Category Archives: Ananta Sesa das

WHAT IS KRISHNA CONSCIOUSNESS?

By Ananta Sesa Dasa

The Vedic Care Charitable Trust follows the principles of Vaishanavism. Many supporters of the VCC are well versed in Krishna Consciousness; however, since the VCC welcomes every spiritual seeker, it seems appropriate to take a bit of time to discuss the history and philosophy of the movement.


History
Krishna Consciousness is our original spiritual understanding, which means that its history is actually as old as the universe. However, we will start the history a little more recently.

The Vedic culture (Veda means sacred knowledge) began in India over 5000 years ago. This culture is so named because of it’s spiritual and ritualistic adherence to the Vedas. The four Vedas (Rg-veda, Sama-veda, Atharva-veda, and Yajur-veda) were delivered to the people of India by Vyasadeva in order to make this most ancient wisdom available to all. The Vedas are very technical and difficult for the common person to understand, so other writings were brought into being as a way of bringing wisdom and truth to the less intelligent of society. These works were the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Contained within the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad-Gita, considered by many to be the Bible of the Hindus, but of course, it is really the Bible of humanity.

The Bhagavad-Gita tells the story of a conversation held between the great warrior, Arjuna, and Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personification of the Godhead. Taking the role of guru, or spiritual coach, Krishna carefully guides Arjuna towards spiritual awakening and full knowledge. This text is left as humanity’s instruction manual. Its teachings are simple and to the point, but sadly, human ego drove some to abandon the true message of Krishna Consciousness, and instead to manipulate it to serve their own sense gratification for power and wealth.

Because of this corruption, Lord Krishna entered the world. This time, he appeared as a devotee of Krishna called Lord Caitanya (1486-1534). Caitanya fought against the corruption caused by ego and initiated a spiritual awakening through the sankirtan movement. The sankirtan movement, which is the chanting of the holy names, is the simplest method of reviving our dormant Krishna Consciousness.

The teachings of Lord Caitanya have been passed down from guru to initiate for the last 500 years, which brings us to the founder of Krishna Consciousness in the West, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada (1896-1977). Shortly before his death in 1933, Prabhupada’s teacher, Bhaktisiddhanta Swami, instructed him to bring this ancient knowledge to the West. Prabhupada was finally able to make this a reality in 1965.

Swami Prabhupada arrived in New York in the fall of 1965 virtually penniless, but he was able to set up a small store front temple at the former Matchless Gifts giftshop on 2nd Street. From there he began to chant, give teachings from the Bhagavad-Gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and other important scriptures. Very slowly people started to notice, listen, and begin to follow the teachings from this spiritual coach. As the 60s moved on, and with the help of some prominent figures such as Allen Ginsberg and George Harrison, the movement grew in popularity and attracted many followers. (It attracted our own Gurudas in 1967).

During the final years of his life, Prabhupada travelled around the world 14 times and wrote over 50 books. He worked tirelessly to make Krishna Consciousness the world-wide movement that it is today.


Philosophy
The basic philosophy of Krishna Consciousness begins with the idea that we are not the physical bodies that we believe we are. Material conditioning has made us accept many falsehoods. Instead, we are spirit soul, which is part and parcel of Krishna.
In the beginning, humans existed in their original constitutional position, as the appendages of God. There was no sense of ego or desire to become anything more. We simply served the Lord and fulfilled His Divine Will. However, as time went on, a false ego developed within humans. This ego insisted that mankind was not just an appendage of God, but rather was its own person. With that mentality, desire for sense gratification developed and grew.
The created world had so many allurements, beauty, sex, wealth, power, entertainments, and so forth, that humanity forgot its true nature. As a result, we spent our time seeking these allurements and trying to find happiness within them. Of course, this is impossible. Any happiness found in this world is temporary, and when it is gone, it leaves a gap that brings misery. Suffering is the common state of existence for one who has forgotten one’s true nature.
True happiness can only be found in the eternal, which means letting go of all our temporary attachments and surrendering to Krishna. By doing so, we may return to our original constitutional positions as servitors of the Lord and find genuine happiness through that service. But how do we do this?

Lord Caitanya taught that the easiest method for reviving our dormant Krishna Consciousness, our love of Krishna and understanding of our true self, was through the chanting of the Holy Names of God. Within the Vedic traditions, the name of God, the image of God, or anything else associated with God is identical to God. So, when we chant the names of God, we are bringing Him into our presence.


The greatest desire of humanity is to see and know God. “I really want to see you Lord,” George Harrison sang in My Sweet Lord. There is a great deal of doubt and skeptism in this world about the existence of God, even from so-called believers. Like Doubting Thomas, they want proof, but it seems no proof is forthcoming. Another line from Harrison; however, says “it won’t take long my Lord”. This is acknowledgement that if one begins the process of chanting the Holy Names that one will quickly experience God and have the proof that is desired. One will soon be in the presence of God.

The Maha-Mantra
The chanting that Lord Caitanya spoke of is called the Maha-Mantra (the Great Mantra). It is comprised of three of the names of God: Hare, Krishna, and Rama.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama, Hare Hare

Hare is the spiritual energy of God, and also represents the feminine aspect of the divine as Radha. Krishna, a name that implies universal attraction, is the Supreme Personification of the Godhead. Rama, who entered the world in human form, is the supreme enjoyer. It is through Him that we find true happiness. (Readers from a Christian background may find a strong similarity to the Trinity. Krishna would equate to God the Father, Rama to God the Son, and Hare as the Holy Spirit.)

Lord Caitanya taught that a devotee of Krishna should chant this mantra on a string of japa beads (similar to a rosary). The string contains 108 beads, and one chants the mantra once on each bead. After 108 times, one round of japa is completed. Caitanya advised that one should chant 64 rounds each day. In this way, the mind would constantly be focused upon Krishna to the exclusion of everything else. Recent spiritual guides, such as Srila Prabhupada, have lessened the number to 16 rounds per day due to the pressures and duties of modern life.

The key point is to ensure that one is constantly thinking of Krishna. The process of Bhakti-yoga requires that one offer devotional service to the Lord with love. So, one’s actions should be directed toward the service of the Lord and one should always be thinking of the Lord. In this way, one will remember and regain one’s original position as servitor of the Lord, and not be bothered by suffering from the illusions of the material world.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARITY

By Ananta Sesa Dasa

The question of charity has long been of concern within the Krishna Consciousness movement. Should a devotee give in charity, and if so, how and to whom? In answering these questions, let us consider a couple key passages.

Acts of sacrifice, charity, and penance are not to be given up, but should be performed. Indeed, sacrifice, charity, and penance purify even the great souls (Bhagavad-Gita 18.5).

So, the Bhagavad-Gita instructs the devotee to perform acts of charity, which are beneficial to the improvement of the soul. However, it also warns that charity must be given in the proper mode.

Charity in the mode of goodness is given out of duty, at the proper time and place, to a worthy person, and without expectation of return (Bhagavad-Gita 17.20).

In the purport to this passage, Srila Prabhupada writes: “charity given to a person engaged in spiritual activities is recommended.” This means that charity is a positive and purifying activity when used correctly.

It is sometimes asked why the devotees of Krishna do not engage in charity work like other religious organizations. Prabhupada would often speak against “mundane charity”, arguing that we cannot do anything to improve the material condition. So, donating money to homeless shelters, cancer research or the police officers benevolent fund will do little but mask the symptoms of the real disease that is playing mankind. Instead, one should engage in real charity—something that will help mankind overcome the material condition and find his way back home to Godhead.

Money should be given to promote Krishna Consciousness around the world—to support those who travel to preach, distribute books, and offer prasadam—in short, to support those things that will awaken the dormant Krishna Consciousness that lies within all.

Prabhupada explained the idea like this:
It is impossible to improve people’s material conditions. Material conditions are already established by the superior administration according to one’s karma. They cannot be changed. The only benefit we can render to suffering beings is to try to raise them to spiritual consciousness…If one is at all sympathetic or able to do good to others, he should endeavor to raise people to Krishna consciousness
(Srimad Bhagavatam 5.8.10, purport).

While it is very important to promote Krishna Consciousness, it is equally important to provide the services necessary for devotees to stay on the path of Krishna Consciousness. This is why organizations such as the Vedic Care Charitable Trust qualify as worthy charities. The VCC does not support mundane activities, but rather, it supports transcendental ones.

The VCC is not a mundane charity, nor does it encourage fruitive activities. It works to support those devotees who dedicated their lives to the service is Krishna. It operates on the principle of “das anu das”, the notion that we are the “servants of the servants”, a concept strongly promoted by Srila Prabhupada.

The VCC seeks to establish retirement villages and hospice facilities where devotees can associate with other devotees, regularly chant and hear about the glories of the Lord, and be fed only Krishna prasadam. Far too many devotees leave this body in the company of strangers, materialists who know nothing of devotional service, and some may begin to falter in their faith due to lack of genuine association. The VCC is working to change all of that.

Your donations and service do not support medical research, animal slaughter or financial greed. Your donations to the Vedic Care Charitable Trust only go to support the cause of Krishna Consciousness and all of the devotees who have served. Please consider making a donation or offering your service to this worthy charity today. Hare Krishna!

Please visit the Who-We-Serve page @ www.vediccare.org/who-we-serve or the VCC Out-Reach program page @ www.vediccare.org/out-reach-teams.

A life of service, a death of peace: The story of Manisha

By Bhagavati devi dasi and Ananta Sesa dasa

People face death in many ways. Some accept it stoically, while others fear it. This is the story of a woman called Manisha who faced it with grace, dignity, and the love of Krishna.

Manisha was first introduced to Krishna Consciousness in the 1980s and became a regular at the Radhadesh temple in Belgium. In service to Radha Gopinatha, she happily worked as a cleaner.

For the past twenty years, Manisha lived in Liège, where she distributed prasadam every Wednesday for the FFL program there. In addition, she hosted a bi-weekly kirtan program in her home. Her personal routine included chanting sixteen rounds of japa daily.

Even though Manisha was uninitiated, she did much to share the love of Krishna with others and to bring others to Krishna Consciousness. Sadly, she had one vice that she was unable to overcome—smoking. Throughout her life, she tried to quit many times, without success. The lure of maya was too strong.

In 2016, Manisha was diagnosed with cancer in the bladder and after having an operation, she received chemotherapy. After three treatments, she decided to stop the chemotherapy, since it was making her too sick. She knew that this would ultimately mean that the cancer would kill her, but at the age of 78, she was ready for that.

Her friend, Bhagavati devi dasi was able to help her quit smoking so that Manisha could live out her time with the devotees at Radhadesh. Through Krishna’s mercy, Manisha was able to sell her home in Liege and move to a home near the temple. Feeling inspired by this mercy, Bhagavati wrote to her spiritual master, Kadamba Kanana Swami, and asked him to initiate her. Since she was now following all four of the regulative principles and chanting 16 rounds, he was very happy to do so. With special permission from the local temple authorities and GBC, Manisha was initiated.

After her initiation, she did quite well for some weeks, but then things started to go downhill very fast. She had developed metastasized bone cancer and was in a lot of pain. For the last two weeks of her life, she could no longer leave her bed. After a few days, Bhagavati called in the local palliative care team and requested a home nurse for Manisha.

Recognizing that spiritual care was more important than physical care, Manisha’s friend turned her room into a spiritual place with an altar opposite her bed. Pictures of Krishna adorned the walls, Bhagavati’s salagram sila moved into her room. When Manisha was introduced to Him, it was explained that at the end she would be able to hold Him in her right hand.

A recording of Srila Prabhupada’s japa played most of the time except for when she was listening to Bhagavad-Gita or Caitanya Caritamrta.

On Balaram’s appearance day, Bhagavati purified Manisha’s right hand, put a flower in it and asked for her prayer to Balaram. She asked Him to take her as soon as possible.

The next morning, Manisha was in a lot of pain. A morphine pump was set up to help her manage the pain. The next morning.  Bhagavati recalls, “Manisha was very sleepy and I just sat next to her bed to read to her. The doctor came again at 2 PM and told us that she would have another 24-36 hours. By 3 PM, I was sitting with Manisha together with another devotee and her breathing changed into the laboured ‘death rattle.’ I knew she would probably not have 24 hours, so I called my spiritual master, who happened to be at Radhadesh. He came half an hour later and started chanting for her. There were many devotees in the room with her. Her family was sitting at her left side and I was sitting at her right side armed with Tulasi leaves and Ganges water. I had put my salagram sila in her right hand and she was holding on to Him tightly.”

“We could regularly see her lips move when she was trying to chant with the kirtan”, Bhagavati continued, “At 4:40 PM, she opened her eyes and started staring with huge eyes. At 4:45, she smiled, chanted Hare Krishna and stopped breathing for a long time. I quickly administered the Tulasi leaves and the Ganges water. She breathed one more time and left while her spiritual master was chanting and I was also chanting the mantra in her right ear very loudly.”

In the Bhagavad-Gita (18.66), Krishna says:

sarva-dharman parityaj
ya
mam ekam saranam vraja

aham tvam sarva-papebhyo

moksayisyami ma sucah

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.”

In line with this teaching, Kadamba Kanana Swami stated that since Manisha had given up everything she had in Liège in order to move and leave her body in Radhadesh, Krishna reciprocated.  This act of surrender was her ticket back home to Godhead.

~~~~~~

Manisha’s picture and this article are published with her personal permission. Thank you Manisha for your determination, kindness and example. You’re an inspiration to us. Hare Krsna

All about the ‘Vedic Care Radhadesh’ here.
We’re now planning a VCC ‘Preventive Medicine’ and ‘How to Care’ Seminar for May 2018 in Radhadesh.
Please follow us on FB for all updates.

Krishna Consciousness Benefits Body and Soul

Humans have a great fear of growing old. We worry about the loss of looks, stamina, and abilities. We are concerned about our declining health and ultimately, we are concerned about the fact that every day we grow older, we are moving one step closer to death. People react to this fear in various ways. Some people accept the fact, but lament it; while others strive to hold onto their youth for as long as possible. In either case, the end result is misery.

In the first instance, the individual will sit idly by as their life slips away, and they will live in mortal fear of its passing — embracing every ailment and every pain as further reason to lament. In the second instance, a person will dye their hair and undergo plastic surgery to maintain the illusion of youth. One will expend their lives in a mundane search of adventure, believing this to be the purpose of their existence, and not understanding the suffering they are bringing on themselves through such senseless activity.

No matter how hard one tries to escape it, aging and death are inevitable; but they do not have to lead to misery and suffering, nor do they need be a cause of lamentation. Krishna Consciousness can teach the reality of old age and death. The Bhagavad-Gita states:

jara-marana-moksaya
mam asritya yatanti ye
te brahma tad viduh krtsnam
adhyatmam karma cakhilam

“Intelligent persons who are endeavoring for liberation from old age and death take refuge in Me in devotional service. They are actually Brahman because they entirely know everything about transcendental and fruitive activities” (BG 7.29).

Srila Prabhupada’s purport on this verse further says: “Birth, death, old age and diseases affect this material body, but not the spiritual body. There is no birth, death, old age and disease for the spiritual body, so one who attains a spiritual body, becomes one of the associates of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and engages in eternal devotional service, is really liberated.” The Bhagavad-Gita instructs us that we are not these bodies.

vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya
navani grhnati naro ‘parani
tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany
anyani samyati navani dehi

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones” (BG 2.22).

The physical body is temporary. Disease, old age and death of this physical form is inevitable. This knowledge is greatly needed at the present time. ISKCON is 50 years old this year, which means that many devotees are now in their 70s and 80s. They are feeling the effects of this material condition. What is to become of the devotee who suffers a terrible disease or infirmity which prevents him from caring for himself? Like many people, he may need to enter a retirement facility or hospice where he can be cared for.

Unfortunately, in almost every instance, these facilities are not Krishna Conscious. One may ask why this matters. Are the devotees not receiving the medical care and attention required? The answer is yes and no. Different facilities have different standards of care, but even if one receives the best care that western science can provide, that care is still deficient without Krishna.

The Krishna Conscious lifestyle will greatly enhance the spirit soul, but it can also make the material life better. To demonstrate this point, let us consider three key elements: Diet, Association, and Sankirtan.

The Bhagavad-Gita says:
yajna-sistasinah santo
mucyante sarva-kilbisaih
bhunjate te tv agham papa
ye pacanty atma-karanat

“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin” (BG 3.13).

The devotee who is fed only Krsna Prasad will enjoy a karma-free diet that aids in the liberation of the soul. Such a diet will also benefit the heath of the material form. The diet of most western non-devotees is high in fat, cholesterol, starch and artificial additives. It usually also includes liberal quantities of alcohol. Each of these will lead to health issues such as heart, kidney and liver disease. The greatest contributor to these problems is meat consumption.

To offer just one thing to illustrate this point, we should consider that humans are designed like herbivores, and as such, our intestinal tract is twelve times the length of our bodies. So, when a person consumes meat, it will sit in the intestinal tract where it will rot and pick up parasites which can lead to further health problems. Despite this, nursing homes, hospitals and hospice facilities continue to serve meat. In fact, many doctors argue that meat consumption is necessary for a healthy diet.

Our acarya, while still a small child, demonstrated the fallacy of medical science. In the first volume of Srila Prabhupada lilamrta, Satsvarupa dasa Goswami writes:
When Abhay was one-and-a-half years old, he fell ill with typhoid. The family physician, Dr. Bose, prescribed chicken broth.
“No”, Gour Mohan protested, “I cannot allow it.”
“Yes, otherwise he will die.”
“But we are not meat-eaters,” Gour Mohan pleaded. “We cannot prepare chicken in our kitchen.”
“Don’t mind,” Dr. Bose said. “I shall prepare it at my house and bring it in a jar, and you simply…”
Gour Mohan assented. “If it is necessary for my son to live.” So the doctor came with his chicken broth and offered it to Abhay, who immediately began to vomit.
“All right,” the doctor admitted. “Never mind, this is no good.” Gour Mohan then threw the chicken broth away, and Abhay gradually recovered from the typhoid without having to eat meat” (p. 5).

The Second aspect of the devotee’s life to consider is association. The Srimad-Bhagavatam states:

satāṁ prasaṅgān mama vīrya-saṁvido
 bhavanti hṛt-karṇa-rasāyanāḥ kathāḥ
taj-joṣaṇād āśv apavarga-vartmani
 śraddhā ratir bhaktir anukramiṣyati

“In the association of pure devotees, discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart. By cultivating such knowledge one gradually becomes advanced on the path of liberation, and thereafter he is freed, and his attraction becomes fixed. Then real devotion and devotional service begin” (SB 3.25.25).

In the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupada explains: “One must give up the association of materialistic persons and seek the association of devotees because without the association of devotees one cannot understand the activities of the Lord.” When placed into a typical retirement home or hospice facility, the devotee is surrounded by materialists who speak of everything except Krishna. They may discuss issues of heath from a secular standpoint. They may discuss sporting events, the lottery or wins and losses at a recent trip to the casino. They may discuss the illicit activities of royalty, celebrity, and neighbor. They may blaspheme or use foul language. One will hear every manner of foolishness coming from the lips of these people, but never will one hear the transcendental vibration of Hare Krishna. Surrounded by such individuals, one could fall down in one’s service, relax one’s chanting, or otherwise be harmed in body and spirit. So, it is crucial that devotees have the opportunity to associate with other Krishna Conscious devotees.

The final aspect of the devotee’s life to consider in this article is Sankirtan, the chanting and hearing of the Holy Names. The regular chanting and hearing of the transcendental vibration of ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare’ is the supreme method of attaining Krishna Consciousness in this age of Kali. The benefits, both spiritually and materially, are legion. For example, Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.11.2 tells us that “the Holy Name vanquishes the fear of material existence”, and in the Nectar of Devotion, it says “By chanting the Holy Names one becomes fearless of death.” Sankirtan is perhaps even more important for the elderly. It is indicated in Srimad-Bhagavatam that:

dakinyo yatudhanyas ca
kusmanda ye ’rbhaka-grahah
bhuta-preta-pisacas ca
yaksa-rakso-vinayakah
kotara revati jyestha
putana matrkadayah
unmada ye hy apasmara
deha-pranendriya-druhah
svapna-drsta mahotpata
vrddha bala-grahas ca ye
sarve nasyantu te visnor
nama-grahana-bhiravah

Here, elderly gopis are speaking to Lord Krishna. “The evil witches known as Dakinis, Yatudhanis and Kusmandas are the greatest enemies of children, and the evil spirits like Bhutas, Pretas, Pisacas, Yaksas, Raksasas and Vinayakas, as well as witches like Kotara, Revati, Jyestha, Putana and Matrka, are always ready to give trouble to the body, the life air and the senses, causing loss of memory, madness and bad dreams. Like the most experienced evil stars, they all create great disturbances, especially for children, but one can vanquish them simply by uttering Lord Visnu’s name, for when Lord Visnu’s name resounds, all of them become afraid and go away” (SB 10.6.27-29).

So, by chanting the Holy Names, one can be protected from many dangers and negative elements.

In conclusion, we can find that diet, association, and sankirtan are the crucial elements that will allow the elderly to accept aging without lamentation, and to accept death without fear. They will allow the devotee to live a healthier, happier, and more meaningful life right up to the moment of death. However, these are the very elements that are being denied many of our elderly devotees in traditional care facilities. This is why it is so important that Krishna Conscious retirement homes and hospice facilities be constructed. Once established, the elderly devotee in need of care will be fed delicious prasad, while being surrounded by other devotees engaged in the service of Krishna. Please help the Vedic Care Charitable Trust to attain this worthy goal.