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The Power of Saintly Association: My Personal Asssociaion with my Guru, Shrila Prabhupada Part I

At the airport reception, a huge kirtana was going on with devotees from Berkeley, San Francisco and L.A. We were oblivious to our surroundings and took over the waiting lounge. Perhaps there were over 100 devotees. As we waited the kirtana got more and more wild and ecstatic, which was not what the other arriving passengers were expecting as they filed out of the plane. We were at the top of a ramp with devotees on either side of the pathway. After what seemed a very long time Prabhupada appeared at the bottom of the walkway. Then the kirtana went into warp speed and intensity difficult to describe.

JANMASTAMI OBSERVANCE BY HEARING KRISHNA LILA: AKRURA'S ARRIVAL IN VRINDAVANA

[reprinted from August 8th, 2009] JANMASTAMI OBSERVANCE BY HEARING KRISHNA LILA: AKRURA'S ARRIVAL IN VRINDAVANA:

Bhakti-yoga, or Krishna consciousness, means quite simply being conscious of Krishna. When we love someone we naturally think of them, so when we love Krishna it is natural to think of him and want to hear or read about his lila or divine activities. Those of us who want to love Krishna—or even believe in him if we are new—will make progress in knowing and loving Krishna by reading about his pastimes in the Shrimad Bhagavatam or in Shrila Prabhupada’s Krishna book which is the summary of the 10th Canto.

We are advised to read with the desire to understand and in the mood of service, humility and reverence--at least with that ideal in mind. Just like in Shrila Prabhupada's introduction to the Gita he recommends a new person to at least theoretically accept Krishna as the Supreme Lord, because that will help create the right mood to enter into the book. Though we want to use our intellect to understand as far as we can, our spiritual heart needs to come out, since that is the real way to understand the inconceivable Lord.

In Prabhupada’s translations of Vedic literature, we have the scripture with a commentary by a pure devotee. Many people have become devotees by reading these books. As wonderful and powerful as these books are they don’t ask us if we have understood, nor do they personally interact with us to show us how to be Krishna conscious. For that we need advanced devotees we can observe and serve with.

Shri Baladeva Purnima

[Reprinted from August 5th, 2009] Today, Monday August 7th, is the auspicious appearance of Lord Balarama or Baladeva. As Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Balarama is similarly understood. He is the first expansion of Krishna from which many other expansions emanate, such as the 3 Vishnus and Lord Ananta-sesha. The "tattva" or truth of Balarama is very deep and I will only touch on a little of the ocean of who he is philosophically to give you a taste. In a spontaneous blog such as this I just write about what comes up for me as I think on the subject. In the spirit of "he who hesitates is lost" or "if it is auspicious do it immediately", I wanted to offer something for you now, because if I don't it won't happen, as I am just getting ready to chant my iapa and then worship my Shilas, or sacred stone manifestations of the Lord.

When I grew up there was a science fiction movie, "The Blob" which was some kind of monster which came to the earth from outer space, with a form something like a huge slug though with an undefined shape....so God is not some nebulous form or non-form, he is the supreme consciousness who desires to enjoy himself in various ways. Although God is one--and from one perspective everything is God--he also expanses himself into different aspects to enjoy rasa or enjoyment. Balarama is known affectionately as "Douji" or the elder brother of Krishna, and he has a relationship with him to serve as a friend and parent, or the combined relationships of "sakhya" and "vatsalya". So Krishna and Balarama are identical from the view of being the Supreme Truth, yet Lord Balarama considers himself a servant of Krishna in the above ways and also expanses himself into Krishna's paraphernalia like Krishna's clothes, Brahmin's thread, shoes and all the dhamas or holy places, etc.

Tears of My Father

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[reposted from 6-25-13] Two days after my birthday was my fathers’, or June 24th. This year I wanted to share some snapshots in my relationship with him, in the hope that it might be useful to you in your journey of self-exploration, making peace with your past (if required), or in general, having a balanced psychology so favorable for spiritual practice. Dear reader, I am indebted to you for taking the time to read this, and to think about your own relationship with your parents. What does it tell you about the nature of the material world of (re)birth, disease, old age, death and disappointment, and the importance of receiving the saving grace of spiritual knowledge and bhakti practices to uncover the eternal life of the soul?

I was running a preaching center on O Street in Washington D.C. in 1986. After leaving Baltimore with Maha-nidhi Swami to travel and preach, I gradually felt it would be a natural move to stay there. I had a small staff which fluctuated between 1 or 2 devotees. I also received some morale boosting, and financial support from the near-by Potomac MD, Temple from which devotees sometimes visited to chant, preach, or help cook. We held three feasts a week, mainly attended by college students and young people in the area. All was going fine for a few months after I settled in, and then, one afternoon between feasts, I felt like something ominous was in the air. It was a typical August sunny, muggy day, nothing unusual but this feeling. Although I couldn’t put my finger on the possible reason, I prayed for clarity to understand. As I was lost in thought, the ringing of the phone startled me. It was Barbara, my father’s current wife. She told me that my father had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

A long silence ensued. I didn’t have a personal reaction, being in shock, and besides, I wasn’t very good at dealing with others in such matters of intense sorrow. I was at a loss for words, thinking more about her, than for myself. Even today, it seems so inappropriate and trite to say things like “sorry for your loss,” or any number of socially correct statements. Finally, I was able to thank her for letting me know, and told her how sorry I was. Our conversation was awkward,

When I'm Sixty-Four: Aging Gracefully with a Spiritual Purpose--or Not

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“Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?" - PAUL MC CARTNEY; JOHN LENNON

When I was 64, I first published this blog. Today, June 22, is my 67th birthday, and I find the message I share here even more important, as over the last year and a half I have had to literally stare death in the face. Growing up in the 1960s I naturally remember the Beetle’s song, “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Yeah, after 47 years of bhakti practice those old songs (and ad jingles!) are still floating around in my subconscious mind. This Beetle’s ballad is a love song about staying together despite aging that Paul McCartney wrote at the advanced age of 16. As a person involved in marital and premarital education this is an important topic for me (and my wife of 24 years). When I was 16 I couldn’t even imagine being 25, what to speak of 64! I was an only child with very limited experience with older persons. After living in Berkeley, California for a few years and then moving into the temple, when we went to San Francisco for street sankirtan (group chanting), I was taken back seeing all the old people! Berkeley is a college town and I was hanging out with only the young, and when I moved into the temple, the oldest person was 23

In any case, on my birthday, I thought the subject of aging, suffering, and being 64--and now 67--would be a good blog topic. Of course, most anything can be grist for the writer’s mill (we usually notice those things we are focused on), but this one was a natural candidate. Thus I wanted to find the words to the Beetle’s song, but before I began my Internet search, my dear friend, Dulal-Chandra Prabhu, sent me the lyrics and wished me a happy birthday. I wished him a happy birthday back, since his birthday is the same as mine—with THE SAME YEAR! How interesting and rare is that—especially among close friends! In 2010 we celebrated our 60th birthday together, and amidst fun and games, we went around the room to compile a list of shared personality traits and devotional histories. Though we have a number of differences, our wives and friends found an amazing amount of shared traits and experiences.

My general thoughts when writing are to share what I am going through, experiencing, thinking about, or inspired by, in a way that I pray may have relevance to you, my readers. Birth, disease, old age, and death, being shared by all embodied beings, are very rich and important topics. Called the four-fold, or four, miseries of material life, they are listed in the Bhagavad-gita verses (8-12) from the 13th chapter, as part of understanding the process of spiritual knowledge.
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Since the soul is eternal and is never born or dies, speaking of these four miseries isn’t considered by devotees to be morbid or a topic to avoid in polite conversation.

Three Monks (a short Buddhist story from China on cooperation)

A young monk lives a simple life in a temple on top of a hill. He has one daily task of hauling two buckets of water up the hill. He tries to share the job with another monk, but the carry pole is only long enough for one bucket. The arrival of a third monk prompts everyone to expect that someone else will take on the chore. Consequently, no one fetches water though

Die Before Dying—Move Before Moving: Parts 1 & 2

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Part 1[Republished from June 16th, 2015]

Devotee: “Hey! Haribol! How are you? I noticed that you haven’t written any new blogs on Krishna.com in quite a while. What have you been up to?”

Karnamrita: “I am good, thanks. Krishna is very kind! For the last two months I have taken a full time job, so I have been recycling, or reposting, my older blogs, which don’t usually don’t get read.”

D: Really, I thought you were retired?”

K: “I wouldn’t consider myself “retired” or tired, but it’s true that I haven’t worked a regular job in many years. My focus has been on my spiritual practices and writing. However, my new “job” over the last two months has been preparing our house for selling. In other words I have been repairing, painting, cleaning, getting rid of stuff, organizing or straightening what we have kept, making our house spiritually neutral, and doing a great deal of landscaping and gardening. While the lion’s share of the work is done thanks to my hiring a devotee neighbor, there are still many small actions that I continue to complete on a daily basis.”

D: “Organizing and getting rid of things. Hmmmm…that is really difficult for me. What was that like for you?”

Romanticism Versus Realism

For many years I have wondered why it is so difficult to find devotees who are inspired to not only correspond with inmates but to do so steadily as well. It’s been quite a bottleneck since there are far more inmates who write than there are volunteers to reply to them.

It seems that often the devotees who volunteer with IPM have an unrealistic, romantic view of what this service is and they get discouraged when reality turns out to be different. I am wondering if, in some way, this IPM NEWS itself contributes to this misconception. Why?

Writing as Life and Giving & HELPING ONE ANOTHER TO GROW

After being inspired with a free verse poem as a way to check in with myself and my readers, I saw that it was very similar to a blog I wrote last year, so I am including it here. My intention, in addition to introspection and self-examination, is to encourage you in your own process of personal and spiritual growth. My prayer is to help you be a balanced human being and steady bhakti practitioner with the greatest likelihood of progress in serving and loving Krishna.
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Writing as Life and Giving

Even if my thoughts are not profound
or upon reading will change your life,
putting words on the page seems important,
a way of giving myself, my attempt to help,

as I so much believe in being a giver
even as I lack compassion and caring,
which I don’t like, yet don’t worry ‘bout,
since my nature is peaceful and accepting
sometimes to a fault, simultaneously frustrating

A Mixed Bag of Material and Spiritual Tendencies

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Benifited, but ungrateful photo Learningandungrateful_zps21ff6315.png[republished from 2014-05-04]
While the experience that prompted this free verse poem wasn’t planned, it was welcome, and seen as an occasion for reflection. Association with saints is desirable for developing good qualities, and yet being with people in general can also foster our personal and spiritual growth, because in their company who we are as a person is revealed and we may discover part of the spiritual work we have left to do. Anyone can be our teacher if we have the humility to be open to learn, either how to act, or how not to act.

Every day we have the opportunity to learn from life situations, which include dealing with or observing others, whether at work, running errands, attending school or college, or interacting with our family and friends. While it is essential to learn about others, in relationship to them we will learn much about ourselves since people are mirrors in which we project our ideals or see our faults. From another angle of vision, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also considers our heart a mirror. This mirror is covered by the dust of our conventional (physical) ego and material conditioning which obscures our spiritual nature (soul). In all our dealings we can pray to remember that we are all souls having a physical experience and in this way part of the same spiritual family.

When we have made the decision to give our life to the pursuit of loving and serving Krishna, our life is forever changed. This is true in spite of our inability to walk the path in the most ideal way. To help us have a humble attitude we can remember our life before we began the spiritual quest, or that we all begin life in ignorance. We should know and remember the spiritual goal, and where we are on the map of our spiritual journey, in order to adapt the path to our unique life situation. This is why practical guidance from

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