determine the validity of his assessment. This means checking with scripture (shastra) to see if indeed the signs you observe are confirmed as valid indicators of spiritual advancement. Also consult your spiritual master (guru). The guru is empowered to assess the advancement of the disciple and can guide him/her to employ proper methods in moving forward. And finally, association and consultation with other devotees (sadhu) can help us to examine ourselves honestly and assess how we are progressing.

It's difficult on our own to sort out our own ego and the will of Supersoul. Often the mind gets in the way and we confuse its desires with the real desires of the soul. Consulting with the three above mentioned experts can help us remain fixed on the right path.

Also, although it's not wrong to be happy with genuine spiritual advancement, the true devotee is looking for the happiness of the Lord rather than acting for his own happiness. So be happy but at the same time continue to strive to please guru and Krishna! Their happiness will give us true satisfaction.

I hope this is helpful.
Your servant,
Laxmimoni dasi

I'm a busy student, but not very disciplined, and I suffer from depression. My wife prays to Krishna, but I'm not able to go to the temple much, and spending time with non-devotees, with their negativity and selfishness, makes me more depressed.

Yes, the material world is a difficult place. We are fortunate to have the association of devotees. They're very rare souls. You should go to the temple and take the association of devotees as much as possible. Try to develop some friendships with other devotees who are married so you and your wife can have some Krishna conscious social life together, so at least on weekends you can go to each other's house for kirtan, prasad and reading Srila Prabhupada's books.

You'll definitely have to budget your time. Start the day with a strong morning program. This begins with going to sleep early. Rise early (4 or 5 AM) and chant your rounds, read a bit, maybe listen to a lecture and then study, After breakfast go do what you have to do and return in the evening for more of the same that you did in the morning. Try to show your affection to your wife with gifts and flowers (rather than sex) and she should make your home peaceful by providing a nice, clean atmosphere with nice prasad and good association. If she is also praying to Lord Krishna, that will help greatly.

If you have clinical depression then you should see a professional.

I hope this is helpful.
Sincerely
Laxmimoni dasi

What should I chant when offering obeisances to home Deities and temple Deities?

Generally, when paying obeisances to the Deities anywhere we offer obeisances to the Guru because by guru's grace we have some association with the Deity, then you can offer whatever prayers to the Lord you prefer from the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Brahma Samhita etc.

If you are not initiated then offer pranams to Srila Prabhupada:

namah om vishnu padaya krishna presthaya bhu-tale
shrimate bhaktivedanta swamin iti namine
namaste sarasvate deve gaura vani pracharine
nirveshesha shunyavadi paschatya desha tarine

Hope this is helpful
Sincerely
Laxmimoni dasi

It appears that the food I offer to Krishna is always untouched. There's the same amount left after the offering as before. What's the logic behind offering food to Krishna?

The food is not untouched! It is blessed. Krishna receives the offering, and because He can perform any action with any of His senses He is able to eat with His eyes, He kindly leaves us the food, sometimes! There are histories where the Lord has eaten everything.

Perhaps someday your sincere desire to feed Him will also inspire Him to take the food you offer, but generally He honors our offering and our desire to please Him...and in return He leaves us transformed foodstuffs. Transformed from that which is to be enjoyed by Him to that which is to be enjoyed by us after He has enjoyed it: Maha Prasadam ("the great mercy of the Lord"). Honoring Maha Prasadam is essential to making spiritual advancement.

Hope this is helpful
Your servant,
Laxmimoni dasi

How do I know what day to follow Ekadasi?

Our Calendar gives the dates for all the Ekadasis of the year—as well as for other holy days, festivals, appearance days of Krishna's principal avatars and most prominent acharyas (teachers). We follow the Mayapur, West Bengal, India lunar calendar.

Depending where you are on the planet—in relation to the moon—lunar phases start and end at different times. When it's daytime in Mayapur, it may be night where you are, for example. Depending when the sun sets, Ekadasi may fall on different calendar dates in different parts of the world. This can get complicated. To keep things clear, here's what we recommend:

If you'd like to keep track of upcoming holy days in your area, you may visit vaisnavacalendar.info, and sign up to receive email reminders. If you live near an ISKCON temple, you can check with them about when Ekadasis and other holy days are coming up. If still in doubt, you can always refer to our Mayapur Calendar, and follow that.

What are the benefits of practicing Krishna consciousness?

Practicing Krishna consciousness—chanting Hare Krishna, and reading the Bhagavad-gita, for example—frees us from fear of death, because we learn that the self never dies. We become more aware of our relationship with the Supreme Person, Krishna, and feel His loving, caring presence in our life.

The temporary pains of this world don't cause us as much suffering, because we know we're eternal, and that everything is under God's control. We also become more peaceful, because practicing Krishna consciousness frees us from so many cravings for temporary pleasures, which ultimately cause us pain.

Ultimately, the result of practicing Krishna consciousness is that we completely uncover our own pure sense of who we are, as eternally blissful servants of Krishna. In such an ecstatic state, we awaken to our real, permanent existence in the spiritual world, which is our real home.