Progressing from Questioning to Understanding

“O Krsna, I totally accept as truth all that You have told me. Neither the demigods nor the demons, O Lord, can understand Your personality.”

Bg 10.14

Meditation on Bhagavad Gita 10.14 by His Grace Chaitanya Charan dasa (Pune)

krishna_arjunWhile hearing philosophy, whenever we get questions, we often expect immediate and immediately intelligible answers. However, to understand the answers, we frequently need conceptual background – a background that can be gained only by patient systematic hearing.

The Bhagavad-gita illustrates this principle through Arjuna’s example.

Arjuna’s prompt question demonstrates that the Gita gives due recognition to logic

The Gita (04.01) mentions graphically Krishna’s super-human position by stating that he instructed the sun-god long ago. Earlier references to his special position were passing  (02.61 and 03.30), but this reference is arresting and question-demanding: How could a mortal, as Krishna seems to be, have instructed an immortal? And that too in the remote past when the mortal was not even born?

Demonstrating that the Gita gives due recognition to logic, Arjuna promptly raises this very question (04.04). Krishna answers by briefly outlining his transcendental position (04.0514), but then returns to the topic under discussion: working in knowledge. Though the point of Krishna’s supremacy can raise further questions, Arjuna doesn’t impatiently interrupt the flow but patiently continues hearing.

As the Gita’s narrative arc progresses, its focus shifts from the soul to Krishna. In its seventh, ninth and tenth chapters, culminating in its four-verse essence (10.0811), Krishna is philosophically established as the Absolute Truth, the cause of all causes, the source of everything, the god of all the gods.

After hearing this coherent and cogent philosophical exposition, Arjuna accepts and reiterates Krishna’s supreme position (10.1213). Next (10.14) he declares that he accepts everything Krishna has said, including an earlier question-demanding assertion (10.02) that even the gods can’t understand Krishna. This declaration confirms that Arjuna’s question about Krishna’s cognitive superiority over the gods has been now thoroughly answered – he is now illumined by proper understanding.

Following Arjuna’s example, if we too continue hearing patiently, then gradually our questions, asked and unasked, will be answered, and clear understanding will illumine us.

Srila Prabhupada – A Short Life Sketch

The text for this article is taken from an email from His Grace Tusti Mohan Krishna dasa.

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was born in 1896, in Calcutta, in a Vaisnava family.

prabhupada-lilamrta2His father, Gour Mohan De, named him Abhay Charan. His father’s only wish was that, Abhay would become a devotee of Srimati Radharani.

Abhay studied under British colonial rule, finally going to university to read chemistry. At university, he became a supporter of Gandhi’s movement to gain independence for India. As a measure of this support, he would only dress in white handloom cloth, woven in India and furthermore, he declined to accept his degree from the university.

Abhay married and went into business as a small pharmaceutical firm to support his wife and family. He met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami, for the first time in Calcutta in 1922.

prabhupada-lilamrta9Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, took a liking to Abhay and told him to devote his life to teaching Vedic Knowledge; more specifically to preach Lord Caitanya’s message to the English speaking world. Although, Abhay accepted, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta within his heart as his spiritual master, it was not until 1932 that he became initiated. He then received both harinama and mantra diksa at his initiation.

In 1936 Srila Prabhupada wrote his spiritual master requesting if there was any particular service that he could render. Srila Prabhupada received a reply to that letter containing the same instruction the he had received in

1922: ‘Preach Krishna consciousness to the English speaking world’. His spiritual master passed away from this world two weeks later; thus leaving these final instructions engraved on Srila Prabhupada’s heart. These instructions were to form the focus of Srila Prabhupada’s life.

prabhupada-lilamrta1Srila Prabhupada wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gita and assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work. In 1944, during the Second World War, when paper was scarce and people had little money to spend, Srila Prabhupada began a magazine called Back to Godhead. Single-handedly, he would write, edit, oversee the layout, proof-read and sell the copies himself. This magazine is still being published today.

In 1950 Srila Prabhupada adopted the vanaprastha (retired) life; thus retiring from home and family life, in order to devote more time to his studies. In 1953 he received the title Bhaktivedanta from his Godbrothers.

He travelled to Vrindavana, where he lived very humbly at the Radha-Damodara temple. He spent several years there studying the scriptures and writing.

In 1959 he took sannyasa, the renounced order of life. It was then, while staying at Radha-Damodara temple that he started on his masterpiece: translation and commentary of the Srimad-Bhagavatam in English. He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets. Within a few years, he had written three volumes of English translation and commentary for the first canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. Once again, single handedly, he bought the paper and gathered funds, to print the books. He sold the books himself and through agents in the larger Indian cities.

He now felt ready to carry out his spiritual master’s orders and decided to start by taking the message of Krishna consciousness to America, convinced that other countries would follow suit. Obtaining free passage on a freight ship, called the Jaladuta he finally arrived in New York in 1965. He was 69 and practically penniless. All he possessed was a few copies of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and a few hundred rupees.

prabhupada-lilamrta5He had had a very difficult crossing, suffering two heart attacks and once arrived in New York he didn’t know which way to turn. After a difficult six months, preaching here and there, his few followers rented a storefront and apartment in Manhattan. Here, he would regularly give lectures, kirtana and distribute prasadam. People from all walks of life, including hippies, were drawn here; in search of that missing element from their lives and many became part of ‘Swamiji’s’ following.

As people became more serious, Srila Prabhupada’s followers used to hold regular kirtanas in the parks. The lectures and Sunday feast days became renowned. His young followers eventually took initiation from Srila Prabhupada, promising to follow the regulative principles and chant 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra daily. He also reinstated the Back to Godhead magazine.

prabhupada-lilamrta10In July 1966, Srila Prabhupada established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness — ISKCON. His aim was to use the society to promote Krishna Consciousness throughout the world. In 1967, he visited San Francisco and started an ISKCON society there. He then sent his disciples all over the world to spread Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s message and open new centres in Montreal, Boston, London, Berlin, and other cities in North America, India, and Europe. In India, three magnificent temples were initially planned: Vrindavana, the Krishna Balaram temple with all its ancillary facilties; Bombay, a temple with an educational and cultural centre; and in Mayapur, a huge temple with a Vedic planetarium.

Srila Prabhupada produced all of his books bar the three written in India within the next eleven years. Srila Prabhupada slept little and would spend the early morning hours writing. He would write almost daily between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m. He dictated his text, which his disciples then typed and edited. Srila Prabhupada would translate the original texts from Sanskrit or Bengali, word by word, and gave a complete commentary.

His works include Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the multi-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, the multivolume Caitanya-caritamrta, The Nectar of Devotion, Krsna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Teachings of Lord Kapila, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Sri Isopanisad, The Nectar of Instruction, and dozens of small books.

His writings have been translated into over fifty languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the world’s largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.

Despite his heavy literary schedule, Srila Prabhupada did not let his writing stand in the way of his preaching. In just twelve years, despite his advanced age, he circled the globe fourteen times on lecture tours that took him to six continents.

prabhupada-lilamrta7His days were filled with writing, teaching his followers and the public, and with guiding his growing society, until the day he departed from this world. Before departing from this world Srila Prabhupada gave many instructions to his disciples to follow in his footsteps and to continue the preaching and spreading of Krishna Consciousness all over the world.

He departed this world on November 14 1977.

In the short time he spent in the west, he preached continuously, established 108 temples, wrote more than sixty volumes of transcendental literature, initiated five thousand disciples, founded the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, began a scientific academy (the Bhaktivedanta Institute) and other trusts related to ISKCON.

prabhupada-lilamrta11Srila Prabhupada was an extraordinary author, teacher, and saint. He managed to spread Krishna Consciousness all over the world, through his writing and preaching. His writings comprise of many volumes and are the basis of Krishna consciousness not only for his disciples but for his grand-disciples, affiliated members of the disciplic succession, and for the public at large.

His life history from his earliest days to his passing away in 1977 is vividly described in his authorised biography, the Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta by Satsvarupa Goswami.

 

Remembering Srila Prabhupada – The Mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu

A godbrother of Srila Prabhupada’s remembers their early friendship and their meeting again after many years.

Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor, a scholar and devotee, and a friend of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, gave this interview at his home in Vrndavana, India, in October 1996. The interviewer, Hari Sauri Dasa, served as Srila Prabhupada’s personal servant from November 1975 to March 1977. During that time, he kept a detailed diary that has become the basis of his multi-volume book A Transcendental Diary.

Today in Trinidad and Tobago marks the anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s appearance in this world. Coming to the West in 1965 on the order of his own spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada would champion the mission of Lord Chaitanya and Krishna in 12 years in a way that was unprecedented in Gaudiya Vaishnava history. We present here, a very nice exchange between one of Srila Prabhupada’s personal servants, Hari Sauri dasa and one of Srila Prabhupada’s God Brothers, Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor.

HARI SAURI DASA: I understand that you first met Srila Prabhupada when he was a householder in Allahabad.

Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor
Dr. O.B.L. Kapoor

Dr. Kapoor: I was with Prabhupada for about eight years in Allahabad, from 1931 to 1939. We used to meet almost every day. I first met him in 1931 at the Rupa Gaudiya Math [temple and asrama]. The first time I saw him he was playing the mrdanga [drum] at the matha. There was a discourse that evening, and then sankirtana. After the sankirtana the leader of the matha introduced me to him as a research scholar at Allahabad University and a disciple of Prabhupada [Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura]. I had just taken diksa [initiation] from Prabhupada. After that meeting our acquaintance developed into friendship, and friendship developed into intimacy, and so on. We were very good friends. I used to call him Dada, “elder brother.”

After 1939 we didn’t meet for almost twenty-nine years, because I went out of Allahabad. I joined the government service, and he remained there. After some time he took sannyasa [the renounced order of life], and he was going about here and there, so we never met.

We finally met in 1967, here in Vrndavana. In 1967 I retired and came to Vrndavana to settle down. One day I had gone to the Radha Damodara temple. [Bhaktivedanta Swami] Prabhupada had come from the West, and he was staying in a room at the Radha-Damodara temple. I was sitting, waiting for someone, on the verandah just outside his room. And Prabhupada came out.

He was dressed in saffron. I had never seen him like that before. I had only known him as Abhay Babu, as a householder and a businessman. He was now in saffron with a tridandi [renunciant’s staff] in his hand, and two disciples in saffron were following him, like sadhus.

I couldn’t recognize him; thirty years had made a difference in his appearance, and he was dressed in saffron. But he seemed to be looking, trying to recognize me. Then he hazarded a guess. He said, “Dr. Kapoor?”

Oh, I recognized him from his voice! I said, “Abhay Babu?” And he embraced me.

HSD: A very happy meeting.

DK: Yes. He was going somewhere, but he canceled his plans. He took me inside the room and told me all about his preaching work in the West. He showed me the newspaper cuttings and so on. Very interesting meeting, very interesting.

In Allahabad we used to meet almost every day. Sometimes he used to come to my place, but mostly we met in the Rupa Gaudiya Math, in the evening during the discourse and kirtana.

HSD: Can you say something about how Srila Prabhupada conducted his household affairs while he was also developing his spiritual life.

DK: I didn’t know much about his household affairs, because we met mostly at the matha in the evening. He had a shop. He sold medicines, and he also manufactured them. Once he manufactured a tonic, and he gave it to me.

I said, “That’s nice, this gift of yours. I must accept it. But I wish you would give me the tonic which you yourself take the tonic of Krsna-prema [love of Krsna].”

prabhupada2He said, “I don’t have that tonic. But I have the formula.”

I said, “Oh, wonderful! If it is not a secret, tell me what the formula is.”

He said, “No, it is not a secret at all:

trnad api sunicena
taror iva sahisnuna
amanina manadena
kirtaniyah sada harih*

This is the formula, and I am going to preach it all over the world.”

*”One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind. One should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and ready to offer all respects to others. In that way one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.” (Siksastaka 3)

At that time I couldn’t recognize the significance of his words, but he was going to preach it all over the world. I thought it was just a casual statement. But now I look back, and I can see that he was even then thinking and planning to preach all over the world, which he did.

HSD: Yes, very wonderfully.

DK: Wonderfully. Ten years, I think, only. All the world over he preached. Almost a miracle. Almost a miracle.

HSD: Unrepeatable.

DK: Hmm. Unrepeatable. Even Emperor Ashok he preached Buddhism, he was the owner of such a big empire and even he couldn’t do as much as Prabhupada did in ten years.

HSD: You once told me that you saw a great change in Prabhupada from when you knew him in Allahabad.

DK: Of course, in one sense there was a world of difference between the Abhay Babu I had known and the Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada I met in Vrndavana after thirty years. He was now the president of a huge organization, an international organization. He was preaching all over the world. All the same, he was as humble as ever. I could never have imagined that he could one day become Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada. I could never have imagined. He was so simple. But, you see, he had the blessings of [Caitanya] Mahaprabhu. It is the blessings of Mahaprabhu that made him Prabhupada.

Getting the Most From Shri Krishna Janmashtami

janmashtami1Sri Krishna Janmashtami is the appearance anniversary of Krishna, the Supreme Person. He’s not “born” like we are—He comes and goes as He likes—but He appears here to please His devotees, rid the earth of evildoers, and give the rest of us something worthwhile to talk about.

His pastime of janma, birth, occurred on the ashtami, eighth day of the waning moon in the lunar month of Hrishikesh. Janmashtami is one of the world’s biggest spiritual festivals, and is observed by followers of many faiths. For Krishna devotees, Janmashtami is a day of non-stop chanting, cooking, worship of Krishna in His Deity form, and fasting until midnight, when a grand feast is served.
janmashtami2The Tenth Canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam describes the events leading up to and including Krishna’s appearance on earth. Srila Prabhupada encouraged his disciples to read about Krishna’s pastimes in the Bhagavatam, cook a feast for Krishna’s pleasure, and chant Hare Krishna all day and into the night each year on Janmashtami.

For those are very serious about advancing in Krsna Consciousness the day of Janmashtami is much more than a ritualistic celebration that we celebrate each year. Here are a few tips for elevating our Janmashtami from the ritual level to the spiritual level.

Fasting

Srila Prabhupada writes in Bhagavad Gita that one’s determination in Krishna Conscoiousness is marked by the effort to keep fast on days like Janmashtami and Ekadasi. Fasting has two sides, one positive and one negative. The negative is that we should not eat or drink for the entire day until midnight, and then to break the fast with Ekadasi prasadam. If we are unable to do that, water is permissible and in extreme circumstances one may take some fruit if he is unable to keep the fast. This fasting helps us the control the demands of the body and allows us to focus on the positive side of fasting which is the increase the level of our spiritual practices like hearing and chanting. Any serious devotee MUST make the effort to keep fast on the day of Janmashtami.

Chanting Japa

chanting-japaKrishna is non-different from His Name, therefore an excellent way to celebrate Janmashtami is to immerse ourselves in quality japa. We can gain so much spiritual benefit from chanting japa on days like Janmashtami. Initiated members of our organisation chant a minumum of 16 rounds of Hare Krishna japa each day, but if you are not initiated as yet you can try to chant 16 or any number you can. And if you are really adventurous you can try to chant with a vow of 64 rounds of japa. Either way chanting is a super way to boost the level of your Janmashtami celebration.

Reading Srimad Bhagavatam or Krishna Book

bhagavatam_bigSrila Rupa Goswami writes in his Nectar of Devotion that there are five most potent forms of devotional service, one of which is to read Srimad Bhagavatam. Krishna’s pastimes are specifically described in the 10th Canto and the details of His appearance are described in the first 3 chapters. When read with Srila Prabhupada’s commentary these chapters unlock very deep meaning and insight into the Lord’s Appearance and the way we can apply it in our own lives and practise. The same can also be read in the Krishna Book which is Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of the Bhagavatam’s 10th Canto.

Attend the Program at an ISKCON Temple near you.

DSC02617The central focus of ISKCON Temples is the worship of Krishna. In fact every day is like Janmashtami for us. But, on Janmashtami every service is done at the temple as if its on steroids. All the stops are pulled out and no holds are barred. The decorations are out of this world, the deities are dressed so impressive that one gets the experience that “YES……Here IS Krishna!”, the kirtan is soul stirring, the prasadam tastes even more amazing (at the time of breaking fast it’s even more sweet), and the atmosphere is surcharged with Krishna Bhakti (devotion of Krishna). Everyone is welcome to take part in our celebration; come and chant, hear krishna katha, take part in the worship of the deity of Radha and Krishna and sit and talk about Krishna with the devotees. It can be a life altering experience.

Listening to Lectures about the Appearance of the Lord

In today’s world almost everything is available on the internet. ISKCON Desire Tree has a MASSIVE catalog of lectures and classes give by Srila Prabhupada and many of his disciples and grand-disciples on the Appearance Day of the Lord. Visit them and spend some time hearing about the pastimes of the Lord from the devotees and if our mood is right we can feel the inner stirring to increase the depth of our spiritual practise.

These are just some suggestions to make the best of your Janmasthami festival and can actually be applied to any special day. We hope this Janmashtami proved to be a revolution in your spiritual journey. Drop us a line to let us know what you did to make this Jamnashtami more special for you or to share any special experience you had.

The Glories of Lord Balarama

Lord Balarama The Seed and the Womb of the Universe

balarama“Sri Baladeva is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. He is equal in supremacy to the Supreme Godhead, yet wherever Krsna appears, Sri Baladeva appears as Krsna’s brother, sometimes elder, sometimes younger”(SB 10.1.24p). “In His vaibhava-prakasa feature, Lord Krsna manifests Himself as Balarama. The Balarama feature is as good as Krsna Himself, the Only difference being that the bodily hue of Krsna is dark and that of Balarama is fair” (TLC Chap.7). ‘These two Lords, Krsna and Balarama, are each the seed and womb of the universe, the creator and His creative Potency. They enter the hearts of living being and control their Conditioned awareness. They are the primeval Supreme’ (SB10.46.31v).

The Servitor Godhead

kb1Balarama is the servitor Godhead who serves Lord Krsna in all affair of existence and knowledge. The transcenden­tal abode exists by the energy of Lord Balarama. Krsna’s first expansion in a form for pastimes is Balarama. Balarama Himself helps in the pastimes of Lord Krsna and He does the work of creation in four other forms. In all forms Balarama tastes the transcendental bliss of serving Krsna” (CC Adi 4.8-11v.).

“If we develop consciousness of this fact, then we are in actual Krsna consciousness. We should always remember that Krsna is the only Supreme Master and that everyone else is His servant ekale isvarah krsna, ara saba bhrtya. Either Narayana or Lord Siva, everyone is subordinate to Krsna. Even Baladeva is subordinate to Krsna’ (SB 10.13.53p.). “1n the transcendental pastimes, Krsna is the chief hero, and Balarama provides additional help.” (SB 10.8. 27p.).

 Sri Balarama Serves All Mellows

kb3Lord Balarama is constantly serving Lord Krsna in every respect. In all of Krsna’s incarnations and pastimes Lord Balarama is always present serving Krsna in different forms and manifestations. In Rama-lila, Balarama serves Lord Ramacandra as His younger brother, Laxman. In Kali-yuga, Sri Balarama spreads the Sankirtan movement of Sri Caitanya as Lord Nityananda. Lord Balarama serves Sri Krsna in all the five rasas (mellows), from santa to madhurya rasa.

In santa rasa Lord Balarama fulfils Sri Krsna’s desires for blissful transcendental pastimes by expanding Himself as the holy dhama of Vraja Mandala. All of Krsna’s personal Possessions such as Krsna’s crown, bed, clothes, throne, ornaments; and any other object that Krsna utilises are all expansions of Lord Balarama.

As Krsna’s cowherd friend and elder brother in sakhya rasa, Sri Balarama sometimes accepts service from Krsna after defeating Him in a wrestling match. But generally, Balarama ‘s fraternal feelings are mixed with servitude (dasya rasa) and parental affection (vatsalya rasa). In the mood or vatsalya rasa, Sri Balarama sometimes protects Krsna as a parent or chastises Him as the elder brother. “Once Lord Balarama told Subala, ‘My dear friend, please inform Krsna not to go to Kaliya lake today. Today is Krsna’s birthday, and so I wish to go along with Mother Yasoda to bathe Him. Tell Krsna He should not leave the house today! This shows how Balarama, Krsna’s elder brother, took care of Krsna with parental love, within the scope of fraternal affection” (NOD Chap. 42).

“The splendor of Lord Balarama’s transcendental form eclipses many millions of glistening rising moons, and the slightest scent of His boundless strength is sufficient to destroy many armies of demons. Although He knows the supernatural power of His younger brother, Krsna, still, out of love for Him, Balarama never leaves Krsna alone in the forest even for a moment. I offer my prayers to Lord Balarama, the enemy of Dhenukasura” (WS)

Lord Balarama can expand Himself into unlimited and different forms. In order to  serve Sri Krsna’s intimate conjugal pastimes in madhurya rasa, Lord Balarama expands Himself as Ananga Manjari. Ananga manjari wears beautiful clothing the colour of a blue lotus flower and She is especially dear to Lalita and Visakha.

Sri Krsna For a Day

   kb4“Lord Balarama is called “Douji” (the elder brother who protects and cares for the younger brother). After lifting Govardhana Hill Lord Krsna killed a succession of ferocious demons including Sankasura and Aristasura. Balarama hadn’t killed a demon for a long time, and He was concerned about Hi duty of protecting Krsna as His elder brother. Desiring to dress like Krsna, Lord Balarama once asked Krsna if He could wear His peacock feather and play Krsna’s flute for just one day. Krsna, who dearly loved His elder brother, agreed and personally gave His peacock feather and flute to Balarama.

 Krsna and Balarama warmly embraced and then Balarama laughing happily, ran away playing gaily on Krsna’s flute. Mean-while, in Mathura, the wicked King Kamsa was about to send the horse demon, Keshi, to Vrindavana in order to kill Krsna. The Keshi demon asked King Kamsa, “How will I recognise Krsna?” Kamsa told him that it would be easy to tell, because Krsna would be the only person wearing a peacock feather and playing a flute.

“While Balaramji was fully enjoying His pastime of being Krsna for the day, the fierce horse demon, Keshi, stormed into Vrindavana. Seeing Balarama wearing a peacock feather in His crown and playing a flute, matching the description King Kamsa had given of Krsna, the Keshi demon roared up and gave Balarama a mighty kick that could have killed a full-grown elephant. This kick totally knocked the wind out of Balarama, and sent Him tumbling far away out of the demon’s sight. Thinking that he had killed Krsna, the Keshi demon galloped away. Balaramji, picking Himself up, began to cry. Balarama’s chest still hurting from the demon’s kick and He was short of breath. Balarama was hungry, very tired and sore all over from tumbling so far.

“Reaching home, Balarama immediately went to Krsna and returned His flute and peacock feather. Balarama told Krsna that He never again wanted to wear them, and that a huge horse demon had just violently kicked Him; thinking He was Krsna. Then Balaramji met His mother Rohini and fell asleep in her arms.     

“Krsna replaced the peacock feather in His crown, tucked the flute back in His belt and walked into the village. Then Sri Krsna met the horrible horse demon and effortlessly killed him” (SVMP).

“Srila Prabhupada writes, ‘Lord Balarama is the original Vishnu; therefore anyone remembering these pastimes of Lord Balarama in the morning and evening will certainly become a great devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and thus his life will become successful in all respects’ “(SB 1O.79.34p.)