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 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

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

The Science of ‘Chanting Yoga’

Is chanting yoga a science?
Can we trace the origin of chanting?
Do we need to understand what we are chanting?
Can the power of sound alter cellular and molecular structure – the DNA encoding etc.?
I don’t know how to sing or chant, does it really matter?
How much it will cost me?

Facts about chanting Yoga

  • Thoughts are silent sounds.
  • Chanting Reduces Anxiety and Depression by balancing the nervous system.
  • Traditional Yoga, Ayurveda, and Sanskrit sources have demonstrated millennia ago the multidimensional effects of chanting yoga.
  • We become Compassionate to all living beings.
  • The effects of chanting boosts the immune system and can be rationally explained.

Chanting and heart health

There are a number of different “sciences” behind chanting. Some of these are the “hard” sciences such as physics and psycho-acoustics. In order to sustain its findings, such sciences require a deep rational thinking, which is just a small aspect of the vast intelligence. In contrast, the Spiritual sciences such as the different yogic practices that work with sound, are evaluated with a much subtler aspect of the intelligence.  Much has being written about this since yoga in its various modalities has moved to the west.

Recently, many doctors and scientist are becoming interested in the Chanting yoga phenomena. The following are just a few of the all increasing health professionals convinced of their therapeutic effects:

Dr. Herbert Benson states that chanting helps induce a “relaxation” response which causes reduction in heartbeat, brain waves and respiration.

Dr. David Shananoff-Khalsa believes that mantric recitation enables the tongue to stimulate the acupuncture meridians inside the roof of the mouth.

Dr. Ranjie Singe found that the chanting of specific mantras caused the release of hormone melatonin, and is investigating the importance of this in the healing process. So far, he has found that there are many benefits including shrinkage of tumors and enhanced sleep.

Can we trace the origin of chanting?

I have found that virtually every culture and tradition includes chanting and singing in their spiritual and health practices. Recitation of prayers is found worldwide and has been with us since the dawn of humankind. We find this common pattern in Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic and many other cultures.  Whether it is a shamanic or pagan tradition, you will have some aspect of chanting that could be considered Sacred chanting in their rituals and prayers. Sometimes these chants are used to invoke Divine entities. Other times they are used for healing or to ask for some boon such as bringing rain. In my experience, chanting is most commonly used to bring the gross fulfillment of desires.

Do we need to understand what we are chanting?

Anyone who has cultivated the habit of chanting will realize that chanting gives a pleasure that transcends the senses and elevates one beyond the boundaries of time and space. Chanting delivers us from our sense of dependency on temporal enjoyments which are always fleeting and limited. Chanting will move one past this unfulfilling existence to one’s true nature and destination regardless of whether one knows the meaning of the chant or not. I once heard it said: “as music has charms to soothe a savage beast, so the spiritual sound of chanting soothes the restless mind.”

Can the power of sound alter cellular and molecular structure- the DNA encoding etc.?

A great deal of research has been done recently into the power of sound. As a result of this research, it was proven beyond a doubt that sound can alter molecular and cellular structure.

In the 1960’s, a medical doctor named Hans Jenny conducted experiments which showed that sound was able to actually create form in various substances such as sand, plastics, liquids, and water. He would place these substances on a steel plate and then using a crystal oscillator, vibrate these plates with sound. Quite astonishingly, the various substances took on the most organic looking shapes—they looked like microscopic organisms or underwater life. He called this work Cymatics.

A Japanese scientist, Masuru Emoto, demonstrated that water molecules are actually affected by sound and our intention. Intention concerns our thoughts and feelings.  Intention is the energy behind the sounds that we create. Mr. Emoto found that clean water looked like a snowflake, very geometric. Polluted water looks like mud. Mr. Emoto has taken photographs of polluted water, which at first look like mud. After a priest has chanted over this water, new photographs were taken again. This time, the water looks like a snowflake, the sound and intentionality has restored it to its natural harmonious shape.

The work of Fabian Maman, a French acupuncturist and sound healer, has taken Kirlian photographs of hemoglobin blood cells that were exposed to different sounds. In particular, he took photographs of blood cells exposed to an ascending chromatic scale created on a xylophone. Each note effected the cell differently, creating a different shape and different Kirlian color.

The information above represents a small sample of the work that has been done to demonstrate that cellular structure and energy are effected by sound.

 I don’t know how to sing or chant, does it really matter?

The good news is that one does not need to be a good singer or even know anything about music. Chanting is not about singing in the usual sense. It is not about memorizing complex lyrics. It works whether it is done alone or in a powerful group kirtan. It works whether it is done softly or in full voice, as long it is from the heart and with the belly. Although for enhanced effect, one can add eye-focus and a gentle hand mudra, and eventually you may wish to go to a singing classes, these simple steps can easily be included later. The key is to simply begin chanting.

How much it will cost me?

Here is more good news, chanting is absolutely free. All one need do is try and enjoy.  It won’t work if you don’t do it! All that is needed is some time and an open heart. The benefits of chanting cannot be established through reasoning and intellect. It can only be experienced through devotion, faith and constant repetition of the chanting.

Facts about chanting Yoga: “Thoughts are silent sounds”.

More and more people are aware that our thoughts reflect and affect our mood, our attitude and our general health. Our thoughts are silent sounds–a type of vibration. The more refined our thoughts, the more elevated our vibration.

The entire universe was built on sound (Word), which is nothing but vibration. By vibrating a certain combination of sounds, we tune in to different levels of our intelligence, specifically, consciousness. Thus, chanting mantras is a conscious method of controlling our moods, and in turn, our frequency and resultant all-around radiance, much like changing the channel on the television.

Chanting Reduces Anxiety and Depression by balancing the nervous system

By combining sound, breath and rhythm, Chanting Yoga channels the flow of energy through the mind-body circuit, adjusting the chemical composition of our internal states and regulating brain-hemisphere imbalances, contributing to a natural abatement of fear and despair–emotions that underlie both of these common afflictions. By balancing the nervous system, chanting regulates the chronic stress and tension that is the norm for many people in today’s hyper-stimulated lifestyle. By balancing the endocrine system, chanting normalizes hormone production, which balances our moods and overall sense of well-being.

Traditional Yoga, Ayurveda, and Sanskrit sources have demonstrated millennia ago the multidimensional effects of chanting:

During the practice of Chanting Yoga, the breathing (prana) cycle is altered to a greater or lesser extent depending upon the number of syllables and consonants of the particular mantra.  Through this process, one is able to influence the Subdoshas of Vata namely prana, udana, samana, vyana and apana. This in turn, will bring balance to oxygen-blood ratios, thereby improving the following: a) nutrients absorption; b) optimum function of organs of actions; c) general circulation including the blood flow, the lymphatic system and nerve impulses, and elimination via excretory organs.

Sound (akash), Breath (prana), and Matra (rhythm) combined with Dhyana (meditation) directs harmoniously the flow of energy (prana or Chi) through the (shrotas) body channels. This will adjust and balance Agni (metabolism) and homeostasis. As a result, the physiology known in Ayurveda as doshas (Vata), (Pitta) and (Kapha), the dhatus, and malas are functioning in harmony. Chanting helps one to deal with stressful factors and brings an overall sense of well-being and relaxation. This in turn, triggers a cascade of beneficial influences which aid our General Health (Swasta Vrita).

We become Compassionate to all living beings

Chanting transcendental mantras brings an understanding of ourselves as one and different from God (Sadhaka Pitta). It awakens our original nature and love within us. As George Harrison has said often in his Bhakti practice, this type of chanting is “a direct connection with God.” When our spiritual identity is awakened, we experience the unity and diversity of all life. Our capacity for compassion naturally grows, allowing our daily lives to be free of conditional mistakes such as blaming others, hate, jealousy, envy and pride. With the elimination of these negative concepts, all that remains is pure love.

The effects of chanting boost the immune system and can be rationally explained

Perhaps the key to rationally understand the power and effects of chanting on human physiology are the upper palate, the movement of the tip of the tongue and breath.

The Upper palate is at the base of the hypothalamus, which is the control center of the physical body. It regulates communication between the Doshas Vata and Pitta and its sub-doshas (the nervous system and the endocrine system). My own repetitive experience found that the hypothalamus controls the entire nervous system (Vata ).

The tongue taps certain points along the roof of the mouth, sending signals to the hypothalamus. These signals regulate the chemical activity streaming into all parts of the brain and body.

Breath adjusts all the rhythms of our body, such as the familiar circadian rhythms; but also the lesser known ultradian rhythms, which monitor the smaller-scale energy cycles that occur throughout the day. Due to our hectic life style our nervous systems are often overtaxed. These rhythms are thrown out of balance. However, through the art of chanting we begin to bring a state of balance. When breath and sound are working together, we realize the magnificence of Life and how God became sound. One will also realize also that words are only approaching the tip of even greater benefits!

Chanting and breath brings positive effects on the parasympathetic nervous system (the nervous system that tells us everything is ok). These effects are multiplied and the healing response is triggered, which translates into healing and stronger immunity.

Chanting and heart health

According to the Heart Math, chanting is known to promote general wellbeing, and it is great benefit for the cardiovascular system. One reason for this may be that singing demands a slower than normal respiration, which may in turn affect heart activity. Coupling of heart rate variability (HRV) to respiration is called Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). This coupling has a subjective, as well as a biologically soothing effect, and it is beneficial for cardiovascular function. RSA is seen to be more marked during slow-paced breathing and at lower respiration rates (0.1 Hz and below). In this study, we investigate how singing, which is a form of guided breathing, affects HRV and RSA.

Rhythm: Through repetition of the mantra, patterns of sound are inscribed onto the brain. The unconscious becomes the conscious. The automatic becomes the deliberate. The mindless becomes the heartfelt. The repetition frees us from our destination-fixation, that desire to rush to the end. The repetition is the whole point. Through repetition, the mantra washes over us, as the waves in the sea gradually get us wet.

Projection: When we chant from the navel point while articulating the mantra, we not only stimulate the upper palate, but we vibrate the central channel by which prana, or life force, flows. For millennia, yogis have referred to this as the shushumna.  This dual process is said to move us into the realm of anahat, or unconditional love.

So far everything looks great, but how long will it take to achieve this promises?

Everybody is unique, so how long it takes will depend the degree of dedication and determination over a period of months and years. Although we experience glimpses of the above mentioned benefits almost the same day, this taste will encourage us to go deeper into the chanting Yoga. In the guidelines below, you will be given an idea of what can be accomplished in a certain period of time. This will help you to set realistic goals.

Reprogramming our habits

“It takes 40 days to break a habit; 90 days to gain the new habit;

120 days and you are the new habit; 1,000 days and you are Master of it.”

Chanting from minutes to hours will bring the following benefits:

3 minutes affects the electromagnetic field, the circulation and stability of the blood.

7 minutes begins to shift brain patterns, and the magnetic field surrounding the body increases in strength.

11 minutes begins to change the nervous and glandular systems.

22 minutes sees the three minds (i.e., the negative, positive and neutral minds) come into balance and begin to work together; the subconscious mind begins to clear.

31 minutes allows the glands, breath, and concentration to affect all the cells and rhythms of the body. Endocrine secretions are completely balanced as is the ethereal energy of the chakra (junction points of physical and spiritual centers).

62 minutes changes the gray matter in the brain. It stimulates the frontal lobe of the brain, as well as the pituitary and pineal glands. You work through the physical body, the emotions and mental states, stimulating higher, more subtle aspects of the self. The subconscious “shadow mind” and its psychological projections become integrated.

2 1/2 hours changes the psyche in its co-relation with the surrounding magnetic field so that the subconscious mind is held firmly in the new pattern by the surrounding field. You totally remake your psyche. These changes persist throughout the day and are reflected by positive changes in mood and behavior.

Author:
Alfredo Llorente Marcos
(Chaitanya Swarup das)
Ayurveda & Meditation Therapy

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.

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?”

An Introduction to Achintya-Bheda-Abheda Tattva

The philosophy of Acintya Bhedabeda Tattva embodies the quintessence of all systems of Indian philosophy. Indian philosophy, embodied in the Vedic literatures, is over 5000 years old and inspired the birth of the two great Eastern religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. It has also greatly influenced the western world, particularly over the last 200 years. Most systems of Indian philosophy propound the view that the universe is fundamentally one, part of and pervaded by the Supreme Being, from whom it has emanated. As such, they maintain that the universe is not the outcome of blind chance, but that it is the result of intelligent design and that it has meaning and purpose. Furthermore, according to most systems of Indian philosophy the material universe, in which we live, is only part of an infinite and spiritual universe. Both the material and spiritual universe are considered energies of God, the Supreme Spiritual Being. The spiritual universe is defined as God’s internal energy, and the material universe His external energy. All living beings in the material world are essentially spiritual, and part of His internal energy. Finally, according to most systems of Indian philosophy, God is defined as a transcendental Person, endowed with consciousness, attributes and form, and who stands at the center and source of his infinite energies and emanations.

At the cornerstone of this world view is the notion that God, and the universe emanating from Him, are essentially one and different. He is one, in that He is the origin of, and pervades all beings, and He is different, in that His energies have their own independent existence and identity. This independent existence and individual identity accounts for the world of many-ness and variegatedness.. The problem is, that the principles of oneness and many-ness contain a logical paradox, and appear to be mutually exclusive. On the bases of logic it is indeed hard to reconcile how one entity can be one and many at the same time. Within the different schools of Indian thought, philosophers and mystics have attempted to resolve this paradox by emphasizing one principle over the other, thereby reducing e.g. many-ness to a by product of oneness. Some schools of thought, taking a more extreme position, have even postulated that only oneness is real, and that the many-ness constitutes an illusion. Throughout the history of Indian philosophy this theme, and its implicit paradox, has been at the center of philosophical discussions.

Thereby the oneness and many-ness principles do not just confine themselves to the relationship between God and His creation. The principle extends to virtually all areas of philosophy and science, such as the relation between matter and consciousness, between qualities and substance, between particles and fields, between energy and matter, and the personal and the impersonal. Interestingly, therefore, it appears that the principle of oneness and many-ness, with its inherent paradox, extends to all areas of reality.

Within the history of western philosophy we also find the constant recurrence of the oneness versus many-ness theme, resulting in different schools of opposing thought. Thereby the parallels between Indian and western thinking are striking. Most notable is e.g. the discussion and debates that have flourished on the issue of realism and idealism, or the relation between matter and consciousness, during the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe.

The great 16th century Indian philosopher and mystic Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu formulated a new principle, shedding light on the paradox, and making explicit what was already acknowledged implicitly by many great Indian thinkers. Caitanya stated that the principles of oneness and difference are inherently inseparable, that they always exist simultaneously, and that their simultaneous existence lies at the core of all metaphysics. He furthermore stated that the simultaneous existence of oneness and many-ness is called Acintya in Sanskrit, which means “inconceivable”. Inconceivability implies that this aspect of reality is inconceivable to the human and finite mind, and transcends the principles of logic. The philosophy of Caitanya has been formulated in Sanskrit as “Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva”. Acintya means inconceivable, Bhedabheda means simultaneous oneness and many-ness, and Tattva means principle or truth.

The problem is, of course, that if we abandon and ignore the principles of logic, then we may be forced to accept any irrational worldview, and loose our ability to analyze and verify scientific and philosophical theories. For logic lies at the core of all philosophy and science. The principle of Caitanya however, makes a noticeable difference, in that Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva should not be considered ‘illogical’, but rather it should be considered ‘supralogical’. The difference is that while a supralogical principle may appear to defy the laws of logic, the principle itself can be perceived and verified by means of direct perception, and has an empirical foundation. As such the principle of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva can be observed in many phenomenon and occurrences in this world.

A good example is the perception of a red rose. As mentioned before, the discussion on one-ness versus many-ness has extended itself to all aspects of philosophy and science. In the western tradition, two schools of thought emerged on the issue of the relation between substance and its qualities. One school, called the realists, founded by the Greek philosopher Plato, stated that qualities and substance are in fact two different realities. E.g. Plato postulated that there is such a thing as universal ‘redness’, that becomes superimposed along with other universal qualities, on a particular material substance, thereby creating a red rose. Plato therefore viewed qualities and substance as being different. Many centuries later another school of thought emerged, called the nominalists, that disagreed with Plato, and postulated that a quality can never be separated from its substance, and that quality and substance are in fact one and the same. This discussion is a very good example of the paradox inherent in the relation between a substance and its qualities. The fact is, that they are simultaneously one and different, and that while this may transcend, or defy, the laws of logic, our perception of the red rose confirms the principle.

Another example is the spatial perception of an object, say a coin. While the coin is one, it has many sides, an inside as well as an outside, an upside and down side. These different sides establish an element of many-ness within the object, that is simultaneously perceived as one object.

In modern physics the relation between particles and fields has been a subject of many discussions. Scientists have observed that a field, or wave, sometimes behaves like a continuum of energy (oneness), and other times behaves like a stream of finite particles (many-ness). The phenomena has in fact been named “wavicles” clearly establishing the simultaneous oneness and many-ness of these manifestations of energy. The discussion reflects the underlying principle of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva. Following this theme, modern physics leans towards a worldview whereby the universe is seen as a unified field of energy, from which finite particles, in the shape of matter, emerge as a continuous process of creation. These finite particles can at any time revert back to their non-finite energetic state, which paints a picture of oneness (the field) and many-ness (particles) continually interchanging, and in fact simultaneously coexisting.

There are in fact many more examples that could be adduced to illustrate the principle of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva, and that confirm the principle by means of direct perception. As such the principle is not illogical, but should be defined as ‘supra-logical’, transcending the limitations of the finite human mind.

Ultimately the philosophy of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva explains the relationship between God and His creation, and more specifically, it also explains the relationship between God and living entities, such as ourselves. The philosophy of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva states that this relationship too, is characterized by simultaneous oneness and difference. We are one with God in a qualitative sense, however we are different quantitatively. In quantity God is infinite and we are finite. It is therefore a mistake to assume, as some Indian schools of thought have advocated, that man is identical to God, and fundamentally one with Him in every respect. We are not God, merely small parts of God, with a limited degree of independence.

Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva also sheds light on the identity of God Himself. It maintains that while God is a transcendental Person, he is simultaneously impersonal as well. The relationship between the personal and impersonal too has been the subject of many philosophical arguments. While consciousness and form represent the personal aspect of God, infinity and all-pervasiveness represent the impersonal aspect, which attributes appear contradictory. Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva maintains that they both exist simultaneously, and that they complement each other. God is simultaneously full of form and formless, finite and infinite, personal and impersonal.

The philosophy of Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva, as expounded by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, therefore represents a revolutionary new paradigm in our ability to understand reality, and it in fact resolves many of the apparently irresolvable paradoxes that have dominated philosophy and metaphysics in the east and the west for thousands of years.

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.