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Karnamrita's blog

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

(this blog is recorded on the full page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so if you don't want to listen, mute your speakers.)

“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.

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

(this blog is recorded on the full blog page: quick time player is needed; works best with Firefox or Explorer; if you are using Google Chrome it will automatically play, so if you don't want to listen, mute your speakers.)

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.

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

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

Natural world photo Effulgent flower_zpsgefsaedz.gif
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.

WHO WILL BE CROWNED KING? and GREAT HOPE

 photo Crown 2_zpsveo2ls9i.jpg
WHO WILL BE CROWNED KING?

Discontent, depression, disconnection,
or dissatisfaction, are our friends
if we take them as messengers
to help us to change course
pushing us to leave our comfort
zone and get off the couch,
to be uncomfortable to strive
more than merely survive.

This is such a common theme,
(for me) but sharing's still important
as many on a spiritual path,
or those who strive for excellence
confront obstacles to realizing
their goals and life mission
so please don’t mind my repetition,
only think if it can help you rise up.

FEAST OR FAMINE FOR MANY FACILITIES OR PREFERRED ACTIONS and Forced to Wake Up or Fade Away

 photo Know yourself_zpsy1masgez.jpg
FEAST OR FAMINE FOR MANY FACILITIES OR PREFERRED ACTIONS: These days I am in somewhat of a famine, or at least some restriction, in terms of writing, which I consider so central to my life lived in the pursuit of being a giver. This makes me sad, but also brings introspection on the way my life works--a very recommended and helpful practice!

Our lives have their demands which require our attention to properly deal with them. This seems to be just the nature of material reality even for spiritual practitioners in bhakti. Though the ideal of followers of Shri Chaitanya is to be fully absorbed in seva (loving devotional actions), still, we can't completely escape material necessities that require payment and thus bring certain ebbs and flows in our life aspirations. We could also describe these ebbs and flows, or ups and downs, as cycles of life.

This is certainly no big revelation, but for me, at certain times, it is more painfully evident (during the ebbs) then during those inspiring flow states when everything seems divinely ordered and empowered. As always, in addition to just sharing, my intention is for you to think over your own life and how this might apply to you. We can ask ourselves when reading or listening to a talk, "How can I use this," and try to find at least one good point to put into practice. Such openness will help us notice the useful and practical in what others miss due to focusing on the faults of the presentation. This is the meaning of the saying that we get more of, or notice, what we focus on, and how so much of a successful life comes from our attitude and faith. The Gita teaches us that we are our faith, for without faith, we can't do anything, remaining on the doubting fence of the intellect!

Shri Nityananda as more Merciful than Shri Chaitanya

Shri Nitai
I originally published this blog on February 15, 2011. Since I don't have time this evening to prepare a blog about Lord Nityananda, I thought I would post it again now. Wednesday, February 8th will be the observance of Lord Nityananda’s holy appearance day. I was blessed in 2011 to be able to give class to the devotees on that day. I am sharing with you part of what I spoke about then. On the one hand, I appreciate the special mercy that comes to one who is able to speak to the devotees about Krishna and the philosophy of devotion, while on the other, I also find it very humbling to realize that I really don’t know much about the philosophy. It is like an ocean, and I can only share a few drops. However, I speak for my own purification, with the prayer and intention to inspire and inform the devotees. Besides this, Krishna appreciates our taking risks in his service, assuring us in the Gita, that he carries what we lack and preserves what we have.

It is interesting how Spring is associated with Shri Chaitanya and his associations. First Shri Advaita Acharya, who prayed for the Lord’s appearance, then Shri Nityananda Prabhu, the expansion of Lord Chaitanya and his most merciful aspect, and finally the crescendo, next month, on the full moon day, Lord Chaitanya’s appearance. Although Shri Chaitanya is widely known as the “most munificent” avatar, freely giving Krishna prema (ecstatic love for Krishna), Shri Nityananda is considered even more merciful, since he gives prema to the most unqualified persons.

MAKING MARRIED LIFE AN ASHRAM

 photo Karnam offering arotik_zpst11slylb.jpg
MAKING MARRIED LIFE AN ASHRAM THROUGH THROUGH WORSHIP OF THE FORM OF KRISHNA, SAINTS, AND THE HOLY NAME: I devoted a previous blog to the power of Deity worship in general and some of my experiences being a temple pujari for so many years. Today, after I dressed our Gaura and Nitai, and beheld the other Deities, all recently worshiped and adorned with new dresses and ornaments, as I chanted, I felt both awe and inspiration that these forms of Krishna and his expansions and energies have allowed us to live with and serve them. I was appreciating how for a householder, regular worship of Deities and seeing them as the true owner and enjoyer of our home and lives, is one way we transform our home into an ashram.

We have a simple home standard where we offer them everything we eat two or three times a day, and dress and bathe them once a week, while the shilas are worshiped daily, though also simply. I have reasoned that our real worship is through our daily chanting of the holy name through japa and kirtan, offering our prayers, and ultimately our very life and soul, which is the point of everything we do.

Saranagati, or surrendering our body, mind, and soul and all that we possess for divine service, or bhakti, is the process of spiritual awakening. Surrender is a loaded word, and we naturally feel it means we have to give up so much, lose so much. However paradoxical it may seem materially, it is by surrender that we gain our soul and true spiritual nature.

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