Do We Really Want An Answer?

Why do people go to Universities? Why do they engage in physical culture, such as yoga, Tai Chi, jogging, make good dietary choices? Why do people enter different fields, take up different professions, take up a trade? Why do people meditate, read self-help books, inquire into the secrets of success? Why do people become involved in political and social movements? The answer to all these questions is simple: People want to be happy and fulfilled. We all want that. That’s why we get up in the morning.

Before making a plan, as to what to do with one’s life, an intelligent person will consider the facts. As long as we are here, in this material realm of existence, all of our attempts at happiness and fulfillment by material means will be frustrated. Even if we were to achieve all our personal goals, the irrevocable process of old age, disease and death will close the account.

To some this will sound like science fiction. But to others this will make perfect sense. The Vedic literature provides us with a surprising revelation. A revelation that no school talks about, no psychiatrist or guidance counselor considers, and no social or political activist thinks about. This material world is not our real home. Somewhere along the line, we made a wrong turn.

In every city there are institutions that house those who cannot interact harmoniously. A special place is constructed to house them, feed them, and care for them. The aspiration is to facilitate their rehabilitation. During their period of confinement, a variety of unpleasant conditions are imposed on them – and they are given time to consider their lot. Welcome to the material dimension! We are here.

In other words, this material creation has been designed so that there will be wars, volcanoes, earthquakes, plagues, tidal waves, ethnic cleansing, racism, social injustice, political exploitation, and the like. All of our history books tell us that this is the nature of life – in this material world. Also, no one gets out alive. And we have to come back. It goes on birth after birth. We’re on a treadmill. The treadmill of birth, old age, disease and death. This is the school of hard knocks. Until we learn – we have to come back. Come back and do it again.

But what exactly comes back? In our western culture, people are comfortable saying, “I have a soul.” But the fact is, “I am a soul”. And, “I have a body”. A temporary material body. Veda tells us, “You are not this body. You are spirit soul. For the soul there is never birth or death. You are an eternal individual spiritual being.” So what comes back? That individual soul comes back, taking one body after another, after another.

This is the process of reincarnation. The eternal individual spirit soul takes birth, again and again, in a material form, a material body made of the elements of mud and water. Physical matter is not conscious. But we are. The consciousness of the soul is induced to identify with the gross body and subtle material mind as the self. Mind is our software; body our hardware. Self realization means to have the direct experience that “I am not this body. I am not this mind.” This is the beginning of freedom.

The material manifestation is an institution manifested for our rehabilitation. Nothing is happening to us; it is happening to the body. But we mistakenly experience this body as “me”. This is the ultimate in hypnotherapy. Spiritual hypnotherapy. This illusory identification with the material body is our therapy. We are eternal. But we are forced to identify with this temporal manifestation of dead matter. It only appears alive as long as we are inside it. It is like a dream; in the sense that it has a beginning and an end. We are eternal, but we are experiencing this dream as reality. But in this case, we are subtle, spiritual energy, and the dream is gross.

For every light bulb that shines in the city, there is a circuit that goes back to the powerhouse. When that circuit is closed, continuous, the bulb is illumined. It shines. When the circuit is open, broken, the bulb has no light to share. The Sanskrit word “yoga” means to link, to connect – to connect with our source, the supreme powerhouse. When the individual soul becomes a yogi, and cultivates reconnection with our source, with God, or Krishna, we become illumined with transcendental knowledge. We become “enlightened”. We have self-realization. We have the direct perception that “I am not this body.” We become filled with a spiritual bliss that transcends all material affliction.

But what is the medium of exchange? It’s not money. It’s not good works, pious activity, good karma. Not asceticism. Not intellectual gymnastics. If we want to engage in this yoga, this reconnection, we have to understand what Krishna wants from us. Most religions cultivate the notion that we can fulfill our material desires by placing our orders with God – the ultimate Amazon.com. Krishna can fulfill our material desires, of course. But if we are intelligent and want to be liberated from this nightmare of repeated birth and death, and return to the spiritual dimension of eternity, we have to understand what Krishna wants from us.

All that Krishna wants is our love. In the spiritual dimension, love is the medium of exchange. It is the current of unconditional love for Krishna, flowing uninterruptedly, from our hearts to Krishna, that frees us from all material hankering and lamentation, and enables us to effortlessly understand that “I am not this material form.”

How to awaken this love? The Vedic literature declares that in this age, the process for awakening our dormant love for God is the chanting of His Holy Name:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

This mantra is introduced in the Vedic literatures, not just as a mantra, but as the Maha Mantra, the “great mantra” for the awakening of love of God in our hearts. The chanting of this Maha Mantra is the prescribed yoga process for this age. There are so many so-called yogis and so many teachers introducing so many concocted ideas. But the process of chanting Hare Krishna is the only yogic process prescribed by the Vedic literatures for this age. It is free. There is no charge. It can be chanted at any time at any place. The Vedas declare that in this age, God has appeared to us in His form as transcendental sound vibration. And by chanting, one can have the direct experience of the presence of Krishna in the sound of His Holy Name.

If life gives you lemons make paneer

If life gives you lemons make paneer.

Like making swords into plowshares, or lemons becoming paneer.

Happiness and distress flow together like the changing seasons.

One definition of a lemon is something that doesn’t work, like a bad car.

Paneer is curdled milk, cheese catalyzed by the ascorbic acid contained in lemons.

So when something in your life is distressing, understand it as a learning experience, the chance to get better.

Now more than ever, people are frightened. The country is polarized between high-minded loving people and hating greedy people. The fact that this nation of sheep, the United States, can elect such a racist, hateful, lying cheater as president is predicted in this Kali Yuga; the age of quarrel.

This surrealistic scenario is still under the auspices of Lord Krishna.

We have survived bad presidents, kings, and demons before, and it will not change our daily devotional service. We have each other, our devotional family.

Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9, verse 13, helps me to gain the Vedic perspective: “O son of Pṛthā, those who are not deluded, the great souls, are under the protection of the divine nature. They are fully engaged in devotional service because they know Me as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, original and inexhaustible.”

Purport: “In this verse the description of the mahātmā is clearly given. The first sign of the mahātmā is that he is already situated in the divine nature. He is not under the control of material nature. And how is this effected? That is explained in the Seventh Chapter: one who surrenders unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, at once becomes freed from the control of material nature. That is the qualification. One can become free from the control of material nature as soon as he surrenders his soul to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That is the preliminary formula. Being marginal potency, as soon as the living entity is freed from the control of material nature, he is put under the guidance of the spiritual nature. The guidance of the spiritual nature is called daivī prakṛti, divine nature. So when one is promoted in that way—by surrendering to the Supreme Personality of Godhead—one attains to the stage of great soul, mahātmā. The mahātmā does not divert his attention to anything outside Kṛṣṇa, because he knows perfectly well that Kṛṣṇa is the original Supreme Person, the cause of all causes. There is no doubt about it. Such a mahātmā, or great soul, develops through association with other mahātmās, pure devotees. Pure devotees are not even attracted by Kṛṣṇa’s other features, such as the four-armed Mahā-Viṣṇu. They are simply attracted by the two-armed form of Kṛṣṇa. They are not attracted to other features of Kṛṣṇa, nor are they concerned with any form of a demigod or of a human being. They meditate only upon Kṛṣṇa in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. They are always engaged in the unswerving service of the Lord in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.”

Therefore, we have the choice to love, and not hate. And to propagate spiritual peace, encouraging growth in the future. Do not be afraid.

Bhagavad Gita, chapter 4, verse 7, states: “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.”

In the next verse (BG 4.8), Kṛṣṇa says: “To deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I Myself appear, millennium after millennium.”

Prabhupada came to save us, and others. We can carry on with our daily devotional seva – with Radha Krishna in the center – in our homes, in our temples, on our farms, in our countries, and on our planets.

Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9, verse 26, says: “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it.”

And so, if life gives us lemons we can still be kind to ourselves and to each other, and give our Krishna conscious, positive alternative to everyone.

Gurudas

Part 4 -The Essence of Bhakti Yoga

I was initiated in 1968.  I’ve been doing sadhana for some 46 years now.  But Krishna consciousness isn’t a caste system.  As it says in the Bible, some of the first may be last.

Over the years I’ve always found that whenever I engage in our Krishna conscious practices, there is always some degree of liberation. Anxieties evaporate, and I begin to feel mildly blissful.  But I always wondered:  “Will I ever arrive at a sense of loving reciprocation with Krishna in this lifetime?”

Most of the devotees I’ve talked to seem to hold the conviction that if we just  maintain our vows, engage in our sadhana and do some practical service, then one day, by grace, love of Krishna will dawn in our hearts.  I’m convinced that this isn’t quite enough.

A robot can be programmed to perform all of the activities that we engage in.  They can chant the Holy Name.  They can do puja, recite slokas, prepare Deity offerings, clean the temple, even distribute Krishna conscious literature.  So what’s the difference?  The difference is that a devotee does these activities with love for Krishna alive in his heart.

That’s why Srila Prabhupada used to speak about the “rubber stamp”.  He was telling us that all these authorized activities can be officially regarded as devotional service.  However, without saturating these activities with love, we are rubber-stamping them as devotional service.  Certainly there will be some benefit, some progress, some purification.  But if we actually want to enjoy a sense of loving reciprocation with Krishna, we have to perform these activities with love in our hearts.  We have to come to that point.  Srila Prabhupada writes:  “Even a leaf, a flower, a bit of fruit, or a little water……will be accepted if offered with love……..God accepts only the love with which things are offered to Him.”  (Bg. 9/2 purport).

So love for Krishna is not something that will mysteriously dawn in our hearts.  Love for Krishna is something that we have to bring to the table.  And this is where many aspiring devotees draw a blank.  “But I have no love for Krishna!”, they say.  For so many years, this was my mood too. Then gradually I began to understand. We all have the ability to cultivate the quality of love in our hearts.  We know the philosophy of Krishna consciousness; but without love it won’t come to life within us.  Our Krishna consciousness will remain on the “mental platform”.  Therefore I humbly repeat:  we have to purposefully apply ourselves to this cultivation of love within our hearts.

Our way of feeling is largely a matter of habit.  Glad, sad, mad, scared.  When our buttons are pushed, these old programs, old recordings, play out over and over again.  But we have a choice.  We have the ability to cultivate the feeling of love in our hearts.  And when we do, our whole view of life changes.  When there’s love in our hearts, that love will effortlessly brighten every interaction, every activity we engage in.  This is the mode of goodness.
Most importantly,  Srila Prabhupada encourages us, Krishna consciousness is simply a matter of “transferring the account”, transferring our loving propensity to Krishna.  But without love in our hearts, where is the question of transferring the account? Therefore this is the first essential.  Unless and until we can make love an on-demand faculty in our own hearts, a faculty that we can draw upon at will – how can we purposefully begin to transfer the account to Krishna?

We’re not talking about raganuga bhakti.  We’re talking about the simple ability to cultivate the practice of directing our love towards Krishna, here and now, so that we can begin to have a sense of Krishna’s loving reciprocation.  A living sense of connection with Krishna.  As much as we love Krishna, to that degree will we sense His love for us.  That’s Krishna’s promise.  We can directly experience this.  And when we do, we’ll want more.  Then we’re on our way.

I was once alone with Srila Prabhupada in his room; he pushed up his sleeve and did a pantomime of injecting drugs into his forearm.  “You have seen this?”,  Srila Prabhupada asked me.  “Yes”, I nodded.  “Krishna consciousness is like that.”  Srila Prabhupada said with a smile. In other words we’ll want more.  But first we have to have a taste of Krishna’s loving reciprocation.

The first requirement is the ability to carry love in our hearts, so that we can offer that love to Krishna.  Then whether we are washing a dish, sweeping a floor, walking, driving, chanting………patrum pushpam phalam toyam,  and, yat karoshi yad asnashi  (Bg. 9/26-27), it can be done with a feeling of love for Krishna.

Therefore we have to seriously contemplate the understanding that this is the meaning of Krishna  consciousness – serving Krishna with love.   As we engage in loving devotional service, Krishna reveals Himself to us.  And as Krishna reveals Himself, our love continues to grow.  This is the most confidential part of Krishna conscious knowledge.

tesam satata-yuktanam
bhajatam prita purvakam
dadami buddhi-yogam tam
vena mam upayanti te

“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to me.”  (Bg.  10/10).

Anyone can do this.  The only question is:  When will I begin?

By Ishan das