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Monday Morning Greetings 2017 #26 – Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami Who Started It All — Coming soon to a theater near you!

June 26th, 2017

I never thought I would be so proud to be a Hare Kṛṣṇa. Of course, I am proud of the tradition and the philosophy to which I belong and proud of what it has accomplished. But I am talking about a different pride—a more public pride. The pride one feels walking north up 2nd Avenue to attend the premiere of Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami Who Started It All and seeing the crowds of people waiting to enter the Village East Theater under the marque that announced its abbreviated title Hare Krishna. This pride swelled further when I entered the posh lobby as several photographers were flashing away trying to capture and document the excitement of the moment. The feeling of satisfaction continued to expand as I entered the ornate 400 seat theater and saw the people of New York pack the event, all to hear the inspiring story of Śrīla Prabhupāda, the founder of the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement! And my pleasure continued even while leaving the theater. There were long lines waiting to enter for the next showing.
It was a watershed moment for the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement. I believe that was the term used in the film to describe the moment in 1977 when the Supreme Court of New York issued the verdict in response to a serious court case backed by the anti-cult movement that the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement is a bona fide religion. I sensed the film was again that type of moment. In fact, in the introduction before the film, the co-directors, John Griesser (Yadubara dāsa) and Jean Griesser (Viśākhā dāsī), mentioned to the audience a review of the film describing it as the second coming of Śrīla Prabhupāda. It certainly felt that way. Śrīla Prabhupāda was not only manifest through such a powerful medium, but the fact that it would to be shown worldwide if the opening was successful—and by all reports it was—is certainly, dare I say, a watershed moment for the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement.
I had a good view of the arriving audience from where I sat. I not only saw committed members of ISKCON parade in, but many others also, including people that have been touched in New York by the force of our kīrtanas and teachings around the city, but who have not yet really met its founder in any profound way. I saw many such familiar people from a subway conductor to the heads of several major yoga studios in New York. Yesterday I received a letter from Sybel Sierra, a former vice president at Morgan Stanley, who I met at the premiere. Sybel initially came in touch with devotees through a bhakti seminar I gave at a major New York yoga studio. What she wrote reflected what I had hoped the effect of the film would be:
“I was so happy that I could attend the premiere. I especially loved how the film captured the impact of a person’s strong faith on the hearts of everyone he touched. I knew something of Śrīla Prabhupāda from being around the devotees, but the film gave me an intimate view into his life and elevated his teachings to a much more personal level.”
It is hard to be this film’s critic when just about everything about Śrīla Prabhupāda inspires his followers, but I also tried to watch and study it carefully. Those of us who knew Śrīla Prabhupāda knew the expanse of his preaching. I marveled at the austerity it must have been for the directors to pick and choose a fraction of his life to communicate his whole life, but in a sense that highlighted his glories, because as I watched I could also reflect on how many wonderful aspects of his life and accomplishments had to be omitted. If I had a chance I would have liked to ask the directors why certain scenes were chosen over other important scenes, such as the omission in the film of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s dramatic journey on the Jaladuta, but I think the answer is obvious: just how much of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s rich life could be packed in an hour and a half? No matter how hard you try significant events would have to be omitted. Still I felt that still the film captured, summarized, and communicated quite effectively his personality and accomplishments.
A good film or drama has the very difficult task of creating a single mind out of an audience of various types of people. In classical Indian dramaturgy, for example, it is stressed that the purpose of a drama is to create this shared experience. I felt the film did an excellent job of creating a shared experience or understanding for its wide range of viewers. I liked how towards the beginning of the film an interview of Śrīla Prabhupāda is shown where he is asked what he thinks of the Bible potentially pigeonholing him as sectarian. Śrīla Prabhupāda immediately responds that any scripture is good as long as it promotes love of God and recommends the chanting of God’s names. I think his answer was far better than my memory of it, but I am sure his answer had a powerful and unifying effect on the audience, many not of our faith, especially accompanied by clear subtitles dramatically highlighting his speech. At the same time the film did not shy away from vintage Śrīla Prabhupāda speaking directly and boldly the philosophy of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, exposing the real problems of life and promoting the necessity to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness. At the Bhakti Center reception after the show, I mingled with the crowd, especially to gauge the reaction of people who were not members of ISKCON by asking them what in the film struck them the most. I especially liked the answer of Katie, which surprised me, as I thought her answer was not what most people influenced by the post modern world would appreciate:
“I liked that he was so straight and direct. All successful people have a clear mission. He knew what he wanted and articulated it clearly, directly, and consistently.”
I spoke to Rāma Rāya, of Union Square harināma fame, yesterday about the film. He liked it so much he saw it four times over the last week. He loved how it directly promoted Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mission of chanting and spreading the holy name and he added an extra special appreciation of the directors who have dedicated their whole lives to Śrīla Prabhupāda by communicating his glories through film. He described their accomplishment in producing this film as a “triumph!” I also strongly felt that. The accomplishment of producing this excellent film is the example of two humble and dedicated disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda, who gave their whole life to promote Śrīla Prabhupāda’s mission through media, and now at the twilight of their careers succeeded against all odds with the perfect offering of that service at their spiritual master’s lotus feet.
I beg you—please go see this triumph!

An Excerpt from Correspondence on My Seminar on Humility at Yogamaya

May 15th, 2014

Below is some of the interesting correspondence I have received after my seminar on humility at Yogamaya last month.

From Amanda:

Last Saturday morning at breakfast, I dropped this question on a friend… what do you think the difference is between humility and self-esteem? I wanted to share his answer not only because of its succinctness, but it takes it out of a spiritual context making it totally inclusive.

“A lack of self-esteem is thinking yourself lesser than others. Humility is to not see yourself greater than others.”

I’m not sure that a requisite for humility is a belief in something higher than one’s self, although I do think it is an important part of any spiritual path. I have met and know many “atheists” that are more genuinely humble than some I have crossed calling themselves “spiritual”.

Look forward to hearing what others have been chewing on about this the last week!

With love,

My response:

The initial quandary that my seminar attempted to tackle was how to not be inhibited in spiritual pursuits that are founded in humility when often the feelings and expressions of a truly humble person parallel one with low self-esteem.

My conclusion was that the feelings and expressions of a person who sees people as better than themselves does not have to be just a result of psychological trauma (low self-esteem). They can also be an expression of a genuine spiritual experience, where one feels the majesty and love of God, an experience that makes one feel happily small and naturally invokes a mood of reverence and service towards others. As God is everywhere one tends to be humbled (less) before everything.

Sri Caitanya (my lineage) instructed his followers that the following was so important that one should wear it around ones neck:

One should chant the holy name in a humble state of mind
Think oneself lower than the straw in the street
More tolerant than a tree
Devoid of all sense of false prestige
And ready to offer all respect to others
In such a state of mind
One can chant constantly

So that’s how I reconcile the feelings of humble person that often parallel expression of low self-esteem.

I think what Amanda is pointing out is that there is another type of humility where one doesn’t necessarily feel less than others, but just not greater than others. If humility is a modest feeling of one insignificance then that is obviously a valid definition. What I was trying to discern is if there is a type of humility where one feels even lower than others that is not a product of low self-esteem. I think there is.

Humility is certainly not the property of those who believe in a deity.

I think an atheist with high moral values is connecting with something higher than themselves.

If they don’t accept absolute moral values can they be humble?

Radhastami at The Bhakti Center

Bhakti In Essence – Narada Bhakti Sutra – Sutra 4

September 4th, 2012

Narada Bhakti Sutra

Sutra 4

yal labdhvā pumān siddho bhavaty amṛto bhavati tṛpto bhavati

Having attained divine love, a person becomes perfect, immortal and satisfied.

The first three verses introduced the subject of bhakti. In the next three verses, beginning here with text four, Sri Narada describes the effect of such divine love on the soul.

First he says that by it one becomes perfect. To understand why this is so, one must understand what dharma is. Dharma means duty. It also means essential nature, for unless we understand what we are made for (our essential, intrinsic nature), how can we understand what we are meant to do (our dharma or duty)? According to the bhakti tradition, the soul is part of the supreme consciousness. As all parts are meant to serve the whole, the dharma of the soul is bhakti — to selflessly serve God.

But what does this have to do with perfection?


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Bhakti Immersion Retreat 2012 (video)

Bhakti Immersion Retreat at Pumpkin Hollow

August 27th, 2012

During August 23-26, 2012, dozens joined Dhanurdhara Swami, Raghunatha, and Visvambhar and Vrinda Devi for a weekend of sat sanga, meditation, kirtan, and yoga at the Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center in Craryville, New York.

The following pictures are just a glimpse of the activities that took place.


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Krishna-lila: How to Relish and Understand the Krishna Story

Lotus Festival: The Bewilderment of Lord Brahma

August 23rd, 2012

Lotus Festival: The Bewilderment of Lord Brahma

On August 11, 2012, Srila Dhanurdhara Swami gave a lecture entitled The Bewilderment of Lord Brahma on the final day of a three day Sri Krishna Janmastami festival at The Bhakti Center in New York. The following is a recording of that talk.


Lotus Festival: The Bewilderment of Lord Brahma

Sri Krishna Janmastami

August 21st, 2012

Sri Krishna Janmastami

On August 9, 2012, Srila Dhanurdhara Swami gave a lecture about Sri Krishna Janmastami, the appearance day of Krishna, as part of a three day festival at The Bhakti Center in New York. The following is a recording of that talk.


Sri Krishna Janmastami

Bhakti in Essence – Narada Bhakti Sutra – Sutra 3

August 16th, 2012

Narada Bhakti Sutra

Sutra 3

amṛta-svarūpā ca

This pure love for God is eternal.

All spiritual paths, or yogas, are simply a means or practice (sadhana) to achieve a transcendent objective (sadhya). Bhakti, unlike other yogas, is not just a steppingstone to a goal but also the goal itself, the sadhya. By the practice of selfless devotion we attain the fruit of pure devotion, the only difference being their respective maturity. In contrast, the practice and goal of all other paths are quite at variance. For example, the jnani strives for moksa (liberation), a state of untroubled awareness, but his practice is vairagya, arduous renunciation. And like every other path, except bhakti, its mode of practice is relinquished upon accomplishment. To highlight that bhakti unlike other paths is not just an intermediary step to achieve something else but also what the practitioner is seeking to attain in perfection, Sri Narada asserts that bhakti is eternal. In implying that bhakti is the goal or ultimate attainment, Narada is following the authority of standard texts like the Taittiriya Upanishad, where the ultimate reality is described as rasa vai saha, a flow of pure and intense devotion.


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