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Swimming in the Gray Ocean while seeing Black Krishna and Golden Radha

Spiritual and material balance
The bottom line in applying various details (prayers chanted, ceremonies attended, stresses given at different times and stages) are the results of our practical spiritual life. Though we want to be motivated to please Krishna and his representatives there should be some result. Are we more enthusiastic and joyful to chant, read and engage in devotional service, or do we feel something lacking? We want to live our life in such a way that we feel absorbed in thought about and service to Krishna and his dear devotees.

I guess this is my comment on Navasi's blog. In my application of the word "grey" to Krishna consciousness I apply it somewhat differently then she did, in relationship to understanding the philosophy. The deeper we go into it the more grey there is--not less. For instance, great acharyas (teachers) may differ in their views on aspects of Krishna lila, though they still agree on the ultimate "siddhanta" or conclusion of the scriptures. Devotees who reject one view and only accept another are missing the point. Thus we have to sort many things out and be ok with what appear on the surface to be contradictory recommendations or perspectives and harmonize the differences. Prabhupada wanted us to be independently thoughtful, broadminded devotees, so it is important to see Prabhupada in context of the tradition he represents. He mentioned that his credibility was that he was following the footsteps of the previous acharyas or advanced gurus.

Great teachers like our Prabhupada are expert in presenting things in a way that people can get a hold on--which means very black and white. Krishna consciousness is very deep and esoteric, and it takes an empowered person to communicate it in a way that can be grasped. Yet the deeper aspects of the philosophy are often not very black and white at all. After all, we are dealing with Infinity here, and Krishna and his world are "achintya" or inconceivable and don't fit well between our ears (our intelligence is limited). Certain things of course are black and white (though it takes devotees to understand them), like Krishna is God, by chanting we associate with him and develop prema, and they are a constant we can take shelter of.

Sometimes devotees lament that in Prabhupadas' physical presence everything was very black and white, but that is no longer true. In other words it was simpler and clearer---just do what Prabhupada told us. They felt that those were somehow the "good old days" while now they miss them. I have shared before that to me those were not the good old days---old days for sure, yet in my immaturity I wasn't able to take advantage of Prabhupada's presence.

In my understanding one of the ways the guru examines their disciple is when they physically leave. Then the disciple has to demonstrate what they have understood. In Prabhupada's presence we were in effect "ridding on his coattails", and he had us on the edge of our seats. We were waiting on his every word. If he said turn left or right, sit or stand we were willing to do it because he charmed us by his K.C. and love for us. In effect we turned off our thinking to be so busy doing "emergency" devotional service. He was with us only 12 years and had to very quickly write his books and establish the Movement. Then--in what we can now say was the blink of an eye--he disappeared from our midst. We had to start thinking about what K.C. really is, why he had us do what we did, what is truly essential, indispensable or could be adjusted according to time and place. Preaching means making such adjustments.

I have already spoken about principles and details, and I have to say it is essential to understand the difference. Not understanding this leads to fanaticism about externals. The details or externals are the ways we serve the principles of K.C. If we really know the principles or the spirit behind the philosophy we won't get hung up in the variety of details that there can be among different groups. Even if we are new to K.C we need to at least in theory understand this distinction, and ask those we respect what the differences are.

For some the Temple programs and devotee's visible attendance are everything, and anyone who doesn't participate is not appreciated. Having such an attitude can create a very harsh, critical, uninviting atmosphere at the Temple. My understanding is that we should create a welcoming atmosphere to make everyone want to come to the Temple---focus on seeing the best in other devotees. Guilt or criticism is not a very high level motivator. The external formalities are important and have there place, but they are not everything. Prabhupada set up guidelines based on young devotees living in the Temple communities. Everyone has to do what is favorable to our K.C based on our unique circumstances and the recommendations of mature, experienced devotees.

The bottom line in applying various details (prayers chanted, ceremonies attended, stresses given at different times and stages) are the results of our practical spiritual life. Though we want to be motivated to please Krishna and his representatives there should be some result. Are we more enthusiastic and joyful to chant, read and engage in devotional service, or do we feel something lacking? We want to live our life in such a way that we feel absorbed in thought about and service to Krishna and his dear devotees. If we can't go to a Temple, we can hold kirtana and worship in our home. In many ways K.C. is very common sense, and practical, though we can make it very complicated and hard. It is meant to be everlasting and joyfully preformed!

Here is one verse from the 8th verse of Nectar of Instruction giving our ideal:

"The essence of all advice is that one should utilize one's full time -- twenty-four hours a day -- in nicely chanting and remembering the Lord's divine name, transcendental form, qualities and eternal pastimes, thereby gradually engaging one's tongue and mind. In this way one should reside in Vraja [Goloka Vrndavana dhama] and serve Krsna under the guidance of devotees. One should follow in the footsteps of the Lord's beloved devotees, who are deeply attached to His devotional service."

Depending on our stage of life and level of interest in K.C we will apply this advice differently. Our necessity and taste direct us. These types of verses should be the lens through which we view that various practices of K.C like attendance of arotiks, worship of Deities, hearing Shrimad Bhagavatam etc.

Radha Gopinatha das

Combined comments from old site

Thu, 12/04/2008 - 09:21 — tekisui
On black and white and circumstances of speaking

I think that when reflecting on the nature of the teachings, how they are presented and how they are understood, it is necessary to take into consideration the circumstances in which a particular teaching or topic is being presented.

Take for example the following formats for presenting a teaching or topic:
- a 2500 word essay,
- a brief daily thought that is emailed to subscribers,
- a book for the wide audience,
- a book for an audience that already has knowledge of the basics,
- an introductory thesis in an interreligious panel discussion,
- a blog post,
- a reply to a forum post at a specialized forum,
- a private reply to a person seeking guidance,
- a topic in an encyclopedia,

These formats will to a greater or lesser extent shape how a teaching or a topic is presented.

For example, if one has the space of about 250 words and there is no room for discussion and feedback (say, like in a newspaper column or daily email thought), then one has to write in a black-and-white manner, otherwise the text is bound not to deliver what it was meant to.
If, on the other hand, those 250 words are the OP of a forum post at a dicussion forum and the post is meant to stimulate discussion, then this requires a different presentation of the same topic.
And so on.

I find that things tend to get bad in communication when participants use different formats and are ignorant of these differences. For example, when in communication, one person is using the format of discussion between equals, and the other person is speaking as if they would be writing a newspaper column ...

Hare Krishna!


Thu, 12/04/2008 - 14:47 — Karnamrita.das
Many roadblocks to communication

Indeed that are so many ways not to communicate. Probably the biggest obstacle is not to respect the other person, and instead of listening fully, formulating your answer while they are speaking.

Your friend in Krishna,



Thu, 12/04/2008 - 21:49 — tekisui

What is respect ... Different people tend to have different ideas of what constitutes "respect".

I would appreciate it if you would write a blog on respect too.


Hare Krishna!

Tue, 12/02/2008 - 22:32 — Navasi

Dear Karnamrita prabhu,

I apologize for taking up room in your blog thread with my discussion with Snehal.

Fortunately, it occurred to her to move it to our guest books.

I've been very distracted lately, I injured my back, and I can hardly sit or stand or lie down. lol

I'm in a lot of pain, and it tends to make me unable to think clearly.

Your friend in Krishna,

Tue, 12/02/2008 - 17:24 — Snehal
Essentials must not be compromised

Hare Krishna!

Your writting is as wonderful as usual. You have very appropriately explained everything including few points which I tried to put forward on Navasi mataji's blog. But some how I couldnt express them in right words.

Anyways. I feel after we have done with our essentials prescribed by Srila Prabhupad (by essentials I mean chanting, following regulative principles, reading/ studying scriptures), we can engage in devotional activities that are favorable to our circumcumstances and level of understanding.

But we must not try to compromise on the essentials for any reason or excuse. Even if I spend entire day serving at temple, I must sit and chant my 16 rounds. I cannot say, "today, I have been serving Lord and His devotees, so its alright if I dont chnat my rounds." That would be absolutely wrong.

Another point is how we manage to remain absorbed throughout after we have finished with our essentials. Whether we still give excuses or we strive hard to engage in devotional activities, will depend on how sincere we are in our desire to be Krishna conscious.




Wed, 12/03/2008 - 01:10 — Karnamrita.das
Churning topics

I appreciated your comments Sneha. It is exciting to understand how your spiritual life is increasing. You can be sure that you will go through many different experiences and stages of understanding, though to be committed to keep doing the essentials is very important---and chanting is the most essential. I have had extreme struggles, but I somehow always chanted. As bad as my chanting was I credit it for letting me remain a devotee despite doubts and depression. The holy name will stay with us if we have a humble attitude, and we don't offend advanced devotees. In the pit of despair we have to believe that eventually by the grace of Lord Chaitanya and Nitai (the mercy incarnations of Krishna for this age) and the Vaishnavas we will rise out of it. In all circumstances we have to call out for help and never give up!

What follows here is a general comment on the nature of this type of forum.

The point of such topics is really to help us all think more deeply about the practices and goals of K.C. Then we can share our thoughts, appreciation, doubts and/or questions. I have tried to be open about what I have gone through in K.C.---my struggles, successes, and bias due to such experiences---having spent all my adult life in its pursuit, as I think it helps to understand something about the author in order to make sense of what they say.

I think it might be helpful to ask why a particular writer is bringing up a point---why do they think it important? If we don't agree with them, why, and what do we need to ask to clarify the point. Then we can make the best use of written communication which is prone to misunderstanding, being frozen in time. We don't want to react, but thoughtfully, compassionately, kindly respond. (I am speaking TO myself as well, as I can sometimes shoot from the hip.)

Your friend in Krishna,



Tue, 12/02/2008 - 19:14 — Navasi

Dear Snehal,

I'm sorry to hear you feel that I didn't understand the points you made in my blog.

When you feel someone does not understand something, it's a good idea to tell them, otherwise, how will they come to understand, if they don't know they have not understood?

Unless of course, you feel it's not possible for me to understand.

That was what I was saying about "what I do with the information given to me depends on my qualification, not the qualification of the person giving it".

By that I mean, if I am not qualified to understand you, then no matter what you say, it will not be useful.

I guess I was not qualified to understand you.

Hare Krishna,


Tue, 12/02/2008 - 20:52 — Snehal

Hare Krishna Navasi mataji,

I have left a comment regarding this in your guestbook.



Tue, 12/02/2008 - 22:00 — Navasi

Hare Krishna, Snehal Mataji,

I left a reply in your guest book :)

I guess all our comments are going to be in the guest books

: )

Guest books Ki Jai!

Hare Rama.



Tue, 12/02/2008 - 22:21 — abrennan

Seeing as Karnamrita started this page you we should all be posting in his guestbook. Doesn't that picture up there make you smile. like this : )

Tue, 12/02/2008 - 10:20 — bhaktincarol
Hare Krsna!

Hare Krsna!

When I first started coming to the temple (which wasn't very long ago), I was able to travel with a devotee who is a Prabhupada disciple. This devotee told me "going to the morning program is where it's at." I trusted and I went.

Maybe it's because I'm new and have so much to learn, but I find the program and the morning class to be a wonderful opportunity ---to see the Lord, wonderful opportunity for education, and to be with devotees.

I ...long!... to be in the temple room and chant japa with other devotees, but due to transportation issues usually cannot attend in person. It is very easy and accessible to be part of the morning program and listen to the class from home, over the computer.

If you only knew how much I want to be there in the mornings!!

bhaktin carol


Tue, 12/02/2008 - 10:56 — Karnamrita.das
Temple programs important

I wasn't implying the Temple programs are not important, or are only for the new people. Whatever will foster our Krishna consciousness is to be accepted, so it is great to hear that your attendance there is encouraging and helpful. One of my points in this blog is that the external forms of worship have a purpose to foster our inner life of devotion. They are not ends in themselves if we forget their purpose. It so happens that a mentality develops that forgets or neglects the purpose of the Temple functions---following the rules for the sake of following them. I can attest to doing that for many years. I was externally engaged in service, though my mind was elsewhere. My body was very, very busy, but I wasn't really remembering Krishna. There WAS benefit, but not as much as there might have been if I was consciously fully present. I was only going through the motions without the time to really think about who I was really serving and why. We have to engage both the body and mind, constantly reminding ourself of the meaning and purpose of what we are doing. Prabhupada taught us that Krishna consciousness means being conscious.

Your friend in Krishna,



Tue, 12/02/2008 - 15:03 — Go-Seva
Exact opposite

I hesitate to admit this, but due to my isolation and circumstances, I have not choice BUT to remember Krsna ALL THE TIME. Intensive child rearing without the benefit of help or guidance from anyone keeps me in a certain amount of distress at all times (my children are VERY willful!) That, coupled with the fact that I live out in the country, in the midst of the sort of people who probably wouldn't think twice about burning a cross in my front yard if they knew of my "strange religion", creates a bubble for me right in my house. I have carefully cultivated a spiritual atmosphere for both my family and myself, and feel extremely comfortable here while serving Krsna in the only ways that I can.

Raising Krsna conscious children, purposely providing lots of food and shelter for all forms of Krsna's creatures, growing food and flowers to offer to Him, constantly reminding my husband of Him (who, unfortunately for my husband, must venture out in the "karmi world" much more than I), associating with and serving devotees via Internet (thank God for that!), and even some service for my siksa guru (that I prayed to Srila Prabhupada and Krsna for) that I can do from my computer....These are the only ways I am capable of serving Him right now.

I have many ideas for future service, and pray to Krsna daily that someday I will be more in His service increasingly. If He so desires, I will be. And I leave it at that. In the meantime, I just do my duties and my love increases for Him everyday.

I feel very fortunate!