MY PRESSING QUESTIONS IN LIFE: Examining my heart, how are my material attachments still impeding my full practice of bhakti, or causing me to remain a mixed devotee? What do I want in my heart of hearts, and how is that causing me to act, or not act? In deep honesty, what truly moves and inspires me? As a result, what do I actually want to be absorbed in, demonstrated by my consistent thoughts and actions? What types of people I do think about or are attracted to in my daily life? Who do I want to become now, and forever? Knowing I will die, today or tomorrow, what must I give up, and what must I adopt to make my life a true success?
Having an ordinary materialistic upbringing until I was 19 years old I was still blessed with spiritual practices for many years. However, I have recently noted that I developed a cavalier attitude that I was “saved” and in the back to Godhead program. Being forced to face death has brought to light honest introspection of what is my true shelter. I have found that the old conditioned voices run deep below the surface of my consciousness. At present, those voices are much more prominent than I have dared admit, like an old disease waiting to manifest when the conditions are right—like herpes, or hepatitis.
I have found that I have been too willing to accommodate, or compromise with my materialistic tendencies rather than truly root them out. Now, praying to move beyond my complacency and comfort, I realize I can’t keep feeding the causes of my embodiment. Seeing my conditioned nature, I must keep casting those tendencies away which are unhelpful for my real life of spiritual progress, seeing them as ugly degrading darkness, and not to be simply tolerated. In my understanding this is what we devotees have signed up for, right—not the life of ease? I don’t want to only remember my spiritual connection when convenient, or to either get out of a jam, or obtain some desirable object.
Celebrating the holy day of Krishna’s appearance in this world five thousand years, or Shri Krishna Janmastami, is one of the many “high holidays” (to borrow from Judaism) which devotees of Krishna observe. What is known today as Hinduism includes what is called Gaudiya Vaishnavism, or the bhakti (devotional) movement inaugurated by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which Krishna.com represents. My spiritual master, Shrila Prabhupada, wasn’t fond of the word Hinduism since it is an imposed term created by those not familiar with the tradition and is a word not found in any Vedic literature.
Be that as it may, for the sake of convenience, we sometimes say we are part of the very diverse and inclusive Hindu tradition of India. Irrespective of the various Hindu theologies, all sects of Hinduism celebrate Janmastami as an important day, and glorify Krishna in various ways. Whether they think he is one of the many Hindu gods, or that the Ultimate Truth is “The One,” or the formless, impersonal Brahman source energy, they still glorify him as the wise speaker of the Bhagavad Gita, and are charmed by his depiction in the Shrimad Bhagavatam as a carefree cowherd who lived an idyllic life amidst the simplicity and beauty of Nature, surrounded by those who loved him.
This evening we read from the Krishna Book, and discussed some of Krishna’s pastimes surrounding his so-called “birth” in the world. I was reminded of watching how excited Prabhupada was when he was presented with advanced copies of the Krishna Book during the 1970 Rathayatra, and how he personally sold and signed copies. I also remembered our routine of reading “Nectar of Devotion” and “Krishna Book” while we sipped hot milk and ate popcorn. I never doubted—what to some people are fantastic stories—but felt more and more connected to Krishna by hearing his pastimes. When I think of it, my attitude was truly amazing and shows my open and innocent heart as a very young, tender 19 year old. I had only been a devotee a short time, and yet hearing about Krishna was so faith building. I was still basking on the energy from my spiritual existential search and felt no need to question the teaching.
Krishna's lila or pastimes are inconceivable and can't be understood with material logic alone. Our Christian brothers and sisters are fond of saying that the life of Christ and his crucifixion are an historical fact that can be verified. We, however, would argue that while Krishna was really here five thousand years ago and engaged in his pastimes, they happened in a spiritual way, and are inconceivable to ordinary logic.
yad bhAvi tad bhavaty eva yad abhAvyaM na tad bhavet
iti nizcita buddhInAM na cintA bAdhate kvacit
What is destined to happen does definitely happen. What is not to
occur shall never occur. Intelligent people who come to this decision
are not worried by any anxiety. (NArada PurANa 1.37.47)
The ego [primarily] pure has been defiled on account of the external passions since the beginningless past, (359) and what has been added from outside is like a [soiled] garment to be washed off. As when a garment is cleansed of its dirt, or when gold is removed from its impurities, they are not destroyed but remain as they are; so is the ego freed from its defilements. (Lankavatara-sutra, Sagathakam 755-756, D.T. Suzuki, London 1932)
After a rather depressing day yesterday for reasons that we needn’t get into, I woke up this morning feeling much better, with the resolve that I would pray to Krishna from now on to either heal me, or kill me, physically speaking of course, since there is no death for the soul. In a way the status of my cancer, namely not getting worse or better, is a metaphor for how I see my life—mediocre, and that just isn’t acceptable any more. I am called to physically, mentally, and emotionally leave my comfort zone, and do what I must.
We are admonished in the Bible to be either hot or cold, but not half-baked. I have been half-baked, with some notable exceptions, about most things my whole life. If I am going to continue to write, speak, travel, minister and help others, than I have to really do it, and by the grace of my gurus and Gaura Nitai, excel at it, or make my best effort and prayers to that effect.
As a number of motivational speakers have discovered and shared, “Reasons come first, answers some second.” Thus I have to have the proper motivation to write, speak, and help others, and then Krishna and his agents will help me find the ways to practically manifest it. I don’t have to know how, just that I must.
Therefore I am going to spend every day chanting, praying, and doing self-healing. I have studied for years in the past and spent thousands of dollars studying healing methods, and even practicing them, but never feeling strong enough about them to really pursue them. So now I have to use them or lose my current physical self.
Life in the material world is difficult and challenging for everyone to different degrees. While we may see in the world great misery and take some consolation that ours are much less, still, initially in the thick of our personal misery, we are still effected and challenged to keep our positivity. Can we use our distressful situation as a negative impetus for spiritual practice? In other words, human life is favorable for spiritual practice when we understand its glaring shortcomings and thus use them to our spiritual advantage by taking shelter of Krishna and his holy names. Prabhupada taught us to "make the best of a bad bargain."
Whether we are able to remain positive even amidst difficulties depends on our personality type, general attitude toward life, and spiritual development, which such small or large misery brings to light. We are called to improve ourselves through the crucible laboratory of suffering or pain.
The following two incidents in the scheme of world suffering are tiny difficulties, and yet they still add a shade to the general color of our lives. Our reactions to even small miseries teach us about ourselves and how well we have dealt with suffering in the past. If we are on an overload of general suffering even a small pain or problem can be overwhelming or we could be so callous that we barely notice. However, if we have handled life reverses well, have a generally stable life situation, and see problems or material miseries as meant for our highest good, we will meet them in our stride. I am sharing this as an opportunity for you to think about your own life and evaluate how you deal with reverses and small or large difficulties, pain, or miseries.
Guru Gita from Skanda Purana, verse 34
Gautamiya tantra 7.10-11
How should the cultivation of activities favorable to KRSNa be
undertaken? One should act only in such a way that bhakti may be
augmented, giving up laukika-abhilASA (worldly desires),
pAralaukika-abhilASA (other worldly pursuits such as elevation to the
heavenly planets and acquisition of mystic perfections in yoga), and any
other kind of aspiration. This same idea has been expressed in
ZrImad-BhAgavatam: bhaktyA saJjAtayA bhaktyA (S.B. 11.3.31)—bhakti is
produced only by bhakti. According to this statement, bhakti (zravaNa,
This is a very popular verse. It's a bit similar to BG 6.9.
SP discusses it in 770424me.bom.
ayam bandhuH ayam neti jJAna laghu cetasAm
udAra caritAnAm tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam
"This is a friend but that one is not," says a simple-minded person. To
a broad-minded person the whole world is a family. (MahA UpaniSad 6.72)
NArada PaJcarAtra 1.12.55-78
translation and notes: CC-BY-SA bh. Jan 2016
Sri Parvati said:
tava vakSasi rAdhAhaM rAse vRndAvane vane |
mahA-lakSmIz ca vaikuNThe pAda-padmArcane ratA ||55||
I am Radha, situated on Your chest, enjoying rasa dance in Vrindavan,
as well as Mahalaksmi taking pleasure in worshipping Your lotus feet in Vaikuntha.
zveta-dvIpe sindhu-kanyA viSNor urasi bhU-tale |
brahma-loke ca brahmANI veda-mAtA ca bhAratI ||56||
At Svetadvipa I am the daughter of the ocean, on the surface of Earth