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Blogs

The New Prison Ministry website is LIVE!

iskconprisonministry.org

After years of dreaming of a better, more modern IPM website for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada, today it finally manifested. I felt like crying out of joy! Kṛṣṇa helped me make this desire a reality by inspiring Svarbhanu prabhu to embrace this project as his service. I am so very grateful to him.

Month of Kartika—Pure Devotion on Sale for Less

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
Yashoda tries to bind Krishna
[Reposted from 10-11-2011]One of the recommendations for advancing in devotional service is the observance of Kartika Vrata (special devotional practices) especially in Vrindavana, India, or at some holy place, but anywhere that we worship Krishna during the Vedic month of Kartika, or Damodara, which corresponds to October-November. It began yesterday on the full moon and continues to the following full moon. As the next month of Margashirsha represents Krishna, [Bg 10.35] this month represents Shri Radha, who is the feminine compassionate aspect of Krishna. Shri Radha is considered the best devotee of Krishna, and she is both Deity and ideal of devotion for Gaudiya Vaishnavas.

We try to please Radha, and our gurus who represent her, to obtain the favor of Krishna, which means engaging in His devotional service eternally. Our aim is not so much to obtain Krishna, but love of Krishna, or prema, because wherever prema exists, Krishna lives! Thus by the grace of the Divine Couple, Shri Radha and Krishna, Radha’s month is considered like a special sale, where the ordinarily very difficult ideal of pure devotion, becomes easily available for a small price. Ours is truly a path of mercy, though as much as possible we also follow the recommendations in the scriptures for our daily spiritual practices.

When Devotees Leave Krishna

(this blog is recorded on the full blog page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so if you don't want to listen, mute your speakers.)
Fighting with Krishna photo Against Krishna_zpswi8zogbf.jpg[originally posted on 1-08-15]
Sometimes we experience great surprise and intense sadness at the unexpected departure from the bhakti path of a devotee we may have been inspired by or respected. Or even if the devotee struggled to follow the basic devotional practices and disciplines, we can still be unnerved when they leave, and then denounce and attack what is still our faith, reinterpreting their stay in an ashram in terms of cultic manipulation and brainwashing. “What really happened?” me may wonder, and how could I have helped prevent this? Sometimes in the aftermath of such a sudden departure, some devotees worry and wonder if it could happen to them, as it brings up their own doubts. This scenario recently happened in a circle of devotees I know, and it caused me to reflect on what it takes to stay on the path, and the various reasons people leave.

When I was a new devotee I experienced one of my friends leave the temple. I didn’t see him again for three weeks until he came to the Sunday feast. Though I recognized him, I was startled to see his expression. He looked like a shadow of his former self when he had a bright faced countenance. Now he had a dark gloomy appearance and seemed unfocused and dazed. I wondered what had brought this about, as if he had just entered a self-created prison.

GREAT LIFE REVERSES CAN REVEAL GOD'S GRACE AND SHOW WHAT WE MOST NEED, WHAT WE CHERISH, GREATLY VALUE, AND OUR HIDDEN STRENGTHS

 photo DSCN0801_zpsfsuw1r9u.jpg [Originally published, 3-28-16 at the beginning of my cancer healing journey]
HOW CAN WE USE OUR SORROW, PAIN OR GREAT LIFE REVERSES TO INVOKE GOD'S GRACE THAT IS HIDDEN BEHIND IT: To be human is to experience pain, betrayal, disappointment, and various kinds of suffering. We may ask, "Why me?" To which I would reply, "Why not you?" We all have our litany lists of wrongs done to us or to those we love. What do we do with this list?

One natural tendency is that we would rather avoid pain than to experience happiness, so in the face of pain, violence, or loss, we tend to either repress it or be angry or resentful about it. I have experienced both of these reactions to life situations. Unfortunately, such reactions are only helpful in the short term, but do little to help us grow as a person, and self-improvement, and ultimately spiritual awakening are, to me, the purpose of life. Otherwise, we have a pointless dog eat dog world, with death being the end of everything.

Could there be some benefit, even great benefit in these experiences? Some will be angry just at my asking this question, and yet, if we don't ask it, we can remain ever in reaction to the past, and keep playing it out in relationship to others.

We also find that even what everyone else thinks is good fortune or an ideal situation can be interpreted by the person in the middle of it as a terrible or awful experience. So while we have all heard this before, the simple yet powerful truth is that our attitude is really what gives meaning to the events of our lives or a statement we hear. This means that we can change our feelings about an experience by changing the meaning we give it, or by using it as a way to improve our lives.

IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

 photo RSCN3935_zpskv4ldrn5.jpg
[reposted from Jan 28, 2017]
There is no perfect time or place,
so if we wait, we will never accomplish,
or sing the song which vibrates our heart
meant to nourish every cell in our body.

To breathe out, one only has to breathe in,
but we can’t hold our breath forever;
so begin today while you are still breathing
because there are no tomorrows or could-bes.

Only a string of nows, do-days giving potential
at least one step of progress on the miles ahead
though even a step back can help us go forward

The Hare Krishna Class

We go through three sliding doors (vertical bars) and two locked gates to enter the reception area. When we get to the classroom building, we have to ask the guard in the control room to announce the Hare Krishna Class so that all the different areas can get notified. There are often new guards there and it can take a few times before they pronounce the Holy Names properly. This guard then announces to all the guards in all the cell blocks that the Hare Krishna Class is starting. These guards then broadcast it over their PA systems to all the inmates.

WHEN KṚṢṆA DECIDES TO TAKE CHARGE

For the last five years I have been meditating on giving Kṛṣṇa consciousness to female inmates. Ever since I took the reins of the prison ministry, back in 2009, ninety percent of all inmates who write us are male.
I tried repeatedly to reach chaplains from female institutions—to obtain their permission to place books in their chapel libraries—but unfortunately, chaplains are very hard to reach and my time is always very limited, so I never went far with this project. Over the years, at different times, three volunteers also attempted to reach these chaplains, with similar poor results.

Hiranya-kashipu’s Disappearance Day (Lord Nrisimhadeva’s Appearance)

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player needed)
Merciful Lord Nrisimhadeva
[This blog was originally written on Saturday May 5, 2012. This year this appearance/disappearance day was May 18th in India and May 17th in the USA]
I am only half kidding with today’s blog title, yet I am trying to make a point, as you will see. Specifically, this is the day we celebrate the devotion of Prahlad, his constant remembrance of Krishna, and Krishna’s assuming the fearsome, though ecstatic, form of Lord Nrisimhadeva to protect and glorify His pure devotee. However, we can also feel a kind of gratitude to Hiranya-kashipu, for without his demoniac nature, and trying to kill his son, we would have never heard of Prahlad, or seen the practical demonstration of the Lord’s love for his devotees. Great souls are glorified by their struggles and victory over adversity.

In every great life story there must be an antagonist which allows the hero to shine. Although unimaginably powerful, Hiranya-kashipu also represents our tiny selves, or our personal rebellion against God, and—to put it nicely—those less than ideal qualities in our heart that we as devotees, or sadhakas, struggle with. Thus, in our material conditioned state, we can think of our dark side like a mini-Hiranya-kashipu, and pray that the Lord slay our “anarthas” or our unwanted conditioning, such as lust, anger, greed, enviousness, etc. We are fortune to have both good and bad examples in the scriptures, so we will know our ideal, and what we want to rise above. Everyone can be our teacher!

CUTTING LOOSE THE WEIGHTS THAT HOLD US DOWN, & Vrindavana Healing Video Blog# 5, Power of Attitude, Love, Gratitude, Mindfulness

[revised to reflect my current situation in India--reposted from7-20-18 ]
Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts
we’re just stuck in our old patterns.
Even we say we don’t like them
but they’re habitual, a natural groove—
such a strange aspect of life
how we empower our personal rut
while screaming our whine against it!

The essence of trying to go forward
is that change doesn’t come easy
unless we make a total commitment
and there is more pain in stagnation
then in changing for the better—
we do more to avoid pain
than to experience happiness.

ENDEAVOR AND GRACE—A HUMBLE ATTEMPT TO SHARE MY PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE and VRINDAVANA HEALING VIDEO BLOG #4

ENDEAVOR AND GRACE—A HUMBLE ATTEMPT TO SHARE MY PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE TO A FRIEND I HAVE ENDEAVORED TO BE AN ENCOURAGING CHEER LEADER TO FOR SOME YEARS, AS HE SORTS OUT HIS LIFE:

What follows is part of a discussion I had with this friend, where I shared part of my philosophy of life in a nutshell:

What prompted this was a quote he sent me:

उद्यमेन विना राजन्न सिध्यन्ति मनोरथा:।
कातरा इति जल्पन्ति यद्भाव्यं तद्भविष्यति।।
(पञ्चतन्त्रे)
O King, one can never achieve without hard work; only cowards say, “what is destined to happen will happen”. (Pañcatantra)

My two responses:

1) Endeavor and grace. Thinking, feeling, willing, acting, blessings, as we aren't the doer. We do our best after full deliberation, and leave the rest to Krishna knowing we aren't the ultimate cause for the results.

His response to this was a pranams (hands in prayer) symbol and a smile, so I was inspired to share the following. Of course, I don't know why he shared this quote, yet knowing him, I think he just wanted to highlight the importance of our endeavor. As a devotee, he knows the reality of depending on Krishna, while also knowing that some may refrain from endeavoring due a fatalist attitude, making karma supreme, and thus not thinking we can change, or strive for a certain goal, or that depending on Krishna means inaction.

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