385. The demigods also respects

A nice class this morning detailing out the respects paid by 3 important personalities when they hear about the arrival of Lord Krishna to this world.

Srimad Bhagavatam Class: 10.02.25
Bhaktini Aruna Mataji
Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir, North Sydney
16.07.2017

The arrival of demigods to see the birth of Lord Krishna, is like the baby shower of these days. Who better than highest of demigods to welcome Him to this world?Goloka Vrindhavana, Vaikuntha planets and this material world are all His properties. He is the Supreme. Hence, demigods like Lord Brahma & Lord Shiva are there to pay their respects.

Lord Brahma in one of his prayers at another time asks for Lord’s mercy, ask for help to not be contaminated by ego and for His sweet advice. Similarly, our mood should also be like this – always relying on Krishna. In another pastime of his cow and cowherd devotees stealing, he says that there are many people out there who knows everything about Krishna but he himself doesn’t. So, what is our status? In another pastime, Lord Brahma was amazed to know that there were so many Brahmas who had come to see Krishna, he was just another small one. Krishna tells him that he has only 4 heads because his particular universe is only 4 billion miles long!

Lord Shiva is also an important personality and is in charge of destruction in the material world. He is but a transformation of the primeval lord and considered as the highest Vaishnava. Our approach to him should be of this understanding and that he is not an independent supreme lord. Lord Shiva himself addresses Krishna as the Supreme-most being. In another instance, he praises the beauty of Sri Krishna.

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Narada muni was also there. He is always chanting, “Om Namo Narayana”. In his past life, he had heard of sweet pastimes of the Lord from the Bhaktivedantas. When he left home as a child in search of the Lord, he had a very brief glimpse of the Lord in the forest. Later the Lord tells him that this brief audience was only to increase his longing and eagerness of the Lord. The darshan of the Lord is only by His mercy. Even in our lives, we only have a brief audience of the Lord at the temple after which we leave for the material lifestyle.

Our purpose is only to long for Krishna. Everything else like beautiful home or husband or wife or job is not the primary goal. When we are in front of the Deity, we shouldn’t be asking for things but only offer prayers to please Him.

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384. Kamsa’s absorption

Srimad Bhagavatam Class Notes: 10.02.23-24

HG Abhishek Prabhu

North Sydney temple

15.07.2017

Kamsa was stricken with fear. He waited so many years for the 8th child to be born. All his moments were taken up, anticipating the arrival of Krishna. His fear had gone to that extent where he thought of killing his own sister instead of waiting. It was his natural option but he completely refrained from it. He felt the consequences would be too severe. In the pages of history, we see such carnage where one side would kill the family (children & pregnant women too) so that no lineages exist of the defeated army.

In our constant effort to push things to ourselves and pull away from things we don’t like, a living entity is in constant fear. This happens when one has turned away from Krishna. When one feels sheltered, he is satisfied. When one is absorbed in duality, he becomes covered. In BG, it’s compared to an embryo in the womb, totally covered. When one is deeply covered or in the mode of ignorance, he considers irreligious to be religious. Arjuna was very clear what he had to do on the war front due to advice of Lord Krishna. For such a person, their intelligence becomes very clear.

But Kamsa did not have this intelligence. He had no shelter of Krishna. We often find children who has had no proper parental shelter constantly look for a shelter. They feel a loss of identity and duty. In Vedic culture, there was an understanding that one’s strength (especially mental) comes from purity & dharma. Kamsa was very physically powerful and conquered many in the universe. Yet he had no mental strength.

When you are in a leadership position, one becomes isolated in someway because the decision he takes could be harmful or perceived to be harmful. This leads to people staying away from that person. Such an isolation is like death. But Krishna is such a leader that people long to name their children after Him. But, look at the case of incredibly dangerous dictators. Their name, activities and thoughts are pretty much banned from society. Think about the ill will on such people.

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Kamsa was always engaged in unfavourable thoughts of Krishna in whatever he did, whether he be sitting, walking etc. He couldn’t see but Krishna everywhere. Although he was in total mood of absorption, unfortunately it was in enmity. Pure devotees of the Lord are also always thinking of Krishna but favourably. They have the mascara of love smearing the eyes of Krishna. Srila Prabhupada would see Krishna and preaching opportunities in everything he saw around him.

If children are raised with Bhakti in their hearts, then you can be confident to let them go. Even if a devotee is now seen engaged in sense gratification, there is always a chance of  a U-turn in his consciousness where he realises his mistakes and the time he has wasted. As parents, we cannot guarantee that the child will become a devotee immediately. But what can be done is to share Krishna bhakti with them in their younger years so that they can turn towards this lifestyle & education at some stage of their lives, even if you may not live to see it.

Science tries to reduce everything to physical principles with no acceptance of God and the divine diversity of life & emotions. Such a life is a waste of human life.

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383. Liverpool Ratha Yatra

Had an awesome day yesterday!

2:30am: Wake up
4am – 5:25am: Travel to temple
5:25am – 6:50am: Deity paraphernalia service
6:50-7am: Gobble down maha-sweets as a award to myself for the morning activities
7am-7:10am: Checking out my friends iPad out
7:15am – 8:45am: Deity greeting, Guru Puja, Bhagavatam class
8:45am-9:30am: Massive breakfast prasadam (rice, zucchini curry, puri, coconut chutney, tomato chutney & halva)
9:30am – 10:45am: Bus & train travel to Liverpool where the Ratha Yatra would be held.

As i get out of the train station and look for directions to the carpark where the event would be held, someone touches me on the shoulder and says, “Hari Bol!”

I turned around and its Sri Prabhalad prabhu, the wonderful devotee and kirtaneer. I was so happy to see him there. Every time i see him, i am reminded of my early days of ISKCON where his kirtan would sustain me. Together, we make our way to the venue using Google Maps. We almost got lost before a devotee came looking for him. A short walk and we were at the venue – a car park.

The car park were full of devotees! There was s stage and an altar. Prasad and book distribution counters were being setup. Thick waft of Vrindhavana incense filled the underground park and passed into the street outside. Prabhus in dhotis, others in western wear (me included), matajis in super colourful indian attire and kids running around – the place looked, felt & sounded like a temple!!

Sri Prahalad prabhu got into action right away adorning himself with a harmonium. A prabhu held out a mic for him. Young boys on karatalas and mridangas joined in. Lord Jagannath, Baladeva and Subadra got into Their carts. The local Council members stood in front with a coconut in their hands, ready to smash them to the ground. They looked amused as they were told they would be doing this! Once that ceremony was done, the cart was signalled to move. Devotees cheered, onlookers gathered by the pavements and kirtan was in full swing.

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A devotee came running towards me and said, “Prabhu, come quickly! We need a person to carry their Lordships and Their palanquin!”. I couldn’t believe my luck! I had the same opportunity when the Ratha Yatra was opened at the St. Kilda Festival, some 6-7 years ago! There were 4 boys resting the palanquin on their shoulder but it was slightly slanted because i was short compared to the others! So after some 10 mins of walking, i was replaced by someone with the right height that matched everyone else. Yet, i was happy and thankful for the opportunity. The rest of the trip, I continued to walk with Them lest i might get an opportunity again.

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Basically, we went along the streets circling the carpark. Storekeepers and their customers spilled onto the street to watch the procession. Some smiled and some looked confused. It seemed to me that they had no idea what was going on. To them, it looked liked some Hindu festival. I wish many of them were given handouts about the significance of the event, invited to pull the ropes and perhaps ask them to join us for the lunch prasad afterwards.

Speaking about prasad, this was on the menu – big pooris, tomato chutney, green salad, rice, eggplant & paneer subji, water & cordial. It was nice – everyone were hungry! There were some stage shows but i didn’t stay back for them as i was so sleepy by now. Walked back to the bus stand, and took a 1.5 hr trip back home.

I couldn’t help thinking that as Lord Jagannath travels across the streets with the gigantic ropes, a large cart and plenty of devotees, He is actually riding on the road on our hearts. May He continue to give us this privilege year after year!

Here are the video highlights:

 

 

382. A guest’s ceremony

On Saturday (yesterday) at the temple, an Australian couple came to conduct a ceremony for a mother of theirs, who passed away. They were so friendly and patient with the devotees, sitting through the whole ceremony with great sincerity. It seemed to be their first. I wanted to ask them what their motivation/inspiration was for choosing the Hare Krishna temple for this personal event in their life. One never knows how we have touched people’s hearts. An interesting part of the ceremony was when the lady asked if a pet doll could be placed next to the mother’s photo. I couldn’t hear what was being said but must have been an item dear to the passed away mother.

Anyways, the small and quiet function ended with photos, a box of wonderful milk sweets and a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita. They seemed so content just with their own initiative to organise their ceremony,  the care given to them by the devotees, the Deities and the gifts. It’s so important that we take care of guests to our temple and also be with them through the various phases they go through.

 

 

381. HH Bhakti Vikas Swami Vyasa-Puja day

Today was nice. I didn’t realise that the Vyasa puja celebration (appearance day/birthday) of His Holiness Bhakti Vikas swami was being celebrated at the Sydney temple at noon. My plan was to finish my morning service, attend the bhagavatam class, have a full breakfast 🙂 , finish my rounds and head home. As i had started my day at 2:30 AM, by the time i reach home at 2:30 PM, i would have covered 12 hrs already. But as i read the morning verse on the whiteboard, i noticed on the corner a message that there would be the observing of the Vyasa puja today at 1PM. Obviously, my plan changed – i would stay.

i love Vyasa pujas. Sitting with other devotees and hearing the glories of their chosen spiritual master, their personal realisations and engagement with him, often gets my throat choked. Many times, i have seen devotees cry and unable to speak. Having a spiritual master is the most wonderful thing that can happen in one’s life – infact it is a part of life’s perfection. A spiritual master is a representation of the Supreme Lord, who holds your hand and takes you closer to Lord Krishna, step by step, service by service, advice by advice. The relationship is completely spiritual and one that is eternal. When the student is sincere in his search for his relationship with the Lord, providence arranges for him to meet his spiritual master. As they say, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.

His Holiness Bhakti Vikas Swami is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) or the Hare Krishna movement. Originally from England, he became an initiated disciple of Srila Prabhupada in 1975. You can read more about him on his website here – http://www.bvks.com/about/his_holiness/biography/

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His Holiness Bhakti Vikas Swami (image from http://www.bvks.com)

I remember seeing him for the first time in Mayapur (West Bengal, India), on 11 April 2010, when he was giving initiations along with His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami, HH Jayapataka Swami and HH Bhakti Vaibhava Swami. I had written an article about that visit to Mayapur then – here it is: article # 196. What stood out for me then was his fluency over the Bengali language. It had the local crowd enthralled! HH Bhakti Swami who was translating for him jokingly said to the crowd, “Swami has got an English body and a Bengali heart!” and that he himself was a Bengali speaking in English 🙂 The next day when i was exiting my pilgrimage trip to Yogapith (birthplace of lord Chaitanya), he was entering the same compound. Someone told me that he was out on a parikrama. He looked very serious and determined on that walk, i remember.

Anyway, at the temple today, few young devotees and few visitors had gathered in front of his photo. We had kirtan, offered bhoga, chanted the prayers and did pushpanjali (offering of flowers) also.

His only disciple here i think, His Grace Prem Sagar prabhu managed to put this all together. He had only just come to Australia in Feb 2017 but his humble nature, ready smile, hard work at the kitchen has earned him a lot of friendships. The feast that he put for all of us was one of the best i have ever had!! There must have been atleast 20 preparations!

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Prem Sagar Prabhu – a disciple and a cook!

He was telling me with great enthusiasm how he came under the care of his spiritual master, HH Bhakti Vikas Swami, some 10-11 years ago:

I was working in Mumbai and staying with other friends. I have a nature where I cannot sleep more than 4-5 hours at a stretch and then I need to take a break from my sleep! One such night, i had woken up and decided to watch T.V. Casually, I tuned into ATMA TV where there was a program from ISKCON. It was a lecture given my a caucasian but speaking in fluent Hindi!! I was surprised because I had never met an English speaking citizen speak an Indian language like that. It was Bhakti Vikas Swami delivering the talk on TV. I listened with great delight and at the end, they had mentioned in the credits that he was at ISKCON Juhu (Mumbai). So, I tried to visit him a few times but always missed him. Later I went to the Dubai and decided to go the ISKCON program there and to my surprise, he was there! After a long wait, I managed to have a darshan (personal audience) with him and we connected right away! He asked where I was from originally in India and I said Bengal and I was surprised once again when he now spoke in Bengali!!! Then later on I had the opportunity to serve him via cooking as I am a Chef by profession. Then in 2006, he initiated me. When I came to Australia, I was thinking how I can honour the Vyasa puja of my spiritual master especially when I have no other God family. But Ghanashyam Brahmacari (a temple resident) helped me much in getting it all together and with all your mercy, I feel it was a success!

We think so – below is what he had made for his spiritual master and for us, the hungry lot!

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Pasta salad, Pasta in tomato sauce, biriyani, Bengali Jackfruit curry, roasted plantain dishes, raita, bean dishes, daal, sweet rice, cabbage curry, potato and cauliflower subji and so many others which i don’t know!

What always comes out in a Vyasa Puja is the love of the disciples towards their spiritual master. It was no different today. As we heard him speak and the effort he put into the feast preparation, we could easily gather that his soul was satisfied. Thank you dear Prem Sagar prabhu!

Below is a short video of the offering of the flowers to the photo of HH Bhakti Vikas Swami.


Prem Sagar prabhu ki jaya! His holiness Bhakti Vikas Swami ki jaya! His Divine Grace Bhaktivedanta Swami ki kaya! ISKCON ki Jaya!

380. Hare Krishna! – the movie

From real life to reel life!

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Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of the Hare Krishna movement, his contributions, his spiritual outlook and the experiences of his disciples & grand disciples will be available on the big screen in a month’s time!

Through the wonderful efforts of Yadubara prabhu (John Griesser) and his wife Vishaka mataji (Jean Griesser), this documentary will give people an idea on what the Hare Krishna solution to the suffering world is all about. I am hoping that someone will get inspired to make a full length hollywood movie on Srila Prabhupad.

The official Facebook page is here. Please LIKE them!
https://www.facebook.com/harekrishnathefilm/

Here is the official website of the movie:
http://harekrishnathefilm.com

Here is the trailer video if you want to watch it quickly:

If you want to help, here is the director team’s request for financial assistance:
https://www.generosity.com/fundraising/hare-krishna-the-film

The movie will premiere at the Illuminate Film Festival. Here is the website for more info: http://illuminatefilmfestival.com/films2017.php

If you want to read through a quick bio of the directors, here it is:
> Yadubara Dasa: http://howicame.com/yadubara-dasa/
> Vishaka Devi Dasi: http://btg.krishna.com/vishakha-devi-dasi

Vishaka mataji has also written a wonderful book, “Five Years, Eleven Months and a lifetime of unexpected love“, which you can buy at Amazon. Here is the link.

Hoping all that links above will help you link with the Hare Krishna! movement 🙂 Please let me know of your thoughts of the movie after you have watched it in the comments below. In the meantime, let’s wish the entire team with our best wishes, blessings and hopes! Good luck Hare Krishna team!

379. Who will take care of them?

Yesterday, after the Bhagavtam class, Abhishek prabhu was approached by an elderly Indian gentleman.

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Abhishek prabhu (in white) listens patiently to the elderly guest (29.04.17) @ Sydney Hare Krishna temple.

He was well-dressed, had a smiling face, respectful and later declared to us that he was from Bengal, a diplomat during his working years and was now retired. Visiting his son in Sydney, he was out and about when he happened to see the temple complex. Curious, he had stepped in and eventually stayed for the Bhagavatam class. He could speak fluent Chinese too!

Anyway, it was nice to see his interest but as an elderly person, he obviously had a slight inclination towards correcting the youngsters. So, he began to quiz & debate with Abhishek prabhu (and myself too). Abhishek prabhu, for his young age, happens to be well-versed in spiritual literatures. His answers to the gentleman was cut and right – no diplomacy from him. His sharp answers actually subdued the man who now respected him more.

As we shared the breakfast table, munching on our elaborate feast (cabbage subji, carrot halva, kofta balls, coconut chutney, crispy jalebi, salad, upma and a pea curry), his attention turned to an incoming tray of hot samosas! “Is that samosa?“, he asked like a little child. Before we could answer, he picked his plate and hurried towards the server. Grabbing a piece topped by a generous amount of tamarind chutney, he sat back on his seat again. As his eyes twinkled over his conquest, I quickly ran over and got me a piece too. Abhishek was avoiding anything deeply fried although he was munching away on that crispy jalebi pieces! Hypocrisy, i say!

As the man relished his samosa, he asked, “Are you both living at the temple?“. We replied that we weren’t but the Brahmacaris (renunciant students) were. He looked at us with concern and asked, “You mean they have no house of  their own, no job also?“. Abhishek prabhu explained that as brahmacaris, they had no outside work or financial assets, were devoted to the temple full-time and were under the care of the temple management. The man’s fatherly instincts were raised, “But how is that possible? How can someone live without any work and no money – how will they get food and clothes? What if he wants to buy a tooth-brush?! Who will give?“, he asked with great concern.

I thought that was funny and chuckled. Who will get their tooth-brush? I told him that just like there are people for whom material assets are important for their security, there were those who were completely attached to devotional service of the Lord. In that service, they are completely dependant on Him for all their needs, sustenance and protection. I told him that it’s hard for people like us to understand or live such a lifestyle but those who had made the jump were happy. I told him that temple took care of  their food, clothing and shelter besides engaging them in a wide variety of devotional work. He seemed surprised but content that they were being looked after. He eventually finished his meals, bid us farewell, promising to return again next weekend too.

Many things passed by mind after the incident:

  1. Life of brahmacaris: how sacrifice, austerity, simplicity and unselfish devotional service is so pure, healthy and powerful.
  2. Goal in life during old age: Instead of spending time visiting children here and there, attached to one’s past work life & achievements, it’s important that one takes up full-time devotional life also after retirement.
  3. My fortune of being a part of a devotee network early on in life: The earlier one takes the risk and associates with a spiritual group, the better.
  4. Importance of regular study: Watching Abhishek prabhu answer the questions from a shastric angle was so wonderful to watch. It inspired me to study regularly, contemplate more and apply the learnings in one’s life.

So, that was a great Saturday morning well spent, i thought.