Archive for October, 2002

Govardhana Vrindaban Mysteries II Full

October 30th, 2002

Govardhana

Vrindaban Mysteries II

Full parikrama today.

Highlights:
The old Narasimha temple: I’ve gone on Govardhana-parikrama many times, but I’ve never visited the old temple of Narasimha on the far side of Apsara-kunda. This surprises me because it is a substantial temple, like a small fort on a hill, with a winding brick road twisting up to the entrance leading to a courtyard with one of the best views of Govardhana Hill. The temple is run by a very old saintly pujari, at least in his 80s, and presumably unmarried (he lives there alone). Not many people come here, so he must have a very solitary life, although he seems quite satisfied. To take up the life of a pujari in a remote temple with few, if any, visiting pilgrims, is sort of a declaration that material life is finished. Such a resolve is tempting, attractive. I’ve thought about it, but I am too restless.

At the Narasimha temple, I had what I call an internal potency experience. Not that I experienced an infusion of devotional ecstasy, the real internal potency experience, but it’s what I call such an experience for lack of a better word for it. My “internal potency” experiences happen occasionally on parikrama. It goes like this:

You enter a sacred place, a temple, or a lila-sthan (a place of the Lord’s pastimes) without a particular plan to do so–often by just seeing a temple or on the unplanned invitation of a friend who has been there before. You enter the place and begin chanting and reading and also relating with the residents there. From the moment you enter, you lose sight of time and make no plans on what to do. You follow what is dictated by circumstance and become absorbed in the devotional atmosphere and activities. Although there is no sense of schedule, at a particular time you leave, also without a plan. You feel elated and uplifted, but shortly after leaving, you again gain orientation on your timetable for the day, including the anxiety of attempting to control one’s life independent of God’s will. You reflect in contrast to the moments before when there was no sense of time, just absorption in the internal potency. Finally you realize just how much most of one’s life is dictated, sometimes very subtly, according to one’s ego, the desire to enjoy and control, and not by the direction of the intelligence or the Lord in the heart.

Omen at Rasa-sthali: Walking north on the parikrama path from the Narasimha temple I honor the rock candy given by the Narasimha pujari. To wash our hands, Vaiseseka Prabhu and I turn into the Rasa-sthali forest area (the place of Radha-Krishna’s spring rasa dance) where there is a water tap on the outside wall of the fortress-like temple compound. Before leaving, Vaiseseka Prabhu looks above the tap on the wall to decipher a saying written in Hindi. All of thesudden, I see an unusual furry ball whiz above his head. It happened so fast I thought that someone had thrown something, but it’s alive. A bird crashes against the wall, falls to the ground, quivers for a moment, and stops. It’s dead!

Eerie! I can’t help but think what all this means. Is it as simple as a random bird’s death? And if it is, then why did this happen right as we entered the solitary forest? Is there something more to this omen? We continue our walk. Vaiseseka gets the message we need to hear, regardless of what this unusual incident is meant to envisage for us. “Just see how flickering this world is!”

We continue walking north through monkey-land on the west side of Govardhana. In the distance a monkey holds her limp young chimp–another unusual sight. She puts her baby down. It’s dead! Whew! I have never seen even one death in countless parikramas, but now two in five minutes. Strange! What does this mean?

Vaiseseka spontaneously quotes in Sanskrit from the Bhagavatam, and then translates: “Four things give us evidence of the flickering nature of this world: hearing, direct experience, inference, and traditional wisdom.”

Today we are learning of the temporal nature of this world by direct experience. But are we actually learning? A little more than a year ago I was in lower Manhattan when the World Trade Center collapsed. If a whole city didn’t get the message of this “flickering world,” and I didn’t get the message, then what will I learn now from a kamikaze bird at Rasa-sthali?

He quotes again: “There is one thing to forget and two things to remember. Forget what you have done for others. Remember what others have done for you. And remember death!”

Prema-pujari: Further down on the western side of Govardhana Hill, just before Radha-kunda, we briefly pay our respects to Uddhava Bihari, the place where Uddhava, overwhelmed by the standard of prema (love of Godhead) of the residents of Vrindaban–especially the gopis–prays to be a lump of grass in Vrindaban so the dust of the gopis would grace his head. Sitting before the Deities is the humble pujari who has been serving Uddhava Biharaji for over 50 years. There hasn’t been a time yet on parikrama where I haven’t met our friendly pujari, sitting in the same place, peacefully serving out caranmrita (the water which has bathed Uddhava Bihari). I greet him warmly, as I always do. He smiles, hugs me, and then embraces Vaiseseka. I ask for a blessing. As I bend at the waist, he places his two hands with extended palms over my head rocking back and forth in a gesture of blessings. As his hands gently pat my shoulders, he speaks sweetly and repeatedly in broken English, with perhaps the only words he knows:

“Happy! Happy!”

Vaiseseka admires the simplicity and purity of the pujari’s blessings, and smiling in heartfelt appreciation, says, “What a nice thing to say!”

Brisk pace: Vaiseseka Prabhu, my companion today, has set a blistering four-hour pace. I have to trot occasionally to keep up with his long powerful strides, but I follow, and it goes surprisingly well. We left at 5:15 AM, stopped at the Narasimha Temple by Apsara-kunda, briefly visited Uddhava Bihari, bathed in Radha-kunda, had kirtan at Harideva, and we’ve still returned by 10 AM. A great start to the day.

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Govardhan Vrindaban Mysteries I When

October 27th, 2002

Govardhan

Vrindaban Mysteries I

When Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu was here two years ago he commented with a twist of irony, “We need a group of devotees who do nothing!” I surmise he was appreciating the idea that, in order to give spiritual strength and credibility to ISKCON, devotees are needed to focus exclusively on their spiritual practices–at least for some time of the year. That’s what’s happening here.

Of course, sadhana-bhakti can be hard work, but it is internal work. Because not much happens externally while chanting, and because what happens internally is not always relevant for the public, I became concerned over whether or not I could make the journal enlivening for the devotees this month–or whether or not it should continue during Kartik. Subtly, I think I wished for some action.

I was in Vrindaban this morning in order to, among other things, meet a friend who was coming in for only one day. This would quite possibly be my only trip outside of Govardhan this month. When I arrived at my friend’s house, I was informed that he was delayed for several hours. I thus walked over to the temple to wait and chant at Srila Prabhupada’s samadhi. As I was approaching the temple gate Indradyumna Swami, who was also in Vrindaban only for the day, was mounting a bicycle rikshaw with his servant. I greeted him and he excitedly responded:

“I just found out that it’s the disappearance of Narottama dasa Thakur! We’re going to the Brij Mohan Mandir to see his original deities from Kheturi. Please come.”

He then explained a little bit about those deities:

“After Lord Caitanya left this world, Srila Narottama dasa Thakur organized the original Gaura Purnima festival at Kheturi in West Bengal. His aim was to solidify Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission. With this in mind, he made several sets of deities to distribute to various centers of Gaudiya Vaishnavism around India. After the Kheturi festival, Narottama dasa sent Sri Sri Radha-Brij Mohan along with Their paraphernalia by boat to a Gaudiya Vaishnava from Vrindaban who had agreed to worship Them and had perhaps even attended the Kheturi festival.”

I won’t elaborate on today’s adventure in depth since Indradyumna Swami will most likely describe the day in detail in his own journal, but I will relate something about our interesting and fateful visit to Sri Sri Radha-Brij Mohan.

I immediately agreed to Maharaja’s offer and left with him and three of his disciples. Brij Mohan is on the far side of Vrindaban past the famous South Indian Rangaji Mandir. It’s the quiet, old, and relatively clean Vrindaban; not the more modern and touristy Vrindaban that has built up around our temple. I haven’t been there in a while and I forgot how nice it was.

Brij Mohan is a small, quaint temple with an open courtyard, renovated with funds from Indradyumna Swami. It is managed by a cultured and pure-hearted young pujari and a small congregation of simple and pious Bengali Vaishnavas. Our program was also quite simple: darshan (seeing the Deities), kirtan (je anilo prema dhana), reading from Narottama dasa Thakur’s “Prema-Bhakti Candrika,” and short comments on its verses from Maharaja and myself.

In the middle of our readings Indradyumna Swami asked the pujari if he could show me the plate of Govardhan and Salagram silas (sacred stones) worshiped by Narottama dasa Thakur. This led the pujari to take Maharaja on a tour of the temple compound.

The Govardhan silas were not like any I have ever seen. They were so shiny that even Maharaja was sure that they had been waxed. They weren’t. It was just the effect of being massaged with high quality oil and bathed with scented water daily for over 500 years!

I sat in the courtyard chanting, and after some time, I went to search for Maharaja and the pujari. I found Maharaja with his disciple Douji Krishna (the 16 year-old daughter of my Godsister Daivi-Sakti) and the pujari all sitting in a small empty room to the left of the altar. The pujari was kneeling and holding the plate of silas in front of Maharaja. Maharaja was sitting in front of him looking at the plate tilted toward him. Douji Krishna sat between the pujari and Maharaja, translating their discussion. By the time I got there, Maharaja had evidently asked for one of Narottama’s silas and the pujari had agreed! Now, Maharaja was facing the fortunate dilemma of choosing which one to take. Maharaja just couldn’t decide and after asking for our opinions, narrowed his choice to two. Finally, he asked for both! Surprisingly, the humble pujari was quite accommodating and smiled in agreement by jerking his head slightly to the left. Maharaja took two small matching silas, each about one-inch square, to be his own main Deities. They will be worshiped as Sri Sri Radha-Brij Mohan.

I had a subtle desire this morning to have some drama to write about. It was a wonderful morning at the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha-Brij Mohan, the Deities of Narottama dasa Thakur, on the auspicious day of his disappearance.

After leaving Sri Sri Brij Mohan Mandir, I quickly returned to Govardhan, where I looked forward to another day of chanting and reading in my room. Giriraja fulfills all desires.

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Govardhana Japa Thoughts III Bhurijana

October 25th, 2002

Govardhana

Japa Thoughts III

Bhurijana Prabhu once described to me how living in Vrindaban is like having a mirror placed before your false ego (the pretense of thinking oneself other than a servant of God). How true!

This morning I was able to see myself, almost as if I was abstracted from myself, and watched as an observer. How foolish! I wanted to hide.

I also felt a slight sense of relief. It’s painful for the tiny soul to understand its charade as a big something, but liberating to realize that, in truth, we are utterly dependent on God. And our dependence allows us to experience His love as mercy flows toward those in need.

This dependent mood also invokes bhakti since there is no greater stimulus for love of God than His mercy. Humility is also the foundation of happiness because
bhakti, or love, is pleasure.

The humble position, which evokes God’s mercy, induces devotion, and inspires love (which is the source of pleasure), is therefore the only state of mind for an
enduring chanter.

“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street, more tolerant than the tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant constantly.”

When God is merciful, he lets us see our folly. Hare Krishna.

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Govardhana Vows By fate I

October 23rd, 2002

Govardhana

Vows

By fate I have been given an opportunity to concentrate on chanting and hearing without other responsibilities or distractions. In fact, most of the year, even while in America, I have few duties others than chanting, reading, and preaching. It’s a nice life. Still, I am hoping that the purification will qualify me to increase my contribution to Srila Prabhupada’s mission.

I am questioning how much I should write about my life here in Kartik. Since the purpose of making vows to intensify one’s spiritual practices is to advance one’s bhakti, or devotion, one should avoid advertising those vows if possible, since adoration and praise may come. Devotion can only arise from activities done in devotion, so creating a motive for one’s spiritual practices, such as prestige, can certainly ruin the spirit of one’s practices and the result as well. Vows should thus be performed solely for the pleasure of Krishna. And naturally, if we keep them to ourselves, it is much more likely that they can be done purely.

The world is set up by God to encourage sacrifice. Austerities are automatically rewarded by higher natural law. If we gain prestige by our austerities, then that may be all we are rewarded for our sacrifice, rather than the desired spiritual benefit.

Today at breakfast a devotee mentioned to another devotee that he was chanting 64 rounds. A visiting sadhu turned to me and said, “He is very compassionate, for if you tell someone your vow, they will get half the benefit and you will also only get half.”

I am reading an interesting book given to me as a gift last month about a Christian monk in the Fifth Century who outlined an arduous step-by-step process for attaining divine love. In this book, he describes the interesting phenomena of seemingly renounced spiritualists who, after renouncing the world to join the desert monks, gave up those virtues, revealing that their so-called spiritual qualities had actually been motivated by the adoration of the public. He
describes this as follows:

“We should investigate why those who have lived in the world and endured nightlong vigils, fasting, labors, and suffering, and then have withdrawn from their fellow men to monastic life, as of to a place of trail or an arena, no longer practice the fake and spurious asceticism. I have seen many different virtues planted by them in the world, watered by vanity as if by an underground cesspool, made to shoot up by love of show, manured by praise, and yet quickly withered when transplanted to desert soil, to where the world did not walk–that is, to where they were not manured with the foul-smelling water of vanity. The things that grow in water cannot bear fruit in dry and arid places.” (The Ladder of Divine Descent, p.82)

Of course, the purpose of his statement was not to encourage a renounced life, nor to imply that those who serve God actively are motivated, but to emphasize an important spiritual message relevant to all of us: Spiritual practices should be done for God’s pleasure.

Never seek (and even avoid) situations where your devotional service is praised.

Note: This doesn’t discount the fact that devotional service needs to be encouraged, especially at the beginning of one’s spiritual life. One time, in gurukula, a teacher complained to Srila Prabhupada that one boy was proud of excelling in Sanskrit. Srila Prabhupada responded, “He should be proud!”

October 20, 2002 Govardhana Note:

October 22nd, 2002

October 20, 2002
Govardhana

Note: I will try to write regularly from Govardhan, but I will not be able to make daily journal entries due to my other responsibilities for Kartik.

Japa Thoughts I

Indradyumna Swami invited me to come to his room every morning before mangala-arati to chant japa before his deities. I prefer to chant alone, but I took up his offer to get sadhu-sanga. Vaiseseka Prabhu, a saintly godbrother, was also invited. Like Maharaja, he is very much an all-American sadhu–pious, strong,
handsome, tall (three inches more than Maharaja), with a seemingly unbounded energy for devotional activities. I was happily dwarfed in their presence. With concentration, vigor, and devotion, they chanted. I was surprised how much that helped my own focus. Maharaja’s room is small and has three-foot thick walls. Inside one gets the distinct impression that the world outside cannot enter and the vibrations inside cannot leave. I felt as if the holy name was condensing and pressurizing the atmosphere within those walls, suffocating any distractions to the holy name. It’s not that I let my mind wander, but I felt relaxed, as if there was nothing else to wander to but the holy name.

Recommendation: Create a sacred space for chanting where externally the mind can only wander to Krishna, preferably in the association of spiritually enlivened devotees. Enhance that atmosphere, if necessary, with the sound of pure devotees chanting, like Srila Prabhupada’s japa tape.

Japa Thoughts II

I started chanting very carefully and slowly. I was hearing nicely, but was surprised that I barely chanted four rounds in a half hour. By the end of my japa period, I noticed I was chanting nearly 6 rounds an hour and was hearing even better, but with less effort. I noticed that when I began I was very concentrated, in somewhat of a yogic way, on my dhrti, or determination, subduing the mind by the force of the will. At the end, however, I noticed I was more concentrated on the heart, my attitude, and my mood. My simple realization is that although it is important to take to chanting as a discipline, it is just as important to be cultivate and be conscious of the mood in which one is chanting–especially humility.

This realization was later confirmed today in my reading of Brhad-Bhagavatamrta. In order to highlight the glories of the Pandavas and how the Supreme Lord reciprocated with them in a very personal manner because of their spontaneous devotion, Narada Muni briefly describes, in contrast, the mechanical way in which Brahma and other demigods petitioned the Lord from the shore of the milk ocean. Despite strict vows, restricted eating, and stringent withdrawal of all external functions, the Lord did not answer the prayers of the demigods in person as he did the Pandavas. He spoke to them only through the heart of Brahma, which he heard only as voice from the sky.

The moral of the story is summarized nicely in the commentary, quite akin to my realization this morning:

“From this experience, recorded in the Tenth Canto, first chapter, of Srimad Bhagavatam, the demigods learned that mechanical meditation is not an effective means for achieving personal association with the Supreme Lord.” (B.B. 5.10, commentary)

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Govardhana Arrived from Vrindavan to

October 17th, 2002

Govardhana

Arrived from Vrindavan to Govardhana.

The holy dhama, especially Govardhana, is potent. It seems that obstacles to spiritual life are removed by just living here, but without offense.

Being in the presence of Govardhana humbles me, but I feel satisfied in my insignificance, which makes life so easy, because that’s what I am–insignificant.

Only when we are satisfied with the present can we be free from passion, which casts us to the future, and from ignorance, which projects us to the past. Of course, I am not satisfied. How can one so far from Krishna, with so many impurities, be satisfied? But I am content that what I need to become successful as a devotee is here, this instant, at Govardhana, independent of my destiny, past, or future.

His Holiness Indradyumna Swami is here for the winter, also living in one of the five turrets of the palace renovated into small single room dwellings for prayer.
He looks quite thin, but healthy–down nearly 40 pounds from his visit to the US last spring! We meet in the afternoon and I inquire about his austere diet. He talks about a permanent change, for his health and spirituality, of a simpler renounced life. He repeatedly quotes from “his new mission statement,” the direct instructions of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu to Raghunatha dasa Gosvami on the duties of the renounced order:

“Do not talk like people in general or hear what they have to say. You should not eat palatable food, nor should you dress very nicely. Do not expect honor, but you should offer all respects to others. Always chant the holy name of Krishna, and within your mind render service to Radha-Krishna in Vrindaban.”

Of course, Maharaja has always been an ideal sannaysi, pushing on the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu at great personal sacrifice. His preaching will still remain as vigorous as ever, but age, health, and the personal fruit of his preaching–attachment to the holy name–is dictating a more simple and traditional lifestyle. He speaks with conviction and I am convinced by the power of his words and the purity of his presence. I must also be more determined to represent the legacy of tridandi-sannyasa. I hope he has won a convert.

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Vasant Falls, New York Taking

October 5th, 2002

Vasant Falls, New York

Taking the mood of the spiritual master
Disciple means one who takes the mood of his guru. A friend of mine recently told me a story concerning His Grace Aindra Prabhu that took place 10 years ago, when they were practically the only devotees left in Vrindaban during the summer for the 24-hour kirtan. He related how, one evening, Aindra came into his room and threw his japa beads on the bed, groaning with sincere self-disparagement, “363 rounds behind! I have no taste for chanting!”

My friend thought to himself. “No taste for chanting? He is chanting day and night in the temple kirtan, practically without rest. No wonder he is behind in his japa!” My friend was relating this story to me to show how different spiritually advanced disciples of Srila Prabhupada have diverse tastes for service. He then used the example of His Holiness Mahanidhi Swami, another Vrindaban sadhu, who was fully immersed in japa meditation, in contrast to Aindra who was so deep in kirtan. I added that His Holiness Niranjana Swami is constantly traveling and preaching about the holy name, His Holiness Radhanatha Swami leads ecstatic nocturnal kirtans, and His Grace Bhurijana Prabhu is absorbed in the Bhagavatam, but all are sincerely serving their spiritual master and becoming attached the holy name. If we see a quality or devotional proclivity in the spiritual master, then certainly we can imbibe that, but more important is to absorb their core mood of surrender to the mission of Srila Prabhupada. Today I want to clearly outline what that core mission is so that my disciples may meditate on it clearly, for often our conception of his mission becomes skewed by our own attachments. The outline I am presenting, one I feel distinctly represents Srila Prabhupada’s mission and thus, obviously, mine, was not, however, written by him. It is the upadeshavali, the mission statement, of his Godbrother and sannyasa-guru, Srila Bhaktipranjan Kesava Maharaja. When I read it, however, I am confident that it will resonate in your hearts as a thoughtful and clear exposition of the mission of our acaryas as exemplified by Srila Prabhupada. I am not giving his full mission statement but a few salient points. I have also edited them.

Vasant Falls, New York Chanting

October 4th, 2002

Vasant Falls, New York

Chanting the Holy Name
I have a friend who is an older Irish Catholic priest. We occasionally discuss spirituality. He laments that his congregation sees God as just an order supplier. He has recently invited me to come to his church to give a sermon on adoration, the devotional side of religion. Speaking with him concerned me that, unless we focus more on the holy name in our own Krishna conscious life, we will become just another religion rather than a mystical or internal process of self-realization. I realize that I also need to speak more about this to the devotees, that we are not just church-goers, but yogis–at least for a small part of the day.

Obviously this is too vast a subject to speak about properly in such a short time. The day after Vyasa-puja, I will hold a short seminar on the topic for some of my disciples. Next year, I plan to hold a small retreat dedicated to the holy name for all those interested. It is difficult to internally develop our Krishna consciousness in the midst of a culture surcharged with opposition to our values, especially while struggling with the problems of family, work, and social life. Perhaps some devotees residing in vibrant congregations like 2nd Avenue or Towaco can do this, but I think it is also necessary to make times of the year specifically for our internal development–times like our Mayapur/Vrindaban pilgrimage, our visits to Gita-nagari or New Vrindaban, or maybe small retreats dedicated to making observable spiritual advancement based on japa meditation and kirtan.

I’ll just say a few words on the holy name.

I am your harinam guru. Thus, the basis of our relationship is the holy name. Yes, we discuss other things. I guide you, befriend you, and serve you, but a disciple should see all his interactions with guru for the purpose of bringing one gradually to the platform of pure chanting. I will be leaving for Govardhan in three days for my yearly japa retreat. More and more I am dedicating my life to krishna-kirtan. I implore you to take our process seriously and invite you to approach me to discuss chanting the holy name.

Just two suggestions here; one on the method of chanting and one on the mood of chanting:

Understand the term samskara. Samskara means the impressions in our consciousness from past experiences. Because we generally have not grown up very religiously, most of our samskaras are for sense gratification, proper and sinful, subtle and gross. As soon as such impressions enter the consciousness, they push to be filled with the same stimuli that created them. Therefore if we chant in an atmosphere that is not protected from such stimuli, our mind will be inevitably drawn toward our past samskaras, and attentive chanting will become impossible. Create a place and time in your home, free from distraction and reserved exclusively for japa meditation. A small temple room is best.

A message to parents, especially mothers. It is your duty to create the proper samskaras in your children so that, in the future, they will be spontaneously drawn to spiritual life. How fortunate is that child who grows up in a loving and caring home where the parents, especially the mother, worships the Supreme Lord, the Vaishnavas, and the holy name with regularity and devotion?

Krishna is nondifferent from His name, but the degree to which He manifests depends on our attitude.

The proper mood of chanting is one of faith in and surrender. Faith comes from association with those attached to the holy name, which means hearing from them and serving them. I have spent time preparing this talk for the festival only because of the opportunity it avails to foster faith but, in fact, there are so many opportunities throughout the year for sadhu-sanga–especially if you make sadhu-sanga a priority. If you want a taste for the holy name, pray for sadhu-sanga.

Our mood in chanting should be sarangati. The mood of saranagati is the firm vow to accept that which is favorable and reject that which is unfavorable to the holy name. Our full faith must be that Krishna is my only protector and maintainer, our firm commitment must be to the ideal that our only duty is His desire, and we must develop a happy resignation to ourinsignificance before God.

Especially, we need to be humble. Humility comes from selfless service. Is there any dearth of opportunity to attract Krishna’s mercy by serving others? We don’t have to be learned, austere, cultured, or fine to advance in spiritual life–only humble enough to realize our need for refuge and intelligent enough to turn to the spiritual master and the Supreme Lord for shelter.

Another favorite story: I’ve always appreciated the intimate relationship that His Holiness Giriraja Swami had with Srila Prabhupada, who seemed to love Giriraja as a son. I asked Giriraja Swami his secret in becoming such an object of Prabhupada’s mercy. In his slow, deliberate, but sweet manner, he replied, “I am just a mercy case!” What a wonderful process of self realization, where shortcomings become assets simply by realizing them. This was nicely explained in a short text by His Holiness Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Swami:

“If we truly feel ourselves to be low and in want, then the supply of mercy will come from a higher plane. Everything moves according to Krishna’s sweet will. Our problem is to draw his attention. This will be possible only by increasing our negative tendency, by proving to Krishna, in a bona fide way, that I am the most needy.” (Subjective evolution.)

Message: Make a place and time in your life, free from distraction, for attentive chanting. Take guidance from the spiritual master and the Vaishnavas on how to make a practical plan to deepen your internal spiritual life.

Vasant Falls, New York Worshiping

October 3rd, 2002

Vasant Falls, New York

Worshiping the Deities
I think there is a common misconception about Deity worship in reference to Srila Prabhupada’s statement that beginners can have the Deity of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai in their home because Their Lordships do not accept our offenses. The term aparadha, offense, literally means “actions that distance us from God.” Did Srila Prabhupada mean that we can be neglectful and careless in our worship of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai and it won’t affect our spiritual life? I don’t think so.

When Karl and Kelly asked His Holiness Bhaktividya Purna Maharaja if they should get simple home deities, he replied that they should consider the matter very soberly as Krishna is there in the form of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai and all His Deity manifestations. The Deity should never be neglected, just as we cannot forget to feed our own children or greet our best friend. Maharaja’s advice suits my New York City sense of logic. I think I’ve told many of you the story of when I took a wrong turn while driving–I think it was in Queens–and wound up at the entrance to the Queens Midtown Tunnel. There, the toll collector responded in disgust to my polite inquiry (“Sir, I think I am lost!”) with the declarative statement, “You are either lost or you’re not lost!”

So Krishna is either there or He is not there in His Deity form, and if He is there, He cannot be neglected without risk to our development in devotion.

Of course, Gaura-Nitai is unlimitedly merciful and you will not get the severity of reaction as when you neglect the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna, but still, if after inviting the Lord to your home you neglect Him, it will certainly hinder your progress in realizing His presence–whether it is His Deity, His dhama or His holy name.

Message: Gaura-Nitai is unlimitedly merciful and the minimum standard for His worship is very simple, but it must still be done with regularity, care, and devotion.

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Vasant Falls, New York Serving

October 2nd, 2002

Vasant Falls, New York

Serving a Devotee
Our process of self-realization is to continuously chant and hear about Krishna; it’s not an easy thing. In several places in Srimad Bhagavatam this process is outlined in detail, the most prominent being Suta Goswami’s analysis in the First Canto. After strongly affirming that the best way of enlightenment is to “always (nityada) and with one-pointed attention (ekena manasa) hear about, glorify, remember, and worship the Personality of Godhead” (Bhag. 1.2.14), Suta Goswami raises a doubt. If our process of self-realization requires such a profound attraction for chanting, won’t such a demand discourage people from taking up the process–even many devotees? If one has no taste, then how to attain one? He immediately responds to this query:
Serve the devotees!

“O twice-born sages, by serving those devotees who are completely free from vice, great service is done. By such service, one gains affinity for hearing the messages of Vasudeva.” (Bhag. 1.2.16)

Our process is so nice. It allows us to advance from our current stage of spiritual life, provided that we are humble, take shelter of devotees, and seek their guidance. Let me share with you just a few sentences from Srila Prabhupada’s purport on this verse.

“The servants of God come to propagate God consciousness and intelligent people should cooperate with them in every respect. By serving the servants of God one can please God more that by directly serving the Lord. The Lord is more pleased when He sees that His servants are properly respected because such servants risk everything for the service of the Lord and so are very dear to the Lord. The Lord declares in the Bhagavad-gita that no one is dearer to Him than one who risks everything to preach His glory. By serving the servants of the Lord, one gradually gets the quality of such servants, and thus one becomes qualified to hear the glories of God. The eagerness to hear about God is the first qualification of a devotee eligible for entering the kingdom of God [emphasis added].”

Message: Our advancement is marked by our attraction to hearing the Lord’s glories. One qualifies to hear by serving the devotees. We are fortunate that Srila Prabhupada gave us a mission to serve.

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