Consciousness in Food

Our spiritual life is worth protecting, so we should do everything in our power to protect it. Food and eating is something none of us can avoid. We have to be extremely transcendental to avoid eating and lucky for us, in Krishna consciousness, eating is a very important part of our spiritual practices. The Hare Krishna’s are very famous for their food and people don’t call us the kitchen religion for nothing. As devotees it is known that everything we eat should be offered to Krishna, but Krishna is self satisfied so He only really sees the love involved and won’t starve if we don’t offer anything. That being the case, Krishna is actually so kind that offering food and taking His remnants are only for our benefit and well being. 

Offering food to Krishna is not the topic we will discuss. The very informative class that His Grace Brhat Mrdanga Prabhu gave, was about how consciousness is transferred from the cook to the one doing the eating. He uses the term “karmi grains” which has become popularized amongst devotee communities. This includes bread, biscuits, cakes etc. that has been bought from a store, from a restaurant or cooked by someone who is not a practicing devotee or not following the 4 regulative principles. Someone who wants to enjoy the fruit of his labor or engage in sense enjoyment without Krishna in mind, can be considered a karmi and karmi grains can be said to be grain products that have been made to make a profit that one would then enjoy. Prabhu emphasized the point that, what we put in our bodies should be taken seriously, we should thus introspect and evaluate our lives and assess what are our short term and long term goals. Our goals in spiritual life depend on our practices and how seriously we take our practice. This of course is an individual choice. And we should never judge or compare ourselves and our practice with others. But that being said, we should try as much as possible to be strict with ourselves, especially in terms of what we eat. 

It has been stated in Vedic scriptures that the sins of a man remain in the grain, so if you eat foodstuff made by another, you subsequently eat the sins of that person. The consciousness, energies and desires of the person cooking goes into the food. Srila Prabhupada was once given bread made by non-devotees and had terrible nightmares all night long and felt incredibly disturbed. He stated that he felt all of the thoughts and vibrations of the cook as grains actually have the strongest magnetism for consciousness. Therefore, we should be strict with the food we eat as it can severely affect our spiritual practices. For example, if we eat foodstuff, especially grains, cooked by someone in the mode of ignorance, that energy will transfer to us and make it very difficult for us to wake up early in the morning. It will also affect our focus and remembrance of Krishna making chanting our japa very difficult. 

No one wants to be super fanatical or insanely strict that will in turn make their life impossible, but if we do try to follow our practices more strictly, Krishna will help us. He will of course make arrangements for us to uphold our standards. Everyone has experienced having to attend something where food will be involved which was possibly made by non devotees. This is a common situation. Brhat Mrdanga Prabhu says that Krishna consciousness should be planned. That we should use our intelligence to plan ahead and also that some austerity is also good for us. We won’t die or get seriously ill if we skip a meal or don’t eat for a few hours, unless your health does not permit you to skip a meal. But for most of us, it is also ok to not eat if something doesn’t meet our standards. Most of us also experience situations where family members cook for us and we find it difficult to say no. We also want to maintain our relationships and be respectful. This is where our own personal choice comes in. But we can always be honest with our friends and family about our eating habits and use this as an opportunity to teach others about healthy eating choices, such as informing people that it is not only the ingredients that can affect us but also the consciousness of how something was prepared. Most of the time people just don’t know about these things. 

We can conclude by saying that everything is a personal choice but we all do want to take our spiritual practices seriously. Surrendering means that we surrender even to the smallest things and really take note of the finer details. Prabhupada spent a lot of time teaching his disciples how to make preparations that not only will satisfy Krishna but will also nourish and satisfy us. If we just make the arrangements and plan ahead, it will become part of our daily routine to make our own food or to get something to eat that has been made by a devotee. If we put the effort in, Krishna sees everything we do and all the austerities we perform as an offering to Him and He will make sure that we are always taken care of.

The process of surrender

The process of surrender is a highly important topic to discuss, but the question may be raised as to why should we surrender? Many of us when we think of the word “surrender”, it might make us a bit anxious. We might think that we will have no more power or control of ourselves or our own lives. We might think that we won’t get what we want or won’t be able to do the things that we like anymore. So for many of us “surrender” is a scary and unknown concept. Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita: “This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” Then we may ask; what is so dangerous about the material energy? Krishna has revealed to us in the Bhagavad Gita that we actually belong to His eternal superior nature but right now our original consciousness has been covered by the illusory energy and we falsely think we are of this world. But factually we do not belong here but rather we belong with Krishna in the spiritual world. 

His Grace Valmiki Prabhu has very concisely summarized the process of surrender which is so important for us to know to be able to regain our original relationship with the Lord. He points out that a very important factor is our desire to go back to the spiritual world. How is it that we can surrender and desire to go back to the spiritual world if we have no idea what it is like? For that concern we need to study the scriptures and approach a bona fide spiritual master. A guru or spiritual master is needed for this process of surrender. A guru is one who lives by the scriptures and passes that knowledge down in succession without any change or without leaving anything out. The guru is a surrendered soul himself, meaning he does everything that Krishna wants from him. We are unfortunately a bit misguided in modern society so we can not claim ourselves to be surrendered fully to Krishna so therefore we can surrender to a guru. Krishna also prefers it that way. As we see with the Kanistha-adhikari, or the beginner devotee, that he only sees himself and Krishna and disregards the other devotees. But Krishna means Himself as well as His devotees so if we want to surrender to Krishna we need to surrender to His devotees. We are unknowingly cheaters in this world so Krishna has created this disciplic succession of gurus so we don’t think ourselves to be masters or controllers but rather that we can surrender and honor Krishna’s very nice devotees. 

We are indebted and should be very grateful to the devotees, for without them we would not be here trying our best to understand and surrender to Krishna. The devotees have gone out of their way to spread Lord Caitanya’s movement and mercy so that all can go back to the spiritual world. We should change our consciousness so instead of finding faults we can rather appreciate all the wonderful things devotees are doing. This state of mind really pleases Krishna and when Krishna is pleased, we are pleased. 

Therefore we need help and guidance from the devotees and the spiritual master. How do we cultivate this need for guidance though? Valmiki Prabhu describes that knowing and understanding that we are helpless and weak will give us the impetus to seek proper guidance. Without the mercy of the Lord and His devotees we are in a very weak position.

We also need to become absorbed in Krishna consciousness, such as King Ambarish who; “fixed his mind on the lotus feet of Lord Kṛṣṇa, engaged his words in describing the abode of the Lord, his hands in cleansing the temple of the Lord, his ears in hearing the pastimes of the Lord, his eyes in seeing the form of the Lord, his body in touching the body of the devotee, his nostrils in smelling the flavor of the flowers offered to the lotus feet of the Lord, his tongue in tasting the tulasī leaves offered to Him, his legs in traveling to the holy place where His temple is situated, his head in offering obeisances unto the Lord, and his desires in fulfilling the desires of the Lord…” When we become so absorbed in spiritual activities it will increase our desire to go back to the spiritual world and completely surrender unto Krishna. When we meditate on our true identities as spiritual beings that are part and parcel of Krishna then we can understand that we do not belong to this temporary world of suffering. To also meditate on the suffering of the world also helps strengthen our desire to go back. We will also then desire to help others in their process of surrender too.  

In summary we can say that the process of surrender is vital for all living beings. It enables us to be back with the Lord of our hearts and always be blissful without any tinge of suffering or anxiety. For this we need the desire to end the suffering and the desire to go back to the spiritual world. We also need the help and guidance from other devotees of the Lord and the spiritual master. Then we can easily cross over a vast ocean of suffering and return back to where we belong.

Living with the goal of life in mind

The nature of living beings is that we want happiness, satisfaction, affection, love and freedom. Unfortunately, happiness in the material world is like sweet rice mixed with sand. You think something is good but it is mixed with so much misery and imperfections. Nothing in this material world will ever satisfy us, we will never come to that point of perfect freedom and happiness no matter what we do. The living beings in this material world are all searching after perfection in life without any suffering and perfect harmony. But we live in a world full of imperfections. The material world was perfectly made by God to be imperfect so everything that can go wrong will go wrong. The soul can never be full satisfied in this world until he reaches the point of perfection.

Hi Grace Govinda Charan Prabhu took us through an approach on how we can experience real happiness, love and satisfaction in this world and what to make the ultimate goal of life. Prabhu started us off by explaining the power of hearing from those self-realized souls that are not affected by the lower modes of nature or the qualities of greed, lust, anger, envy or pride. The messages about Krishna given by those liberated souls have the power to destroy all impurities in the heart. That person becomes perfect by hearing from those that are perfect. It has the power to plant the seed of faith in the heart, which gradually turns into devotion then the ultimate goal of love of Krishna will arise. The way of learning of this perfection is to make inquiries. In the Srimad Bhagavatam great sages and saintly people inquired from a self-realized soul, Suta Goswami, about what the ultimate goal of life is. The answer to that, according to all great souls and in all revealed scriptures, will tell us: that which completely satisfies the soul is devotional service to Krishna. This is the point of complete perfection. All the happiness, freedom, satisfaction, love, etc. we are looking for can all be found when we reach this perfect stage of devotion and love for God.

Therefore we must inquire and find out how to reach this point of perfection. We must find out how to be free from the miseries that arise from the body, the mind as well as the miseries from nature. Not only should we inquire but also we should inquire from those that have achieved perfection. The living entity does not belong to this world yet we falsely claim to belong to this world or to identify with the body and matter. We are trying to achieve happiness based on that, which will soon perish. We are working hard to maintain this lump of flesh and we find ourselves struggling for existence trying to fulfill the needs of the temporary body. Every living entity is afflicted with a certain level of madness. This illusion thinking that I am the body. To get out of this madness we need to have knowledge and understanding about the difference between the body and the self as well as what is matter and spirit. We are no better than animals in this modern civilization just satisfying the animal propensities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. We have to come to the level of understanding that the real goal of life is to lead a perfect life, which is a life of devotion to God. The liberated souls, which have traversed this path, are here to help us, as they are free from material contaminations and vice.

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu inquired from a great devotee and intimate associate of His- what is the real goal of life. Ramananda Raya first explained that one has to perform religious activities and to be a righteous person and to do good for others. Worship God and ask God for everything. Mahaprabhu was not satisfied with this and claimed these are all externals and He wanted to know more. Ramananda Raya continued that whatever we do, eat, offer as well as all austerities performed must be an offering to the Lord. Mahaprabhu rejected this too claiming that we are just doing something for God so that He can supply us with what we want. There is no love involved. Ramananda Raya continued to say that Krishna asked us to abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Him. Mahaprabhu accepted this but still wanted to hear more. Ramananda Raya then quoted Krishna saying that one should always engage one’s mind in thinking of the Lord and to become a devotee of the Lord and to become completely absorbed in God. Mahaprabhu accepted this as Bhakti but still wanted more. Ramananda Raya concluded with: that which satisfies the soul is devotion to Krishna.

We see here that there are different levels or stages of devotion to God. It all starts with some faith, and then it carries on to associating with those who have strong faith. Then we desire to serve and perform devotional activities, which in turn decreases our attachments to material and temporary things. Eventually through this progress we attain the ultimate perfection- love and devotion to God. This perfection is the only thing that can free us from all the miseries of life and completely satisfy one. This achievement of love of God is the ultimate source of happiness. God is the source of all love and happiness and He is perfect and has the perfect relationship with us. He can never disappoint us and will bring us more happiness than we can ever imagine.

We see in the great saints and liberated souls, especially in our beloved Srila Prabhupada, they have natural compassion for all living entities. They want to present to us how to be a free and happy person and how to achieve God. This can be seen as the highest form of charity and welfare work. So in conclusion, gain this knowledge of what is spirit and self, study the scriptures, engage in spiritual activities such as chanting Hare Krishna and associate with those that have strong and firm spiritual practices. This will make us strong in character, and then we must share this and spread this to others. Then in turn we will become happy and reach the path of perfection.

The all-attractive Lord of Vrndavana

sucāru-vaktra-maṇḍalaḿ sukarṇa-ratna-kuṇḍalam

sucarcitāńga-candanaḿ namāmi nanda-nandanam

sudīrgha-netra-pańkajaḿ śikhi-śikhaṇḍa-mūrdhajam

anańga-koṭi-mohanaḿ namāmi nanda-nandanam

sunāsikāgra-mauktikaḿ svacchanda-danta-pańktikam

navāmbudāńga-cikkaṇaḿ namāmi nanda-nandanam

kareṇa veṇu-rañjitaḿ gati-karīndra-gañjitam

dukūla-pīta-śobhanaḿ namāmi nanda-nandanam

tri-bhańga-deha-sundaraḿ nakha-dyuti-sudhākaram

amūlya-ratna-bhūṣaṇaḿ namāmi nanda-nandanam

sugandha-ańga-saurabham uro-virāji-kaustubham

sphurac-chrīvatsa-lāñchanaḿ namāmi nanda-nandanam

vṛndāvana-sunāgaraḿ vilāsānuga-vāsasam

surendra-garva-mocanaḿ namāmi nanda-nandanam

vrajāńganā-sunāyakaḿ sadā sukha-pradāyakam

jagan-manaḥ pralobhanaḿ namāmi nanda-nandanam

śrī-nanda-nandanāṣṭakaḿ paṭhed yaḥ śraddhayānvitaḥ

tared bhavābdhiḿ dustaraḿ labhet tad-ańghri-yugmakam

His Grace Amarendra Prabhu with great care, detail and devotion took us through a most glorious description of the beauty of Krishna. Krishna being the most perfect and magnanimous and unparalleled in all aspects, He melts and attracts the heart of all. The most prominent feature of Krishna is His beauty, which even attracts Krishna Himself! Even when He sees His own reflection He becomes completely attracted and absorbed. The aim of human life is to get on the path of Divine love and to love God with all of our heart. This beautiful description of the exceptional and unequalled beauty of the Lord is meant to melt our hardened hearts like butter so this butter Thief can steal our heart one day.

In all the verses the last line is repeated as we bow down and take shelter of the son of Nanda Maharaj (Krishna). In the first verse we hear of the beautiful face of Krishna, which has been described as a spotless full moon as well as the blue lotus flower, which opens at the full moon. We have been suffering in this material existence for so long that when we see the beautiful moonlike face of Krishna it extinguishes all our sufferings. His beautiful ears have earrings that swing to and fro and are so fortunate to be able to kiss the cheeks of Krishna. His body is anointed with fragrant candana, which in actuality only become attractive and fragrant when it touches the body of the Lord.

The second verse describes the beautiful long, broad eyes of the Lord that are always restless trying to see His devotees in all love and affection. Krishna’s eyes can shoot arrows in the heart of anything and anyone. His head is adorned with peacock feathers, as he is a great dancer like a peacock. Out of love and devotion the peacocks offered Him their feathers and Krishna accepted this showing that He will always accept anything out of love. Krishna is so beautiful that even all of the Gods of love surrendered to Him and rose in love with Krishna.

His nose is so perfect and that of the shape of the sesame flower with rows of effulgent white teeth resembling that of rows of jasmine flower buds. His bluish black complexion is compared to that of a rain cloud about to thunder and pour. His body and skin is so soft as is His heart, which melts in compassion. Krishna is the most soft and kind hearted.

Krishna loves to play the flute and it is always seen in His lotus like hands. It is said that the flute is air on the inside and air on the outside so when His devotees are the same on the outside as they are in the inside, it will capture the heart of Krishna. The flute is simple and straight, so if we want to be closer to Krishna we must try to develop these qualities of being simple, straightforward as well as being the same inside and out. Krishna’s walk is compared to that of the gait of a proud maddened elephant, so proud of His beauty. But it is said that when He sees Srimati Radharani He becomes just like a small mouse. He is described to wear a yellow cloth, which can be described as lightning compared to the rain cloud complexion of His body. The peacock feathers resemble a rainbow and His face is like the moon peering out of the rain clouds.

The fifth verse describes the 3-bend form of Krishna (bend in His feet and knees, bend on His waist and a bend in His neck). This crooked form makes it difficult to catch him and put Him in our heart, but if one succeeds, it is impossible to get Him out. Krishna has 24 and a half moons all over His body, the fingernails, the toe nails, the 2 cheeks, His round Tilaka, His half moon forehead and His full moon face, all beautifully effulgent. Krishna wears many beautiful ornaments on His body, which don’t beautify Krishna but rather Krishna beautifies His ornaments.

In the next verse we hear of the beautiful fragrance of the Lord. Krishna does not need anything to make him more fragrant but any of the sandalwood pulp or garlands adorned by Krishna takes on His heavenly fragrance. The jewel on His chest, the kaustubha jewel which is said to be a dear friend of the Lord. It even lit the way for Krishna in the darkest of caves. Not only the jewel but also Laksmi the Goddess of fortune eternally resides on the chest of the Lord.

Krishna is the most wonderful hero of Vrndavana. He is our one true hero, Sri Radha is our one true heroine and together they are the one true love story. Krishna is described to always be immaculately dressed always according to the past times and seasons. In one of the most famous Krishna past times He crushes the pride of Indra, the King of heaven, and in the same way we should all pray to Krishna to crush our pride and make us humble servants at His lotus feet.

In the last verse we hear of Krishna being the hero of Srimati Radharani’s heart and the lover of the Gopi’s. This gives us a hint in our material world that if we want to have good relationships, we should always put the divine couple in between us. Also, the closer we get to Krishna, the happier we will be. Krishna is so beautiful and attractive that rivers became stunned like rocks and rocks start to flow like rivers when they see His unprecedented beauty.

After hearing of the beautiful features and qualities of the Lord, we gradually turn back towards Him and regain our lost relationship. Only Krishna is the source of all happiness, joy, pleasure and love. Only through devotional service can we cross this ocean of death and attain Vrndavan where we can see Krishna in all of His beauty with our very eyes.

The gifts of Srila Prabhupada

Sometimes we don’t even realize how fortunate we are to have come in contact with Krishna Consciousness. This is something I have to remind myself because due to illusion and the material world I sometimes forget about the value of the gift that Srila Prabhupada has gives us. No one else in the world has given us what Prabhupada has given us. He has given us the key to the spiritual world- Goloka Vrndavana.  The leaders of our world try through various welfare work and altruistic activities to bring about peace and a so-called better life but it will never be enough. Srila Prabhupada has given mankind the most precious, useful and most advantageous gift and tool- Krishna consciousness.

His Holiness Bhakti Carudesna is here to remind us that Krishna consciousness and the establishment of ISKCON by His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the ultimate package. It has everything. There is no need to look for anything else. All we need to do is take shelter of Prabhupada and the movement he has established.

The missing link in our society is the lack of God consciousness and the modern world we live in is artificial and unnatural. That being said, it brings about so many side effects. The different sufferings we face in this world are the side effects of so-called “material progress”. That common object that can bring us all together in peace and harmony is not there, God is not the center of people’s lives so therefore we quarrel and compete with each other on lording it over material nature. Srila Prabhupada brought us Krishna consciousness, which is not just a religion. A religion you can join and leave or you can go from one to another. What he brought for us was the awakening of our eternal constitutional position, our Sanatana Dharma. Our original duty or Dharma is to worship the Lord and this can never change or go away. For example the dharma of fire is heat, the dharma of water is liquidity. This is what makes it what it is. Therefore what Prabhupada gave us was not another religion but rather our true occupational duty and our most natural position. When we are in our natural constitutional position again we will become happy.

The world was empty before Prabhupada, as most people were either atheists or impersonalists. Most religions were supposed to be personalist, but took a very impersonalist approach. If you were to ask anyone to describe God or to say what He looks like or where does He live, people would not be able to answer. People know where the president lives but not even their own true Father. So Prabhupada opened our eyes and broke open the gates in our hearts that prevented us from relishing in the gifts that are in our hearts. Everything is already there. We just need to catch it. The Lord is in our hearts and our natural position is to serve, worship and love Him. That being the case, it is not an artificial imposition but rather the most natural thing for humans to do. Before Prabhupada, our God realization was incomplete. Most religions claimed that one cannot see or perceive God without dying first, but Prabhupada showed how one could have direct contact with the supreme Lord even while alive. He showed us how we can connect with God. He has given the world life again as we were all like plants without sufficient sunlight and water, slowly dying.

Srila Prabhupada revealed everything to us through the scriptures. Everything can be answered and known through the Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita. He taught us, from the Bhagavad Gita, that all our sufferings and miseries are due to our misidentification with the body. He gave us the true word of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, as it is, without a tinge of impersonalism that all of the other versions had. Through the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is telling us that our biggest enemy is lust and how it destroys our original spiritual consciousness and knowledge. But Krishna has given us the hiding place of our enemy, which is the mind, the intelligence and the senses. Most of the battle is already won when we know the hiding spot of our most deadly enemy. The Bhagavad Gita also gives us the solution to all of our material problems and gives us the answers to all spheres of life from health, the food we eat, our mind and body, astrology, physics, sociology and so many other aspects.

We would never have known this without Prabhupada who gave us a gift that can take us from zero to hero, to change our lives from material to spiritual. Not only has Prabhupada given us all of this knowledge that can free us and bring us back to our original consciousness but he has also established a society where we can take shelter and become inspired by those with strong faith and conviction in the Lord. Most importantly he showed us how we can mould our lives and everything we do to become closer to God and to engage in devotional service the ultimate perfection of life.

Servant of the servant- in philosophy and practice

Becoming a servant fulfills our purpose of existence. It gives us happiness and satisfaction as well as frees one from the anxieties of the material world. It is our source of success. His Holiness Candramauli Swami packed this class with such practical advice on how to develop the mood of a servant and it’s relevance and importance to all living entities. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu helps us to understand how glorious it is to be a servant because it is in actuality our true identity.

Mahaprabhu came to this material world as a role of a living entity and He played the ideal position of being a servant. He would serve the devotees by washing and folding their clothes and even serving them Prasadam. So therefore Lord Caitanya gives us a clear understanding on what is our true identity and that the activities we perform should be in line with this.

In this material world we see people trying to compete with Krishna’s position of being the controller and enjoyer but no one is ever able to compete with the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is the supreme enjoyer, proprietor, controller and best friend to all living entities. So by developing this consciousness and mood of becoming a servant the more we are recognized by Krishna Himself. Even Krishna likes to take the part of a servant, showing that it truly is the most glorious position and therefore he came as Mahaprabhu. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught that serving is the highest position and he illustrated two principles in His preaching and activities, namely: the chanting of the Hare Krishna Maha mantra and to become the servant of the servant.

We even see this mood of service in the great souls like Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. When anyone would praise Prabhupada he would always pass on the glorification to his spiritual master by saying that he was just trying to serve the instruction of his guru and that was his only success. When asked how many disciples Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura had, he replied by saying he had no disciples but rather all of those who came to him, he had learnt something from them and they were his spiritual masters. So for that reason we see that one should never give oneself an identity or designation in material or spiritual life as it takes us away from our real identity, which is to be a servant. One who understands this should cultivate this mood in all aspects of their life.

We may ask ourselves “but what about me?” When we in the mood of service we are never in need, as Krishna always looks after His devotees. That being the case, the idea of Krishna consciousness is to develop the mood of service in everything we do. When we are in the process of devotional service it’s about serving others and through that service we ourselves grow and find true happiness by unlocking our true nature. Even in the material world we see that the happiest people are those that help and serve others.

So it is clear that to find real happiness in this world is to return to our constitutional position of being the servant. To serve means to act in such a way to please the object that we serve. We should try to be thoughtful in this regard and think of ways we can serve. How can I serve in the best possible way? How can I find news way to serve and improve the quality of my service? Not only should we just do the service or the act, but also we need to do it with the intention of pleasing Krishna and the Vaisnavas. When we put the time, attention and quality in everything we do and adopt this mood of service in all aspects of our life we find happiness in devotional service and we get one step closer to uncovering our true identity and pure consciousness.

If even the supreme Lord desires to be the servant then we cannot even imagine how exalted it is to be engaged in the service of the Vaisnavas. Not only should we adopt this mood of service in our spiritual circles but also in the material world where we can perform the highest welfare work to the world by spreading Krishna consciousness and Prabhupada’s movement to anyone and everyone. Everyone deserves the mercy and we can all act as instruments of that mercy. Bhakti means to perform activities with the intention to please, and what is more pleasing than the object of all love and the reservoir of all pleasure, Lord Sri Krishna.

Lord Caitanya’s Grace

A class by my own dear spiritual master. As always his words are soothing to the heart, and delightfully enlivening.

But first, a sobering thought. I apply it to my own life. What is someone from the age of Kali doing here, attempting to write on topics that saints speak of? Clearly, I am here only by Lord Caitanya’s grace.

This is what happens when we become a part of His transcendental movement. Yes, there is within it a framework of rules and regulations that may be difficult for someone like me to follow, but by some attempt at worship, with obeisances and respect to the standards of purity, gradually their purpose is fulfilled – to raise one from one’s lower nature into higher realms of being where there is only bliss. But we can feel the joy, right from the very start.

Gurumaharaj shares his own journey to discovering this, his acceptance of this path as truth and how it leads to greater truth. With fun all along the way.

What is Lord Caitanya’s movement if not an eternal, transcendental party? It is based on kirtan, the chanting of His holy names, which is not only meditative but playful, creative, exciting, and one experiences this immediately. Then, in conjunction with some regulation, one can enter more deeply into its divine essence. When we go beyond ourselves and our limitations, miracles can happen. I must remember this.

Because, Maharaj continues, the miracle – that essence – is the ecstatic gift which Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to give. He came to show that devotion is not in the external things, that it is not mechanical, that rather it’s a matter of the heart, of love. Although we may not be saints, in essence, deep down, we truly are devotees – and Lord Caitanya’s mercy comes to awaken this.

I realise that this is an incredible blessing. This means that we are in our rightful place on this path, and automatically empowered to become who we truly are – His servants. Empowered, therefore, to do anything in our rightful position – to rise beyond our material imperfections to His service. Only by His mercy, and a little effort on our part – some attempt at worship, with obeisances, and respect to the standards of purity. Only with a little love.

I feel an inner resolution rise towards this. I want to recommit to this path, its principles and regulations, and its essence. This is not only supremely beneficial, but truly, it is joyful, and indeed miraculous. Why do I forget this? Moreover, it would please my spiritual master, and enable me to serve him, by serving this movement, and indeed by writing – because suddenly so many things known only to the saints are now accessible to me by this same mercy. And I must share it. Sharing is its very joy and beauty. And in sharing I can grow in love.

Embracing Purity

“Books are the basis”, “Utility is the principle”, “Preaching is the essence”, and “Purity is the force”. Purity is the unique selling point to our Krishna consciousness movement and when our previous Acaryas brought us the movement they brought it in a pure, undiluted and uncompromised condition. We should be asking ourselves how much are we really embracing purity in our spiritual practices? His Grace Sutapa Prabhu gave the example of two very famous quotes from Srila Prabhupada that give the essence of what will show our love for him. They are: “Your love for me will be shown by your cooperation”, “You will please me if you preach/love Krishna”. In this present age of Kali yuga it is characterized by two main things: namely, quarrel and hypocrisy. In these two statements by Prabhupada it outlines these very two things. By cooperating, we will overcome quarrel and by practicing what we preach we will overcome hypocrisy. The success of Prabhupada’s mission is by us becoming pure devotees. When we talk about purity we speak of having pure unalloyed devotion and love for Krishna, which is the ultimate goal of life for all living entities.

Prabhu points out that there is no shortage of information in our scriptures about purity and how to achieve it. We have the Srimad Bhagavatam, which can be called the “anthology of purity”. The Bhagavatam is a whole book of love depicting purity. It can be read as a source of inspiration of love in its purest form with Krishna and His pure devotees. Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Bhakti rasamrta sindhu can be seen as the “science of purity” whereby it gives us the methodology on how we can awaken pure love of Krishna in our hearts. Prabhu also mentions Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s Madhurya kadambini, which can be seen as the “map of purity”. This book is a practical guide about what one will go through, the inner turmoil and struggle of someone who is on the road to purity. So there is hope for everyone to awaken the purity of love that is in all of our hearts especially as outlined in these literatures.

Sutapa Prabhu gives 3 principles for embracing purity, namely “Honesty”, “Intensity” and “Tenacity”. Firstly, we should embrace honesty, as we cannot have purity if there is no honesty. We can embrace honesty in our lives by becoming aware of how much we are falling short in our spiritual lives and how much purity we are lacking. This complete honesty with ourselves will need to result in us making some changes in our lives and coming face to face with our inner demons and anarthas that are stopping us from becoming pure. In Kali yuga there are four defects for us conditioned souls, namely: we have imperfect senses, we are subject to illusion, we are prone to making mistakes and finally we have the propensity to cheat. The first three mentioned are defects that are unavoidable and will happen to all of us, but the propensity to cheat is a choice that we can make. We are able to avoid cheating others and ourselves. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur says that weakness is expected but cheating should never be tolerated. This means that we should always be honest about our shortcomings. A cheater can never be successful in life. We can get to this platform of complete honesty by introspection. Introspection can be done by journaling, having open exchanges with devotees where we reveal our heart, as well as by studying sastra and analyzing it in terms of our own lives.

The second way to purity is by “Intensity”. We all need to be practicing our devotional service with intensity, focus, absorption and power. In our intensity of devotional service all material desires and lust will be burnt up. We can intensify our devotional service by doing the following: 1) Increasing the quantity of service. By leaving no gaps in our lives we are always engaged in devotional service thereby not having anytime for lust. 2) We can increase the quality of Bhakti. We can increase our absorption and attention to our services, especially in our Japa. 3) We can try to increase the difficulty of our services whereby we take on more challenging services. Difficult services require sacrifice as well as make us depend more on Krishna. 4) We can increase our responsibility, whereby we help others on their journey through Bhakti. When we talk about increasing our intensity it should be in a way that fits our personality and that will help maintain consistency and ultimately awaken purity in our hearts.

The last principle that Prabhu mentioned is “Tenacity”. This means our perseverance and determination even in times of struggle. It is expected that we will fall short but we must always remain happy, faithful and convinced that by the mercy of the Lord and the Vaishnavas we will achieve the purity that we seek. Even when we fall, we should away pick ourselves up with grace and never walk away from the fight with the illusory energy. The only way we can overcome lust, which Krishna says is the greatest of all enemies, is by developing our pure and genuine love for Krishna. Purity is our immunity. The purity of love we have and will develop for Krishna is the immunity against all of the chaos of the world. When we have love for Krishna, we no longer question Him or become bewildered in our lives, instead we become peaceful and satisfied with everything and see everything as the Lord’s mercy.

Going deeper- a spiritual journey in Bhakti

His Holiness Sacinandana Swami gave such a practical, easy to follow and full proof formula on going deeper in our spiritual practices. Maharaj shared his own personal stories and gave the most befitting analogies to further explain these most valuable points. Maharaj began with saying that to get anything in life, we need to commit 100% with no hesitation. Whatever one does in his or her life unless you go deeper you will never obtain the desired results.

This principle of going deeper can be applied to anything in life. It is of no use to try a little here and there and to never fully commit to one thing. The metaphor of trying to drill for water was given. If one drills for a few meters and gives up to go drill somewhere else and then gives up again to go somewhere else. All that effort could have gone into one single direction and the goal would have been reached. The wonderfully simple formula for going deeper in our spiritual practice, according to Maharaj, is the “3 P” formula. The 3 P’s stand for: “philosophy”, “people” and finally “practice”. Before we go further into this formula, it is worth mentioning the next analogy and story that was shared. Maharaj shared the story of when he was a young boy of about 9 or 10 years old, his grandfather took him to the swamps during the winter. They unfortunately got lost and the cold winter night set in. After understanding their precarious position his grandfather suggested they find the North Star. The North Star is the only star that remains fixed in its position while all other star formations change throughout the night. This became their orientation and gave them the direction to find their way back to civilization.

This analogy was given as it refers to our goal in spiritual life. We need to identify our goals in our spiritual practice and what direction to follow. In spiritual life our goal is to understand who we are and what our relationship with the Supreme is. This can be our “North Star”. After identifying your “North Star” we need to know and understand what steps we are to take. Knowing the next step and how to take the right steps to our goal or “North Star” then comes to our formula of the “3 P’s”. The first “P”: “philosophy” comes in the form of reading the scriptures every single day. This gives us the reason and inspiration to go deeper.  Not just reading but extracting the message from what we are reading. What can I get out of this? What we find in the scriptures such as in the Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita is nectar that can completely nourish our spiritual lives. The way we can draw out this nectar is by: hearing the point, reflecting about it in our own lives and trying to apply it and live by it. The second “P”: “people”, by associating with spiritual people who are more advanced than us. Associating with those who can uplift us and inspire us to go deeper. When we associate with those that have excelled in spiritual life, we can inquire from then and serve them and we ourselves can become inspired to go deeper. The third “P” is: “practice”, after being convinced of the philosophy and associating with those that live by the philosophy and have obtained something from it, we then must commit to going deeper in our spiritual practice. This practice of going deeper can can be in our reading, it can be in our association and of course in our chanting. We can go deeper in the Maha Mantra by using our mouth, using our ears and allowing the sound vibration to touch our heart with gratitude, love and devotion. When we go deeper in our practices, that’s when we find the real inspiration and nectar.

Maharaj further explained how we can extract the nectar from the scriptures. He explains that firstly we should read with faith that this knowledge comes from a higher platform and is not of this world. Secondly, regularity is crucial. Reading every single day. Thirdly making an effort to focus the mind and giving attention. Attention to spiritual subjects is easy for one who has a pure mind. This purity of mind can be achieved through pure activities and habits. We can build our faith by studying the scriptures, discussing them with the Vaisnavas as well as listening to classes and seminars. Our faith also will need to be repaired at times. Here we need to confront our weaknesses in faith by inquiring and associating with those with firm faith. We also need determination in our spiritual practice and this too needs to be nourished as it can become weakened like our body and mind. This nourishment of our determination can also be done through association with those who have strong conviction and determination as well as observing times that give us more inspiration and determination such as during Ekadasi and Kartik. To have strong determination we also need to become free of the clutter of the mind.

When we bring in more and more of the light of Krishna consciousness, it will dissipate all of the darkness and uncertainty. Making a program we follow with discipline can do this. By chanting our rounds in the morning as well as studying sastra. When we practice this easy to follow formula, soon we will feel a flood of nectar because the proof that we know that Krishna is God is in our experience.

Notes and Thoughts

From the class, ‘Struggles with Maya’ by Urmila Devi Dasi

Edited for readability

Subtitle – Is there hope and how?

Spoiler: The ultimate cure is to change our identity and see ourselves as the soul. Then you’d naturally do what’s best for the soul. But to achieve this you need real taste.

Of the six symptoms of surrender, one is to accept what is favourable for Krishna consciousness (like the five most potent items of devotional service) and reject what is unfavourable (anything that interferes with devotional service).

…But Maya is strong.

And we have associated with her from time immemorial.

We are accustomed to following her dictations.

Maya Devi is a person, Krishna’s illusory energy. She makes us see things separately from Krishna, and not as they are. ‘Maya’ is that which is not.

[An important point that was mentioned later: Nothing is separate from Krishna. And everything, every feeling, every taste, has its origin in the spiritual world].

A primary aspect of our illusion: we think that the mind and body are our real identity. And then we act, according to that identity […instead of what we actually are, and what is actually so]. And according to our bodily conception (as well as mental concoctions and states) we come up with beliefs of what is right and wrong, develop ideals and goals based on this. Some [perhaps most] of our beliefs may seem logical under this conditioning, and are utterly ridiculous. [Here, perhaps one can ask then what is truth?]

[But still on the point of illusion], the purport of this is that Maya is in the consciousness. Not in a particular activity or identity or substance, but in how that affects our consciousness.

One could ask if we can’t then just see things considered ‘maya’ like intoxication or illicit sex in relation to Krishna? [And perhaps I’ll add, can these things, in their way, bring us closer to understanding or experiencing Krishna?]

We must understand that certain things push us though, not to see things in relation to Krishna. Certain things remove us from Krishna. If you want to have a good relationship with someone, there are certain ways that you conduct yourself and the relationship, to better connect with and please the other person.

So think about it – what hardens your heart to Krishna?

An earlier important point: some things are easy for us, difficult for others, and easy for others, difficult for us. Sometimes we find ourselves losing the battle. So we should be sensitive to others’ battles. [And patient with ourselves].

[But] conscious incompetence in Krishna consciousness is difficult.

We have to be willing to face our difficulties.

…My reflection starts here. But I’m not ready to share it.

Still from notes: Back to the point of getting taste in order to surrender to what’s favourable and then return to our true identity as spirit.

Think about the tastes we get from different things we do in life. There are five principle and seven secondary rasas.

Now think about the taste you get out of a particular maya, whatever it is that has you in a fix.

And back to another important question: why do we do things that disconnect us? Why is there a disconnect between what we know is right and what we do? Is it social pressure, conditioning, or are we just our own worst enemy? Arjuna asks this question and Krishna answers in BG 3.37.

Be brave and face it. Think about, question, search, look within and find what pleasure you’re getting from this maya you’re in.

Then, find the spiritual equivalent.

Herein lies your solution.

Because, again, everything that exists has its origin and true nature in the spiritual world.