Archive for December, 2002

Sri Vrindaban Compatibility and Incompatibility

December 17th, 2002

Sri Vrindaban

Compatibility and Incompatibility With Guru

I met once more with the Godbrother who came yesterday. He offered a very thought-provoking analysis of his relationship with Srila Prabhupada. He confided, “I’m not compatible with Srila Prabhupada.” I was initially taken aback by his statement because he is so staunchly dedicated to Srila Prabhupada and his mission. Fortunately, He quickly explained himself:

“I recently met a close devotee friend who is somewhat astute at psychology and offered me this analysis in response to some of the things I revealed to him. I thought carefully about what he said and agreed. Srila Prabhupada was the great General–the ‘senapati’ that Vrindaban dasa Thakur predicted would be sent by Lord Caitanya to push on the sankirtana movement.

“Prabhupada thus pushed and pushed his sankirtana movement like a General and empowered such powerful leaders as his trusted assistants. I am so shy, bookish and reclusive by nature. I have so little taste for that mood.”

Concerned, I inquired, “How does that realization affect your relationship with Srila Prabhupada?”

“Not at all,” he sincerely replied. “Srila Prabhupada is my guru because he gave everything to the Bhagavat (God)–like almost no one has ever done before. How wonderful! I can only sit at his feet with the deepest appreciation and try to imbibe his mood of total surrender.”

I wasn’t sure that I totally agreed with his analysis of Srila Prabhupada. It seemed almost simplistic to make Srila Prabhupada so one-dimensional, especially since Srila Prabhupada inspired surrender primarily by his intimate relationship with the devotees, and not just by his authority or position.

I could definitely see how difficult it must have been for this devotee to deal with anything or anyone so corporate or militaristic, which ISKCON definitely was. And Srila Prabhupada was also “the great General” leading the charge. I could also appreciate his insight, that our relationship with guru is not primarily one of personality, but one of studentship based on service and surrender. Still, compatibility is helpful in any relationship.

I’m not finished mulling this one over, but I am definitely inspired by his core meditation on guru as that person who “gave everything to the Bhagavat!”

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Vrindaban A Lesson In Detachment

December 16th, 2002


A Lesson In Detachment

It’s a very unseasonably warm winter. I can’t imagine a more pleasant day. I can see that I am becoming attached, but I’m trying to remain neutral. If I don’t, the heavy cold will eventually settle in and I will suffer more. Always better to be equal in happiness and distress, otherwise undue attachments will eventually cause pain.

The new owner of the japa-kutir came in and told me very apologetically that he plans to sell the place. I try to maintain my resolve to be detached in Vrindaban. It’s more anxiety for a sannyasi to worry about suiting their environment for their comfort than to live simply and depend on Krishna.

Later, the owner came back and told me that a sadhu told him not to sell the house; that we should never take money out of Vrindaban. Let’s see what he decides.

I met a Godbrother who I haven’t seen since last year. He’s quite philosophical. I noticed a small mole on his face that I haven’t seen before. I asked him what it was. I liked his thoughtful and detached reply, which was said in all earnestness.
“We’re getting old and dying. Isn’t it fun? You get to apply what you learned!”

Japa Thoughts VIII

Lately, I’ve been thinking more about chanting with a relationship to the holy name. What does a relationship mean? It means an attraction for someone that manifests in a desire to serve them, and vice versa. We have an eternal relationship with Krishna.

If we are cognizant of that, then chanting His holy name should naturally invoke an attraction that inspires love and service, ideally in our particular relationship with Krishna. We should feel servitude, friendship, affection, or romantic love depending on our relationship with the holy name.

But what if we are not at that level? Whatever our specific relationship with Krishna is, we all have the basic relationship as His servant. Chanting the holy name should invoke at least a sense of reverence and appreciation for our Lord. What if we are not on that level? Then we should at least chant with the conscious knowledge that we have a relationship with the holy name, even if we are not realizing it. We should pray that one day our attraction for the holy name will awaken, and feel comforted that Krishna has now appeared to protect us and give us full shelter.

Vrindaban It got back to

December 11th, 2002


It got back to me that a devotee I knew was being critical of me. Initially,I became critical of him. But then I thought that maybe he was right.

We should not find fault in others. Why? Unless we are correcting that person out of affection, our words are just a manifestation of envy. When we criticize people out of envy, especially a devotee, it generally means that we are making the mistake of identifying someone’s weaknesses or faults as the whole person. That’s especially dangerous to do in relation to a Vaishnava because we are neglecting their primary nature as devotees of God.

We are all conditioned souls with many faults. Faults can be found with anyone, just as even the bright moon has pocks. And if you want to hone in on another’s weakness in an inimical way, there are probably plenty of ill-intentioned people who see our own conditoning as our person, and not just incidental parts of our nature to be purified. How does that feel?

I remember a friend of mine who made a serious mistake and needed help. I called up Tamal Krishna Maharaja and asked if he could help. He said he would. To make sure Maharaja understood all the facts, I reminded him what this person had done. His answer struck me and is probably the basis of my comments above.

“Anyway, his faults are not the whole person. I love [name withheld]!”

Vrindaban Sadhus of Vrindaban II

December 9th, 2002


Sadhus of Vrindaban II

On my way to the temple every day I pass the Radhe-Shyama baba who lives in that small austere room next to the Radhe-Shyama well at the end of the parikrama path. He’s a nice old man and sometimes I see him across the road chanting and catching a few minutes of winter sun. Sometimes he calls me over and asks for some wheat or rice, which I assume is how he maintainshimself. I always forget to bring something, so today, I decide that I will just give him a hundred rupee donation–a lot for a poor sadhu. I walk over and hand him a hundred-rupee note. His eyes lit up and he hugged me affectionately. We embrace, and I then ask him his name.

“Fool Das,” he replies.

“No, seriously. What is your name?”

“Fool Das,” he says louder.

Japa Thought VII

A respected and spiritually adept friend confided in me about his chanting that morning. “It works,” he said, “to feel terrible about yourself and take shelter of Gaura-Nitai.”

Spiritual Test I

I am contemplating the idea of writing another type ofjournal taken from the notes of my morning reading. I’ve already started. I want to use one excerpt here to form a self-evaluation. Here it is:

“Tests are necessary in spiritual life to strengthen one’s resolve in spiritual life.

“While going to see Srila Rupa Gosvami, Sri Caitanya praised him profusely before the other devotees. He then observed their reactions to test them. Just like we shake a nail to see if it can withstand the force of being banged, the Lord or the spiritual master tests our capacity to handle their full mercy before bestowing it. Lord Caitanya even tests his most confidential associates:

“‘Just to examine Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya and Ramananda Raya, the Lord began to praise the transcendental qualities of Sri Rupa Gosvami before them.’ (Cc. Antya 1.107)

“Of course, their reaction was to become joyous that Sri Rupa was so fortunate.

“The test: Imagine being with someone you consider a peer in front of your spiritual master. How would you feel if the spiritual master profusely praised them?”

Govardhana Sadhus of Vrindaban I

December 8th, 2002


Sadhus of Vrindaban I

Whenever I go out on Govardhana parikrama, I see a very peaceful and slightly built old sadhu doing dandavat parikrama, but bowing many times in one place before he proceeds. Rather than count the number of prostrated obeisances by using a cumbersome pile of small stones as most sadhus do, this particularly sadhu uses a huge five-foot tulasi-mala counter of 250 large beads to count his dandavats. Evidently that’s the number of times he bows in one place. He has a small sign in Hindi which I cannot fully read, but I can read the date he started: January 1, 1994.

I have been told by many experienced Vrindaban devotees that prostrated obeisances around Govardhana takes about 50 hours, or seven hours a day for a week. Most people, however, do fewer hours every day and complete it in over two weeks. For those who do 108 prostrated obeisances in one place, it takes at least four years to complete–even at a pace of three to four hours everyday without fail. I estimate that that our sadhu friend, who is doing 250 flat obeisances, will need at least ten years to complete his vow. And that’s if he pays his full obeisances in one place for four hours everyday for ten years without respite–a daunting physical task even for a younger, trained athlete.

Today I brought a translator to speak to him. I found out that he is a disciple of a Godbrother of Srila Prabhupada named Parvat Maharaja. After chatting for a minute he very humbly pointed to the last line of his sign for my friend to read:

“Please don’t bother me now and may God bless you.”

Govardhana I went to Govardhana

December 7th, 2002


I went to Govardhana for the weekend to spend sometime with Niranjana Swami. There are many more devotees staying here now then there were during Kartik. Jayadvaita Swami, Suhotra Swami, Madhava Maharaja (formerly Maha-Mantra), Partha Sarathi Prabhu, Tejyas Prabhu, and Purnachandra Prabhu are also here. Of course, Kesava Bharati lives here. Many of them probably came now to avoid the crowds at Kartik. Ironically, although senior devotees want to avoid the crowds at Kartik, for the better part of that month, I was the only senior devotee visiting the ashram besides Jayadvaita Swami and Kesava Bharati Prabhu, who are more or less residents.

I’m thinking more about Gaura-lila lately, and how it more easily unifies one’s external and internal life. The internal mood of Lord Caitanya is compassion. The external life of a preacher is also compassion. By immersion in Gaura-lila, it becomes easier for a preacher to relate his active life to his internal life. I think it is important to see some relation between the two–especially as one matures. Otherwise, one may gradually lose attraction for one or the other. We need to do both with fervor.

Vrindaban Several readers of the

December 4th, 2002


Several readers of the journal expressed interest in a copy of Vaisnava Vandana by Devakinandana dasa. I found a translation in the magazine “Sri Krishna-Kathamrita,” which I recommend–especially the last issue on Vaishnava aparadha. It also has an article on Devakinananda dasa. An excerpt follows:

“…After offending Srivas Thakur, as described in Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi 17.38-59), Mahaprabhu instructed Gopal Capala that, to be forgiven for that offense, he would have take shelter of Srivas Pandit. Srivas Pandit in turn instructed him to take shelter of Purushottam dasa. Purushottam dasa gave him initiation and the name Devakinandana dasa. He then ordered Devakinandana to worship and pray to the Vaishnavas by which he would become free from his offenses. Taking this order on his head, Devakinandana traveled from country to country, collecting the names of all Vaishnava devotees of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu for including in his Vaisnava Vandana.”

The article goes on to explain that Vaisnava Vandana is technically the name of a much longer work by Devakinandana dasa. It is the final 12 verses of this work that are popularly sung by many Gaudiya Vaishnavas as a means to help purify one of past offenses, as well as to prevent Vaishnava aparadha.

The article references Caitanya Caritamrita to supportthe potency of glorification of the Vaishnavas:

“What I say is truth. If a person who has committed blasphemy stops blaspheming others and instead praises Lord Vishnu and the Vaisnhavas, then all of the person’s sins and offenses will be destroyed. That is the right way to destroy them. Millions of rituals of atonement will not destroy them.” (Cc. Antya

Sri Vaisnava Vandana

vrndavana-basi jate vaisnavera gana
prathame vandana kori sabara carana

First of all, I offer my worship to the lotus feet of the residents of Vrindavan, all of whom are Vaishnavas.

nilacala-basi jataa mahaprabhura gana
bhumite-padiya vandon sabara carana

Next, I fall down on the ground and worship the lotus feet of all of Mahaprabhu’s associates who live in Nilacala, Jagannatha Puri-dhama.

navadvipa-basi jata mahaprabhura bhakta
sabara carana vandon hoiya anurakta

I then worship the devotees of Mahaprabhu in Nabadvipa and pray for loving attachment to their lotus feet.

mahaprabhura bhakta jata gauda-dese sthiti
sabara carana vandon koriya pranati

I then worship the lotus feet of all Mahaprabhu’s devotees residing in Gaudadesh, Bengal.

ye dese ye dese baise gaurangera gana
urdhva-bahu kori’ vandon sabara carana

With upraised arms, I worship the lotus feet of Gauranga Mahaprabhu’s dear devotees, in whatever country they may reside.

hoiyachena hoibena prabhura jata dasa
sabara carana vandon dante kori’ ghasa

With straw in my teeth, I worship the lotus feet of the servants of Mahaprabhu that were in the past or that will ever be in the future.

brahmanda tarite sakti dhare jane jane
e veda purane guna gaya jeba sune

In the Vedas and Puranas it is said that each of the dear devotees of Sriman Mahaprabhu has the potency to deliver the entire universe.

mahaprabura gana saba patita pavana
tai lobhe mui papi loinu sarana

The devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are deliverers of the most fallen. Being greedy for that deliverance, this sinner surrenders unto them.

vandana korite mui kata sakti dhari
tamo-buddhi-dose mui dambha matra kori

What power or ability do I have to glorify the devotees of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu? Being engrossed in ignorance, it is only out of pride that I attempt
to do so.

tathapi mukera bhagya manera ullasa
dosa ksami’ mo-adhame koro nija dasa

Even though I have no ability to glorify them, still I am feeling great pleasure in the attempt. Please overlook my faults, O Vaishnavas, and make me your

sarva-vancha siddhi haya yama-bandha chute
jagate durlabha hioya prema-dhana lute

The Vaishnavas bestow the perfection of all desires, including freedom from death, and even the treasure of prema so rare in this world.

manera vasana purna acirate hoya
devakinandana dasa ei lobhe koya

Being greedy that the desire of his heart be fulfilled very soon, Devakinandana dasa writes this song glorifying and praying to the Vaishnavas.

(Note: I have taken the liberty to edit the translation found in Krishna-Kathamrita.)

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