Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #30 – I Recommend this Book

July 22nd, 2024

As part of our Metro Mantra Sanga,[1] we hosted Hari-kirtana das for a weekend of programs to hear about his new book, Journey Into the Bhagavad Gita.[2] The programs were in an interview format. In both programs I questioned him extensively about his work. As a student of Gita and speaker and writer about its philosophy for many years myself, I was impressed with what he has accomplished—an accessible guide and rendition of the Gita imbued with his conviction of the power of its message.


I first questioned Hari-kirtana about the necessity for his Gita commentary, especially when Srila Prabhupada was already so successful in widely communicating the message of the book. He marveled at how successful Srila Prabhupada’s Gita was in attracting so many people, including himself, to fully commit to the Gita’s teachings and assist him in his mission. Yet Hari-kirtana was convinced by his years of experience as a wisdom teacher in the yoga world that many people in his western and contemporary audience needed a longer road to the Gita as an introduction to bhakti.


In the introduction to his book, Hari-kirtana clearly outlines the people he is targeting: the spiritual but not religious; those unfulfilled, wounded or abandoned by religion; those who are interested in principles of leadership and personal growth; and those who want to learn about yoga philosophy. He then describes for each what the Gita uniquely offers to those people if they can be convinced to enter the text. For example, he describes that for those disappointed with religion, “the Gita offers comprehensive answers to reasonable questions, deific opinions rather than commandments, and the voice of a patient and compassionate God who welcomes everyone.”


Hari-kirtana’s objective is to get these people to look at the world through the lens of the Gita with the confidence that they will get a profound clarity about what the world is and how to live in it. His challenge, as he sees it, is that the Gita’s philosophical worldview is so radically different from that of his contemporary western audience. He thus carefully educates his audience in the various philosophical concepts required to understand and appreciate the Gita’s worldview. Also, he helps a western contemporary audience to decipher the numerous references to people, relationships and events specific to Vedic culture that appear in the Gita.


As a writer, I appreciate a book that is focused, which means every chapter is relevant to a book’s theme, every paragraph is relevant to the chapter’s specific development of that theme, and every sentence is relevant to the paragraph’s development of the chapter. The book is exceptionally focused! Hari-kirtana credits the brilliant contribution of his wife, Elizabeth. She is a successful professional documentary film maker, expert at visual storytelling, and she gave constant critical input along his three-year journey to complete the text.


Let me finish by stating what I have gleaned as the book’s theme and briefly describe how the book is organized to develop it.


The purpose of this book is the give a western contemporary audience the tools to overcome the philosophical and cultural obstacles that challenge them to look, at least theoretically, at the world through the lens of the Gita so they may be able to experience its profound and convincing vision of reality.


Part One gives the reader the tools to become familiar with the Gita’s conceptual framework and guidance on how to follow and develop a deep sense of connection with the text.


Part Two offers a chaste rendition of the whole Gita within the limited frame of reference of his audience, who have been armed with the tools he has given them in Part One. I believe it is the first presentation of the Gita with only the Sanskrit transliteration and English verses side by side without any break in between to enable his audience to more readably get the flavor and flow of each chapter. To facilitate this experience, there is a prelude to each chapter that puts it in the context of the overall current. Each prelude gives an overview of the specific topics covered in the chapter and even highlights for the reader specific significant passages to look out for.


In Part Three Hari-kirtana provides autobiographical stories to help the reader see how by seeing through the lens of the Gita, as he did, one can much better understand and practically navigate life in the modern world. He finishes by offering exploratory tools and practical suggestions for incorporating the Gita’s teachings into one’s life.


Metro Mantra Sangha felt honored to host Hari-kirtana and discuss his contribution to our Vaisnava lineage. The audience was enthralled by his presentation and lauded his mission in the service of Srila Prabhupada to help the western contemporary audience find a new perspective: “Instead of looking at the Gita through the lens that the world offers us, look at the world through the lens that the Bhagavad Gita offers us.”



[1] https://wavesofdevotion.com/2024/06/17/metro-mantra-sanga/


[2] Hari-kirtana das’s book, Journey Into the Bhagavad Gita, is available here. For more about Hari-kirtana das, you can visit his website.


Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #29 – Betrayed!

July 15th, 2024

Betrayed! [1]

Last week I wrote about expediency, but it was beyond the scope of the entry to illustrate the concept with an example. A discussion of how one responds to betrayal would be an excellent way to broach the subject of how dharma can be brushed aside to serve one’s immediate personal feelings. There seems to be no deeper hurt and stronger impetus to strike back with vengeance than when one’s trust is violated. How to deal with being betrayed? I think the story of Vidura illustrates that best.


Vidura was renowned for his good counsel. When King Dhrtārastra, his elder brother, calls upon him, Vidura strongly advises him to instruct his son Duryodhana to return the legitimate share of the kingdom, which he had illegally usurped, to his cousin Yudhiṣṭhira. He outlines in detail the ruin it would bring upon the king if this was not done. Duryodhana overhears the conversation and immediately threatens his uncle:


“Who asked him to come here, the son of a kept mistress? He is so crooked that he spies in the interest of the enemy against those on whose support he has grown up. Toss him out of the palace immediately and leave him with only his breath.” (Bhāgavatam 3.1.15)


How painful! Not only was he thrown out of the palace in his twilight years without any possessions, by a kingdom that he served so humbly and selflessly his whole life, but he was also deeply insulted. What was especially painful was that the accusations against him were partially true. Although Vidura shared the same father with Dhrtārastra, his mother was not the queen, but a maidservant. Vidura thus dropped his bow at the door and immediately left “being pierced by arrows through the ears and afflicted to the core of his heart” (Bhāgavatam 3.1.16). Yes indeed he was hurt, but how he dealt with his betrayal was exemplary.


The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam describes his attitude: “He was not sorry, for he considered the acts of the external energy to be supreme.” (Bhāgavatam 3.1.16) In other words, although Duryodhana betrayed him, he understood that nothing moves without the sanction of God. He thus saw the same energy that was moving Duryodhana to offense and destruction was giving him a greater opportunity to fully engage in devotional service.


The lesson from Vidura is clear. When betrayed, don’t only look at māyā as God’s energy which is entangling the person who is hurting you. See it also as His illuminating energy moving the world for your enlightenment. If you focus on māyā externally in terms of its illusory effect on your perpetrator, your bitterness and victimhood will only increase. If you see, however, that the same māyā is acting internally in terms of helping you to grow, your bitterness will reduce and your consciousness will elevate. In his purport to this verse, Śrīla Prabhupāda describes how Vidura was able to properly observe the workings of God’s energy: “Māyā, the supreme energy of the Lord acted both internally and externally”.[2]


I was also reminded of Socrates in the matter of viewing betrayal in this way. After serving his country by virtue of his wisdom and example, the government turns on him. He is falsely accused and condemned to die. His only request is to address his judge and jury, the senate of Greece. He looks at them intently and delivers his message: “If you think you can harm me, you will not harm me, you will only harm yourself.” He thus sees his apparent betrayal in the same way as Vidura, that the worst harm to oneself is not what others do to you, but the actions one takes that distance oneself from one’s spiritual nature as a servant of God. So if you harm another with vengeance to satisfy your feeling of being wronged, it is actually the cause of your own ruin, but if you see the situation as God’s will, then it’s a blessing which brings you closer to Krishna.


“Every betrayal contains a perfect moment, a coin stamped heads and tails with salvation on the other side.” — Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible


[1] This week is a new edit of a Monday Morning Greeting originally published June 24, 2019.

[2] There are also specific philosophical terms for this phenomenon. When māyā works to further one’s devotion it is called yogamāyā, the internal potency, and when it moves to further one’s material entanglement it is called mahamāyā, the external potency.


Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #28 – Solving the Humility and Self-Esteem Quandary

July 8th, 2024

Those who have been following my Monday Morning Greetings know I have several times approached the issue of reconciling the apparent contradiction that although acts of humility appear to demonstrate a lack of self-esteem, a humble person is actually psychologically healthy. I have written several articles on this point and will share today a new insight on the subject beginning first with the definition of humility that I feel best resolves our quandary.

Humility is seeing God everywhere. Imagine how insignificant one feels as one fully realizes that one is just an infinitesimal particle of God’s infinite magnificence.

The Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta helps us further understand such humility in the description of how a very influential and respected leader of the brāhmaṇas at Kumbha-melā responds to the great saint Śrī Narada who has just declared him the topmost recipient of Krishna’s mercy:

“Who am I but a most wretched person? How much charity am I able to give? What opulence do I have? And how have I ever reciprocated with the Lord in devotional service?” Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, Part 1, 1.44

Śrī Gopiparanadhana in his commentary on this verse explains the psychology of a very powerful and respected person who sees the reality of God’s majesty, and how that person can think in the most modest of ways:

“Any true devotee of Kṛṣṇa considers himself insignificant, thinking himself one of countless jīvas who are mere sparks of God’s splendor. The devotee is sorry for having foolishly rebelled against his creator. And reflecting on this rebellion, he thinks that his relative influence among other fallen jīvas means little.”

Now that we have hopefully shown how this vision of God invokes humility, let’s try to demonstrate how it also helps reconcile how a humble person maintains self-esteem despite a sense of relative insignificance. I have written about this in some personal notes:

We feel insignificant but not worthless because God is so merciful that He can love every soul and the greatest feeling of worth is to be loved, which can be felt deeply by one who is humble. It’s just like a baby in its mother’s arms. The baby feels completely dependent on the mother, but also feels very loved and valued. As there is nothing that psychologically affirms one’s self-worth more than being loved and feeling love in one’s heart in response, neither the infinitesimal soul nor the small child can ever feel a lack of self-esteem, despite being totally dependent on one much greater than themselves.

Conclusion: Humility and self-esteem, as experienced by a pure devotee, can never be in opposition.


Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #27 – The Mind of God

July 1st, 2024

For many years I had the idea of writing a book called The Mind of God. It was inspired many years ago by the story of the passing away of Bhīṣmadeva. That episode describes the lengths Śrī Krishna would go to for the purpose of glorifying His devotees. For various reasons I choose not to write that book, but the idea always stayed with me. Recently, while studying the Śikṣāṣṭaka prayers, the last chapter in the Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, I started to see that chapter through the lens of the mind of Śrī Caitanya.


Śrī Caitanya comes to fulfill both internal and external reasons for His descent. That is, He comes both for Himself and for others. For Himself He was Krishna in the form of a devotee seeking to relish the love and ecstasy of Śrī Radha, His topmost devotee, at the height of Her love. He already had been almost 18 years in Puri, the place where he had come specifically for that purpose. He had just heard from Śrī Advaita that the external reason for his descent (why He came for others) was complete—the world by His mercy was now flooded with love of God. In this last year of His life, He could cultivate and relish ecstatic love for Krishna in the mood of Śrī Radha with even more focus. Almost all His time is thus spent in the Gambhīra, a little cave-like room in Kāśī Miśra’s house, with Rāmānanda Rāya and Svarūpa Dāmodara, his most confidential associates. He relishes verses and songs which encapsulate and excite the mood of Śrī Radha’s devotion which He had come to attain. Often He becomes so overwhelmed with those feelings that His words and emotional outbursts appear like the expressions of a mad person. His close associates, however, know better. He had entered deeply into the very heart of Śrī Radha’s deepest devotion. They watched as His devotion became so spontaneous that when a particular feeling would embrace His heart, He would ride that emotion into the night reciting related verses and relishing their taste


As one who is pure, He did not consider Himself advanced in devotion. But it is obvious to His closest followers that Śrī Caitanya is relishing rādhā-bhāva, the ecstatic mood of Śrī Radha, and He understands that indeed something wonderful is happening. As He realizes that both His missions are coming to fruition, a sense of gratitude overwhelms Him, and the cause of His fortune becomes clear to Him. He is a recipient of the unbounded mercy of nāma-saṅkīrtana, the chanting of the holy name! Overwhelmed by that feeling, He begins to carry that particular emotion into the night. He recites verse after verse glorifying the holy name and deeply relishes their taste. As His internal focus on chanting the holy name becomes deeper and reaches its height, the Śikṣāṣṭakam prayers, his ultimate glorification of the holy name, burst from his heart: “Paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam!” (All glories to śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtana).


And that is the mind of God!



Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #26 – Who is Advanced on the Path of Bhakti?

June 24th, 2024

I wake up in the morning and chant for several hours and then chant more during the day. Does that make one advanced on the path of bhakti? It is certainly good to chant more, and it could reflect some internal devotion, but not necessarily. Could it also reflect that one has little else to do, or is lazy and shirking responsibilities or pretending to be an advanced devotee? In fact, Krishna warns in the Gītā of prematurely becoming renounced with the motive of seeking adulation:


One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.” (Bg 3.6)


Śrīla Prabhupāda also makes clear that what makes one advanced is one’s inner mood and not necessarily what one is doing externally:


The Supreme Personality of Godhead is known as bhāva-grāhī janārdana because He takes only the essence of a devotee’s attitude. If a devotee sincerely surrenders, the Lord, as the Supersoul in everyone’s heart, immediately understands this. Thus even though, externally, a devotee may not render full service, if he is internally sincere and serious the Lord welcomes his service nonetheless. Thus the Lord is known as bhāva-grāhī janārdana because He takes the essence of one’s devotional mentality.” (Bhag. 8.23.2, purport)


When I read the above, I thought of a devotee, a disciple of Śrīla Prabhupāda, who seemed to me spiritually evolved in many ways although he had very little sādhana. I don’t know why, but early in his devotional career he came down with a severe mental disability. For him to function his doctors were forced to prescribe lithium. It is a very high-risk toxic drug which now is only given in the most serious cases, if at all. As a result, when I met him years ago he lived in government housing and rose from bed around 4:00 pm. When visiting the Boston temple and exchanging with him, however, I was always impressed with the depth of his humility and his dedication to service. Without fail for hours and hours every evening he would clean every nook and corner of the four-story ISKCON Boston temple with the utmost devotion and use whatever extra money he got from the government to serve the devotees.


But how can we say he was advanced in spiritual life when he woke up so late and probably rarely chanted? I composed an analogy that I hope helps resolve this quandary.


In Olympic diving a participant is not just judged by his score on a particular dive, but by multiplying that score by its degree of difficulty. Similarly, a devotee’s advancement is gauged not just by the amount of spiritual practice performed, but also by the degree of difficulty—the challenges they face in its execution.


In other words, my god-brother was extremely limited karmically in the amount of basic sādhana he could do, but the great effort he gave to overcome his challenges demonstrated a very sincere desire to serve Śrīla Prabhupāda. I don’t think it would be too much to claim that that he scored higher on the platform of devotion in the eyes of Krishna than many who were more accomplished on the level of sādhana, but not as deep in humility and devotion.


Of course, this doesn’t diminish the status of those with strict devotional practices which usually reflect a deep devotional mentality, nor does it indicate that those wasting time on social media are not plagued with weak faith and devotion. I am only stating that what’s ultimately important in devotional life, and what is the truest indicator of spiritual advancement, is “the essence of our devotional mentality.”


Monday Morning Greeting 2024 #25 – Metro Mantra Sanga

June 17th, 2024

During the Memorial Day weekend, I held several programs in the New York/New Jersey area. The events were accommodating to newcomers, but for the most part they were gatherings of like-minded people with deep, longstanding bonds. There was no dearth of volunteers, and the many services were all done expertly, especially the Memorial Day feast—chapatis, rice, sweet potato soup, koftas in tomato sauce, creamy paneer subji, bhel puri, handva, coriander chutney, potato patra, cupcakes, ladoo, kheer, mango lassi, and nimbu pani.


There was such a strong sense of community. I was impressed, and right after kirtan, at the beginning of my class, I made a simple point based on what I had just seen: “Bhakti is easy. Just chant Hare Krishna with people who like each other.” Like Christianity, the Hare Krishna movement must offer different “churches” for different people—eventually more localized, to bring nearby like-minded people together and provide community to the maximum number of those interested in devotion.


The modern world is increasingly exploitative, and it does not provide sufficient genuine community to give people respite from our dog-eat-dog modern society. As the Catholic social activist Dorothy Day said, “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.” More than ever, people need gathering places that can foster a deep sense of care and belonging, where one is inspired by the community’s service mood to serve others before themselves, the first step in spiritual life. It’s with this vulnerability, this letting down of the guard of self-centeredness that covers the soul, that one’s heart can be open to God’s grace—essential to experiencing the divinity of the holy name.


Bhakti is best expressed through seva, humble service, and genuine community inspires and offers opportunities for service; it is one of the most attractive and powerful tools to draw people toward devotion and keep them within the association of devotees. So, this week I am sharing a very simple realization: We need more of what I saw on Memorial Day—devotees who know and like each other gathered with a sense of belonging and care in genuine community expertly and selflessly engaged in service.


To address this need, I have started Metro Mantra Sanga. It’s a simple idea: I am organizing a yearly calendar of events—home programs and festivals—in the metropolitan area to provide more opportunities for participation and service in devotion and thus bring like-minded people together in spiritual community. On occasion we will also invite other devotees to enlighten us—some of whom are close to us but don’t have local platforms to share their wisdom.


Many of my students and followers render service and/or participate in other communities’ gatherings, events, and online groups, and I encourage them to continue to do so. Metro Mantra Sanga just adds another resource for in-person community and devotional service.



Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #24 – Swami’s Analogies

June 10th, 2024

A reasonable person wants to understand what is true and live by it. But how to ascertain the truth? The wisdom traditions of India generally outline three main means of knowing called pramāṇa.[1] The three main pramāṇas are verbal testimony (śabda—what we accept as true in the form of the testimony of a recognized authority), pratyakṣa (direct experience), and anumāna (inference or logical conclusions). In our tradition we consider śabda, our sacred texts, as the highest pramāṇa.


Of course, there are limits to śabda when communicating the truth. The audience may not accept the authority of one’s tradition or may accept the authority of śāstra but misunderstand the point being referenced. I therefore find upamān or analogy, making comparison between things that have similar features, helpful in communicating certain points, especially those which are somewhat abstract.


For this Greetings I would therefore like to share a few of the analogies I composed to hopefully demonstrate how helpful analogy can be in illustrating concepts that are sometimes challenging to explain.


What is Bhakti?

Introduction: Is bhakti our nature, an energy of God, or a practice to achieve perfection? It is all of these, but in explaining what bhakti is, especially to an audience not familiar with our tradition, I composed the following analogy.


Analogy: Just as there is a natural love that flows between a newborn calf and its mother, there is a natural love that flows between the soul and God called bhakti.


Comment: I was in the flower gardens of Vrindavan visiting a gardener friend when I saw a calf being born for the first time in my life. The calf got up immediately to drink its mother’s milk and the mother began to intensely lick its calf. I had an epiphany. There is a universal principle of natural love between two beings that have a relationship clearly seen in this innate love between a cow and its calf. It perfectly illustrates what bhakti is, except that in bhakti the natural affection is between the soul and God.


Why devotional practice must be concentrated, uninterrupted and prolonged to bear the fruit of realization.

Analogy: Just as a piece of paper under the intense rays of the sun focused upon it through a magnifying glass will not burn immediately but only catch fire when those rays are focused steadily for some time, similarly the experience of the holy name will only touch one’s heart in the practice of japa meditation when one is concentrated on the holy name uninterruptedly over a prolonged period.


Comment: This analogy came to me after reading in the Yoga-sūtras the definition of practice—meditation that is concentrated, uninterrupted and prolonged over a period of time.


How can the same divine energy of the holy dhāma which pushes us so sweetly and easily towards God feel sometimes so challenging?

Analogy: The same eastern wind, which is very pleasant for a sailboat moving east, is oppositional and unpleasant when the sailboat is moving west. Similarly, the divine energy of Vrindavan is helpful towards the service of Krishna and makes residing in Vrindavan so sweet. But it is oppositional to our desires when we are moving in the direction of false ego and makes residing in Vrindavan quite unpleasant.


What does śuddha-nāma, or the pure name mean? Isn’t the holy name pure itself?

Analogy: Sometimes a person whom we don’t recognize, although they are right before us, doesn’t reveal their full self and remains a stranger. But when we serve and love them, they reveal their full being as a child, friend or lover. Similarly, when we chant the holy name with neglect, although the holy name is right before us, it remains distant like a stranger. But when chanted with pure love, the holy name reveals itself fully as our child, friend or lover and that is called śuddha-nāma.


Analogies are a powerful tool in communicating principles of truth that we seek to share with others. I hope you found mine effective.


[1] From root mā, “to measure”. Pra usually means “completely”.


Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #23 – The Problem of the Problem of Evil

June 3rd, 2024

I was surprised by the emotional reaction from some to my class and the questions and dialogue that ensued.


I was speaking on Nsiha-līlā and somehow a point in the class was made about reconciling evil in the world with the existence of God. This is just a summary of the perspectives on that issue.


“If one has lived a life of dharma and has thus gained the realizations one was meant to get by appropriately responding to one’s karma (destiny), one should be able to look back on all those experiences and understand that the consciousness that has evolved by the lessons of destiny has been worth any of the suffering needed to get there.”


The audience was divided, some seemed to be enlivened by my point and others disturbed. When I say disturbed, no one was disrespectful, but they expressed their personal challenges concerning my point, somewhat intellectually, but more emotionally. Here were the responses as far as I understood them at the time:


“There are so many horrible things that happen to one and it is so difficult to go through them. It seems this kind of philosophy, that it is all one’s fault, just adds to the burden.”


“I can accept that I have learned from my past, but I will find it hard to accept it if God puts me through more.”


“I am trying in devotional service, but these powerful emotions come up again and again. Why?”


“I was just so relieved when the doctor told me after my diagnosis of breast cancer that it wasn’t my fault. Now I find out it is.” [Related to me later.]


I tried to engage with each doubt by tackling the problem of evil comprehensively as I have done before as outlined in a previous Monday Morning Greeting[1], at the same time trying to remain sensitive to people’s individual feelings. It is not easy, however, to satisfactorily respond to a person’s trauma individually, while at the same time remaining cognizant of the collective mind of a whole audience. In fact, there were just as many who expressed how the philosophy has pacified them as people who felt challenged by the discussion. One lady offered a quote from the famous book A Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Auschwitz:


“Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses suggest that inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him, mentally and spiritually.”


The discussion seemed to be so relevant that the following day I addressed the issue again to another audience in even a more thorough, and in a sense, refined way.[2] A few days later, I contacted one of the people initially raising doubts and asked for the question to be expressed so that I could understand it more clearly. This is what I received:


“It seems like an added cruelty to also hold the victim responsible to fix or move on from the dilemma and also blame them for not having enough faith or mental wherewith-all in the face of their circumstances—how to see God’s benevolence in the actual moment of pain’s infliction, when contending with what seems like that added cruelty?”


After receiving the reply, I began to contemplate if I could’ve responded in class more effectively. I don’t think there is anything more I could have added philosophically during my class or by my writings. I have dealt with this problem comprehensively.[3] In terms, of seeing God’s benevolence in the actual moment of pain, it’s a question of application of the philosophy. I therefore doubt, except in the rarest of instances, if it is the time and place for utilizing the philosophy of karma at all. In terms of speaking of it in a class of devotees, if the point comes up it must be addressed. But perhaps one should be a little cognizant of the trauma and pain that people, especially those growing up in the modern world, experience. The Yoga-sūtras make it clear that compassion (ahi) is the most important or most foundational yama (abstentions) and if there is any conflict with any other principle, such as satya (speaking truthfully), compassion takes precedence.


So, if such a situation arises again, in addition to tackling the issue comprehensively from a philosophical standpoint, I would stress to the audience how carefully the philosophy must be presented, and, of course, how it rarely should be the first response to trauma. Perhaps I could have also stressed another point, that an understanding that we are the ultimate cause of our destiny affirms our agency to change things in the future. That is comforting, while a sense of victimhood robs us of our own agency by externalizing the cause of our suffering, which dampens hope and is depressing.


Conclusion: There is the problem evil, an intellectual challenge, and the problem of the problem of evil, an emotional one. Both are not easily addressed, but I haven’t seen a better approach to this quandary than the Bhāgavatam.



[1] https://wavesofdevotion.com/2018/03/26/believers-and-the-elephant-in-the-room-tackling-the-challenge-of-evil/

[2] Home Program – May 26, 2024

[3] https://wavesofdevotion.com/2017/03/20/the-problem-of-evil/


Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #22 – Blind Following is Condemned

May 27th, 2024

Blind Following is Condemned[1]


Some readers may be thinking, “You write about authority and surrender, but isn’t blind following dangerous?” Yes. It’s condemned![2] Here’s why.


Blind faith means accepting what one hears without a reasonable effort to understand it which poses two risks: accepting something that is false because of faith in an unqualified authority presenting something fallacious; or accepting something that is false because we have misunderstood what the qualified teacher has properly presented. Either way one fails to catch the truth.


Accepting things that are false


Without being thoughtful we not only wind up accepting things taught that we would normally see as overtly false, but we are also surrendering the tool required to extricate ourselves from being misled.


To avoid such an unfortunate situation, one must be thoughtful before fully accepting a spiritual authority. Ultimately, a spiritual teacher is sent by Providence in response to our sincere desire for truth. To ascertain, however, whether someone is qualified to play that role, one must first test that person’s qualification over a reasonable period by asking questions and having one’s doubts cleared.


Misunderstanding something that is true


Having a worthy guide also doesn’t guarantee understanding the truth. We often filter what we have heard through our desires and conditioning so that even if what we are taught is true, what we have understood is not. That’s why we often see good people with qualified guides nevertheless embracing untenable positions in the name of faith.


To avoid misunderstanding a qualified teacher the student must continue, if necessary, to ask questions and get any doubts cleared. Such questioning does not belie our faith in our teacher, because we are not doubting the teacher’s authority, which should have already been tested, but rather our own understanding of what has been said.


The need for such thoughtfulness in learning is stressed in most traditional teachings of India in the form of a dialogue in which we can observe the sincere student continually questioning his teacher until his doubts or misunderstandings are cleared. The best example is the Bhagavad-gītā. It took Arjuna five chapters of going back and forth with Krishna before he finally understood and accepted one of the basic points that Krishna was stressing—what makes something spiritual is not necessarily a particular activity but the understanding and consciousness in which such an activity is done. Therefore, Arjuna’s surrender to Krishna is not an example of blind faith, nor is Krishna the example of a teacher who demands blind allegiance.


So yes, authority is not a bad concept, nor is surrender, but blind faith is.


“Don’t follow blindly. Following blindly something, that is not good. That will not stay. But one should take everything with logic. But the servants of God, they put everything in logic. caitanyera dayāra kathā karaha vicāra. If you study the Caitanya’s philosophy with logic and argument… Don’t go by sentiment.” (Śrīla Prabhupāda’s lecture on Bhāg. 6.2.1-5, Calcutta, January 6, 1971)



[1] While waking early today (Saturday) to finish my Monday Morning Greetings I found that it was mysteriously nowhere to be found. I thus searched my files for an old one. The first one I opened was this one from December 19, 2019, and when I read it, I realized something—how much my writing has improved. I thus completely rewrote this old Greetings. I have also decided that my old Greetings must be re-edited. I really see Krishna’s hand in mysteriously deleting this week’s Greetings. This morning what started off as a real bummer has turned into a real blessing.

[2]I got the phrase ‘Blind following is condemned” from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s purport on Bg 4.34: “In this verse both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned. Not only should one hear submissively from the spiritual master; but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries”


Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #21 – Swami’s Quotations

May 20th, 2024

I wonder if anyone ever has written a definition for the phrase “notable quotation.” So far, I haven’t found one. I suspect that’s the case because there are almost innumerable characteristics that inspire a statement to become memorialized, anywhere from a nugget of wisdom to a historical moment, what to speak of the cultural context by which some may appreciate a particular quotation. Thus “notable quotations” is just too broad a term to precisely define. To give my post some context, however, I will offer my own definition of the phrase as a criterion to deem whether a statement is notable.


“A notable quotation is usually a short, succinct statement that clearly and powerfully captures an insight, inspiration or event that others are inspired to repeat so that eventually that statement becomes memorialized.”


One more point: I will offer short explanations of some statements I have made, although ultimately a notable quotation should be able to stand alone.


Swami’s Notable Quotations


Destiny is the language of God

Karma, what happens to us, is God’s law to teach us lessons to help us become closer to the self, which is the mood of service. In other words, destiny is the language in which God affectionately speaks to us.


Commitment changes consciousness

Making a commitment or vow is the promise to act on a good idea from a time-tested traditional perspective rather than just our whims. Such good ideas are called dharma, which is the science of elevating or changing one’s consciousness to a higher level of perception and contentment.


Humility is happy small

We generally fear the humble position because acquiescing to those greater than us may mean that we are exploited and abused. True humility, however, is acquiescing to that which is not only greater than us but which can maintain, protect, and love us. One thus feels shelter and happiness in the truly humble position.


For the rest of the post, I will just list other statements that I made that I think may encapsulate an insightful truth in a concise and expressive manner. In the future I may comment on them.


Krishna is God with His guard down


Position covers personality


Rationalization is intelligence in service of the false ego


All our problems are perceptual and not actual


Humility is reality


Death is the illusion of non-existence


And I will end with my favorite statement worth repeating (not mine):


Essential truth spoken concisely is true eloquence—Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī



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