Category Archives: Ishan das


We are devotees. We know the philosophy. And we readily repeat it. “You are not this body. You are not this mind.” But one who really understands that “I am not this mind.”, that person is on a liberated platform. On a liberated platform, and qualified to engage in devotional service.

When we say, “qualified to engage in devotional service”, one can say, “Well, I have been doing that for years.” Devotional service. There are so many kinds of devotional service. Building a temple room, cooking for the Deities, distributing the books, keeping accounts, cleaning the temple, polishing the brass, maintaining the vehicles…… there are so many ways. And then of course we have shravanam kirtanam, smaranam vsihnu.

But why did Srila Prabhupada sometimes talk about practicing Krishna consciousness on the mental platform, or about the show bottle? Why did he talk about the rubber –stamp process? What do these things have in common? What they have in common is that they all officially look like devotional service, but the one thing that is missing in all of them is love. It is not that this kind of service is not progressive. Of course it is. But ultimately, Krishna wants our love. Krishna wants our love in the present moment, moment to moment. And when we come to that point, even if only for a moment, it is in that moment that we will sense Krishna’s loving reciprocation. That is a moment of realization. In that moment we have transcended the mental platform.

brahma-bhutah prasannatma
na shocati na kankshati
samah sarveshu bhuteshu
mad-bhaktim labhate param
(Bg 18/54)

brahma-bhutah – being one with the Absolute; prasanna-atma – fully joyful; he never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.

Krishna consciousness actually begins on the liberated platform. But Krishna consciousness is so nice because in Krishna consciousness, the means and the goal are one and the same. One can be Krishna conscious in a second. Krishna consciousness is simply a matter of understanding and accepting. Krishna consciousness is simple for the simple. These are the words of Srila Prabhupada as he presents the teachings of Lord Caitanya and the disciplic succession.

Krishna tells us in Bhagavad-gita that we should abandon the fruitive demeanor. Don’t be concerned about success or failure, gain and loss, victory and defeat. Why? Because these are all symptoms of a self-centered orientation. The self-centered orientation and the devotional orientation are mutually exclusive. Therefore if we want to love Krishna, we have to abandon our self-centered orientation.

But how to do this? Let’s consider the qualities that Krishna mentions in the brahma-bhuta shloka. It is not that these qualities cause the attainment of pure devotional service. Rather, they are symptomatic. It is simple for the simple. And one can do it in a second. In all of the other branches of yoga, the means and the goal are different. But the aesthetic beauty of Krishna consciousness is that now the means and the goal are one and the same. Therefore one can become Krishna conscious in one second.

So what is the quality of bhakti-yoga that distinguishes it from all other forms of yoga? It is love. It is bhakti. To live in love is a choice. Hankering and lamentation are symptoms of the modes of passion and ignorance. But love leaves hankering and lamentation behind. Just sit with the feeling of love for a moment and notice that hankering and lamentation evaporate. This alone is a profound realization. Therefore in the beginning, bhakti-yoga is about tuning the heart.

Just as one has to tune a stringed instrument, so we have to tune our hearts. We have to tune our hearts and cultivate the ability to live on the love platform. Let us have the wondrous experience that love is self-satisfied. And therefore in one second our hankering and lamentation depart, and our love can flow to Krishna. Our devotion to Krishna is pure, because we are asking neither for relief nor for favors. And in that moment we can sense Krishna’s reciprocation. We can understand that “Krishna loves me.” One can do this today. Or one can wait for 50 years, or 50 births.

We may not be on the platform of raganuga bhakti, but we are experiencing our connection with Krishna. We are connecting with Krishna with love. Bhakti yoga. We are off the mental platform. We will think to ourselves, “Oh, this is so nice.” And we will want more. Srila Prabhupada once said that to me. He did a pantomime of a drug addict shooting up, and he said, “Krishna consciousness is like this.” That was in 1968. Some things take time. The thing about Krishna consciousness is that it’s too simple for most people. They cannot accept that it can be so simple. Srila Prabhupada would say, “Simple for the simple.”

This doesn’t mean that one won’t be forgetful. It doesn’t mean that we won’t become fruitive or frustrated, or impatient, or despondent. But the difference is that having tasted the beauty and simplicity of Krishna consciousness, we have something solid to return to. And every time we tune our hearts and focus our love on Krishna we progressively understand that this is a consistent experience. Krishna consciousness is not just a wonderful philosophy. It actually works. Krishna is just waiting for us to love Him, and immediately He reciprocates with us. It is that simple.

Then gradually we learn to carry this way of being into the arena of our daily activities. And our activities turn into devotional service. Our hankering and lamentation depart. And we realize that “I am not this mind.”

By Ishan das

GPS for Spiritual Life

R & D, Research and Development is an on-going, ever-accelerating, ever-expanding phenomena on planet earth. The motivation behind this explosion of technology is two-fold. On the one hand there is the desire for control, what is commonly called security; and on the other hand there is the desire for the production of marketable goods and services. All of this on-going frenzy of productivity is driven by the commonly held illusory conception that the maximization of proprietorship and control is the road to a life of fulfillment. And the common man, who buys into this illusion, supports this unsustainable havoc through relentless hand-over-fist consumerism.

According to NCS-R data, 1 in 3 Americans can be diagnosed with a mental disorder. How do we reconcile this widespread blanket of distress with this great tsunami of technological productivity? The answer is that peace is an inside job. As microcosmic units of an infinite reality, we are out of touch, out of alignment. That infinite reality is the ultimate center of ever-expanding concentric circles of harmony and bliss. In a futile attempt to usurp that point of reference with the vanity of self-centered ambition, we fill the pages of history with the proclamation that the entire experiment is an overwhelming failure.

An intelligent person is forced to recollect that an insane asylum or prison facility is not the ideal conception of residential success. It is only the most beleaguered who would broach the proposal that all that is wanting is to improve the conditions of confinement. Such is the mode of thinking of those who strive to enhance the experience of our stay within this realm temporal upheaval. All the great ambassadors have pointed the finger in the same direction: “Let us qualify ourselves for that ultimate discharge, so that once granted, we never again have to take our birth within this unfortunate context, this overwhelming whirlpool of distress.”

Therefore we are called conditioned souls. We are life itself; and there is no death. Just as for light there is no such thing as darkness; but only that light is artificially obstructed. The sun never ceases to shine. But as we are subject to the conditions of planetary revolution, we experience darkness. We are conditioned souls. Our existence is conditional, subject to the conditions of the material nature. Therefore we experience birth. Therefore we experience old age. Therefore we experience disease. And therefore we experience death. We are life itself; and these things are imposed upon us as the substance of a gross dream. We are eternal; and we experience the temporal.

These conditions are enforced. No amount of technological research can surmount this repetitious cycle. We are not placed here for our enjoyment. We are placed here for one purpose alone – our reclamation. And the distress of life is our medicine. How many millions of times we have to return to relive the excruciation of material existence; this is a matter of choice.

Just as the conditions of material life are a securely implemented prescription, so also is the path to the reclamation of our eternal existence, beyond the walls of imposition of the dream of birth and death. The dream is real; but it is temporal, with beginning and end; whereas we are eternal. Therefore we must inquire as to what is wanted from us – so that we may come to know this freedom.

Does not every one of us want to express his or her greatest potential? Does not each of us want the admiration and respect of others? Does not each of us want to dress ourselves, decorate ourselves, with clothing and all manner of certifications, all manner of accomplishments? Does not each of us dream of prestige and glory one way or another, in the form of wealth, strength, beauty, knowledge, fame, and equilibrium? Yes we do, and this is only natural. It is natural because all of these qualities comprise the essence of what we are. We are part and parcel of the greatest unlimited expanse of these attributes; but instead of recognizing them in the fullness of their Source, we have aspired for the position of center stage. And this only, is our disease. Instead of loving the Supreme Unlimited Source of the cornucopia of all existence, we have become tiny ineffectual competitors, each one aspiring to take the throne, to be king for a day.

Therefore our sense of direction needs to be turned round 180 degrees. Simply because we are eternally micro-fragments of the unlimited vastness of spiritual energy, as soon our love begins to flow towards our Source of existence, we will sense that measure of inner fulfillment that is the ever-present urge of the soul. As the hand serves the body, through the mouth, the hand is automatically nourished. As the leaf waters the root of the tree, all the leaves, fruits and flowers – are nourished. This is our relationship with reality. This is our relationship with life. This is what we are here to learn.

We are not here to become number one. We are not here to make this world a better place. We are here to learn about our life of eternal freedom from the conditions of birth and death; and to share this understanding with others. Gradually as we grow in understanding, others will be attracted.

Therefore love of Krishna, love of God is what we have been seeking at every moment of our existence, for nothing else can fill our hearts to overflowing, and nothing else can set us free from the illusion that we are these material bodies. Nothing else can put an end to the cycle of birth and death. Nothing else can earn us our rightful place in Krishna’s eternal realm. The Vedic literatures, unlike any other scriptures, provide us with detailed descriptions of life in that realm, Krishnaloka. They also provide us with detailed descriptions of the nature of our personal relationship with Krishna in that realm. All that is required of us is a desire to hear of these things.

And the process for melting the heart, so that feelings of love for Krishna can begin to surface is the chanting of the Mahamantra, the Hare Krishna mantra:

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

Anyone can practice this chanting. There is no charge. It has been freely distributed to the whole world by Lord Caitanya and his intimate servants. Chant Hare Krishna, and read the books of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and begin your journey back to the spiritual world, where we can all sing and dance with Krishna.

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 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.

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

Part 3 – The Most Confidential Knowledge

If we are thinking that by mechanically doing our sadhana, and rubber-stamping our practical activities as devotional service, one day we will be blessed with love of God, love for Krishna, this is a mistake.

In Krishna consciousness the means and the goal are one and the same.  The goal is love for Krishna; and the means is loving Krishna.  A devotee asked Srila Prabhupada, “How do we love Krishna?” Srila Prabhupada answered, “By loving Him.”  Every now and then, we hear on Srila Prabhupada’s recorded talks wherein he urges us, coaxes us, to chant, “with love”.

The title of chapter 9 of Bhagavad-gita is: The Most Confidential Knowledge. The whole Bhagavad-gita is filled with knowledge. We are not this body. We are eternal spirit soul. Our existence is conditioned by the laws of material nature.  Under the jurisdiction of the wheel of karma, we have been revolving in the cycle of birth and death.  Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the proprietor of everything and the supreme controller. We are seated as though on a machine made of material energy and Krishna, as the Supersoul  in our hearts is the actual “doer” of our activities.  The modes of material nature are explained in detail.

But in chapter 9, Krishna explains the most confidential knowledge. Krishna says to Arjuna, “Because you are never envious of My position as the Supreme Lord,  I will share this most secret wisdom with you. What I am going to tell you is the supreme secret of all secrets.  This knowledge is the king of  education, raja vidya.  There is no knowledge purer than this, because it is not about anything material.  It is about our eternal relationship. And anyone who takes this knowledge to heart, will experience direct perception of their eternal spiritual nature and  be eternally engaged in the joyful activities of the soul in My abode.”

Why is this knowledge so secret, so confidential? It is because Krishna is a person. He is the Supreme Person. But He also has feelings; and His message is very intimate. This  conversation is only for lovers. Krishna is feelingly explaining to Arjuna that all of his bewilderment, anxiety and distress can be instantly dispelled if he will simply open his heart to Krishna, with love.
“Always think of Me with  love in your heart.  Bow down to Me and worship Me. And I promise you that you will come to Me.”  Bg 9/34.  Krishna is approaching us in this same way, inviting us to love Him.  In return He will take away all of our sinful reactions and situate us under the shelter of His divine internal devotional energy.

We have to understand that we hold the key to eternal blissful life in our own hands. No amount of material wealth can purchase our eternal freedom from the relentless grip of samsaric existence. And yet we hold the key.  Therefore this key is the greatest wealth.  But we have to agree to spend it in order to purchase this freedom.

A man who has a great fortune, but refuses to spend any of it is known as a miser. The word for miser in Sanskrit is kripana.  Arjuna uses this word.  It is interesting to note that Arjuna, although appearing to be in maya, diagnoses his problem with an understanding of the solution: karpanya-dosopahata-svabhavah  Bg 2/7

“I am confused about my duty and have lost all equilibrium because  I am afflicted by the characteristic of miserly weakness.”
What is this miserly weakness? What is this wealth that we have that we are refusing to spend?  We have this great fortune  within our  hearts.  It is the ability to love and to give our love to Krishna.   But we are refusing to spend it.  We are refusing to purchase our eternal freedom. Like Arjuna, we are afflicted by this miserly weakness.

In his purport to the second verse of the ninth chapter of Bhagavad-gita, Srila Prabhupada writes: “God accepts only the love with which things are offered to Him.” And Krishna Himself declares that He cannot be known by any other means: bhaktya mam abhijanati   Bg 18/55

Krishna consciousness is not a mechanical process.  We cannot know Krishna through jnana or through karma.  But we can purchase Krishna with our love.  It is only love that gives life to our sadhana.  Love of God is given to us by grace.  But that grace is purchased by love.  Therefore Krishna says: “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.

In the purport to this verse Srila Prabhupada writes:  “The qualification is that a person always engage himself in Krishna consciousness and with love and devotion render all kinds of services. He should perform some sort of work for Krishna, and that work should be with love.”  In Krishna consciousness the means and that the goal are one and the same. The goal is love of Krishna; and the means is love of Krishna.

Therefore we have to overcome this miserly weakness of heart and come to the point of love. We have to cultivate the ability to live in love, and to direct our love to Krishna. This is the meaning of Krishna consciousness.  First we have to become convinced that love is our ticket for advancement in devotional life. Then we have to effort with all our strength to bring this faculty into focus.  If we try with all sincerity to feel love for Krishna, Krishna will help us.  If we really try to summon up feelings of love for Krishna within our hearts, on a daily basis, we can make more advancement in a week or a month than we can through decades of mechanical sadhana. This is the most confidential knowledge. This is Krishna’s loving invitation to us as aspiring devotees:  “Worship Me with love, and I will give you the understanding by which you can come to Me.”

By Ishan das

Part 1 – Simple for the Simple

“Krishna consciousness is simple for the simple”, Srila Prabhupada used to say, “simply a matter of understanding and accepting.” And, “what is the difficulty?”

Srila Prabhupada used to talk about our being Krishna conscious, on what he referred to as “the mental platform.” What is this mental platform? The mental platform means that we know the philosophy, but we don’t walk the talk. We can quote so many verses, present so many good arguments; but we’re not yet embracing Krishna within our hearts.

In days of old, a king would make a document official by stamping it with his ring, and gradually that took the form of an official rubber stamp. The rubber stamp meant that a document was authorized. But Srila Prabhupada said that we can’t rubber stamp a devotee. In other words, one can go through the authorized process of initiation, but that doesn’t make one a devotee. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada used to talk about the “show bottle”. The show bottle was placed in the drug store window in order to advertise a medical product. The liquid in the bottle would be colored just like the real medicine, but the medicine wasn’t in that liquid. It was just a show bottle.

Why did Srila Prabhupada talk about the “rubber stamp” and the “show bottle”? He talked about these things because he was talking about us. He was talking about devotees who live on the “mental platform” of Krishna consciousness. We can do our sadhana, and that’s very good. We can engage in practical service for spreading Krishna consciousness and serving the devotees. But in the purport to Bhagavad-gita 9.2, Srila Prabhupada tells us that Krishna is only interested in the love with which we perform these activities.

In Krishna consciousness, love is the medium of exchange. We daily repeat the prayer that says that Srila Prabhupada came to the western world to deliver us from impersonalism and voidism. But until we engage in Krishna consciousness with love in our hearts, we remain on the impersonal mental platform. Krishna wants our love.

I have one friend who used to be the vice-president of a major temple. He gave up Krishna consciousness. He said, “I did everything, but it just didn’t work for me.” Myself, I was initiated in 1968, and for years I did my sadhana, wondering if I would ever have a sense of loving reciprocation with Krishna. But it was only in the last so many years that I began to understand that Krishna loves me. “What changed?” The only thing that changed was that I began to learn how to open my heart and focus my love on Krishna.

Krishna is not hiding from us. He came to our planet just to tell us that all He wants is our love. Krishna is very personal. And He sends His pure devotees who travel the globe canvassing on Krishna’s behalf. So, if we are not feeling a sense of loving reciprocation with Krishna, it’s not because Krishna is hiding from us. He has already made the first move, and the ball is in our court.

How does Krishna respond? He responds in proportion to how we relate to Him. This is His promise in Bhagavad-gita. We are practicing bhakti yoga. Our connection with Krishna is through love.

When I was a kid, there was one song: “What Is This Thing Called Love?” The fact is – love is what we are. As pure spirit soul, we are never without love. But when that love is manifested through the agency of the modes of passion and ignorance it becomes expressed in a perverted manner, taking the form of self-centeredness. This is clearly stated in the Introduction to The Teachings of Lord Caitanya.

In Krishna consciousness, we have the most sophisticated understanding of God and our eternal relationship with Him. This is an enormous step forward in our journey home, to the spiritual world. But now we have to cultivate our capacity to live in love. We have to cultivate the ability to live with love as the baseline of our walk through life. In bhakti yoga, “the means and the goal are one and the same”. It is all about love.

Some devotees are inclined to think that if we do our sadhana and our service long enough and intensely enough, that one day… a light will go on… and we’ll be blessed with love for Krishna. But it doesn’t work that way, and it won’t work that way. Krishna is personal. As we cultivate the ability to focus our loving propensity on Him, He reveals Himself to us. In this way our love continues to grow. And the more it grows, the more intimate that revelation becomes.

We have to contemplate this very seriously. All of us can have a sense of loving reciprocation with Krishna right now. Krishna consciousness is “simple for the simple”. How long does it take? Srila Prabhupada says we can be Krishna conscious in a second. Krishna consciousness is being conscious of Krishna in a way that is favorable – conscious of Krishna with love in our hearts.

This practice is not as elusive as it may seem. It is our aspiration to continue to bring this subject matter into focus in a way that is tangible, in an on-going series of installments on this site. There is nothing as exciting as Krishna consciousness. We are so fortunate. Let us keep in touch. In the meantime, ask yourself, “Am I approaching Krishna with love in my heart?”

Part 2 – Cruise Control

What does it mean to be a conditioned soul? It means that our eternal blissful knowledge is obscured by the influence of the modes of material nature. It’s just like shining a pure white light through a colored lens. That same light continues to shine, but it takes on the color of the lens. In the same way, our original consciousness has become subject to the conditions, or qualities, of the modes of material nature. We are never out of touch with our original spiritual consciousness. But, our experience of it is conditioned.

Love is a symptom of the soul. We are pure spirit soul. Therefore love is what we are. We are never without that love. But it is re-qualified by the modes of passion and ignorance, manifesting as a perverted, self-centered orientation. Therefore in order to be Krishna conscious, we have to become free of this influence.

In his introduction to Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Srila Prabhupada expresses this as follows: “In our original relationship with the Supreme Lord there is real love. That love is reflected through material conditions, but reflected pervertedly, and not exactly… in this material world, love lacks continuity…” Love means giving, feeling pleasure in the happiness and well-being of others. When this same energy is reflected in a perverted manner, it becomes self-centered and exploitive. The ability to experience the happiness of selfless service is lost, thereby robbing us of the inherent self-satisfaction of the soul, causing us to jump from one thing to the next, one person to the next, endlessly seeking and never experiencing fulfillment. We have to soberly contemplate the understanding that self-centeredness is a dead end, and that actual fulfillment is only found in taking pleasure in the happiness of God and all living beings.

How do we make this internal adjustment? Imagine, if you will, the temperature of your fridge. The fridge is cooled according to the thermostat setting. The same is true of the amount of love that we carry in our hearts. We are all moving through life, according to our individual cruise-control setting, without realizing that our present setting can be voluntarily adjusted. In the mode of ignorance we are almost on empty, feeling dark and undone. In the mode of passion we begin to reach out, to be fruitive, to be goal-oriented, to seek fulfillment in things outside of ourselves. And as the mode of goodness dawns we begin to sense the inner light of self-satisfaction. In Bhagavad-gita, 17.16-17, Krishna tells us that manah-prasada, “satisfaction of the mind”, is tapo manasam, the “austerity of the mind”, an austerity that is sattvikam, “in the mode of goodness”.

The fruitive demeanor and the devotional demeanor are mutually exclusive. The fruitive demeanor is a self-centered orientation; and the goal of the devotion is simply Krishna’s satisfaction, Krishna’s pleasure. Therefore before we can be devotional, we have to relinquish the fruitive orientation. Before we can give up the desire to be the controller and the enjoyer, we have to master the art how to become internally self-satisfied. But love is self-satisfied. Therefore the easiest way to become peacefully self-satisfied is to cultivate the ability to walk through life with love in our hearts. In that way we become doubly-qualified. On the one hand we are freed of our self-centered fruitive propensity. And on the other hand, we are able to approach Krishna with love in our hearts. This is the science of Bhakti Yoga, the science of Krishna consciousness.

We have to begin to monitor our individual cruise-control setting. How much love do we carry in our hearts? Are we capable of engaging in our duties in a loving, serving mood, happily accepting that Krishna is in control? Or do we find ourselves repeatedly struggling with life, in the arena of success and failure, victory and defeat?

This cultivation of love is our tapo manasam, our “austerity of the mind”, the austerity that gradually becomes a source of nectar. We have to experience the wondrous discovery that when our hearts are filled with love, we become effortlessly indifferent to dualistic concerns. We have to discover that to live in love is a choice, and that the happiness of love is always available to us. This is the beginning of understanding that “I am not this mind”, and that happiness is an inside job, independent of external conditions. This is the mode of goodness, the doorway to the brahma-bhuta platform. And we have to cultivate it, purposely, always retracing our steps when we lose our bearings. Until we try to live in this way, we won’t actually appreciate the intensity of our self-centered orientation. Therefore Krishna refers to this shift as tapo manasam, the austerity of the mind. And because it is an austerity requiring purposeful effort, Krishna describes this quality of happiness in the mode of goodness as “Poison in the beginning; nectar in the end”.

When we first come to Krishna consciousness we are addicted to self-centered processes. Krishna consciousness is our therapy. The therapy of the soul. As we cultivate our ability to bring love into focus in our hearts, we begin to feel Krishna’s presence. We begin to understand that Krishna loves us. And we begin to look forward to each new day as an opportunity to cultivate our relationship with Krishna. The only price we have to pay, is to make the subtle effort, to adjust our cruise-control level, switching gears into the love mode, and cultivating our ability to hold that setting. Then our Krishna consciousness comes to life, so that we can experience Bhakti Yoga, our connection with Krishna, through the medium of love.