Friendships are about giving and receiving, like a dance where first one person leads, then the other, and sometimes it seems like an invisible partner is directing us. Other than a saint who makes no distinctions between people, seeing everyone as a soul, there is some calculation in who we choose for a friend. We see or feel something in them, some quality, attractiveness, that causes us to want to be with them. We are charmed, fascinated, or at least interested to know more, and have their company. We may see some quality in them we would like to have, or they or we may be in need and we are drawn to help them or be helped by them in some way.
Like a baby learning to walk
by repeatedly falling, though relentless
to keep trying; undaunted by failure,
determined to succeed, knowing we will stand,
we must humbly, yet confidently approach Krishna.
After reading Navasi's blog on Pain, I thought of my own psychology, which would appear to be the opposite. I don't do well in suffering and pain. Having grown up in an emotionally and physically abusive environment, I was bent on avoiding upsetting anyone, which to me equaled pain. My psychology helped me become a devotee (which it was meant to do!). I thought after looking at the misery and pain of "normal" material life, that there must be something more to life than this. And indeed there is. Chant and be happy, and sometimes chant and be sad how far we might seem away from Krishna---though it is a life so much better than materialism--and in perfection we will chant and in ecstasy feel separated from our beloved Krishna.
Here are a few important terms we can keep remembering as we think about our chanting: One is that we don't want to have "courtesy japa" which means only officially chanting like some external religious ritual, and not endeavoring to improve beyond going through the motions. This idea is explained by a statement by Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvatis Thakur that chanting must not be lip deep, but heart deep. We have to study all about the holy name, and to begin to see the holy name as a person----Nam Prabhu---the Holy name is Radha and Krishna, though the Name is considered even more merciful!
Would you care to know what
I am thinking?, as I sit in the dentist
chair for a cleaning, wondering if the
hygienist sees any meaning, in an
ugly form of existence--teeth rotting!
I realize this form of writing is not
for everyone, as it may seem frivolous,
unimportant, compared to other discussions,
though for me it gives a voice to the
great intensity I often feel, though can't speak.
The japa retreat also demonstrates the power of intention. When people join together with a shared purpose there is tremendous power created. Many religions and spiritual paths employ this technique with uplifting and helpful effects. Thus when devotees come together with the shared sacred purpose to improve their chanting, service to their gurus, the Vaishnavas and Krishna, a community is gradually created.
These fortunate souls trying to wake up
from their forgetful dream of being the center
of life and the universe, by taking up the chisel
of the holy name, to the shapeless, ever-changing,
plastic stone slab they thought defined them.
How can I describe the beauty of the day? It was warm, though not too hot or muggy, with a gentle to strong breeze. We sat outside on the guestroom deck, shaded by a large oak tree. As we look around we are surrounded by the beauty of the forest--the nourishing green of the trees and plants, plus the intense, pleasing variety of blooming flowers. Straight ahead is a long distance view of a number of ridges clothed in trees. Krishna's artistry.
Beauty has been written about since the beginning of writing, and thought about since the beginning of time. It is one of the six opulences of Krishna which make him all-attractive and irresistible. In fact Krishna's beauty is so powerfully charming and gorgeous, that it distinguishes him from even his form of Vishnu, who is inconceivably beautiful compared to our worldly standards.
The successive generations of devotees are standing on the pioneer work of Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur, so ISKCON is really an offshoot of his work. He was the first Gaudiya to preach outside of India. His son and the spiritual master of Prabhupada, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saravati Thakur, and our Prabhupada, further developed his vision by putting it into a practical shape. Therefore reading his books are important, though one should have a good understanding of Prahupada's books to benefit (and/or a senior devotee to inquire from). Then the different acharyas which include Bhaktivinoda Thakur will help one go deeper into understanding the tradition Shrila Prabhupada represents. It is sort of like cross fertilization.