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Impurely Imitation, But Eventually Waking Up

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[Originally posted on October 10, 2012] By participating in regular spiritual practice we learn to see through the scriptures and to think spiritually beyond the material duality of good or bad, happy or sad, etc. What might seem to others like an ordinary life of work, school, and/or family, is for a devotee of Krishna, full of meaning, with lessons everywhere—if we are willing to look. Our ability to look for the seeds of instructions and mercy depends to a large extent on our positive absorption in Krishna thought and remembrance, or we could say our attitude toward life—what we look for or give energy to. On the one hand we see everywhere the shortcomings of matter in a life with no spirituality (or even how material attachments and desires in ourselves slow our spiritual progress). On the other, we also see the arrangement of Krishna, and how we are being guided and helped.

Though there are perhaps unlimited perceptions of a life, in general we could say that there is a negative material perspective, and a positive spiritual one. By this I don’t mean to imply that difficult challenges or seemingly “bad” things don’t happen to a devotee, but that an advanced devotee always knows that behind the problematic situation is an important lesson which may lead to more dependence on Krishna. Depending on Krishna means a less stressful life and a life lived in increasing happiness and devotional advancement. Everyone on the path of bhakti knows that the goal of Krishna prema (love for Krishna) is the highest ideal. To the extent that we realize and act on this, to that extent we will experience deeper joy, and even ecstatic moods in our spiritual practices. If our spiritual life seems stagnant or stuck, we can take note of what we are doing that doesn’t foster our spiritual life, and increase or begin those recommended practices for being Krishna conscious. Our life can seem complex, and yet the solution to our problems is simple, requiring that we believe in the possible by the power of grace as we focus on the holy name and devotional service.

The Appearance Day of Lord Ramachandra (Ram navami)

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[This version was posted on 03-30-2012, which itself was reposted from 2009--recycling is good!] Saturday March 28th is the appearance day of Lord Rama (in the USA, please check your local Temple for other parts of the world). Such a day for any incarnation of God is not called a “birth” day since God is ever-existing and primeval. Their “birth” in the material world is only a superficial ruse, as much as an actor exists before going on stage. Queen Kunti in her prayers in the 1st Canto of the Bhagavatam explains this: ”Being beyond the range of limited sense perception, You are the eternally irreproachable factor covered by the curtain of deluding energy. You are invisible to the foolish observer, exactly as an actor dressed as a player is not recognized.”

"In the eighteenth incarnation, the Lord appeared as King Rama. In order to perform some pleasing work for the demigods, He exhibited superhuman powers by controlling the Indian Ocean and then killing the atheist King Ravana, who was on the other side of the sea." Shrimad Bhagavatam 1.3.22

Unlike conditioned souls such as ourselves who must take birth out of karmic force and necessity, incarnations of God manifest themselves upon the earth to execute many special purposes or “lilas” (divine activities). His lila is fully recounted in the great epic, Ramayana as well as briefer accounts in other Vedic texts such as the Srimad Bhagavatam. These lilas are not myths or just stories as the mundane, faithless scholars would have us believe. They are spiritually powerful pastimes of God, meant for our welfare and the benefit of the entire universe and great devotees never tire of hearing them.

No Outer Reflections—Only Inner Connection

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[What if this happened to you?] Hearing celestial sounds like wind chimes but with ethereal notes of cavernous resonance and depth that gave me goose bumps, I wondered if I was dreaming, or in some heavenly place. Rising up from bed, I was wide awake—at least I felt super awake, yet strangely for me, fascinated and enlivened. The unusualness and loveliness of the reverberations were quite astonishing, as was the fact that I couldn’t make out a direction from where it was coming from. I felt like I was wearing surround sound headphones or in a room with speakers in every direction, included up and down. Feeling joyfully confused I was curious if I was hearing through my physical ears, or from within? I couldn’t tell, though I knew this was an extraordinary, other worldly experience. Every cell in my body was also vibrating to the all-pervading concert.

I rose and turned on the light. Looking around, it was my room alright, yet it seemed it was breathing, or moving to the music. Everything was pulsating, contracting and expanding. I saw the room and its contents as moving flecks, atoms, I guessed, and the particles of air seemed like flowing, effervescent mist. No, I wasn’t on drugs—I know what that’s like from my past. This was not a chemical hallucination. I was so sure of that—as sure as I live and breathe and experience, but even more than that, as I was hyper alert, yet in the most natural way possible.

I went into the bathroom and turned on the light. There were no mirrors. Just the bare unpainted walls where mirrors had been. Instead of a mirror image, I could sense myself as a conscious being. Wow, that was quite an improvement! Actually everything seemed divine and in harmony. Every part fit with every other part. Nothing was separate from the Source, yet each thing had its own existence, but in perfect cooperation with the Center. I thought, “This is how life should be.”

Lord Rama and Lord Chaitanya

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[Reposted from 3-24-2010. Saturday March 28th, 2015 is Ram Navami, or Lord Rama's holy appearance day anniversary.] Although Lord Chaitanya is the combined form or Radha and Krishna, coming to give Krishna prema for the fallen souls of Kali-yuga, he also contains all other incarnations of God within him, including Lord Rama. Therefore, Lord Chaitanya is Universal. Anyone desiring to make spiritual advancement and increase their devotion toward any real incarnation of God can obtain that goal by taking shelter of him—he is so merciful and accessible.

Devotees of Shri Rama can see Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as the manifestation of Lord Rama for this age. Shri Chaitanya showed a six armed form to his devotees to demonstrate that he was also Lord Krishna and Lord Rama. At least two principles devotees of Shri Chaitanya were also devotees of Lord Rama. One of them is none other than Hanumanji, who in Chaitanya lila, is the Kaviraja (Ayur-vedic doctor) and great devotee, Murari Gupta. It is said that Murari Gupta cured people’s material and spiritual diseases. He was also one of Lord Chaitanya’s principle biographers. The stanch devotion to Lord Rama of these two devotees was tested in a similar way by Lord Chaitanya, and then he greatly praised their Rama Bhakti or devotion to Shri Rama.

Spring Meditation

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[reprinted from 4-15-2012] Every year I’m so inspired by the feeling of spring as I watch its gradual unfolding like the stages of a lovely flower, from bud to full blown petal perfection, or a step by step, most profound, yet accessible concert, which carries one to a moving experience, difficult to convey to others. While the basics of earth, plants, flowers, trees, insects, animals, wind, sky, clouds, sun, moon, and stars are obvious, how they affect and teach me by the power of Krishna’s seasonal changes, can be challenging to express in fresh ways. This is my challenge every year as I am stirred by spring and the various natural transformations, yet because I have the desire to share something meaningful with you, making the endeavor to serve and give, I find new inspiration. This is what has come to me:

The cultivation of spiritual life is like setting different small parts of special lenses in place which enables us to view life from a new and deeper perspective. Beginning with the premise that there is a God, we are eternal souls having a relationship with Him, and that this is a purposeful universe gives us insights completely different from thinking consciousness is simply chemical, electrical reactions, and that life has no meaning. As quantum mechanics in physics has taught scientists that the act of observing something changes the phenomenon being observed, life reflects back to us according to our faith or belief about existence. This can be expressed in the words of Krishna in his Bhagavad Gita [4.11],

Give to Live (The Book)

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[Originally published on 05-16-2013, I'm reposting it now, as I want to share the book with new readers who like my blogs. It is still available in many places in the world.] This was originally the introduction for Give to Live, but we decided to cut it, since the size of the front matter and whole book, had to be reduced. Still, I think it gives a good introduction for the book for those of you who don’t have a copy. Additionally, there is a 15 minute video at the end giving a glimpse into the journey of creating the book.

As an introduction to my book, Give to Live, I am thinking about the blessing (or curse) of being a writer. Part of being a writer is the desire to share experience, which is equally true of photographers, artists and the like—people who try to share their perceptions, feelings and thoughts with others through some different medium of one or more dimensions. Yet, sometimes thinking of an experience (or extracting the creative angle) as it is happening makes one less present in the moment. I have taken photos and videos at some temple functions, and felt like I missed the whole thing!

My usual means of sharing experience is what you are reading—words. I think I am very balanced in my “observer’s eye” in that I really have to work at turning it on. It doesn’t come that naturally for me like with some writers. A friend sent me a book about a poet/gardener now in his 90’s who has always loved words, and writing about nature and his garden. His mood of observation and being in the moment is very impressive to me, as I was such a dull, unobservant, and uncreative child. In my current “later years” I am much more present than I could have ever dreamed as a child, though still very inferior to this poet! It is always good to take the humble position regarding our Krishna-given abilities. We are always dependent on His mercy and help in any endeavor and yet we will always find people much better than we are in anything we do. Never the less, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to use our talents and desires in the service of the Lord, his devotees, and people in general.

Vrindavan - India Trip - Clips and Pics

The Kirtan Avatar—Shri Chaitanya Gives Divine Love

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[I am reposting this blog from 3-6-12 which includes not only a general introduction to Shri Chaitanya, but also, in the comments section, many prayers and pastimes.]The appearance day of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has come upon us with the rising of the full moon. Those unfamiliar with the significance of Lord Chaitanya, and/or who want to gain a deeper appreciation for Him—not just intellectually, but practically, personally, and factually within themselves, are recommended to not only study about His life and teachings, but to also chant the Hare Krishna mantra very intently in personal meditation (japa), or with others in loud, melodious song and dance, sankirtan. The ideal environment for this is with those of faith and spiritual standing in the practices Shri Chaitanya taught. If this is not available, you can create a sanctified area in your home, dedicated solely for spiritual practice, praying for good association. The real fruit of knowledge is receptivity, and inspiration to engage in loving devotional service, and chanting brings about both, as it is the means and end of perfection. My teacher, Shrila Prabhupada, using the idea of science to verify theories by experiment, often encouraged us to experiment with chanting.

Prabhupada personally experimented with the holy name when he came first came to the United States in 1965, by chanting with those who had no background in Krishna consciousness, or the Vedic conclusions. Due to his spiritual purity, desire to help others, empowerment by Lord Chaitanya, and full faith in the power of the holy name, his experiment with the Hare Krishna mantra succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

SNOW BOUND (Our Self-Created Prison) and LIBERATION FROM BONDAGE

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Here in North Carolina we don’t get anywhere near the amount of snow of northern states. Mostly the big storms pass us by or don’t leave much snow. Occasionally we get a little dusting, or a few inches of that white fluffy stuff. If there is accumulation we have our Mitra (friend) who uses his tractor to plow our road and driveway. Unfortunately for us, he is out of town, and so we really appreciate his kind service, being unable to move out of our driveway, and with temperatures remaining below freezing, there is no end in sight.

We are stuck, and naturally, this is fodder for writing. Today I thought of the idea of being imprisoned by the life we create to be happy—house, car, possessions, family—which at some point may seem a great burden if we aren’t using our life for spiritual progress, or to fulfill our life’s mission. We may also be psychologically stuck. In these cases we often need outside help to get out of our predicament. For example, we come in contact with a devotee who introduces us to spiritual life and is able to give us a way out of our self-created prison by the holy name and service of the Lord, or as appropriate, tools to change our negative conditioning. We need our Mitra, or well-wishing friend, who can removed the snow of our misconceptions, and give us the true freedom our soul hankers for.

Joyful Prison Program

Early in the morning on Saturday, September 13, 2014, my husband Haripada dasa and I picked up a couple of friends--Sarva-drik Prabhu and his wife Sudevi dasi--and headed north. We arrived at the Medium Security Facility of the Petersburg Prison in Virginia around 11:15 a.m. We were checked through security, our hands were stamped, and we were escorted through several heavy, metal doors until we found ourselves in the prison chapel.

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