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No One Surrenders To Vedic Culture

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There's so much talk about vedic culture these days. Catch phrases like "our culture", "our tradition" etc.... get used a lot it seems.

We have so much vedic culture. It's inundating everything. We can put on the best ceremonies, wear all the right clothes, quote sanskrit like it's our birth language (even if it's not). We know all the festival days, all the holidays, and all the ways to celebrate them.

That's all really nice. Vedic culture is a beautiful thing. There is something for everyone there, some way for everyone to become attracted to Krishna. Within vedic culture there are even all kinds of forms of religiosity and ways for people of all classes to gradually elevate themselves to higher levels, thus ultimately making spiritual progress.

The only thing about all this that becomes a problem is when we miss the point, or allow others to. The ultimate goal of all vedic culture is to surrender to Krishna, to become His devotee. We have to become free of attachment to all our false concepts of self. That means our identification with our bodies, gross and subtle, and our attachment to all things that relate to our bodies. Finally, becoming pure instruments of Krishna's will, and acting out of love/devotion in our eternal relationship with Him.

Sometimes we wonder why more people aren't becoming serious about Krishna consciousness. We examine our preaching methods, we think of more and more ways to "attract" others to the Krishna consciousness.

One thing that occurs to me in all this is the simple fact that no one surrenders to "vedic culture". If they did, then all the millions of Hindu's who have taken up Western ways, and now eat meat and drink alcohol and laugh at the scriptures, would instead be seriously chanting and studying the very scriptures they were born to.

They have all the "externals" available to them. They have "all things vedic" but still, they are not surrendering to Krishna just because of all their vedic things.

Purity of message and focus on the essence is what causes others who are serious to become attracted to Krishna consciousness. A lot of demonstrations of exotic culture and "vedic behavior" and lifestyle may interest people, but how seriously do they take up the process? If they do, for how long? How committed to it are they, how deeply to they internalize the essential things?

There are so many thousands of ways within vedic culture for people to become attracted to some aspect of Krishna. Something that is in relation to Krishna can be found in every vedic thing. Still, without the essence, without the focus on that essence, it's going to miss the mark. People will come, gather nice books and clothes and recipes, and maybe change their lifestyle somewhat. Are they going to become truly Krishna conscious as a result? Not in this lifetime. Maybe not for many, many lifetimes.

While vedic culture is a beautiful thing, and something that can encompass a lot of aspects of society and generally influence others in a positive sense, it's not the essence of the sankritan movement of Lord Chaitanya.

The essence is hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord in the association of devotees. You don't have to have a lot of "vedic culture" to accomplish that. You don't need a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of people, a lot of flags, banners, posters, videos, festivals, and other accouterments.

You only need purity of purpose, the ability to chant, scripture, and a basic understanding of the philosophy. You don't even have to speak in sanskrit. People who are serious are attracted to Krishna. They are attracted to the essence. A lot of "vedic culture" can actually be a distraction to those who are serious.

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Comments
Thu, 10/23/2008 - 21:01 — tekisui
tekisui's picture
Preconceived notions about religion

Greetings, Navasi.

Reading your posts in this thread made me think of some particular difficulties that many Westerners have, as I have noticed observing myself and discussing with others.
Namely, we tend to have particular preconceived notions about what it means to practice a religion, what it means to be on a spiritual path, what it means to be a "member" of a religious or spiritual group or movement, what it means to be an "adherent" of a philosophy.

Some of these preconceived notions being to the effect of (the "I" and the "you" are general) -

"You have to "get it right" in this one lifetime or you're lost."
"Religion is about feeling, not about strict formulation."
"The path is the goal. Complete fulfillment can never be attained."
"Religion is about who you really are. There is no need to get to know a religion thoroughly before taking it on. If one part of it fits you, then the whole does too, so you should take on the whole religion immediately after you discover that one part ofit fits you. If you investigate, this is the sure sign that you are an undecided person, a hypocrite."
"After you convert, all is well."
"The only thing that really matters is what the various religions have in common."
"All paths lead to the same goal."
"If it feels good, then it is true/right."
"Religion is all about love and understanding."
"In order to count as a follower/member of a religion, you must have the approval of other followers/memebers. Otherwise, you are not a follower/member of said religion and should not attempt to do any practices on your own."
"A newcomer to a religion cannot understand it properly, and should listen and obey everyone who has been there before him."
"Everyone already knows the truth, but many pretend they don't."
"Religion is a practice of devotion and nothing more. You only need to be pious."
"Religion is full of myths."
"If you want to chant or pray, you first need to be a member/follower. Otherwise, your chanting or praying is a waste of time, will have no effect or is even blasphemy."
"If you do some of the practices, this is perfectly enough, and you needn't strive to improve."
"What matters the most in life is the truth. Even if the truth comes at the cost of happiness. Truth is more important than happiness. Happiness is something you should be willing to sacrifice in the name of the truth."
"There is a constant struggle between morality and happiness. This struggle is irreconcilable."
"Practising should be easy and comfortable."
"You should be able to defend your religion/philosophy against any and all charges, any time."
"A person who speaks with confidence, who speaks assured of themselves, speaks the truth and should be listened to and obeyed."
"If a person has declared themselves to be a follower of a religion, this means that the person has perfect understanding of it and is able to explain it to everyone."
"We are all already liberated. There isn't really any work for us left to do."
"I will never be good enough to be a member of this religion/philosophy that I am aspiring for."
"My religion knows it all and I just have to adapt."
"I know it all and religion has to adapt."
"A person is nothing without a religion."
"In a religion, there is always a big disappointment or difficult truth that one needs to accept and will forever be miserable about."
"I know enough Vaishnavism to practice it properly."
"I can find a better path than Srila Prabhupada or other people."
"Defilements and sins are okay if they help my practice."
"The way I do things is the best way for everyone."
"All the other members think the way I do, and they all understand me."
"Everyone has the same delusions, the same problems, the same sufferings as I do."
"Spirituality is something you already know, you don't need to learn it."

Most of these notions are at least partly rational, at least partly they make sense. But they all have something irrational about them. One person may have all or only some of these notions.

Now, I haven't written them here to discuss them here, nor do I expect commentary to them.

You said -
Sometimes we wonder why more people aren't becoming serious about Krishna consciousness. We examine our preaching methods, we think of more and more ways to "attract" others to the Krishna consciousness.

Personally, I find that examining my preconceived notions - the conditioning, the first reactions, the underlying assumptions, the implications - is usually a fruitful way to go. When I find myself distressed over something I read in Vaishnava literature, I try to stop and ask myself "Okay, what is really bothering me about this?" Usually, there is a mixture of some silly reasons for that upset, but also some sound ones. Granted, it takes practice to become fluent in such an approach.

I agree that not all that many people surrender to Krishna consciousness, or to Vedic culture for that matter. And the questions Why not? How come? impose themselves. I think at least part of the answer lies in those preconceived notions. And that a possible approach to "attract" others to Krishna consciousness could be in helping people to examine their preconceived notions, specifically finding out what an individual person's preconceived notions are, and then showing them where those notions are wrong, and where they are right. Vaishnava literature does that anyway, but texts tend to be somehow indirect - reading a text is after all not the same as having a conversation with someone -, and the reader yet needs to figure out, more or less on his or her own, what his or her preconceived notions are, before he or she can utilize the statements in the text to address those preconceived notions. Of course, already if one merely sticks to reading, some of those notions are cleared up automatically. But some are more complex or sticky, so they require a more direct approach - such as talking to a knowledgeable person who has an understanding about those preconceived notions.

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Mon, 10/27/2008 - 02:27 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
Astounding

Greetings, Drop of Water,

You're doing quite of job of wearing away the stone.

I finally had time to really read all of this carefully.
It's truly astounding.

Looking back now, I'd have to say that I agree about our bad beginnings.

Concept from Bhagavad Gita, as I'm sure you knew.

By comparison, I can see that beginning really was "bad"..... though really, nothing is "bad" in sincere attempts to serve Krishna's devotees. I think that qualified.

Thank you for all of this.

Navasi

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Thu, 10/23/2008 - 23:02 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
: )

I agree.

: )

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

How are you this morning Tekisui? (if it's morning where you are anyway.... if not, how are you today?? lol)

;)

Navasi

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Thu, 10/23/2008 - 07:08 — jonaa
jonaa's picture
Wrong approach perhaps

One of the biggest obstacles is the language used by devotees. In the west when we hear the word "surrender" we think of loosing, giving up, disgrace and other such meanings.

Secondly I find it hard to penetrate to the core of the teaching when I have to spend time with all these customs first. Not because it's hard to understand the essence (God is the center of self, so there is no such thing as a surrender - it's more of an awakening), but because it's presented so people without any background in philosophy or spirituality can grasp it. So when I begin to ask the truly hard questions, direct questions that goes past the culture and strike at the heart of the matter: I have to deal with all these cultural issues first.

Its not reading sanskrit, wearing a tiltaka or the robe that makes a good devotee in my view. Its how the teaching transoform the individual. All the external things are just that, external.

I think this alienates a lot of westerners. I once had a chat with a very nice, very polite devotee and asked him some small questions. He said "im surpriced you have reached this level on your own". I became quite upset by this statement, because he recieved me with a taint of arrogance. Just because you are from the west, does not mean you are a child in understanding or mind. God works in all of us, and we all play the lila.

So perhaps it's not so much a cultural barrier, as a language barrier. When people hear words such as "surrender", and "you must accept" - they go into protective mode and refuse. It's not God they refuse, but the notion that someone is better than them. If you changed the word "surrender" to "embrace" or "accept" - the whole deal changes. Suddenly God is something one can accept and get close to without feeling you have to move to India.

Small changes, small adjustments is the way to go in my view.
The big changes will happen naturally by themselves.

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Fri, 10/24/2008 - 08:17 — Karnamrita.das
Karnamrita.das's picture
A few Drops from an Ocean

Jonaa, you have brought up an ocean of topics to dive deeper into. Thank you for sharing your struggles on the path of transcendence. From our teachers we have learned that in religion there is form and substance. The form consists of the rituals, language, cultural package etc, while the substance is what is supposed to be the result of all this, in our case Krishna Prema or love for Krishna. As you have noted we may get distracted by the form or external details and lose sight of the purpose or essence of the teachings.

One way to understand any type of morality or rules and regulations (form, practice or theory) is that it is meant to foster inner life, and to give spiritual experience or realization. The rules or form are not ends in themselves, but until one has deep realization one is prone to have a more fundamentalist perspective or black and white, us and them thinking. The majority of people on any path tend to be like that. Interestingly, great teachers like Prabhupada simply the complex esoteric teachings in a way that is more accessible, which on the surface appears to be black and white. This simplicity is necessary to give a handle for people to begin their spiritual practice, though it becomes a problem later if they don't go further and deeper.

How much any of us will be attracted to or able to enter deeply a particular tradition depends partly on our past connection to it, and our corresponding psychology. The 6th chapter of the Gita tell us that an unsuccessful spiritual practitioner, will take their next birth in a situation which will naturally foster they continuing spiritual life. Basically one's spiritual life will come searching after us. Then after taking it up again one will rise quickly to the level of their previous life's level of advancement, and then the real work begins.

The whole process of Bhakti is deepening of one's spiritual faith in Krishna, his devotees and the process of devotional service. On this path or any you are interested in you have to search out those who exemplify the teaches and see if you are attracted to what they have. A big part of our ability to take to Bhakti is the association and blessings of saints who share their faith and realization with us. Without that the scripture is incomplete and will remain a mystery. There is the scripture, and the person who is a living scripture.

As you already have seen, in Bhakti there are a whole range of levels of realization practiced, so the question remains for you, if you want to pursue this path, "Are there devotees who inspire me by their example and experience?" To understand any path you can ask two questions: "What is your sadhana or spiritual practice, and what is your sadya, or goal you are aspiring for?"

There are many stages of understanding. Preliminary for spiritual life for some is to see God in Nature, as described as the Universal form of Krishna. The Gita and Bhagavatam show us examples of how we can think of God by observing him around us---he is the taste of water, ability in man, strength of the strong, life of all that lives, of fish the shark, of purifiers the wind, the mountains are the stacks of his bones, the rivers his veins, etc. Then if we can accept the existence of some controlling power behind Nature, we can understand our own existence beyond the body as an eternal soul, and then as part of God, etc.

The Krishna aspect of God is very confidential, and not appreciated by everyone. We are hearing and chanting about Krishna to revive our dormant spiritual consciousness, and our love for him. The practically unlimited knowledge of the Bhakti scriptures is there to fuel our practice, and by practice and mercy we will realize the truth of the teachings. Ultimately Krishna is inconceivable and beyond the power of words or intellect. We should use our intellect, though it only goes so far. Ultimately it is by the mercy of Krishna that we can understand enough about him to take full refuge in him (another way to say surrender :-)) which means taking shelter of his pure devotee.

There is much more to be said but this is already quite long for just a comment on a comment. I will end by saying that in Krishna consciousness we should accept what is favorable and give up what is not favorable for devotional service. In order to do this we have to become convinced that we want what KC or bhakti is offering. If we want to obtain love of Krishna, convinced that this is life's goal then what is there we can't accept for that purpose? Of course it is a cultivation and everyone should be encouraged on the level of their interest---it is not all or nothing--though we should understand the highest levels of attainment. Thus we have certain practices that may seem culturally foreign to Westerners, but are recommended by great teachers. We have to study how they are favorable, and be essence seekers to go beyond mere formality. Again, the formality is there to gradually invoke or uncover the goal or essence.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita

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Fri, 10/24/2008 - 10:37 — jonaa
jonaa's picture
Finally one that could see

Dear Sir

Finally one that saw my point.
It was not my intent to argue or cause problems. My focus was that we have (all humans) a tendency to enter "protective" mode when it comes to our experience of the divine. Of God working in all of our hearts.

You explained it perfectly. As i also meant it, but im not so .. inclusive with words yet. It takes time, and thats all i meant.

I have studied comparative religion for nearly 10 years. It goes without saying that i can't capture all i have learned, and all the things God have helped me understand - in one blog reply.

But i know this much: never loose sight of the goal. You can sing Hare Krishna for a lifetime, but unless you do it with love: it has no effect. So the focus should not be on external things, on doning the robes, or how many times we have gone to the ashram. But about the connection. The connection that has no physical form and that no one can describe.

Again, thank you for bridging the different oppinions.

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Fri, 10/24/2008 - 10:56 — NityānandaChandra
NityānandaChandra's picture
wonderfully written,

wonderfully written,

recently I attended the Japa Weekend Workshop and one of the key discussions is that Chanting is not a process but a relationship. That without chanting with love, or at least some care/attention one will not really receive any benefits.
Hare Krishna
ys
ncd

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Fri, 10/24/2008 - 16:38 — jonaa
jonaa's picture
God bless

May god bless you and keep you. Always my friend.

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Thu, 10/23/2008 - 22:48 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
Changes From Within

Dear Jonaa,

Thank you for your very interesting comment.

First, I totally agree with this part that you said:

"Its not reading sanskrit, wearing a tiltaka or the robe that makes a good devotee in my view. Its how the teaching transoform the individual. All the external things are just that, external."

You are so right. That really is one of the main points of the original post I made here.

Another thing you said:

" Just because you are from the west, does not mean you are a child in understanding or mind."

So very true.
At the same time we also understand "just because someone is wearing tilak, a robe and reading sanskrit, does not mean they are an "adult" spiritually. So, that's something I think is important to consider when discussing things, especially if we allow what they say to upset us. Of course, it's natural we will sometimes feel upset, I know I get upset myself sometimes over things people say that seem "uninformed". Still, it helps to understand that. Perhaps you already do, but I felt it was important to mention.

As far of the essence of your comment, regarding the word surrender and what it means. I understand entirely that this word can have negative connotations for certain people. For other people, it is the exact word they need to hear. We are all so different. It's important to respect those differences.

Ultimately (and again, this is directly addressing the points of this blog and the points you are also making) it does not matter to Krishna if we come to Him by using some other term that we understand better.

Surrender, accept, embrace.... all those terms are applicable.

So, if you understand "acceptance" more, or "embracing" more, then you can make those changes in your own mind when and where you read the word "surrender".

You understand these are English words used to accomplish the purpose of Loving Krishna, Becoming Closer To Krishna, Developing Our Relationship With Him. A single English word cannot encompass an entire spiritual truth. That's why it's so important to read the entire teachings, and not allow ourselves to become "blocked" because of some certain word (or words) that we don't relate well with.

We are not "surrendering" to the word "surrender" any more than we are surrendering to a culture. We are not attempting to develop a closer relationship with the word Surrender.

When we are mature about these things it's easy for us to understand what the goal is, and therefore the particular words used are not as important. Sometimes we allow things like "words" to keep us from deepening our understanding of spiritual matters.

It works both ways, like a double edged sword. On the one hand, we can be overly concerned that the "right" words get used and others "accept" those words.

On the other hand, we can be overly concerned that the words that we read and accept are the exact right words that we want to hear before we are able to "grasp" the message.

The message is still there, available to us, if we can grow beyond our limitations. The message does not change.

Our understanding of it does. Other's understanding of it does. We each must attempt to have it change toward a deeper understanding, not toward a more limited one.

Here's something else you said that I agree with entirely, though in a different context.

"Small changes, small adjustments is the way to go in my view.
The big changes will happen naturally by themselves."

The changes we all need to make happen within our own selves. We start with small changes, small adjustments, then the big changes will happen naturally by themselves.

Oh, I so agree.

We all have to make changes from within. Change always starts from within, and with each individual.

Thank you again for your nice comment.

I see you are new to this website. It's very nice to meet you.

Hare Krishna,
Navasi

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Fri, 10/24/2008 - 16:32 — jonaa
jonaa's picture
And to you

Thank you also!

It was not my intention to seem harsh or agressive.
I look at this from the outside, over the fence so to speak.
I am honest enough to know that i don't have the stamina in this lifetime to follow through. I know what it's about, but im not ready yet.. In the ten incarnations im still at the turtle stage so to speak, just out of the water, but i cant stay there long.

But i notice that whenever other "turtles" hear the word "surrender", they run away -and miss the whole point of Krishna (or shiva for that matter). Namely: to allow being. How can people live without ever asking the question "what am i?". Notice the difference between "who" and "what". Who you are change with every second, but what you are.. that's the key that opens the first door (at least it did for me).

Just sit and be. Everyone is going somewhere, and so many forget that there is no-where to go. Our mind and our senses trick us, on a daily basis. Do this, im hungry, have sex, must win, buy this, you should have done that, work harder, enemy, friend.. Once you notice how the mind works, you begin to laugh. It's like Jesus said: have i been with you for so long? And yet you don't recognize me? This other intelligence that works from the heart..

I mean: we live on a small planet, in a small solar-system, in a minute galaxy-- in a universe where the galaxies are like grain of sand on a beach. And here most people are worried about how they look, their hair doo, how big their muscles are -or what their naboer might say?

And they kill each other for this!

Well, im rambling here. Sorry about that. I just wanted to help out, to say how it looks like from where i'm standing. Perhaps it can be useful, perhaps not. Just don't confuse pointer with object. It's the easiest mistake to make from where i'm standing. Most people don't have the will to move beyond the symbols.

I did. Unlike the drug addicts and alcoholics i grew up with. I survived because i believed in God. I endured. No ego boost on my part, just an observation. Dont mistake the book about God for the experience of God. When he is near, you know it. Because everything will be well. that's how you feel when he is near. All negativity is drained from the body, and the chest lights up.

All I know is that this power cares nothing for our boundaries. Our names for the divine, or our "religions". It will reach out for whomever seeks it. If you seek God with honesty -- he will give you a hug, no matter what you call him.

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Fri, 10/24/2008 - 22:58 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
Fences, Turtles, Keys... Who or What Are They?

Dear Jonaa,

I did not feel you were being harsh or aggressive at all.
I understand you were trying to offer something helpful.
Everything you've said is helpful.
Thank you.

I would like to also offer you something.
I hope I will not seem too harsh or aggressive for you to see that I am attempting to offer something to you.

Fences, Turtles, Keys....

What are they but symbols? They are symbols that you have used to convey a certain meaning, a certain message.

You say you are speaking from "over the fence".... I could take that to mean you see us as being on "opposite sides". Meaning, we are not united in a common goal, with perhaps different perspectives.

You say you are a turtle, and that turtles run when they hear the word surrender. I could say turtles never "run" anywhere. They are incapable of running.

You say that a certain "key" opened the door for you. I could say that a "key" indicates that there is a lock. That indicates that we are "locked" from God, when in fact we are eternally connected to Him. Also, that you are indicating that only certain keys would unlock certain "locks".... meaning we are actually not all going to reach the same goal ultimately.

I could then tell you that you are contradicting yourself, and that I cannot understand you.

Or, I could look at your entire comment, and the overall message contained there, and perhaps understand you. If it is my intention to understand, then that is what usually happens.

If I feel too strongly opposed to the particular symbols you are using to express yourself, then I will not be able to hear what you are saying.

You say you are a turtle, and that you don't have the stamina to "follow through". You are also saying that you know you can't "stay there long" in the turtle stage.

Every turtle flips determinedly toward it's destination. So, it makes no difference about "follow through"... all you need to do is take a flip in the direction.

You have observed some of the many ways our minds and senses trick us on a daily basis. You stated those ways very clearly. Our minds and senses also trick us on far more subtle levels than this, as I'm sure you are aware.

Sometimes they trick us into thinking we have moved "beyond" symbols, when in fact we are still very much relating to symbols, because some symbols we can find meaning in, and other symbols we reject entirely because we can't find meaning in them.

There is meaning in every symbol. The meaning we see is directly related to what we are able to see. Most of the time, it depends on what we are willing to allow ourselves to see, combined with our spiritual ability to see.

You have said that the difference between "who" and "what" was the "key that opened the first door" for you at least. You are asking me to notice the difference between "who" and "what".

Now that you already have unlocked that first door, perhaps you can see further than this. At first, I also saw a difference between "who" and "what". I was searching for a "key" (truly) and I believed it was contained within some book. In searching the books about spiritual information, I found the books that said "what" and I rejected them entirely. The turned no key for me at all.

For a long time I saw a difference between "who" and "what". Now, I see no difference at all. Perhaps you are ready to see that there is not actually a difference. "What" we are and "Who" we are are just terms. We are. Nothing can change the "being", whether we call it "who" or "what".

You said:

"Most people don't have the will to move beyond the symbols."

That's very true. We all need to move beyond the particular symbols that we are attached to personally in order to see the deeper messages and make progress (even if it is tiny progress).

You have moved beyond quite a lot of symbols. Survived because you did, and because you believed in God. You will want to keep moving though, as you said, you can't stay "there" long. That will mean moving even further beyond even more symbols.

You said:
"Dont mistake the book about God for the experience of God."

Yes, don't.
The experience of God is there if you want it, if you can move beyond attachment (also aversion, two sides of the same coin) to certain symbols.

There is a far greater experience of God than feeling that everything is well, all negativity is gone, and your chest lights up.

This "Power" is aware that we have created these boundaries as ways to avoid acceptance. Ways to avoid deeper acceptance. Ways to avoid accepting Him entirely. (yes, I'm using the word acceptance intentionally instead of surrender)

You are honestly seeking God, He's giving you hugs, but He's unlimited, so He wants to give you even bigger hugs. It's up to you to see if you are willing to accept them.

Hare Krishna,
Navasi

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Sat, 10/25/2008 - 04:02 — jonaa
jonaa's picture
Allegories

This should explain it i guess:
http://www.dlshq.org/religions/esoteric_avatara.htm

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Sat, 10/25/2008 - 04:44 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
?

Sorry.... I'm lost.

What exactly did you feel that would explain?

I read it, but don't see any particular thing that explains anything we are discussing, or reveals information that was previously not understood.

What have I missed?

?

Navasi

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Sat, 10/25/2008 - 04:53 — jonaa
jonaa's picture
Turtles

We were talking about symbols, and how they could be missinterpreted. The link i gave was an example of such a case. Many people read the expansions of vishnu as verbatim. But they clearly have a deeper, human aspect to them as well.

Thats all.
Nothing special to get :)

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Sat, 10/25/2008 - 06:34 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
Perspectives

Oh, okay.....

I was already aware that you were speaking from that perspective. Of course it's different.

It didn't indicate to me that there was nothing to be gained from discussion.

That seems to me to be more about the individual.

: )

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Thu, 10/23/2008 - 11:23 — NityānandaChandra
NityānandaChandra's picture
"(God is the center of self,

"(God is the center of self, so there is no such thing as a surrender - it's more of an awakening)," As followers of the Bhagavad Gita that is not necessarily our understanding. We understand that the soul and God are different. Not that by self realization one understands that they are God or that God is within them. It is true that God is in the body, accompanying the spirit soul, but we are not the body and thus it is not that God is within us. Rather we are one in the sense that we are eternal and God is eternal. Other than that we are our own individual and God is also an individual, that is the first instruction of the Bhavagad Gita. (Chapter 2 text 12)

The knowledge of the soul and God, sambandha, is understood from a chain of teachers who are qualified to teach due to their being examples of what is being said. We do not find that one learns how to do surgery by reading books, or by intuition but rather one must study under one who is successful in surgery. Similarly Krishna states that we should apply this same standard for spiritual knowledge. That one cannot gain this knowledge without hearing from one who is successful and spiritual knowledge (Bhagavad-Gita 4.34) I believe that the devotee was complimenting you for as Krishna states in the Gita, Manusyanam Sahasreshu Kaschit yatati siddhaye , out of many thousands among men, hardly one is searching for truth. Yatatam api siddhanam kaschin mam vetti tattvatah, and out of such men hardly one knows me in truth.
Hare Krishna
ys
ncd

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Thu, 10/23/2008 - 12:55 — jonaa
jonaa's picture
The Bhagavad Gita

The Gita makes it quite clear that all living beings are Krishna's external fragments (I have the gita elsewhere or i would find the scripture).

But this is exactly what i meant, having to argue over details that are pointness within the scope of the material. Hanging on statements, watching every word looking for somthing to argue about.. this is the way of the mind.

The focus was: how do you present the material in the best possible way for the faith?

There is a lot of symbolism in all of this, in the gita. There are many levels of truth. There is a written doctrine, and a verbal doctrine given by your Guru at the right time.

Krishna also underlines that of all the mysteries written (paths to God), this is the best (the gita). Thus recognizing that there are other paths and other teachings. These are methods (the different religions) for attaining the self.

One God, many names. One goal, many paths.

It is pointless to debate on this level. The point of my little post was that it could be wise to be "rounder" when it comes to words. Don't make the same mistake fundamentalist christians do. Be mild, don't argue so much, allow people to gradually change.

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Thu, 10/23/2008 - 20:05 — tekisui
tekisui's picture
Relativism

Jonna,

You said -
One God, many names. One goal, many paths.
This is a relativistic stance though, implying that "all paths lead to the same goal" - and that as such, there is no important difference between Vaishnavism and Christianity or Islam and so on.

Also implying that there is no difference between the goal that following the Vaishnava path leads to, and the goal that following the Christian path (or other paths) leads to.

And moreover implying that there is no difference between living the way that following the Vaishnava path leads a person to live, and living the way that following the Christian path (or others) leads a person to live.

Already a casual observation of the Vaishnava philosophy and the Christian philosophy and other philosophies shows that there are differences, and not unimportant ones.
For example, mainstream Christianity pressures a person to develop the right kind of approach to God in this one lifetime - or they will burn in hell for all eternity, with no chance of redemption. Vaishnava philosophy puts one under no such pressure. To many people, this is a very important difference.

And already a casual observation of the way the adherents of Vaishnava philosophy live, and the way the adherents of Christian philosophy and other philosophies live, also shows that there are differences, and not unimportant ones, either.
For example, adherents of some philosophies have no problems about eating meat, while others abstain from it altogether. The production of meat causes great strain and pollution on the environment, and we all suffer from that. This is something we can observe immediately. While the production of vegetarian foods isn't entirely without strain on the environment, it is more economical and more ecological.

I do not think that "all paths lead to the same goal".

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Sat, 10/25/2008 - 05:46 — jonaa
jonaa's picture
Depends on who you talk to

Dear teksui

Quote: I do not think that "all paths lead to the same goal".

This depends on who you talk to, like i mentioned.

Example:

From time to time great ones have come, who have systematised this Cosmic plan and formulated a method so that individuals in whom this purpose has been awakened may make use of this method and reach the goal quickly, that they may consciously achieve this process in themselves. These methods have come to the various religions of humanity. Gradually, these religions have had a greater and ever-widening group of followers. These great groups exist all over the world as the great section of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and so on. -Source: Sri Swami Chidananda

And:

There are three stages of transformation described in the three sections of the Devi-Mahatmya. The first one is where Adi-Sakti awakes Maha-Vishnu who was asleep, so that He may destroy or overcome the original demoniacal forces, Madhu and Kaitabha. The second stage is where the same Sakti manifests Herself as Maha-Lakshmi and overcomes Mahishasura and Raktabija. -Source: SRI SWAMI KRISHNANANDA

Also: In the book "easy journeys to other planets" the battle of kuruksetra is defined as being an ocean that we must cross. If we read it verbatim we should expect to find an ocean at the physical, historical location. But if we read it symbolically we realize that the battleground is in our own soul. See what i mean?

This is the reason i said that the goal is always the same. And incidently why we should not mistake the symbol for the experience. If we link ourselves to our books - we can never overcome the obstacles of argumenting and hostillity. But by recognizing that God is the ultimate goal - to go home, we overcome these things and can live together in harmony.

Love

Jonaa

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Thu, 10/23/2008 - 14:31 — NityānandaChandra
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Are we not on a quest for

Are we not on a quest for Truth,

I believe the verse that you may be thinking about is Bhagavad Gita 15.7. Please if you don't mind read the verse and purport that is given. http://vedabase.net/bg/15/7/ I don't really care about semantics but you can see from the purport my intentions.

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Thu, 10/23/2008 - 18:57 — jonaa
jonaa's picture
Purport

I get your point yes.
And don't get me wrong, reading or quoting somthing correctly is important. But not more important than the maturing process. If you know what i mean.
I have the utmost respect for the Krishna community. I recieved my first "view" on God through iscon during the eighties at the age of 14. My first book about God was the gita, given to me by a monk. So i have spent quite some time studying the symbolism (i'm now 35).

As far as the official prabhupada explanation of the gita (the sub descriptions for each verse), well, sometimes its just to much of a good thing. And other times he has excellent information.

There is a fine line between myth and truth that is easy to step over. Myth is a vessel for truth, but not truth itself so to speak. There are many guru's that have commented on the gita over the years. A saivite would read it quite differently.

It's a bit like the bible. It can be wise to read up on greek mythology before dealing with the symbols. As well as knowing your own body and the power centers there.

My personal favorite is Gurudeva. With his 3 masive tomes: living with, dancing with and merging with Shiva. How on earth do these Gurus produce so many books. Incredible effort and focus. Truly remarkable what prabuphada produced in his lifetime (and he was quite old when he started as well).

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Tue, 10/21/2008 - 11:19 — jivatattva
jivatattva's picture
Cultural Sentiment

I think you have brought up a real important issue here.

As a westerner, immersing in Vedic culture is a huge learning curve and adaptability curve, that can take years to come to some reasonable fruition of social functionality for a person- like language, social customs, style, too name a few. I think its exotic to many westerners, which I think is the initial attraction for many, but after they get involved it can become a burden. Whereas 'just the Spiritual teachings' can be learned very fast!

Just recently I have reduced my cultural sentiment, and I feel like I can run faster with what matters most, like if I had weights on before.

I think some minimum culture is required just to communicate, but you are right - it can become a distraction!

Haribol

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Tue, 10/21/2008 - 22:42 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
The Teachings

Haribol Jivatattva,

I'm glad to hear you could relate to this, and it's something that has been a distraction for you. Glad mostly that you are more focused on the essence of the teachings and you feel you are able to progress faster as a result.

That's wonderful.

It's easy to get lost in all of those things. I often think about how Srila Prabhupad put all these teachings in English for us. He of course gave us the sanskrit also, but in his purports, he keeps things in English terms for the most part. With the exception of where he is literally quoting scripture. I think most of us would be totally lost if we had to first assimilate all the sanskrit names for things and then try to understand the message later.

This issue of the culture is a problem for people who are born Indian also though, just in a different way. So, really this post is addressing every individual who's endeavoring to become Krishna conscious, or help others become Krishna conscious.

I've gotten a lot of letters from Indian devotees who are new to Krishna consciousness. Some Hindu, some not. They've been in somewhat of a "panic" because of some particular festival that's coming (or has arrived) and they don't know how to celebrate it in a Vaisnava way. So, they want to know.... what did Srila Prabhupad say to do for this festival? Well, sometimes I have to tell them that he didn't even tell us to celebrate it at all. All "vedic" festivals are not necessarily Vaisnava festivals.

It can also happen to them in regards to the various ways of doing things. Because the traditions are so involved, it can be hard for them to see that it doesn't ultimately matter if you have rotated the incense around your picture of Krishna three times starting from His feet and going around from the left to right, (with three circles in each of the correct locations of His form). These details are important for deity worship, especially in the temples, but at home, to obsess about all that is "missing" the point of "just offer it with devotion". When you are used to a culture that has all these details exactly "so" from birth, it can be difficult to just focus on chanting.

For example, it would be much better for someone worried about how to celebrate a particular festival to instead spend time chanting japa.

On an individual level, we don't need to worry so much about all these cultural things.

We have so many wonderful things available already, in terms of festivals and vedic things. They go on in temples all around the world. They are being done in the appropriate Vaisnava way. So, we don't need to personally replicate all these things ourselves.

Thank you for your comment.
Hare Krishna,
Navasi

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Tue, 10/21/2008 - 09:12 — tekisui
tekisui's picture
The other extreme

Greetings.

I am finding that my predisposition is to be in just the other extreme. Namely, I find Vedic culture and the externally visible culturally specific ways of the devotees alienating, even threatening. For example, if I saw you in traditional Vedic clothes, I would be very very reluctant to talk to you at all. I am aware of this conditioning of mine, and also that it is sometimes counterproductive and make an effort to counteract it deliberately - yet it is very strong in me. This is one of the reasons I don't even use "Hare Krishna" as a greeting, as I feel it would be an undue expression of an affiliation with a culture I feel so alienated from. Yet the philosophy and some of the practices are very close to me.
I think I am not the only one who is like that.

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Tue, 10/21/2008 - 09:46 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
Extremes

Greetings Tekisui ;)

You're not the only one who is like that, you're right about that certainly. A lot of people fail to become interested in Krishna consciousness because they don't like the cultural aspects (for whatever reason).

That's one more good example of why it's important not to allow the cultural aspects to become overly important to any of us, especially as it relates to trying to help new people see the actual points of the philosophy.

I'll tell you a story from my own life that is a good example I think.

When I first starting living at the temple in Tallahassee, I was 14. I had been chanting and reading and things for some time, but I was still pretty unsure about all the "cultural things". There was no where near as much of it in those days, but also, in those days, all those things were very exotic in the US (mostly).

So, I was very happy there, wearing my normal clothes, and living with the devotees, chanting and going to mangal arotike, etc... The temple president and his wife were positively wonderful and I adored them. They weren't worried about the "externals" or overly concerned about the culture, so didn't mind at all that I had an extreme aversion to wearing a sari.

: ) Well... in those days, they were 6 yard lengths of plain heavy saffron cotton cloth from the fabric store. Not what most teenage girls would want to be wearing... lol

The temple president and his wife had to go away for a week or so, and while they were gone the devotee in charge decided it was essential that I "give up my karmi clothes and wear a sari"...

Well, I got so upset, I nearly left the temple entirely because of his wanting to force me to wear a sari. I did leave for a while in fact, until the temple president returned. He asked me what was wrong and I told him (in tears) that this devotee was trying to force me to wear a sari.... lol... (horror of horrors).

He saw that it was much more important for me to be living there with the devotees, going to the programs, chanting rounds, doing service, than it was to "wear a sari".... so he told me not to even worry about it, didn't have to wear any sari at all if I didn't want to. :) (sorry for all the typed smiles, but this story makes me smile sooo much!).

So, I stayed and kept chanting, reading and being a devotee. That's a fun story and very simplistic I know.... but it's a good example of what you're saying I think.

Not everyone likes all these vedic culture things, and that's not what the most important thing is. The philosophy, the practices. Krishna. That's what's important.

That's great that you are attracted to the philosophy, and some of the practices. Some people allow their distaste or fear to get in the way of that, and it's nice that you are working on overcoming it. Ultimately though, it's not what matters most.

Thank you for your comment. Your honesty is refreshing.

Closings ;)
Navasi

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Tue, 10/21/2008 - 10:07 — tekisui
tekisui's picture
Reasons for disliking the cultural aspect

Thank you for the story, Navasi.

I think the reasons individual people have for disliking the Vedic cultural aspect can be very revealing. Sometimes, this aversion is simply a symptom of the conditioning we have received growing up in one culture as opposed to another - in the sense that we have an aversion for things that are or seem foreign to us. I find these are relatively easy to overcome.

But I know that those reasons for the dislike of Vedic culture can go deeper, and reveal a lot about a person's faith in Krishna and their realization or lack thereof of Vaishnava philosophy.

For example, someone might find that wearing traditional Vedic clothes and using particular sings (like the tilaka and special greetings) in the West is an act of unnecessarily endangering oneself. Because by wearing such clothes and using those signs, one sticks out of the crowd, is someone special - and as such, potentially easy to notice for anyone who wanted to pick a fight or even assault one.

So for such a person, wearing those clothes or using those signs can be a matter of how strong their faith and understanding are. They might ask themselves - "If I get assaulted, and it's likely that the Vedic clothes drew the attention of the assaulter - is my faith strong enough that Krishna will indeed save me from all sinful reactions? After the assault, will I then really be able to live with myself and my spirituality, and continue in my Vaishnava practices?"

And for some people, the answer to these questions is No, so they are more held-back in regard to adopting external sings of being on a particular spiritual path.

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Tue, 10/21/2008 - 10:58 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
Understanding What Is Important

That's very true, Tekisui, that the reasons we feel certain ways reveal our understanding of Krishna consciousness and our faith. That can give us more information that we can then use to continue to develop our faith.

There are so many factors to be considered in the things you said about that.

That's yet another reason that we need to really know what is important and what is not important.

The example you've given, just looking at that:

Well, if this person doesn't want to wear traditional vedic clothes and tilak because of a lack of faith, how is doing it going to increase their faith? Faith in Krishna is increased by Following The Process. Gradually over time, that faith increases. So, artificially "forcing" oneself to go out wearing traditional vedic clothes is not actually going to accomplish "having faith". Unless of course the person really already has it, and it's only a matter of taking that "final leap" and acting on it.

Alone though, this one thing is not going to create any lasting and genuine faith all by itself.

Another thing there..... we have to consider why it would be important to put oneself in physical danger, just in order to be "wearing the right clothes".... It's not.

What IS important is to chant, 16 rounds a day, study the scripture, follow the principles, associate with devotees. These things are what is important.

Krishna doesn't require us to "prove" faith that we don't yet have by going out and doing things we are not actually ready to do.

He also doesn't want us to put ourselves in physical or spiritual danger by doing those things. A lot of devotees have jobs, they have to work, earn a living, support their families. They live in countries where it is NOT acceptable to wear traditional vedic clothes to work.

It's not a manifestation of a lack of faith if they wear acceptable clothes in order to keep their jobs. Rather, it's a manifestation of their understanding of what is important, and their own level of advancement. That goes back to understanding that Krishna consciousness is always practical. (you and I were talking about that in a previous blog of mine).

Being practical, realistic, and focused on the essence (namely hearing and chanting) is what matters. It would not help that devotees spiritual life to show up at work wearing traditional clothes and tilak and get fired. Constructive tests from Krishna, tests of our faith are plenty available. We don't have to try to create them for ourselves in unrealistic ways.

It's important to be very realistic about our level of faith, and not try to assume we "should" have more than we actually do. Also, to be aware of our stage of spiritual progress, and what things will help us progress, and what things will not, and focus our energy on the essential things that will help us progress.

So, I would say that the person in your example who answers "No" and is more held back from adopting the "external signs" is actually demonstrating a realistic degree of faith. That would actually demonstrate a greater degree of genuine understanding and acceptance of the internal aspects of the spiritual path. Which is what matters most.

I know you were just mentioning some of the reasons people might have and what it seems to demonstrate about their faith and understanding. I am just elaborating on that concept, because I agree it's a very interesting thing.

Hare Krishna,
Navasi

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Tue, 10/21/2008 - 07:39 — jaykrsna
jaykrsna's picture
vedic scriptures

Hare Krishna mataji!!
I agree with you,no one surrenders to 'vedic scriptures'.We in our homes have Bhagvat-Gita,but many of them havent read it,some do not believe in it,some forget Krishna and spend their whole lives worshipping other demigods.If they did surrender to 'vedic scriptures' then nearly whole of India will be Krishna conscious and will realise the ultimate goal of life and use their gift of human form in the way it is meant for to serve Krishna.

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Tue, 10/21/2008 - 08:53 — Navasi
Navasi's picture
Religious Culture

Hare Krishna
Dear Jay,

Thank you for your comment. What you say is true, that the whole of India has generally rejected the vedic scriptures.

I was not really talking about the vedic scriptures per say, in this post, but more about becoming overly involved in the "externals" of vedic traditions and missing the point behind them. That's what I meant by "no one surrenders to vedic culture" ...... meaning that devotees surrender to Krishna ultimately, not to the "culture" that surrounds Krishna consciousness.

For example, if we feel that our traditions and ways of dressing and speaking are the Most important thing, and forget that the Most important thing is developing our love for Krishna. That happens sometimes because there are so many beautiful aspects to the culture alone, we can forget the purpose behind it.

I found your comment particularly interesting because it's something I've been thinking a lot about lately. There is a lot about this topic in the section I'm reading of Srimad Bhagavatam right now. Srila Prabhupad, in this purport talks about this point, about how people perform religious activities because of a motivation for material gain. When the material needs are satisfied to some extent, then they reject the religion. Such as we see now in India.

That's why it's important to go beyond these kinds of materially motivated religious activities by developing an understanding of Krishna, and an appreciation of the genuine, lasting satisfaction and happiness in our relationship with Him.

Here are some quotes from that purport that I found particularly meaningful. Perhaps you will appreciate them also:

"Religion includes four primary subjects, namely pious activities, economic development, satisfaction of the senses, and finally liberation from material bondage."

"In the lower stages of human civilization, there is always competition to lord it over the material nature or, in other words, there is a continuous rivalry to satisfy the senses. Driven by such consciousness, man turns to religion. He thus performs pious activities or religious functions in order to gain something material. But if such material gains are obtainable in other ways, then so-called religion is neglected. This is the situation in modern civilization."

"In the Vedas, the above-mentioned four activities are prescribed in the regulative way so that there will not be any undue competition for sense gratification.

But Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is transcendental to all these sense gratificatory activities. It is purely transcendental literature which can be understood only by the pure devotees of the Lord who are transcendental to competitive sense gratification.

In the material world there is keen competition between animal and animal, man and man, community and community, nation and nation. But the devotees of the Lord rise above such competitions. They do not compete with the materialist because they are on the path back to Godhead where life is eternal and blissful. Such transcendentalists are nonenvious and pure in heart. In the material world, everyone is envious of everyone else, and therefore there is competition. But the transcendental devotees of the Lord are not only free from material envy, but are well-wishers to everyone, and they strive to establish a competitionless society with God in the center."
Srimad Bhagavatam, 1.2 Purport

Hare Krishna,
Navasi