Since last few
months I have come across devotees who have lost their chanting beads. If this
in itself was not bad enough, then what was even more painful for them was that
in all the cases, save one, their spiritual master declined to chant again on
new chanting beads.
For the devotees the most precious and dear most treasure are their chanting beads- on which their spiritual master has chanted and which they had been given at the time of their initiation ceremony. If the chanting beads are misplaced or forgotten (either of which is very rare) it’s like a calamity! For devotees it is an unbearable wait till their chanting beads are found.
Past week I came
across a wonderful pastime of Srila Prabhupada which was an eye opener for me.
Along with the same I am also sharing some sweet, and instructive, pastimes
devotees had with Srila Prabhupada over their misplaced beads and bead bags.
Over the past few days Prabhupada has given many small but significant instructions on a variety of issues. For example, a devotee who lost his original beads gave me a new set for Prabhupada to sanctify by chanting on them. Prabhupada agreed, but mentioned that this was not really necessary because it is the chanting of the devotee that is sanctified at initiation, not the beads.
(Transcendental Diary by Hari Sauri Dasa, vol. 1, chapter 2 )
Best to cultivate a heart connection
After leaving San Moritz we spent one day in an exclusive hotel overlooking the Rhine River in Zurich. Srila Prabhupada had a room and his entourage stayed together in the room next door. They were not adjoining rooms, however. When it was time for his massage, I had to go into his room to change my clothes to avoid walking in the hallway in my gumcha. One day when I finished giving him a massage, I inadvertently left my bead bag in his room.
They were not the japa beads Srila Prabhupada had chanted on at my initiation two years earlier. Unfortunately, I lost them in New Vrindaban. I considered asking Srila Prabhupada to chant on another set of beads for me but, I didn’t want to admit how careless I had been. My bead bag was prasadam given to me by His Divine Grace. When I returned to Srila Prabhupada’s room, I noticed, to my delight, his hand in my bead bag. For the next half hour, I joyfully watched as he chanted on my beads. Again Srila Prabhupada fulfilled my desire without me asking. I waited until he put my bead bag down and took my newly sanctified beads to our quarters. Elated, I bragged to the others how a miracle had just taken place.
(What Is The Difficulty by Sruta Kirti dasa, chapter 63)
But don’t be neglectful
“All these initiation beads should be kept very carefully and protected. It is not a question of changing beads, but this carelessness, of losing beads, is not very good. You are very intelligent boy, so you should be careful and instruct others also. So keep your beads in a bag and keep the bag around your neck. Then you won’t lose.”
(letter to Hrdayananda, 6th July, 1971)
Show respect by keeping it clean
Bhakti Vikasa Swami: Srila Prabhupada was sitting on his vyasasana that was not exactly a vyasasana but it was a special raised seat. To Srila Prabhupada’s right and a little in front of him was a senior devotee who had his japa beads around his neck and he was chanting on them. When Srila Prabhupada noticed that he asked him, “Where is your bead bag?” This devotee said, “It’s being washed, Srila Prabhupada”, and then Prabhupada turned to Harikesh Maharaj and asked, “Some bead bags have been given?” Harikesh said, “Yes, Prabhupada.” Prabhupada said, “Bring one and give it to him.” Harikesh brought the bead bag and then Prabhupada told the devotee who had been chanting, “Always keep your beads in a bead bag.” He said, “You should have two bead bags. When one is being washed use the other one.”
(Srila Prabhupada – Remembrances, chapter 51)
Balai: In Boston in 1968 I was in Srila Prabhupada’s quarters with Himavati and Hamsadutta and others. Himavati had just made Srila Prabhupada a nice bead bag and gave it to him. Her husband Hamsadutta had his beads around his neck because he had just washed his bead bag and it was drying. Srila Prabhupada offered Hamsadutta this new bead bag and Hamsadutta said, “No, Srila Prabhupada, that’s yours”. Srila Prabhupada said, “What’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine. Everything belongs to Krishna.”
(Srila Prabhupada – Remembrances, chapter 48)
This is our process
So our…, this is the process. We have got this bead bag, and within this bag there is bead, and we chant each… We capture each bead and chant,
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna , Hare Hare Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
One bead equals sixteen times. So the whole bead chain there is hundred and eight, so one round means about seventeen hundred. In this way, our disciples are advised to chant at least sixteen rounds. This is our daily duty. It takes about two hours, and after that we are engaged in so many other businesses. Somebody is typing or printing books, somebody is going to sell books, somebody is collecting subscription, somebody is cooking for the temple Deity, Radha-Krishna. So in this way our inmates, or our members, are always engaged. Kirtaniya sada hari.
The last verse which Arjuna speaks in Bhagavad Gita, has many gems for us.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How do I change my stone like heart ?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
So many times we hear the word ‘bhava’ among devotees that one should develop bhava for Krishna or so and so devotee has a very nice bhava. So what actually is this bhava? Is it emotions, is it feelings, is it love or is it a mixture of many things. Sometimes we use this term very casually or liberally in the devotee circles. Indeed, bhava, being the preliminary stage of elevation before the attainment of pure love of Krishna, is a very deep topic. It is meant to be discussed by paramahamsas or liberated devotees. However keeping the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada in our consciousness we can pray and try to taste a small drop from the unlimited ocean of nectar of devotion.
What is bhava ?
The state of being in love with the Godhead is compared to the sunshine emanating from the sun; this shining makes the devotee’s heart more and more lovely. The heart of such a devotee is situated in a transcendental position beyond even the mode of goodness. The process for making the heart even more sterilized by the sunshine of love is called bhäva.
(TLC , chapter 13)
How can I attain the state of Bhava ?
The transcendental ecstatic attachment for Kåñëa which results from perfectly understanding that Kåñëa’s person and name are identical is called bhäva. One who has attained bhäva is certainly not contaminated by material nature. He actually enjoys transcendental pleasure from bhäva, and when bhäva is intensified, it is called love of Godhead. Lord Caitanya told Prakäçänanda Sarasvaté that the holy name of Kåñëa, called the mahä-mantra (great chanting), enables anyone who chants it to attain the stage of love of Godhead, or intensified bhäva.
(TLC, chapter 19)
It all begins from hearing about Krishna and brings about Love for Krishna!
Generally we experience that people are primarily interested in seeing Kåñëa, but why is the emphasis on seeing? Let us hear about Him. We must come with a little faith, and as we hear, that faith will increase. One should come to the temple, listen to talks about Kåñëa, and then, after some time, officially take initiation into the service of the Lord. That is called bhajana-kriyä. At that time one has to abandon illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling. If one is still attached to all these habits, he should know that he is not making progress. When one is actually advanced in bhajana-kriyä, all these anarthas (unwanted things) will be finished. paraà dåñövä nivartate [BG. 2.59]. When one appreciates something better, he rejects all kinds of nonsense. Once one gets a taste of Kåñëa consciousness, he cannot remain without it. A drunkard cannot remain without a drink, but a devotee is drunk with Kåñëa consciousness. The immunization against all material diseases is this Kåñëa consciousness. To be immuned to the infection of the guëas, we have to engage in bhakti-yoga. Once we attain the perfectional stage, we attain ecstatic love of Godhead. In that state we cannot remain without Kåñëa for a moment. That is called bhäva, and that bhäva may increase to mahä-bhäva. This is not possible for ordinary human beings, but it was possible for the gopés and Rädhäräëé. Indeed, they could not live without Kåñëa. This is the highest stage of liberation.
(TLK, chapter 8)
I want to hear more!
There are two characteristics by which the seeds of love of Godhead can develop, and these are known as rati, or attachment, and bhäva, the condition immediately preceding love of Godhead. It is by such attachment and bhäva that the Supreme Lord Çré Kåñëa is conquered by His devotees. These two characteristics are present before any symptoms of love of Godhead are manifest. This was all explained to Sanätana Gosvämé by Lord Caitanya. Lord Caitanya told him that since there is really no end to describing the system of devotional service with attachment, He is simply trying to offer a sampling. Lord Caitanya then described the ultimate goal of devotional service, which is meant for one who wants to attain perfection. When one’s attachment to Kåñëa becomes very deep, one attains the condition called love of Godhead. Such a state of existence is considered a permanent situation for a devotee.
In Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu (1.3.1) the state of being in love with the Godhead is compared to the sunshine emanating from the sun; this shining makes the devotee’s heart more and more lovely. The heart of such a devotee is situated in a transcendental position beyond even the mode of goodness. The process for making the heart even more sterilized by the sunshine of love is called bhäva. A description of bhäva is given by Rüpa Gosvämé. Bhäva is called the permanent characteristic of the living entity, and the crucial point of progress for bhäva is called the marginal state of love of Godhead. When the bhäva state becomes deeper and deeper, learned devotees call it love of Godhead. As stated in the Närada-païcarätra:
ananya-mamatä viñëau mamatä prema-saìgatä
bhaktir ity ucyate bhéñma-prahlädoddhava-näradaiù
“When one is firmly convinced that Viñëu is the only object of love and worship and that there is no one else—not even a demigod—worthy of receiving devotional service, one feels intimacy in his love relationship with God, and this is approved by such personalities as Bhéñma, Prahläda, Uddhava and Närada.”
If, due to some righteous activities which provoke devotional service, one is influenced by the service attitude and takes shelter of the good association of pure devotees, he develops attachment for hearing and chanting. By developing chanting and hearing, one can advance further and further in regulative devotional service to the Supreme Lord. As one so advances, his misgivings about devotional service and his attraction for the material world proportionately diminish. By advancing in hearing and chanting, a devotee becomes more firmly fixed in his faith, and gradually his initial faith develops into a taste for devotional service, and that taste gradually develops into attachment. When attachment becomes pure, it exhibits the two characteristics of bhäva and rati. When rati increases, it is called love of Godhead, and love of Godhead is the ultimate goal of human life.
This process is summarized by Rüpa Gosvämé in Bhakti-rasämåta-sindhu (1.4.15-16): The first requirement is faith; it is due to faith that one associates with pure devotees, and, by such association, develops devotional service. As devotional service develops, one’s misgivings diminish. Then one is situated in firm conviction, and from that conviction he develops a taste for devotional service and advances to the stage of attachment, whereby he follows the regulative principles of devotional service. After that point, after one makes further progress, he attains the state called bhäva, which is permanent. When such love of God increases, it reaches the highest stage of love of Godhead.”
In Sanskrit this highest stage is called premä, premä can be defined as love of God without any expectation of exchange or return. Actually the words premä and love are not synonymous, yet one can say that premä is the highest stage of love. One who has attained premä is the most perfect human being. Çrémad-Bhägavatam also confirms this statement (SB 3.25.25): Only by the association of pure devotees can one develop a taste for Kåñëa consciousness, and when he tries to apply Kåñëa consciousness in his life, he can achieve everything up to the stage of bhäva and prema.
In order to save us from getting cheated or fooled, scriptures share the external symptoms (as we do not have direct access to the heart of other person) of such a pure devotee who has reached the stage of Bhava ( whose association one must aspire and pray for)
Lord Caitanya, describing the symptoms of a person who has developed from faith to the stage of bhäva, states that such a person is never agitated even if there are causes for agitation. Nor does such a person waste his time even for a moment; he is always anxious to do something for Kåñëa. Even if he has no engagement, he will find some work to do for Kåñëa’s satisfaction. Nor does such a person like anything which is not connected with Kåñëa. Although he is situated in the best position, he does not hanker after honor or personal respect. He is confident in his work, and he is never under the impression that he is not making progress toward the supreme goal of life-going back to Godhead. Since he is fully convinced of his progress, he is always confident and keeps himself busy to achieve the highest goal. He is very much attached to gratifying the Lord and in chanting or hearing about the Lord, and he is always attached to describing the transcendental qualities of the Lord. He also prefers to live in holy places like Mathurä, Våndävana or Dvärakä. Such characteristics are visible in one who has developed to the stage of bhäva.
(TLC , chapter 13)
King Parékñit affords a good example of bhäva. When sitting on the banks of the Ganges waiting to meet his death, he said: “All the brähmaëas present here, as well as Mother Ganges, should know that I am a soul completely surrendered to Kåñëa. I do not mind if I am immediately bitten by the snake sent by the brähmaëa boy’s curse. Let the snake bite me as it likes. I shall be pleased if all of you present here will go on chanting the message of Kåñëa.” Such a devotee is always anxious to see that his time is not wasted in anything which is not connected with Kåñëa. Consequently he does not like the benefits derived from fruitive activity, yogic meditation or the cultivation of knowledge. His attachment is to discourses which are favorably related to Kåñëa. Such pure devotees of the Lord always pray to the Supreme Lord with tears in their eyes; their minds are always engaged in recollecting the activities of the Lord, and their bodies are always engaged in offering obeisances. In this way they are satisfied. Any devotee who is acting in devotional service dedicates his life and body for the purpose of the Lord.
Modern science discovers the benefits of meditation
Recently there was a article on the front page of New York Times as to how scientists now believe that meditation may change our brain! (NYT_article)
Towards the end the article stated that scientists accept that know very little about brain and its mechanisms! So much for modern medical advancement! I am quoting some parts from that article below.
But now, scientists say that meditators like my husband may be benefiting from changes in their brains. The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The findings will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.
M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.
It has been hard to pinpoint the benefits of meditation, but a 2009 study suggests that meditation may reduce blood pressure in patients with coronary heart disease. And a 2007 study found that meditators have longer attention spans.
Previous studies have also shown that there are structural differences between the brains of meditators and those who don’t meditate, although this new study is the first to document changes in gray matter over time through meditation.
Ultimately, Dr. Hölzel said she and her colleagues would like to demonstrate how meditation results in definitive improvements in people’s lives.
“A lot of studies find that it increases well-being, improves quality of life, but it’s always hard to determine how you can objectively test that,” she said. “Relatively little is known about the brain and the psychological mechanisms about how this is being done.”
In a 2008 study published in the journal PloS One, researchers found that when meditators heard the sounds of people suffering, they had stronger activation levels in their temporal parietal junctures, a part of the brain tied to empathy, than people who did not meditate.
“They may be more willing to help when someone suffers, and act more compassionately,” Dr. Hölzel said.
All hope giving words ! As I read this article I thought how modern science is now slowly discovering all these benefits from simple meditation and how millions of readers must be reading it with hope about meditation and its results. Humans have never been more stressful in a long long time as in today’s so called modern times, in turn suffering all type of diseases, mental as well as physical.
Such meditation, sort of Dhyana-yoga, only offers a mere glimpse. If all these amazing changes are possible in a human body by merely manipulating our gross and subtle body then what all must be true at the level of soul. Such meditation is mostly a mechanical system, where if one sits in a certain position, breathe in a certain way and focus our mind in a certain way then one can experience something which is beyond the mind and senses. But not only such meditation is difficult, to focus our mind into nothingness/ some focal point/ a light source (most of such meditations in west are advertised by Buddhists and in India by impersonalists), the results are at best temporary and do not bring any change in the consciousness of the person practicing it.
But, as devotees, we know that when we practice mantra mediation then we get much more benefits. When we chant Hare Krishna Mahamantra then, in addition to material benefits, for mind & body, one gets spiritual benefits, which are much more valuable. Hare Krishna Mahamantra touches us at the level of soul. As we progress in devotional life we realise bit by bit the immeasurable potency of Hare Krishna Mahamantra. Bhakti-yoga is very wonderful, it is natural and very sweet. So , as devotees, we must value what jewel we have received due to the causeless mercy of Guru and Gauranga.
Let us hear what our scriptures speak on meditation and what actually does meditation means.
Generally people think that religion and piety come at the end of life, and at this time one generally becomes meditative and takes to some so-called yogic process to relax in the name of meditation. Meditation, however, is simply a farce for those who have enjoyed life in sense gratification… To meditate, one must restrain himself from all kinds of sense gratification. Unfortunately, meditation has now become a fashion for those who are overly addicted to sensual things. Such meditation is defeated by the struggle for existence. Sometimes such meditative processes pass for transcendental meditation.
Impersonal meditation is a bogus invention of modern days. In none of the Vedic literatures is impersonal meditation recommended. In Bhagavad-gétä, when meditation is recommended, the word mat-paraù, which means “pertaining to Me,” is used. Any Viñëu form pertains to Lord Kåñëa because Lord Kåñëa is the original Viñëu form. Sometimes someone tries to meditate upon the impersonal Brahman, which is described in Bhagavad-gétä as avyakta, meaning “unmanifested” or “impersonal.” But it is remarked by the Lord Himself that those who are attached to this impersonal feature of the Lord suffer a very troublesome task because no one can concentrate on the impersonal feature. One has to concentrate on the form of the Lord, which is described here in connection with Dhruva Mahäräja’s meditation. As will be apparent from later descriptions, Dhruva Mahäräja perfected this kind of meditation, and his yoga was successful.
Focus should be on soul not the brain!
People are suffering actually for want of spiritual life, spiritual understanding. There are so many theories. But, except, accept, they will not accept that the…, actually, because the soul is within this body, everything is happening. And without the soul, immediately this body, so nice body of such and such great personality, becomes a lump of matter. Not that the body is working… They are finding out the brain substance, how it is working. But the brain substance is already there in the dead body. Why don’t you work with that? No. That is not fact. The fact is the brain substance is a machine, but the man, or the person, is within the body. He’s working with the brain substance. Just like you have got a nice machine. But it must be worked by somebody. At the present moment, the computer is a very subtle machine. But this computer cannot work without an experienced mechanic who pushes the button and it works. These people, they cannot understand that without spiritual touch, matter cannot work.
( SP Lecture, Hyderabad, 26th November, 1972)
Devotees and meditation!
For a devotee, being situated in the heavenly planets and being in the hellish planets are equal, for a devotee lives neither in heaven nor in hell but with Kåñëa in the spiritual world. The secret of success for the devotee is not understood by the karmés and jïänés. Karmés therefore try to be happy by material adjustment, and jïänés want to be happy by becoming one with the Supreme. The devotee has no such interest. He is not interested in so-called meditation in the Himalayas or the forest. Rather, his interest is in the busiest part of the world, where he teaches people Kåñëa consciousness. The Kåñëa consciousness movement was started for this purpose. We do not teach one to meditate in a secluded place just so that one may show that he has become very much advanced and may be proud of his so-called transcendental meditation, although he engages in all sorts of foolish materialistic activity. A Vaiñëava like Prahläda Mahäräja is not interested in such a bluff of spiritual advancement. Rather, he is interested in enlightening people in Kåñëa consciousness because that is the only way for them to become happy. Prahläda Mahäräja says clearly, nänyaà tvad asya çaraëaà bhramato ‘nupaçye: “I know that without Kåñëa consciousness, without taking shelter of Your lotus feet, one cannot be happy.” One wanders within the universe, life after life, but by the grace of a devotee, a servant of Çré Caitanya Mahäprabhu, one can get the clue to Kåñëa consciousness and then not only become happy in this world but also return home, back to Godhead. That is the real target in life. The members of the Kåñëa consciousness movement are not at all interested in so-called meditation in the Himalayas or the forest, where one will only make a show of meditation, nor are they interested in opening many schools for yoga and meditation in the cities. Rather, every member of the Kåñëa consciousness movement is interested in going door to door to try to convince people about the teachings of Bhagavad-gétä As It Is, the teachings of Lord Caitanya. That is the purpose of the Hare Kåñëa movement. The members of the Kåñëa consciousness movement must be fully convinced that without Kåñëa one cannot be happy. Thus the Kåñëa conscious person avoids all kinds of pseudo spiritualists, transcendentalists, meditators, monists, philosophers and philanthropists.
Krishna teaches us practically by meditating Himself (on whom?)!
After rising from bed, Lord Kåñëa would wash His mouth, hands and feet and would immediately sit down and meditate on Himself. This does not mean, however, that we should also sit down and meditate on ourselves. We have to meditate upon Kåñëa, Rädhä-Kåñëa. That is real meditation. Kåñëa is Kåñëa Himself; therefore He was teaching us that brähma-muhürta should be utilized for meditation on Rädhä-Kåñëa. By such meditation Kåñëa would feel very much satisfied, and similarly we will also feel transcendentally pleased and satisfied if we utilize the brähma-muhürta period to meditate on Rädhä and Kåñëa and if we think of how Çré Rukmiëédevé and Kåñëa acted as ideal householders to teach the whole human society to rise early in the morning and immediately engage in Kåñëa consciousness. There is no difference between meditating on the eternal forms of Rädhä-Kåñëa and chanting the mahä-mantra, Hare Kåñëa. As for Kåñëa’s meditation, He had no alternative but to meditate on Himself. The object of meditation is Brahman, Paramätmä or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but Kåñëa Himself is all three: He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavän; the localized Paramätmä is His plenary partial expansion; and the all-pervading Brahman effulgence is the personal rays of His transcendental body.
(KB, chapter 70, Lord Krishna’s daily activities)
Cultivation of spirituality does not mean sitting down idly for meditation, as some pseudo-yogés teach. Such idle meditation may be good for those who have no information of devotional service, and for this reason it is sometimes recommended as a way to check distracting materialistic activities. Meditation means stopping all nonsensical activities, at least for the time being. Devotional service, however, not only puts an end to all nonsensical mundane activities, but also engages one in meaningful devotional activities.
(NoI, verse 3p)
Sitting in silent meditation means stopping undesirable activity, but acting in Kåñëa consciousness is transcendental. The cessation of nonsensical action is not in itself perfection. We must act perfectly.
(Path of Perfection, chapter 2)
So, as practitioners of Bhakti-yoga, we should have firm faith in the words of scriptures, our acharya & our guru. And we should endeavor hard to practice chanting Hare Krishna mahamantra with confidence, enthusiasm, patience and, more importantly, with care & attention. We have received a Cintāmaṇi(wish-fulfilling) jewel in our hand. There is no other better meditation for the suffering humankind.
Even when a person becomes an offender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, he can still be delivered simply by taking shelter of the Holy Names of the Lord: HareKåñëa,HareKåñëa,KåñëaKåñëa,HareHare/HareRäma,HareRäma,RämaRäma,HareHare. In other words, the chanting of Hare Kåñëa is beneficial for eradicating all sins, but if one becomes an offender to the Holy Names of the Lord, then he has no chance of being delivered.
My tongue has taste for so many sweets but it has still not developed a taste for the sweetness of the Holy Name.
I push my family for savory food but do not push my mind to relish the Holy Name.
My ears are always anxious to hear melodious sound but alas they have no such anxiousness to hear the melody of the Holy Name.
I have developed so many worldly affections but still not developed any attachment for the Holy Name.
I say sorry when I hurt someone but I never uttered sorry to the Holy Name after chanting a bad round.
I strive not to harm others but I have done so many offenses to the Holy Name.
O Holy Name, indeed I am very fallen,
but you are known as the savior of the most fallen,
this way we have a relationship.
Invoking that relationship, I beg you to be merciful on this most insignificant shameless beggar.
O Holy Name I am begging you to please maintain me under your lotus feet.
Forgiving my past offenses,
I beg you to please give me a taste to chant your Holy Name.
tomäre bhuliyä, avidyä-pédäya,
pédita rasanä mora
kåñëa-näma-sudhä, bhälo nähi läge,
O my Lord Hari! Because of forgetting You, my tongue has become embittered with the disease of ignorance. I cannot relish the sweet nectar of Your holy name of Kåñëa, for I have become addicted to the taste of worldly pleasures.*
prati-dina jadi, ädara koriyä,
se näma kértana kori
sitapala jeno, näçi’ roga-müla,
krame swädu hoya, hari!
If I sing that holy name of Yours aloud every day with warm affection, then as sugar candy taken medicinally destroys the very disease which makes it taste bitter (jaundice), so Your holy name, O Lord Hari, will cure my spiritual disease and allow me to gradually taste Your sweetness.
durdaiva ämära, se näme ädara,
nä hoilo, doyämoya!
daça aparädha, ämära durdaiva,
kemone hoibe kñoya
How great is my misfortune that I feel no appreciation for Your holy name, O merciful Lord! In such a lamentable state, how will I be freed from committing the ten offenses to the holy name?