Archive for July, 2004

Purusottama Journal | July 15th-30th

July 30th, 2004

Author?s Note: Approximately every three years on the Indian lunar calendar a leap year, called Purusottama, is added. It is considered very auspicious, much like Karttik, where completing spiritual vows accrues immense spiritual benefit. Throngs of pilgrims, hundreds of thousands, thus flock to Vrindaban this month. In this regard, the vow to complete dandavat parikram (prostrated obeisances around Vrindaban) has become increasingly popular. I see pilgrims doing it everyday while walking to and from the temple on the parikrama path. I?ve especially noticed a lot of youth there, mostly below fourteen. It seems to have become like a fad for them. Thousands are prostrating themselves in the mud of the parikram road. I sense in them the bravado of boys meeting a physical challenge. As I walk by, I thus occasionally nod in appreciation. They smile or gesture in return. I have my own chanting vow, but mostly I am studying and teaching Sri Bhakti Sandarbha. I still, however, have some time to jot down a few journal notes to share with you. The first are below. More will come.

Purusottama Journal

July 15-July 30th, 2004
Sri Vrindaban Dham

Two thoughts on my way to Vrindavan by the main highway from Delhi:

Thought 1: I can feel the pressure of the Dham even before reaching her borders. What is that pressure? The pressure is bhagavat dharma?putting Krishna in the center of our lives. Without putting Krishna in the center our lives twenty-fours a day, there is no meaning to ?I am a resident of Vrindaban?.

Thought 2: It?s the rainy season in vraja, one of its six distinct seasons. The effects of the changing seasons can be used for spiritual life. For example, in the winter one is forced to spend more time at home, which is good for introspection. Similarly, in the rainy season sannyasi?s traditionally settled in holy places, as the rains made their wanderings difficult, if not impossible. They took advantage of the season to regulate and increase their spiritual practices. Things are different today, but I see no harm in keeping the traditional spirit of the season by coming here to regulate and increase my spiritual practices. I look forward to it. (July 15th)

Vrindaban life: I take the taxi from the airport right to the bank of the Yamuna for an auspicious bath, before doing anything else. It?s my habit. The rains have not come. The water is warm and shallow. I walk to mid-stream and wade alone for quite some time gazing at the Kesi Ghat skyline. Again, home at last! (July 15th)

Vrindaban Life: At evening aratik a god-brother informs me that our god-sister, Mulaprakrti dd, has passed away. He invites me to a memorial for her that evening at Srila Prabhupada?s house.

Mulaprakrti is one of a group of god-sisters who dedicated themselves to book distribution in LA. They would try to go out every day of the week for nearly twelve hours, and she, I am told, was one of the best them. Their austerities weren?t artificial. They had a deep conviction, perhaps even from past lives, to dedicate themselves to guru, to sacrifice on his behalf. I think if there was some other motive, the result of their austerities would not have been Vrindaban. Their dedication to Sri Caitanya?s mission brought practically all of them here, either to reside, or to leave their body. Having lived here in Vraja myself, I know many of them. I can attest to their sincerity and remarkable service attitude. There is a lesson to be learned here from devotees like Mulaprakrti, and Gauri devi dasi (another LA Sankirtan god-sister who successfully left this world in Vrindaban):

Never underestimate the power of service and sacrifice to the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu under the blessings of Srila Prabhupada. (July 17th)

Sadhus of Vrindaban: Staying this year at Giriraja Swami?s small house/ashram in the giriraja bagiccha (garden), a cul-de sac just off the parikram path. It?s old vraja, just sadhus and ashrams. Across from me is Balaram Baba?s ashram, a small ashram, more like a modest house, but dedicated to kirtan and sadhu seva.

For this month Balarama Baba is feeding a minimum of over five hundred sadhus and pandits daily, sometimes even a thousand. He personally invites me also. At eleven in the morning, the prasadam is served conveniently outside our gate on the small eight foot wide brick path that winds through this small neighborhood. It?s served through out the small twelve house/ashram neighborhood on every path, in every little ashram, even the small goshalla to the back of me, and will be served every day this month. I honor the prasadam with the local Sanskrit students in the front courtyard of Sivaram/Govinda Swami?s house, a more peaceful setting to take.

Balarama Baba, graying, but not yet fifty, works hard, but remains jolly. He wear?s only a short white lungi rolled just below his bare chest with only a cell phone half tucked into his lungi, hanging from his neck by a cord necklace. Today thick wads of five rupee notes also are tucked all around his lungi, a real money belt. He walks briskly through the crowd, up and down the aisles, quickly dealing the notes, like playing cards, into each sadhus lap. Plop!-Five rupees in mine- How embarrassing! An ?ugly American? eats with poor sadhus, and gets charity too!

The prasadam is clean, very expertly served, and tasty, but can I eat puris and sweets everyday? I take mostly the rice, dahl and subji. I feel at home with the sadhus and brijabasi?s. I pray to become one. (July 18th)

Vrindaban thoughts: The law of co-incidence as a proof of God?s existence: Co-incidence means related incidences that have coincided supposedly by chance, despite the high improbability of them doing so. When we have multiple co-incidences, the probability of them being by chance becomes highly improbable, almost impossible. At least the likelihood of them coming together by some supreme intelligent force is far more probable than the odds of them coming together randomly. (July 20th)

Vrindaban life: Go the Yamuna with Bhurijana for a late afternoon bath. We also sit in the middle of her shallow waters, and gaze at the Kesi Ghat skyline. Wonderful, purifying, refreshing, no need to speak much, but Bhurijana shares a thought:

ISKCON life has at times been complex and difficult, but we got Vrindaban by that life, a wonderful and undeniable spiritual experience. It is Prabhupada that gave us that life, a life that brought us to Vrindaban. His potency and mercy can?t be denied. We remain eternally indebted. (July 22nd)

Japa thoughts: I pray deeply for perfection. I then hesitate. Perfection means becoming a devotee, meaning being only for Krishna. What would Krishna have to do to give me perfection? Am I ready to give up everything independent of Him? Do I want those things and attachment pulled away suddenly by force to fulfill my prayer? I pray deeply for perfection, but do I deeply pray for perfection? (July 25th)

Bhagavatam thought: Read today that the demigods fear that the devotees will go beyond them to the Lord?s abode by worshipping Him. They thus place obstacles before the devotees. The devotees, however, are protected by the Lord, crossing over those obstacles by using them as steppingstones. My own thought: How is the devotee protected? The Lord gives the devotee the knowledge and realization to use whatever apparent obstacles that have come to bring the devotee closer to Him. It is fact. Everything in our destiny is favorable as long as we have the knowledge and realization to learn the lesson of destiny. (July 27th)

Japa thought: Mantra cleans the heart. Today, I get a glimpse of myself, beyond any pretense. It?s bitter sweet. I see myself and feel bad about it. Humbling oneself before Krishna, however, is the taste of devotion. (July 30th)

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Did Sri Caitanya Appear to Taste Spinach?

July 20th, 2004

Sri Vrindaban

There is a range for creative speculation in Krishna consciousness. We may conjecture how the conclusions of sastra are true. This scope gives more leeway for the expressions of rasa , the flavor of the Absolute Truth.

For example, when I was at the home of an aristocratic Bengali Vaisnava, the lady of the house responded to my heartfelt appreciation of the many delicious Bengali preparations at dinner, especially sak, by suddenly describing her own idea of why Sri Caitanya appeared. Her theory, whether literally true or not, definitely added some savor (rasa) to my understanding about Mahaprabhu?s appearance:

?God also liked the many varieties of Bengali Prasad. That?s why he appeared as Sri Caitanya.” Lord Krishna relished the simple sak (spinach) at the home of his devotee Vidura, over the royal fare offered by King Duryodhana. Yes, it?s right there in Mahabharat, ?sak?! Sri Krishna thought, ?Here in the North you seldom get such nice vegetable offerings like this tasty sak. Mostly we get only aloo gobhi (cauliflower and potatoes). In Bengal, however, so many varieties of succulent subji grow. I?m tired of just puris, rotis, a little subji and so many heavy sweets! Let me take birth there.?

Eating all those delectable subji?s I couldn?t agree with her more!

I added my own thought on the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, but inspired from a statement in sastra (Jaiva Dharma):

“The tenderness of the heart experienced towards Krishna is known as bhakti. All other jivas are servants of Krishna, and tenderness towards them is compassion (daya).” Jaiva Dharma p. 206

My idea on Sri Caitanya?s appearance was based on the above inspiration:

Radha and Krishna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are the exact same original personality of Godhead, only Their mood is different. When the mood of madhurya (the sweetness in intimate relation) predominates, the original Godhead is known as Radha/Krishna. When audarya (magnanimity) predominates the same Godhead is called Sri Caitanya. These are the two original and full complementary manifestations of Godhead.

It should not be surprising that a change in mood can alter ones physical appearance. For instance?happiness makes one more beautiful. We become red with rage and pale with fright.

In the same way, the original personality of Godhead has two different appearances according to his frame of mind; Sri Caitanya when over-flowing with magnanimity; Radha/Krishna when overflowing with the sweetest intimate love .

As the mood of overflowing magnanimity marks the manifestation of Sri Caitanya, to understand the cause of His appearance we have to understand the cause of that magnanimity. As these transformations in mood are all of the same original personality of Godhead (svayam bhagavan) we must first clearly understand the meaning of svayam bhagavan to understand the cause of that magnanimity.

Svayam bhagavan means God when God is most Himself. One is most oneself when one?s heart is fully open in reciprocation to the most intimate and intense love. Such love also needs the encouragement of the most intimate setting. Svayam Bhagavan is thus Sri Krishna, God at home in Sri Vrindaban, wholly reciprocating the perfect love of the Brijbasi?s, his most intimate associates, by opening his heart and giving Himself fully to them.

One?s heart cannot remain open, however, if marred by selfishness. God at the acme of His open heart (svayam bhagavan) must thus also have compassion for those suffering bereft of that love. Even a tinge of callousness closes the heart to perfect love. Svayam Bhagavan must therefore be the giver of love to remain the enjoyer of love. Sri Caitanya is thus Sri Krishna when out of compassion He reflects on those bereft of that love. And Navadvipa is that same Vrindaban transformed to facilitate that overflowing grace.

In conclusion, magnanimity (audarya) is the cause of Sri Caitanya, not in the sense that it precedes His being, in the sense that it is the very essence and mood of His being.

Magnanimity, the cause of Sri Caitanya, also tells us something very important about attaining love of God:

As pure love leads to pure compassion, since it is the same tender heart towards Krishna just reflected to the living entities, pure compassion also helps bring us to pure love, as it is the same tender heart towards the living entities just reflected back to Krishna. Embracing the mood of Lord Caitanya, by serving his mission of sacrifice and compassion, thus naturally prepares one to become a resident of Vrindaban, as it cultivates the heart of a Brijabasi, one of tenderness and sacrifice. Simply put, the giver of love is well suited to become the enjoyer of that love.

All our great teachers thus inform us that Daya (compassion) gives us special access to Bhakti (pure love).

?When one dives deeply into the ocean of Gaura-prema, and swims in the waves that ocean, one immediately becomes one of the confidential associates of Radha and Krishna. (Srila Narottama das Thakur)

?Showing compassion to the living entities by giving them the holy name of Krishna is the essence of all religion.? (Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur)

?Preaching is the essence? (Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami)

Conclusion: There is certainly flavor in the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu!

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