375. Vraja-mandal Darsana – got the book!

I was invited again to my dear friend Mohan prabhu’s home for breakfast. I declined the invitation as I already had one at temple but accepted the invitation for lunch! As I walked by the street to his home, I looked at the beautiful lining of trees on either side of the road sprinkled by the late morning sun. People in their cars moved about in an organised manner. At the traffic light junction, people would look at me and perhaps be wondering – what is he wearing? what’s that on his forehead? I would stand there proud of my Vaishnava tradition, a part of the bhakti army aiming to take the world towards the light of peace everyone is hampering for. But first, lunch.

As I walked in to Mohan prabhu’s home, I could immediately smell the aroma. Yes, there was dosa and the Karnataka-styled sambar too. There would be other surprises as usual. We exchanged pleasantries and sat on the carpeted ground pulling each other’s leg with smart remarks & jokes, which devotees often playfully share with each other. There was still time for lunch and there was much to catch-up on in the meantime.

As we spoke, Mohan prabhu’s guest Rasa-mandala Dasa arrived into the living area. A Moroccan by birth, he had taken to the following of the Hare Krishna movement as his life and soul. An accomplished author, teacher and a researcher, he loved to say that he had done the Sri Vrindhavan parikrama (circumbulation of the holy town of Vrindhavan), 18 or so times! I loved hearing that too because i love that parikrama as well. Pilgrims to that town can often be seen doing this walk early in the morning and coming to their point of start, 2 hours later. The entire way is memorable. Both sides dotted with village life, wandering cows, hungry monkeys, speeding bicycles, temples, sweet shops getting ready for trade and thoughtful devotees of Lord Krishna walking towards their goals – it surely is a heart touching moment of the day.

He was carrying a large book in his hand which I immediately recognised to be the Vraja-mandala book written by His Holiness Lokanath Swami. I was in the holy town of Sri Vrindhavan in 2015 when that book was launched. The event was well attended and by the time I got there, all the copies had been sold out! And now i was seeing it again almost 2 years later in Australia. He sat next to me and said, “Let’s go to Vrindhava” and gave a very happy smile that is so typical of his every speech. Although old, he always seemed so young and quickly builds a good rapport with youngsters. Always wearing a smile, he loved to touch the topics of Krishna. In the my first meeting of him few weeks ago, i had the opportunity to help him settle down into Mohan prabhu’s home – helping him with his luggage and offering prasad. This time we were no strangers and i was keen to listen.

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He opened the book and moved his hand over the silky pages to feel them. He was happy he had a copy. He seemed satisfied that Vrindhavan was within his hands grasp. He was probably thinking where to start and asked if I had been to the holy place before. Mohan prabhu was sitting next to him having his lunch. I quickly eyed his plate – dosa, sambar, fruit jam, south-indian gun powder mix in ghee, muffin and papaya fruits. Can’t wait for that lunch!

Rasa-mandal prabhu then touched upon the pastime of Kaliya, the enormous snake that troubled the residents of Vrindhavan with his poison and even attacked Lord Krishna in the waters of the Yamuna. He pondered about the hometown of this snake and wondered if he was from the regions of Bali. We know the snake was defeated by Lord Krishna and then retired to the waters of Fiji. He also spoke a bit of the Kabamba tree on which Lord Krishna climbed to jump into the Yamuna river. After this, he touched on the Madana-manohar temple and it’s story and also spoke about the Indian Padayatra (a walk covering major temples) taking months to complete. He finished by asking us questions to see if we paid any attention – what is Kaliya-hrda, what does dwadasaditya-tila mean etc. I could answer and passing with flying colours 🙂

He then asked, “do you have a copy of this book also?“.

I said, “no…i don’t..i had wanted one but missed out on getting it when i was in Vrindhavan during it’s launch“.

He said with a smile, “oh…i have some copies which i brought with me when i came here. Why don’t you get your own from me?

And that’s how I got the book last weekend. When i got home, i opened up the new book with great joy and excitement!

I have just started reading it and it’s truly beautiful. The whole narrative feels like you are right there with hundreds of devotees and traversing the various locations of the holy place. If you would like a copy, you can order it from the author’s website. And if you haven’t been to Vrindhavan before, then please do make a trip there. Those of you, who go there often, please continue to do so by visiting, hearing, reading, sharing and remembering!

“Don’t, don’t harbour illusions about your body, home and everything else! Know that death will thwart all your plans! O friend, run, run to Sri Vrndhavana! Don’t make your heart harder than a thunderbolt.”
– Sri Vrindhavana-mahimamrta, stake 1, text 70.

 

374. When only one is ready

Today, Sri Prahlad prabhu gave the Sunday morning Srimad Bhagavatam talk from Canto 9, Chapter 19 (King Yayati achieves Liberation), verse 20.

In this verse, King Yayati is explaining to his wife the futility of pursuing material happiness. As a part of the royal family, they had ample resources to enjoy for a long time. Having taken youth from his son, the King was able to enjoy the vigour of his body as much as he wanted. However, as time passed, he gradually realised that it was a shallow life he was leading and was in no way as as deep as those in spiritual life. It seems his wife was concerned that she will not be able to enjoy her husband anymore as he will need to return his powerful youth back to his son and accept the invalidity of old age he acquired as a part of the curse. Perhaps, she was not ready to accept the austerity of a renounced life and maybe wanted to enjoy a bit more. Infact, King Yayati was also in the same stage when he begged/ordered his son to swap his old age for his son’s youth – the king had wanted to enjoy a lot longer.

So, that situation got me thinking. What happens when one of the partner is ready to take up to the higher levels of spiritual practice but the other is not.
– Should the advanced person wait for the other to catchup?
– Should the person prioritise his/her own life and goals over the other?

In the Varnashrama system, a person is allowed to gradually evolve to a higher state of realisation while pursuing disciplined/regulated material obligations and desires. But our acharyas also say that if one need not wait to take up devotional service – it can be taken and perfected immediately. So, how do you reconcile the two? I decided to ask the speaker himself after the class and below is his recorded answer:

Overall conclusion: For the general mass of devotionally inclined people or devotees, its better to gradually evolve rather than a premature jump and a fall. Providing mental support + spiritual support + material support to one another is very important in a relationship. Daivi-Varnashrama system allows devotees to go through the 4 stages of spiritual development while devoting one’s actions & results to Lord Krishna. This way it’s not only gradual but also renounced. When the time is right and with proper guidance and contemplation, one can then fully devote his/her energy to the service of the Lord with no further distractions or conflicts – either together or separate.

 

 

373. Pride

In a world characterised by the feverish need to succeed, it’s not that difficult to see the growth of pride in one’s character. The dictionary defines pride as follows:

noun
a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of one’s close associates, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

When one is intoxicated with one’s material or even spiritual achievements, the next phase is a fall down. This is because, to be the centre of power or the ultimate controller or enjoyer is a difficult position for the conditioned living entity to manage. This is something only the Supreme Lord can manage well without being contaminated. When we are proud, we strongly identify with our false ego & our body. We imagine us to be better than anyone else and stronger than all those around us. This leads one to thrive on the accolades & recognition from others, eventually making one unfit to receive any feedbacks or constructive criticisms on one’s deficiencies. Surely, a dangerous position to be in.

In yesterday’s Srimad Bhagavatam class, Abhishek prabhu covered the story of King Nahusa from Canto 9, Chapter 18, Verse 03 – 05.

In summary, King Nahusa was given the opportunity to rule heaven in the absence of Lord Indra (original king of heaven). However, the new king became proud of his powerful position and went after the wife of Lord Indra. In order to protect the queen and also punish the king for his pride, the powerful sages who were present in the court hatched a plot to have him cursed. As a part of the plan, the queen requested the new king to come see her in a palanquin  but carried by powerful sages. The proud king intoxicated with his desire to enjoy the queen did not realise the offence he was about to commit. The sages or brahmins are not to undertake such tasks and meant to be worshipped at all times due to their full-time endeavour to immerse in the thoughts of God. The king was blind to his folly and arranged for such a ride to happen 😦 In the slow ride on the palanquin, the king got impatient and prodded one of the sages with his foot – a great insult!

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He was immediately cursed to became a snake on the earthly planets but was eventually delivered from his low position when he came in contact with the Pandavas. That’s another story.

Basically, you don’t want to offend a devotee or get cursed by one either. If you do, the only way out is to repent, do a lot of service to the devotees and earn their forgiveness. As we all know, the Lord tolerates any insult directed towards Him but he does not do so when it’s directed towards a devotee.

Both the Lord and material nature are very strict and does not tolerate pride especially towards those in the position of a power. A leader has to be incredibly humble and understand that the power invested in him is a mercy of the Lord. That power and the humility that goes with it, is meant to attract the mercy of the Supreme Lord which can then be passed on to the followers, he/she govern. All the followers in turn will also become humble and will not be proud of their own efforts or be envious of the rulers. This is the way to have a just and peaceful society. That is true success.

In conclusion, we must actively keep a watch out for what we think, say and do and remove any elements of pride. This must be a daily effort. Always remember – Pride Hath A Fall.

 

372. Time moves

It’s amazing to observe the invisible hand of time, taking you closer and closer to your next life destination without you even realising it. Every Monday, I think back and wonder where the weekend went. When I hit Friday, I look back and wonder where the week went. Before you know it, your entire life has finished. If one lives a life of week days and weekends doing mundane chores, it’s surely fruitless. One must remember everyday that time + material nature is in full control of our day-to-day existence. They make us do stuff and we think we are the doers. To make each day an investment, look for opportunities to pray, worship, remember and serve God. Only in this case, can one not feel guilty of losing time through their fingers.

371. Being Thankful

Perhaps casually, perhaps loosely, perhaps as a habit, perhaps everyday, we say 2 words – Thank you – words that can be so life changing. In most cases, our utterance of thanks happens when we have received something we want. But to be thankful to a person or a situation, when it’s completely unfavourable to one’s life is a difficult thing to do. In such situations, we often blame others, or our fate or worse, God. The ancient scriptures of the East requires that every human being understand that we get what we deserve. It’s only a reaction that has manifested due to a past action. The action could be from this lifetime or a previous one. The devotees of Lord Krishna however, accept any challenging situation as a blessing from Him. They do not distinguish between what is good, bad or ugly. This comes from their heart’s full acceptance that they have somehow or another secured an opportunity to remember and worship the Lord. Everything else is just a temporary distraction. If the whole world thought this way, will there ever be hatred, crime, war and anxiety?

 

370. Dr. Krishna

Today morning’s Bhagavatam class was held by Gokuleshwar prabhu, i believe is from ISKCON Juhu (India) temple. At least that’s what i learnt from a Google search 🙂 Should have asked someone at the temple. Anyway, what I wanted to say was that it was a great class. It was funny, insightful and a great reminder of where we stand in life.

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His allotted verse was from Srimad Bhagavatam, 9.16.24:

TEXT 24

sva-dehaṁ jamadagnis tu labdhvā saṁjñāna-lakṣaṇam ṛṣīṇāṁ maṇḍale so ‘bhūt saptamo rāma-pūjitaḥ

SYNONYMS

sva-deham—his own body; jamadagniḥ—the great sage Jamadagni; tu—but; labdhvā—regaining; saṁjñāna-lakṣaṇam—showing full symptoms of life, knowledge and remembrance; ṛṣīṇām—of the great ṛṣis; maṇḍale—in the group of seven stars; saḥ—he, Jamadagni; abhūt—later became; saptamaḥ—the seventh; rāma-pūjitaḥ—because of being worshiped by Lord Paraśurāma.

TRANSLATION

Thus Jamadagni, being worshiped by Lord Paraśurāma, was brought back to life with full remembrance, and he became one of the seven sages in the group of seven stars.

PURPORT

The seven stars revolving around the polestar at the zenith are called saptarṣi-maṇḍala. On these seven stars, which form the topmost part of our planetary system, reside seven sages: Kaśyapa, Atri, Vasiṣṭha, Viśvāmitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Bharadvāja. These seven stars are seen every night, and they each make a complete orbit around the polestar within twenty-four hours. Along with these seven stars, all the others stars also orbit from east to west. The upper portion of the universe is called the north, and the lower portion is called the south. Even in our ordinary dealings, while studying a map, we regard the upper portion of the map as north.

Source: Vanisource

From that simple verse, he expounded important points covering topics such as death, power of time, Krishna’s mindset, why He has pastimes, role of Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, hollow statements of space scientists and our own acceptance of Krishna. Some main points below:

  1. Death is inevitable and irreversible. It will force you to disconnect and lose everything you have materially.
  2. The hand of invisible “Time” is present in everything and everywhere. But, we ignore it or forget it.
  3. Krishna’s giving of mercy to someone seems illogical at times but the truth of the matter is that we can’t use our logic to understand Krishna’s actions.
  4. Krishna performs pastimes for the benefit of humanity and to attract us more and more towards Him. Otherwise, He can easily kill each asura one by one with just a heart attack!
  5. When there is a problem, a brahmana offers a solution via knowledge, a Kshatriyas offers it through action, a vaishya through a profit motive and a sudra through a crude emotion. Same problem but each answers/actions belongs to the 3 modes of goodness, passion or ignorance.
  6. Universe did not generate from a Big Bang but generated from a Big Brain! Even if it came from an explosion, then it must be a controlled and an organised explosion in which case, the question arises, “who is the controller of that controlled explosion?”
  7. We have to accept the daily prescriptions of “Dr. Radha Gopinath” with complete trust and faith.

I really enjoyed the last point about Dr. Krishna. As prabhu said, the prescriptions of the doctor is always different for every patient and it might not always be tasty. It can be bitter  & painful, perhaps a long term treatment too. At times, the treatment doesn’t make sense either. But, if we accept the doctor’s instruction with complete faith, patience and action, we will get better. “Dr. Krishna’s” allotment of events, trials and tribulations in our lives may not make sense at all either now or later, but if we take it with the understanding that this is what is meant for my life today and tomorrow, and carry on with life – we will surely attain the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord one day. All liberated patients (acharyas & saints) have clearly promised this.

So, let’s start getting treated! Go to your temple, associate with the devotees, perform service, listen to spiritual discourses, gaze at the deity form of the Lord and continue to accept the favourable and unfavourable situations of life. You will get better one day 🙂

 

369. Sri Jiva’s begging – so beautiful…

I am reading this wonderful book, “Śrī Navadvīpa-dhāma Māhātmya”, by Śrīla Sac-cid-ānanda Bhaktivinoda Thākura which is a conversation between Lord Nityānanda and the young Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī as they go on a tour (parikramā) of the holy dham. Once the parikrama is over and Srī Jīva is blessed to go to Sri Vrindhavan, he submits the following statements to the assembled Vaishnavas (devotees of Krishna) in the courtyard of Śrīvāsa’s home. Folding his hands, he said to all of them:

Please excuse all of my offenses. You are Sri Chaitanya’s servants, the gurus of the world. O desire trees, be merciful on this insignificant living entity. Let the attraction of my mind reside in Lord Chaitanya. And let Nityananda Prabhu be the goal birth after birth! Without understanding I have given up my home as a mere child, but you are my friends, taking care of my life. Without the mercy of the Vaishnavas one cannot attain Krishna. Therefore, brothers, give me the dust from your feet.”