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Karnamrita's blog

RECOMMITTING IN RELATIONSHIPS AND IN BHAKTI

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The nature of the material world is change and transformation or as the Gita teaches us, the world is “endlessly mutable.” Accordingly, in physically conditioned life, which covers our soul, our body and mental states change, other people change, our life situation and the greater conditions of the material world change and go through cycles and stages. As a result of such changes we have to recommit and sometimes renegotiate our relationships to others, ourselves, and to bhakti, many times in our lifetime.

If we don’t voluntarily change or fight against conditions we have no control over, we will likely be forced to change because nothing stays the same, however much we drag our feet and resist. While this is a natural process, materially speaking, having to change can be disconcerting especially when we are set in our ways or have identified material conditions as who we are, and the underlying and foundational fact that the soul (who we are), or our animating consciousness, being eternal, wants permanence and doesn’t relate well to changing conditions which seem foreign.

While those who are Gaudiya Vaishnavas, or in fact anyone engaged in some kind of spiritual practice to realize their soul, even if they are grounded in deep spiritual philosophy of the nature of matter and spirit, will also struggle with the changing conditions within and without to the degree

THE ZIGZAG PATH OF BHAKTI

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THE ZIGZAG PATH, OR THE UPS AND DOWNS, OF BHAKT: When I was a new devotees it seemed like our spiritual advancement was like a rocket going straight and fast to our spiritual destination, and surely in a few years we would board that spiritual flower airplane piloted by the best of devotees, and go “back home, back to Godhead.” However, after some years my shiny, fast, roller blades become covered in thick, heavy mud and what had at first seemed like a full throttle race to the finish line turned into a slippery crawl, where sometimes I seemed to be going nowhere, or even sliding helplessly backwards down the rocky, dusty hill with no footing or holds.

Reading that Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has sometimes referred to spiritual advancement in bhakti as the “zigzag path,” has normalized my ups and downs in spiritual life, helping me to understand my difficulties, or starts, stops, and reverses not as a personal anomaly but as natural for every seeker. When we are on the ground, we have to rise up with the help of the ground, so this is my attempt to stand and go forward aided with the staff of mercy, prayer, and knowledge.

Shrila Prabhupada's Appearance and Disappearnace Day Reflections: Vyasa-puja offering 2011

Prabhupad and the Holy Name
[Reposted from 8-22-2011] Respectful obeisances to Prabhupada, and all his disciples, and granddisciples—who are the future of the Krishna consciousness movement.

(I have adopted many of the words I shared on his disappearance day last year for this occasion, as they are sill of pressing importance to me, and repetition is the mother of learning.) On the appearance day of one’s guru it is customary to present an offering of glorification to one’s guru, and the process given by him or her. It may be directly expressed to the guru, and/or also addressed to the general audience. After the disappearance of one’s guru—or any founder of a religion or sect—many different conceptions of the guru and their teachings arise. This is an inevitable and unavoidable occurrence, and while one may favor their personal understanding, one can also do their best to understand the feelings and realizations of others, in the mood of diversity within the oneness of service to Prabhupada and Lord Chaitanya.

The fact that there are many different ideas as to the essential teachings of our guru can make it difficult to express one’s heart—at least it is for me. Never the less, I will try to express something to honor Prabhupada along with my personal reflections about my relationship to him, and some realizations I have gleaned from my personal experience. I pray for the generosity, magnanimity, and blessings of my audience.

My reflections on Prabhupada's appearance day (Vyasa-puja)

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MY PRESSING QUESTIONS IN LIFE: Examining my heart, how are my material attachments still impeding my full practice of bhakti, or causing me to remain a mixed devotee? What do I want in my heart of hearts, and how is that causing me to act, or not act? In deep honesty, what truly moves and inspires me? As a result, what do I actually want to be absorbed in, demonstrated by my consistent thoughts and actions? What types of people I do think about or are attracted to in my daily life? Who do I want to become now, and forever? Knowing I will die, today or tomorrow, what must I give up, and what must I adopt to make my life a true success?

Having an ordinary materialistic upbringing until I was 19 years old I was still blessed with spiritual practices for many years. However, I have recently noted that I developed a cavalier attitude that I was “saved” and in the back to Godhead program. Being forced to face death has brought to light honest introspection of what is my true shelter. I have found that the old conditioned voices run deep below the surface of my consciousness. At present, those voices are much more prominent than I have dared admit, like an old disease waiting to manifest when the conditions are right—like herpes, or hepatitis.

I have found that I have been too willing to accommodate, or compromise with my materialistic tendencies rather than truly root them out. Now, praying to move beyond my complacency and comfort, I realize I can’t keep feeding the causes of my embodiment. Seeing my conditioned nature, I must keep casting those tendencies away which are unhelpful for my real life of spiritual progress, seeing them as ugly degrading darkness, and not to be simply tolerated. In my understanding this is what we devotees have signed up for, right—not the life of ease? I don’t want to only remember my spiritual connection when convenient, or to either get out of a jam, or obtain some desirable object.

Celebrating Janmastami at Home & Nine Years of Blogging

 photo DSCN5094_zpsgj8dzz2y.jpgCelebrating the holy day of Krishna’s appearance in this world five thousand years, or Shri Krishna Janmastami, is one of the many “high holidays” (to borrow from Judaism) which devotees of Krishna observe. What is known today as Hinduism includes what is called Gaudiya Vaishnavism, or the bhakti (devotional) movement inaugurated by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which Krishna.com represents. My spiritual master, Shrila Prabhupada, wasn’t fond of the word Hinduism since it is an imposed term created by those not familiar with the tradition and is a word not found in any Vedic literature.

Be that as it may, for the sake of convenience, we sometimes say we are part of the very diverse and inclusive Hindu tradition of India. Irrespective of the various Hindu theologies, all sects of Hinduism celebrate Janmastami as an important day, and glorify Krishna in various ways. Whether they think he is one of the many Hindu gods, or that the Ultimate Truth is “The One,” or the formless, impersonal Brahman source energy, they still glorify him as the wise speaker of the Bhagavad Gita, and are charmed by his depiction in the Shrimad Bhagavatam as a carefree cowherd who lived an idyllic life amidst the simplicity and beauty of Nature, surrounded by those who loved him.

This evening we read from the Krishna Book, and discussed some of Krishna’s pastimes surrounding his so-called “birth” in the world. I was reminded of watching how excited Prabhupada was when he was presented with advanced copies of the Krishna Book during the 1970 Rathayatra, and how he personally sold and signed copies.

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH—MAY KRISHNA HEAL ME OR SLAY ME and TO REACH OUR FULL POTENTIAL

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After a rather depressing day yesterday for reasons that we needn’t get into, I woke up this morning feeling much better, with the resolve that I would pray to Krishna from now on to either heal me, or kill me, physically speaking of course, since there is no death for the soul. In a way the status of my cancer, namely not getting worse or better, is a metaphor for how I see my life—mediocre, and that just isn’t acceptable any more. I am called to physically, mentally, and emotionally leave my comfort zone, and do what I must.

We are admonished in the Bible to be either hot or cold, but not half-baked. I have been half-baked, with some notable exceptions, about most things my whole life. If I am going to continue to write, speak, travel, minister and help others, than I have to really do it, and by the grace of my gurus and Gaura Nitai, excel at it, or make my best effort and prayers to that effect.

As a number of motivational speakers have discovered and shared, “Reasons come first, answers some second.” Thus I have to have the proper motivation to write, speak, and help others, and then Krishna and his agents will help me find the ways to practically manifest it. I don’t have to know how, just that I must.

Therefore I am going to spend every day chanting, praying, and doing self-healing. I have studied for years in the past and spent thousands of dollars studying healing methods, and even practicing them, but never feeling strong enough about them to really pursue them. So now I have to use them or lose my current physical self.

MATERIAL MISERIES BRING OPPORTUNITIES: UNDER THE WEATHER AND INVASION OF FRUIT FLIES

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Life in the material world is difficult and challenging for everyone to different degrees. While we may see in the world great misery and take some consolation that ours are much less, still, initially in the thick of our personal misery, we are still effected and challenged to keep our positivity. Can we use our distressful situation as a negative impetus for spiritual practice? In other words, human life is favorable for spiritual practice when we understand its glaring shortcomings and thus use them to our spiritual advantage by taking shelter of Krishna and his holy names. Prabhupada taught us to "make the best of a bad bargain."

Whether we are able to remain positive even amidst difficulties depends on our personality type, general attitude toward life, and spiritual development, which such small or large misery brings to light. We are called to improve ourselves through the crucible laboratory of suffering or pain.

The following two incidents in the scheme of world suffering are tiny difficulties, and yet they still add a shade to the general color of our lives. Our reactions to even small miseries teach us about ourselves and how well we have dealt with suffering in the past. If we are on an overload of general suffering even a small pain or problem can be overwhelming or we could be so callous that we barely notice. However, if we have handled life reverses well, have a generally stable life situation, and see problems or material miseries as meant for our highest good, we will meet them in our stride. I am sharing this as an opportunity for you to think about your own life and evaluate how you deal with reverses and small or large difficulties, pain, or miseries.

GIVING CLASS

From the heart photo DSC00766_zpswrnhdgdr.jpg As I prepared last week to give a Sunday class in Hillsborough (video at the end of this blog), along with researching and thinking of the topic of levels of secrets (from the most mundane to the most sublime) I also contemplated the topic of speaking to others from our Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition. The archetypal “class” is Maharaja Parikshit being instructed by Shri Shukadeva Goswami. Both of them have special qualifications being pure devotees of Krishna, and yet the whole class was fueled by the urgent necessity of Parikshit Maharaja, since he was cursed to die in seven days, and sought the best way to use his remaining time.

According to Shrila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur, of the three types of people benefited by talks about Krishna—the questioner, the hearer, and the speaker—the speaker is the most benefited. Never the less, without the ardent interest, fueled by an urgent necessity to hear, the speaker won’t be as motivated to speak. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which records the conversation between these two great souls, Shukadeva frequently glorifies the questions of his student being enlivened at the opportunity to speak about that which he has such feelings for.

Therefore, as exemplified by this conversation, as well as in many scriptures including the Bhagavad-gita, both speaker and listener have responsibilities. For example, being advanced devotees with the urgency to speak and hear helps make the conversations an inspired one, and takes it to new heights of spirituality and insightfulness. While we may not be on the level of such high devotees, we can none the less be as reverential, attentive and prayerful as possible, whether we are speaker or listener, and be mindful of the sublimity of the process we are following.

Otherwise, out of our familiarity with the process of attending or giving a class, we may minimize its benefit and have a material vision of what it’s about. If we become complacent in our spiritual lives we may skip the class or think it is just for new people. However, if we truly realize our perilous situation in the material world and have an urgent necessity to make spiritual advancement we will do as much as possible to make spiritual progress.

SECRETS, DANGEROUS SECRETS, AND THE MOST CONFIDENTIAL SECRETS

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The Origin of Secrets and their Reflection in the World

I am finding the subject of secrets very rich, deep and important. The existence of secrets is all-pervading, and it all begins in the spiritual world, where its true purpose is to facilitate the loving pastimes of Krishna and his devotees. For example, Krishna’s relationship with Radha and the gopis, while suspected by a few, is a secret kept from Krishna’s parents, which intensifies their love and the passion of their meeting. The fear of separation and being found out intensifies the emotions and value of being with one another. Everything in that world is according to Krishna’s desire, even those who appear to create so-called impediments to Krishna’s secret love rendezvous with his greatest lovers.

The distorted reflection of these secrets is found in the tabloids or in rumors and secrets of movie stars and other famous people. Every person has some secret they don’t want others to know, as do families, communities, nations, religious groups or institutions, and ruling powers in any organization or government. Keeping secrets is the business of the false ego which thinks of friends and enemies and endeavors to protect our false sense of material identity from harm or criticism. We also criticize others to protect our secrets and divert attention from ourselves.

In this world there are ordinary, special, and the greatest secrets of all, as hinted about in the Bhagavad Gita, and then expanded upon in the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita. While the most secret and confidential knowledge of Krishna’s Godhood and the means to obtain him need to be the basis of our lives, there are other secrets, the ignorance of, or lack of application of, create many problems in our ordinary lives and in spiritual practices. We might know these secrets in theory and yet not apply them in our own lives. One of the most important secrets is widely known, though often difficult to apply, and revolves around our relationship with ourselves.

THE IMPORTANCE OF OPPOSITION AND LIFE REVERSES and OUR TIME TOGETHER

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THE IMPORTANCE OF OPPOSITION AND LIFE REVERSES: In the lives of great persons there is always opposition and apparent road blocks in accomplishing their goals or mission in life. Whether through another person, an accident, their own body or mind, or some natural disturbance, what appears on the surface to be an impediment is passed through and the glory of the person is revealed.

Practically we can see that great success in any undertaking or field is not accomplished without passing through many setbacks and even failure. In the personal growth or success literature such perseverance and determination in the face of what seem insurmountable odds are part of any great person’s story.

In Christianity we have Judas who betrayed Christ but was actually a facilitator of his mission to sacrifice his life to benefit others. Haridas Thakur being whipped in 21 market places, or being tempted by a prostitute sent by a envious person, only added to his glory as the great teacher of the holy name.

Without the atrocities of Hiranyakashipu, Prahlad’s glories would not have been revealed, and we would have never heard of him. Dhurva Maharaja’s step mother forbidding him to be favored by his father helped him realize the strength of his determination and his eventual favor by the Lord. What would have happened if Krishnadas Kaviraja, the author of Chaitanya Charitamrita, had not left his brother's home? Without the devastating rains sent be Indra, Krishna would have had no necessity to lift Govardhan Hill.

Imagine Prabhupada easily receiving his first visa and other papers for travel, or if instead of sailing on the Jaladuta he would have just hopped on a plane and was met with instant success in America. We glorify great persons not for the ease of their lives but because of the great odds they overcame. Without Arjuna's dilemma there would be no Bhagavad Gita to light our path out of darkness. Had Emperor Pariksit not been cursed to die, we would have no Shrimad Bhagavatam to lead us on the path of bhakti...and on and on, as the examples are many in scriptures and life....

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