Archive for October, 2010

Kartik vrata begins: Japa Thoughts

October 29th, 2010

October 23, 2010
Sri Govardhana

Kartik vrata begins:

Japa Thought I:

The mantra is my heart, a call for service.
The mantra is my Lord, the object of service.
The mantra is my prayer, a longing for Krishna.
The mantra is Krishna, the aim of yearning.
The mantra as the means,
The mantra as the end,
Either way I humbly pray for service

Japa Thought II:

Chant and feel Krishna in the form of sound
To feel for Krishna is the awakening of the soul
Chanting, feeling and searching for Krishna
Chanting, feeling and searching for oneself
All in the holy names

Japa Thought III:

What is feeling the mantra? You can think of something or you can feel something. When you think of something there is more a tendency to project your own frame of reference and skew the experience of the object. Feeling the mantra is thus trying to experience the mantra without projecting your conditioned conception on it. Of course, cognition is there in any experience. Feeling the mantra, however, is consciously trying the let the mantra impact us without the limits of interpretation. It is mindfully tasting the name.

Thoughts On Entering Vrindavana

October 26th, 2010

October 14, 2010
Sri Vrindavana

Thoughts on entering Vrindavana:

As a man dying of thirst in the desert finds an oasis, as a man with an apparently incurable disease finds the cure… Viswanath Cakravarti describes the feelings of a conditioned soul awakening in Goloka Vrindavana after achieving perfection. Maybe not like that, but I certainly feel relief – great relief – to be in the land of Vraja.

Vrindavana is my home. On entering the cul-de-sac to my Vrindavana place, I see Balaram Baba. He greets me affectionately and insists I immediately take prasadam. I have lived here more than half of my life – that's more than any other place. So many friends, so many affectionate greetings, and so many people who love Krishna are here.

I expected to find Vrindavana covered by urban sprawl and all else that Kali offers. Today I don't see it. I see loving souls and the spirit of devotion. I roll in the dust. I bathe in the Yamuna.

I honor Aindra Prabhu. Twice a day I attend the 24 hour kirtan. I miss him, but his spirit is there in those determined to take up his mission. Some beautiful kirtans continue by his grace.

I vow that while in Vrindavana I will just take food when it comes by Krishna's mercy. Today I am invited for the incomparable maha prasadam from the raja bhoga cooked by Bhuvanesvara. Heavenly figs unexpectedly arrive sent from my friends in Croatia. And then there is a late afternoon invitation to join Indradyumna Swami for his Radha Govinda maha prasadam when he returns from Govardhana parikrama. Wow! Homemade ice cream. Milk sent from the goshalla. So much prasadam. I am forced to honor, not gorge. “No one starves in my village,” Gopal tells Madhavendra Puri at Govinda Kunda. I believe it.

A good welcome this time. I call it happy mercy, but all mercy, whether happy or not, is mercy; it pulls us back to the lotus feet of Krishna. Late morning I walked the parikrama path to the Radha Damodar Temple to pray and chant at Their renowned courtyard of sacred tombs (samadhis). At Sri Jiva's, a sadhu points with a wagging finger of warning at my glasses. My heart drops. I grab them in relief and tuck them away, admonishing myself, “How could I forget to put my glasses away in the very place where monkeys prey on foolish pilgrims in their bananas for glasses scam?” I reflect on my fortune, “How was it possible that I walked the most notorious section of monkey land in Vrindavana with my glasses still intact. Unprecedented!” An unusually good welcome. Happy mercy!

Yoga Made Easy by Music: How Kirtan Works

October 14th, 2010

(Kirtan refers to devotional singing, but it also refers to the recitation of spiritual poetry and drama or even just speaking about spiritual subjects. In the school of Śrī Caitanya, when devotional singing is done in a group with musical accompaniment it is specifically called sankirtan; the prefix “san” comes from samyak, which means “complete”. It is called sankirtan, or complete, as the group experience of kirtan is more absorbing and moving than the individual one. For the purpose of distinguishing group from individual kirtan, when I refer to devotional singing and music in a congregation I will use the word “sankirtan”, although it is commonly known as just kirtan.)

I was happy to read that “sankirtan (chanting with others) is superior even to kirtan (chanting alone) because it produces such extraordinary feelings”.[1] That has always been my conviction, but here was a declarative statement by Śrī Jiva Gosvāmī, one of the greatest Vaiṣṇava scholars in his classic work Śrī Bhakti Sandarbha.

Although I was happy to find a supportive statement for the magnificence of sankirtan, the question still remained, why? Why does sankirtan produce such extraordinary feelings? Luckily the answer came soon. While thumbing casually through a book containing the personal correspondence of my spiritual master, Śrīla Prabhupāda, I chanced upon the following statement:

“The hearing tendency is made easy and still more favorable by songs and music of spiritual value to be equally shared by all classes of men namely the highest educated and the lowest illiterate.” [2]

The answer was simple and clear: “hearing made easy by music!” The test of any meditational practice is its ability to facilitate focus on the object of one’s mediation, usually a mantra that is heard. As proper melody and rhythm spontaneously allure the mind, mantra couched in music naturally makes mantra meditation easier. And as the focus in sankirtan is the very object of the practitioner’s devotion (the divine names of God), extraordinary feelings, such as devotion and joy, naturally arise as one’s meditation deepens. Continue Reading »