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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.”
[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.
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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],
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series as a way to commemorate this month which marks my 45th year of coming to Krishna. This is the final installment (previously posted 2-16-14)--until I make it into a whole book.] Chris had come back from Muir Woods to Berkeley a few times to restock his food supplies and then return, but this time he felt he would stay in town for a while. He wanted to begin searching the library and alternative newspapers for information about different spiritual orders and groups such as the Trappist monks, Buddhists, and various yoga societies. Somehow to have a new life, a spiritual life, and one by which he could focus on useful life skills, being in harmony with Nature, and helping others.
In his second year of college he wasn’t impressed or inspired by his teachers. He reasoned that if he continued his education he would become like they who were merely part of the materialistic status quo. His teachers didn’t seem interested in changing, becoming better people, or most importantly, in their own souls. Chris felt completely estranged from his old life, apparently lost, even damaged from an external perspective, and yet he felt somehow guided in the process of finding his path. It had been a radical, unpredictable journey and there no end in sight, but his effort to find and live the Truth was worth it, even if his material progress was impeded or lost forever. Without realizing and living the purpose of life, what was the use of any other obtainment, even if praised by the World?
He simplified his life by giving away most of his possessions, and began sleeping on the floor. During the day he would sit on his folded sleeping bag before a small coffee table that he used as a desk. It was covered with stacks of spiritual/religious books, magazines, and notebooks. He dreamed of being a sage or monk, what the I Ching referred to as a “superior man,” not in vanity, but in depth of character. Chris had become a vegetarian rather naturally,
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[I am continuing the reposting of this 5 part series.] Growing up in San Francisco, Chris didn’t think it unusual or sad if the sky was overcast or foggy—it was just a different color sky, though he liked the sun too. In fact, in a general sense, even at the young age of four he began a lifelong pattern of not look forward to things, or thinking of too much about the past. Though he was learning to shut his emotions down as much as possible, in a strange way he lived in the present, at least his version of it, safe in his castle of neutrality, yet ever on guard so he could remain at peace, and not angry (like his father). He learned that if someone is angry that will mean pain, so he treaded life very gently. When his family moved from L.A. to San Francisco in 1954, he didn’t feel much different in his new neighborhood in the Sunset district than he had in his previous house in Van Nuys, especially after making friends—but at first he didn’t like the hills. When a neighbor began making skate coasters for the kids, the hills became an asset for fun.
In their flat on 9th Avenue, these were carefree years for Chris, at least on the surface. He had a best friend, Michael Rivers who lived next door, and they played all day, coming home for lunch, and sometimes playing Monopoly. They were loosely under the watch of Michael’s mom, since Chris’s parents were at work, and sometimes there was a baby sitter, but in those times kids were just let out to their own devices without supervision. As they grew older they enjoyed roaming the neighborhood, finding homes under construction to play in, climbing the tree on the corner, or exploring the hill that steeply dropped down from 8th Avenue to the fast and busy street far below. Sometimes on the weekends they would walk over to Sutro forest and climb to the top with Chris’s dad.
Interestingly, from today’s perspective, in his youth Chris didn’t learn to make any distinction between the city composed of concrete, asphalt, cars, and houses, with the natural environment he encountered in his back yard, in vacant lots, or at Sutro forest. He hadn’t yet spent time in country settings which were at least partially undisturbed and full of trees, bushes and wildlife. Although later he and his friends spent time in Golden Gate Park, and had family vacations in scenic resort areas, he still didn’t understand that where a city now stood was once a scenic, natural habitat, free from human intervention and “progress.” To Chris, human beings seemed to be the center around which everything else revolved, while Nature and its laws were but an afterthought, or only of secondary importance to cities and their inhabitants. It was only when he was in his existential crisis at 18 that Chris really appreciated the natural world. He discovered a Nature that wasn’t secondary to human beings. Instead, humans were only a part of Nature. The natural world, the planet, and the Universe, were the basis of all life, having to be properly respected and cooperated with.