Karnamrita's blog

Tears of My Father

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[reposted from 6-25-13] Two days after my birthday was my fathers’, or June 24th. This year I wanted to share some snapshots in my relationship with him, in the hope that it might be useful to you in your journey of self-exploration, making peace with your past (if required), or in general, having a balanced psychology so favorable for spiritual practice. Dear reader, I am indebted to you for taking the time to read this, and to think about your own relationship with your parents. What does it tell you about the nature of the material world of (re)birth, disease, old age, death and disappointment, and the importance of receiving the saving grace of spiritual knowledge and bhakti practices to uncover the eternal life of the soul?

I was running a preaching center on O Street in Washington D.C. in 1986. After leaving Baltimore with Maha-nidhi Swami to travel and preach, I gradually felt it would be a natural move to stay there. I had a small staff which fluctuated between 1 or 2 devotees. I also received some morale boosting, and financial support from the near-by Potomac MD, Temple from which devotees sometimes visited to chant, preach, or help cook. We held three feasts a week, mainly attended by college students and young people in the area. All was going fine for a few months after I settled in, and then, one afternoon between feasts, I felt like something ominous was in the air. It was a typical August sunny, muggy day, nothing unusual but this feeling. Although I couldn’t put my finger on the possible reason, I prayed for clarity to understand. As I was lost in thought, the ringing of the phone startled me. It was Barbara, my father’s current wife. She told me that my father had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

A long silence ensued. I didn’t have a personal reaction, being in shock, and besides, I wasn’t very good at dealing with others in such matters of intense sorrow. I was at a loss for words, thinking more about her, than for myself. Even today, it seems so inappropriate and trite to say things like “sorry for your loss,” or any number of socially correct statements. Finally, I was able to thank her for letting me know, and told her how sorry I was. Our conversation was awkward,

When I'm Sixty-Four: Aging Gracefully with a Spiritual Purpose--or Not

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“Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?" - PAUL MC CARTNEY; JOHN LENNON

When I was 64, I first published this blog. Today, June 22, is my 67th birthday, and I find the message I share here even more important, as over the last year and a half I have had to literally stare death in the face. Growing up in the 1960s I naturally remember the Beetle’s song, “When I’m Sixty-Four.” Yeah, after 47 years of bhakti practice those old songs (and ad jingles!) are still floating around in my subconscious mind. This Beetle’s ballad is a love song about staying together despite aging that Paul McCartney wrote at the advanced age of 16. As a person involved in marital and premarital education this is an important topic for me (and my wife of 24 years). When I was 16 I couldn’t even imagine being 25, what to speak of 64! I was an only child with very limited experience with older persons. After living in Berkeley, California for a few years and then moving into the temple, when we went to San Francisco for street sankirtan (group chanting), I was taken back seeing all the old people! Berkeley is a college town and I was hanging out with only the young, and when I moved into the temple, the oldest person was 23

In any case, on my birthday, I thought the subject of aging, suffering, and being 64--and now 67--would be a good blog topic. Of course, most anything can be grist for the writer’s mill (we usually notice those things we are focused on), but this one was a natural candidate. Thus I wanted to find the words to the Beetle’s song, but before I began my Internet search, my dear friend, Dulal-Chandra Prabhu, sent me the lyrics and wished me a happy birthday. I wished him a happy birthday back, since his birthday is the same as mine—with THE SAME YEAR! How interesting and rare is that—especially among close friends! In 2010 we celebrated our 60th birthday together, and amidst fun and games, we went around the room to compile a list of shared personality traits and devotional histories. Though we have a number of differences, our wives and friends found an amazing amount of shared traits and experiences.

My general thoughts when writing are to share what I am going through, experiencing, thinking about, or inspired by, in a way that I pray may have relevance to you, my readers. Birth, disease, old age, and death, being shared by all embodied beings, are very rich and important topics. Called the four-fold, or four, miseries of material life, they are listed in the Bhagavad-gita verses (8-12) from the 13th chapter, as part of understanding the process of spiritual knowledge.
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Since the soul is eternal and is never born or dies, speaking of these four miseries isn’t considered by devotees to be morbid or a topic to avoid in polite conversation.

Die Before Dying—Move Before Moving: Parts 1 & 2

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Part 1[Republished from June 16th, 2015]

Devotee: “Hey! Haribol! How are you? I noticed that you haven’t written any new blogs on Krishna.com in quite a while. What have you been up to?”

Karnamrita: “I am good, thanks. Krishna is very kind! For the last two months I have taken a full time job, so I have been recycling, or reposting, my older blogs, which don’t usually don’t get read.”

D: Really, I thought you were retired?”

K: “I wouldn’t consider myself “retired” or tired, but it’s true that I haven’t worked a regular job in many years. My focus has been on my spiritual practices and writing. However, my new “job” over the last two months has been preparing our house for selling. In other words I have been repairing, painting, cleaning, getting rid of stuff, organizing or straightening what we have kept, making our house spiritually neutral, and doing a great deal of landscaping and gardening. While the lion’s share of the work is done thanks to my hiring a devotee neighbor, there are still many small actions that I continue to complete on a daily basis.”

D: “Organizing and getting rid of things. Hmmmm…that is really difficult for me. What was that like for you?”

Writing as Life and Giving & HELPING ONE ANOTHER TO GROW

After being inspired with a free verse poem as a way to check in with myself and my readers, I saw that it was very similar to a blog I wrote last year, so I am including it here. My intention, in addition to introspection and self-examination, is to encourage you in your own process of personal and spiritual growth. My prayer is to help you be a balanced human being and steady bhakti practitioner with the greatest likelihood of progress in serving and loving Krishna.
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Writing as Life and Giving

Even if my thoughts are not profound
or upon reading will change your life,
putting words on the page seems important,
a way of giving myself, my attempt to help,

as I so much believe in being a giver
even as I lack compassion and caring,
which I don’t like, yet don’t worry ‘bout,
since my nature is peaceful and accepting
sometimes to a fault, simultaneously frustrating

A Mixed Bag of Material and Spiritual Tendencies

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While the experience that prompted this free verse poem wasn’t planned, it was welcome, and seen as an occasion for reflection. Association with saints is desirable for developing good qualities, and yet being with people in general can also foster our personal and spiritual growth, because in their company who we are as a person is revealed and we may discover part of the spiritual work we have left to do. Anyone can be our teacher if we have the humility to be open to learn, either how to act, or how not to act.

Every day we have the opportunity to learn from life situations, which include dealing with or observing others, whether at work, running errands, attending school or college, or interacting with our family and friends. While it is essential to learn about others, in relationship to them we will learn much about ourselves since people are mirrors in which we project our ideals or see our faults. From another angle of vision, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also considers our heart a mirror. This mirror is covered by the dust of our conventional (physical) ego and material conditioning which obscures our spiritual nature (soul). In all our dealings we can pray to remember that we are all souls having a physical experience and in this way part of the same spiritual family.

When we have made the decision to give our life to the pursuit of loving and serving Krishna, our life is forever changed. This is true in spite of our inability to walk the path in the most ideal way. To help us have a humble attitude we can remember our life before we began the spiritual quest, or that we all begin life in ignorance. We should know and remember the spiritual goal, and where we are on the map of our spiritual journey, in order to adapt the path to our unique life situation. This is why practical guidance from

The Currents of Life, Part 1 and 2

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The Currents of Life, Part 1 and 2 (reposted from FB on April 16th, 2013)

Part 1: Have you noticed the invisible currents of life? My experience currently, (using this as an excuse for my not writing for a few weeks), and upon reflection on past events, is that sometimes it is apparent that I seem to be swept along, lifted up as it were, beyond my will into the air of destiny, on some already decided course, which it is best if I accept, and not fight. I have come to see that our free will and power of choice though very small, can be applied, at least, to the attempt to be as present and introspective as possible.

Thus, I feel it is an important practice to develop the wherewithal to be as aware as possible, like a third-party witness, doing our best to accept what is beyond our control, with the hope to learn. Through “mistakes” or trials by fire, learning and growth are essential outcomes, regardless of external results. Furthermore, as an aside to the main topic here, as an aspiring devotee of Krishna, I know now to also add—or look for—Krishna to help me be present in the moment, by chanting the holy name, or remembering his form, pastimes, or instructions. This is “the life” for those on the path of bhakti.

I am applying this truth, which could be seen as awareness of destiny, or synchronicity, first to a recent, seemingly ordinary event, when I was volunteered, as is done in Facebook groups, to be part of an attempted reunion of Prabhupada disciples, and secondly to the events of my past life, which practically forced me to take up the path of bhakti. A few weeks ago I was implored upon visiting this FB site to share my devotional history. Fair enough, and yet, when I began attempting this, the scope of the writing took on a life of its own, as I have found is often the case, turning into more of a detailed autobiography.

LAST NIGHT THE GRIM REAPER CAME FOR ME

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(reposted from 4-14-16)
I saw the grim reaper in my dream,
feeling no fear, I was curious to see him.
Coming near, he pointed his bony, pale hand toward me.
His other palm raised in blessing pose
where it was written, the number 65—my age!
Then with both hands, he pointed to the sky, and shrugged.

Lord Rama and Lord Chaitanya

One yet different
[Reposted from 3-24-2010] On Tuesday April 4th, in the USA we observed 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.

BLESSED BY SPRING’S INSPIRATION and my poem, LISTENING FOR SPRING

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BLESSED BY SPRING’S INSPIRATION and my poem, LISTENING FOR SPRING: Stepping outside this morning around sunrise was so lovely, enlivening. The “spring thing” feeling in the air, subtle, yet palpable, encouraging me with thoughts of possibilities and new beginnings. Cool temps stimulate, yet hint at approaching warmness. The sun seems especially bright after yesterday’s dark clouds and torrential downpours.

That special morning spring light shining off the dew, with new grass and other tiny excited plants coming up. A few trees just begin to show their small intense green leaves, while most are still sleeping, but telling us they know their time is coming soon. The first robins showed up two weeks ago, while the crows come daily for leftover prasad.

In a hurry, running off to work, you might miss it, or if you did sense it, you could easily forget about it in the stress of the day. Krishna’s or God’s Material Nature—his “separated energy” no less—is so amazing. As I have written about before, living in the country can really change one and give a new awareness, like the wonder of sight after being blind. One slows down, or at least that happened to me, as I have never been a passionate person—as I shared yesterday, in good and problematic ways.

However, today, I am stressing the positive aspect of the mode/quality/energy of goodness which colors one’s perception, as would the other “gunas,” of ignorance and passion.

THE POWER OF OUR LOVE TO REVEAL WHO WE ARE NOW, AND IN THE FUTURE, and a short essay on what our love reveals and teaches us

 photo Gajendra_zpsthfbmdgz.jpgWE SHOW WHAT WE LOVE BY WHAT WE GIVE OUR ATTENTION TO and WHAT WE LOVE IS WHO WE BECOME: Truth is simple, yet profound. Please join me in thinking about and unpacking these truths in a practical way. I find a number of applications both in a negative and positive sense. The idea that we demonstrate what we love by what we give attention to is another way of explaining the law of attraction, of which the ultimate purpose and expression of, is the principle behind meditation and the goals of bhakti. Another way of saying this is that what we focus on increases in power, or as Emerson taught, “We become what we think about all day long.”

If you feel that what you’re giving your main attention to isn’t what you really love, then you need to make some adjustments in your life so you CAN give attention to what you truly love. Just like some people say they love God, or their spouse, children, or family, but don’t give them any time or energy. As it is said, “Love is as love does.” We only have so much energy or power of focus, so we have to use it judiciously with the knowledge that we become what we are absorbed in and giving most of our energy to. Is our outer life congruent with our inner one? For many of us, our work is in this kind of honest introspection, for it holds the key to being all we are capable of, and reveals what we are here to do.

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