Friday, December 26, 2008

Vaishnava Marriage and Bhakti

A recent talk in Mayapur discussing topics including:

* The purpose of Vaishnava marriage

* Why mothers are due more respect than fathers

* Are the sannyasa and brahmacari ashrams necessary for bhakti?

* Jiva Goswami on how varnashram can cover bhakti

* Readings from an article by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta discussing how in Vaishnava marriage neither the husband nor the wife are the servant of each other, rather both are serving together for the pleasure of Krishna.

Click here to listen

Bhajan in Separation

Govardhan Retreat 2008

For the last few months, Krishna Kund and I have been traveling and giving talks. We just got back to Bhubaneswar (whew!) where we hope to catch our breath before our upcoming Puri parikrama/retreat beginning on the 22nd of January.

From November 27th to December 3rd we attended the Govardhan Retreat, which was a deeply moving experience. HH Sacinandan Maharaja spoke on the topic of the process of obeisances given by Sanatan Goswami in his book Sri Krishna Lila Stava; Bhurijan Prabhu spoke about the trials and difficulties experienced by Srila Sanatan Goswami; Mother Jagattarini gave dramatic readings from sections of Rupa Goswami's Vidagdha Madhava, and we gave a series of talks about bhajan in separation. There were about 6 hours of intense hari-katha per day along with hours of kirtan, bhajans, tasty healthy prasadam and wonderful association.

Recordings of the Bhajan in Separation seminar

Blue cows at Govardhan Hill

Pictures from previous Govardhan Retreats

Monday, October 13, 2008

Voting and Vaishnavism

There is a lot of discussion right now, especially in America, about the latest presidential election. In a recent issue of Sri Krishna Kathamrita Bindu we put together a collection of statements from Srila Prabhupada regarding his mood towards voting in secular circles. As always, Srila Prabhupada's attitude is purely Krishna conscious. I also found it very detached -- he was asked several times if he wanted his followers to vote or not, -- he repeatedly replied that the choice was up to them. For brevity, I’m only posting some of the most relevant quotes below. To see the complete article in issue 185 click here.

Because of the importance of the Krishna consciousness movement, people should be Krishna conscious and should not vote for anyone who is not Krishna conscious. Then there will be actual peace and prosperity in the state. When a vaisnava sees mismanagement in the government, he feels great compassion in his heart and tries his best to purify the situation by spreading the Hare Krishna movement. (Purport to Bhag. 6.2.3)

We don’t very much like this so-called democracy. What is the value of this democracy? All fools and rascals. They vote for another fool and rascal and he becomes prime minister, or this or that. That is not good for the people. We are not for this so-called democracy because they are not trained. (Lecture in London, 24 July 1973)

The first teaching of Bhagavad-gita should be taken by the persons who are going to be elected in the government service. The public should be aware of this. If somebody comes to canvass for votes, you should first inquire, “Have you have read Bhagavad-gita? Mahatma Gandhi read Bhagavad-gita. Why shouldn’t you? Do you know what is Bhagavad-gita? If so, then I will give you my vote. Otherwise, get out.”... It is a great necessity that government men must study Bhagavad-gita. Otherwise, don’t give them vote. (Lecture in Bombay, 22 March 1974)

Devotee: Some of our devotees should run for office.

Prabhupada: No. If you can make the people Krishna conscious, then everything will come automatically. If they vote for a Krishna conscious person to be president and prime minister, then everything will be saved. So that means you have to create KrishnaKrishna consciousness movement. The government is still under the control of the public. If the public becomes Krishna conscious then naturally the government will be Krishna conscious voters. Then everything will be right. That should be one of the aims of the conscious. But that is up to the public. (Lecture in Bombay, 6 November 1970)

Educate the people. “Don’t vote for the rascals. Just try to understand who is the real man, who is the real leader. (Morning walk conversation in Los Angeles, 11 December 1973)

Interviewer: Do you think most of the Hare Krishna members will participate in the election in November? Do you think they will register and vote?

Prabhupada: Personally I never give votes.

Interviewer: Will they follow your example and not vote?

Prabhupada: I do not know, but our principle is that I vote for this man or that man if there is some spiritual benefit. That is our point. (Interview with the religion editor of the Associated Press in New York, 16 July 1976)

I have never given vote. Since we have got this sva-raj, Indian independence, as soon as the vote question comes up, I go away. I think, “Why shall I give this nonsense person my vote? None of them are liked by me.” So I avoid it. I don’t believe in it. (Room Conversation in Bombay, 8 January 1977)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Giriraja's Flower Crown

This morning Giriraja received 25 different types of flowers in his worship (Orissa is a good place for puja). Aside from his garland of parijata (called gangasuri in Orissa) and gardenia (called sugandha-raja, "king of good fragrance" here) Giriraja was also offered a small crown made of jui flowers, small fragrant flowers that are dear to Srimati Radharani.

Hari Hari!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Christian Version of Jiva Jago

I recently got a copy of an old rare book called, Hymns of the Early Church. It was published in 1913 and is a compilation translated from various Greek and Latin sources and other early material from the Christian church. The following poem reminded me of Bhaktivinode Thakur's Arunodaya kirtana. (See some excerpts from the English translations at the end of this text):

Wake, awake to duty!

See, the morning light

Falls with radiant beauty

From the arms of night.

Claim the hours before thee

For the tasks of life,

Thousand calls implore thee

From the din of strife.

Listless minds are dreaming,

Idle hands are still;

Evil hearts are scheming

Purposes of ill.

See the hands that beckon,

Hear the call of right;

Thou with God must reckon

Up, and toil and fight!

Through the hours of morning,

At the height of noon,

When the light gives warning

Night approaches soon:

Do the task with gladness

Which the hours present;

Who can tell the sadness

Of a day mis-spent?

Day by day declineth,

Time is getting hoar;

Soon yon sun that shineth

Sets for evermore.

Ah, the City glorious,

Where they need no sun,

Ah, the band victorious,
And the glad "Well done"!

Excerpts from Bhaktivinode's Arunodaya kirtana:

Shri Gauracanda is calling,

“Wake up! Wake up, sleeping souls!

How long will you sleep

in the lap of the witch maya?”

"With every rising and setting of the sun,

a day passes and is lost.

Why do you remain idle and not serve the Lord of the heart?

This temporary life is full of various miseries.

Take shelter of the holy name as your only business.

To penetrate the darkness of ignorance and bless everyone's heart,

the holy name has risen like the shining sun"

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Janmastami in Kendrapara

For the second year in a row we observed Janmastami in Kendrapara Orissa at our ISKCON nama-hatta center. It's actually more than a center it is well known in the area as the Sri Sri Radha Nikunjabihari temple. Kendrapara is a rural and traditional Orissan town. It is close to the small village of Choti, the ancestral home of Thakur Bhaktivinode. The Thakur also resided for some time in Kendrapara where he was the first headmaster of the Government High School. Bhaktivinode Thakur's original deities of Sri Sri Radha Madhava have been temporarily residing in Kendrapara for the last few years.

Radha Madhava in their new outfit on Janmastami night

One of our favorite aspects of Janmastami in Kendrapara is the traditional Oriya bhajans. Aside from the ecstatic 24 hour maha-mantra kirtana, there are other bhajans going on simultaneously (in a separate place) most of Janmastami night. Those bhajans are mostly Oriya devotional poetry, songs that due to the language barrier very few Gaudiya Vaishnavas outside of Orissa are aware of. Even though it is very rich in bhakti and rasa, Oriya Gaudiya literature is relatively unknown outside of Orissa, even amongst Bengali and Vrindavan Vaishnavas.

Navaghana Das sang a nice song from the medieval book "Mathura Mangala", by the devotee Bhakta Charan Das.

Click here to listen to the song and translation:

Janmastami bhajans in Kendrapara

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Meaning of Shivaratri

Above picture is a small deity of Lord Shiva near the Tota Gopinath Temple in Puri

Dhirama Das Prabhu wrote and asked: Prabhu is it possible to know what is Shivaratri?

Our reply:

Here are a few notes from an article we plan to print in the next issue we make of Krishna Kathamrita about Lord Shiva (no date is yet fixed, it will likely be a few years away). Hari-bhakti-vilasa mentions Shivaratri as a festival observed by Vaishnavas:

siva-ratri-vratam krsna-caturdasyam tu phalgune
vaisnavair api tat karyam sri-krsna-pritaye sada

On the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna (February-March), for the pleasure of Lord Sri Krishna, a vaisnava should always take a vow to fast on this day. (It is called Shivaratri, or the night of Lord Shiva.)
- Gautamiya-tantra quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilasa 14.187.

Why devotees observe worship of Mahadeva on this day is also described in the same section:

yani kanyatra lingani sthavarani carani ca
tesu samkramate devas tasyam ratrau yato harah
sivaratris tatah prokta tena sa hari-vallabha

On the night of the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna Lord Shiva enters into whatever siva-lingas are present on this earthly planet. For this reason, this day is called Shivaratri. For this reason, this day is very dear to Lord Sri Hari. - Nagara khanda of Skanda Purana quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilasa 14.200.

sri krsne vaisnavanam tu prema-bhaktir vivardhate

The loving devotion of the vaisnavas for Lord Krishna greatly increases by the mercy of Lord Shiva who distributes the essence of krsna-bhakti-rasa. - Hari-bhakti-vilasa 14.203

In the beginning of the 34th chapter of Krishna Book, Srila Prabhupada describes that devotees sometimes observe Shivaratri and sometimes they don't:

Once upon a time, the cowherd men of Vrindavan, headed by Nanda Maharaja, desired to go to Ambikavana to observe the Shivaratri ceremony. The rasa-lila was performed during the autumn, and after that the next big ceremony is Holi, or the Dolayatra ceremony. Between the Dolayatra ceremony and the rasa-lila ceremony there is an important ceremony called Shiva-ratri, which is especially observed by the Saivites, or devotees of Lord Shiva. Sometimes the Vaishnavas also observe this ceremony because they accept Lord Shiva as the foremost Vaishnava. But the function of Shivaratri is not observed very regularly by the bhaktas, or devotees of Krishna. Under the circumstances, Srimad Bhagavatam states that Nanda Maharaja and the other cowherd men "once upon a time desired." This means that they were not regularly observing the Shivaratri function but that once upon a time they wanted to go to Ambikavana out of curiosity.

The next Shivaratri is on the 23rd of February 2009.

Hari Hari!

Das, MD

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reforming the Reformer

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupada

In the following article excerpted from Sri Krishna Kathamrita Bindu issue number 177, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur describes Krishna consciousness as the only genuine reform process. He says that anyone who takes shelter of any other process to reform society is in need of reform themselves. -- MD

The world stands in no need of any reformer. The world has a very competent person for guiding its minutest happenings. The person who determines that there is scope for reform of the world, himself stands in need of reform. The world goes on in its own perfect way. No person can deflect it even the breadth of a hair from the course chalked out for it by providence. When we perceive any change being actually effected in the course of events of this world by the agency of any particular individual, we must know very well that the agent possesses no real power at any stage. The agent finds himself driven forward by a force belonging to a different category from himself. The course of the world does not require to be changed by the agency of any person. What is necessary is to change our outlook on this world. This was done for the contemporary generation by the mercy of Sri Chaitanya. It can only be known to recipients of his mercy. The scriptures declare that it is only necessary to listen with an open mind to the name of Krishna from the lips of a bona fide devotee. As soon as Krishna enters the listening ear, he clears up the vision of the listener so that he no longer has any ambition of ever acting the part of a reformer of any other person, because he finds that nobody is left without the very highest guidance. It is therefore his own reform, by the grace of God, whose supreme necessity and nature he is increasingly able to realize, by the eternally continuing mercy of the Supreme Lord.

-- From The Harmonist, May 1932, issue number 11. Article originally titled, "Sree Chaitanya in South India". Pages 325-326.


Krishna says we should act according to our sva-dharma. He says if we try to do someone else’s work (even if we can do better) then we are putting ourselves into danger. For us, “sva-dharma” is following guru’s instructions. If guru tells us to create a revolution, then we must. If guru tells us to be an authority and instruct others, then we must. However, if we don't have such sanction then we have no right to self-appoint ourselves as judges and jihadis against whoever we deem to be offenders. Padma Purana says if we don't act according to sastra we will simply create a disturbance. And what is the sastric injunction?

aśraddadhāne vimukhe ’py aśṛṇvati
yaś copadeśaḥ śiva-nāmāparādhaḥ

Preaching to those who don't have faith or who are reluctant to hear from you is an offense to the holy name.

Mahaprabhu taught if someone has faith in us and requests our opinion, we should speak. But if they don't have faith and don't ask, better be silent. Before Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya and Prakashananda Saraswati, Mahaprabhu was quiet until they asked for his opinion. Only after they requested him, did he speak, and then he spoke like a bullet -- no compromise.

If we are conditioned souls then we are not the seers we are the seen. We cannot say who is good or bad. We should do whatever Krishna has given us to do.

If we found out that some temple presidents were stealing money, how many devotees would respect them? Now what if we discovered they were also having illicit sex with others wives? What if we found out they had killed brahmanas, had even killed cows, and broken deities and temples? Who would respect such persons?

But what if these rascals were eternal associates of the Lord, and those heinous acts were their service to the Lord? What if their names were Jaya/Vijaya-Hiranyakasipu/Hiranyaksa-Ravana/Kumbhakarna?

What about someone who supported Duryodhan and tried to kill Krishna, Arjuna and the pandavas? Could we accept him as a leader, a great devotee, a mahajana?

What if his name was Bhishmadev?

We are not the seers.

As for me, I’m not going to start distributing guns for the revolution, until Krishna or his representative appear before me and give clear instructions to do so. As for the many Don Quixote’s in this world, let them battle with their windmills; my personal role in the reform movement is doing what I’ve been instructed to do. -- MD