‘Different religions’ and devotees

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

After reading my last post on ‘Other scriptures’ and devotees a kind-hearted vaishnava read me amazing lines, written by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, on how a devotee should see different religions. I am sharing the same below.

Why different Religions?

Although human nature is the same everywhere, people living in different nations and on different continents acquire different secondary characteristics. It is impossible to find two people living in the world who have exactly the same secondary nature. Even two brothers born from the same womb will differ in appearance and personality, what to speak of people born in separate countries. In different regions, things such as the locations of bodies of water, air currents, mountains and forests, and the availability of foodstuffs and clothing all vary. Consequently, differences naturally occur in people’s appearance, social status, occupation, and style of dressing and eating. Each nationality has a peculiar disposition of mind, and thus various conceptions of the Supreme Lord, although the same in essence, appear superficially dissimilar. As people in different places rise above their aboriginal condition and gradually develop culture, science, law, and devotion to God, their means of worship also diverge in terms of language, costume, kinds of offerings, and mental attitudes. Considering all these secondary differences impartially, however, we find no discrepancy. As long as the object of worship is the same, there is no harm. Therefore Lord Caitanya has specifically ordered that we should execute our own service to the Supreme Lord in the mode of pure goodness and at the same time refrain from ridiculing the religious codes of others.

Under the influence of the above-mentioned factors, the religious systems proclaimed by different nationalities vary in the following ways:

(1) different spiritual masters

(2) differences in mental and emotional attitudes toward worship

(3) different prescribed rituals of worship

(4) different types of affection for and activities in relation to the object of worship

(5) different names and terminologies resulting from differences in language.

Because of the variety of spiritual authorities, in some places people honor the Vedic sages, in others they revere the prophets led by Muhammed, and in still other regions they esteem the religious personalities who follow Jesus. Similarly, in each locality many different men of knowledge are shown particular respect. Each community should, of course, properly honor its own spiritual masters, but simply for the sake of gaining followers, no one should try to establish that the instructions given by one’s own local spiritual master are better than the instructions of spiritual masters everywhere else. The propagation of such an antagonistic position would certainly be inauspicious for the world.

A devotee’s prescribed ritual of worship varies according to his mentality and devotional feeling. In some places the mode of worship is to seat oneself in a sacred place and practice renunciation and breath control. In another place worship is performed by falling down five times during the day and evening even if caught unprepared to offer obeisances facing the direction of the chief shrine. And elsewhere worshipers kneel down, either in the temple or at home, and with folded hands declare their own fallen condition and the glories of the Lord. Each of these types of worship also differs in the matter of what to wear, whether and how to eat, what is clean or unclean, and so forth. Furthermore, the sentiment and behavior toward the worshipable object vary among religions. Some worshipers, whose consciousness is saturated with devotion, set up a Deity of the Supreme Lord in their heart, in their mind, or in the outside world, with the understanding that it is non-different from the Lord. In other processes, which are inclined more toward logical argument, a conception of the Lord is formed within the mind and worshiped; external images are not accepted. Actually, however, all of these Deities are factual representations.

In accordance with language differences, the Lord is called by various names. Different names are also given to the religious systems, and there are different terminologies for use during worship.

So what should be the approach of a devotee?

The many religions of the world have naturally grown very distinct from each other due to these five kinds of differences. However, to create mutual discord because of these differences would be disastrous. If one happens to be in another’s temple at the time of his worship, one should think, “Here my Lord is being worshiped in a different form. Since I am committed to my particular practice, I cannot take part in this ritual, but as I watch it, I am developing a greater feeling for my own method of worship. The Supreme Absolute Truth is one without a second. Therefore, as I offer my obeisances to the form which I see here, I pray to my Lord, from whom this form comes, that this Deity will help me expand my love for Him.”

And…

Those who do not behave in this way, but who exhibit malice, envy, or ridicule toward other religious processes, certainly deviate from true religion due to a lack of intelligence. If such people actually loved their own Supreme Lord, they would not be attracted to such useless disputes.

Be wary of..

On the other hand, although it is nonsensical to ridicule other religious practices, if we notice some genuine fault, we should never tolerate it. Rather, we should make every effort to uproot it by proper means and thus benefit the deluded practitioners. For this reason, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu argued with the Buddhists, Jains, and Mayavadis and brought them to the true path. All devotees of the Lord should follow the example of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and reject all so-called religious systems containing the unwanted elements of atheism, agnosticism, materialism, disbelief in the existence of the spirit soul (which amounts to the idea that working for the body is all in all), hedonism, and impersonalism. Devotees should know that these systems are unauthorized, deceptive, and only dim reflections of and sometimes completely against the principles of real religion. Actually, followers of these fraudulent processes are pitiable. According to their ability, devotees should make every effort to protect people in general from all these evils.

Real Religion

Pure, unalloyed love of God is the actual eternal religion of the spirit soul. Thus, in spite of the above-mentioned five kinds of distinctions among religious systems, we should recognize as genuine any religious process whose goal is the realization of pure love of God. It is useless to quarrel over superficial differences. If the goal of a process is pure, then the system is fully auspicious.

(By Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Sri Caitanya Siksramrta, Chapter 1)

The above lines, of course, would require a detailed commentary for thorough understanding and application, however we do get broad guidelines on how to view different religions.

Here is the link for the full transcription published in BTG magazine in 1976, done by HG Gopiparanadhana Prabhuji, called The Nectarean Teachings of Sri Caitanya.

All glories to Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

your servant,

Giriraj dasa

‘Other Scriptures’ and devotees

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

śraddhāṁ bhāgavate śāstre
’nindām anyatra cāpi hi
mano-vāk-karma-daṇḍaṁ ca
satyaṁ śama-damāv api

One should have firm faith that he will achieve all success in life by following those scriptures that describe the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavān. At the same time, one should avoid blaspheming other scriptures. One should rigidly control his mind, speech and bodily activities, always speak the truth, and bring the mind and senses under full control.

(SB 11.3.26)

Many a times in our enthusiasm to show supremacy of one scripture we may unconsciously end up criticising another vedic scripture. Devotees, especially preachers, should be very careful about making, even an unintentional, offence against any vedic scripture.

In the above verse Srimad Bhagavatam is saying that ‘One should have firm faith that he will achieve all success in life by following those scriptures that describe the glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavān’ but in the same verse it is also cautioning us very clearly that “one should avoid blaspheming other scriptures”

Of course, devotees understand that Srimad Bhagavatam is the amala purana, spotless purana, which best describes the glories of Krishna, without any material tinge whatsoever, but at the same time we should not blaspheme other scriptures. The purport of the above verse gives us a very good understanding as to what should be our consciousness in relation to all the other vedic scriptures.

Śrīla Madhvācārya has quoted the following statement from the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa: “One should have complete faith in transcendental literature such as Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and other literature that directly glorifies the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One should also have faith in Vaiṣṇava tantras, the original Vedas, and Mahābhārata,which includes Bhagavad-gītā and which is considered the fifth Veda. The Vedic knowledge originally emanated from the breathing of Viṣṇu, and Vedic literature has been compiled in literary form by Śrīla Vyāsadeva, the incarnation of Viṣṇu. Therefore, Lord Viṣṇu should be understood to be the personal speaker of all this Vedic literature.

Some scriptures may seem mundane, be wary of any criticism

“There are other Vedic literatures, called kalā-vidyā, which give instructions in material arts and sciences. Since all such Vedic arts and sciences are ultimately intended to be used to render devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Keśava, saintly persons in the renounced order of life should never blaspheme such apparently mundane literatures; because such literatures are indirectly connected with the Supreme Lord, one may go to hell for blaspheming these secondary literatures.

So what should be our approach?

Śraddhā indicates a faithful mentality, which can be analyzed in two sections. The first type of faith is a firm conviction that all the statements of the multifarious Vedic literatures are true. In other words, the understanding that Vedic knowledge in general is infallible is called śraddhā, or faith. A second type of faith is the belief that one must personally carry out a particular injunction of Vedic literature in order to achieve his goal in life. A devotee of the Supreme Lord should thus apply the first type of faith to the various kalā-vidyās, or Vedic material arts and sciences, but he should not accept such scriptures as pointing out his personal goal in life. Nor should he carry out any Vedic injunction that is contradictory to the injunctions of Vaiṣṇava scriptures such as the Pañcarātra.

Thus one should faithfully accept all Vedic literature as directly or indirectly describing the Supreme Personality of Godhead and should not blaspheme any portion of it. Even for Lord Brahmā, as well as for other creatures, down to the insignificant unmoving species such as trees and stones, blasphemy of any Vedic literature causes one to merge into the darkness of ignorance. Thus the suras — the demigods, great sages and devotees of the Lord — should understand that the Pañcarātric literatures, as well as the four Vedas, the original Rāmāyaṇa, the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and other Purāṇas, and the Mahābhārata, are Vedic literatures that establish the supremacy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the unique transcendental position of the Lord’s devotees according to their status of spiritual advancement. Any other vision of Vedic literatures is to be considered an illusion. In all authorized religious scriptures the ultimate goal is to understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the controller of everything and everyone, and that the Lord’s devotees are not different from Him, although such devotees are to be understood in terms of their level of spiritual advancement.” Lord Kṛṣṇa has stated in Bhagavad-gītā, vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo/ vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham: “By all the Vedas, I am to be known; indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.”

(SB 11.3.26p)

I hope the above verse and its purport gives us a clear direction as what should be our consciousness while speaking with various scriptures.

‘Other scriptures’ also include non-vedic bonafide scriptures!

We may also include scriptures of other bonafide religions also in the definition of ‘other scriptures’ whom we should not criticise.

When we read Srila Prabhupada’s purports we will notice that he quotes from various scriptures, including Bible. Prabhupada wrote how there are different scriptures for people in different modes of nature but he did not criticise any scripture.

God’s service is dharma. This dharma may be described differently in different countries according to different cultural and climatic conditions or situations, but in every religious scripture obedience to God is instructed. No scripture says that there is no God or that we as living entities are independent—not the Bible, the Koran, the Vedas or even the Buddhist literatures.

(Elevation to Krishna Consciousness, chapter 6)

Prabhupada considered other religious scriptures also as shastra!

All the çästras, however, advise nivåtti-märga, or release from the materialistic way of life. Apart from the çästras of the Vedic civilization, which is the oldest of the world, other çästras agree on this point. For example, in the Buddhist çästras Lord Buddha advises that one achieve nirväëa by giving up the materialistic way of life. In the Bible, which is also çästra, one will find the same advice: one should cease materialistic life and return to the kingdom of God.

(SB 6.5.20p)

Similarly Srila Prabhupada translates the word ‘Svadhyayah’ in a verse from Srimad Bhagavatam not as study of only vedic scriptures but also qualifies reading non vedic, bonafide, scriptures.

svädhyäyaùreading of transcendental literatures like Bhagavad-gétä, Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Rämäyaëa and Mahäbhärata (or, for those not in Vedic culture, reading of the Bible or Koran)

(SB 7.11.8-12)

The purity of Srimad Bhagavatam and the vision of a Vaishnava are simply unmatched, and so are their teachings.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Where am I in Krishna consciousness!

Hare Krishna my dear devotees,

The last verse which Arjuna speaks in Bhagavad Gita, has many gems for us.

अर्जुन उवाच

नष्टो मोहः स्मृतिर्लब्धा त्वत्प्रसादान्मयाच्युत।

स्थितोऽस्मि गतसन्देहः करिष्ये वचनं तव।।18.73।।

Arjuna said: My dear Krishna, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.

Now let us try to churn this verse.

My dear Kṛṣṇa: Krishna is our dear friend , suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ actually Krishna is our only real friend, and He never let’s His devotee down.

O infallible one: Krishna is known as Achytua .

He never fails in His affection for His devotees, and thus He is addressed herein as infallible…..In all circumstances, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. 

(BG 1.21-22p)

Krishna is absolute and remains so under all conditions, Krishna is glorified in every single form or lila he manifests. Whether he takes birth inside a prison in Mathura and present Himself as a fully decorated newly born baby with four arms in front  of his wonderstruck parents, or while playing games with his cowherd friends in Vrindavan or stealing butter from the homes of gopis, or  running away from battle- ‘Ranchorh’, even when he manifest Himself as a stone, Shaligram, He is the same Krishna. Like an actor Krishna comes in various guises, sometimes as a bird (swan), as an animal (boar), as a fish or what’s more dramatic than bursting out of a pillar as half lion-half man! His supreme position is never challenged, He is the infallible master in all circumstances.

my illusion is now gone: What is my present consciousness? Am I still living under an illusion even after being in the movement for so long.  Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport – In illusion the living entity is serving in this material world. He is bound by his lust and desires, yet he thinks of himself as the master of the world. This is called illusion.

Am I living a life where I think that I am the controller,  I am the master and I am the enjoyer? Am I gradually developing the consciousness of being a servant of Krishna, which should be my only identity, rest are simply the services Krishna has given me.

The best way to destroy illusion is by daily reading Srila prabhupada’s books. How much is my daily reading?

I have regained my memory: Have I regained me memory as an eternal servant of Krishna? What is my consciousness while interacting with my family, my colleagues at work, …

Srila Prabhupada gives us a very simple solution to revive our lost memory

One’s memory of Kṛṣṇa is revived by chanting the mahā-mantra, Hare Kṛṣṇa. By this practice of chanting and hearing the sound vibration of the Supreme Lord, one’s ear, tongue and mind are engaged. This mystic meditation is very easy to practice, and it helps one attain the Supreme Lord.

(BG 8.8p)

How sincerely am I trying to chant my 16 rounds?

by Your mercy:  We should know by now that we cannot succeed by our own efforts alone. However if our efforts are sincere, and honest, then it will attract Krishna’s mercy. The two finger principle-

Thus although mother Yasoda, in her attempt to bind Krishna, added one rope after another, ultimately she was a failure. When Krishna agreed, however, she was successful. In other words, one must be in transcendental love with Krishna, but that does not mean that one can control Krishna . When Krishna is satisfied with one’s devotional service, He does everything Himself…He reveals more and more to the devotee as the devotee advances in service.

(SB 10.9.15p)

Krishna says in BG 15.15 mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca, from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.

Everything- remembrance, knowledge, forgetfulness is coming from Krishna, everything is in the lotus like hands of Sri Govindadev!

I am now firm: to make progress in bhakti we need to be firm in our enthusiasm, determination and patience! Without them it will be difficult to make progress. We have to be firm in following the process given by Srila Prabhupada, follow four regulative principles, try to chant 16 sincere rounds, everyday read Srila Prabhupada’s books and regularly associate with devotees who are senior than us.

and free from doubt: One way to become free from doubt is by asking questions. Asking questions is a sign of intelligence. We should clear our doubts without hesitation or feeling embarrassed in front of others. Arjuna asked so many questions from Krishna in Bhagavad Gita. Srimad Bhagavatam is all about questions and answers. This is the way to clear our doubts.

Guru Maharaj once told us that even if you do not have any question and may think I have understood everything, still we should ask question so that we can verify if I have understood correctly!

and am prepared: Our primary method to prepare ourselves is by  regular Sravanam kirtanam but we should not forget the golden rule which Srila Prabhupada repeated multiple times sevonmukhe hi jihvādau. 

To associate with the holy name and chant the holy name is to associate with the Personality of Godhead directly. In the Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu it is clearly said, sevonmukhe hi jihvädau svayam eva sphuraty adaù [Brs. 1.2.234]. The holy name becomes manifest when one engages in the service of the holy name. This service in a submissive attitude begins with one’s tongue. Sevonmukhe hi jihvädau: One must engage his tongue in the service of the holy name. Our Krishna consciousness movement is based on this principle. We try to engage all the members of the Krishna consciousness movement in the service of the holy name. Since the holy name and Krishna are nondifferent, the members of the Krishna consciousness movement not only chant the holy name of the Lord offenselessly, but also do not allow their tongues to eat anything that is not first offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

(CC Adi 8.16p)

to act: Bhakti means action, action in knowledge and with love. That is why Srila Prabhupada translated bhakti as devotional service not devotion. Love  means reciprocation, which naturally culminates in loving service. My actions, coupled with the consciousness with which I am doing it, will attract Krishna’s mercy.

according to Your instructions: To advance in Krishna consciousness we should receive instructions from our diksha/shiksha guru. Generally we may not receive any direct instructions from our guru because we may not have the qualification to follow them. We can, however, prepare ourselves to receive direct instructions by following the primary instruction given at the time of initiation – chant 16 rounds offenselessly!

In the Bhagavad-gétä (18.66) Lord Krishna instructs His disciple Arjuna, “Just surrender unto Me, and I shall protect you from all sinful reactions.” And Arjuna accepts Krishna’s instruction with the words kariñye vacanaà tava: “I will do as You say.” (Bhagavad-gétä 18.73) If we follow Arjuna’s example, we will be in direct contact with Krishna, and we will be able to surmount all difficulties in both our spiritual and material life. We hear the instructions of Krishna via the unbroken chain of disciplic succession (guru-paramparä). Acceptance of these instructions is called çikñä, or voluntarily following the instruction of the spiritual master. The independent nature of the living entity is that he does not want to follow the instructions of another living being, however pure. But when one voluntarily agrees to obey the orders of the spiritual master, one is following the orders of Krishna, and thus one’s life becomes perfect.

(A Second chance, chapter 13)

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Churning Srimad Bhagavatam

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

Srila Prabhupada described Srimad Bhagavatam as the encyclopedia of spiritual life and Caitanya Mahaprabhu called it the amala purana (spotless Purana).

We all know the famous Gita Mahatamaya verse :

sarvopanishado gavo, dogdha gopala-nandanah
partho vatsah su-dhir bhokta, dugdham gitamritam mahat

All the Upanisads are like a cow, and the milker of the cow is Lord Shri Krishna, the son of Nanda. Arjuna is the calf, the beautiful nectar of the Gita is the milk, and the fortunate devotees of fine theistic intellect are the drinkers and enjoyers of that milk.

(Gita Mahatmya, verse 6)

Taking a cue from the above, if all the Upanishads are like a cow then

Srimad Bhagavatam is like a Surabhi cow, and the milker of this Surabhi cow is Śukadeva  Gosvāmī. Parīkṣit’s Maharaj is the calf, the ‘rasa’ or mellow of devotional service is the milk, and the paramahaṁsas, devotees who are already on the liberated platform, are the drinkers and enjoyers of this milk.

Here is another gem from Srimad Bhagavatam

parasparānukathanaṁ
pāvanaṁ bhagavad-yaśaḥ
mitho ratir mithas tuṣṭir
nivṛttir mitha ātmanaḥ

One should learn how to associate with the devotees of the Lord by gathering with them to chant the glories of the Lord. This process is most purifying. As devotees thus develop their loving friendship, they feel mutual happiness and satisfaction. And by thus encouraging one another they are able to give up material sense gratification, which is the cause of all suffering.

(SB 11.3.30)

Let us pray to the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada as we try to churn every line of this verse, simply by his mercy may we be blessed with just a few drops from it!

One should learn how to associate with the devotees of the Lord: To be able to progress in Krishna consciousness and proceed towards the madhyam culture, we need to associate with devotees and develop friendship with them. This is not something which comes naturally to many of us. Bhagavatam knows our conditioning, so it is directing us to ‘learn it’. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that Love for Krishna is reflected as friendship with devotees in the material world, they are two sides of the same coin. Sometimes we may excuse ourselves by saying ‘I am an introvert’ or ‘it isn’t my nature to mix with everyone’ but if we wish to make progress in spiritual journey then it is very important to develop friendship with other devotees. We can begin by regularly associating with like minded devotees. We have to shift towards our ‘real’ nature, what is practiced in Goloka.

By gathering with them to chant the glories of the Lord: What do we do when we associate with devotees? Do we share some juicy gossip, of course  about the devotees only, after all we are concerned with them only or do we  share some tricky temple issue, where we ourselves have no influence, or discuss some scandal or ask about the weather or family or so many other topics? Bhagavatam is saying meet and chant the glories of the Lord.

A devotee once shared how he once saw two Mathura Brahmins who met after many years.  When these two Brahmins saw each other from a distance they  started pacing towards each other and then as they came closer the devotee saw that both of them were reciting Bhagavatam verses loudly! The devotee said he was very surprised to witness such an interaction where instead of talking about well being, family, kids, etc. they were spontaneously reciting Bhagavatam verses one after another.

We can appreciate as the strong attachment of Brahmins to Srimad Bhagavatam came out naturally. We can’t imitate them but we can definitely take an inspiration from them and also understand that such strong attachment for Srimad Bhagvatam verses is resulting from a strong attachment to daily reading of Srimad Bhagavatam.

This process is most purifying:  Our bonafide process for internal purification is Sravanam Kirtanam. This has been stressed repeatedly in Srimad Bhagavatam and hundreds of times by Srila Prabhupada in his lectures and purports. Its a very simple and yet effective process.

These nine processes, of which the easiest is çravaëam, hearing the Bhagavad-gétä from the realized person, will turn one to the thought of the Supreme Being. This will lead to remembering the Supreme Lord and will enable one, upon leaving the body, to attain a spiritual body which is just fit for association with the Supreme Lord.

(BG Introduction)

As devotees thus develop their loving friendship, they feel mutual happiness and satisfaction: Srimad Bhagavatam is again stressing that we need to develop, and cultivate, loving friendship with devotees. It may not come naturally to us in the beginning therefore we need to practice it consciously (not artificially).  We will then feel satisfaction, resulting in increased mutual enthusiasm for Krishna consciousness, a feeling of satisfaction and a happiness from within.

Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura describes the transcendental symptom of those devotees who have developed a real taste for hearing & chanting the glories of Krishna, in the association of other devotees, in his commentary of SB 1.5.11 

The devotees hear, and having heard, sing, and having sung, again they hear, since they are not fully satiated. Or if a speaker is present, they hear the glories. If a hearer is present they speak the glories . And, otherwise, they spontaneously sing the glories.

And by thus encouraging one another they are able to give up material sense gratification, which is the cause of all suffering: At our level, one big reason for not progressing in Krishna consciousness is not our inability to chant additional rounds, memorise more verses, and so on but simply because we still have desires (consciously or subconsciously) to enjoy this material world. We very well know that the result of all such desires will be that we come back here again and again.

Now do we know of a more easier, and simpler process, to give up sense gratification than described above? What is aimed, and rarely achieved, by big big jnanis and yogis, can be very easily, and joyfully, achieved even by aspiring devotees. Sometimes our mind may find few solutions sound too easy to be true but then we underestimate the mercy of Krishna and the potency of Srimad Bhagavatam.

The result of such association with devotees is very sweetly described in the purport of this verse –

Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura has pointed out that glorification of the Supreme Lord is especially potent when performed in the association of pure devotees. When devotees engage in saṅkīrtana, chanting the glories of the Lord together, they experience the highest transcendental bliss and satisfaction. Thus they encourage one another to give up material sense gratification, which is based on illicit sexual connections with women. One devotee will say to another, “Oh, you have given up sense gratification. Starting today, I shall also give it up.”

(SB 11.3.30p)

 

Srila Prabhupada sums up!

A place immediately becomes Vaikuṇṭha whenever the holy topics of the Personality of Godhead are discussed by pure devotees. This is the process of śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ, chanting and hearing about the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu. As the Supreme Lord Himself confirms:

nāhaṁ tiṣṭhāmi vaikuṇṭhe
yogināṁ hṛdayeṣu vā
tatra tiṣṭhāmi nārada
yatra gāyanti mad-bhaktāḥ

“My dear Nārada, actually I do not reside in My abode, Vaikuṇṭha, nor do I reside within the hearts of the yogīs, but I reside in that place where My pure devotees chant My holy name and discuss My form, pastimes and qualities.” Because of the presence of the Lord in the form of the transcendental vibration, the Vaikuṇṭha atmosphere is evoked.

(SB 4.30.35p)

I pray that by the mercy and potency of Srila Prabhupada we can all taste some butter from this milk we tried to churn today.

All glories to Srimad Bhagavatam.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Potency of reading Srila Prabhupada’s Books

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

We all have our own experiences of reading Srila Prabhupada’s books and getting better understanding of our philosophy, principles, etc. As we develop more faith, study his books more carefully, also hear them from the mouth of the pure devotees, then we get realisations in our heart. This blissful and transcendental process forever continues in the life a sincere and a faithful follower, anandambudhi-vardhanam.

Today morning I read a very heart touching purport from Srimad Bhagavatam, (SB 11.3.24p). I am sharing the same with you all, the bold portions are from the above mentioned purport.

Specifically one should study those books which increase one’s desire to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

This touched my heart and also gave me an amazing guide on how to  measure how is my reading. After reading a book I can look back and check “has my desire to serve Krishna increased or not?”

The purport then goes on to emphasize that Srila Prabhupada has written so many book for this purpose only  –

when the principle of svādhyāyam, or Vedic study, is applied to these books, such as Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, Caitanya-caritāmṛta and The Nectar of Devotion, the sincere reader becomes infused with the ecstatic determination to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead.’

Simply reading these lines increased my faith in regularly and carefully reading and studying only Srila Prabhupada books and our goal should be to get infused with bhakti, service to Krishna and His devotees.

The purport ends with these lines-

..nor should one try to read many books to increase his false prestige as a so-called scholar. One should read those books which inspire practical spiritual advancement in knowledge and renunciation, as exemplified by the books of Śrīla Prabhupāda.

Our Acharaya says :

If you want to stay in Krsna Consciousness you will have to develop firm faith in Guru and Sastra. Therefore, you must study my books very scrutinizingly, follow the four regulative principles very strictly and chant 16 rounds daily avoiding the ten offenses. Don’t take this movement as something cheap.

(Srila Prabhupada’s letter to Srutadeva, 30th Oct 1976)

 

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Changing our outlook

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

Dandavat Pranams.

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

Dandavat Pranams.

Today is the appearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur,  the spiritual master of Srila Prabhupada.

Few weeks ago a senior Vaishnava shared a revolutionary article by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, which I am sharing with you below. It is deep and very insightful and can give us key(s) to make a very rapid progress in Krishna consciousness by changing our outlook towards the world and our selves.

The world stands in no need of any reformer. The world has a very competent person for guiding its minutest happenings. The person who determines that there is scope for reform of the world, himself stands in need of reform. The world goes on in its own perfect way.

No person can deflect it even the breadth of a hair from the course chalked out for it by providence. When we perceive any change being actually effected in the course of events of this world by the agency of any particular individual, we must know very well that the agent possesses no real power at any stage. The agent finds himself driven forward by a force belonging to a different category from himself. The course of the world does not require to be changed by the agency of any person. What is necessary is to change our outlook on this world.

This was done for the contemporary generation by the mercy of Sri Caitanya. It can only be known to recipients of his mercy. The scriptures declare that it is only necessary to listen with an open mind to the name of Krishna from the lips of a bonafide devotee. As soon as Krishna enters the listening ear, he clears up the vision of the listener so that he no longer has any ambition of ever acting the part of a reformer of any other person, because he finds that nobody is left without the very highest guidance. It is therefore his own reform that he is increasingly able to realize, by the eternally continuing mercy of the Supreme Lord.”

(Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur in The Harmonist, May 1932, issue no. 11)

At first go it may look like going against the preaching spirit of the devotees, but the above golden lines are like the light from the spiritual lighthouse by which all of us, preachers included, can seek the right direction, remain grounded and persist on the right track. If we carefully read above lines repeatedly, and contemplate on them, then we can unlock many a closed doors that may be blocking our progress in Krishna consciousness and receive profound wisdom available via disciplic succession.

As I sat relishing the above lines, trying, unsuccessfully, to seek entry to the above, the famous verse from Sri Isopanisad came into my consciousness.

ओम पूर्णनम अद: पूर्णनम इदं
पूर्णत पूर्णनम उदस्यते
पूर्नस्या पूर्णनम अदय
पूर्णनम एववसिस्यत

The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the Complete Whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the Complete Whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.

(Sri Isopanisad, invocation)

 

Srila Prabhupada imbibed this very mood!

“Actually I am not worthy of any one of the words spoken by you but all of them are due to my Spiritual Master Who was so kind to me. In fact I am a worthless person because my Spiritual Master ordered me to take up this work in 1922 but I did not carry his order until 1958, when I was obliged to carry out His order by His arrangement only. This means although I was not very enthusiastic to carry out His order He forced me circumstantially to accept it. So this is His special mercy upon me and I always think about this with gratitude to this exalted personality coming directly from Vaikuntha World and we had the great fortune to meet Him. I think that is the only credit on our part that we happened to meet Him by some ‘ajnata sukriti’ or unknown auspicious activities. He is so kind upon me that when I came to your country, where I was completely unknown, He sent to me some good souls like you unsolicited. So I accept you all as assistants or representatives of my Guru Maharaja Who is still helping me because I am so feeble and unworthy. Anyway, the business which we have taken to work together is neither your business nor my business as far we are personally concerned, but it is the business of Lord Caitanya and His bona fide servants like my Guru Maharaja. Therefore it is the duty of all of us to execute it as nicely as far as possible within our capacity. In other words, we shall just try to discharge our responsible duties faithfully and seriously, then all facilities will come for our help.”

(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Hayagriva dasa, January 1, 1970)

“My Spiritual Master has given me the instruction to spread this movement all over the world and you are my good disciples, are helping me do this. Without your good help I could not have done anything, so practically you can take all the credit for spreading this Krishna Consciousness movement and fulfilling the prophecy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. If there is some incident and I claim that no one is cooperating with me or no one will work with me, that is my defect, not theirs. The Vaisnava devotee must think like this. We should not find fault with others and criticize and go away, that is not the Vaisnava way. Better we should always be willing to offer all respects to others and consider them as our superiors always.”

(Srila Prabhupada Letter, August 26, 1972)

This is the ‘safest’ way to make real progress!

 Devotee: You must be higher than the paramahamsa stage, Prabhupada.

Prabhupada: I am lower than you. I am lower than you.

Devotee: You are so beautiful. You are paramahamsa, but still, you are preaching to us.

Prabhupada: No, I am lower than you. I am the lowest of the all creatures. I am simply trying to execute the order of my spiritual master. That’s all. That should be the business of everyone. Try best. Try your best to execute the higher order. That is the safest way of progressing. One may be in the lowest stage, but if he tries to execute the duty entrusted upon him, he is perfect. He may be in lowest stage, but because he is trying to execute the duty entrusted to him, then he is perfect. That is the consideration.”

(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Surat, December 19, 1970)

Srila Prabhupada’s secret-  he knew who was actually doing it !

“Therefore sometimes, when people say in India, ‘Swamiji, you have done wonderful.’ And yes, I do not know. I’m not a magician. But, so far I am confident that I did not adulterate the words of Krishna. That’s all. That’s my credit.  I did not like to take the position of Krishna. I remained a servant of Krishna, and I spoke what Krishna said. That’s all. This is my secret. So everyone can do that. There is nothing magic. The magic will act as soon as you become a pure devotee of Krishna. The magic will be done by Krishna, not by me or you. He will do it.

(Srila Prabhupada Lecture, Los Angeles, May 19, 1972)

 

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

 

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Churning of butter

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

We, Gaudiya Vaishanavas, are supposed to follow the mood of Vrajavasis. Among the Vrajavasis the mood and service of gopis is considered the highest. During the day  gopis were always busy in one main activity – churning butter. How can we follow this practice in the modern age of Kali-yuga?

We can very easily follow gopis by churning the verses of bhakti scriptures, especially Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam. If we sincerely try to churn these verses with love and devotion then by the mercy of Supreme Lord we may be rewarded with very soft and delicious butter.

Let us pick a well-known verse from Bhagavad Gita,

tasmāt tvam uttiṣṭha yaśo labhasva
jitvā śatrūn bhuṅkṣva rājyaṁ samṛddham
mayaivaite nihatāḥ pūrvam eva
nimitta-mātraṁ bhava savya-sācin

Therefore get up. Prepare to fight and win glory. Conquer your enemies and enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasācī, can be but an instrument in the fight.

(BG 11.33)

Now let us pray to Srila Prabhupada and try churning every single line of the above translation and see what kind of butter comes out it.

Therefore get up : Krishna says, My bhakti means action. Bhakti-yoga doesn’t entail sitting idle but acting for Krishna. That’s why my eternal associate whom I have sent to guide you and  whom you lovingly call Srila Prabhupada, translated bhakti as devotional service and NOT simply devotion.

Prepare to fight and win glory: Krishna says, if you are My devotee then be prepared to serve my plan – to give a chance to all the conditioned souls to come back to Me, back to Godhead. Apply to join My army (associate with My devotees). Admission is very easy and with a little strength (faith) you can join in. All new recruits begin with training, which begins immediately- by starting to practice Krishna consciousness. Discipline is mandatory-  follow all the rules and regulations of Krishna consciousness diligently.

Training is not just physical but also mental, intellectual and beyond it. All very useful in a war- chant sincerely, start reading the scriptures carefully and attentively  which I, and My devotees, have left for you. Contemplate on them and apply them in your life.

There are scheduled and surprise tests- be ready to show your sincerity when you face challenges in life.

Having passed the tests (with some bruises and good lessons learnt), you will   be invited to formally join one unit of My army- take shelter of a bonafide       guru in a vaishnava sampradaya.

You are now a formal lieutenant in My army – become initiated. After being     appointed formally in My prestigious Army you will receive additional facilities and perks – gradually the essence of all scriptures will start getting revealed in your heart.

In the meantime do not sit idle but start preaching, simply repeat whatever     you have read, do not add or subtract anything, for a soldier to survive in army (or in a war) discipline is critical.

Gradually you shall acquire weapons (realisations) which will make you   stronger day by day (increased faith). Being empowered with these unique   weapons (realisations) and strength (faith) you will win glory.

Conquer your enemies: There are different sets of enemies- external as well as internal.

External enemy is maya – forgetfulness of my eternal relationship with Krishna.

Internal : Internal enemies are very dangerous. These are Kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha  (attachment), mada (pride) and matsarya (jealousy)

Final frontier: Win over five kind of material attachments : ignorance, false ego, attachment to the material world, envy and absorption in material consciousness.

And enjoy a flourishing kingdom:  There is only one kingdom which flourishes eternally- Vaikuntha. It is eternal, full of knowledge and full of bliss. In comparison the material world is temporary and full of miseries.

They are already put to death by My arrangement: Those who do not take shelter of My devotees remain forever in the cycle of birth and death. Their consciousness remains shrunk- to a level of 1/10,000 part of the tip of the top of a hair!

O Savyasācī, can be but an instrument in the fight: Each and every one of My dear devotee can become an instrument in My hand and enjoy My association. For this you do not even have to wait to leave this body and enter Vaikuntha (or Goloka Vrindavan) but you will be able to see My presence in everything around you and you will be able to hear My instructions from within. With gradual promotion you will also get the privilege to drink Somarasa – feel nectar in the heart while reading bhakti scriptures.

The objective of life is not simply a subject of debate or speculation. The ultimate aim of life is to realize that supreme object, the Personality of Godhead. Buddhi-yoga, or Krishna consciousness, means to become absorbed in serving the Supreme Lord and His name, qualities, form, pastimes, etc. In other words, it means becoming an instrument for His satisfaction. We have to become infused with His spiritual potency; thus strengthened, we then have to make the propagation of His transcendental glories our prime duty in life. By means of such Potent missionary activities, innumerable jévas can experience endless spiritual joy.

(Renunciation through wisdom, chapter 5)

 

I hope and pray that you liked the taste of little butter we tried to churn. In case of any complaints or suggestions, please mail me at giriraj108@outlook.com

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

 

Janmashtami: birth of the all attractive Krishna

Hare Krishna Dear devotees,

जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यमेवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः।

त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर्जन्म नैति मामेति सोऽर्जुन।।

One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.

(BG  4.9)

Let us hear about Krishna’s birth in Gokula and His immediate activities, then see if the sweetness of His divine pastimes can penetrate our steel framed heart and touch some deep spot within us. Can we develop a greed to know, and meet, this blue-hued cowherd boy with blooming eyes like lotus petals, with head decked with peacock’s feather and a beauty which charms millions of Cupids.

The background

The time for an appearance of the Lord coincided with two internal desires  of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. First the Lord desired to descend  on earth to increase the fortune of Yasoda and Nanda. Also at that time  Krishna wanted to relish the sweet mellow of srngara rasa (par­amour love)  while enacting His worldly pastimes. For these two reasons the Lord  appeared within the material creation on Bhuloka, (earth planet), along  with His parents, friends, and other eternal associates

The Scene

Shri Nanda, Yasoda, and others appeared in Brhadvana (Mahavana) before the  Lord. The gopas, gopis, and other eternally liberated associ­ates appeared  after the Lord. Then those who had attained perfection by sadhana, namely  the sruti-caris and muni-caris, took birth in Vrndavana.Learning of Krishna’s imminent appearance, the earth personified, feel­ing  like a wife happily greeting her husband after a long separation,  im­mersed in unlimited joy. At the time of Krishna’s birth the general mass  of people tasted the inner bliss that devotees forever relish. Auspicious  signs abounded everywhere. As Vishnu’s conchshell Pancajanya opens in a  clock­wise fashion, similarly, auspicious sacrificial fires glowed in all  directions. Pure gentle breezes brought a refreshing coolness like  devotees who satisfy and sanctify everyone with their calm, sweet, and  affectionate be­havior. The whole atmosphere became as completely purified as the heart of a  devotee. The devotees once again found peace and prosperity in wor­shiping  the lotus feet of Lord Hari. Fruits filled the jubilant trees.

The bodies of all creatures manifested extraordinary beauty and youth­ful  vitality. Men felt extremely joyful and displayed virtuous qualities.  Throughout the world people behaved cordially and interacted amicably.  Happiness twinkled in everyone’s eye.

The Time

At the end of Dvapara-yuga, which  completely destroys faults and doubts, an auspicious, favorable,  obstacle-free time appeared on the eighth day of the waning moon in Bhadra  month. Just at that sweet moment the Rohini Naksatra, along with the good  quali­ties of the moon and an auspicious conjunction of stars called  Ayusman, appeared in the sky to give shelter to gentle persons.

Krishna at first manifests in Mathura

As the living entity comes out from the womb of his mother and the moon  appears on the lap of the eastern direction, Yogesvara Shri Krishna, the personification of complete bliss, appeared amidst great festivities. As  the moon appears in the lap of the eastern direction, which is like a  beautiful bride, Krishna manifested the wonderful pastime of His appear­ance  out of His love and compassion for the conditioned souls. Due to austerities performed in previous lives, Vasudeva and Devaki  received the opportunity to momentarily relish parental affection for Lord  Shri Krishna when He appeared before them in His form as Vasudeva.

But His final stop is somewhere else..

There ­after in fear of Kamsa, Vasudeva brought Vasudeva Krishna to Gokula. There the Supreme Lord appeared as Govinda before Nanda and Yasoda, His  eternal parents who have been smothering Him with the sweetest form of  parental love since time immemorial.

Lord Hari, who is  bliss personified, appeared in the home of Nanda Maharaja, the king of  Vrndavana for three reasons: to engage the self satisfied sages in  devotional service, to please the devotees by performing sweet  transcendental pastimes, and to relieve the earth’s burden caused by the  demons. At the time of His majestic birth Krishna employed His inconceivable  powers to appear in a body of eternity, bliss and knowledge.

Krishna’s birth in Gokula

Everyone in  the maternity room swelled with joy upon seeing the Lord’s exquisite  transcendental form that looked like a creeper of beauty.

Mother Yasoda resembled a lake of spiritual ecstasy in which a brilliant  blue lotus of personified bliss had appeared. Neither the wind nor the  bees relished the fragrance of that blue lotus. That unborn lotus was  never touched by the waves of the modes of nature. Even Lord Brahma could  not see it, what to speak of ordinary men. After Yasoda and her family members fell asleep in the maternity room,  Hari cried beautifully like a newborn baby. His crying sounded like the  maha-vakya omkara announcing the auspicious arrival of His pastimes.  Omkara is a transcendental vibration that had previously emanated from the  mouth of Lord Brahma. When the ladies of Vrindavana heard the sweet sound  of Krishna’s crying, they woke up and ran to see the Lord. With the mellow  of their matchless overflowing affection they anointed His body.

His transcendental body

The natural fragrance of Krishna’s body smelled just like musk. After the  ladies bathed Krishna in sweet ambrosia, He looked cleansed and beauti­ful.  Then they smeared His body with fragrant sandalwood pulp. The pre­siding  deity of the house sent a campaka flower resembling the flame of a lamp  into the maternity room to worship that ornament of the three worlds. With  the strength of His little arms, delicate as the tender leaves of a tree,  Krishna made all the lamps in the maternity room look like a garland of  lotus flower buds. The ladies of Vrndavana saw baby Krishna like a blossoming flower made of  the best of blue sapphires, or like a newly unfurled leaf of a tamala  tree. Krishna looked like a fresh rain cloud decorated with the musk tilaka  of the goddess of fortune of the three worlds. The ointment of the  great­est auspiciousness lined His eyes. His presence filled the maternity  room with good fortune. Although a mere baby, Krishna had a head full of  curly hair. To hide the unique signs on His hands (goad, fish, conch etc.)  the Lord folded His delicate petal-like fingers into His lotus palm. At  that time Krishna laid on His back with His eyes closed.

The spontaneous love of mother Yasoda

Mother Yasoda awoke amidst the joyous chattering of the elderly gopis.  Leaning over the bed she admired her gorgeous son. But upon noticing her own reflection on Krishna’s body, she imagined it another woman. Thinking that a witch had assumed her form to kidnap Krishna, Yasoda became  bewildered and yelled, “Get out of here! You go away!” Spontaneously she  cried out to Nrsimhadeva to protect her precious son. Beholding Krishna’s  tender face, Yasoda showered tears of affection that looked like an  offering of a pearl necklace.Yasoda saw Krishna’s body as a mound of dark blue musk, softer than the  butter churned from the milk ocean. Overflowing with nectar, His charm­ing  body appeared like the foam of milk, but being dark blue in color it  seemed the foam was full of musk juice. Admiring the supremely delicate  form of her son, Yasoda worried about His safety and feared the touch of  her body might hurt his tender body.

As she leaned over the bed Yasoda bathed Krishna with the milk dripping from  her breasts. The elderly gopis instructed Yasoda how to caress the baby in  her lap, and affectionately push the nipple of her breast into Krishna’s  mouth to feed Him. Due to Yasoda’s intense love, personified bliss flowed  from her breasts as steady streams of milk. When milk sometimes spilled  out of Krishna’s bimba fruit red lips onto His cheeks, Mother Yasoda would  wipe His face with the edge of her cloth. After feeding her son, Yasoda  gazed affectionately at Him in wonder.

She saw her child’s body as made of dazzling blue sapphires. His mouth  resembled a red bimba fruit and His hands and feet looked like exquisite  rubies. Krishna’s nails shone like precious gems. In this way, Yasoda  thought her child was completely made of jewels. Then she perceived that  His naturally reddish lips looked like bandhuka flowers, His hands and  feel resembled Java flowers, His nails looked like mallika flowers. Yasoda  then thought, “Krishna’s whole body seems to be made of blue lotus flowers.  He does not appear to be mine.” After thus deliberating within herself  Yasoda became stunned in amazement.

The beautiful, soft curly hairs on the right side of Krishna’s chest  resembled the tender stems of a lotus. Seeing the mark of Shrivatsa on His  chest Yasoda thought it was breast milk that had previously spilled out of  His mouth. She tried unsuccessfully to remove these ‘milk stains’ with the  edge of her cloth. Struck with wonder, Yasoda thought this must be the sign  of a great personality. Observing the sign of Laksmi (a small golden line)  on the left side of Krishna’s chest, Yasoda thought a small yellow bee had  made a nest amidst the leaves of a tamala tree. Could this be a streak of  lightning resting on a rain cloud, or could it be the golden streaks marking a black gold-testing stone? Krishna’s delicate, leaf-like hands and fee  glowing pink like the rising sun, looked like clusters of lotus flowers  flowing in the Yamuna.

All attractive Krishna

Sometimes Yasoda saw the curly, dark blue locks of baby Krishna as swarm of bumblebees surrounding His face. Intoxicated from drinking too much honey nectar, the bees just hovered in the sky. His thick, beautiful blue hair appeared like  the dark night. The two lotus eyes of Krishna looked like a pair of blue lotus buds. His cheeks resembled two huge bubbles floating in a lake of liquefied blue sapphires. Krishna’s attractive ears looked like a  pair of fresh unfurled leaves growing on a blue creeper.

The tip of Krishna’s dark nose appeared like the sprout of a tree, and His nostrils looked like bubbles  in the Yamuna River, the daughter of the sun god. His lips resembled a pair of red Java flower buds. Krishna’s chin rivaled a pair of ripe, red jambu fruits. Seeing the extraordinary beauty  of her son fulfilled the purpose of her eyes and submerged Yasoda in an  ocean of bliss.

Nanda maharaja’s arrival

The elderly Vrajavasi ladies addressed Vrajaraja Nanda, “O most for­tunate  one, you fathered a son!” Previously Nanda Maharaja had felt deeply  aggrieved over his long-standing inability to obtain a son. His heart was  like a small lake that had completely dried up during a long hot summer.  But when Nanda Maharaja heard of his son’s birth he felt as if the dry  lake of his heart had been blessed with a sudden downpour of nectar. The  gentle sound of Krishna’s voice removed all his grief and lamentation. Now  he bathed in the rains of bliss, swam in the ocean of nectar, and felt  embraced by the joyful stream of the celestial Ganges.

Eager to see his son, Nanda’s body thrilled with astonishment and waves of  ecstasy as he stood outside the maternity room. Because he had  accu­mulated heaps of pious activities, it appeared that the King of  Vrndavana was now shaking hands with the personification of pious deeds. Anxiously standing in the background, Yogamaya induced Nanda Maharaja to  en­ter the maternity room. He rushed in to see his son, the personified  seed of condensed bliss. It seemed that all the auspiciousness of the  three worlds now resided within Krishna, the original cause of everything.  Nanda saw his son as a perfectly charming person. The kajala around  Krishna’s eyes looked like lines on a black creeper of beauty. As the very  embodiment of Nanda’s good fortune, Shri Krishna bloomed like a beautiful  flower in a garden of desire trees.

Let the festivities begin

Cymbals, damru drums, bherries, and big drums vibrated auspicious sounds  in specific melodies. A celestial concert of precise poetical meters,  proper rhythms, and metrical compositions suddenly manifested there. The  musical ensemble inspired the society girls to sing and dance in mirth and  merriment. Though not good singers, by the will of the Lord they sang with  great virtuoso. Their wonderful songs filled Nanda Maharaja’s heart with  joy. The combined vibrations of brahmanas’ chanting Vedic hymns, the  recitation of Puranic lore, and the panegyrics’s prayers trans­formed the ether into sabda brahman.

The joy of Krishna’s birth celebration taxed the drains of Nanda’s capital  city as they swelled to the brim with milk, yogurt, and other auspicious  liquids. Soon rivers of this nectar flooded the streets of the town and  permeated the entire atmosphere with a sweet fragrance. Disguising  them­selves as birds, the demigods descended to Vrajapura to happily drink  the flood of nectar. The Vrajavasis decorated their cows with gold and jeweled ornaments. Then in great excitement they smeared them with oil,  fresh butter, and turmeric paste. Beholding Krishna in their hearts, these  fortunate cows looked like the essence of the earth’s auspicious-ness. The  whole world resounded with their jubilant bellowing. Absorbed in the  ecstasy of Krishna’s birth, they forgot about eating and drinking. The festival drowned the gopis in an ocean of joy. After offering oil,  vermilion, garlands, and utensils in charity to all the assembled gopis,  Rohini, the wife of Vasudeva, asked them to bless Krishna. Upon comple­tion  of the sacrifice, Upananda and the other relatives felt constant  hap­piness while taking their baths. Keeping the King of Vrindavana in the  front, Nanda’s relatives offered opulent cloth, jeweled ornaments,  tambula, garlands, and sandalwood pulp to the guests. Then they humbly  requested all in attendance to bless that wonderfully auspicious boy who  had just appeared in Vrindavana.

(Ananda Vrindavana Champu, chapter 2)

He who accepts this truth (that Krishna’s appearance and activities are transcendental) on the strength of the authority of the Vedas and of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and who does not waste time in philosophical speculations attains the highest perfectional stage of liberation. Simply by accepting this truth on faith, one can, without a doubt, attain liberation. The Vedic version tat tvam asi is actually applied in this case. Anyone who understands Lord Kåñëa to be the Supreme, or who says unto the Lord “You are the same Supreme Brahman, the Personality of Godhead,” is certainly liberated instantly, and consequently his entrance into the transcendental association of the Lord is guaranteed. In other words, such a faithful devotee of the Lord attains perfection.

(BG  4.9p)

 

Please accept my humble wishes and prayers for a very happy Janmashtami.

 

All glories to the most auspicious Janmashtami

All glories to Sri Guru and Gaurnaga

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

 

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Change of heart

Hare Krishna dear devotees,

As we come into Krishna consciousness then many a times we may get lost in the philosophy itself. The mind too likes newer subjects and intellect is also satisfied by gaining deeper understanding. However we should be careful not to feel satisfied remaining at these levels. Most of us do understand that our real position in the material world is not unlike that of a criminal put in a prison for reform. Criminals can also, rather they do, have high level of mental and intellectual capabilities!

The living entities who come in contact with the material world are meant to be corrected. All the living entities within this material world have revolted against the service of the Lord, and therefore they remain within this material world as ever conditioned, nitya-baddha, taking birth again and again.

(SB 6.4.44p)

Old habits die hard!

The only way to permanently change the criminal habit is to change the heart of the criminal. As you well know, many thieves are arrested numerous times and put into jail. Although they know that if they commit theft they will go to jail, still they are forced to steal because of their unclean hearts. Therefore without cleansing the heart of the criminal, you cannot stop crime simply by more stringent law enforcement. The thief and the murderer already know the law, yet they still commit violent crimes, due to their unclean hearts. So our process is to cleanse the heart. Then all the troubles of this material world will be solved.

(SSR chapter 6)

We may be surprised to know that the whole process of ‘sadhna bhakti’ is to change our heart!

The whole process of spiritual culture is aimed at changing the heart of the living being in the matter of his eternal relation with the Supreme Lord as subordinate servant, which is his eternal constitutional position.

It is expected by all means that by discharging regulated devotional service one must manifest the change of heart.

 (SB 2.3.24p)

What exactly we mean by ‘change of heart’?

Change of heart means that my ‘Thinking, feeling and willing’ has changed. Which means what all I think, what is my reaction to various every day situations or circumstances and finally my actions have changed. It does not mean that we have simply learnt the art of what not to speak, especially when we are among the devotees, but inside our heart reactions to their behavior remains same. It means not just externals (my dress, a new name, my eating habits, my wake up time, etc. ) but I have changed, or changing, internally as well.

So what if change of heart has still not happened?

If there is no such change, the heart must be considered steel-framed, for it is not melted even when there is chanting of the holy name of the Lord.

(SB 2.3.24p)

 

Oh ho!

So philosophy has its place but as an aspiring devotee we should be more interested in the culture not merely philosophy. And what is culture? Philosophy lived is culture. In simple words it means that we intelligently, under the shelter of a devotee not my own mind, applying whatever we are reading in Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, etc., or whatever we are hearing (from a right source!). Without contemplation and then application all of it remains mere knowledge and will not result in any spiritual realisation. Realisation does not mean mere understanding rather  it means they have entered into my day to day life. 

What are the symptoms of change of heart ?

So with the progress of devotional service, the reaction of change in the heart is exhibited by gradual detachment from the sense of material enjoyment by a false sense of lording it over the world and an increase in the attitude of rendering loving service to the Lord.

(SB 2.3.24p)

How do I change my  stone like heart ?

Sravanam Kirtanam!

One who directly associates with the Supreme Lord by hearing of His activities cleanses the dirt from his mind and very soon comes to Kåñëa consciousness. Süta Gosvämé confirms this in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (1.2.17):

çåëvatäà sva-kathäù kåñëaù puëya-çravaëa-kértanaù

hådy antaù-stho hy abhadräëi vidhunoti suhåt-satäm

The Supreme Lord within everyone’s heart becomes very pleased when a person hears narrations of His activities, and He personally cleanses the dirt from the mind of the listener. Hådy antaù-stho hy abhadräëi vidhunoti: He washes off all dirt from the mind. Material existence is caused by dirty things within the mind. If one can cleanse his mind, he immediately comes to his original position of Kåñëa consciousness, and thus his life becomes successful. Therefore all the great saints in the devotional line very strongly recommend the process of hearing.

Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu introduced the congregational chanting of the Hare Kåñëa mantra to give everyone a chance to hear Kåñëa’s holy name, for simply by hearing Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare, one becomes purified (ceto-darpaëa-märjanam [Cc. Antya 20.12]). Therefore our Kåñëa consciousness movement is chiefly engaged in chanting the Hare Kåñëa mantra all over the world.

As stated in Çrémad-Bhägavatam (1.2.18):

nañöa-präyeñv abhadreñu nityaà bhägavata-sevayä

bhagavaty uttama-çloke bhaktir bhavati naiñöhiké

“By regularly hearing the Bhägavatam and rendering service unto the pure devotee, all that is troublesome to the heart is practically destroyed, and loving service unto the glorious Lord, who is praised with transcendental songs, is established as an irrevocable fact.” In this way, simply by hearing of the powerful activities of the Lord, the devotee’s heart becomes almost completely cleansed of material contamination, and thus his original position as an eternal servant who is part and parcel of the Lord becomes manifest.

(SB 5.18.11p)

There are two kinds of çruti, or scripture. One is spoken by the Lord, and the other is spoken about the Lord and His devotees. Bhagavad-gétä is the former and Çrémad-Bhägavatam the latter. One must hear these scriptures repeatedly from reliable sources in order to become fixed in serious devotional service. Through engagement in such devotional service, one becomes freed from the contamination of mäyä. It is stated in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam that hearing about the Supreme Personality of Godhead cleanses the heart of all contamination caused by the influence of the three modes of material nature. By continuous, regular hearing, the effects of the contamination of lust and greed to enjoy or lord it over material nature diminish, and when lust and greed diminish, one then becomes situated in the mode of goodness. This is the stage of Brahman realization, or spiritual realization. In this way one becomes fixed on the transcendental platform. Remaining fixed on the transcendental platform is liberation from material entanglement.

(SB 3.27.21p)

Can my heart change just by hearing?

Çåëvatäà sva-kathäù kåñëaù. So we don’t say that “You change your profession, you change your position or occupation,” no. Please come and hear. Please… If you don’t chant, please hear. That hearing process also will cure you. Çravaëam kértanam. So people should come to our temple and hear this chanting, this… We are not taxing. We are not asking any… If you give some contribution, there is temple and management, there is expenditure, heavy expenditure, in this country. If you so kind… It is very kind of you. Even if you do not pay, you don’t like, please come. Please come and hear. Please bring your friends if you are really friend. So it is very nice thing. Sthäne sthitaù çruti-gatäà tanu-väì-manobhir. You remain what you are. We don’t say that you change, but you hear.

(Room conversation, 16th July 1968, Montreal)

What are the  chances of success for a fallen soul like myself?

All the great äcäryas strongly recommend that people be given a chance to hear about the Supreme Lord. Then success is assured. The more we cleanse the dirt of material attachment from our hearts, the more we will be attracted by Kåñëa’s name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and activities. This is the sum and substance of the Kåñëa consciousness movement.

(SB 5.18.11p)

We must always remember that hearing and chanting are the basic principles of discharging devotional duties, and if they are properly performed there will follow the reactional ecstasy with signs of tears in the eyes and standing of the hairs on the body. These are natural consequences and are the preliminary symptoms of the bhäva stage, which occurs before one reaches the perfectional stage of prema, love of Godhead.

(SB 2.3.24p)

End Result : A stone like heart transforms into a fish! A fish that can swim in an ocean of love, love for our dear most Sri Sri Radha Shyama. 

And where is such an ocean?

In conclusion to your letter you have asked as to where is the ocean of love? And I think that you may know that it is in your heart.

(Letter to Himavati — Los Angeles 12 December, 1968)

 

So it may not be such a bad idea to pray to Lord Balarama today, on His appearance day, to beg him for spiritual strength, so that we may feel inspired to daily, and carefully, read Bhagavad Gita & Srimad Bhagavatam and that we at least make an endeavor to chant without offences. Lord Balarama is the killer of Dhenukasura (the ass demon). So this ass who is with in us, who still does not listen to instructions of acharaya, can be very easily killed by Lord Balarama. A short and sincere prayer at His lotus feet today can be a good beginning today in our journey of change of heart!

All glories to Sri Guru & Gauranga

All glories to Srila Prabhupada

 

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Heart of a Vaishnava revealed

Hare Krishna Dear devotees,

We often read and hear, how being a devotee, our heart should be soft, full of humility and compassion for others. Sometime we are not even sure where to draw the final line as there are different instructions for devotees at different levels of consciousness. We do not even know what is true humility and many a times wonder how a pure Vaishnava thinks, what are his emotions and how does he acts?  

Caitanya Mahaprabhu quoted the below verse, from Mahabharat, to a brahmana during his visit to Mathura

tarko ’pratiṣṭha śrutayo vibhinnā
n
āsāv ṛṣir yasya mata na bhinnam
dharmasya tattva
nihita guhāyāṁ
mah
ājano yena gata sa panthāḥ

‘Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated, self-realized person. Consequently, as the śāstras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahājanas advocate.’

(CC Madhya 17.186)

There have been innumerable great devotees whose example we can take, Srimad Bhagavatam also mentions names of 12 mahajans. So which mahajan should we look up to?

Interestingly, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has stated that for us,  Gaudia Vaishnava , the followers of Mahaprabhu are the modern mahajans. We should follow them.  He writes :

The åñis and mahätmäs who have taught conduct before the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are counted among the previous mahäjanas. The conduct seen in the mahäjanas after the appearance of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the conduct of later mahäjanas. The conduct of the later mahäjanas is superior and should be adopted. The conduct of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers is meant to teach people, so that conduct should be followed in all respects.

So let us hear about the thinking, feeling and acting of one of such mahajans, Srila Haridas Thakur, whom Caitanya Mahaprabhu declared to be Namacharya of our sampradaya. So he is definitely qualified to be one of modern mahajans. Let us find about the condition of his heart from Caitanya Bhagavat, may be we feel inspired to have a re-look at our own heart. 

Background

Srila Haridas Thakur was born in a muslim family in a village called Buron, and because of his presence there, many people became purified and took up the chanting of the holy name. After some years he left his village and travelled to a place near the river Ganga. He finally settled in the village of Phulia near Santipura.

He  passed his time wandering on the banks of the Ganga chanting the name of the Supreme Lord Krishna. It was common to see him dancing while he sang the glories of Lord Krishna’s name. People would gather around him just to see the unrestricted tears of love of Godhead that flowed profusely from his eyes, drenching his entire body. Even the strictest atheists marvelled at his behaviour.

The Circumstances

The local Qazi became envious of Haridas Thakur’s popularity and reported to the Nawab, “This man is acting like a Hindu; arrest him and punish him appropriately.” Thus Haridas Thakura was arrested.

In the court he was accused of practicing Hindu religion despite being a muslim. When Srila Haridas Thakur replied that God is one and the difference between Hindu God and Muslim God is in Name only, he was sentenced by the Nawab to be lashed in 22 market places until he dies.  

He was then dragged by the soldiers from one market place  to another, lashing him mercilessly. By the grace of Lord Krishna, Haridasa felt little pain in his body. Just like Prahlada in the Srimad Bhagavatam who was tortured by demons, Haridas never suffered at all. Not only was Haridas freed from his pain, whoever remembers this story of Srila Haridas will also be saved from the miseries of life. Throughout his ordeal, Haridasa’s one emotion was pity for the sentries. “O Lord Krishna, please be merciful upon these poor souls so they may not be punished because of me.”

(What would be our reaction if  someone were to give us a humiliating public chastisement, or God forbid, a tight slap, for no fault of ours?) 

What Krishna will not do for His pure devotee !

During Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mahaprakash pastime, He called for Haridas Thakur and shared that when Haridas Thakur was being beaten how Lord wanted to kill all the soldiers but He could not do so because Haridas Thakur himself was praying for those very soldiers!

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu revealed:

I hesitated in My heart to punish them for it will disturb you, knowing your compassionate nature.

My Sudarsan disc weapon was rendered impotent. I could not strike those men because you were determined to forgive them and so unable to see your misery I protected you from their lashes by placing My back on your back.

“I accepted all those lashes meant for you on My back, see the marks on my back.

Haridas Thakur’s glorification of Mahaprabhu

When Haridas heard about the Lord’s magnanimous deed he fell swooning to the ground. He lost all external consciousness and was immersed in an ocean of ecstasy.

Thakura Haridas said, “O Lord Visvambhara! You are the Lord and Protector of the Universe, now the responsibility of delivering a lowly fallen wretch like me rests on You, My Lord. How can I describe Your transcendental glories as I do not possess any good qualifications, I am sinful, and I am not even within the Vedic society.

(We all have many demoniac propensities but how do we see ourselves in the mirror every day?)

Just seeing me makes a person vulnerable to sin, and touching me makes one so contaminated that he must bath immediately; how can I say anything about Your divine pastimes?

(Whereas our mere touch or at least our power of speech is capable to turn any non-devotee into a devotee, God’s gift to mankind, only if others were to follow my instructions, or better, hear my pastimes!)

There is one fact that You yourself have stated, anyone remembering your lotus feet, be he an insignificant and fallen as an insect, is never forsaken by You. Whereas even a mighty king falls from grace if he disregards Your lotus feet. I am incapable of remembering You although I know you shelter the most impoverished soul if he simply remembers You.

(Remember Haridas Thakur would daily chant 300,000 names or 192 rounds every day. What most of us chant in 12 days!)

The evil Duryodhana and Suhsasana dragged the righteous Draupadi into the palace court wanting to disrobe her. Confronted with the danger of disgrace she remembered You, Krishna. And because of this You made her sari endlessly long by Your mystic potency. Yet the evil doers could not perceive Your hand in this.

I am so sinful that I cannot remember such a magnanimous Personality as You; O Lord! please therefore give me shelter at Your lotus feet.

The demon Hiranyakasipu inflicted all varieties of treachery and brutal methods trying to kill Prahlad like poisoning, hurling down from the mountain, throwing in boiling cauldron of oil etc. Yet throughout his tribulations Prahlad meditated upon Your lotus feet and was saved from each and every calmity. In this way You humbled many of his enemies and took away all their vitality and strength: finally You appeared in Person due to Prahlad’s meditation.

Once the five Pandavas were in grave dilemma fearing the wrath of Durvasa Muni, but by remembering You, You appeared personally and saved them. You calmed Yudhisthira Maharaja with your assuring words, see I am already here, you just sit down and relax and I will take care of Durvasa Muni and his army of disciples.”

Only the shred of vegetable left stuck to the side of the pot after the Pandavas had eaten was taken by; Lord Krishna relishing the thought of coming to His devotees aid. The sage with his disciples meanwhile bathing in the river suddenly felt full in the belly like having eaten a sumptuous meal” ashamed and tearful they fled.

The miraculous benefits of remembering Your lotus feet was amply demonstrated by the Pandavas in this incident. The path of true devotion for everyone is to remember You; You perform Your super excellent activities to rescue Your devotees.

(My own pastimes spontaneously start floating in my mind when I am chanting, for some strange reason happenings in my own life seems to be more interesting then Krishna’s pastimes)

“O Lord! I am such a destitute that I do not even possess the sweetness of Your memory and yet You have not forsaken me. Although I am unfit to see You, You are present before me in person. I am praying to You now for only one benediction.”

(Why is Krishna taking so much time to reciprocate? I am almost ready to join the boys!)

Lord Chaitanya replied, “Say all that you want to say, there is nothing that I do not want to give you.

Haridas spoke to the Lord with folded hands, “O Lord, I have known only misfortune yet You give me so much hope. Just allow me to partake of the remnant of foodstuffs of Your devotees totally surrendered to Your lotus feet. Let this activity be my permanent and most prominent service life after life. My sinful birth and existence is miserable, without remembering You, but now please make my life successful by granting me the remnant of Your servitors.

(What! Not to become a gopi? Not even a gopa or even a simple servant of Krishna. We can close our eyes and consider what will be our reply if Krishna decides to manifest in front of us and says ‘Ask Me anything you may desire’)

I feel within my heart that I have committed a grave offense by asking of You to situate a elevated status of that of a Vaishnava, although I am grossly unfit.

( He is considering it an offense that he even asked or desired to come to the level of a Vaishnava!)

O Lord! my master, Protector and the maintainer of the entire creation, I am spiritually lifeless, therefore kindly forgive my ignorance.

(After joining ISKCON I have gathered so much information!)

O Lord Visvambhara, the beautiful son of Mother Saci, You are my master, so be merciful to me and keep me as a dog in the house of a Vaishnava.”

( Not even a cow ! who is at least tied within the boundary of the home. A dog is not even allowed inside a cultured Vaishnava’s home)

Haridas Thakur was overwhelmed by feeling of ecstatic devotional emotions and he repeatedly petitioned the Lord, his desire for humility and devotional service unfulfilled.

( We are feeling morose simply by reading what all is Haridas Thakur requesting from Mahaprabhu!)

Caitanya Mahaprabhu reveals His heart

Lord Chaitanya replied, “Listen My dear Haridas, you are a highly elevated Vaishnava, if anyone spends a day in your services and association or you kindly speak to someone for a short time, that person certainly achieves Me, there is no doubt about this. Whoever respects and serves you does so to Me also, for I perpetually reside within you.

As my servitor Your position is unique, you have therefore imprisoned Me within your heart eternally. I bless you that since you are crowned already with a faultless character that you will always continue to worship and serve Me and My devotees without a single deviation or offense.”

A tumultuous sound of joy from the Vaishnavas greeted Lord Chaitanya’s boon to Haridas Thakur. High birth, caste, fruitive activities or wealth are worthless commodities to achieve love of Godhead only the intense loving desire for Krishna can bring one to the lotus feet of Krishna.

Where do I go from here, I definitely have a long way to go!

In the spiritual matters there is no loss or anything disheartening everything has a positive outcome. Please rejoice as we read below the benediction of just hearing the above chapter from Caitanya Bhagavat, Madhya Lila, chapter 10.

One who hears this pastime of the Lord and Haridas Thakur with proper faith will certainly enjoy the fruit of Lord Krishna prema. These words are not my concoction but the bold declarations of all scriptures. One is sure to experience the bliss of devotional service to Lord Krishna if one hears the transcendental activities of the pure devotees of the Supreme Lord. All glories to Haridas Thakur, a giant amongst the Vaishnavas, remembering him one is freed from all sinful reactions.

Where to read: ISKCONDESIRETREE E BOOK

Where to hear :  Audio book format in Android mobile app

Now it is upon us to see whether we even have a desire to enjoy the fruit of Krishna prema or not!

 

All glories to heart of a Vaishnava.

All glories to Srila Haridas Thakur.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

 

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa