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Fatal Attraction Part 3—Choosing the Path of Light

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so to not listen, mute your speakers.)

[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series.] An unusual cold, rainy day in Berkeley, California, but for a particular person, it was a fitting, useful, backdrop for an epiphany, or deep “aha moment.” Chris Cox, in a contemplative mood that was becoming almost normal, was sitting on the floor in his minimally furnished room. A single light bulb hung down from the ceiling by a cord speckled with white paint from an ancient paint job. Warming himself in front of the gas heater, he would occasionally look around the room or out the window at the gray day, as if looking for special meaning, or some clue about what was missing from his life. In fact he felt like he, himself, was an existential question waiting to be answered, and for the first time in his life.

Chris had lost his job and was getting food stamps. His hippie house was on “rent strike,” having banded together with other renters to withhold paying rent until the “pig landlords” lowered the cost, so he hadn’t paid his rent in months. Still, the electricity and water were on, and he had food and shelter. How was this possible that he could live here with no effort? He could just sit here and live, having time to read religious and mystical texts and think about the purpose of life. It all seemed magical, yet purposeful.

He didn’t know it yet, but he was experiencing how simple living can foster deep thought about life. As it turned out, this was a rare time when life conspired to make certain results more likely by arranging the environment like a perfect supporting cast.


FAITH IN KRISHNA'S PROTECTION: Today was a traveling day to observe our shiska guru's appearance day, the day before Gaura Purnima, and while many of us take driving for granted, it is definitely an opportunity to appreciate Krishna's protection. Accidents and road kill remind me of how lucky I am to safely arrive at my destination. For me, night driving especially is fueled not just from years of experience but confidence that comes from faith. There is just so much that we can't see due to the darkness.

Sometimes all we can see are those lines in the road. There is so much uncertainty as we speed down the darkened highway, sometimes surrounded on all sides by other cars, and this evening some rain. I feel amazed that I am driving with such uncertainty and I find I can only surrender to Krishna for his help. This is a good position for me to be in! Yes, I am as careful as possible, though I feel the only way I can be safe is to be in Krishna's hands. That's how it seems to me. I am confident that Krishna is protecting me, and that whatever happens will be for me highest good.

Fatal Attraction Part 2: Illuminating the Shadow of our Past

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so to not listen, mute your speakers.)

[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series. The basic premise of this series is to posit that our greatest challenges, problems, reveres, difficulties, hurts, or pain, have the power to crush us (if we let them), or offer the greatest opportunity for personal and spiritual growth. Specifically here, I am speaking of our childhood, and how huge a shadow it casts on our life—which could be good or bad, or likely, a mixture. Our parents are instruments of our karma and are meant teach us valuable lessons for living our lives. Many people don’t really worry about this and simply live without a lot of deep introspection about how their past has shaped them, which isn’t a bad fact if one is happy and fulfilled.]
(Fast forward sixteen years from the marriage spoken about in part 1.) This seemed like any typical San Francisco summer morning, foggy and cool, but it was anything but normal to Chris, who was going to do something he didn’t want to do, while his Dad, Johnny, was happy. They were driving to the courthouse for a divorce settlement. Parking, they walked up the stairs and into the building. John found the appropriate courtroom and they took their seats to wait their turn. Chris felt sick to his stomach and wished he could just run away, but knew he couldn’t, so instead, he retreated deeper into himself. It was like he wasn’t even there. Disassociation was how he survived childhood and it had served him well. While a good temporary protection strategy, it was a poor way to live at all times. Later in life, Chris would find his biggest challenge was learning to be present, and to feel, whether sadness or love, but depression became a way to be numb, though it gradually became his clue that something was wrong, very wrong.

For all practical purposes, the memory of this courtroom experience was gone, buried under the debris of pain and disappointment. He only knew it happened on the rare occasions his dad recounted how proud he was hearing that Chris, when asked by the judge, wanted to live with his father—which was totally untrue. Even though Chris couldn’t remember the last time his dad beat him, he still was afraid of him and on guard in case his father would become angry and hit him, so he didn’t speak his mind at court, or for that matter, much at all.

Fatal Attraction--Part 1

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so to not listen, mute your speakers.)

[February 12th was my 48th anniversary of moving into the temple as a single monastic (brahmacari) and officially taking up the process of bhakti, or pure devotional service. To honor my spiritual journey on the way to Krishna, I thought I would repost this 5 part series about my life before taking up Krishna consciousness and how it led to my existential crisis and spiritual search. Since these are blogs, I have greatly condensed the material.] Pattrica Ann Bailey stared mindlessly at the passing scenery as she sat in the moving train. She felt relaxed and glad to be away from Chicago and what seemed like a fixed future. In fact, the more miles away from the “Windy City,” the better she felt. While a fiercely independent and critically intelligent young woman, she couldn’t stand up to her mother Peg—still, after all these years! Patt (with two t’s please) had joined the Navy during the Second World War to escape her mom’s watchful eye, and even married, but then, after only a year she had to get a divorce. Her—now X—husband shocked her by revealing that he liked men better than girls and had no feelings for her. Thus, she was forced to return home in shame.

Although she had a very high IQ, Patt could be impulsive and over emotional at times. Thus her mom had never quite trusted her decisions, and was worried about her future. To “help” her daughter make a better choice in picking men, she invited a good looking, wealthy, navy captain over for dinner. He was nice enough Patt had thought at first and so they began dating. Before she knew it she was engaged, which she had agreed to do at the insistence of her mom. And the major problem was not only that she didn’t love him, but as she shared years later, “He was boooor-iiiiiing,” and Patt had a weakness for exciting men and doing fun things her mother didn’t approve of.

The Thin Red Line and quotes about Success

THINKING ABOUT THE "THIN RED LINE" IN RELATIONSHIP TO LIFE'S DUALITIES, quotes about SUCCESS from various sources : This was a title from a movie about the horrors of war that comes from an old Midwestern saying, "There's only a thin red line between the sane and the mad." This title first came to mind some years ago as I was dealing with the flu for many weeks and couldn't seem to get much better, and then again with my cancer diagnosis and simply observing myself and others, both family and friends, as they experience their own diseases, and the process of aging, and the apparent finality of death (which most people don't want to think about!). I thought of the thin line between sickness and health, and then extended this idea to see the small difference between any of the dualities of the material world.

So we begin with the thin line between health and illness, and then between biological life and death. We can further extend this if we go down the list of material dualities: happiness and distress, fame and infamy, cold and heat, courage and cowardliness, pleasure and pain, and perhaps most interestingly as posited by some, deep spiritual experience and insanity.

My basic life theory, based on my experience and through life and scriptural study, is that real lasting happiness comes from the soul, our real, unchanging self, or we could say, our consciousness. Life on the spiritual path is a Course to show us beyond the theory we study that we can not find what we are really looking for in matter,


QUESTIONS ARE THE ANSWER: My "Question for the Week," got me thinking about the power of the questions we ask ourselves or others. Some verses came to mind, as well as my limited understanding about what the questions we ask tell us about ourselves and our absorption. Many of us know, from such verses as follows, the importance of asking relevant questions to great sages or gurus, but what do our personal, internal questions tell us about ourselves? "One day, after finishing their morning duties by burning a sacrificial fire and offering a seat of esteem to Srila Suta Gosvami, the great sages made inquiries [i.e. questions], with great respect, about the following matters." [SB 1.1.5] / "O sages, I have been justly questioned by you. Your questions are worthy because they relate to Lord Krsna and so are of relevance to the world's welfare. Only questions of this sort are capable of completely satisfying the self." [SB 1.2.5]

Although I read the above verses many times, I didn't understand the importance of my personal questions. Years later, I first contemplated the power of questions in terms of personal and spiritual growth when I heard from Tony Robbins that "The quality of our lives depends on the quality of the questions we ask," which brought home the power of questions in understanding who I was as a person, and what I was really interested in.

Thus, the power of our questions is a very multifaceted and profound idea which is right in line with spiritual philosophies I have studied, including my own of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and one which can be practiced on many different levels. It is a fascinating nutshell of human psychology.

The Power of Words to Change our Life

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed) [reposted from 1-4-2012]
I have studied many alternative healing methods, yet I feel our healing power is also transmitted through the written or spoken word, through which I personally share my struggles, and successes on my spiritual journey. Our words increase in potency by our purity, sincerity, and surrender along with spiritual backing from our gurus and the merciful Lord. As important as hearing scriptural stories and spiritual philosophy are for helping awaken our sleeping spiritual self, I feel it is important to do so in a very personal way—to put a face on the path of devotion, not one with angel wings, but with warts, shortcomings, and injuries.

Learning to be real, or honest with ourselves, and with others, is essential to call our spiritual progress. If we can’t uncover and face our darkness, how can we ask for help, or pray to overcome it? While socially we may feel pressure to look good, we have to actually be good. We may not be good in every way, but at least we can pray to gradually become better human beings, and better spiritual people. Divine life should always inform and guide our humanity, since the perfection of human life is to realize our nature as souls, and our loving relationship with God, who we Gaudiya Vaishnavas recognize as Krishna (in His original, most loving aspect).


THE WORLD IS A BLAZING FIRE: All of the material existence, the universes, outer space, galaxies, stars, planetary systems, planets, continents, countries, cities, and everyone’s body, are all on fire. In worldly consciousness our illusory task is to deny this fire at every turn, or recognizing the fire partially, to create structures to protect us from being burned, keeping that fire “over there,” overseas, or in another neighborhood, and not in our view. However, as much as our societies, elders, and parents are trying to reassure us that there is nothing to worry about, we find clues everywhere about this all-consuming fire, if we can read the signs. We can’t combat what we deny.

Great devotees come to this world to warn everyone about the fire that is consuming all physical life and every aspect of the material world. Religions are begun around such saintly speakers of cutting truth to reveal the fire, but in course of time, religions also become deniers of the fire, or they teach people how to work with the fire so they can be happy with it until they die with the promise of going to heaven, which is just another type of fire--not giving the real solution.

We can properly deal with this fire with a different type of fire. Though we can’t stop the material world from burning, since everything material is meant to change, transform, and eventually burn to ashes, we can overcome or transmute the fever of material existence with the transcendent cooling firepower of life-giving divine wisdom and spiritual practice.

The Conclusion of the Bhagavad Gita

THE CONCLUSION OF THE BHAGAVAD GITA (reposted from 1-19-11 and added to): In Krishna’s final chapter of the Bhagavad Gita there are a number of places where Vaishnava commentators consider the book could have ended. After the first of his possible endings in verse 63 of the 18th chapter where he tells Arjuna to deliberate on his instructions and decide for himself upon his course of action, Krishna wants to make sure Arjuna—and we readers—have understood his hope for all souls to choose the path of pure devotion. Thus, he summarizes in subsequent verses his ultimate instruction, as the powerful conclusion.

The idea that his book—it is “his” book after all!—of perennial wisdom has a conclusion is often surprising to the casual reader looking for generic spiritual wisdom to add to their lives or personal agenda. We conditioned souls have a very ego-centric view of the world and any information or knowledge we come into contact with. Sometimes people like the Gita because they think it recommends many paths and one can choose one that appeals to them according to their personal criterion.

Jiva Goswami (one of the famous six Goswami disciples of Shri Chaitanya) also speaks of the thought current even during his time (over 500 years ago) that the Gita was a book recommending many paths. He refutes this theory by stating that Krishna brings up many paths as a way to contrast them to his ultimate recommendation of bhakti or pure devotion.


ENCOURAGING ONE ANOTHER TO STAY THE COURSE OF BHAKTI AND GO THROUGH THE INEVITABLE GROWING PAINS AND AND EVEN DEPRESSION plus A FREE VERSE RAMBLING, "FAILURE IS THE PILLAR OF SUCCESS": As I was waking up I was dreaming of having a conversation to encourage someone who was feeling discouraged and hopeless about their life and their practice of bhakti. I like to think that I write to encourage devotees or in general, the spiritually minded, to have a positive attitude in spite of difficulties, reverses, or just low points in their lives. In the case of clinical depression some people may need professional help, yet many just need friends to confide in or a way to normalize what they are experiencing. Knowing that others have gone through what we have can help us stay the course to the other side of darkness.

Somehow to remember that we are souls in a temporary human situation. The true solution to the uncertainly of life is to work on the ultimate spiritual solution to karma and difficulties/suffering by the long haul of a lifetime of spiritual practice regardless of the upheaval, disappointments, or life reverses we may go through. If you can't chant on your beads, then do kirtan, and read something inspirational. Or find a japa buddy with whom you can share your spiritual practices, or a confidential friend who can listen to you in loving friendship. There is always something you can do if you don't give in to hopelessness.

I remembered this purport by Prabhupada in his Gita translation: "But an ordinary man with firm faith in the eternal injunctions of the Lord, even though unable to execute such orders, becomes liberated from the bondage of the law of karma. In the beginning of Krishna consciousness, one may not fully discharge the injunctions of the Lord, but because one is not resentful of this principle and works sincerely without consideration of defeat and hopelessness, he will surely be promoted to the stage of pure Krishna consciousness." [BG 3.31 purport]

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