Saturday, December 23, 2006

Saturday Festival Memories

The Saturday festival in Mayapur with its Deity procession is so lively here, even without the elephant. The big Gaura Nitai Deities from Prabhupada's Bhajan Kutir are pulled by ox cart. Following them are the big Prabhupada murti and the small Radha-Krishna Deities. The kirtanas are so lively. Then always chant my favorite tunes. A friend of mine told me today that most of the tunes are Bollywood tunes (from India's entertainment industry) and that the traditional Bengali tunes are too hard to follow. I do not know if it is true, but the tunes are attractive and very easy to sing and dance to.

After participating in the festival I stopped at the brahmacari kitchen for their hot milk from the goshala which is really good. As I walked back home, a tourism bus from the parking lot near Vamsi Bhavan past me. There was a lively kirtana going on in the back of the bus and the people waved and cheered as they passed. I was thinking the chanting is so nice they could do it all the way home and they would be full of ecstasy when they arrived. Then they could get together with their family and friends each evening and spread the wonderful gift they received at Mayapur to others. We should encourage them to create the nice atmosphere of Mayapur's evening program and Saturday festivals in their homes and villages, and share the ecstasy with others.

“Sri Panca-tattva themselves danced again and again and thus made it easier to drink nectarean love of Godhead. They danced, cried, laughed and chanted like madmen, and in this way they distributed love of Godhead. . . . Although the members of the Panca-tattva plundered the storehouse of love of Godhead and ate and distributed its contents, there was no scarcity, for this wonderful storehouse is so complete that as the love is distributed, the supply increases hundreds of times” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita 7.22,24).

I met the Gaura-Nitai Deities on the way back to Their temple and participated in a small kirtana led by the people pulling Them. It was a beautiful way to end a beautiful evening.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sastric Knowledge is Perfect

Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami, Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 2, Chapter 1

King Pariksit asks how to apply the mind so that the mind becomes free from dirty things. This is needed because the usual ways we apply our minds, do not free them from dirty things but often create more dirty things.

Using the scripture, we must connect everything with the Lord, in order to purify our minds.

There are different kinds of knowledge:

  1. pratyaksa - knowledge gained through sense perception
  2. paroksya - knowledge gained from others
  3. aparokysa - knowledge that is experienced
  4. adhoksaja - knowledge beyond sense perception
  5. aprakrta - knowledge that is transcendental

There are so many books on management and more come out every year. But if you take knowledge from scripture you won't have to look for new knowledge each year because the scriptural knowledge works in all circumstances not just some.

Principles always apply. Details change according to time, place, and circumstance.

According to the sastra, the varnasrama system is considered to be the Lord's body. Thus we must accept varnasrama. We must also accept each of the varnas and asramas to be important because every part of the Lord's body is important. It is not that the Lord's head is important, but His feet are to be neglected. Each division has something inspiring to contribute to society. The brahmanas teach. The ksatriyas protect and are true to their vows. The vaisyas give their hard-earned money in charity to benefit others. The sudras do their arts under the direction of the others. Michelangelo, who worked under the direction of superiors, contributed many more great works of art, appreciable by a greater variety of people, than Van Gogh, who worked on his own.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Shoe Saga

Inconceivably enough, I was separated from five pairs of shoes in this year alone! One in Calcutta, one in Russia, one in Hungary, one in Ukraine, and finally one in Mayapur in November. Fortunately they were all about $3 shoes, so it wasn't a great loss. I decided to go without shoes as long as possible out of a sense of frustration and defeat. However, day by day it has been getting colder in the mornings here, and I have been afraid of getting sick.

Last night I read in my diksa guru's book, Prabhupada Nectar (Vol. 2, No. 25): “Srila Prabhupada did not like his disciples to perform artificial austerities. When one devotee appeared bare-chested in the cold at a Kumbha-mela, Prabhupada reprimanded him. On another occasion, in America , he teased his disciple Nara-Narayana, who came into the cold temple room wearing only a light T-shirt.

“Nara-Narayana,” said Prabhupada from the vyasasana, “you must be eating chickens.” The other devotees turned and stared.

“Yes,” said Prabhupada, “this is how the Mohammedans keep warm. Are you eating chickens, Nara-Narayana?”

“No, Srila Prabhupada.”

Prabhupada then began telling a story how the Mohammedans keep warm: “The system is that a man tries to eat one hundred chickens by eating a single chicken. A farmer will take a hundred chickens and then feed one of them to the ninety-nine. He then feeds another one to the remaining ninety-eight, and another one to the remaining ninety-seven. Finally, when there are only two chickens left, he feeds one chicken to the other. Then that chicken is fed to the emperor. In that way, it is considered that he is eating one hundred chickens.”

As a result of reading this, I decided to give up my artificial austerity of going barefoot in December. After harinama in Navadvipa, I decided to look for some shoes. The people in Bengal are so short the stores do not carry size 11. Size 10 is the largest. Thus I tried on at least five pairs of shoes before finding something that fit. Because the top part is cloth, at least they won't give me blisters, like the five pairs that were stolen. We will see if my big toe wears a hole in the top of them before too long, or more likely, if someone rips them off. I will keep them indoors at night to be safe. At any rate, they were only 135 rupees ($3) and if they last the winter, I will be grateful.

World Vedic Civilization and Macrocosm Within the Microcosm

Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami, Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 2, Chapter 1

The knowledge of the soul, God, and their relationship is called para-vidya. Other knowledge in the Vedas is called apara-vidya. This other knowledge can become para-vidya if it is used in Krishna's service. Non-Vedic knowledge can also become para-vidya when used in Krishna 's service.

Suhotra Swami:

The sahajiyas accept Krishna is their worshipable Deity but do not perform any abhideya (approved process to attain Him).

Boredom and pride cause one to fall from the mode of goodness.

The whole Vedic civilization fell apart because people did not transcend the mode of goodness and come to the transcendental platform of pure goodness. Instead the mode of goodness became mixed with passion and ignorance as the false ego of pride developed in first the brahmanas (intellectuals) and then the ksatriyas (administrators).

Temples in Turkey that have been unearthed have inscriptions with the names of Hindu gods on them.

In Memphis, Egypt, in 500 B.C., there were Indians worshiping Hindu deities.

Temples in South American, as well as Egypt and India, were built using the same mathematical and astronomical principles.

They are fourteen centers along the spinal column where the nadis meet. These correspond to the fourteen planetary systems.

Because the macrocosm (the universe) is represented within the microcosm (our body), the many descriptions of the universe in the Srimad-Bhagavatam are relevant to our lives.

Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: Krishna dasa Kaviraja Goswami says in his Sri Caitanya-caritamrita that as soon as a person becomes sincere, Krishna sends a bona fide spiritual master to enlighten the person.

Suhotra Swami: There is a devotee who originally hated the Hare Krishnas, and so he stole a book from a devotee book distributor. The devotee ran after him but could not catch him. Ultimately the thief read the book and became a devotee himself.

Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami: In difficult situations we take shelter of those things that give security. Ultimately our emotions must be directed toward Krishna. Therefore in whatever position we find ourselves, we should hear about Krishna from a devotee who has faith in Krishna.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami on Relationship, Culture, and Sanskrit

Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 2, Chapter 1

Krishna acts according to scripture although He can do anything. The relationships described in the scriptures are how he likes relationships to go and if we follow the scriptural direction we will get the best out of a relationship.

If you think of Krishna as a big, nasty guy, then Krishna will act like a big, nasty guy. If you think He is adorable, like the residents of Vrindavana do, then he will be most adorable.

We are all goal-oriented, either to please ourselves, to please God, or to please others with the expectation that we will also become pleased.

Krishna is looking to see that one performs penance to benefit others.

Q: How are we supposed to relate to the people that we are preaching to?
A: You have to think about presenting the information in such a way that they will be interested to hear. Most people would be willing to consider that they are lay people and a practicing spiritualist may have something to offer them, so that is not the problem, although often we think that is the problem. Generally we do not have a problem with the philosophy but with the culture of relating to people.

Once in America there was a poll taken about religion. It came out in the poll that millions of people identified themselves as Hare Krishnas. They thought that the Hare Krishnas had the best philosophy, but that they had the worst attitude.

First you have to be comfortable with yourself. No one will follow you if you are not comfortable with yourself. People comfortable with themselves are attractive to people who are not comfortable with themselves.

Maharaja was sitting on a subway car in New York City, happily talking with another devotee, when a man came up to them and asked them if they had some practice that made them so happy, which he could also follow. The person was so shocked to see people happily conversing on a New York subway!

In Srila Prabhupada's books in many places the superior position of a husband in relationship to his wife is mentioned. However, if you notice all the husband-wife dealings in the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Mahabharata, you do not see any macho, exploitative males, not even one. So the literature also teaches the application in the culture, but unfortunately many people miss that. Krishna is masculine and His energies are all feminine, but how does Krishna relate with His energies, forcefully? No, sensitively.

Q: Is there a difference between penance, sacrifice, and austerity?
A: In all three there is restriction for some superior benefit. It could be said that penance is sambandha, sacrifice is abhideya, and austerity is prayojana.

Srila Prabhupada said that of mundane subjects, Sanskrit is the most important. Sanskrit can teach us how language functions. Knowing that, we can use English more effectively.

Later I mentioned what Maharaja said about Sanskrit to Vidvan Gauranga Prabhu, my Sanskrit teacher. He had mentioned that he had been to a Gaudiya Math to pick up some Sanskrit and Bengali commentaries on some Upanisads. The person there said that actually you people from ISKCON are the only people who buy these books. Bhaktivinoda Thakura wanted Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura to write these books establishing Vaishnavism on the basis of these scriptures. Otherwise the world will only have the Mayavadi misinterpretation of them. The Gaudiya Math people are all into the rasika literature, which was around even then, but Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakura was more interested in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, Vedanta Sutra, Upanisads, etc. If it wasn't for you people in ISKCON, this emphasis would be forgotten. Please don't let it happen. It is up to you.

Vidvan said that in India no scholar takes you seriously as a Vaishnava scholar unless you are fluent in Sanskrit and have read the original texts and the commentaries on them.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Visit with Sri Prahlada Prabhu

Today a disciple of Bhakti Caru Swami named Srivasa Prabhu, who was recently married, sponsored a feast for the whole Mayapur community. At the feast, I sat next to Sri Prahlada Prabhu, who I knew from the Polish tour. I asked him if he had any special appreciation of the Mayapur dhama from living here. He mentioned how it is easier to perform devotional service here and harder to get into maya. He said he is personally attracted to more of the pilgrimage places in Vrindavana, but he read about Mayapur to cultivate an appreciation for it. In the course of his reading, he found out that the area from the grhastha housing project to the Jalangi River corresponds to the gardens around Radha-kunda in the Vrindavana area. Also the place where Lord Caitanya first met Lord Nityananda is just behind the housing project. At the Radhastami feast in Mayapur, he asked a visiting Gaudiya Math sannyasi if it would be better to be in Varsana, the residence of Srimati Radharani, on that most holy day. The sannyasi said no, it is better in Mayapur because in Mayapur one's offenses are not considered, only one's devotion. Mayapur dhama ki, jaya!

Suhotra Swami, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 2, Chapter 1

When Mahamaya got initiated by Srila Prabhupada, Srila Prabhupada explained, “Mahamaya is another phase of Srimati Radharani.”

Laksmi acts either as Laksmi or Maya depending on how we approach her.

In the Sixth Canto, Chapter Nineteen, Kasyapa glorifies the worship of Laksmi-Narayana and explains the whole Bhagavata philosophy in just a few verses.

In the Second Canto it is described that the Lord draws energy from the marginal energy to run the cosmic manifestation.

Lord Buddha said his dharma would last one thousand years. His leading disciple told him that there are many young women who want to become nuns. Buddha said that that was alright, they could come, but in that case, his dharma would last only five hundred years. This is written in the Buddhist scripture itself.

Lord Buddha defeated the best Vedic scholars who knew the Vedas backwards and forwards. If God wants to preach atheism, then who can defeat Him?

Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami mentioned that we generally do not tell new people that Laksmi can present herself as either the spiritual or material energy, because in the beginning it is important to clearly understand the difference between the spiritual and the material.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Devotion Transforms Matter into Spirit

12/5/06 Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami class on Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 2, Chapter 1
One thousand names of Vishnu is equal one name of Rama. Three names of Rama are equal to one name of Krishna (SB 1.19.6, purport).

Due to ignorance people think that they can get something for nothing. Materialists capitalize on this weakness of the people by arranging schemes like lotteries to make money for themselves. Devotees have nothing to do with either of these mentalities. They act in spiritual knowledge.

The first step of God realization is to learn to see everything is a manifestation of God's energy, although we initially have difficulty seeing in it that way. Thus, everything that we value is actually Krishna. Therefore Krishna is always there for us, while nobody else is always there for us.

Q: When something is engaged in devotional service does it change physically?
A: Does a copper wire change when electricity goes through it? The effect is different, and the effect is what matters. When a devotee speaks through the microphone the cit potency from the devotee enters the sound and affects the audience, who hears it, in a spiritual way. A nondevotee speaking the same sound would not have the same effect.

One mataji tells that a Kirlian photographer took a picture of some prasadam after it was offered, and it had a nice aura around it.

Maharaja said that we are so affected by the influence of the prominent shaktas of the age (the modern scientists who are devoted to the material energy) that we think that things have to change physically for the change to be significant.

If a brahmacari is happy with the food that is given to him, it will nourish his body, but if he is dissatisfied with it, it will destroy his body.

We are instructed to absorb our mind and intelligence in the Lord fully. The prohibitions exist for those who cannot do that.

Devotional service can attract the karmis by giving them the relationship they always wanted, and it can attract the jnanis by initially giving them the liberation they want and ultimately giving them higher spiritual pleasure of devotional relationships.

After class my friend Santi Parayana Prabhu, while convincing another friend of mine to take the Bhaktivaibhava course, mentioned that the elder Maha Vishnu Goswami tells a story of someone named Kaccha that illustrates the importance of knowledge. The conclusion is that one must be willing to die three times to get knowledge. I later found the colorful story of Kaccha on the Internet: