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.

378. Simple actions of a devotee

My friend Abhishek prabhu gave a great Srimad Bhagavatam class yesterday in which he mentioned that every action a pure devotee performs must make impressions in the disciples heart, even if they are very trivial ones. If it doesn’t, then its hard to approach Krishna.

What i understand from his statement is that all actions of a pure devotee of the Lord is transcendental. They are fully connected with Krishna and even inspired by Him. That is why in the case of Srila Prabhupada, his disciples often were mesmerised by the way he walked, drank water, glanced over the devotees, his looked at them, the way adorned his tilaka etc. These actions seem so trivial and day-to-day stuff but 40 years on, his disciples still remember and connect with him in separation through these actions also. Besides the spiritual master’s or a pure devotees instruction and personal example, we must also remember his simple actions. Even Arjuna seems to ask Lord Krishna something along these lines:

Chapter 2: Contents of the Gita Summarized

TEXT 54
arjuna uvaca
sthita-prajnasya ka bhasa
samadhi-sthasya kesava
sthita-dhih kim prabhaseta
kim asita vrajeta kim
SYNONYMS
arjuna uvaca—Arjuna said; sthita-prajnasya—of one who is situated in fixed Krsna consciousness; ka—what; bhasa—language; samadhi-sthasya—of one situated in trance; kesava—O Krsna; sthita-dhih—one fixed in Krsna consciousness; kim—what; prabhaseta—speak; kim—how; asita—does remain; vrajeta—walk; kim—how.
TRANSLATION
Arjuna said: What are the symptoms of one whose consciousness is thus merged in Transcendence? How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?

377. The Deity interacts

Many people think that in the Hindu tradition, worshipping a deity or an idol is imaginary and superstitious. Why worship a stone, they ask?

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However, the ancient Vedic texts and the Lord Himself states that one should not think in such a way. They boldly declare that the Deity form of the Lord is a merciful incarnation of the Lord for the benefit of the common people. If God is present everywhere, why not in a stone too? Infact, everything single thing in existence, whether they be a living entity or a non-living entity, are energies of the Lord. They are all part & parcel of the Lord. Everything in existence belongs to Him. This is one of the reasons why He is the greatest.

The Hindu devotees understand that the lord allows us to approach Him and showcase our love to Him through the via medium of a Deity while we are still conditioned in the material world. The Deities are installed through a very rigorous process of mantras and by qualified priests & devotees. The Lord enters such a setup and infuses the “stone” with His energy which in turn helps us put the fire of material existence from our hearts whenever we come in contact with that Deity. There are thousands of temples around the world visited by millions of people – why would they visit just to gaze upon a stone? No, they have experienced wonderful reciprocation with the Lord and they feel protected and satisfied.

Below is a wonderful read from the Mayapur Academy’s recent newsletter, of a Hare Krishna devotee from South Africa who shares her experience of Deity Worship. I found her stories of interactions with the Lord very interesting. Of-course, this is not surprising at all because a devotee knows that the Lord will reciprocate based on your reciprocation with Him, whether it be through the means of the mind, through a Deity, through His books or His devotees. Hope you will visit a temple in the future with a different frame of mind 🙂

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376. Offering food to the Lord

Yes, it’s possible. You can offer food to the Lord. Ofcourse, the usual question from a lay person is, “Why does God need food if He is God?“. The answer from the devotees of the Lord is simple, “because He loves to!“. God is a person and He enjoys relationship with the living entities in a wide variety of moods. In our day to day world, preparing and offering food to someone is often seen as an act of kindness and love you have for that special someone. A mother is always looking to prepare tasty preparations for her child, a chef wants to show-off his skills in cooking by preparing food with great care to his customers and perhaps you are cooking for someone out of your friendship. The ancient scriptures says that you can do the same with the Lord too.

Using the very things the Lord has provided us with and offering it back to Him with love is very much appreciated by God. When a child borrows money from his/her parents and then buys a gift for them from that very same money, moves the parents a lot. They had no need for that little gift nor are they dependent on the child for such things – they can get better ones. But what matters is the action & consciousness of the child. This is very much appreciated by the adults. In the same way, the Lord is also moved when we purchase grocery with happiness, cooks a wonderful meal and then offers to Him with love. The Lord greedily accepts these preparations and longs for more from a devotee. Ofcourse, you may see the food still sit on the table but what you can’t see is that He has touched the food offered, taken them in full and also left them for you to have in the same quantity. It’s easy for Him to do these contradictory things 🙂 When you take such food, what you are having is spiritually sanctified food, free of karma or any violence. Make sure its only vegetarian as He doesn’t like non-vegetarian food including no onion, garlic or mushrooms! Such food is called “prasad”.

In the Hare Krishna tradition, there is a method of offering the food on the prayer altar. In the below content from the Mayapur Academy newsletter, you can see the clear steps outlined. So, next time you prepare and begin to consume anything for yourself, kindly do spend some time offering them to the beautiful Lord before you start.

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