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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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.