Practicing Krishna Consciousness
The maha-mantra is not something that originated or was "invented" at some point in history. It is recommended in the Brhan Naradia Purana (and many other Vedic texts) and is an incarnation of the Supreme Person Himself. He is the same as His name, and this maha-mantra was offered to the people in Kali-yuga as the Yuga-dharma (prime recommended method of spiritual realization) by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who was Krishna Himself.
The Holy Name, in the form of the maha-mantra, makes the realization of God easy in this very difficult time, a time of quarrel and hypocrisy, a time where spiritual life is not "cool" and material "advancement" is all that matters. Chanting is easy, and puts us directly in touch with the Lord...because He appears there in the sincere chanting of His name.
“‘The holy name of Krishna is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Krishna Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Krishna’s name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Krishna Himself. Since Krishna’s name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with maya. Krishna’s name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Krishna and Krishna Himself are identical."
—Caitanya-Caritamrita, Madhya 17.133, quoted from the Padma Purana.
by Laxmimoni dasi
Srila Prabhupada called all devotees, men and women, "Prabhu" (master). It means that a devotee sees all people, especially other devotees, as their master and that they are the servant. By thinking in this way one is respectful to all living entities and can develop a servant mentality rather than a master
mentality. To denote extra respect, sometimes the suffix "ji" is added, as in "Prabhuji." Serving comes in different forms...mostly to help others in their spiritual journey.
Why is Tulasi given so much importance in devotional life? What is the significance of worshiping her? What are the benefits one gets from worshiping Tulasi?
by Laxmimoni dasi
Tulasi worship is an ancient part of the Vedic tradition, dating back thousands of years and continuing to the present day. Every morning, families throughout India offer water and flowers to Srimati Tulasi Devi before going about their daily duties.
Vaishnavas, devotees of Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna, chant on beads made from the wood of the Tulasi plant and wear Tulasi beads around their necks. During the holy month of Karttika (October-November), devotees in some Vaishnava lines daily offer one thousand Tulasi leaves—one by one—to the lotus feet of Lord Krishna. And in November one can still find people celebrating with great pomp the marriage of their Tulasi with a neighbor’s shalagrama-shila (Vishnu, in the form of a stone). The Padma Purana relates how Vrinda Devi once came to this world and performed great penance to obtain Lord Vishnu as her husband.
We can find glorification of Srimati Tulasi Devi throughout the Vedic literature. While describing the transcendental Vaikuntha planets, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.15.19) explains the special position of the Tulasi plant:
“Although flowering plants like the mandara, kunda, kurabaka, utpala, campaka, arna, punnaga, nagakesara, bakula, lily, and parijata are full of transcendental fragrance, they are still conscious of the austerities performed by Tulasi, for Tulasi is given special preference by the Lord, who garlands Himself with Tulasi leaves.”
In her form as a plant, Tulasi always stays at the Lord’s lotus feet and around the neck of the Lord. The Vedic scriptures say that Krishna accepts only food adorned with a Tulasi leaf. The Gautamiya Tantra says, “Sri Krishna sells Himself to a devotee who offers Him merely a Tulasi leaf and a palmful of water.”
One who worships Tulasi with faith gets unending benefit. The Skanda Purana describes a few:
"Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Tulasi tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree, one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases. Simply by offering obeisances to and pouring water on the Tulasi tree, one can become freed from the fear of being sent to the court of Yamaraja [the king of death, who punishes the sinful]. If someone sows a Tulasi tree somewhere, certainly he becomes devoted to Lord Krsna. And when the Tulasi leaves are offered in devotion at the lotus feet of Krishna, there is the full development of love of Godhead."
You can worship Tulasi-devi in your home if your home is pure. In other words, there should be no breaking of the regulative principles there — no meat-eating, no illicit sex, no intoxication, and no gambling. If you want to worship Tulasi-devi, always remember that she is a very exalted devotee of Krishna. You should care for her as you would an ordinary plant, but there are also certain things that devotees don't do in caring for her, like using chemical insecticides, for example. I suggest you ask the devotees at a temple near you who take care of Tulasi-devi for more guidance concerning the details of her worship if you would ever like to bring her into your home.
by Laxmimoni dasi
There are several suggestions given even by the Lord Himself in Bhagavad-gita. We can see Him in the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, whenever we something beautiful, or glorious, we can always think of the greatness and artistry of the Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna!
Another way to fix the mind on Krishna's presence is to do whatever we do for Him. He tells us that whatever we do, offer or give in charity should be done as an offering to Him...so even our work, or caring for our family, should be done with Him and satisfying Him in mind. It is best to understand that Krishna is everywhere; often we think of Him only in the mandir (temple), but that is a narrow vision. Krishna is in everyone's heart and all-pervading...so we can offer Him everything we do - as long as what we do is according to the instructions of Guru, Sastra and Sadhu. This is very important. We can't just offer Krishna any whimsical thing, but if we're sincerely trying to please Him by the way we work, by offering the fruits of our work, or by caring for our family, then that can be an offering to Him.
We can also see His hand throughout our life. Whatever comes, "good" or "bad," can be seen as His plan to bring us closer to Him. Often we just think something is "good" if it makes us feel satisfied, how our senses like it - "pizza is good, and bitter karela (bitter melon) is bad" - but actually sometimes the "bad" things that happen in our life teach us valuable lessons.
They say that when God likes you He gives you everything, and when He loves you He takes everything away. Why would He do that to His devotee? Because if we become too attached to material things, and look to material life for our happiness, then we often forget Him; and that's the worst thing. So, when He's looking out for us He makes sure that we don't become too convinced that money, beauty, material objects, etc. are the goals of life.
Still another way to remember Krishna is the most traditional...going to the Mandir and doing regular sadhana (regular spiritual practice), chanting His name with attention and a fixed mind, reading the shastra (revealed scriptures). These things will all help us to remember Him. Also, eating only sattvic (in the mode of goodness) foods that are offered to Him first...this is also very important.
These are just some ways to remember Krishna always.
by Laxmimoni dasi
Until we're connected deeply with Krishna in love, it's difficult to know what He wants or how to show our love for Him, especially before our love for Him is truly developed, so we accept the order of Guru, one who already loves Him, or at least loves someone else who loves Him. In this way we get guidance about how to serve Him before we actually understand, in our heart, what He really wants.
For example, I see a girl, or boy, that I really like. I'm very attracted, I want to do something for that person to let them know I care for them but I don't really know them at all. So I decide that I will buy them a gift and I buy MY favorite thing - for example, I really like my purple sunglasses I have so I buy her a pair as well - but unfortunately she doesn't like purple sunglasses and she thinks that I'm a bit strange to give her such a strange gift. Now, if I ask a good friend who knows her well, what she likes, then I can get something she will really appreciate...she will think I am thoughtful, and careful. Also if her friend recommends me to her, then she will consider me more favorably because someone she already knows and likes also likes me. It's very simple really.
This is the principle of having a guru. Guru is someone who can direct you how to serve Krishna and help to recommend us to Him so we can advance more quickly on the path to true bhakti.
Bhakti is a progressive path; we start by giving some of what we do or have to Krishna and end with giving everything to Him. Ultimately, we won't want anything except His pleasure, and when He's happy we're automatically Happy--- this is prema bhakti, or ahaituki bhakti - "pure, unmixed devotion."
But the trick is that to have ahaituki bhakti there can be no tinge of personal desire. Even the desire to avoid sin, for fear of sinful reaction is a personal desire. It's a "good" personal desire, but it's still a personal desire.
There is a story that Krishna said He had a headache, and the only thing that would cure it was the dust from the lotus feet of one of His devotees. He sent Narada to search for this foot dust. Narada asked everyone, explaining that, "Krishna has a headache and He needs the dust from the feet of his devotee to cure it, so please give some dust," but everyone refused; "Me? Give my foot dust for putting on Krishna's head!! I'll go to hell! This will be very bad...no, no. I can't." But when Narada asked the gopis (Krishna's most intimate devotees, the cowherd girls of Vrindavan), they said, "Sure, here, please take the dust. Now quickly go and put it on His head." Then Narada asked, "Well, aren't you worried that you will go to Hell?" And they replied, "We don't care, let us go to hell! We have to cure His headache—that's all that matters!"
So from this we can see the difference. Any desire for my own protection or satisfaction or pleasure is not pure bhakti, but bhakti is a sure and gradual progression; and we have to walk before we can run!
How can one realize and live the truth that we are not the body, but spirit soul, and yet remain skilled and safely competent in the physical life as well? For example, avoiding harm while using a knife to cook for Krishna?
by Laxmimoni dasi
Realization of "you're not this body" takes place in stages. To begin with, one at least understands on the intellectual level, that I, the soul, am different from the body. The body dies, but the soul is eternal. We see, even as we mature, that the body goes through changes yet we, the soul, remember those different bodies, in retrospect, as "mine." When the soul leaves the body, the body is easily determined to be just a lump of matter.
Without the presence of the soul, no one - no matter how beloved in life - wants to remain in proximity to the body for any length of time. Without the consciousness, which is a symptom of the soul, the body is no longer attractive.
That said, however, the body is our vehicle, with which we have to execute our activities in this life. How we use the both our gross and subtle (mind, intelligence and false ego) bodies will determine our future home....whether we stay in the material world or return to the spiritual world.
We can hone the body for various tasks, both higher and lower. We can train and become an athlete, study and become a scholar, or practice devotional service and become a devotee; all of these can be done to whatever degree we choose, to achieve whatever goal we set for ourselves. But the body is our vehicle; without it we can't act properly in this world. And just as whatever body we have now is the reaction of our past decisions, we are now creating our next situation for the future. Therefore, we must use this body wisely.
The way we use this tool shows Krishna our degree of love for Him. Whatever we do - whether it is sharpening a knife for cooking food for Him, or becoming expert in our job and then offering the fruits of that labor to Him - He is interested in the intention behind what we do, the REASON that we do the things we do, using the vehicle that He has given us to work with.
In the Bhagavad Gita the 9th chapter focuses on this point – engaging whatever we do, whatever we offer or give in Krishna's service. That is the point of Bhakti Yoga and the culmination of our devotional endeavor. When we can focus on using the body exclusively for Him - and minimize time and energy spent on material, bodily sense enjoyment - accepting only what we need to keep body and soul together, then we've achieved the goal of spiritual life.
I hope that is helpful.
Devotional service means activities performed for the pleasure of Lord Krishna, with devotion, and ultimately not mixed with any desire for personal pleasure.
The best way to begin devotional service is to try to offer everything you do, or some portion of everything you do, to Krishna. For example, if you cook, offer the food to Lord Krishna before eating. If you work, then take some of the results of your work and offer it at the temple for the seva of Lord Krishna! If you have some skills, offer to help at a temple and use your skills for the benefit of the Deity, the temple, and the devotees.
In the 12th chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna gives several different alternatives as to how to begin the process of devotional service. And He also says that even offering a little water, a fruit, or a flower with love to Him constitutes devotional service. So does prayer; specifically, chanting:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
. . .is devotional service, and will clean personal desire from the heart and allow you to focus on just rendering loving service to Krishna.
The ultimate barometer for devotional service is the love with which the offering is made. Lord Krishna has everything, and so many people serving Him, but anyone who renders service with love, free from envy, becomes His friend and devotee.
I hope this is helpful.
Janmastami celebrations have several components and, depending on where you are, what your means are and how close you are to other devotees you will have to see what you can do. The primary goal is to really meditate on Krishna, especially His appearance, and try to minimize anything that will divert your attention.
Generally, devotees fast until midnight, because Krishna appeared at midnight. During all the extra time saved by not eating, they chant and hear more about Krishna all day. I would suggest reading the Appearance of Lord Krishna sections of Krishna Book and/or the 10th Canto of Srila Prabhupada's translation of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
At midnight, in all temples, there is a big arati, or gathering, where the devotees worship Krishna with various items (conchshell, incense, ghee lamps, flowers), sing devotional songs, and dance for His pleasure. If you're not near a temple, you can set up a picture of Krishna, offer some special food preparations or even fruit and flowers throughout the day, chant Hare Krishna or play a devotional CD, and then at midnight, honor the food you have been offering all day and then go to bed.
You could watch one of the many videos available from Krishna.com that depict the pastimes of Lord Krishna and His birth.
Sometimes, at the temple, there is an abhisheka (Sanskrit for "sacred bath"). The Deity of the Lord is placed on a platform and bathed by all the devotees in milk, yogurt, fruit juice, honey, and ghee. This may not be possible to do at a private home, but perhaps you can watch one of the live webcams broadcasting from the Alachua or Los Angeles temples. You can find out the exact time from Krishna.com.
So, basically, hear and chant as much as you can, read about Krishna's appearance, and finally, fast until midnight, offering Him nice things all day, and then have a feast at 12:01 AM ;-)
I've heard that Krishna fulfills all desires, even the desire to forget Him. But why does maya (illusion) hold me back when I'm trying to change? I'm afraid if I break the regulative principles again, I'll be right back where I started.
In regards to the desire to know Krishna or forget Krishna; yes, Krishna will assist with either forgetfulness or remembrance. The desire for pure service to Krishna is not just a statement or a thought; it is a way of life and a way of acting in pure devotion.
Krishna's illusory energy, Maya devi is a great devotee. She's like the security guard for the spiritual world. She won't let anyone in who doesn't have the proper credentials - a pure heart, free from material desires and only filled with the desire to service the Lord. If there's any tinge of material desire, her job is to find it, and then not let you in.
Your job is to continue to purify the heart, as Maya-devi does her job asking you for proof that you are pure by checking again and again.
If you break a regulation but your desire is sincere, Krishna will see and he will help you. But you can't fool Krishna with artificial sincerity. He will look to see if indeed your desire is to purify your heart, and He will help. Sometimes He will help by testing you or taking things away, whatever He feels is necessary. He will watch to see how you take shelter of Him, how you serve Him despite difficulty, associate with devotees, follow the regulations, and remain determined even in the face of falldown.
I hope this is helpful.
I want to be a devotee but I have difficulty abstaining from sex impulses. How can I get rid of them?
Hare Krishna! Thanks for your question.
Abstaining from and controlling sex impulses is quite difficult. Getting rid of these impulses is not an easy thing, and depends greatly on how one lives their life. If you: avoid eating heavy food at night, or overeating at mealtime, choose good association, refrain from watching TV and mundane movies, eat sattvic foods, regulate your lifestyle so that you go to sleep and rise early, chant regularly, and study shastra (scripture) daily; all these things will greatly assist you in regulating your passionate and ignorant impulses. Keeping yourself busy by doing your duty or in service to the temple and the devotees will also help to control your lower nature.
Of all the items mentioned above, the most important is good association. If you associate with persons who are addicted to the opposite sex, to sexual activity, who center their lives around their bodies, it will be almost impossible for you to regulate your sex impulses. By getting association with persons who, like you, are trying to clean up their life, regulate their senses and focus their minds on spiritual things, you will find strength and determination. Association is very, very important.
Hearing is also very important. Regularly reading and hearing people speaking on Vedic philosophy will help you to understand the workings of the three modes of nature and enable you to keep from being victimized.
I hope this is helpful.