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Three Vaishnava Saints—Our Worshipable Family

Bhaktivinode Thakur
[reposted from 9-21-2010] We have had back to back to back holy days commemorating the appearance or disappearance of great saints in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. These include the appearance day of Shrila Jiva Gosvami (sort of hidden by Lord Vamanadeva’s appearance on the same day), the appearance of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, and today, the disappearance day of the “namacharya” (great teacher of the glories of the holy name) Shrila Haridas Thakur.

Though I can’t do them justice especially in the same essay, at least in this short piece the significance of these great personalities can be brought to your attention, perhaps inspiring the need for more research. So please consider this three blogs in one! Though we don’t have to all be great scholars (as was Jiva Goswami), we do need to see life philosophically by being conversant with the basics of a Krishna consciousness outlook on life. Such a perspective will bring us peace and understanding in the current time of great turmoil, violence, suffering and confusion. Even without the difficulties in the larger world situation we all go through problems and reverses that can be seen in light of the Bhakti scriptures like the Gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam and others.

The Way Out is Through

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
Every year the Vaishnava group my wife and I are part of, The Grihastha (Family) Vision Team, has a Couple's Retreat at the Gita Nagari Bhakti-Yoga Farm in Port Royal, PA. In honor of this event coming up the weekend of September 14th-16th (See flyer) 2018, I thought I would repost this blog about having a balanced and successful family life: This is a follow up to my last blog which spoke about how we can become overwhelmed by, or over-attached to, family responsibilities, and be distracted 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.


Lovely and Stuning Radha Gopinatha photo DSCN5159_zpshdxezxav.jpg
[reposted from 9-7-16] THE MIRACLE OF FORGIVENESS: Much has been written in spiritually themed literature, Vedic scriptures and Prabhupada's translations, and personal growth/self-help books about forgiveness. As a young person and devotee I had no idea how important forgiveness could be. It was only after years of introspection and prayer that I personally understood how important it was for me to forgive important persons in my life and myself.

The topic came up in my reading of the last few days, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts about it. I have done much work with forgiveness—with my parents, for how I was raised, and for myself, for my many personal failings and what I should or should not have done. I looked at all my significant relationships in as much honesty as possible, and also considered that I may have some anger toward Krishna, and my guru, Shrila Prabhupada.

I did find some anger toward Prabhupada and I had a long talk with him to uncover it, and let it go. I have written somewhere about my, in contemporary terms, gestalt type conversation with him. Whatever it may be called, to me it was a very real talk before the Prabhupada murti in Berkeley almost 40 years ago. Before him, I shared and examined my anger and doubts, and I received a simple though compellingly powerful answer to my angst with his physical disappearance.

Krishna's birthday or Janmastami has past----should you care?

On this day, Shri Janmastami 2018, I thought I would repost my very first blog (with a few updates from 9-11-07) on from 11 years ago, as today is a busy day for me on this auspicious day of celebration of the Lord's appearance in the world,and in a personal way, the Lord's appearance in our lives! May today, or whenever you read this, be a blessed, spiritually surcharged day. For many Hindu's and all Vaishnavas Janmastami is one of the most important holy days. The "birth" of the unborn Godhead, who also appears in multi-incarnations to serve his different purposes. According the dictionary Krishna is a "Hindu" god, an incarnation of Vishnu. So should that be the end of it? Is it merely a Hindu concern? If I am Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic or atheistic, etc., does Krishna or his "birthday" anniversary have no importance to me?

Shri Baladeva Purnima

[Reprinted from August 5th, 2009] Today, Saturday August 25th, is the auspicious celebration of the appearance day of Lord Balarama or Baladeva. As Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Balarama is similarly understood. He is the first expansion of Krishna from which many other expansions emanate, such as the 3 Vishnus and Lord Ananta-sesha. The "tattva" or truth of Balarama is very deep and I will only touch on a little of the ocean of who he is philosophically to give you a taste. In a spontaneous blog such as this I just write about what comes up for me as I think on the subject. In the spirit of "he who hesitates is lost" or "if it is auspicious do it immediately", I wanted to offer something for you now, because if I don't it won't happen, as I am just getting ready to chant my iapa and then worship my Shilas, or sacred stone manifestations of the Lord.

When I grew up there was a science fiction movie, "The Blob" which was some kind of monster which came to the earth from outer space, with a form something like a huge slug though with an undefined God is not some nebulous form or non-form, he is the supreme consciousness who desires to enjoy himself in various ways. Although God is one--and from one perspective everything is God--he also expanses himself into different aspects to enjoy rasa or enjoyment. Balarama is known affectionately as "Douji" or the elder brother of Krishna, and he has a relationship with him to serve as a friend and parent, or the combined relationships of "sakhya" and "vatsalya". So Krishna and Balarama are identical from the view of being the Supreme Truth, yet Lord Balarama considers himself a servant of Krishna in the above ways and also expanses himself into Krishna's paraphernalia like Krishna's clothes, Brahmin's thread, shoes and all the dhamas or holy places, etc.


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THE CHALLENGE AND OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE! TURNING OUR SHADOW SIDE INTO AN INSTRUMENT FOR GRACE AND EMPOWERMENT: I should mention as a prelude to this blog that while I am a follower of the basic processes given by Shrila Prabhupada and our Gaudiya Vaishnava acharyas regarding the practice of sadhana bhakti--and am in that sense traditional or conservative--in regards to the stage of "anartha-nivritti," or retiring our unwanted habits of thinking and acting, I am rather eclectic, and to some unconventional. However, please don't let that scare you away! There is a method to my madness.

I follow the maxim that whatever can assist us in bhakti can be accepted from whatever source, and as Prabhupada taught, "Judge by the results." In addition to the shastra or scriptural evidence is our own experience, and so I share that here. My reasoning is based on my own experience as a sadhaka (bhakti practitioner) coming from a rather violent alcoholic family, and from working with others from difficult families, which today is more the norm than the exception. This is important because it presents special problems or challenges to the ability of devotees to give their full attention and heart to chanting and other bhakti practices. The recommendation for going through anartha-nivritti given by Shrila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakur, in his Madhurya Kadambini, is by sadhu sanga (associating with saints advanced in the path of bhakti) and pure chanting.

Not taking away from the importance of these practices, and trying my best to follow them, and encourage others to follow them, it is obvious to me, as well as my wife who is a trained therapist, that many devotees need additional supportive help to be able to take advantage of those core practices. That is a long discussion I have spoken of frequently in my blogs, but I thought I should mention this before going into a description of my current study. Not everyone will agree with me, but I have to share with you what my wife and I have found useful and empowering for devotees who we work with, and in our own lives.


Invisible, though, constant change photo TA0465_zps3849ee53.jpg
I have written so much about writing because it has helped me greatly in my development as a person and devotee. The process of writing forces me to think and reflect, an activity that doesn’t come easily for me. I rarely took time to think or ponder the deeper questions of life—or my life—growing up, and didn’t begin in earnest till my existential crisis between 18 and 19. Then, after taking up the life of bhakti at 19 ½ I went back to my old pattern of not thinking or reflecting about myself. This continued until I was forced to reevaluate my life and move out on my own at 33, which began my examining my life, trying to understand myself and healing from my past.

At that time, I began journal writing which was a process of self-discovery and beginning to find my passion (even as mine is very gentle and understated). I still have those journals which I continued for over 20 years, and I continue to keep one for helping me think on certain subjects. Writing a blog on 11 years ago brought my writing to another level, and while I don’t consider my writing very well crafted, it has improved greatly over the years

Writing for a blog forces me to think, so even if no one reads what I write, it is good for me. What is of primary interest is growth on the human and spiritual level and how those two aspects of a sadhaka’s (spiritual practitioner in bhakti) intersect. My wife and I joked last night that our household “news” was that we had to run the dishwasher—so that type of maintenance I don’t share unless it has implications for growth, or has created some kind of challenge or given me some insights.

Strengthening my Faith

Hare Kṛṣṇa, Mataji.
Dandavat pranams. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

In prison my Kṛṣṇa consciousness has been truly "hands on" (isn’t it always? ). Sri Kṛṣṇa knows best and is always testing and strengthening His bhaktas. I truly feel that He has been especially and specifically helping me for the past twenty-six months I have spent in prison. I am a Naturopathic Physician and Ayurvedic Medical Consultant in my professional life and was brought here because of immigration issues with some of my employees.

Where there is Hate, Let us Sow Love--Love is the Answer part 2

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension
[reprinted from 11-28-11, revised 8-2-18]
We continue our discussion of love and hate and their interrelationship, with the idea of sowing love where we find hate. When we feel unloved, and by extension, that life is unloving, we tend to deny the existence of love all together, and thus decry the reality of God. In such pain, it is easier to deny God and think that the Universe has no Source or ultimate purpose than to think that love could exist at all, and that God is merciful and kind. Such persons become cynical and angry.

Everyone has their conditioned angle of vision, and we tend to see life as we are, or according to our limited experience, forgetting that we haven’t experienced all of life. Thus we find that some children are taught by their parents and elders to hate other groups of people and see them as the enemy. This perpetuates the world’s conflict and strife, generation after generation.

Speaking theoretically of hateful people, although helpful in understanding this tendency in everyone, is easier than being personally before those who hate or resent us. On the road to realization we begin by being philosophical, and praying to respond, and not react in kind, to how we may be treated. In relationships we receive the opportunity to practice our spiritual ideals.


In the face of hateful animosity expressed toward us, we can rise above their negativity by praying to not take their expressions personally, remembering that as irreligion is the backside of the Universal Form of God, so hate is the backside of love. If we have any chance of positively affecting others it is by our spiritual advancement and being able to go beyond appearances, seeing that everyone’s suffering condition is coming from their forgetfulness of their joyful spiritual nature. We may not like everyone’s conditioning or behavior, yet we can practice loving them as spiritual beings.

Love is the Answer Part 1

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
Pure children
[Originally published 11-22-11 and revised 8-1-18, though not reflected in the recording]
With the inspiration of Saint Francis, a great mystic in the Christian tradition, I am exploring his famous prayer since it seems very much in the mood of our great Vaishnava saints and bhakti yogis. I spoke of sowing peace in a recent blog which began my thinking of his prayer. Whereas peace may be a kind of passive, inactive state of being free of conflict, it requires to be coupled with love to realize its full potential.

A progressive idea of love is that love is an action word, or verb, and not merely a feeling, or noun. “Love is as love does,” expresses this idea, and is the basis of bhakti or devotional service, with the additional idea of being part of the soul’s spiritual relationship with God. If it is really true that “love makes the world go around,” or that hate is the basis of many world conflicts, then it is essential to think about and understand these opposite states or energies.

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