Saturday, April 21, 2007

Opening Act

Reporting from New Vrindaban, its absolutely warm and peaceful. Everybody you know and see brings a smile and a joke. If you get in the right frame of mind, you can actually realize there is nothing to fear, and the taste of the Lord becomes vivid and real.

On Friday night, Caitanya and I made our weekly sojourn into Pittsburgh to the campuses of Carnegie-Mellon and U-Pitt. We were the opening act for well-known alternative rock act Spoon, who was performing a free show on the campus of CMU to celebrate the last day of classes.

Now, by opening act, I don't mean we stormed the stage, although we thought about it. Actually, we did nice, humble kirtan in one of the big public corridors leading out to the campus area where the concert was being held. Most everyone going to and coming from the show got a chance to hear the Holy Name of Krsna, and many directly appreciated. We even got a nice contact from a successful yoga studio in town, and we hope to do some transcendental business with them as our programs in Pittsburgh continue to evolve and become more solid.

It is very interesting to observe the material modes of nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance) as the many varied college students walked by us. Some ignored our kirtan, some danced, some smiled, and some dropped some change our way. In any case, it is our sacred duty as young devotees to hit the streets with sounds and books, and we are always looking for dynamic ways to do so.

It was also a gas to be with Caitanya. Him and I go back a ways to the hip streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and we are developing a sense of humor between us that is quite something to behold. We are hoping to do a show where we roll off our impressions of everyone who lives here at New Vrindaban. It's the best way we can show our love and appreciation.

One of the signs in front of the stage where Spoon played said "If you are visibly intoxicated, you will be asked to leave." Considering we were intoxicated with kirtan and the various spices of our transcendental humor, it was lucky we didn't end up in the slammer.

We ended the night well into the morning by joining our friends at the Oakland Tea House for their final program of the semester, talking and sharing spiritual insights until nearly 2am! We would once again like to thank all those who organize the Tea House for allowing us crazy monks to come up and share food and wonderful conversation. We hope to continue the fun next year, hopefully in conjunction with our planned Vegan cooking class which will begin in the fall.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Srimad-Bhagavatam Meditation: 1.7.5

It is once again time for our weekly/bi-weekly meditation on the ripened fruit of the tree of Vedic knowledge, the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

I humbly ask you to read first the translation and Bhaktivedanta purport to today's verse, from the 1st Canto, Seventh Chapter, Fifth Verse.

yayā sammohito jīva
paro 'pi manute 'narthaḿ
tat-kṛtaḿ cābhipadyate

Due to this external energy, the living entity, although transcendental to the three modes of material nature, thinks of himself as a material product and thus undergoes the reactions of material miseries.

When I first encountered spirituality originating from the Eastern part of the world, in the form of Tibetan Buddhism, I was admittedly a bit turned off by being told that suffering was the first tenet of my current existence. I wanted candy canes and light shows, and instead I was being told that I was surrounded by an ocean of misery that was largely there because I chose it to be there.

As I have slowly matured in my spiritual life in this body, and have mercifully been provided the chance to practice in the Vaisnava tradition, I still flinch in disgust at this offering, no longer because of any philosophical misunderstanding, but because it is the truth. Simple, harsh, and universal.

In his purport, Prabhupada takes the outside-the-box approach when he writes that "The Lord does not interfere with the task of the illusory energy because such performances of the illusory energy are also necessary for reformation of the conditioned soul." We suffer as materially-oriented people because we are surrendered to the dictates of the illusory energy, being thrown here and there by our desires, pride, envy, lust, and hatred.

We are situated in this ocean of misery because we choose to be, because we want to be God ourself, instead of being in our natural position of lovingly serving Him by serving His pure devotees, which is where all actual bliss, knowledge, and eternity resides. So, this desire to lord everything ourselves is fulfilled as we are provided with a material body in a material world to try and shape things as we see fit.

The ever-present catch is that the illusory energy, or maya, is also given all facility to do with us as she sees fit. This is actually God's desire, for because we are of the same quality as Him, we have been given full independence to choose if we will serve Him or not. When we choose not to, God lets His great devotee maya go to work on us in an attempt to make us realize what we have truly chosen to do.

What Prabhupada is saying here is that while God actually facilitates this process of allowing us to lord over our actions, and subsequently suffer the reactions, in this material body, he allows maya to beat and kick us, and even kill us, in order for us to realize the incredible foolishness of our ignorance and forgetfulness.

As devotees, we, or we try, to be fully surrendered to the dictates of the Supreme Lord, Krsna. Often, the will of the Lord is for us to undergo very serious and painful situations, in order for us to quickly realize the futility of our material propensities. It is actually His strongest mercy, for at these times of crisis and conflict, the door opens much wider for us to truly jump through and get back home, to His lotus feet.

If we are comfortable, simply gliding along, not being challenged, we won't find the urgency we truly need to personally break out of this prison cycle of repeated birth-and-death. We will continue to think, in many gross and subtle ways, that this material condition is our natural condition, and we will continue to wander lost.

I'll continue with Part 2 of this meditation sometime in the next week, so please stay tuned. Hare Bol!