Category Archives: Bhakti

Don’t Drink and Drive

Introduction

“Don’t Drink and Drive” is a well known caption that government puts on the roads as posters. The meaning of it is obvious, ie., one should not be intoxicated while driving the vehicles. But what a foolishness, if a person misunderstood the above caption by taking the literal meaning of it and is not drinking any water or any required liquid substance. It is clear that, to understand the meaning of the above one line, one should know the intention of government or the consequences of driving while being intoxicated. Similarly, to understand the statements in scriptures one should know their purpose and intentions.

What a great loss it is

When the scriptures say that we should not talk or we should not do anything, it means that we should not talk nonsense or we should not do any unnecessary work. The authors of the authorized scriptures know very well the reactions and sufferings that we will undergo if we spend our time in talking something useless and are working for something which will not solve the purpose of soul. But if we misunderstood the scriptures and decided not to talk anything about Krishna or not to render any service unto Krishna; what a great loss for soul it is…

What is essential ?

Drinking water is essential for a person to maintain his body, similarly talking about Krishna and rendering service unto Him is an essential activity of the soul. When a person is thirsty, only water can satisfy him and nothing else. Similarly only Holy Names of Lord Govinda and service unto Him can only satisfy a person who is suffering in this material world. A athlete requires and drinks more water than a normal person does, similarly if a devotee advances in spiritual life, he takes more shelter of Holy Name and will be rendering more Service to Krishna; this is natural.

Krishna says “vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo” – By all vedas, I am to be known. (Bg 15.15) All the four Vedas are meant to take us back to Supreme Personality of Godhead step by step. If one knows the essence of Vedas and follows a bonafide authority, he will be soon situated in his eternal constitutional position of serving Krishna. By the blessings of the Bonafide authorities we can understand the scriptures properly and thereby we can satisfy Krishna in a proper manner.

Hare Krishna.

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Community of Care and Devotional Service

Community of Care – H.H.Sachinandana Swami
 
 ‘One who says he is directly My devotee is not My devotee –  However, one who says he is the devotee of My devotee – he is My  devotee.’  (Krishna to Arjuna in the Adi-Purana)
 
 While in America I had a mind-opening conversation with His Holiness Radhanatha Maharaja. I had just finished describing to him my plans for the Vedic Way and asked him for his opinion. Maharaja looked into my eyes and answered: ‘Very good, but do you know the real reason people turn to Krishna consciousness?’
 
Keeping my many conversations with devotees in mind I said, ‘Well, the devotees I asked about that said they had been convinced by the philosophy. Radhanatha Maharaja smiled. ‘They are wrong,’ he said.
 
‘Philosophy came after. For people to open their hearts to the philosophy they need to see an association that works, a community of spiritual people who support each other.’
 
He continued: ”Conversion,’ as the social scientists call it, is always a social experience. A person watches a community and then decides: I wish to be with these people more than with anyone else.’ People need to see that the devotees are there for one another, that they help one another, that they see the Lord in one another’s heart – and on this spiritual basis that they have created a caring, loving community.If  people see  such a community they will decide, ‘This is for me.’
 
Then Radhanatha Maharaja told me about a person in Dallas who has been  coming to the temple for twenty years. When the devotees asked him what kept him from making a firm commitment he said, ‘I have seen how you treat guests – those whom you are just meeting. I’ve also seen how you treat your members. I’d rather remain a permanent guest.’  How sad – and how eye-opening. We can learn from this ‘permanent guest’ that while we may be good at attracting people, we still have much to learn in terms of how to care for them once they have chosen to participate more fully and to help them remain permanently inspired.
 
All conditioned souls are driven by several essential needs. I would like to highlight three of them:
 
1. The need for security
2. The need to be loved
3. The need to express love
The first need is both physical and emotional; the others are purely emotional. Of course, we have a host of other needs we must fulfill – we need nourishment, good health, and both autonomy and interdependence, for example. But these needs are easy to meet compared to the three I have listed above (unless, of course, someone is passing through an irreversibly karmic period and is destined not to have food or clothing or shelter or health).
 
Imagine a person with a large income, well nourished, healthy, and socially successful, but whose needs for security and to give and receive love are not met. Despite his apparent success, such a person will be so miserable that he will give up all the accouterments of success simply  to obtain these three treasures.
 
A community of care especially provides for these three important needs, even as a strong attempt is made to supply the other human needs as well. In this connection I would like to tell an old Christian story that  makes a profound point about the community of care.
 
Once there was only little difference between heaven and hell – they looked almost the same. It so happened that a person who had just left his body arrived at heaven’s gate. Peter opened the gate and asked the man, ‘Where would you like to stay, in heaven or in hell?’ The man was surprised at being offered the choice, but he replied, ‘Well, if it is up to me, I had better ask what’s  the difference?’ Peter said, ‘I will show you, but we have to wait for mealtime.’
 
At two o’clock Peter took the newcomer to hell for lunch. The buildings and grounds in hell seemed well maintained, even luxurious, and to the man’s surprise, the temperature was just right. They entered the dining hall with its round tables. In the middle of each table was a large bowl. Each place was set with a spoon with an extraordinarily long handle.
 
The hall suddenly filled with people, who sat at the tables waiting for the signal to begin eating. The people looked hungry, even a little desperate. When the claxon rang, each took a spoon and began to dip into the bowl. It was clear that the long spoon handles made it easy for everyone to reach the bowl, but the diners could not turn the spoons around and transfer the food to their mouths. The room was filled with anxiety – the diners, the newcomer realized, were literally starving.
 
Shocked, the newcomer looked at Peter and said, ‘If there is no visible difference between heaven and hell, what is heaven like?’ ‘Wait,’ Peter said, ‘we have just missed lunch in heaven. We will have to wait for dinner.’ When it was time for dinner Peter took the new person to heaven – straight to the dining hall. This hall looked exactly like the one in hell – the  same tables, each with a bowl of food in the center, and each diner with the spoon with its long handle.
 
But what a difference! Here the people looked well fed and satisfied. The signal to start the meal was not a loud claxon but a prayer, and after it was intoned each diner smilingly took  his or her unwieldy spoon, dipped it into the bowl, and used it to feed  his or her neighbor while in turn being fed by someone else. An atmosphere of love and sharing pervaded the meal. The newcomer heard
pleasant laughter and people praising one another and the Supreme Lord.
 
The newcomer understood: heaven is a place of selflessness and hell is for the selfish. Heaven is a community of care and hell a community of struggle for survival.
 
Creating a Community of Care
 
If we wish to create a community of care we must begin with the right understanding. Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes that if we want to motivate people to care for others we need to understand three things:
1. That all living beings are equal
2. The nature of misery
3. That to eradicate misery takes determined and concrete measures
 
 These understandings are the beginning of creating a community of care, but they are not enough. We must also create opportunities and a system so that we can fulfill our desire to actually provide care. In other words, it is not enough to want to help the sick; we must also build the hospital that will allow the desire to translate into action.
 
Let’s go back to my conversation with Radhanatha Maharaja. When I asked Maharaja how he had created a community of care, he smiled and said, ‘I decided to do everything differently from how it was presently being done in ISKCON. When ISKCON was a young missionary movement, its primary focus was on expanding its preaching facilities, especially establishing  temples and printing and distributing books. We were clearly project-oriented, and the people who joined were expected to serve the projects.
 
‘However, I saw that this approach could not work in the long run because when people’s needs aren’t met they leave. Therefore I reversed the paradigm and tried to develop a person-centered community.’ We all know how successful His Holiness Radhanatha Maharaja has been. The Radha-Gopinatha Community is growing year by year. It currently has about 20,000 members.
 
How can you care for so many people? There are several answers. First, Maharaja has established a counselor system. Second, there are a number of ‘forums of care’ focused on particular types of needs – care systems for older people, for young people, and there are schools, hospitals, etc. For example, he has established a committee to help people find marriage partners, another committee to support the brahmacaris, and committees to give other specialized groups support. In other words, his plan is not made only of good intentions but of practical measures in which the devotees’ desire to offer care can manifest.
 
This strong community started with a visionary – a person with a vision that he himself lived by and taught. This vision simply states that caring for Krsna’s devotees and for people in general is an important spiritual practice. In fact, it is the basis of all our spiritual practices. The Srimad-Bhagavatam (4.12.36) tells us that the self-effulgent Vaikuntha planets can only be attained by those who practice compassion toward others:
 
 The self-effulgent Vaikuntha planets, by whose illumination alone all the illuminating planets  within this material world give off reflected light, cannot be reached by those who are not merciful to other living entities. Only persons who constantly engage in welfare activities for other  living entities can reach the Vaikuntha planets.  Let us note with benefit how important this caring mentality is. For further insights we can turn to the Lord’s instruction to Kardama Muni when the Muni is leaving home to wander at will through the world. Before Kardama starts his travels Kapiladeva gives him some powerful advice about  how to develop self- and god-realization.
 
Kapiladeva says:  Showing compassion to all living entities you will attain self-realization. Giving assurance of safety to all, you will perceive your own self as well as all the universes in Me, and Myself in you. (SB 3.21.31)
 
 In the purport Srila Prabhupada informs us that our energy can be used  for real self-interest if we are compassionate toward others. He mentions that real devotees are never satisfied by gratifying themselves. Rather, they wish to benefit others by encouraging them to become free of fear.
 
Such devotees assure others, ‘Let us live in Krishna consciousness and conquer the nescience of  material existence.’ Later Srila Prabhupada says, ‘The devotee should show mercy to the fallen souls and also give them the assurance of fearlessness. As soon as one becomes a devotee of the Lord, he is convinced that he is protected by the Lord. Fear itself is afraid of  the Lord; therefore, what has he to do with fearfulness?’ And: ‘To award fearlessness to the common man is the greatest act of charity.’
 
 These are strong words, and I find them highly motivating. Anyone who lives by these instructions will overcome his greatest enemy:
 selfishness. I would like to encourage my readers to care for others.
 
Join the  community of care. Learn from and apply the principles of successful models like the Radha-Gopinatha Community.
 
 On a more personal note: While trying to serve in the capacity of guru I have seen that my disciples need my personal care and attention. I am doing my best to fulfill their needs. But how can I, one person, care fully for so many? Perhaps you can give me some tips, but I feel that I have already reached my limit. Therefore, it is important that we begin to think deeply about developing
a community of care. Otherwise, young devotees may accuse guru and Krishna that they do not offer emotional support. Many devotees have already left Krishna consciousness because they feel physically, emotionally, socially, and even spiritually starved. But all these needs could be provided for if  we had communities of care. Let us sit together and plan how to develop them.
 
Afterword  Goethe once observed that an idea whose time has come is unstoppable.
Since writing these lines I have spoken with a few devotees about the community of care. Committees have already sprung up among my disciples to begin caring for one another. Recently I received a wonderful text from Akrura Prabhu in which he detailed exactly how a community of care can be established based on the successful model of the Radha-Gopinatha Mandir in Chowpatty. If you are interested in this manual describing the counselor system, you can see it on the Saranagati webpage.
 
The devotees with whom I have spoken about these ideas have become  inspired and are trying in their own ways to start the community of care in their areas and in the groups with which they are concerned. I hope that their endeavors will be successful by the blessings of the parampara. Experience has shown that it’s best to start caring for others in a small group such as a bhakti-sanga or bhakti-vriksa group, or among one’s friends or family members. Once each of us realizes the essential principles of the community of care, the idea will expand from there. And what is this essential principle? One word can describe it best: empathy.
 
Sympathy and empathy are not synonymous. When I sympathize with someone I stay within my own frame of reference, my own world, and send out my good feelings from there. Empathy means to put ourselves in others shoes. Sympathy is not as powerful as empathy, because empathy actually allows us to understand others to the extent that we can feel their needs and reflect them. Often people are so out of touch with their feelings and heart that they cannot recognize their own needs. When we practice empathy, we help such persons reconnect with themselves and are then able to offer the greatest help.
 
I wish you all the best in your efforts to join the community of care. It is a universal community, where you will find yourself in best company.
 
Your ever wellwisher,
Sacinandana Swami

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Ten Offenses to the Holy Name of God

From Padma Purana, Brahma Khanda 25.15-18
satam ninda namnah paramam aparadham vitanute
yatah khyatim yatam katham u sahate tad-vigarham
1) To blaspheme devotees who have dedicated their lives to chanting the
holy name of the Lord. The holy name, who is identical with Krsna, will
never tolerate such blasphemous activities.

sivasya sri-visnor ya iha guna-namadi-sakalam
dhiya bhinnam pasyet sa khalu hari-namahita-karah
2) To consider the names of demigods like Lord Siva or Lord Brahma to be
on an equal level with the holy name of Lord Visnu.
I was repeatedly asking you about the meaning of this offense, no word
like brahma or devatas is used here but still in the translation it is
said demigods, how is it??

guror avajna
3) To disobey the orders of the spiritual master or to consider him an
ordinary person.

sruti-sastra-nindanam
4) To blaspheme the Vedic literatures or literatures in pursuance of the
Vedic version.

artha-vadah
5) To give some interpretation on the holy name of the Lord.

hari-namni kalpanam
6) To consider the glories of the holy name of the Lord as imagination.

namno balad yasya hi papa-buddhir
na vidyate tasya yamair hi suddhih
7) (While chanting of the holy name of the Lord can counteract all the
past sinful reactions but it is greatest offense to commit sinful
activities on the strength of chanting the holy name of the Lord.) To
think that the Hare Krsna mantra can counteract all sinful reactions and
one may therefore go on with his sinful activities and at the same time
chant the Hare Krsna mantra to neutralize them is the greatest offense
at the lotus feet of Hari-nama.

dharma-vrata-tyaga-hutadi-sarva-
subha-kriya-samyam api pramadah
8) To consider the chanting of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra to be one of
the auspicious ritualistic mantras mentioned in the Vedas as fruitive
activity.

asraddadhane vimukhe ‘py asrnvati
yas copadesah siva-namaparadhah
9) It is an offense to preach the glories of the holy name of the Lord
to the faithless.

srute ‘pi nama-mahatmye
yah priti-rahito narah
aham-mamadi-paramo
namni so ‘py aparadha-krt
10) If one has heard the glories of the transcendental holy name of the
Lord but nevertheless continues in a materialistic concept of life,
thinking “I am this body and everything belonging to this body is mine
[aham mameti],” and does not show respect and love for the chanting of
the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, that is an offense.

The effect of concealing doubt in the heart

Astronauts did not land on the moon

As we sat with Srila Prabhupada, he asked for the day’s report, listening intently how step by step his plans were being pushed to fruition. He ordered that once the temple was officially opened, there should be seven days of continual feasting, and he personally listed what preparations of food should be cooked for each day. Prabhupada appeared very satisfied with the endeavor of all of the devotees and began to describe how Lord Caitanya’s mission must be taken very seriously and established in every city of the world. He quoted the verse yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krsna- upadesa/ amara ajnaya guru hana tara ei desa. Lord Caitanya personally instructed everyone that by His order they should become guru and tell everyone the message of Krsna, Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. It was not the work of one person, explained Srila Prabhupada. What could he, at such an elderly age, expect to accomplish with only a few years remaining? Prabhupada looked directly at Mukunda, Purusottama, and my-self and again repeated that we must each become guru and strongly preach the message of Krsna consciousness all over the world. And he added, “If I ever die, you take my body by plane to Mayapur and lay it there to rest.”

As Prabhupada said these words, we were all very silent. Like a great military general he was encouraging us. He would lead us in our preaching missions, share with us the triumphs, and encourage us in our momentary setbacks. But inevitably the time would come when he would have to leave us, when Krsna would call him back. We would have to prepare for that time, and not become bewildered. He was not going to retire from the fight with maya but would give up his body like a great military commander in the battlefield.

Prabhupada’s last words rang within my ears. I did not like contemplating the thought of his ever leaving, but by his words Prabhupada impressed upon us the grave responsibility we bore as Krsna’s servants within this world. Our life was meant to be sacrificed for spreading Krsna consciousness, not used for our personal sense gratification. Only at the time of our death should we ever consider retiring. Purusottama had been serving as Srila Prabhupada’s secretary for nearly one year and had been by Prabhupada’s side month after month. His humble, amiable nature, complimented by his efficiency in the various secretarial skills, made him a valuable assistant to his spiritual master. It was not an easy job. Being in Prabhupada’s constant association did not allow for any sense gratification, even within the mind. Prabhupada’s devotional intensity at once exposed any influence which maya might try to assert in his presence. The list of Prabhupada’s personal servants was dotted with casualties who had fallen away for on reason or another. Often, in continuous association with the spiritual master, they developed familiarity and began to see him in an ordinary way. Sometimes they would forget to offer obeisances when entering and leaving his presence, an indication that greater difficulties might be expected in the future. For most of the devotees who lived at a respectful distance from Srila Prabhupada, whatever he did was viewed with loving appreciation. Any moments of close association they were allowed became cherished memories to meditate upon and recall year after year. But for those in his personal entourage, whom he called for dozens of times a day, there was a tendency to forget that the spiritual master was to be worshiped on an equal level with the Supreme Lord, and that his activities, no matter how insignificant they might appear, were never ordinary or mundane.

Purusottama, however, had always been respectful before Srila Prabhupada and even maintained the same mood when out of His Divine Grace’s presence. But in London, for the first time, a subtle form of maya began to creep in. It started when Srila Prabhupada declared that he did not believe the astronauts had actually landed on the moon.

As far back as 1960 Srila Prabhupada had stated in his book Easy Journey to Other Planets that man’s attempt to go to the moon was “childish.” Later, in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto Five, Chapter Twenty-two, text 8, Srila Prabhupada gave his explicit conclusion:

When we take into account that the moon is 100,000 yojanas, or 800,000 miles, above the rays of the sunshine, it is very surprising that the modern excursions to the moon could be possible. Since the moon is so distant, how space vehicles could go there is a doubtful mystery. Modern scientific calculations are subject to one change after another, and therefore they are uncertain. We have to accept calculations of the Vedic literature. These Vedic calculations are steady; the astronomical calculations made long ago and recorded in the Vedic literatures are correct even now. Whether the Vedic calculations or modern ones are better may remain a mystery for others, but as far as we are concerned, we accept the Vedic calculations to be correct.

Srila Prabhupada was firm in his determination to uphold the Vedic statements even in the face of apparent contradictions due to modern scientific research. The Vedas, coming directly from God, are perfect in every respect and therefore are not subject to fault, like the statements of ordinary, conditioned souls. Although the scientists might try to substantiate their claims with impressive “facts,” their information would always be defective on account of their imperfect senses, liability to make mistakes, tendency to become illusioned, and propensity for cheating. God is perfect, and whatever He says is similarly perfect. His statements, known as the Vedas, are called sruti, and one who repeats exactly what he has heard from his spiritual master in disciplic succession from God, without any concoction or change, is known as a bona fide guru: srotriyam brahma-nistham. Even at the expense of being laughed at as a follower of blind superstition, Prabhupada was not going to “sell out” just to please some modern, so-called learned men. He had full faith that what he had heard from his Guru Maharaja was perfect, and to reproduce it accurately was his highest qualification.

Purusottama had never doubted Srila Prabhupada before. When Prabhupada had lectured on the Bhagavad-gita and cited so many evidences from Vedic history, Purusottama had never had any difficulty. But the statement about the moon landing seemed a glaring contradiction to everything he was now perceiving. After all, he had seen the moon landing on television with his own eyes!

Although Prabhupada’s statement about the moon landing was a minor point, it became a major impasse in Purusottama’s spiritual life. Rather than reveal his doubts to Srila Prabhupada and have them easily dispelled, he preferred to conceal them, and this ultimately proved to be his undoing. Whereas Arjuna, as a perfect disciple, appealed to Krsna to dispel his doubts, Purusottama allowed this loss of faith to fester within his heart. Externally he gave little indication of the difficulties, continuing to perform his services in his usual competent manner. But the seed of misgiving was there. Although he remained with Srila Prabhupada throughout his London visit, shortly after returning with Prabhupada to America, his diseased condition became fully manifest. After notifying Srila Prabhupada that he had decided to leave, Purusottama returned to his parents’ home to resume his academic education.

– From the “Servant of the Servant” by HH Tamala Krsna Goswami

Use all technical skills and sciences to save the planet by spiritual integrity

Use all technical skills and sciences to save the planet by spiritual integrity by

H H Radhanath Swami Maharaj

posted in Nectarean Mellows Group

Technology: as far as how to manipulate matters, people are becoming very expert at that. But as far as understanding why or how, or from where it’s coming, it’s all speculation. And the way it’s being taught is these technologies lead to atheism, rather than leading to utilising the resources of the world for a compassionate and noble purpose in life, that elevates our consciousness. So we encourage students to remain in school, because technical sciences can be utilised but we’ll never encourage anyone to go through these spiritual slaughterhouses in the names of colleges and universities unless they have very very strong spiritual training, to understand how to utilise these gifts of technological knowledge.. Otherwise it’s a curse. It is there to make money, to get prestige and you suffer and you pollute the planet. And that’s all that they do. Let us be honest, and blunt and come out of the illusion that everyone is trying to keep you in. Progress in the nation, progress of divorce, breaking-up families, so much secularism, Godlessness, AIDS and so many terrible diseases, greed, envy. Is this growing or is it getting less in India? What do you say? You may have Kellog’s cornflakes now, and you may have Ford motor company making their cars here now, and you may have mobile phones now, but you also have families breaking to pieces, divorce, cigarette smoking, drug addiction just on the rise, alcoholism, frustration. Is this what we want? We can use our mobile phones to preach Krishna Consciousness. We can use it for business that will be utilised for some higher purpose. We can use all these technical skills and sciences to save the planet if we have spiritual integrity. And that is what this ISKCON Youth Forum is all about: Not taking people away from their studies, not taking people away from their schools but giving people spiritual integrity. Giving them conviction of what is the purpose and goal of life. Who you are? This body, Srila Prabhupada said, is just a dead piece of matter that’s flapping for a few moment’s only. That’s what life is.

This dead piece of matter, the soul comes in it and it flaps for a few minutes and then it dies. That’s it. And we’re making such a big thing about it. Trying to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, but people are not really enjoying. Such a facade. We should understand that living a pure life realizing our internal integrity as parts of God, experiencing the ecstasy of life. Life is within, life is that energy that brings consciousness to this flapping body. To actually plug in to the essence of life and experience the sublime pleasure of life is what human society is meant for. And ISKCON Youth Forum is to give spiritual integrity, dignity, direction, and real joy to the lives of the youth of India and not just to keep to yourself but to share it with others. Just don’t stand there eating the grass along with all your friends when you see one by one everyone is getting slaughtered by death. Come forward and say this is not what we want. There’s a better life, there’s a purpose. Here is the philosophy of Gita. Here is the holy name of God, which can purify your heart.

An example of an ideal disciple

A perfect example of such a sincere disciple was Jayananda dasa. Although a college graduate, Jayananda had been willing to drive a taxicab all day long, knowing that supporting the San Francisco temple was pleasing Srila Prabhupada. When he understood that Prabhupada’s strong desire was to expand the sankirtana movement, without hesitation be gave up his position as temple president to become the sankirtana party driver. It was also with Jayananda’s help that Prabhupada was able to publish the Teachings of Lord Caitanya: Jayananda financed the printing with his life savings, which he gave as his guru-daksina. After the book was printed, Srila Prabhupada gave half of the copies to Jayananda, with the instruction that he personally sell them. This was actually the most important work, and he gave it to his most sincere disciple. Up to that time, no one besides Srila Prabhupada had seriously attempted to sell big books. In New York City, Prabhupada had personally sold his Bhagavatams by going store to store; other than this, the daily sankirtana parties sold only Back to Godheads.

With complete faith in the words of his spiritual master, Jayananda took up the task with fixed determination. Each day he would go out alone, sometimes in Los Angeles and sometimes driving hundreds of miles to other cities, to place a few books in each book shop he found. It was not unusual for Jayananda to spend an entire day selling only one or two books, yet he never became discouraged, nor did he ever complain of any difficulties. While the other devotees enjoyed constant association with each other, Jayananda’s service required that he go out alone. But he felt no loneliness, having his spiritual master’s order as his constant companion. The scriptures state that there is no distinction between the spiritual master and his instructions, and it was this realization that enabled Jayananda, an ideal disciple, to attain perfection.

– From the “Servant of the Servant” by HH Tamala Krsna Goswami