Thursday, February 04, 2010

Travel Journal#5.7: Gainesville

Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 5, No. 7
By Krishna-kripa das
(April 2009, part one)

(Sent from Gainesville, Florida, USA, on February 4, 2010)


Initiation of Ali Krishna Devi Dasi and Gopal Dasa

Krishna Lunch Video

Insights from Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, Jayadvaita Swami,

Yadunandana Swami, Kalakantha Prabhu,

Laksmimoni Prabhu, Mahaksa Prabhu, and Sesa Prabhu

Jayapataka Swami Vyasa Puja in Gainesville

Where I Was and What I Was Doing

Why I am writing about what happened in Gainesville ten months ago? Primarily because I want my journal to be complete, and I never got around to typing up my notes for the first half of April. In April, I was finishing up my service in Gainesville for the spring semester of arranging the chanting on the University of Florida (UF) campus and helping out with the devotional program for the Institute for Vaishnava Studies (IVS) students who live in the ashram and study the scripture as well as their academic work. April was special for me in three ways: (1) a couple of my friends got initiated, (2) the great Bhagavad-gita lecturer and self-realized soul, Jayadvaita Swami, visited Gainesville and gave some great classes, and (3) Hridayananda Dasa Gosvami, was teaching at UF, and also gave many insightful lectures. I will also include insights from lectures by Mahaksa Prabhu in London and Yadunandana Prabhu in Belgium from later April and early May because I neglected to share them in the other issues.

Initiation of Ali Krishna Devi Dasi and Gopal Dasa

Two devotees received initiation, Bhakta Paul, who received first initiation as Gopal Dasa, and Ali Krishna Devi Dasi, who received second.

I knew Gopal, then Bhakta Paul, as the faithful chopper of vegetables for Krishna Lunch back in 1994 when I moved to Alachua, a service he still does to this day, now five or six hours daily. Apparently he met the devotees in 1977 but remained Bhakta Paul until 2009. His challenge was an attachment to smoking, which was very deeply rooted, and so for much of the time, he could not live in the temple. Still he faithfully chanted Hare Krishna and rendered service for thirty-two years. Finally he gained the upper hand on his addiction and took initiation from Rtadhvaja Swami, who had encouraged him in devotional service for many years. I told him I would use his example to encourage others who have deeply rooted addictions that by chanting and service they too can ultimately overcome them. Even it may take thirty-two years, but it is possible, so stick with it. It was wonderful to celebrate his victory.

Ali Krishna Devi Dasi I met in 2005 as “the dancing Alysia,” a hippie girl at the National Rainbow Gathering in West Virginia where the devotees from New Vrindavana had their Krishna Camp. She liked the chanting and dancing, prasadam, and the friendly devotee association. A couple devotees corresponded with her, and she ended up moving into New Vrindavana in 2006. I was impressed to see her taking the bhakti-sastri course in Maypur in the fall of 2007. She went on to take initiation from Hridayananda Dasa Goswami in 2008 and did a lot of service for him. She also helped administrate the IVS students program and took charge of the ladies ashram in Gainesville.

Brahmatirtha Prabhu, the perfect questioner of Srila Prabhupada, praised Bhakta Paul for his determination and Ali Krishna for her enthusiasm, both essential qualities recommended by Srila Rupa Goswami for nurturing devotional service. I agreed, only adding that Bhakta Paul has exemplary patience as well, plugging away for thirty-two years, which is another quality recommended by Rupa Goswami.

It is wonderful to celebrate these two devotees taking the next step on their path toward Krishna, and I wish them both success. Now as I visit Gainesville I see Gopal ever steady in cutting vegetables for Krishna Lunch, and Ali Krishna, enthusiastic as usual, teaching a Bhakti Sastri course to the students of Institute for Vaishnava Studies as well as preparing to enter a masters degree program.

Lectures on the occasion of their initiation, which were given by Hridayananda Dasa Goswami and Jayadvaita Swami, are in the lecture section below.

Krishna Lunch Video

Also in April, one University of Florida student, Lia Cary, decided to do a video project on the reaction of the students to the Hare Krishna’s spiritual food distribution program, which was in its 38th year at her university and is popularly known as Krishna Lunch. She interviewed students and devotees, including myself, and her video, Eating Krishna, does a very nice job of introducing people to the Krishna Lunch program. In particular, Lia interviewed two of the IVS students, Andres and Kelly, who liked our program so much they came back the next school year after they graduated to help develop it. To see it, click on the video icon below, click on this link or copy the URL into your browser, or search YouTube for “Krishna Lia Cary”.

Insights from Lectures

Hridayananda Dasa Goswami:

Loving and hating are both attachment, one positive and one negative. Both arise from considering someone to be meant for your sense enjoyment.

According to our legal system, a man can exploit many women for his enjoyment without regard for their well-being, but if he wants to take care of additional women through polygamy, he becomes a criminal. The hypocrisy and inconsistency is simply stunning.

Comment by Dr. Frank: Nicotine is the most addictive substance known to man.

Comment by Kalakantha Prabhu: In China, 25,000 people we killed for not displaying a lost article in a public place near where it was lost.

Hridayananda Dasa Goswami, initiation lecture:

Fire sacrifices were done in many traditions. That which is offered is of the same nature as the Lord (Bg. 4.24). Yajna vai vishnu. The sacrifice is Vishnu Himself. As Srila Prabhupada explained, “Devotional service is Krishna.” Vedic culture is eternal, but it has boom/bust cycles as with all religions. Krishna said the spiritual science was lost although so much Vedic culture was present when He spoke. Bhakti is unique in that the ends and the means are the same. Sacrifice is not periodic events in an agrarian society, but offering oneself to the source of our self. Only by understanding the source of ourselves can we understand ourselves. We have always existed, and God is the cause of our existence, and only by understanding that can we attain perfection. Diksa is the process of connecting to Krishna.

Hridayananda Goswami: Religion: Cause or Cure of War?

If every one would turn off their cell phones as I turn off mine.

In many cases, nonviolent resistors were brutally slaughtered. India was successful, but that was rare.

If there are moral acts that are considered so valuable that they should be performed regardless of consequences, that is a dangerous situation.

The idea that because governments have made mistakes that we should eliminate government is not practical. Neither can we eliminate religion.

If you look in the mirror, you are not seeing the same face you saw two weeks ago.

As soon as you speak an English sentence using “should” or “ought to”, you are speaking metaphysically.

A certain NFL quarterback is in jail for mistreating dogs. Is that because dogs as conscious, feeling beings have rights? No. It is because they make nice pets.

Mao and Stalin killed millions of people, yet they had secular governments.

Those materially virtuous appreciate the unity beyond the differences of the living beings. Those passionate materially are stopped by the differences and cannot see the underlying oneness beyond them.

In America, social Darwinism is so strong that if someone fails, because we are all equal, it means he just did not try hard enough, so tough luck.

One could argue that humans are meant by nature to be virtuous, and when they are not, they cause trouble.

Emperor Asoka sent people around to make sure that no humans or animals were mistreated in his kingdom. He was influenced by Buddhism, Jainism, and Vedic culture, not rational humanism.

The Wildlife Association commissioned a study by historians to find out how we can transform people to behave better towards the environment. The answer was that spiritual movements alone have this power.

Jayadvaita Swami:

If I am in a slow car, I go slow. If I am in a fast car, I go fast. But that does not mean I am slow or fast. That is the limitation of the car.

There is no security in the material world. The only thing that is for sure is that we will get kicked out of our bodies.

Accumulating or rearranging matter is not the goal of life.

At University of Florida, you eat and sleep, and you may find a girlfriend, but these are not the reasons you came to UF or your goal of being there.

Q: We get inspired by a class, but when we leave, we forget.
A: You have to have an interest in spiritual life. Try adding spiritual things, like eating the Krishna lunch and reading a page of Bhagavad-gita. No one is too busy to read a page of Bhagavad-gita a day. After reading the newspaper for ten minutes, do we feel our life has changed? When to read? In the morning. Like the trajectory of a rocket depends on its original blastoff. In the morning in India, even the tea walla [vendor] offers incense in puja [worship] before he starts his day. Read a page in the morning and one in the evening.

Q: What is the best way to share Krishna consciousness with someone who is not sure if they believe in God?

A: Patiently. Introduce them to someone they are willing to hear from. Engage them in some service.

Q: Why can’t the source of everything be the [undifferentiated] one?

A: It is not possible to get variety from a source that has no variety. Because your mother is a person, she can cook so many things, rasgullas, kacoris, so many varieties of things, but an imperson cannot cook anything.

Srila Prabhupada traces desire and hate to the top. We want to be God. God is great, and I’m not less. Srila Prabhupada says we want to be God. How is that? Everyone wants to be in the center of his universe. Everyone wants to look out for number one, but that number one is not God but us. If we are not in the center, we are miffed. We want to be the central point of interest. We want to own and enjoy, or else we want to be everyone’s best friend. Why should God be the origin of everything? In Paradise Lost, Satan says, “Better reign in hell than serve in heaven.”

The first duality we accept is the body, and with that we embrace an ocean of dualities based on the body. Sammoha means completely bewildered.

By chanting one can experience that Krishna is nondifferent from His name. As long as I identify with the body, I experience happiness and distress, and because the distress spoils the happiness, it is all distress. Half the problem of material life is we are dull and think, “It is not so bad.” False ego is the subtle point where I turn away from Krishna and toward maya. When we call culture is mostly the culture of false ego—American culture.

What we “feel” is favorable for our Krishna consciousness is not necessarily what is favorable for my Krishna consciousness. Materially our duties are prescribed according to our nature, and spiritually our duties are according to the spiritual master.

Lord Caitanya gave a practical demonstration of practicing bhakti that Krishna didn’t give so much.

The more you associate with Krishna who is transcendental to the modes, you will become transcendental to the modes.

A violent priest or a nonviolent policeman is not what you want.

We do not know if we are going to have an old age. Our old age could be now. Or we may lose our mental capacity and not be able to inquire about spiritual life in our old age.

Even ordinary karma is coming from Krishna because he set up the whole arrangement. Devotees’ see Krishna’s arrangement everywhere, and nondevotees see Krishna’s arrangement nowhere.

Q: Sometimes people claim to be divinely inspired. How do we evaluate them?

A: Most people who are divinely inspired follow scripture. You can monitor their following of the four rules prohibiting sinful activity, chanting of their japa quotas, eagerness to hear, and use of time.

Jayadvaita Swami (Sunday feast lecture in Alachua):

We think that Krishna is like us, but actually, we are like Him. Impersonalists cannot explain how variety can come from an impersonal absolute. At present, we are situated in material life, and agitated by Krishna consciousness, instead of being situated in Krishna consciousness. We are meant to be sa-natha, with a master, not anatha, without a master. The invitation to go to the spiritual world is there. It is up to us to want to go there. There are two ways to get out of our comfortable situation, voluntarily and involuntarily. While we still have some energy, do some austerity for Krishna. The frontier is not yet gone—there is BBT Africa! I travel around, staying long enough to cause trouble but not long enough to get caught.

Jayadvaita Swami initation lecture:

Human life is meant to develop love of God. Although God is within, our consciousness is not clear, so we do not know what He wants. Thus the Lord appears as the guru to instruct us. Without a guru, there is practically no chance of attaining perfection. Initiation establishes the relationship between the guru and disciple, the contract between the guru and the disciple, wherein the guru agrees to take the disciple back to Godhead, and the disciple agrees to follow.

Yadunandana Swami [in Belgium]:

Q: How do I introduce friends to Krishna?

A: It is good to share your spiritual happiness with others, but we have to respect that they may not be inclined, as Krishna respects the individual’s personal view.

Q: Why no alcohol and marijuana?

A: They produce an artificial happiness that ends when the drug wears off. Srila Prabhupada would tell his earlier followers that Krishna consciousness just brings one up, without having to come down. Also, these substances distract from looking for spiritual happiness within.

Q: What do you think about homosexuality?

A: The chanting of Hare Krishna does not depend on the conditioning of our body. But there is regulation of sex to use it in a constructive way to produce a good population, and thus there is no mention of homosexual marriage or relationships.

Kalakantha Prabhu:

If we do not blame the agents of our karma but accept things as Krishna’s mercy, we do not become entangled.

Srila Prabhupada said, “Brahminical initiation means complete Vaishnava.”

All the devotees plan to do the best they can to please Krishna each day, yet individually their actual activities are different.

Krishna consciousness is not a belief but a relationship. Because Krishna is our source we have a special connection to Him that we do not have with any demigod.

Just as it is foolish to think you can read Brain Surgery for Dummies and perform an operation, it is foolish to think you can approach God without a guru.

Laksmimoni Prabhu:

When people are in ignorance of their identity and life’s goal, they take shelter of intoxication, illicit sex, meat eating, and gambling.

By our urgency and sincerity, we will be able to touch other people, as Srila Prabhupada did with us.

Because people study not to acquire knowledge but for ultimate material gain, Kali has easy access.

We must get people to see that seeking Krishna’s satisfaction will satisfy us. Now how to satisfy Him is described in the Vedas. Until we understand this, we will pursue many kinds of sense enjoyment.

Srila Prabhupada’s urgency and compassion most impressed me.

Mahaksa Prabhu [in London]:

When I collected money from the Indians to support the Vrindavan temple, Srila Prabhupada once said, “Now we have a serious devotee in Vrindavan.” That was Prabhupada’s mercy upon me because I just happened to be engaged in that service. Also because I was the caretaker of Prabhupada’s car, I got to take him on morning walks. Srila Prabhupada’s presentation of how we could thrive with an agrarian economy was impressive. The speculations of the scientists and economists have created so much havoc in that field. Unfortunately we have not yet developed an agrarian economy.

If we are to make a house in which the whole world can live, we will have to become very accommodating. In Vrindavan, in the afternoon, Srila Prabhupada would open up his room to anyone who wanted to visit.

Once people are connected with Krishna, Krishna will see to their purification. Therefore we should not waste our time finding fault with devotees.

Sesa Prabhu:

Pankaja, a Sanskrit word for lotus, means “comes from the mud.”

Consultation with guru indicates knowledge of one’s dependence on guru.

Consulting is also a loving exchange among devotees. Sometimes we inquire for the benefit of others. If we limit Vaishnava exchanges to mere exchanges, we will miss a world of Vaishnava exchanges. Our penance is not performing austerities, but dealing with relationships with devotees, even with their difficulties, which are ultimately purifying.

Jayapataka Swami Vyasa Puja in Gainesville

One should approach a guru if one is serious about the ultimate goal of life. I may cure my cold, make some money, and build a house, but these are not the ultimate goal. What is the highest purpose of life? Are we just to enjoy a little bit and then go?

A spiritual master is not just someone with great ideas but a representative of the chain of teachers. A teacher understands the teaching, applies it in his own life, and trains the next person.

Stavapriya Prabhu: I was surprised that Jayapataka Swami appreciated my menial service of holding an umbrella for forty minutes during the Ratha-yatra festival.

Sveta-svarupa Prabhu: After Jayapataka Swami was stabbed nearly to death in Madrid, his disciples advised him to stay in Mayapur, but he explained that by traveling and preaching he was pleasing Srila Prabhupada and that if he were to die in the course of doing that he would go back to Godhead.

Although I am Bengali, and he is American, he preached in remote Bengali villages that I would not even go to.

One old lady had nothing but ashes to give him, but he accepted it.

Once I had decided to leave ISKCON to serve my parents, but he gave the morning class on his Vyasa-puja Day that answered all my doubts so nicely that I changed by decision and stayed.

The Rajapur Jagannatha deities appeared in a dream to Jayapataka Swami, along with their old brahmana pujari [priest], saying our pujari is too old to maintain us, but your ISKCON has so many young people. Why don’t you take over our worship? Jayapataka Swami went to Rajapur, met with the pujari, and it was settled that ISKCON would get the deities.


yatha kancanatam yati

kamsyam rasa-vidhanatah

tatha diksa-vidhanena

dvijatvam jayate nrnam

“As bell metal is turned to gold when mixed with mercury in an alchemical process, so one who is properly trained and initiated by a bona fide spiritual master becomes a brahmana immediately.” (Tattva-sagara, quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilasa 2.12)