LOVE, LEARN, PRAY, GIVE, ACCEPT, RELEASE, LET GO, and CELEBRATING and EMBODYING GRACE AND SHARING THAT WITH THE WORLD
LOVE, LEARN, PRAY, GIVE, ACCEPT, RELEASE, LET GO, CELEBRATE: I often think about how to express the most important aspects of life that can most benefit us all. The following is one perspective and attempt to do this. We begin by sensing that love is our nature and that which we most hanker for. When we discover that our capacity to love in this world, and the capacity for others to accept the amount of love we are capable of giving, is limited and ultimately unsatisfying, we can begin our quest to realize our spiritual nature as beings of eternity, wisdom, and love.
We discover that the fulfillment we seek is only possible when our spiritual nature is gradually awakened, since this nature is who we truly are. There are many stages of this divine awakening which will be promoted by those who seek the goal their path offers. According to the bhakti Vedic scriptures, the highest stage is when our loving propensity and full consciousness is reposed on the Supreme Original Person, God, or Krishna.
When we love Krishna, then we always know what to do. This is true learning and practical wisdom. Krishna teaches in chapter 15 of his Bhagavad Gita, that when we know Krishna as the Supreme Original Person, without doubting, then we know everything that is necessary.
In our endeavor to learn to love Krishna (bhakti) we learn that prayer—through chanting the holy name, reciting prayers in the scripture and by great devotees, and our personal prayers—is our connection to God and leads us to serving and remembering him. We also learn that by serving, loving, and giving to others in the spirit of service to Krishna, we grow spiritually and help others as well (para-upakara). We can’t separate Krishna from his devotees.
SEEING CANCER AS A MESSENGER, NOT AS THE ENEMY and FOR SPIRITUAL ADVANCEMENT CHANGE AND TRANSFORMATION ARE REQUIRED:
SEEING CANCER AS A MESSENGER, NOT AS THE ENEMY: As it is said, don’t shoot the messenger, but hear the message. Cancer is an effect of something much deeper and primal, pointing to something beyond it. In the alternative cancer treatment world they say that we aren’t sick because we have cancer, but we have cancer because we are sick, or we have a compromised immune system. Exactly why we do is a question for deep contemplation and prayer for the ability to be completely honest and open to hear something uncomfortable about ourselves.
I have mentioned that I see any disease as having a physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual aspect or reason for its existence. However, to me the spiritual reason is really at the root, and without dealing with the root of any problem it will keep returning. If you have ever had a boil and not gotten out the root or core, you know what I am talking about. The Shrimad Bhagavatam gives the analogy of bamboo: if only the visible part is burned down (as with jnana), the plant will return, since its roots are still in place (which will only be eradicated with the power of bhakti). This perspective can also be applied to any disease or problem in our life. Only dealing with the effects, or visible symptoms, as often done with modern medicine, will only be temporarily helpful, if at all.
I am addressing the physical aspect by diet, pranayam, exercise, and herbal treatments, and see the mental/emotional as relating to the spiritual root of my cancer. I have a secondary tumor in the lymph node, near the 5th or throat chakra, with the primary tumor in back of the nose, close to the 6th or third eye chakra. From my introspective and prayerful investigation of myself, I have to speak and communicate more (5th chakra) my inspiration of essential truth (6th chakra).
[updated with new material and corrections] I am feeling very enlivened this morning having a few realizations which are fine tuning, or refinements, of ideas I have been thinking, speaking, and writing about for a long time. It is as if they unlocked an inner door that touched my heart with more and more practical understanding about my life (the “aha” factor). As always my intention is to share ideas that could be helpful for you as well. Conceptions that we may believe in a general sense are always abstract until they are applied and demonstrated in our own lives.
My basic thought for today's contemplation is that whatever we struggle with in regards to our relationships, family, occupation, state of mind, attitude, or spiritual practice, are feedback that these challenges are not to be ignored. They are life lessons shouting at us: "Pay attention here! You are required to understand why you are experiencing repeated conflicts. Please look within yourself to correct what are actually imbalances in your life, or unhealthy habits." We live in a purposeful universe, and thus every situation and every person in our lives or whom we may encounter are there for a very good reason. Our life is full of teachers who give us good feedback on how we are meant to change and improve.
There are no accidents, and those events, people, or states of mind that we struggle with or want to avoid, sometimes thinking they are the enemy, hold the key to our personal happiness and fulfillment when coupled to our spiritual practices which are designed for bringing out the life of the soul. Spiritual life isn't meant to be an excuse for not learning our life lessons or a method to hide from them, but these lessons, when learned, give a balanced support to our divine journey of awakening.
One of the most memorable experiences during our last visit to Houston was our trip to the Estelle Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice near Huntsville, Texas on September 19, 2015.
Although we had not planned it into our schedule, Krishna apparently had, so we went along with Krishna's plan. It's always good to cooperate with Krishna's plan.
The Gita teaches us that the soul’s amazing!
Though when I am trying to get up
I don’t feel very amazing.
It’s twenty before three in the morning—
I should get up before the alarm rings.
It’s five before three in the morning—
I should get up like I say I want to.
The alarm annoyingly rings at 3:15 am.
I want to leap out of bed like I used to,
though I’d rather sleep more.
I throw off the covers.
When I bow down to Prabhupada
I want to sleep, but I can’t, I must arise.
Feeling tired and not very amazing
I still push myself up, helped by the wood chest.
Walking to the toilet to relieve myself,
I say, “At least I’m up before 4 am.”
Back in my room I fold my bedding
thinking that even in my foggy condition
being alive and trying to wake up is amazing!
A few months after I started working with ISKCON Prison Ministry, I received a letter from an inmate which helped drive home to me the nature of this service and just how important it is.
“I only know what I read in your letters and Prabhupada’s books,” was part of his response to me, regarding my reply to a question he had posed. His words brought me a sudden, clearer understanding and. I’ve often since reminded myself of them.
Today, how shall we give
and whom shall we love?
Count the ways to be thankful.
First, decide to be happy.
Think of the reasons why not,
remembering that happiness
is a moment by moment choice
just as sadness is a question of focus.
Why give more reasons
to be unhappy than happy?
Why wait to be happy
till achieving some goal,
or lament what you don’t have
when you can happily achieve
or even fail temporarily
learning valuable lessons?
Tomorrow we get to try again!
The above reflection is for anyone,
but if you are a bhakti practitioner
we can add to the mix, the goal of Krishna.
The following blog was one of my very early ones I posted in 2007, which I included in my book, Give to Live. I post it again because of my thinking this morning on the importance of seeing our life--with its many ups an downs--in the best light possible. This is true even as we strive to improve and may still feel bad about the mistakes of the past. Part of the spiritual and human journey is feeling our life has value, and in making the best use of it, even as we have to cut the karmic cords that bind us through forgiveness, acceptance, and prayer.
I share with you here four quotes from people glorifying the telling of our personal stories (and then comment on the general idea) from the introduction to the "4th course of Chicken Soup for the Soul" series (copyright 1997 Jack Canfield). If you like, you can call it "Chickpea Soup for the Soul."
"Everybody is a story. When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables and told their stories. We don't do that so much anymore. Sitting around the table telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us live a life worth remembering. Despite the awesome powers of technology many of us still do not live very well. We need to listen to each others stories once again." Rachel Naomi Remen
Lord Nrisimhadeva’s divine appearance day celebration is certainly one of my favorite occasions, and I am sure I am not alone in this. Our Christian friends are fond of quoting the Bible that “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” [John 3.16] and we could also say that God so loved his pure devotee in the world that he personally descended to give him all protection.
To this day devotees feel protected by this form of Krishna and pray to him to slay their “anarthas” or unwanted habits of thinking and acting, just as the Lord slayed Hiryanakashipu, the tormentor of his devotee, Shri Prahlad. While Gaudiya Vaishnavas can agree to having great faith in one’s particular agent of Divinity or conception of God—even thinking their path and face of God is the best—Vedic scriptures point to a more inclusive God that reciprocates according to one’s faith, and doesn’t condone fanaticism or war in the name of faith. There is only one God, though like a gem with many facets, the one God has unlimited expansions. “As they surrender to me, I proportionally reciprocate with them.” [Bhagavad Gita 4.11]
The “one path” to be celebrated would be pure devotion and not merely the externals of worship or which name of God one favors which, unfortunately, religionists fight over. How God reciprocates with those who worship him is expressed in many different forms in the religious world and to different degrees of purity. This is to be celebrated as the mercy of the Lord and the types of devotion that exist.
The topic of why I write and how my cancer diagnosis was the fuel to my publishing my new free verse poem book, My Yoga of Expression, serves as in introduction to the book, and my hope to give you sufficient reason to obtain your own copy. My purpose in writing, in addition to being my expression of service and giving, is fueled by my aim to give support and encouragement to those involved in bhakti, as well as to introduce seekers to new possibilities for their spiritual search. Additionally, it is a testimony that with every difficulty, reverse, or life challenge, there is always a gift to discover.
So I also write and speak with new urgency to demonstrate this--how cancer has become a great impetus for my fulfilling what I consider my life work. With a deeper, faithful, spiritual outlook, everything can be seen as mercy from the Lord. This I pray to convey so you so may think about dealing with a life threatening illness should you have to personally deal with one, or the illness of a loved one. Regardless, we all have to face biological or physical death.
In what follows, I show how I have grown from my upbringing and immature practice of bhakti. Now I see that everything in my life is by divine order to help me on the human and spiritual level. In that sense, it is all good! I am also stressing that everyone's life story is important to learn from. My hope is that learning about the diverse backgrounds of devotees will glorify the power of bhakti to transform one, and show how Krishna uses our often difficult past to help us come to him.
Ten years after taking up the path of bhakti, at 30 years old, I was given a journal. Over the next 20 years I regularly wrote about myself and events I was confronting. I discovered that by writing I was able to be in touch with deeper parts of myself. I began to understand my nature like never before,