"Planet ISKCON" - 44 new articles
1970 July 27: "At the present moment politics and diplomacy has entered. Some of my beloved students on whom I counted very, very much have been involved in this matter influenced by Maya. So I have decided to retire and divert attention to book writing and nothing more."
1970 July 27: "My Guru Maharaja liked very much publication of books than constructing big, big temples and creating some neophyte disciples. As soon as he saw that His neophyte disciples were increasing in number, He immediately decided to leave this world."
1973 July 27: "When my Guru Maharaja was present even big, big scholars were afraid to talk with His beginning students. So we should be like that. No compromise - Ramakrishna, avataras, yogis, everyone was enemy to Guru Maharaja - he never compromised."
1973 July 27: "Some God-brothers complained that my Guru Maharaja's preaching was chopping technique and it would not be successful. But those who criticized, they fell down. For my part I have taken up the policy of my Guru Maharaja - no compromise."
1973 July 27: "Everything is there but it is now mixed up, we want to bring the whole world in to order by giving the right directions. Defeat all the existing concocted hodge-podge ideas congesting the feeble brains of so-called scientist, philosophers or anyone."
1973 July 27: "They pose themselves as big leaders, philosophers. Why should we go to such men for knowledge? A leader must be peaceful, self-controlled austere, pure, tolerant, honest, wise learned and religious."
1973 July 27: "In this way we will establish a local self governing village and show all the world a practical example of spiritual life as Krishna Himself exhibited in Vrindaban."
1973 July 27: "Our festival here was very well received and I was so much encouraged I was able to walk and dance the entire way from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. The newspapers showed one picture of our Ratha next to the statue of Nelson and caption was 'Krishna - a rival to Nelson.'"
1970 July 26 : "I am trying to organize a worldwide movement not for any personal ambition but to execute superior orders, and by the grace of Krsna we are getting good encouragement. So I request my students to cooperate fully."
1970 July 26 : "These are the most important duties for the brahmacarinis - namely cleansing. Caitanya Mahaprabhu personally used to inspect temple cleaning and if He would see a little particle of dust, "O, you have not done very nice.""
1970 July 26 : "Recently I have given Sannyas order of life to six Brahmacaris. They have been sent to different parts of the country for preaching work and two of them might go with me to join you."
1972 July 26 : "As long as classes are going on well, the rules and regulations are being observed sincerely, the sankirtana party is going out with enthusiastic mood - then everything is first-class."
1975 July 26: "I wish to translate Valmiki Ramayana exactly in the way I have done Srimad-Bhagavatam. When I return to India I am very much eager to see your book on Lord Ramacandra translated into English."
1975 July 26: "So I would suggest that you now retire from family life and accept at least vanaprastha order of life keeping your wife with you as assistant, fully engage in translating the Vedic literature as far as possible."
1975 July 26: "Now I wish to establish some temple of Sita Ram. Of course it depends on the mercy of Lord Ramacandra. Therefore I am requesting you to join our movement completely retired from family life."
Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No.12a
(Sent from Opatija, Croatia, on July 27, 2010)
Bhakti Rasamrita Swami (on devotee relationships)
Bhakti Vijnana Swami (on the subtle body)
Krishna Ksetra Prabhu (on peace of mind)
Bhakti Caru Swami (on just offering this life to Krishna)
Prahladananda Swami (realizations)
Candramauli Swami (on association with women)
Jayadvaita Swami (questions and answers)
(With Prahladananda Swami, Yadunandana Swami, Bhakti Rasamrita Swami, Krishna Ksetra Prabhu, and Kripa Moya Prabhu)
Where I Went and What I Did
I heard about the UK/European brahmacari convention last year, but I did not have enough money to travel to it last year. This year, it was one of many reasons for me coming to England. About sixty or seventy brahmacaris came to the convention held at Bhaktivedanta Manor June 18-23, 2010. The following notes are mostly chronological, although I lump the several contributions from the same personality together, for those who want to read what their favorite speakers said. Thanks to all the organizers, speakers, and participants. A lot of useful realizations and instructions were shared. Notes on the regular morning classes during this period, I will share in the next journal to keep this from getting even larger.
Brahmacari Convention at Bhaktivedanta Manor
Introduction by a longtime Bhaktivedanta Manor devotee:
Our life is 10% the circumstances we encounter in life and 90% the way we respond to them.
Canakya Pandit speaks of four types of blind people: (1) those who are born blind, (2) those who are blinded by lust, (3) those who blinded by greed, and (4) those who are blinded by pride. That last is the worst, because one who blinded by pride cannot be instructed.
It is difficult to practice brahmacarya in the West because the culture neither supports nor facilitates it, so it is good to have these conventions to encourage those to practice it.
Life is all about love. Krishna expands as jivas (individual souls) for the enjoyment of loving exchanges with them and between them.
Our anarthas (unwanted desires) make it difficult to have loving relationships in this world. We can see in Caitanya-caritamrita the dealings of the pure souls and learn from them.
Sometimes there are misunderstandings between great souls.
When Rupa Goswami was composing Bhakti-rasamrita sindhu out of his natural humility he asked Vallabha-bhatta look at his manuscript and make any corrections. Jiva Goswami, who was a disciple of Rupa Goswami, found it arrogant that Vallabha-bhatta found faults with Rupa Goswami, whose character and composition were perfect. He accompanied Vallabha-bhatta to the Ganges to take his bathe on the pretext of serving him and proved to him that his so-called corrections were actually mistakes. Vallabha-bhatta agreed and praised Rupa Goswami for having such a learned disciple. Rupa Goswami, however, sent Jiva Goswami away for manifesting pride in scholarship that was not befitting a resident of Vrindavana. Sanatana Goswami had to mediate the situation to bring Jiva Goswami back. Mediation did not begin in ISKCON.
Brahmacari life is simple and thus it is easier to have loving exchanges among brahmacaris. If we cannot learn this point, it is difficult to find out where we can learn it.
When the brahmacaris have nice relationships, are humble, and have a nice service attitude, the whole congregation is inspired. I have seen it myself. When that is not there, and thebrahmacaris quarrel, the congregation becomes cynical. A strong brahmacari asrama means a strong community.
Brahmacaris are like brothers living in the same house.
Two brothers who disliked each other were massaging their father's body. To get the other brother in trouble with their father, the one reached over and pinched the father's body on the side the other brother was massaging. The father cried out in pain. The other brother seeing what his brother did, reached over and pinched the father on the side his brother was massaging. Again the father was pained. This continued. From this, we can learn that cooperation among the brahmacaris is essential to please the Lord.
"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: 'My dear sons of the King, I am very much pleased by the friendly relationships among you. All of you are engaged in one activity—devotional service. I am so pleased with your mutual relationship that I wish you all good fortune. Now you may ask a benediction of Me.'" (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.30.8)
The Lord did not say, "I am pleased with you for spending so many years meditating under water." Nor did He say, "I am pleased because you chanted each syllable of the mantra without a mistake." He said, "I am pleased by your friendly relationships."
Srila Prabhupada explains in the purport to this verse, "Disunity between individual souls is so strong within this material world that even in a society of Krishna consciousness, members sometimes appear disunited due to their having different opinions and leaning toward material things. Actually in Krishna consciousness, there cannot be two opinions. There is only one goal, to serve Krishna to one's best ability. If there is some disagreement over service, such disagreement is to be taken as spiritual."
Different opinions can be dealt with, but leaning toward material things will pose a more serious problem.
The brahmacari must always try to control the senses. The brahmacari must live simply for the benefit of the spiritual master. (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.12.1)
The brahmacari must be very submissive and do whatever the spiritual master desires, always thinking of himself as being very low, being devoid of pride. A disciple follows the discipline of the spiritual master.
Loving exchanges happen when the senses are controlled, there is humanity, and when service to Krishna and one's superiors is at the forefront.
Q: How do we keep loving exchanges from being superficial?
A: According to our development of Krishna consciousness, we are more or less better at loving exchanges. Even small expressions of appreciation are valuable. If one's need for emotional relationships is not fulfilled with the brahmacaris, one will seek fulfillment in male-female relationships.
It is sometimes a problem that people insist on being right and want to establish themselves as right. In reality, we should not desire to be right but rather, desire do to the best thing for our Krishna consciousness and that of the others involved.
"Offering gifts in charity, accepting charitable gifts, revealing one's mind in confidence, inquiring confidentially, accepting prasada, and offering prasadam are the six symptoms of love shared by one devotee and another." (Nectar of Instruction, verse 4)
Srila Prabhupada says that the gift of the holy name is the best gift.
Chanting and hearing about Krishna together is very important. Try to make it when there is a chance to chant kirtana or japa together. We must inspire each other on sankirtana and japa.
There was brahmacari who would fall asleep if he sat down either in japa, kirtana, or class for more than 15 seconds. Because he was receptive, he was able to improve considerably. Otherbrahmacaris whose sleep attachment was less severe, because they were not receptive, did not improve so much.
It is safer to share gifts with the other brahmacaris, otherwise you can get materially attached. It is good to give gifts to everyone. Otherwise favoritism can arise.
It is important that things that are shared confidentially remain confidential. There are some cases that people have left the movement because people spoke publicly about things that were spoken in confidence to them and they felt very bad about it.
If we have loving exchanges with the devotees, we will be mentally strong.
It is nice if the brahmacaris can take at least one meal together, and one can read some scripture.
Comment by Janananda Swami: Taking prasadam together, and serving prasadam nicely are important.
Q (by Tattvavit Prabhu): Sometimes we take prasadam around to people and at other times, we have a buffet. Does it matter?
A: It is always better to do it in the Vedic way, with the devotees sitting down and the servers bringing prasadam to them, unless it is completely impractical.
If we chant our japa, go to the kirtanas and classes, try to serve the devotees, and absorb ourselves in our service to Krishna, then 90% of our problems will be solved by Krishna's grace.
Srila Prabhupada advice to "chant Hare Krishna and be happy" is not just a slogan but a deep philosophical point.
Srila Prabhupada explains that love comes from service. In the beginning, we do not love Krishna, but by serving Krishna the love develops. Similarly we may not have love for the otherbrahmacaris, but by engaging in these different exchanges the love develops.
Q: Sometimes we want to help someone, but they do not accept our help, and we become frustrated. Are we wrong or not?
A: Perhaps. Perhaps you are not the best person to speak to them, perhaps you did not use the best words, or perhaps you did not choose the best time to speak them. Perhaps you could find someone else you could engage in helping them.
Q: Some groups like the Swami Narayana people and the Jehovah's Witnesses preach in pairs, but we do not do this. Should we?
A: It is always safer for brahmacaris to preach in pairs.
Srila Prabhupada, after traveling all over the world, commented that his realization was that people everywhere are basically the same.
Q: Srila Prabhupada said we should be independently thoughtful. How do we apply that?
A: We have to be thoughtfully independent. We have to be responsible for what we do. We have to consider what is beneficial for our spiritual life. Too much individual independence is a cause of the degradation of the world.
Laksmi performed austerities giving up all other desires except to attain the dust of the lotus feet of Krishna and enter into His sportive pastimes. She failed because she could not give up her form as Queen of Vaikuntha. In Golola Vrndavana, the only queen is Srimati Radharani.
Krishna has four especially sweet characteristics, surpassing other avatars:
(1) venu-madhuri—He plays the flute especially wonderfully.
(2) prema-madhuri—He is surrounded by especially loving devotees (the gopis)
(3) lila-madhuri—He performs especially sweet pastimes (in his childhood)
(4) rupa-madhuri—His beauty is even greater than that of Lord Narayana
[I only have notes on his first session, as I skipped the second to attend the Borehamwood Ratha-yatra.]
Subtle Presiding Gross
Element Deity Element Function
1. Citta Vasudeva Air Exist.
2. Ahankara Sankarsana Earth I exist.
3. Manas Aniruddha Water I want.
4. Buddhi Pradyumna Fire I act.
Citta refers to what the modern psychologist call the unconscious mind.
Vasudeva means all-pervading which applies to the unconscious mind.
Sankarsana means attracting. Aniruddha means difficult to overcome, which applies to the mind. Buddhi is the processing part of the mind.
Pradyumna means showing efflugence.
First we feel we exist (citta), and then the sense of "I am" ego arises (ahankara), then the sense "I want" arises in the mind, and the intelligence determines what "I do."
Ahankara means we are not satisfied being one ten-thousandths the tip of a hair in size.
Manas is binary. The computer scientists have not invented anything new. Mind simply either accepts or rejects.
Citta is large, like the hard disk on our computer, but like with our hard disk, most of the stuff in our unconscious mind we never use.
The buddhi digests our different experiences and transforms them. When we encounter some happiness, buddhi asks, "What is the big deal?" When encounter distress, buddhi asks, "What is the big deal? Thus we can be fixed in equanimity as Krishna recommends. When intelligence is weak, the intensity of the experiences is recorded in our unconsciousness.
Previous negative experiences cause the intelligence to distort the situation. When too much information is distorted, one can become mad.
Memory is not a question of what is recorded in the unconscious (citta), because everything is recorded. It is a question of how accessible the citta is to our buddhi.
I apologize for not having a Powerpoint presentation, but after all, our process is one of hearing, so I will stress that.
Peace is not contrary to our practice of bhakti.
We will look at our emotions, analyze them, and then ask ourselves if we can let them go, because, after all, vairagya, or letting go, is what we as brahmacaris and sannyasis practice.
Because we should have faith in Krishna, we tend to neglect what we actually have faith in. What matters to us is what we have faith in.
Krishna describes in Bhagavad-gita 17.3 that we are made of faith. Sraddha-mayo 'yam puruso yo yac-chraddhah sa eva sah: "the living entities are full of faith according to the modes they have acquired."
Along with our devotional activities, there is a voice inside of us of resistance, "No, I don't want to read Bhagavad-gita, not today."
Sometimes we allow circumstances to be there that restrict our practice of spiritual life, and we should examine these from time to time.
Anartha-nivritti means "non-engagement in activities of no value." When anartha-nivritti happens then naturally we become fixed in spiritual practice (nistha).
Srila Prabhupada wanted to create a society of sadhus. Who is guru is a lesser consideration. Our society collectively will be seen as guru for the greater society.
Peace is a good thing. It is about balance and freedom from lower modes of nature.
Krishna explains that there is no happiness without peace, and I will suggest there will not be peace until we learn how to deal with our emotions.
A brahmacari is one who goes in Brahman.
We tend to lament about the past and hanker about the future. So na socati na kanksati means to not be concerned about the past or future but the just the present. Sama sarvesu bhutesumeans having an equal attitude to all living beings. If we can do these things, Krishna explains, then we can attain the supreme devotion to Him. (Bg. 18.54)
We tend to "want" to be separate under the influence of false ego. This derives from our want to be separate from Krishna. We also have a "want" for oneness. Sometimes we want to be by ourselves, and sometimes we want to be with others. When we separate ourselves from Krishna, we want to survive, which then becomes an issue, because we separate ourselves from the protection of Krishna. We also want approval. And when cannot get approval we want control. And then, out of frustration, we desire to be controlled.
List of emotions:
Renunciation is giving up material things, and I would also say, giving up emotions, but emotions cannot be given up artificially or you end up with more difficulty than you started with.
Our tendency is to be so absorbed in our list of wants, we do not see what is around us. The first step is to notice this.
After noticing an emotion, we welcome it, question it, and then ask if we can let it go. The answer to the final question, does not always have to be yes, for if we artificially make it yes, we may not actually give the thing up.
"Can I let go of this?" can mean "Can I let go of this happiness?"
Confidence comes when you do something, and it works out. Then you have a little more confidence.
When we experience success there are also bodily sensations accompanying that feeling.
"Expressing" is a rajasic activity of getting the feeling out there for others to deal with. "Releasing" is a sattvic activity of letting a feeling to go away and be.
Tattvavit Prabhu remarked that Srila Prabhupada added four words to the saying "Failure is the pillar of success": "for persons who succeed." In other words, the successful person is he who continues to try in spite of repeated failures.
The first step in controlling the wandering mind is noticing that it has wandered. One can ask the mind, "Where are you going now?" Then you can ask the mind, "Do you have to think of this right now?" The mind often says, "Yes, otherwise I might forget." This can be remedied by keeping a notepad and noting the thought.
Often the mind is worried about issues of defense. We can waste lots of time worrying about how we will protect ourselves from something that is not a serious threat.
Until we process things, they will continue to appear in the mind again and again.
A lot of people get married thinking that they will possess a person of the opposite sex, but in reality, it is the other way around, we become possessed by a person of the opposite sex. To possess someone we generally depersonalize him or her. This ultimately causes trouble because people do not like to be treated as objects.
We want to be happy. If we are not, we will think, "I do not want to be a devotee" or we will think, "I do not want to be a brahmacari."
Attachment to happiness, we know, is the negative side of the mode of goodness, so we have to ask the question, "Can I give up this happiness?"
We need to be reminded of our objectives time and time again, otherwise, we may forget.
During my first darsana with Srila Prabhupada in Mayapur [I had already met him in Allahabad where he told me to translate his books in Bengali], he gave me a stack of Bengali letters and asked me to reply to them giving me the main points.
At that time he also instructed me:
"Just offer this life to Krishna. For so many lives you have done other things. This life is one out of so many. Don't get involved with any women. This material nature is a prison house of sex desire. Just as a prisoner is tied down with shackles, so in the material world we are tied down with the sex desire. He gave three examples: The camel eats thorns, his mouth bleeds and by tasting the blood he foolish thinks he is enjoying. Similarly, in sex, we lose our vital energy, but we foolishly think we are enjoying. Sex is like an itch. When we scratch, we think we will get relief, but actually it get worse. Sex pleasure is like a mirage. The mirage appears to offer cool water, but as you get closer, the water seems further away. Although offering cool water, it is simply hot sand. Pouring ghee on the fire, does not put it out, but increases it, similarly, indulging in sex desire only increases it.
Conquering sex desire is not the real goal of Krishna consciousness, it is to get a higher taste of nectar—not only to drink, but swim and play in.
The devotees in Krishna consciousness have transcended the material platform. So we have been given such a great opportunity. We just have to commit ourselves. If we remain in the association of devotees, our spiritual life is safe. This ISKCON is the association of devotees. Therefore, we have to be very careful not to offend the devotees. The best way not to offend the devotees is to serve the devotees, to befriend the devotees, and to appreciate the devotees. Then we will make advancement in leaps and bounds.
Thirty-three years after Srila Prabhupada left, this movement is still going on.
Once a very exalted leader in our movement, who was a sannyasi and got married, came to see Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada encouraged him to remain in the society of devotees. He did and is still serving today.
The reward for remaining in ISKCON is that at the time of death, we will die in Krishna consciousness. The devotees will help us remember Krishna at the time of death and pave our way for going back to Godhead.
Q: It is difficult that there are so few brahmacaris.
A: That is true. But it is best to stay, even if one is the only brahmacari in a temple, because then there is a least one brahmacari, and then others may be inspired to become brahmacaris. Try to make ten brahmacaris.
If we are still subjected to our karma, we can understand that is a lack of our surrender to Krishna, and we can use that as impetus to surrender more to Krishna.
In time, we can realize a crisis that was a stumbling block was actually a stepping stone.
To make advancement in spiritual life, we have to give up sex desire. The purpose of sex desire is procreation, but because procreation is such a troublesome affair, a little pleasure has been added to it to allure people into it. But due to ignorance, people take this little pleasure as a very important thing. We can give up sex desire only by getting a higher taste from our spiritual practice.
Srila Prabhupada said, "I pray to Krishna always that I do not fall down." So we adopt that attitude.
First we chant Hare Krishna, then we follow the four principles against illicit sex, intoxication, meat eating, and gambling. By chanting, we get the strength to follow the principles. In the association of devotees, we are also encouraged to follow the principles.
Q: It is difficult to convince people to dedicate their whole life to spiritual practice.
A: People are attracted to excitement. If we create an atmosphere of excitement in our temples, people will be attracted. The brahmacaris should make the temple atmosphere so exciting thegrhasthas will think, "Oh my God, I made a mistake," and they will want to come to the temple more and more. The business of the householders is to take care of the brahmacaris, vanaprastha, and sannyasis, and when they do, a sweet mood of reciprocation develops.
Any movement takes place in the form of a wave, with its ups and downs. Therefore we should not become disheartened in difficulties. Consider all the difficulties the devotees in Russia went through. The situation in America is critical, but I often remember Srila Prabhupada saying, practically with tears in his eyes, that he was so indebted to America for helping start his movement. So I think that a place for which Srila Prabhupada has such affection will certainly have a glorious future.
A devotee will endeavor to push on this movement no matter how hard it is and thus be successful, just as a ksatriya is eager for a fight.
Lust in this material world is just the perverted reflection of our love of Krishna. Thus there is a great different between lust, which is like the dense darkness and love, which is like the blazing sun.
At one point, I realized that the purpose of life was to come to higher stage of awareness.
I would go three times a week to argue with the devotees because I was convinced that hatha-yoga was the way to attain perfection.
Some of my friends joined Srila Prabhupada in 1966 when they heard about it in the Village Voice, but I never took it seriously.
The Buffalo temple was in an abandoned railway shack. In the beginning they did not have Bhagavad-gita but just a copy of the translation of Radhakrishnan's verse 2.13. So three times a week I heard Bhurijana Prabhu explain about how we are not the body. I wondered if this was all there was to the philosophy. Then one day, I heard I was not the body, and I thought, "How profound! I am not this body!"
Once a friend and I were chanting on a bus, and we noticed everyone on the bus became friendly. We saw my friend's family and they were arguing when we arrived, but when we chanted they became friendly. I thought, "This chanting is very powerful." Worrying about what would happen if I stopped chanting, I decided to join the temple.
We just have to listen with perfect attention to attain perfection. That is the essence. Nothing else is required.
To chant with attention, we have to be absorbed in the holy name. Our conviction should carry our intelligence.
I asked Srila Prabhupada if it was alright when I am chanting to remember Krishna book. He replied, "No, you should just chant and hear the holy name. If remembrance of Krishna comes that is nice, but we should not try to artificially remember Krishna while we are chanting."
Our problem is we think we are great, and the holy name is just some sound vibration.
Krishna may be there, but whether our heart is open to receive Him is another thing.
I can say from my experience that if you chant and hear the holy names, considering they are identical with the Lord, everything will gradually develop.
We cannot break into the spiritual world by our meditation: "Krishna may want me or not, but I am coming."
Krishna is there. We are just trying to adjust our consciousness so we perceive Him. Just as radio waves are everywhere, but with a radio we can perceive them.
Kamsa was so much absorbed in thinking of the Lord that once when his wives approached him. He raised his sword, and angrily shouted, "Krishna and Balarama, You are dead!" They said, "We are not Krishna and Balarama, we are your wives!"
Our first business is to cry out to Krishna, but not in a complaining mood. We chant in a happy mood, but it is not possible to be completely happy in the material world. Try to get a sense of Krishna's presence as you chant, and the more Krishna reveals Himself, the more you become happy feeling His presence.
Q: When you chant Hare Krishna, where does the sound come?
A: It comes from Krishna. Krishna is descending.
As long as we desire according to the modes, our consciousness is materially affected, but when we constantly desire according to Krishna, the spiritual master, and the succession of spiritual teachers, we become more conscious of Krishna.
Once I went with Srila Prabhupada to a monastery of monks who meditated on the holy name. Srila Prabhupada gave a lecture on the importance of hearing and chanting the holy name. He did not stress meditation.
At nistha, Krishna's form spontaneously appears while we chant and is not seen as different from the holy name.
Having a little reverence for the holy name is nice. It is not that reverence is only for those Vaikuntha-vasis, the rejects from Goloka Vrndavana.
When the inspiration for sadhana comes from anything other than a natural attraction to service, it is vaidhi-bhakti.
Causes of deviation [numbered entries in the outline below] and what we can do about them [lettered entries below the numbers]:
1. Seeing women as sense objects.
a. being respectful
b. seeing them as matajis [mothers]
c. understanding we are not enjoyers, Krishna is the enjoyer
d. seeing their beauty as part of Krishna
2. Not making time for sadhana.
a. write down a daily schedule
b. have a devotee check in with you weekly.
3. Not having the desire for spiritual life.
a. associating with those who have a desire.
b. praying for the desire
c. reflection and introspection.
4. Not serious about spiritual life.
5. Lacking knowledge.
a. reading books
c. congregational chanting
d. take bhakti-sastri course
e. engaging in the nine items of bhakti
6. No conducive environment.
7. Commit offenses.
a. serving devotees
c. care and attention
d. get feedback from seniors
e. ask for feedback.
f . cultivate friendship with other devotees
8. Previous attachments.
a. chant more and more attentively
9. Thinking that you are doing things perfectly.
10. Bad association.
11. Over eating.
I joined the movement in 1968, and the first thing we called that ladies was gopis. Later we addressed them as mataji as Srila Prabhupada recommended and did himself.
[I only took notes on the first part, as I skipped the second to recover from the Stonehenge Solstice festival.]
Srimad-Bhagavatam Canto 5 Chapter 5 is one of to he most philosophical sections of the Bhagavatam.
The attachment of male and female is the basic principle of material existence. Based on this misconception, the whole realm of material entanglement arises. The attachment is a perversion of the pure affection the soul has for the Supreme Soul, the Lord.
Women and wealth are stumbling blocks on the man's path of self-realization.
The advantage in the brahmacari asrama is one has less baggage to travel with, thus one can concentrate on his spiritual practice.
Grhastha life is like if you see a rock on the ground, and you decide you like it, so you carry it on your back.
The male-female attachment is the strongest attraction in this world.
If we do not talk about the difficulties caused by the male-female interaction, then desires to enjoy it may arise in the mind.
Both aversion and attraction to the opposite sex are not Krishna conscious, but aversion is less bad.
Do not make eye contact, when you talk to the opposite sex. It is not fanatic to avoid association with the opposite sex but philosophically justifiable.
One must be aware there is no enjoyment in the male-female relationship.
Out of sight, out of mind.
The more we are loose in other aspects of our spiritual practice, the more we will be loose in our relationships with the opposite sex.
Maya shows your weak spots in your Krishna consciousness to test you and so you can make your weak points stronger.
Srila Prabhupada said that we should regularly read Srimad-Bhagavatam verses 1.2.17 and 1.2.18.
Maya encourages you to try a little sense enjoyment, bit by bit, and you find your Krishna consciousness can be covered.
There are two reasons that brahmacaris lose determination and seek male-female relationships:
(1) the basic male-female attraction
(2) failure to develop nice relationships with other devotees
Women thrive on attention.
A man chases a woman until she catches him.
Sometimes women join our movement just to find a nice husband. If you want Krishna more than she wants you, then you win, otherwise she wins.
At least half the sannyasis have fallen down so we have to be careful.
If one wants to take up the grhastha asrama, that is alright, but it should be done graciously, not by accident.
I used to do book distribution. After a while, I stopped approaching women because it was easier for me.
We should speak to ladies respectfully and not in the mood of trying to enjoy the situation.
Jananivasa Prabhu explained to us in Mayapur that when you call to Krishna for help, He does not respond immediately but waits to see how serious you are. If you call to Him again, he takes it more seriously. And finally, if you call out a third time, He will help you. However, your spiritual master wants very much that you advance spiritually, so if you call once to Srila Prabhupada for help, he will help you immediately.
Comment by Tattva-vit Prabhu: As far as I understand, in the Swami Narayana movement, they have female gurus who guide the ladies, so the sannyasis do not have to do it.
Strict sadhana is the strength in our spiritual practice.
We should always have people who can give enlightened guidance. One should not choose a direction without help from others. You cannot trust the mind. It always flips back and forth.
Brahmacarya is training for all the others asramas.
Ultimately we have to see the ladies as devotees of the Lord and not as women.
We are not looking for the women to fulfill some desire.
The main thing is service to Krishna. If we are engaged in the service of Krishna, it does not matter what asrama one is in. Whether or not one can perfectly execute the duties of anyasrama, if one can render service to Krishna, that is the important thing. You may try to present the value of living in a particular asrama, but it up to the individual to realize it or not and follow it or not.
Everyone service is voluntary.
Q: Some people move from one temple to another, others stay in one place. Is one better?
A: If they are traveling for service, it is good. If is just restlessness, that is not so good.
I left high school in my senior year. I never continued my education. I never went a day without food. I am the chief editor for an international publishing house, and I find mistakes in professionally published works.
If someone wanted to go to college, Srila Prabhupada would say, "Why waste your time?" If someone was in college and almost finished, he would encourage them to continue.
In Alachua, I gave a class more or less bashing the necessity of college. If you are meant to make money, you will make money. If you are meant to be poor, you will be poor. It does not matter. Radha Jivan Prabhu was in the back of the room. I asked him if he went to college. He said, "No, much to my father's dismay." He was brahmacari for a few years, got married, and then started a million dollar business.
Q: Should we take Bhakti sastri or study on our own?
A: People find the structure of Bhakti-sastri helps people study. Canakya advises study in twos. By yourself, you may space out.
Q: Ashram life is very brahminical. What if people are not brahminical inclined?
A: That is alright. Let them do what they can do.
Q: About 20-30% of classes bash the scientists, the Mayavadis, the Buddhists. Wouldn't it better, if our philosophy is superior, that we just focus on the positive?
A: Bhatkisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura makes the point that in relationship to opposing philosophies, Krishna consciousness can be shown to be more clear by the contrast.
You can be brahmacari the whole time. Some people think you have to choose grhastha or sannyasa. That is not true.
Q: Some people get married in their forties and fifties. Sometimes they say they were not cut out to be brahmacaris.
A: I have one godbrother who thinks he is not cut out . . .
Q: Anything we should watch out for?
A: Association with the opposite sex. Association with nondevotees. Looseness following regulative principles. Offenses to devotees.
Q: Are there any signs one is not cut out for being brahmacari?
A: Holding hands with a girl.
Try being a brahmacari:
Save yourself a lot of trouble.
Just chant Hare Krishna and be happy.
Your life is uncomplicated, no attachments, no big attachments (your dhoti, your mat). But if it becomes too difficult and you are not able to withstand the feminine attachment, get married. Srila Prabhupada would say to get married if it is too inconvenient to be brahmacari.
If you are too much attached to collecting, you do not have to get married. You can collect for Krishna. Use your passion for Krishna. You are attached to controlling. What is controlling one woman? Control a whole project for Krishna.
Q: Why do you not initiate many devotees?
A: I don't think I am very qualified. I do not think that is what Krishna wants from me. I have enough problems with my own life.
[Jayadvaita Swami describes an exchange with a Russian girl in Russia]
Russian girl: What would it take for someone become your disciple.
JAS: I am not accepting any disciples.
Russian girl: But why not?
JAS: I do not think that is what Krishna wants from me.
Russian girl: But why not?
JAS: I have so many qualified godbrothers.
Russian girl: But why not?
JAS: I am not very qualified to be a guru.
Russian girl: Well I am not very qualified to be a disciple.
JAS to devotees: I nearly initiated her on the spot.
Q: Are there differences between the duties of a younger and older brahmacari? What is the difference between the older brahmacari and the vanaprastha.
A: Both are menial servant of guru. The older one can guide the younger. The vanaprastha has so many attachments to get rid of while the older brahmacari does not.
In the West, we have divorce, and in Vedic culture, they have the vanaprastha asrama. I thought of creating a Ministry for Creative Divorce. The only rule is once divorced, then remain divorced [don't get married again]. We welcome back all the bruised and wounded grasthas to the brahmacari asrama. During Srila Prabhupada's time, some men returned to brahmacarilife after their marriages did not work out.
I know quite a number of brahmacaris who got in deep trouble from going to wrong sites on the internet. If you go to the wrong place, do not go back there. If you can't help it, cancel your internet connection.
Q: Can you tell us about masturbation?
A: Yes. I did some research. One study in 1994 found masturbation was the topic people were most quiet about. The survey takers had to make it completely confidential to get data on it. The Freudian story is that there is this sexual force in the human being that builds up and builds up, and if it is not released, makes one go crazy. The study found that the environment affects sexuality, including masturbation, more than one's own biological demands. Masturbation is supplementary, complementary, or independent of sex with a partner. The more likely you engage in other kinds of sex, the more likely you are to engage masturbation. The more years of education you have, the more likely you are to masturbate and the more often.
Brahmacari life is a question of discipline. Just like on Ekadasi, if you decide to fast, it is much easier than if you think that maybe you will fast half a day, and then see how it goes. If they do not serve that prep you really like for lunch, you might fast to dinner. If you think like that then it is difficult. It is like that with being brahmacari.
Q: Is it still better to be brahmacari even if after many years you still on the mental platform about getting married?
A: Well you do not have to work eight hours a day to maintain a thought, so you have so much more time to dedicate to your spiritual life as a brahmacari. These thoughts come and go. If you can just let the thoughts go, and not be disturbed, it is better be brahmacari.
As a brahmacari you have just one mind to deal with, but as a grhastha you have at least two minds to deal with, and maybe even four or five.
It is difficult to live in the temple, but it is more difficult to live outside the temple.
"The main purpose of asrama dharma is to awaken knowledge and detachment." (SB 1.9.26, purport)
The brahmacari asrama is the foundation for the whole varnasrama system.
Example of brahmacaris: Sri Narada Muni, Sri Narottama Dasa Thakura
Wasting time can be caused by going too slow or by going too fast (and then not being able to sustain it).
Sometimes people hide from personal, social, emotional responsibilities in brahmacari ashram.
Dhirasanta Prabhu: You can tell your mind, "I need your help to chant these sixteen rounds. After that you can do whatever you want."
Comment by Syamananda Prabhu: I have heard our biggest attachment is our attachment to distress.
In one sampradaya they consult the horoscopes at the age of five and determine whether or not the brahmacari will take sannyasa in that life. Often they take sannyasa at the age of eight, and thus their sannyasa rods are very short. Interestingly enough they have had only one or two cases of fall down in 800 years.
Krishna Ksetra Prabhu:
When I first met the devotees, Sivananda Prabhu told me that the devotees practiced bhakti-yoga. I heard about it and told him, "Yes, I think that is what I am looking for." They told me their morning service was at 4:30, and I said I would be there. I turned up at 4:30, but nobody answered the door.
One leader joked with me, "Harry, don't marry." I took it seriously. Tamal Krishna Goswami looked at me, and said, "How come you aren't a sannyasi?" Then he related that Narada Muni is a brahmacari and that the Kumaras are brahmacaris, implying it was alright to be a brahmacari.
I was exposed to a women who I could hear through the walls was always having family arguments but in public always appeared with a smile. I felt something was wrong there.
My parents divorced when I was a teenager and remarried. That helped to make me reluctant to marry.
Q (by Prahladananda Swami): You are a brahmacari guru and sometimes young women want initiation, with less than uttama-bhakti aspirations. What do you do?
A: This is certainly true. There are even those disciples who announce their intention to marry me, which makes it difficult for them to understand it will not happen and for them to accept me as a guru instead of a husband. If I were a marriage arranger, I could do that service for them, but it is not my nature, so I advise them to find a grhastha to help them find a suitable husband.
As Bhakti Rasamrta Swami advised for his sannyasa asrama, we can ask the devotees for their mercy to remain brahmacari.
A main duty of the brahmacari is to show respects to members of all asramas.
Kripa Moya Prabhu:
A young man asked Socrates if he should get married. Socrates replied, "If you stay single you will be happy. If you get married, and you have a good wife, you will be happy. If you get married and have a bad wife, you will become a great philosopher and then you will become happy."
If you are happy, you are in the right asrama, and if you regularly feel something is missing, you are in the wrong asrama. The wife is never the shelter in the grhastha asrama. Only Krishna is the shelter.
I have been married twenty-eight years, and I can say it is a dreamlike state, but then again, our entire situation in the material world is a dreamlike state.
In the history of ISKCON, we lost a lot of devotees who were brahmacaris, who weren't suited for the asrama.
I was only a brahmacari for eight years, but they were the best years of my life and gave the most realizations. Brahmacari life is meant for realization of the Absolute Truth.
You have to think about other people first and care about other people first as a grhastha. It may seem that detracts from our spiritual focus, but actually it is good.
If you can be a brahmacari your whole life, by all means do. No one is more inspiring for a grhastha, than such a happy brahmacari, except such a brahmacari who is also philosophical astute and preaches, take caring of people.
Lonliness is the greatest enemy of a brahmacari. If you want to remain a senior brahmacari, have friends who are brahmacaris.
It is difficult seeing so much explicit sensuality when we approach the public to sell books, thus Srila Prabhupada advised we go to the holy dhama and get strength.
There are four asramas. Choose one. Do it right. And do not let the opinions of others disturb your conviction.
Krishna is definitely there. If you did not pray to Krishna as a brahmacari, you will definitely do so as a grhastha.
Q: We hear it is best for men to be brahmacari and best for women to get married? How do we adjust these two apparently contradictory ideas?
A: If I were Catholic, I would say, "That, my friend, is a mystery."
A (Tattva-vit Prabhu said Bhakti Caru Swami said): If the devotee women marry persons who are not devotees but make them devotees by their association, then both could be true.
Traveling and preaching is the best life for a brahmacari. Beware of the temple. Then Krishna Ksetra Prabhu added, "Beware of the kitchen." And Prahladanana Swami added, "Beware of the deity room."
Q (by Shyamananda Prabhu): I can see grhastha life can help with emotional maturity, but is that necessary to be a good devotee?
A: Emotional maturity is important, but it is not required to be a grhastha to attain that. One thing we do not do in ISKCON well is to give people life-death situations after seven years, like they do theological seminaries, so brahmacaris can learn to really help people in a deeper way.
Marriage was never an option for me. I was satisfied to remain brahmacari for the rest of my life. But I became sannyasi because I felt it was better for preaching. People take your instructions more seriously. I always thought sannyasa was something that was awarded, not demanded or sought after. So I never brought it up.
One danger of sannyasa is that there are more opportunities for getting more honor and respect, which could prove distracting.
One brahmacari who was always a problem to engage, when he saw me as a sannyasi become so much more serious about his spiritual life, increasing his desire to take responsibility and to preach.
When people offer you additional respect because you have taken sannyasa, they are offering respect to your danda not to you.
Before taking sannyasa, I wrote all the leaders asking for their blessings. One person challenged me, "Sannyasa is not recommended in this age. Why are you taking it? Are you free of sex desire? Are you transcendental to the three modes of material nature? Are you a paramahamsa? Answer all these as honestly as possible." I did and asked for his blessings, and he gushed forth with them.
It is better to be a brahmacari that people feel should have taken sannyasa, than a sannyasi than others feel should have remained a brahmacari.
It is always better to take sannyasa at the request of the devotees rather than because of one's own ambition.
We have tendencies toward brahmacarya or grhastha life, but beyond that, there is the power of the holy name. If we take shelter of the holy name, whatever asrama one is in, one will be a brahmacari, and if one does not take shelter of the holy name, whatever asrama one is in, one will not be a brahmacari.
vasan dānto guror hitam
ācaran dāsavan nīco
"Nārada Muni said: A student should practice completely controlling his senses. He should be submissive and should have an attitude of firm friendship for the spiritual master. With a great vow, the brahmacārī
should live at the gurukula, only for the benefit of the guru." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.12.1)
Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 6, No.11
Birmingham 24-Hour Kirtana
Indradyumna Swami, Sacinandana Swami,
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, and Others
Where I Was and What I Did
While in Munich, I saw on the Mayapuri's web site that the Birmingham 24-hour kirtana was happening on June 5 and 6, and since Kadamba Kanana Swami told me to preach in England and Scotland and my friends Gaura Krishna and Bhakti Rasa Prabhus, had invited me to visit them in Manchester and Newcastle, I decided to go to England straightaway. I was happy to attend that 24-hour kirtana and am thinking seriously of attending it each year. Gaura Krishna Prabhu arranged for me to speak on science and religion almost every night at the nama-hatta programs within an hour of Manchester, a great opportunity for me. Bhakti Rasa arranged for harinama every day for the three days I was there in Newcastle. He also arranged that a couple other disciples of Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami come at the same time, and Caitanya Candrodaya Prabhu scheduled a meeting with our Guru Maharaja via Internet. There were also were a couple home programs.
For the third time in the last month, I got the association of Sacinandana Swami, who is very inspired in kirtana. Krishna Ksetra Prabhu, another faithful sadhu was present as well. Also my friends, the Mayapuris, Visvambara and Kisore, performed some lively kirtana.
There was ashama space above the kirtana hall and after Visvambhara sang a Hare Krishna tune I really liked at 12:30 a.m. I took rest. When I awoke around 2:00 a.m., I heard someone singing another tune I really liked to dance to so, I got up and chanted and danced for half an hour and returned to sleep for another hour and a half. The kirtana was so much amplified it was difficult to find a place where I could just focus on my japa. I would take half hour naps when people played tunes that were difficult to follow, in order to keep going. There was plenty of prasadam but you had to wait in long lines for it.
The president of the Balaji temple, where we had the event for the second year in a row, happily said he felt the presence of Vrndavana on the grounds of his temple during the twenty-four hour kirtana. Furthermore, he said that is that it was no great thing to construct a temple, because people are always demanding it, but the genuine devotion to the glorification of the Lord which we had, demonstrated by this festival of 24-hour chanting of the maha-mantra, was the most important thing.
The Balaji temple vice president urged the devotees to come back again next year, as he had done last year.
In Manchester near the city bus station they have grassy area called Piccadilly Garden with a fountain in it which is full of people on the sunny days, and a great place for chanting in public. I went out one day for two and a half hours and had some positive interactions with people. One high school girl excitedly came up to me telling how she had just met the Hare Krishna at a festival in Somerset the previous weekend. Her parents are favorable to alternative ideas, and I gave her invitations to the temple. Other high school girls came up and a couple wanted to chant along briefly, for the experience. One time I chanted there and a Pakistani Moslem named Ali came by and inquired what I was doing, and I explained. He went to sit by the fountain for sometime with his girl friend, but then they both returned because he liked the music. When I had to leave for an evening program, he expressed some disappointment. In Manchester, as in Munich, I would met Indian people who did not know we had a Hare Krishna center in their city, and I would help them get connected.
I also went out with the monthly harinama party there. They were led by a very committed devotee, Vrajendra Lal Prabhu, who also runs the weekly nama-hatta in Bolton. They were enthusiastic and had a nice relationship with the people there. The only thing is they should increase because harinama is so important it should happen more than once a month.
Once a month the Liverpool nama-hatta meets and before that the devotees do harinama in that city. The Beatles have a connection with that city, and the people have an attraction to music and are more open than most. Many people danced with us, had their picture taken with us, and were glad to see us chanting there. One guy with a bear costume took pleasure singing with us and joined us for fifteen minutes.
Gaura Krishna Prabhu, who I met while studying in Mayapur with MIHET, arranged that I speak on science and religion at several nama-hattas within an hour of Manchester, such as Preston, Sheffield, Leeds, and Liverpool. I put together a Powerpoint presentation centered about some material from the Forbidden Archeology book that reveals hypocrisy in the field of archeology. It ends by looking at other explanations other than those given by science. I also made the point that if we look at revealed knowledge given in the Vedic tradition we find a lot of explanations for things science cannot explanation, and that there is empirical support for key ideas in the Vedic paradigm, such as the eternal soul, its transmigration, and the all knowing, all powerful, omnipresent Supreme Lord. I found many people were attracted by the presentation, and especially in Liverpool, there were a lot of comments and questions afterwards. I think that I could polish the presentation and give it at other places I travel to.
I also did a little program on Hanuman's appearance day at an Indian congregational member's home, whose birthday coincided with that day. I learned on the Internet that Hanuman's appearance day is celebrated on different days in different parts of India, and because in Andra Pradesh it is celebrated on one dasami in the month of Vaisakha, I was able to guess our host's place of origin. Every time I study for things like that, I learn more about the great personalities involved. We had a kirtana at the end, and Gaura Krishna encouraged the young children to dance in it to their full potential and because the children were getting into it, the parents danced more than usual which was interesting to see. It is something to keep in mind in the future to increase participation.
I was very grateful that Bhakti Rasa arranged for harinama on each of three days I was in Newcastle. He also arranged two other godbrothers to visit at the same time so we had more people. There is also a couple, disciples of Janananda Swami, who do as much harinama as possible there on his order. The downtown of that city has a busy pedestrian area, which is just suitable for chanting parties. Even better than Newcastle was Durham, a picturesque university town where lots of people appreciated our chanting party.
We are not the mind. We have heard it many times, but we don't apply it.
In a letter to Kirtiraja Prabhu, Srila Prabhupada explains how do deal with sex desire. There are three stages of action, (1) thinking, (2) feeling, and (3) willing. One must stop it at stage of thinking, otherwise it can get out of hand.
I asked one of the top book distributors in Slovenia how he sells the books. He explains to the people that Bhagavad-gita is the ultimate motivational book. It motivates you on such a deep level that you do not become unmotivated. People are attracted and buy the book.
When devotees come to me for counseling, I asked them how a devotee would deal with their present situation. The devotee has become so overwhelmed, he has forgotten how a devotee would deal with his situation, although at heart he knows.
If we can just change the way we speak, our lives will change and our relationships will improve.
Wives make a big mistake thinking it is their sacred duty to chastise their husbands. They do not know that if they are just nice, their husbands will do anything. They do not even have to be nice, just smile, and refrain from speaking harshly.
Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that one who thinks the world needs to be reformed needs to be reformed himself.
I gave whole class in Croatia on answering the phone. The first thing is to pick it up. Do not let it ring and ring. When you pick it up, "Say, 'Center for Vedic Studies, Can I help you?'" Not "Who is it?" That scares them. Then when they tell you want they need, take the trouble to actually get them what the need.
The most important thing in devotee care is how we speak and how we listen to them.
Danavir Maharaja related how he encouraged the bhaktas by positive reinforcement and then the others who did not get the positive treatment automatically improved their condition realizing they must be doing something wrong.
We have to talk to ourselves positively.
When you say "How are you today?" Be ready to listen for two hours.
We can improve by using our talents in Krishna's service.
Most our stress is self-imposed. We are responsible for our health. We are responsible for our minds.
If you start giving, you will see people start giving to you.
Start every day with ten appreciations.
What we desire is of utmost importance because desire motivates activities.
People are dreaming about love, about meeting the perfect partner in this world. But it is not to be. There is a perfect partner in the spiritual world, but we do not believe it.
To controlling the mind, we first have to understand who "we" are. Then we can focus the mind on spiritual things.
You should not hate yourself. You should strive to engage your mind.
How do you advance every day? Always choose Krishna and never Maya. Use Bhagavad-gita to discriminate between them. We have enough power to say "No." Krishna gives us that power.
Let's say I am addicted to sweets. Try chanting the maha-mantra to the sweet, at least one round (108 times). You will find you become detached.
In Montenegro, they found two skeletons embracing each other. I think that is the perfection of love in the material world.
We have been taking from God and from others so much for so long, we should dedicate this life to service God and others.
Q: In our neophyte state we have impure feelings in relationship with Lord, can these be engaged in His service?
A: Kubja became lusty to enjoy with Krishna because He is an attractive boy. However, when she touched His lotus feet, she became free of her lust. So it is alright to approach Krishna with impurities. He will purify us.
Sometimes people who not serious about spiritual life leave Krishna consciousness and find another religion where they can commit sinful activities and still be respected.
We have everything in our movement, but we do not properly care for our members. That we are beginning to develop.
There was a meeting on outreach, but it split into two groups. One group doubted whether we should do outreach when we do not sufficiently take care of the people we have.
I propose you put on your business card "bhakti yoga teacher."
Sacinandana Swami has created a five part program to improve people's lives.
Sattva (acting in the mode of goodness—a balanced life), dharma (an occupational duty according to your nature), atma (your own self), Paramatma (the Lord), and bhakti (love for the Lord and everyone else).
People are more important than things. People are more important than tasks. People are more important than projects. People are more important than anything, because without people you cannot have projects, tasks, etc.
How do you care for people? You ask people how they are, you give them gifts, you listen to them. It may seem artificial at first, but you will come to like it.
Preaching is the greatest security, even for a grhastha. It is not that preaching is only for others. It is for you too. You have to preach to go back to Godhead. Preaching is the highest pleasure. If you preach, your taste will for holy name will increase.
If you have a problem, think if you were a world expert, what would you to do solve it?
Every problem is an opportunity, but what is it an opportunity for?
Prithu Maharaja taught what to ask for. People ask God for so many things, but he only wanted to hear the glories of the Lord from the lips of His pure devotees.
Time shows who is devoted and who is not.
We fear that if we surrender to the Lord, we will be missing something, but that is not a fact. We will have whatever we need and also have a relationship with the Lord.
Some people worry how they can have relationships with other people if they love only the Lord, but in reality, because all people connected with the Lord, we actually become connected with everyone.
If you say you have love for someone, but you do not have time for that person, then I do not believe you.
Faith that by this process [of devotional service] one will attain perfection is essential.
Srila Prabhupada mentions, when commenting on Bhisma's instructions, that to conquer anger, one must learn how to forgive. That implies that we do not know how to forgive, we have to learn how to forgive.
What we do in devotional service is for our benefit. Krishna has nothing to gain and nothing to lose.
One reason people are not interested in Krishna consciousness is they are afraid of joining an institution. If we can present it as universal knowledge, they can appreciate.
When you advertise your self as a spiritual mentor, it is not self promotion, but promotion of the service.
A spiritual guide means for me, four things: (1) exemplary personal conduct, (2) support (like celebrating the students' successes), (3) knowledge of the scriptures (so you can guide them), and then when the relationship develops, (4) challenging them to increase.
Srila Prabhupada said that leaders should create an atmosphere of fresh challenge.
If we do not offer to guide people, then someone else will. That someone else will be someone who is not connected to Srila Prabhupada [who can bring them to Krishna].
In London, we created a mission statement: "Our mission is to spread Krishna consciousness in the world, from Central London, by joyfully chanting Hare Krishna, distributing books, and prasadam, and by teaching others strictly according the teachings of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada."
When you are a spiritual guide, you are not attached to being "the one who helps them," you just want to offer help, and you want them to advance spiritually. If someone else can help them better in the future, that is fine with you.
A Little Humor: An Italian Poem on Sleeping
Hare Krishna Das Prabhu, who attended the Munich Ratha-yatra last month and who chants kirtana and plays accordion up to five or six hours a day on the Slovenian padayatra, told me he can't sleep more than three or four hours at night. I was envious and told him I wish I was able to be satisfied sleeping so little at night [because I often stay up too late at night doing things I had hoped to finish that day]. He quoted one poem, "Filastrocca delle ore di Sonno," which when translated from his native Italian goes like this:
One hour sleeps the rooster,
Insights from Lectures
From a lecture on SB 1.9.40:
Just as if you love someone, you do not care what he is, if he is rich or poor, etc., similarly the gopis of Vrndavana did not care whether Krishna was God, they just loved Him.
From lecture on SB 5.5.2 in Hyderabad:
Our business is to keep friendship with Krishna. Arjuna was ksatriya and grhastha not brahmana and not sannyasi, but he was friend of Krishna. One who understands Krishna is guru.
Arjuna, because he is Vaishnava, did not want to fight and kill, but he agreed to become an instrument in Krishna's service.
The pure devotee is not interested in anything else. He just wants to serve Krishna as He desires.
Krishna is very expert and can understand if you want to serve him with a motive or without a motive.
The devotee is not interested in advancing materially because he realizes his destiny is fixed.
In your material life, you will never make everyone happy.
If someone thinks Krishna is contradicting Himself, he has not understood.
From a lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1 in Caracus on February 20, 1975:
The most intelligent accept Krishna immediately. Serious researchers of the truth who are intelligent, because they are seeking the truth, but who are less intelligent, cannot accept this immediately. They have to research for many births, and then they will come to the same conclusion. Gold is gold whether you accept it on faith or by chemical examination. One who accepts the gold because of the statements of the authority saves time, and so it is with accepting God.
How the Lord was detained because of affection for His devotee cannot be understood by materialistic persons.
On the appearance day of the great devotee Lord Jesus Christ known as Christmas, children come to their parents with lists of material desires to be fulfilled and if they do not get everything they want, they become angry. This is a very unfortunate situation. We are meant to serve the Lord for His pleasure and not ours.
We noticed in Srila Prabhupada how detached he was. When he came to Paris, some devotees were crying to see him, but Srila Prabhupada walked by them without being affected.
Once the devotees were chanting in front of a department store chanting and one woman came out of the store and collapsed on the spot. People called for an ambulance, but the devotees just kept chanting because they that was best thing for the lady. Other people, however, were annoyed and wanted them to go away.
When people saw Lord Caitanya's ecstatic chanting and dancing, they did not call the police. Rather they also chanted the holy name of the Lord and danced.
Lord Krishna's pastimes are more a less like a stage performance to attract the conditioned souls, but you cannot jump up on the stage and enter into them. But as Lord Caitanya, the Lord gets off the stage and goes into the crowd and gets people to participate.
When the sannyasi begged little Nitai from his parents, his mother Padmavati was filled with lamentation. Seeing this the sannyasi gave her a deity of Krishna from his bag, blessing her than she would see the face of her son in the deity, and so she did.
Lord Nityananda met Laksmipati Tirtha, the spiritual master of Madhvendra Puri, took initiation from him, and immediately became absorbed in love of God. You can chant the holy name and become purified from sins, but to get Krishna-prema you have to take initiation from the sampradaya.
Lord Nityananda went door-to-door to distribute Krishna consciousness—if it is good enough for God, it is good enough for us.
Lord Nityananda broke Lord Caitanya's danda rod into three parts. In His mind, this was to punish the rod for its arrogance of riding on His Lord's shoulder.
Acaryas (the great spiritual teachers) say Lord Caitanya wanted Lord Nityananda to become a married man because many of His other followers were in the renounced order, and He wanted to show that it is possible to attain perfection is a householder.
According to Bhaktivinoda Thakura, namabhasa, the clearing stage of the chanting is the best we can hope to achieve if we chant without understanding we have a relationship with Krishna.
We should pray to Krishna for faith in Him and His representative.
Regarding Srila Prabhupada's association, "I took it like a hungry man takes food." I asked, "Swamiji, is there a stage of spiritual life that you do not fall down from?"
Faithful hearing is solidified by sadhu-sanga, association with saints.
Without the spiritual master, we do not have the link to Krishna. . . . Do not see the guru with your eyes, but with your ears. . . . If you are serious, you want the next step, the guru.
The fire of knowledge set by the guru destroys our anarthas. We can be perfect by surrendering to Krishna, but we have so many doubts that we have to dissipate by studying the sastra.
When I doubted about Krishna's sixteen thousand wives, Prabhupada explained that the Lord is in everyone's hearts and if he wants to come out of the heart and play the husband of a few especially qualified souls who have affection for him like that, what is the difficulty for Him?
At nistha we do not abandon our guru because he is not physically present and seek another.
Clinging to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada is the only way I can attain the higher states of Krishna consciousness.
By the mercy of my gurus worse rascals than me have attained Krishna.
Psychologists say you can understand consciousness in terms of biology. Biologists think you can explain life in terms of chemistry. Chemists think you can understand chemistry in terms of physics. Some of the latest physicists say that you need to understand consciousness to completely understand matter, and so you have a complete circle.
Trying to figure out everything with our minds, we can come to realize that we cannot do so. We can come to realize that there is a God, and by surrendering to God we can actually understand. That is the meaning of Bg. 7.19.
No artificially produced fruit flies made by mutations can survive in the wild. They have not produced a mutation that can compete with the natural ones. They all die out.
The Middle East conflict between Palestine and Israel is about land, land that was created before both groups came into being. The land belongs to neither the Palestinian nor the Isreali. Arafat was fighting for something he cannot take. When we are born, we do not bring anything and when we die, we do not take anything with us.
Peace will come from knowledge coming from God. If there was a true spiritual leader in that region, people could be saved.
That "God is very merciful and compassionate" is there in Islam.
Comment by Zoary [wife of Mohammed]: Both sides in the conflict are killing for no reason but selfishness.
Comment by Mohammed: Both sides have religious values and strict practices so it is not that they do not have guidance. We have students who are Israeli and Lebanese who have great religious values and behavior, but when it comes to that land in Palestine. They both claim it is sacred to their tradition.
Acaryavan Prabhu (continuing): But still, neither can truly a claim proprietorship of the land. We are all children of the one God.
I lived in Morocco, then I lived in France 26 years, and then I lived in England for 16 years. I do not see it makes a difference.
Comment by Mohammed [a Iranian congregational devotee in Newcastle area]:
Islam is against music because love for music could separate us from love of God. The dervishes, on the other hand, consider how can such beautiful music come from an inert material instrument played by the material body of some being. It is God who plays makes the music appear.
Q (by me): Are the dervishes a branch of Islam?
Gaura Krishna Prabhu:
Birth is not a misery just for the baby but also for the mother.
Kali-yuga is so precarious that one is not even safe in the womb of one's mother. Some abortions are performed by inserting a sharp instrument into the womb and literally stabbing the embryo. One Dr. Patel, formerly an abortion doctor who performed 30,000 abortions himself, became a devotee and to discourage others from performing abortion he would show a video showing how the embryo was moving away from the sharp object, desiring to escape.
Instead of seeking an anesthetist to become from free from the pain of the many arrows shot through his body, Bhismadeva wanted to be fully conscious at the time of death, so he could fix his mind on Krishna.
Q (by me): Even though we know Krishna is in their hearts, it is hard to feel good about the drunks we see on the street [who tend to harass us.] What to do?
Kripamoya Prabhu said that Srila Prabhupada told the early British devotees how he was previously a chemist and the druggists in those days would have bottles of colored water in the windows of their stores. They would not have actual medicine in them but just colored water to attract people. He explained to the devotees that they should not be show bottle, just appearing be to devotees, but not completely following.
Three stages in prayer: (1) appreciation of the Lord, (2) dainya-bodhika, presenting yourself to the Lord as being very fallen, in a very humble way, begging for mercy. (3) siddha-lalasa, aspiring for a stage of perfection.
You have to present yourself as very fallen in order to attract mercy. If you are very proud and think you deserve the mercy, you are in trouble.
The biggest problem is not materialism, but materialistic religion, because it gives people a false idea of what religion is actually about.
Caitanya Vallabha Prabhu [to a nama-hatta audience]:
Tonight we are not cooking a feast. We just put the ingredients in the kitchen and throw in a Mozeltov cocktail. If we do not get a feast the first time, will keep trying, and we hope before the end of the evening we will.
Nityananda Mahajana so mercifully opened a marketplace in Nadiya-Godruma for the welfare of the suffering souls. In that market place only the Holy Name is traded.
Who knew? You! You knew that when there's mention of Memory Lane in the Title Box, I'm so busy that I have decided I will recycle an old blog. But with 3000 in my archives, I don't think you'll mind. So here's an oldie that's a goldie.
Some years ago I was sent these pictures of the Auricchio Cheese Factory in Napoli, Italy. These are serious balls of fresh Provolone, being tended to by hand rather than machine.
The big soft balls of cheese are taken out of the whey and shaped.
The lumps of cheese are then formed into logs before continuing on their long journey to the dinner table. To my knowledge this company coagulates much of their milk, if not all, using a non-animal rennet.
That's serious cheese-making.
I have a bunch of realisations from this tour, as well as my world tour that immediately proceeded it. Hopefully I'll get some time to write them down in the next few weeks.
Right now, though, I'd just like to say that the principle realisation from the tour with Amala Kirtan is that ability, or even lack of ability, is secondary to quality as a human being. That was the lesson that I learned from Amala Kirtan.
When a Krishna Conscious person is elevated to a responsible position, he never becomes puffed up. Just like a tree when overladen with fruits becomes humble and lower down; similarly, a great soul in Krishna Consciousness becomes humbler than the grass and bowed down like the fruitful trees because a Krishna Conscious person acts as the agent of Krishna, therefore he discharges his duty with great responsibility.
>>> Ref. VedaBase => Letter to: Gajendra -- Los Angeles 27 January, 1970
In the ancient text of the Bhagavad-Gita, which is an important scripture for Bhakti Yoga Practitioners, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead explains to the warrior king, Arjuna
Hare Krsna Prabhus,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I am just finishing up a North American tour, on which I did book distribution and conducted seminars. It has been very enlivening. While traveling I had the good fortune of Jayadvaita MaharajaÃ•s association in New York City. He gave a very nice class the evening before I left. He spoke about book distribution (it's always nice to hear our leaders speak about it). Here's a little of the nectar: "I was traveling from New Jersey in a train when a Muslim sat next to me. After awhile he turned to me and asked what my religion is. That started a whole conversation about God and spiritual life, and he was very interested. When I travel I always like to carry books with me for people like this. So I and the devotee traveling with me were trying to find where we had put them. Finally we found a Ã'Perfection of Yoga,Ã" and I gave it to him. He asked if he could give something for it and gave a very nice donation. It was very nice to see someone of another faith so interested in what we have to offer."
Maharaja went on to say, "Earlier in the year I was in South Africa. While I was there I asked a devotee how he had joined. He told this story:
When I was very young my father visited France, and while waiting in the airport in Paris for his plane back to our home in the Congo, he saw a Bhagavad-gita on a table. Someone had apparently left it there. It was there for a long time, so at last he picked it up and started reading it. No one came looking for the book, so he took it with him on the flight. He found it very interesting.
Later, whenever he was home he would often quote from the Bhagavad-gita, saying, Ã'Krsna says thisÃ" and Ã'Krsna says that.Ã" I began thinking, Ã'Who is this Krsna?Ã"
When I grew up and was on a visit to South Africa, I met some devotees distributing books, and they told me about Krsna. I put the two together and said, Ã'My father knows all about Krsna!Ã" They invited me to the temple and I really liked it and eventually joined. My father is also a devotee and chants sixteen rounds.
Maharaja concluded: Ã'There is a saying in India: 'There is a name on every grain of rice.' Similarly, there is a name on every book that goes out, and only Krsna knows whose hand it is going to end up in, just as only Krsna knows to whom every grain of rice will go.Ã"
Your servant, Vijaya das (Text D:3265232) -------------------------------------------
------- End of Forwarded Message ------
Hare Krsna Prabhus,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I am just finishing up a North American tour, on which I did book distribution and conducted seminars. It has been very enlivening. While traveling I had the good fortune of Jayadvaita MaharajaÕs association in New York City. He gave a very nice class the evening before I left. He spoke about book distribution (it's always nice to hear our leaders speak about it). Here's a little of the nectar: "I was traveling from New Jersey in a train when a Muslim sat next to me. After awhile he turned to me and asked what my religion is. That started a whole conversation about God and spiritual life, and he was very interested. When I travel I always like to carry books with me for people like this. So I and the devotee traveling with me were trying to find where we had put them. Finally we found a ÒPerfection of Yoga,Ó and I gave it to him. He asked if he could give something for it and gave a very nice donation. It was very nice to see someone of another faith so interested in what we have to offer."
Maharaja went on to say, "Earlier in the year I was in South Africa. While I was there I asked a devotee how he had joined. He told this story:
When I was very young my father visited France, and while waiting in the airport in Paris for his plane back to our home in the Congo, he saw a Bhagavad-gita on a table. Someone had apparently left it there. It was there for a long time, so at last he picked it up and started reading it. No one came looking for the book, so he took it with him on the flight. He found it very interesting.
Later, whenever he was home he would often quote from the Bhagavad-gita, saying, ÒKrsna says thisÓ and ÒKrsna says that.Ó I began thinking, ÒWho is this Krsna?Ó
When I grew up and was on a visit to South Africa, I met some devotees distributing books, and they told me about Krsna. I put the two together and said, ÒMy father knows all about Krsna!Ó They invited me to the temple and I really liked it and eventually joined. My father is also a devotee and chants sixteen rounds.
Maharaja concluded: ÒThere is a saying in India: 'There is a name on every grain of rice.' Similarly, there is a name on every book that goes out, and only Krsna knows whose hand it is going to end up in, just as only Krsna knows to whom every grain of rice will go.Ó
Your servant, Vijaya das (Text D:3265232) -------------------------------------------
------- End of Forwarded Message ------
After sleeping alright I woke at 1 A.M. with a headache. I got up from bed and took medicine and began chanting. The headache gradually subsided, but my chanting was not very speedy. I have chanted twelve rounds, and it seems for getting up so early I should have chanted more. But I will not berate myself. It was an honest struggle, a sincere attempt chanting from where I'm at spiritually in my present situation. I will finish the quota later this morning. Although it was slow I was aware of doing japa and so I was not actually drowsy. The syllables passed through my mind, and I accumulated numerical strength at a decent rate. Perfection is beyond me, but I like getting up very early and would rather do nothing else but sit and chant my japa and for this Krishna sees me and is pleased.
The japa man does
Yesterday I wrote about my relationship with Prabhupada as his secretary-servant. But each of his disciples and granddisciples is capable of having an intimate relationship with him. He gave himself to whomever he met, and those people can remember even brief exchanges they shared with him and they keep them in their heart. Beyond that, they can experience and feel their love for him through his gift of vani or instruction. There are people who never met him personally, even inmates in prisons, who have met Prabhupada by his books and developed intense dedication to him. His books have the power of creating a guru-disciple relationship with a person that is a life-long bond. He has even said, "If you want to know me, read my books." He was aware of the potency of his books to give people their personal relationship with Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the unique sense of indebtedness to the author of the books. There is an intimate relationship with Krishna and guru. Krishna is the worshipful Bhagavan, and the guru is the worshiping Bhagavan. Prabhupada even said that he did not write his books but that Krishna wrote them. He said his purports were his personal ecstasies. This means Krishna in the heart dictated to Prabhupada, and Prabhupada wrote down the words.
Prabhupada liked to give out cookies and sweets to little children and to his grown-up disciples. It was a simple yet touching way of creating a bond with his followers. They became naturally affectionate to him and desirous of rendering him service. Rendering service to Prabhupada and to the Hare Krishna movement is the same as direct service to Radha and Krishna. It is still open to anyone at any time and any place. One can pick it up at any stage of one's life, upon coming in touch with Prabhupada, his followers and his movement.
You need to go deeper
You need to tell them who
Now that Aindra Prabhu
You have to tell them
You have to admit your
You have to admit to
You have to try your
You have to surrender to Krishna in your will
I've introduced a diabetic postmaster, an old woman who had cancer, now in remission and an autistic boy. Are they potentially important people or is there someone else I want to introduce and develop? Junior Barks came by the house and submitted a page of writing for inclusion in Healing House, but I felt it was too dogmatic and technical.
SRS: Let vegetarianism grow on you. Read more…
Q: What motivated you to write this memoir?
Radhanath Swami: For many years friends and well-wishers asked me to write this memoir because they heard me tell stories from time to time. But I always resisted because I felt it would be an act of arrogance to write a story about myself. But then something happened that changed my mind.
My very dear friend Bhakti Tirtha was brought up in the ghettos of Cleveland in the '50s and '60s and rose up to be a Princeton graduate and religious leader of the Bhakti movement and traveled around the world. Such people as Muhammed Ali, Nelson Mandela, Alice Coltrane were taking guidance from him. He wrote many books. He called me to his bedside in Pennsylvania in the last stages of cancer. I went just to offer my love and respect to him. At that time he said something that really changed my life. He said, "I want to die in your arms. Please stay with me."
I spent the next eight weeks at his side, discussing spiritual inspirational subjects. And one day he looked at me with very deep concern in his eyes. He took my hand and said, "Why are you hesitating to write this memoir that everyone has asked for?" I expressed my heart. "Is it not an act of arrogance to write about myself?" He said, "This is not your story. This is the story of a young man who was called to try to find the same truths that everyone is searching for in this world. If your story can help other people on their spiritual path, then it would be arrogance not to write it." Then he took my hand and said, "Please promise me, on my deathbed, that you will write this book."
Just a few days later, surrounded by hundreds of loving well-wishers and followers, His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha passed away from this world. In honor of his love and friendship I have written this book, "The Journey Home."
Q: What is it that you would like people to take away from reading your memoir?
Radhanath Swami: I hope that when people read this book that they may be inspired to seek deeper into the experiences of life that really have value. So often we get caught up with superficialities that our life loses deep and fulfilling meaning. But to find meaning in our life, a life that helps us to develop character, meaning, and ultimately love for God—if in some small way "The Journey Home" can help anyone from any religion or background to ask the questions, "What is the most meaningful purpose of life?" then I'll be satisfied that my service has some merit.
Q: Why did you take such a dangerous journey to India when you were only seventeen?
Radhanath Swami: I was raised in the 1960s in America, in a time of much social and ideological rebellion. At that time there were serious questions in my heart that I felt needed to be addressed. Why is there hatred, cruelty, war? Why so much selfishness and greed? There must be a deeper, higher purpose in life. In the beginning through political reform I participated in the civil rights movement of Dr. Martin Luther King and in demonstrations against the Vietnam War. I entered into the counter-culture of the '60s, but in my own evolution of consciousness I came to the conclusion that real solutions have to be found within oneself.
If we don't transform our own values, then we can't really do anything substantial in this world. So myself and my friend Gary traveled to different parts of the world to study different points of view and different types of life. Gradually there was a calling in my heart that led me deeper into a spiritual search, until on an island in Greece on a mountaintop I was praying and meditating and I heard a voice that changed the entire course of my life.
It said, "Go to India." I left my friend Gary, I left my comfortable cave and began to hitchhike from Greece to India. I had no money. That calling, even though I knew it was going to put me into hardships and risks, was so loud there was nothing that could stop me from following that call.
I knew that it would break my parents' heart that I wasn't going to come home from the two months of my Europe vacation. But I felt it was really something I had to do in life. Now, when a person really has nothing and puts oneself in mysterious places, it is unbelievable what can happen. In my journey across the Middle East and throughout India I was putting my life in the hands of God. Many dangers, many threats to my life, diseases, and many of the most incredible mystical moments as well.
I was just trying to follow my call. I felt like a leaf floating in the waves in the current of destiny. Wherever it led me, I accepted. And beautiful things can be discovered in life when we let go of our own ego. I think it is a truth of life that when a person really sincerely focuses on a goal, with an open heart, then magical things take place.
I believe that magic is the grace of God, who can empower, perfect and nourish us to overcome all obstacles and find a great treasure within our own hearts. And when we find that treasure in our own hearts, then we have something very valuable and very beautiful to share with others.
Q: The Sixties were an exciting era. What was it like traveling across Europe then?
Radhanath Swami: Gary and I departed from America by taking a flight on Icelandic Airlines. If I remember it was about $65. We flew to Iceland then to Luxembourg. We had a friend Frank who was our beneficiary. He had money, we had no money. He promised to support us through our journey. But the first day in Luxembourg he was robbed and that very day he went back to America. So Gary and I were on our own to learn to live in foreign countries.
Our only way for survival was to make friends with people and gain their trust and try to give our affection and friendship. Often in return we received their friendship and affection, and that was all we needed. At one time we had no money and wanted to go to Crete from Athens. We gave blood in a blood bank in Athens. In those days it was extremely painful. So in the blood bank we were holding our arms waiting for our payment and we noticed there was a guitar player from France and a violin player from Switzerland, and I played the harmonica.
So we decided to form a band. And we went out into the streets. Gary was our percussion by shaking a hat with some coins in it. We became quite popular on the streets of Athens, Greece—except the police did not enjoy our performance. They brought us to the police station and confiscated whatever they could find and told us to never do it again. At that time with whatever little we did hide from the police we took a little boat to the island of Crete. And that's where the calling to travel to India came into my life.
Q: "The Journey Home" reveals some terrifying moments in that overland travel to India. Why do you think you had to go through so many obstacles on your path to God?
Radhanath Swami: Obstacles are great stepping stones, to prepare us and purify us to make progress toward our goal. This holds especially true in spiritual life. But when obstacles come, especially those that are beyond our control, it helps us to deeply take shelter of a power and a grace beyond our own. Otherwise, the tendency is to become very lukewarm in our spiritual life.
Difficulties, obstacles provide us an opportunity to either give up, find some other alternative, or to go very, very deep, to really take shelter of God on our spiritual paths. Also, those difficulties help us to appreciate the value of what we are striving for on the path of grace, the path of enlightenment.
Q: Were you unhappy with being raised Jewish? Why did you decide to adapt to what most people would call Hinduism?
Radhanath Swami: At that time in my life I had a burning desire to understand truth, to understand who I am, and to understand God. If we look for a purpose, we find a purpose even in the most unlikely places. At that time in my life, I really wanted to know who I was. I wanted to find answers to questions that were so prominent throughout the society. I wanted to know God, to understand how I could love God, how I could become an instrument of God's compassion in my own life.
That desire burned in me so intensely that it literally evaporated all of my other ideas about what I wanted to do in my life, and it set my feet on that path. My realization at that time was: "There must be an essence within every great religion or spiritual path that has come." I took note of so much irreligion in the name of religion: hatred on a path that is meant to cultivate love; bigotry and discrimination on paths that are meant to make us forgiving and compassionate. I saw hypocrisy and contradictions, but I had a deep faith that in the original teachings of all these great traditions there was the same essence, the same ultimate goal.
Not to be a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or a Jew or a Jain or a Parsi, but to love God and to be an instrument of that love in our life—and to have good character. And the more I saw the problems, the more I really, really wanted to find the essence. So I studied Christianity, I studied Judaism and later in the Middle East I was studying Islam, and I was studying different branches of Buddhism and Hinduism. I wanted to find that essence.
So I began to study various spiritual traditions, and I found universal truths there. And for me it wasn't a matter of converting from one religion to another. For me it was a matter of becoming religious—of becoming actually spiritual. I wasn't looking to become this religion or that religion. I was looking to love God and to find a path that would inspire me to love God. When I discovered this path of Bhakti, I found something that philosophically was inclusive, to encompass all the great spiritual teachings and paths that I had encountered in my search.
Q: What is Bhakti and what is that you found in Bhakti?
Radhanath Swami: I found a beautiful, personal conception of God that charmed my heart. I wanted to give my life that. By giving my life to that I felt I was giving my life to the essence of every great spiritual path. Bhakti means the path of unconditional love and devotion to God and to all living beings. Because all living beings are part of God. In the Bible it is said that the first and great commandment is to love God with all your heart and mind and soul. And if we do that, if we understand our personal relationship with the Supreme Divinity and the sweetness and beauty of God, then naturally we will love our neighbor as ourselves because we will see the presence of God in every living being. Every living being is a child of God.
And we will see everyone as our neighbor. You cannot love God and not love every living being. It is the essence of Hindu, of Islam, of Judaism, of Christianity. It is the essence of Buddhism, of all great spiritual paths, according to my discovery.
Q: When you first went to India, the police wouldn't let you into the country. Then recently you were received by the President. Can you tell us about that and what your thoughts were at that moment?
Radhanath Swami: Earlier this year in January 2010, I was invited to meet with the President of India Pratibha Patel, and as I was being escorted by top security officials through the beautiful, ornate corridors of the presidential palace, I began to reflect about the first day I came to the border of India. I was all alone in December 1970. I had traveled overland—actually I hitchhiked through London, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It took about six months. I had practically no money at all—in the end, nothing. And many near death experiences, diseases—but finally the land of my dream, India, was steps away. I was dreaming of the sages and the yogis and the lamas in the holy places that I was about to see.
I gave my passport to the immigration agent, and she asked how much money I had. I only had a few cents. She rejected my entry. "We have enough beggars in India. Go back to where you came. You are denied." I pleaded, I begged, but she became more adamant and more angry as I presented my desperation. I pleaded and I pleaded and I pleaded, and she sent me away, sometimes at the gunpoint of her security officers.
I sat under a little tree praying to God, feeling so desperate. I couldn't go back into Pakistan because my visa was only one entry. I couldn't get into India. I was in this no-man's land between two enemy nations. For six hours I sat under a tree and again and again pleaded with the officer and again and again I was rejected.
Finally, around sunset the immigration agents changed, and a Sikh gentleman took charge. I approached him and pleaded with him, but he said "I have already been warned that you are a nuisance. Go back—or show me two hundred dollars minimum." I began to cry. Really I was crying. I was desperate. "I traveled six months to get here. I'm covered with dust. I have nothing. But I have a longing to meet your people, to learn about your culture, your teachings and the heritage of your country. Please, just give me a chance and I promise some day I will try to do something good for your people."
He looked at me in the eyes and said, "Sometimes a man must follow his heart. I've been ordered not to let you in, but I'm going to give you the chance you are praying for." And he stamped my passport. And then he put his hand on my head and said, "Welcome to India."
I walked, and I was in this very isolated countryside. The sun had set and it had become dark. I was walking through some agricultural fields. I didn't know anyone in India. I had no money. I didn't know where to go. I didn't know anything. But I felt so at home and so grateful. These thoughts were going through my mind as I was walking through the presidential corridors, thinking "What a change. I was rejected at gunpoint by the security guards at the border of India. Now it is exactly forty years later, and I'm being escorted to see the president by her top security officials."
When I arrived in the president's office, Her Excellency Mrs Patel was standing with her hands folded to greet me and with a basket of fruit. When I told this story to my father he said, "This is really a story of rags to riches." But I was thinking, actually I'm a Swami so I still wearing something that is really like rags. And I still have no property, no bank account, not a penny to my name. So I have no riches. But then I thought deeper, that one grain of spiritual truth has greater value than all the things in the universal creation.
Q: So you made good on that promise you made to the border guard?
Radhanath Swami: Over the years I have tried to honor that promise to the immigration agent to do good to the people of India. We started some ashrams, some temples. At this time with the encouragement of the Indian government our ashram is feeding some 260,000 children in the slum schools every day. We have a hospital. We do a lot of charitable eye camps and other such medical work. We have an orphanage and we teach value education in various public schools. And we have many spiritual programs to uplift people's consciousness and teach them spiritual values and help them on the path to love of God. I'm trying, but I do not feel I could ever come close to repaying the great gifts my guru and the saintly people of India have given to me.
Q: And what is that you learned when you finally got to travel through India?
Radhanath Swami: My spiritual teacher Srila Prabhupada and many of the great teachers throughout history have taught us that pure love of God and genuine compassion for all living beings is dormant within the heart of all of us. It is our spiritual essence. The body and the mind are temporary, they are always changing. But the atma, the soul, is eternal. It is sat-chit-ananda, full of knowledge and full of bliss. And that bliss is the bliss of feeling the inconceivable, unlimited love of God and reciprocating by offering our love to God.
That love for God, that compassion for all living beings is like a seed within our heart. And every great spiritual process is to cultivate and water that seed. Activities that create weeds around that seed, activities that impede the growth of that seed, we are taught to avoid as far as possible. That meaning immorality, arrogance, violence to other living beings, unnecessary greed, illicit activities that are harmful to ourselves and others—if we avoid those things, by experience higher pleasures, spiritual pleasures that invigorate our minds and enlighten our souls, then that seed grows into a beautiful flower: the flower of pure spiritual love, of Bhakti. And that is the fulfillment and pleasure that every living being is looking for.
The most fundamental need of every living being is to love and be loved. And that need finds its perfection in the love between God and ourselves and in the love between the pure spirit in others and ourselves. And really that is the greatest need in the whole world.
Q: This incredible adventure must have taken a toll on your parents.
Radhanath Swami: When my father was expecting me back to return to college in September 1970, and then in October he got a letter from Iran that I was hitchhiking to India in search of enlightenment, my mother and my father's hearts were broken. By the way, there was no return address on the envelope. They were helpless in communicating their feelings to me. But as I traveled through the Middle East and then living as a sadhu in the Himalayan Mountains of India, living on riverbanks and in caves and jungles, I really had no address where they could write back. A long time passed. Every now and then I sent them letters just to assure them I was alive and remembering them. It hurt me to hurt them. But I really did believe that if I dedicated myself to a spiritual cause, to the cause of God, then everything would be compensated in due course of time.
And by God's grace it was. Gradually as my mother and father recognized what I believed and was trying to accomplish in my life, they became not only happy but proud. They came to India three times and were crying in joy every day. And today many of my father's best friends are devotees from India and the West. And when my mother passed away, my whole family decided "Let us cremate her and give her ashes." They gave them to me to bring to India because they felt she was so proud and happy over what I was doing in India that that's where she'd want her ashes to be spread.
Q: It's nice to know that you can be a swami and also remain the son of your parents.
Radhanath Swami: That feeling in my heart was extremely fulfilling, that my parents and my brothers who loved me so much could feel so nice about my dedication to Bhakti or God. My mother and father had to adjust to me coming home an ascetic monk from a tradition they had no conception of—and at the same time I had to open my heart to their position, which was very, very different, apparently very materialistic, or so I was thinking. But because there was affection they really tried to understand me and adjust. And I really tried to understand them and adjust. And something wonderful happened. I realized that for any relationship to develop in this world there must be forgiveness, there must be patience and tolerance, there must be a certain selflessness of adjusting to show respect and honor to each other.
And we always showed respect and honor to each other, despite our differences and in due course of time we both deeply appreciated and loved each other on a level higher than ever before. And in doing so, I didn't have to compromise my beliefs or values of monastic life. No matter how spiritual we are, we should never give up our humanness, our kindness or compassion or our appreciation for what others have done for us or are doing for us.
Q: What happened to your friend Gary? You and he started out together on this spiritual journey.
Radhanath Swami: Gary and I set out on this journey with a common goal: to find a lifestyle we could live that would make the most compassionate difference in the world. And the book "Journey Home" explains our relationship. But there was a gap of about 18 years when we never saw each other. And when we did meet in a most miraculous way, not planned by either of us, I was a swami living in India teaching people about spiritual values, and he was a bodybuilder who was a physical trainer in a gym in Malibu California. When we first met we had apprehensions: What do we have in common now?
But as we sat and discussed our lives and all the different changes and turns that it took, we realized that that same essential spirit was there in both of us, and we remained through all these changes best of friends.
One day Gary said to me, "Swami, how can we possibly still be friends? My life is dedicated to teaching people that if they have strong and beautiful bodies they will be happy, and your life is dedicated to teaching people they are not the body, they are eternal souls and should seek the happiness beyond physical pleasure, of the love of the soul." I remember smiling at Gary and I said to him, "My guru Srila Prabhupada taught that the body is a temple of God. So you teach people how to take nice care of their temple, to keep it healthy and clean, and I'll teach them what to do inside the temple. In this way we can be a team." And since then we've been a team.
Whenever I'm in Malibu I stay with him, and he comes to India every year and stays with me.
Q: What does the title "Journey Home" mean? Where is home?
Radhanath Swami: The title "Journey Home" came from these thoughts: Home is where we find comfort, relief from the troubles of the world. Home is where we find shelter and family and relationships and love. We all need home. The home that we're all looking for is the home within our heart. When we find peace, love and fulfillment within our own hearts, then we can feel home in any situation, anywhere. And if we do not find that within our own hearts, we can't really experience home anywhere within this world.
When we find God within our heart and we find home in that love, then we can see that every living being is part of our family and we're always home. The spiritual path is our journey home.
Q: Why do so many people seem to regard religion as the enemy of progressive human culture?
Radhanath Swami: There is a Sanskrit word saragrahi, which means one who seeks the essence in every situation. If we have an honest and sincere desire to grow in our character, in our devotion, our enlightenment, then we will always find the way to do so.
For those teachers who are honest and pure and true in what they teach and how they live, we can gain great inspiration and great knowledge and wisdom. But when we see there is hypocrisy or contradiction between what a person teaches and the real purpose of the message, there is also much to learn from that: to learn what we should be on guard against, to see how even religious leaders fall into pitfalls, the same essential as for all of us in different ways, and how we should be on guard and careful to protect ourselves from those pitfalls. We can learn and acquire great wisdom from properly applying spiritual truths to the mistakes of others, both today and throughout history. And those lessons are essential.
Q: You met a number of famous spiritual leaders on your travels. Who were they, and are there impressions that have stayed with you from those meetings?
Radhanath Swami: I was 19 years old when I arrived at the border of India, and during those years of traveling the Himalayas and the plains of the subcontinent, I met with the Dalai Lama of Tibet and was deeply nourished by his compassion for his people, his humor and his dedication to his cause even in the face at that time of death threats. And I found the obstacles that came before him only enriched his power to be an instrument of his mission in this world because he never gave up. Mother Theresa in the ghettos of Calcutta—how she was seeing her beloved Jesus even in the poorest and most downtrodden of people and giving her life and soul to uplifting them physically, emotionally and spiritually. Anandamayi Ma was like a mother to me. Neem Keroli Baba, his joyfulness, his enthusiasm to give God's love and to serve others and to inspire that in his followers through the chanting of God's names and various other outreach activities…
Swami Rama, Swami Muktananda, J. Krishnamurti, Buddhist lamas, Satyanarayan Goenka-ji of Vipassana meditation teaching, and many, many more, some famous, some unknown. I met with Swami Satchidananda and BKS Iyengar, Muslim saints, Christian saints, Jewish enlightened leaders. And I felt they had all given me such precious gifts. And in Vrindavan, the holy place of devotion to Lord Krishna, I met His Divine Srila Prabhupada. And in him I found a connection and an inspiration. In his teachings I found a wisdom that included all that I had learned from these other teachers.
Q: What was it particularly about Prabhupada that convinced you this person would be your teacher?
Radhanath Swami: His intoxicated love for the sweetness and the beauty of God, and most of all his deep compassion for all living beings. In my own life, his presence invoked a desire to unconditionally to be an instrument of God's compassion in my life. So I accepted his path, the path of devotion to Krishna. The path of Bhakti. And I accepted him as my guru, my spiritual teacher. I am still trying to share the precious gifts that he gave me and all of these other great saints, what they have given me, through the Journey Home book and any other way I can in my life.
Q: Why Krishna? Doesn't giving oneself to a particular deity mean excluding other religions or forms of worship?
Radhanath Swami: In the Bhagavad Gita it is said yada-yada hy dharmasya-glanir bhavati bharata abhytanam adharmasya tadatmanam srijyami aham. The Absolute Truth or God descends into this world in many ways and forms throughout the history of the universes. And it is not that one is the true God and one is not the true God. There is one true God—but that one true God can manifest in many ways within this world. So according to the Vedic scriptures—Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam—Krishna means "the all-attractive one."
One time I met a preacher of another religion who condemned me to go to hell forever because I believed in a false God. I said, "How do you I believe in a false God?" He said, "Because Krishna is a false God." I asked him, "Do you know what Krishna means?" He said, "No." I said, "Let me ask you a question. Is your God all-beautiful?" He said yes. "Does your God have infinite knowledge and strength? Is he the proprietor of everything that exists? Is he the all-attractive object of everyone's love? " He said yes. "Well, Krishna means the all-attractive object of everyone's love. So if yes, then your God is Krishna too. Krishna is not a sectarian name. God has eternal form: he is simultaneously all-pervading and also has divine form. According to the Vedas Krishna is the eternal form of God, who reciprocates our love in a personal way. If we love Krishna or if we really love whatever revelation of God we have in our religion, then we will appreciate and love all the other manifestations God has presented to other people.
Q: Over the years, you and your supporters have initiated some highly regarded community service projects in India. How did they come about?
Radhanath Swami: We were teaching courses in value education in the schools in Mumbai, and on one occasion an official for the government approached us and appealed that we feed the children in the slum schools. We found this was one of the greatest problems in all of India, that children due to a lack of nourishment, a lack of food, were really hungry. In the slum schools because of their hunger they couldn't concentrate. So rather than sit in school suffering, they would rather drop out and become beggars. But in much of Mumbai, the mafia has turfs and if you want to be a beggar anywhere, it is likely you will have to work under a mafia boss…
…where they take much of anything you get, and in many ways you come under their control. Otherwise, many of the young people will go to work as child labor, where they are treated cruelly. But if they had the food and nourishment, they would stay in school and get proper education and find a real career and purpose for life.
So we began in a small way, cooking very nutritious, balanced and tasty meals for the children in some ghetto schools. The word spreads and soon the principals and teachers from other schools were asking please would you feed our children too. And today we're feeding about 260,000 children in the slum schools every day.
And actually it is an honor that we get to serve. It is not that we are giving to them, but we are being allowed to be instruments of God grace to help his children. And it is a beautiful experience, more beautiful than any amount of profits we could gain for ourselves. The pleasure of selfless giving is so much deeper and more fulfilling than just getting something for ourselves.
Q: You also run a highly acclaimed hospital in Mumbai. How did that come about?
Radhanath Swami: We were giving lectures in some of the medical colleges in Bombay and quite a few of the medical students became followers of our Bhakti path and became members of our congregation. Gradually we encouraged them to get their specialty degrees and they had their practices, young women and young men. And the idea came, why not work together and have our own hospital. So Bhaktivedanta hospital, which is in memory of our guru A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who taught us the spirit of compassion and love for God, we started the hospital and the purpose of the hospital is to heal the body, the mind, and the soul.
The balance of the body, mind and soul is what is required for real spiritual health. For holistic health it is required that we give health to the body, the mind and the soul. And for this purpose we started Bhaktivedanta hospital, named after our beloved guru ACBSP, who taught us to be instruments of compassion for the body, mind and soul.
The body through medicine, exercise—for that purpose we have allopathic, Ayurveda, naturopathic, and other various alternative medicines all working together. For the mind we have a spiritual care department which comes to encourage people, to give appreciation to people. Kindness and hospitality, appreciation and encouragement inspire the mind. And we also, according to a person's affiliation, we try to elevate people with universal spiritual principles. In this way we find people can be really happy and really healthy. So it is a hospital for the body, mind and soul.
We do many charities, especially we have regular cataract eye camps because one of the causes of blindness in India is untreated cataracts. Poor people simply cannot afford it. So we do one eye camp every year about 700 cataract surgeries and all together several thousand every year. Also, the Bhaktivedanta Hospital does free treatment and gives free medical care in the slum schools in the area of the hospital. And a certain number of beds in the hospital are for charity, for people who can't afford treatment.
Q: Can you describe some examples of emergency relief that the hospital has provided?
Radhanath Swami: Bhaktivedanta Hospital has helped with emergency problems. On several occasions when there were earthquakes and hundreds of people killed and thousands of people injured, they went in vans and spent sometimes weeks and weeks helping the people there. During some terrorist attacks in Bombay our hospital, all the halls, the rooms, the lobbies, were just filled with wounded people. Many people from our congregation volunteered to help the doctors and nurses deal with the situation.
During the tsunami some years ago also, Bhaktivedanta Hospital was there to help those people both physically emotionally and spiritually. And what we found is what people appreciated the most was the spiritual encouragement and wisdom they were receiving on how to deal with the losses of loved ones and with the injuries of their bodies.
Our spiritual care reaches out not only to the patients but to the relatives and friends of the patients who are so deeply affected by the trauma and tragedies that have come into their lives. And we have found that it had a great help physically and emotionally and spiritually to these people as well.
We have a hospice care hospital in Vrindaban. We are starting that hospice to help people to pass out of this world and into the next with dignity and love and care and a lot of spiritual and emotional support.
Q: You run an orphanage. How did that get started?
Radhanath Swami: Radhanath Swami: During a disaster in Maharastra in the Mumbai area in the 19th century many children became orphans. And one Lady Northcote, who was the wife of a British Lord, started the Lady Northcote Hindu Orphanage. And over the years it was having difficulty, so they asked us to take full charge of the orphanage. Since about 1987 our ashram has taken the responsibility of the Lady Northcote Hindu Orphanage. There are about 50 children we take care of, and giving them a family of our whole congregation who take care of them, also providing a nice education. And many of these children, who came from severely downtrodden backgrounds, are professors in colleges, doctors—many of them work at Bhaktivedanta Hospital, receiving training and responsibilities. Many of them have gone back to the villages they came from and they are leaders of society.
Q: You chose to become a renunciant. Do you recommend the path of renunciation?
Radhanath Swami: Real spiritual life is not necessarily about changing our position in society. It is about transforming our hearts. One can be in business, in education, a mother or father, a farmer, a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a politician. One can even be a swami. But when we overcome selfishness and learn the beauty and art of selflessness—seva or selfless service—spirituality is meant to transform arrogance into humility, greed into generosity, vengeance into forgiveness, hate into love, criticism into appreciation, hopeless into hopefulness—it is meant to transform us into becoming instruments of the inner peace that is in our heart with God.
That is real journey home. The journey of transformation, of understanding that there is a power beyond our own, the power of God that can enthuse us, inspire us and empower us to be real instruments of change.
About the Interviewer
Joshua Greene is the resident Bhakti teacher at Jivamukti Yoga School in New York. Joshua earned his degree in religion and teaches at both Hofstra and Fordham Universities. His books include a bestselling biography of George Harrison titled Here Comes the Sun and Gita Wisdom: an Introduction to India's Essential Yoga Text.
Last night HH Gopal Krsna Goswami treated our Sunday Feast to an enlivening discourse as part of his annual visit to Toronto. Maharaj will also be giving the daily Srimad Bhagvatam class at 7:30 am at the Temple on July 26th - 28th.
HH Gopal Krishna Goswami will be present at the ISKCON Toronto Annual General Meeting on Monday July 26 at 6:00 pm. There will also be a program at ISKCON Scarborough on Tuesday July 27 at 6:30 PM.
HH Gopal Krishna Goswami is currently one of the Governing Body Commissioners (GBC) for Toronto. Maharaj was living in Toronto when he first met with Srila Prabhupada in June 1968. Within two weeks of meeting him, Maharaj decided to accept Srila Prabhupada as his spiritual master and in May of 1969 he received initiation. In 1981 Maharaj took sannyasa and in 1982 began accepting disciples. Since then Maharaj has been traveling extensively all over the world.
Please join us for these programs!
By Giriraj Swami
Today is Guru-purnima. Srila Prabhupada has explained that the system of honoring the spiritual master is current in all sections of Vedic followers. In the Mayavadi (impersonalist) sects, the disciples offer respect to the spiritual master every year on Guru-purnima. And in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya, the disciples offer homage annually on the appearance day of the spiritual master; this occasion is called Vyasa-puja, because the spiritual master represents Vedavyasa
Bhagavatam lecture given on Sunday, 25th July 2010
Surata performing a Bharatnatyam dance at the Dallas Rathayatra.
H.H. Sivarama Swami: Report on this weeken’s Bucsu and thanking the valuable services of the Russian hari-nama group
His Holiness Lokanath Swami's 61st Vyasa Puja celebration was held on the auspicious day of Sayana ekadasi and the busy day of the return Rathayatra. It was the first time Lokanath Swami's Vyasa Puja was held publicly in Sri Dham Mayapur and over 200 guests attended. The event was graced by 35 gurukula boys from the Bhaktivedanta Academy, Mayapur.
Gopi Krishna and Surata performing a Bharatnatyam dance at the Dallas Rathayatra.
Dear devotees and friends, Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I am in Irkutsk right now, and tomorrow morning (the 25th) I’ll fly to Moscow and then to Vilnius for the annual Baltics Summer Festival. Fortunately Niranjana Maharaja will be there, and it will be the first time I’ve seen him in [...]
Just chant your rounds every day and everything will come.
- Srila Prabhupada
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