Archive for November, 2007

Kartik Journal | Japa Thoughts And Kartik Ends

November 24th, 2007

(I’m able to begin my writing again after a hectic mid-Kartik. Here are some thoughts from the last few days)

November 20, 2007
Sri Govardhana

Japa thought:

To focus on something, one has to value it. To increase my attentiveness on the holy name, I thus first meditate on its glories.

November 21, 2007
Sri Govardhana

Japa thought:

Srila Madhvacarya said that each soul has shed enough tears since time immemorial to fill an ocean. Chanting is a thus a dynamic moment in the history of the soul – a real chance to finally stop the torrents of anguish. Chanting Hare Krishna – what a significant moment in this soul’s eternal history! My meditation today was simply, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

November 22, 2007
Sri Govardhana

Japa thought:

I visit a friend, a follower of Srila Prabhupada, and a good sadhaka. I share my thoughts on gratitude. He appreciates them. He shares his own realization:

“It is so important to appreciate the Lord’s associates and seek their mercy,” he explains, “that I prefer not to leave anyone out.”

Over the past twenty or thirty years he has collected verses describing all the main associates of Sri Caitanya. He feelingly repeats them daily, one for each of the Lord’s associates. It is sometimes almost two hours before he even picks up his beads!

What intrigue’s me most about his bhajan, is the prayers he recently added. He prays to all his god-siblings who are preachers. He even begs mercy from those who are “vipaksa”, somewhat “against” his mood of devotion, by meditating on their good qualities. It also helps him, he explained, to appreciate what mercy they have to give him.

His realization strikes me: To be a servant of the holy name we have to give up envy by offering all respects to others. It’s the mood of humility stressed in the third verse of Siksastakam.

Our tendency is so much to find fault and offend others, even those dedicated to spreading Krishna consciousness. I chant today to give up envy. I even manage to pray to a few god-brothers who are “vipaksa”, not so appreciative of my service. It doesn’t come easy, however.

November 23, 2007
Sri Govardhana

Japa thought:

A simple question: During japa, is it better to concentrate on hearing or chanting the mantra, or does one automatically do both when one does the other? I vote for hearing. If we hear carefully, we will also chant properly. If we concentrate on chanting, however, we may or may not hear. I chant today focusing intensively on hearing.

November 24, 2007
Sri Govardhana
Purnima (last day of Kartik)

Japa thought:

My cave-like room is pitch black and dead silent. Nothing can penetrate the senses, but the sound of the mantra. I listen carefully. I sense reality, only nam kirtan and the soul.

Kartik Journal | The Disappearance of Srila Prabhupada

November 19th, 2007

(Many devotees come to Govardhana in the middle of Kartik, especially around Govardhana Puja. It was not possible for me to keep up the journal regularly during that time. Hopefully I can now continue it until the end of Kartik.)

November 10-13, 2007
Sri Govardhana

I have been receiving a lot of positive feedback about the journals. One devotee asked for clarification on the November 8th japa thought below:

“Spiritual life: Feeling good about feeling bad about one self.”

She asked: “As I am sure that your statement above should not be interpreted to mean that spiritual life is a self-pity party, would you please elaborate on what you actually did mean?”

Japa exposes the folly of false ego, the conception of being the controller and the enjoyer. One then feels bad that one harbors such foolishness. That repentance for false ego (feeling bad about one self) is the beginning, however, of spiritual life and one should be happy about that. Spiritual life is thus “feeling good about feeling bad about one self.” It is therefore not self pity, but healthy repentance.

November 14, 2007
Sri Govardhana
Srila Prabhupada’s Disappearance Festival

More devotees this year than previous years went from Govardhan to the big festival in Vrindavana. I wasn’t sure what the festival was going to be like here. An inspiring group of devotees, however, did remain. At our quaint festival I explained the disadvantage of larger gatherings such as Vrindavana (although they have natural advantages also) where each devotee is allowed at most to speak for five minutes. I reasoned that it takes at least that long just to open one’s heart, what to speak of sharing what’s in it. In Govardhana, however, the few senior devotees were free to express themselves to their heart’s content. I also suggested that there was time for them to also discuss guru-tattva in addition to any anecdotes they had about Srila Prabhupada’s life, if they wanted. A short summary of the four main talks:

Sriman Gopipranadhana Prabhu:

He described the importance of vani-seva, which he described as “living out the words of the spiritual master in one’s own life”. He commented how that service was even available after the disappearance of the spiritual master.

Srila Prabhupada wrote so many letters, on so many subjects, to such wide variety of disciples, Gopipranadhana explained, but there was one thing in common in all letters. They all end with “your ever-well wisher”, which is the English translation of “suhrd“, one of many terms used in Sanskirt for “friend”. Why did Srila Prabhupada choose specifically this word instead of “mitra“, for example, which means “companion”, he asked. “Suhrd“, he answered, literally means “one whose heart is disposed to another’s welfare”. It thus perfectly describes the mood of Srila Prabhupada towards his disciple’s.

The word “ever” in “your ever well wisher”, he continued, is a phrase not very much used anymore. It means perpetual. By using the word “ever” Srila Prabhupada was thus indicating that the spiritual master is present eternally as one’s benefactor. He is thus the most reliable benefactor as his kindness towards one is perpetual. It never changes.

Her Grace Srimati devi:

She suggested that Srila Prabhupada was successful as preacher not just because of the philosophical content of his message, but due to the emotion in which he communicated his convictions. To demonstrate her point, she read Srila Prabhupada’s famous Vyasa Puja offering to his spiritual master in 1961. My favorite lines:

“But a festival of flowers and fruits is not the real worship:
One who serves the guru’s message really worships him.”

“Our master has said to preach;
Let the neophytes go in the temples to do nothing but ring bells.”

His Holiness Bhakti Gaurava Narayan Maharaja:

He described how he came to Krishna-consciousness. Maharaja was from a brahmana family in Puri working as a professor of Hindi literature at the university there. He was constantly searching for a spiritual group to join, but could not find an authentic mission that touched his heart until he received Srila Prabhupada’s books. He was impressed that Srila Prabhupada was promoting the four regulative principles for his society and thus decided to dedicate his life to preaching Krishna consciousness. He shared his realizations from twenty five years of preaching in India about how Srila Prabhupada’s books were transforming so many people’s lives.

Myself, I talked about gratitude. To help describe the depth of the culture of gratitude, I quoted a verse from the Bhagavatam where Draupadi argued that the life of Asvatthama should be spared even though he murdered her five sons. She says “siksito yad anugrahat“, “by his father’s (Dronacarya’s) mercy you have learned.” In other words, gratitude is so imperative, especially towards those by whose mercy one has learned, that Draupadi was arguing to spare the killer of her children simply because he was the son of their teacher!

How indebted, then, we should be to Srila Prabhupada for the gifts of knowledge he has given us. I also discussed those gifts, especially the ones that must effected me this year.

When I had initially arrived at the Bhaktivedanta Ashram for today’s program, I was surprised to see Srimati devi pulling up in a car. When I inquired why she had left Vrindavana on Srila Prabupada disappearance to come here, she mirrored something that was on my mind, “Srila Prabhupada was put into samadhi in Vrindavana, but he lives here now.” It was exactly the point that I wanted discuss later when I spoke.

I described during my lecture that during ones life one is naturally hesitant to reveal, especially publicly, ones intimate thoughts. At the end of life, however, intimate thoughts are more likely to be shared. This natural psychology is discussed in a commentary on the story of Putuna. She was posing externally as a beautiful nurse, but when dying at the hands of Krishna she naturally revealed her true nature as a witch.

Similarly, Srila Prabhupada was hesitant to express his inner desires during his life. For obvious reasons he never told us his specific relationship with Krishna, for example. I thought it was very significant therefore that at the end of his life, and I was there in the room, he told the devotees, “I want to go to Govardhana. Take me to Govardhana.” To my recollection that expression was one of the most intimate and specific spiritual desires that he ever expressed. Practically all of our guru parampara in their perfected spiritual forms have some form residence in Govardhana (which includes Radha Kunda), at least during the daytime pastimes. Considering that, and the fact of Srila Prabhupada’s expressed desire at the end of his life, a good argument could be made that in his perfected form Srila Prabhupada is residing in Govardhana. I thus encouraged the devotees to consider the significance of their stay in Govardhana on this auspicious day.

Kartik Journal

November 11th, 2007

November 6, 2007
Sri Govardhana

A lesson and a thought:

This morning I took a devotee on parikrama who has never been to the dhama. We stop at a quaint favorite temple of mine. I give a substantial donation, at least for such a small temple, and place it on the altar in front of the pujari. Following my lead, my parikrama companion pulls out his wallet to follow suit reaching for some big bills. I stop him:

“No need,” I explain discreetly, “I gave more than enough.”

The pujari, however, notices:

“Please do not mind. I do not care for the money, but it is an offense to interfere with charity to the Deity. Remember the story of Bali Maharaja. His guru, Sukracarya advised him to not accede to Vamana’s request for charity, but his counsel was condemned as offense to Visnu.”

I turn to my companion, “He’s right. Leave a donation.”

Japa thought:

Offenses can often be subtle. It’s only possible to avoid them all when our consciousness is imbued with devotion and thus by nature respectful to everyone and everything. That’s exclusively achievable by the mercy of the holy name. I chant for sensitivity towards the devotees, the deities, the holy name and all living entities, to avoid offense at all cost.

November 7, 2007
Sri Govardhana

Japa thought:

Chanting begins with humility. I search my heart, but don’t feel humble. What to do? Can I simply think humble? It’s not a mental conception, however. Then how to begin my bhajan? Pray hard enough and you are humble. Prayer is humility.

November 8, 2007
Sri Govardhana

Japa thought:

Spiritual life: Feeling good about feeling bad about one self.

November 9, 2007
Sri Govardhana

Japa thought:

The obstacles to pure chanting seem insurmountable. I admit my helplessness. The only hope for success; complete dependence on Krishna.

Kartik Journal

November 7th, 2007

November 3, 2007
Sri Govardhan

I pray for a drop of mercy. It’s a humbling meditation. I only deserve the least, a drop. It’s an act of glorification. Krishna is so wonderful, that even a drop is more than enough.

November 4, 2007
Sri Govardhan

I pray for the heart to become filled with gratitude. Appreciation for Krishna and His energies is the beginning of faith. Faith is the seed of prema. Gratitude is thus prema in its budding stage. I chant and meditate on the spiritual gifts I have. I remember those that gave them. I search the heart and pray to be grateful.

November 5, 2007
Sri Govardhan

I think of finishing my rounds. I condemn the thought. How can one love something that one wants to be over?

Kartik Journal | Japa Thoughts

November 4th, 2007

October 31 – November 2, 2007
Sri Govardhana

I tried to write a realization about chanting everyday during Kartik. From the beginning I doubted it would be possible. I was right. A few people have come, so the last few mornings I happily took them on parikram. No time for writing.

It’s wonderful – walking and chanting around Govardhana, waiting to see where the doors of the spiritual world open. Today a few opened in the obscure ashrams near Govinda Kund; one, a very sweet twenty-four hour kirtan; the other, a small Jagannatha temple where a pure friendly sadhu pujari welcomed us affectionately. I love sitting with sadhus at these quiet ends of the world, places practically untouched since the days of the Goswamis. I also try to be a sadhu by extending myself to others, but I also at times need to be alone to go deeper in japa.

November 3,2007
Sri Govardhana

Japa Thoughts:

Just as one has different levels of awareness of the world—from fully awake, to half conscious to deep sleep—in chanting there are different levels of absorption. For example, we can be awake to the world (not concentrated), half awake to the world (half concentrated) and fully unaware of the world (fully concentrated). That’s a general analogy, but the point is that chanting means going deeper within and becoming less and less cognizant of the external world. It all depends on concentration. Our concentration relies on many things, most important our sense of purpose (faith) and our determination. I sense that most realizations in japa are about how to enter into deeper levels of absorption. Today, being alone it was easier to go deeper. Some humble realizations came:

We can’t go deeper unless we become frustrated with our present level of attentiveness and feel desperate to go deeper.

The door to the next level is locked. The combination to that lock is our full concentration on each syllable of the holy name. Just one mantra in full concentration opens the door to deeper absorption. It is easier said than done. Even the full concentration on one couplet of the holy name, Hare Krishna, can create the mental disposition to become focused within and gradually remove us from the world of external consciousness.

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