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Don't worry; stop and pray. . .

“When you get to the place where you would worry, stop and pray.” (from Edgar Cayce, compliments of my daily calendar)

Making Peace with our Body and Mind, Finding Joy in the Self

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Reflecting on my life and the lives of those I know and read about, I see how much we all struggle with our material natures and tendencies, and how these can negatively impact our relationships with others. Even though we suffer on account of identifying with our bodies and minds, we remain attached to our limited perspectives or biased lenses, finding it difficult to accept that our entire problem of life is physicality. Ignorance is bliss runs the material world, and since we have invested so much time and energy in trying to enjoy worldly happiness, we don’t want to admit our folly in its pursuit. This is why spiritual knowledge is so essential, and even more so, realization of these truths.

Stated another way, many people may casually understand that they “have” a soul, but few try to act as one, or make realizing their soul and its relationship with God their life’s true quest. Genuine spiritual paths are meant to give us tools to realize our spiritual nature. In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, chanting the holy name and engaging in pure devotion (shuddha bhakti) are the means to uncover our soul and let it shine in love of Krishna. Material consciousness is muddy consciousness, while soul consciousness is like pure mountain water. This is why we speak often of “purification” when speaking about the effect of spiritual practices. Purification means taking away the mud of matter from our consciousness, so our real nature as willing instruments for divine purpose will gradually manifest.

The basics of bhakti are frequently repeated since the fundamentals need to be mastered before higher stages are obtained. While devotees of Krishna accept the fact that the ABC’s of spiritual life involve realizing that “we are not the body,” this isn’t so easy, even after many years of practice.

Houston Festival of Chariots Video clips by Gaby

Bhagavad Gita 15th chapter overview by Nityananda Chandra das

TEXAS FAITH 106: Do the political comebacks of scandal-marred politicians mean we’re forgiving or indifferent?

Dallas Morning News,

Houston Festival of Chariots at Discovery Green

Eligibility for Bhakti--Faith

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Although Krishna reveals in his Bhagavad Gita that the purpose of the Vedic wisdom is to know, remember, serve, and love him, this truth is also the most confidential knowledge, since readers of these texts are often attracted by lessor recommendations, like the attainment of heaven, or merging into his effulgence (Brahman). What qualification is needed to uncover this truth from the jungle of sounds of the Vedas, and take up this most confidential, though obscured, path of bhakti, the greatest and most valuable treasure? One would think that such a rare gem would only be available to the most qualified persons. However, by the mercy of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, this treasure is readily available, initially requiring only one’s faith in the process. I use myself as an example to demonstrate this, not to say I’m great, but to highlight that I had no apparent qualification, and only have standing in bhakti by mercy alone. Thus there is hope for everyone.

The first time I spoke with devotees of Krishna I was very attracted to their peaceful, otherworldly, and joyful demeanor, and it was only a short time till I moved into a temple community to become a full time member. That might seem like a whimsical, spontaneous decision, but actually a lot of background took place which enabled me to do this. During the previous year, my life took a dramatic shift. I began an all-out quest to find the meaning of life, and my place in the world, concluding that I needed to become a monk in some tradition in order to immerse myself in spiritual practice.

How could this have happened to someone like me, who by all appearances was a very ordinary, not even religious, or observably pious, person—fallen even by Western standards?

TEXAS FAITH 105: Was it moral to shut down the Texas Senate?

Dallas Morning News,

Dance for the pleasure of The Avatars of Vishnu

Although I am from England and grew up as a Christian, I was always interested in Vishnu. When I became a Vaishnava I learned more about Vishnu from the scriptures. I have also raised my children on the same path. Here is a dramatic dance by my daughters Jahnavi and Tulasi, with Jaya Krishna Das. It describes the avatars of Lord Vishnu according to the early mediaeval song written by Jayadeva Goswami. You will hear me singing the song in the background.

 

The Ten Avatars of Vishnu

Experiencing Krishna while Living in the World

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Two of the top difficult things to understand—out of many—for new readers of Bhagavad gita are the personhood of Krishna, and his Universal Form. Of course they are related, since Krishna reveals that the Universal Form comes from him, and is a manifestation of his energy as the material world. In particular this display of the Universal Form (there are others), though inspiring to show the greatness and inconceivableness of God, is also at times ghastly and fearsome, and as a form of time, “the destroyer of the worlds,” all of which may be disconcerting. While Krishna is both the creation and annihilation of everything he is also the seed of all existence, the life of all that lives, and the soul of our souls, so we have to look at the whole picture before being able to evaluate who Krishna is.

Krishna could have demonstrated his nature as the creator and maintainer by showing baby animals, lovely human children, beautiful scenes in Nature, the universe being incredibly sustained and flourishing, but specifically to get Arjuna’s attention, he wanted to encourage Arjuna in his duty of fighting by showing him that the great warriors he had to fight were already killed by Krishna’s power--in fact we all must die, our bodies that is, at our allotted time. For conditioned living beings, the Universal Form teaches us that the material world is temporary, and not really suitable for eternal souls to live, since bodies, planets, and the entire Universe are constantly changing, and will ultimately be vanquished. The point is that Krishna is present in all things and, through his energy, is everything. His greatness is all-sided and unlimited, manifested in the subatomic dimension and as the whole universe—in the micro and macro-cosmic level. For us imperfect and limited souls, he can be experienced in what we can observe. Though we can’t perceive his spiritual form, or even our own souls, we can, by the grace of the Bhagavad Gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and the mercy of the devotees who live by such revealed Vedic literature, “see” him, specifically in “…all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations…”[ Bg 10.41].

In what follows I will share some highlights of these manifestations of Krishna from the Bhagavad Gita, which is another version of the Universal Form, or Krishna’s material form.

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