Karnamrita.das's blog

Impurely Imitation, But Eventually Waking Up

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By participating in regular spiritual practice we learn to see through the scriptures and to think spiritually beyond the material duality of good or bad, happy or sad, etc. What might seem to others like an ordinary life of work, school, and/or family, is for a devotee of Krishna, full of meaning, with lessons everywhere—if we are willing to look. Our ability to look for the seeds of instructions and mercy depends to a large extent on our positive absorption in Krishna thought and remembrance, or we could say our attitude toward life—what we look for or give energy to. On the one hand we see everywhere the shortcomings of matter in a life with no spirituality (or even how material attachments and desires in ourselves slow our spiritual progress). On the other, we also see the arrangement of Krishna, and how we are being guided and helped.

Though there are perhaps unlimited perceptions of a life, in general we could say that there is a negative material perspective, and a positive spiritual one. By this I don’t mean to imply that difficult challenges or seemingly “bad” things don’t happen to a devotee, but that an advanced devotee always knows that behind the problematic situation is an important lesson which may lead to more dependence on Krishna. Depending on Krishna means a less stressful life and a life lived in increasing happiness and devotional advancement. Everyone on the path of bhakti knows that the goal of Krishna prema (love for Krishna) is the highest ideal. To the extent that we realize and act on this, to that extent we will experience deeper joy, and even ecstatic moods in our spiritual practices. If our spiritual life seems stagnant or stuck, we can take note of what we are doing that doesn’t foster our spiritual life, and increase or begin those recommended practices for being Krishna conscious. Our life can seem complex, and yet the solution to our problems is simple, requiring that we believe in the possible by the power of grace as we focus on the holy name and devotional service.

Visiting a sadhu (more than meets the eye)

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Associating with those who have spiritual standing, or are advanced in their devotional feelings for Krishna, is a principle way for us to make spiritual advancement. From such persons one can feel the "current" of spirituality. Hearing from them in the right mood can help one be free from any doubts and increase one's faith. By faith I don't mean belief, which is an activity of the mind, but faith is a symptom of spiritual standing which is trans-rational. The material world is the plane of misery and doubt, while the spiritual dimension is free from suffering (since there are no material limiting conditions, like birth, old age, disease and death), and is full of joy and faith. All the various stages of spiritual advancement given by Shrila Rupa Goswami (one of the principle disciples of Shri Chaitanya), are considered a deepening of this commodity of spiritual faith. To put it another way, spiritual realization means going deeper into this faith or attitude of acceptance and certainty which inspires one to serve. Doubt brings hesitation or inaction, while faith inspires one to give and serve Krishna and His devotees, and chant the holy name. Suspicion leads to suspension of our spiritual progress, while a drop of faith can overcome mountains of doubt.

The Blessing of Illness

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forgetting Krishna

None of us want to be sick, and yet we all experience the occasional cold, flu, or something more serious. Some persons, like my wife, who have a weak immune system, deal with a body that is prone to catch whatever bug is going around. Having such a delicate bodily instrument, if they don’t eat and sleep properly they become more susceptible to illness. Thus my wife is a much greater expert than me in understanding the benefits of sickness to her spiritual life and how the body can be a great teacher. Never the less, I have a few experiences that have helped me appreciate the value of illness. Having a background in Krishna consciousness and a trained philosophical eye and heart helps us see everything—even great reverses—in relationship to Krishna and bhakti. Illness can bring us to our knees in surrender and teach us the smallness of our existence (even Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakur glorified ill health for this very reason, and he underwent many bouts of sickness in his life). I was reminded of this after I ate something at Radhastami that didn’t agree with me, and have had the runs for the last 3 days. While not a pleasant experience on one level, I also practically experienced how sickness can be a helpful part of our spiritual journey.

Spiritual Work: Uncovering our Darkness, To Reveal our Light

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Every day as I sit to chant japa
my heart naturally empties,
showing me my anarthas
if I’m honest, without pretense—
my default conditioned desires revealed
past karma manifested in lust, enviousness
attracting me to fleshy illusions and plans,
castles in the air of past and present—
What about you dear friend,
have stared into your heart
at your cherished illusory desires?

The Middle of “Nowhere” is “Somewhere” to Someone, and Two Other Short Essays

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I love sitting in our sunroom, really anytime. Rain or shine both have their special charms, though the variegatedness (a good devotee word) of storm clouds, rain, and exhilarating wind are far more interesting to write about. Actually this year is a very wet year, which makes the sky even more different and varied than usual at any time one goes outside--that is, if one takes the time to look up! In our society if you stare up at the clouds for more than a casual glance in a major city, people think you are on drugs! Sad testimony to society’s busy-ness or preoccupation with doing “productive” things—i.e., that are good for the economy, as if that were a key to an individual’s happiness. Where I live things are different—in what some would call the middle of nowhere. Maybe nowhere near some congested city, but very much somewhere. Just ask the trees, flowers, creepers, insects, deer, groundhogs, frogs and humans. This is the middle of their little piece of somewhere called home—and home is where the heart is.

The Way Out is Through

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This is a follow up to my last blog which spoke about how over-attachment to our family can distract us from spiritual practice. For the purposes of this blog, “over-attachment” is the key word, although in modern culture this term is practically unheard of—while at the same time “under—attachment,” or neglect of the family is also not recommended. I am speaking about a balanced approach to family life informed by keeping our spiritual goal always in mind, applying the maxim, “always remember Krishna, never forget Him.” In the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna teaches us how undue family attachment can cause our reluctance to serve Krishna—in this case to engage in his duty of fighting— because of his identifying his family as himself (my and ours) rather than seeing his family in relationship to his primary relationship with Krishna, or God.

Vedic culture is big on detachment and renunciation, but this has to understood properly and maturely through the eyes of devotion. In the early days of the Krishna movement, it was primarily composed of young single devotees with few married ones, and was strongly influenced by a culture that frowned on married life and all that went with it. Thus families and children suffered due to our immaturity and lack of mature elder guidance. Many individuals went into marriage feeling fallen into the “deep, dark well” of family life, being afraid to be kind and affectionate—so they wouldn’t get too attached—and were practically dooming themselves for failure. A more positive view of marriage and family has gradually evolved, though much work remains to be done to prepare the current generation of "grihasthas", or spiritually minded married couples.

Which People are “Ours,” or Our “Own Men” [or Family]?

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I was listening to a lecture by my guru, Shrila Prabhupada, on the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita and I wanted to share some of his points, my reflections on them, and other related ideas. Sometimes this chapter is skipped over, or we recommend newcomers begin reading the second chapter, since that seems to be where the real spiritual philosophy of the soul begins. Besides (we may think), the first chapter has so many difficult to pronounce names of people we don’t know anything about, speaks of foreign social customs, and begs the question of how a spiritual book takes place on a battlefield. However understandable such a perspective might be, it misses the important concepts and teachings of this chapter, which are fundamental to understanding the whole book. Although some prep time is required to help a person navigate this chapter, it is well worth the time.

The book is based on solving Arjuna’s (and all thoughtful people’s) dilemma regarding life, death, family, suffering, and duty. We are given the whole problem of material existence in the first verse, and later verses spoken by Arjuna. These verses speak about “my” and “our” in terms of those one favors or wants to protect, based on family, bodily relations.

A Second Chance at Love

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Under my thumb

My dear friend! It has been so long since I have been able to sit down to write you. One of my many prayers is to do better from now on. Though it takes discipline to do so, it is one of my labors of love and service. When I write about my life, I want to connect it with Krishna, and bhakti, and though this medium is an informal talk between friends, (or potential ones) I want it to also have substance. I realize there are many things that you can read, and that today’s reader can be overwhelmed by so many demands in life, and with online reading material. As I was out shopping a few days ago, I happened to hear an old Rock song, “A Second Chance at Love” or something like that. As is so often the case in such songs, if one listens with a Vedic ear (from years of study of the Gita and other such spiritual literature), the whole struggle for existence in the material world is outlined. Although music is ultimately meant to elevate our consciousness through being combined with words about God, spiritual philosophy, and especially His holy names, when we do hear ordinary songs or experience mundane media, we can endeavor to see it in relationship to the interest of our soul.

Saved From Comic Crud

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Remembering my material sojourn:
Caught up in the waves of a Cosmic storm
ever-increasing change and uncertainty
swirling, frightening energy @ mind speed
lightening wind, amidst thunderous explosions
bewildered, I go all directions at once, but nowhere,
I’m desperate for stability, fulfillment, truth, peace
a lasting resting place with loving feelings
understanding who I really am through and through,
asking what’s my relationship to life & the Universe
searching to find meaning in chaos and misery—

When it Rains, it Pours, and then Janmastami

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Have you lived the adage,
“When it rains, is pours”?
or, “Either feast, or famine?”,
well, this describes my current life,
from having extra time to
being busy with many activities

which could be a “busy-ness” burden
or simultaneous multiple accomplishments
of important tasks and goals—
we still must remember Krishna
in all circumstances and endeavors
identifying ourselves as servant
but never the enjoyer or controller
though we plan and work to accomplish.

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