Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Nectar Chronicles: Part 13

Inspired by the "Nectar of Devotion" lecture series given by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada from October 20-November 13, 1972 at the Radha-Damodara Temple in Vrndavana, India

All of these lectures are available for download at ISKCON Desire Tree.


The daze and haze of our material existence lend itself quite nicely to the existential disconnection that hovers at the edges of our lives and duties. When we dig deep, and for most, this digging deep is a "luxury" not easily chosen, we find a well of distress, miscommunication, and misunderstanding at the core of our existence.

No wonder everything gets bigger, brighter, flashier, and louder. Better to keep those voices in our heads from barking too loud.

There are plenty of "prescription remedies" to give us a mere semblance of relief from material distress, but if we have come into the association of the devotees, and we begin to practice devotional service, we can begin to understand it's a reality that bears no inebriation or illusion. In fact, it actually does what it advertises.

As a matter of fact, it's the real escape for all of us who have had the grace and the fortune to realize that running away from the material world is not a sign of laziness or indolence, but of enlightenment.

It's not that devotees don't work hard. Right? Devotees work very hard. I don't have to tell you that. Our own lives and the history of our society, from Prabhupada on down, are glittered with the pastimes and experiences of those who pushed well beyond their own limits and boundaries, like a Trane solo in his final years, into something more transcendent.

So we aren't lazy, and the trick to avoid this laziness is to take our vocation, take our effort, and fully link it up to the will of the Lord. This includes maybe even our temper, as Prabhupada of course relates our famous example of Hanuman burning down Lanks for the favor of Lord Rama.

So, it is our physical and mental effort, this dovetailing and engagement, which helps us to find relief from material distress, or relief from the ultimate existential angst, which is the scourge of contemporary philosophical and practical outlook.

This dovetailing cannot be left up to the whimsical dictates of our own mind alone, rotted out and molded up by the mundane conditioning of our lifetimes of wanderings. We must be guided by guru, sadhu and sastra. Prabhupada concurs:

"So by any action, if it is dovetailed for the satisfaction of Krsna, that is devotional service, and one can attract Krsna, attention of Krsna. Attention of Krsna can be attracted by pure devotional service, without any personal motive. If it is... And that motive, that order, is received through the disciplic succession of the spiritual master, how Krsna will be pleased. In the present condition, we do not know how Krsna will be pleased, but we know from the sastras... We can know also from the direction of the spiritual master how Krsna will be pleased. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah **. So Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura says you have to follow the direction of the spiritual master. He's guiding as a leader. And if he's pleased, that means Krsna is pleased. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasadah **"

Then we will understand how to please Krsna, which is the secret of life, and we will be able to approach our lives and duties with less and less tinges of our own personal, selfish motives, which block the flow of Krsna's love in our being like a hearty beaver-built dam.

It is this flood of His love which overwhelms all of our negative propensities, and even overwhelms all the unknowing sinful reactions we take on just being in this material world.

It's not just the negative. Even the unknowing material piety we may commit isn't held against us if we are committing to the life of a bhakta. Prabhupada relates:

"So how to save? That is replied in the Bhagavad-gita: yajnarthe karma anyatra loko 'yam karma-bandhanah [Bg. 3.9]. If you do not act, or if you do not engage yourself in Krsna consciousness business, then you are becoming implicated with so many sinful activities. That is sure. Therefore one has to take to Krsna consciousness without fail. Otherwise he'll be entangled, karma-bandhanah. Even if he's doing pious activities, he's becoming entangled in karma-bandhanah, in bondage. He has to take birth. Pious activities means he has to take birth in nice family, rich family. That is also bandhana. He has to enter into the womb of the mother and live there for ten months, in compact, air-tight, compact bag. That is not very good living condition. But we forget all these things, neither we do not care for all these things. But actually fact is, knowingly or unknowingly, we are becoming implicated."

Or as he also states it very succinctly:

"Everyone is being caught up by the action and reaction of karma, but a devotee is protected from the action and reaction of karma. Karmani nirdahati kintu ca bhakti-bhajam [Bs. 5.54]. So a devotee, a Krsna conscious person, remains free always, provided he's fully engaged in Krsna conscious activities for pleasing the Supreme Personality of Godhead. "

It's these karmic whirlwinds which give none of us any stability in his material world. Like a relentless tornado on country plains, these winds can, in a split second, send our plans into pieces over things we have done way back even in lives previous.

And for those not aware of this essential law of the material universe, it is not that ignorance is bliss. Karma is fundamental. It is the engine of the endless chains of actions and reactions. It is the snake eating its own tail, the wheel of samsara.

We want off this ride, and by learning to love and please Krsna through His devotees, we get the ticket out, or we get the monkey off of our back, for lack of a better term.

Because, as Prabhupada relates, Krsna Himself takes charge of us:

"If you take to Krsna consciousness without any motive, sincerely, then your position is secured. Krsna takes charge of you. Kaunteya pratijanihi na me bhaktah pranasyati [Bg. 9.31]. His devotee will never be vanquished. Just like Arjuna. Arjuna was considering how he could kill his kinsmen, his familymen, his nephew, his brother, his grandfather, on the other side. Actually, this killing business is not very good. It is sinful. But the same thing he committed after understanding Bhagavad-gita. He agreed: karisye vacanam tava [Bg. 18.73]. "Yes, I shall fight."

Our own sincere effort, and the shelter of determination that are the devotees, are also our "safety position":

"We should be very careful that we may not create another material body. And what is that safety position? Krsna says, janma karma me divyam yo janati tattvatah [Bg. 4.9]. If you simply try to understand Krsna, how Krsna takes His birth, how He becomes the son of Devaki, son of Nanda Maharaja, how He becomes the son of Yasoda, these things, if we study, if we try to understand Krsna, if we don't accept Krsna as ordinary man -- avajanati mam mudha -- then, in this way, if we understand the science of Krsna, yei krsna-tattva-vetta sei guru haya [Cc. Madhya 8.128], if one understands the science of Krsna, he is spiritual master."
Prabhupada's points here are powerful and profound. He commands us not to shape another body to take birth in by our misguided actions, and he tells us to avoid a relapse into the material "disease" we are trying to leave behind.

"If you do not relapse the disease, then you are nice. Similarly, to keep in Krsna consciousness means you are not diseased condition, but do not allow the disease to relapse. That means do not deviate from the devotional service. Mam ca avyabhicarena bhakti-yogena yah sevate. Avyabhicarini. Don't misuse the devotional service. Then you are all right. Sa gunan samatityaitan brahma-bhuyaya kalpate [Bg. 14.26]. Then you keep yourself always in transcendental position, brahma-bhutah position. And then from brahma-bhutah position, you can elevate yourself to the para bhakti, spontaneous. Para bhakti means spontaneously, spontaneous devotional service. Automatically, you will be loving Krsna."

As well, Prabhupada implores us to try and move beyond the platform of kanistha realization, which to me, as I see this specific struggle in my own life, means to learn and love and communicate with others in our lives, developing our relationships with actual, personal devotees who are pushing and prodding us to something more, to something higher. Prabhupada says:

"We can expect after executing devotional service as a madhyama- adhikari. Then we can be promoted. But if we keep ourself simply on the lower stage of devotional service, then there is chance of falling down. Sa bhaktah prakrtah smrtah. Simply... Just like, generally, they keep in the kanistha-adhikari stage. Of course, there is no loss. In any adhikara, in any position, you are benefited because you have taken to devotional service. But our attempt should be from kanistha- adhikara to madhyama-adhikara. Madhyama-adhikara means preacher. Unless one comes to the madhyama-adhikara, he cannot preach."

To get real relief from our material distress means so many things, but we can distill to one nectarine simplicity: we have to open our heart (in our relationships with each other as devotees) to allow Krsna to take charge of our lives, and then we will have no fear and no doubt about who we are and what we must do. Prabhupada concludes:

"So we have to take to devotional service. Then we shall understand Krsna. Krsna will reveal. If you are engaged in Krsna's service constantly, tesam satata-yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam [Bg. 10.10]. If you have devoted, heart and soul, for service of Krsna, then Krsna is within your self. He'll give you intelligence. Buddhi-yogam dadami tam. He'll give you intelligence. He'll purify your heart. He'll purify your position. "

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Mistaken Advancement In Civilization

Srila Prabhupada remarks:

According to the laws of nature, when one is extremely opulent one becomes degraded, and this is true both individually and collectively. The demigods are situated in the mode of goodness, but sometimes even one who is situated in such an exalted position as King
Indra, the king of all the demigods, falls down because of material opulence. We are now actually seeing this in America.

The entire American nation has tried to advance in material opulence without striving to produce ideal human beings. The result is that Americans are now regretting the wholesale criminality of American society and are wondering how America has become so lawless and unmanageable. As stated in
Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.5.31), na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiḿ hi viṣṇum: persons who are unenlightened do not know the aim of life, which is to return home, back to Godhead. Therefore, both individually and collectively, they try to enjoy so-called material comforts, and they become addicted to wine and women.

The men produced in such a society are less than fourth class. They are the unwanted population known as
varṇa-sańkara, and as stated in Bhagavad-gītā, an increase of varṇa-sańkara population creates a hellish society. This is the society in which Americans now find themselves.

Fortunately, however, the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement has come to America, and many fortunate young men are giving serious attention to this movement, which is creating ideal men of first-class character, men who completely refrain from meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication and gambling. If the American people are serious about curbing the degraded criminal life of their nation, they must take to the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement and try to create the kind of human society advised in Bhagavad-gītā (cātur-varṇyaḿ mayā sṛṣṭaḿ guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ [Bg. 4.13]).

They must divide their society into first-class men, second-class men, third-class men and fourth-class men. Since they are now creating only men who are less than fourth class, how can they avoid the dangers of a criminal society? Long, long ago, Lord Indra regretted his disrespect to his spiritual master, Bṛhaspati. Similarly, it is advised that the American people regret their mistaken advancement in civilization. They should take advice from the spiritual master, the representative of Kṛṣṇa. If they do so, they will be happy, and theirs will be an ideal nation to lead the entire world.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Reflections of Love And Character: Radhanath Swami's December 2009 Visit To New York City
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There is something about this city, New York City, that attracts the most intense energies of the known universe. What's a poor aspiring monk like myself to do? Where does one find the privacy of contemplation, the peace of silence, the inner will to push on against the currents of a culture going in the wrongest of directions?

I don't blame her...I don't blame the City. Her history and her purpose allows anyone and everyone to take advantage of her, so as even those most determined to squeeze all the possible juice out of the rinds of maya camp down and have at it, the facility is also there for the sincere spiritualist to ride these currents in a very interesting, influential way.

The story of this city is as spiritual as anything else. It's "ground zero" (pardon the term) for us humble Hare Krsnas, the sidewalks of the Lower East Side sprinkled with the eternal dust of the lotus feet of Prabhupada.

Our meditation is this: the world watches and follows what happens in the cauldrons of Manhattan, so what better arena for the sankirtana march, and what better time, places, and circumstances to reach hearts of all shapes and sizes in ways dynamic, enlivening, and engaging.

As Radhanath Swami descended on our maturing Bhakti Center/NYC/NJ congregation for the first week of December 2009, the hopes and visions of our mission here once again take on a nature tangible and visible. For once, the energy of the city is ours to fully shape, and the sweet rush of the adventure becomes irresistible.

Speaking personally, Radhanath Swami's presence not only brings a clarity to our collective efforts here, but also to my own personal struggles as a renunciate in the least renounced of atmospheres. My internal dialogue increases in pitch (an experience I know that all of us experienced) as to where we are, what we are doing, and how we are doing it in service to Radhanath Swami as his direct disciples, his aspiring disciples, and well-wishers.

The veil of complacency lifts and lifts. I find that in Radhanath Swami's presence, even though I have never been able, fortunate, or qualified enough to have much of his direct association or even chastisement, that his glances, smiles, words, and embraces not only give me sustenance, but also poke holes ever so gently in my false ego.

After all, with such a personality, why don't want to give your best, and/or why can't you give your best? The mood and the realization of Radhanath Swami allows him to act as a transparent instrument to fulfill the desires of Srila Prabhupada, and the light and clarity which comes through shines upon the darkness and dust still present in our own hearts.

This struck me particularly on the birthday gathering of disciples and well-wishers for Radhanath Swami that we held in central New Jersey during his visit. In the exchanges of experiences, revelations, and lessons learned, I was struck by how much love Radhanath Swami's disciples have for him, and vice versa, and how for me, this love is something lacking practically and philosophically in my own heart, not only with Radhanath Swami, but everyone in my life.

I've always admired Radhanath Swami's ability (and in extension, many of his disciples) to make everyone he encounters the sole object of his attention and affection. Glorifying his various victories as our spiritual father, I realized here was a personality in which the various barriers of impersonalism do not exist.

The duties and sacrifices made by those who follow him, sacrifices we are trying to make manifest and progressive everyday here at the Bhakti Center, are simply compelled by our simple and sincere attempts to reflect back at Radhanath Swami the love and admiration he has for us, to reflect back at him the same mood of selfless service, of total surrender, that he offers to us as our loving guide and father.

How do we do this? To myself, I thought how can I get past my own personal malaise, my laziness, my fears, my insecurities, and my unsteadiness to ever be able to offer any kind of useful, sincere service?

Through his own personal examples and stories of the incredible but endearing sacrifices he made personally in his devotional adventures through the woods of New Vrindaban to the streets of Mumbai, Radhanath Swami provides a simple formula, a committment to sadhana, to the Holy Name, to real and enduring friendships between devotees, and towards the removal of any ulterior motives as the way to becoming a transparent instrument of the Lord's will.

In his various dialogues and darshans with my fellow monks here this week, one key moral of the story stood out: that in our outreach, in our communications with the young, sincere, and seeking, that we must not consider ourselves better than them.

He gives the example of the instruction Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur gave to his adventurous and courageous disciples who traveled to Europe in the 1930's in the initial attempt to spread Lord Caitanya's Word to the Western World.

Knowing they would be facing up to peoples less cultured in many vulgar and subtle ways, he implored them to offer all respects to them and expect none for themselves, to use this humility to allow Lord Caitanya's mercy to flow freely through them with out being blocked by the force-fields of false ego.

It can be easy, for the neophyte on the bhakti path, especially in this City, to get a quick and sharp sense of superiority over all those flying and banging together on the rivers of passion and ignorance that run through the numbered streets and avenues.

But, as Radhanath Swami sweetly instructed us again and again, without a genuine feeling of humility, without a genuine desire to serve and elevate our community without discrimination and without judgment of the places they are in their lives (places I know I've been dug deep in), we will have no potency to guide and love.

Our ability to act as an instrument of Prabhupada's will, of the mission of the acaryas, will be like a muddied river if we are bereft of this humility. If those we are hoping to guide by trust, friendship, and love to devotional service do not see and sense a transparent and elevated character in us, our success in our service will be long in coming, if at all.

So, by his own personal example, Radhanath Swami showed us what impact someone can have when their character is clear, when their consciousness is simply focused on being the servant of the servant, when divine love is the driving force.

Beyond the respectful and necessary veneration we hold for him, the most potent and pleasing relationship we can have with him, and with any of our devotional guides and friends, is to learn how to be a vessel of the Lord's love, which inspires and challenges us to extend ourselves into the realm of making the impossible happen, such as spreading such spiritual gifts in such an environment as New York City.

I'll end by co-opting a wonderful statement written by my friend Yasoda-Dulal Prabhu ( hope you don't mind my using just sums it up all so well and poetic):

"The sunlight lasts only about 10 hours a day, but the plants soak in its energy and nutrients to last them through the long, dark hours, till it's time for the sun to come out again....."

To my Guru Maharaja, Radhanath Swami, I speak for everyone when I say that we feel the separation of your departure, and we eagerly work to improve our service attitude and our loving relationships with each other to please you upon your return to us soon, to push us forward and push us forward Prabhupada's mission here in New York City.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Rule of St.Benedict

From the Wikipedia page:

"The Rule of Saint Benedict (Regula Benedicti) is a book of precepts written by St. Benedict of Nursia for monks living communally under the authority of an abbot. Since about the 7th century it has also been adopted by communities of women. During the 1500 years of its existence, it has become the leading guide in Western Christianity for monastic living in community for many Catholic Orders, and in Orthodoxy (since The Great Schism), and the Anglican Church (since the time of the Reformation).

The spirit of St Benedict's Rule is summed up in the motto of the Benedictine Confederation: pax ("peace") and the traditional ora et labora ("pray and work").

Compared to other precepts, the Rule provides a moderate path between individual zeal and formulaic institutionalism; because of this middle ground it has been widely popular. Benedict's concerns were the needs of monks in a community environment: namely, to establish due order, to foster an understanding of the relational nature of human beings, and to provide a spiritual father to support and strengthen the individual's ascetic effort and the spiritual growth that is required for the fulfillment of the human vocation, theosis."

It is a simple, yet profound guide to the monastic order which has endured, through its common sense and chastity, through the centuries, and of which, in many of its parts, we also attempt to follow here at the Bhaktivedanta Ashram here in NYC.

Some excerpts:

Now, brethren, that we have asked the Lord who it is that shall dwell in His tabernacle, we have heard the conditions for dwelling there; and if we fulfil the duties of tenants, we shall be heirs of the kingdom of heaven.

Our hearts and our bodies must, therefore, be ready to do battle under the biddings of holy obedience; and let us ask the Lord that He supply by the help of His grace what is impossible to us by nature. And if, flying from the pains of hell, we desire to reach life everlasting, then, while there is yet time, and we are still in the flesh, and are able during the present life to fulfil all these things, we must make haste to do now what will profit us forever.

If we do not venture to approach men who are in power, except with humility and reverence, when we wish to ask a favor, how much must we beseech the Lord God of all things with all humility and purity of devotion? And let us be assured that it is not in many words, but in the purity of heart and tears of compunction that we are heard.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Nectar Chronicles: Part 12

Inspired by the "Nectar of Devotion" lecture series given by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada from October 20-November 13, 1972 at the Radha-Damodara Temple in Vrndavana, India

All of these lectures are available for download at ISKCON Desire Tree.


In our ashram here in Manhattan, amidst all the duties, services, obligations, tasks, and plain old bits of spiritual survival we perform with everyday, we try to remember and focus on the fact that we are here for one thing: pure devotional service.

After all, if developing our love for Krsna in the purest possible way wasn't the light at the end of the tunnel, the all of our austerities and sacrifices, especially as young men in the universal capital of maya would not be worth pursuing.

It is a path we gladly take, for the reward is unique in its selfless light, in its giving up of what is false for the real gold of our existence, the inconceivable bliss of His service perfected and purified of all duplicity and hypocrisy.

The spiritual master is our guide and capable captain on this ship, and on this November evening in Vrndavana, Prabhupada deftly extolls the virtues of pure devotional service in such an attractive way that we have no choice but to pursue it if we are sane and sound.

At the very beginning, Prabhupada explains that it is the only way to attract Krsna, who is otherwise full in Himself:

"You cannot attract Krsna. Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with full opulences. So you cannot attract Krsna by your richness, by your reputation, by your education, by your beauty or by your strength or renunciation. No. You cannot attract Krsna by all these things, because He's already full. You cannot attract by anything, any opulence, Krsna, because He's atmarama. Krsna has everything, but your devotional service, that sincerity of purpose, will attract. My Guru Maharaja used to say that "Do not try to see Krsna. Render your service in such a nice way that let Krsna see you." When Krsna sees you, then your mission is perfect."

Krsna, with His most acute vision, is always on the lookout for our sincerity of purpose. The key to increasing this sincerity, to actually making this sincerity more sincere, is to try and practically understand the miserable nature of the material world and to detach ourselves from it.

This detachment cannot be done by our own efforts. Like a lost, helpless, crying child we must call for out for Krsna's warm embrace, and He will take charge. Prabhupada says:

"That is the nature of material existence. One after another, problems. So if somebody says, assures, that "You just depend on me. I take charge of all your problems," how much relief you will feel. Just imagine. So an ordinary man, if some ordinary human being says (to) a friend that "Don't worry. I shall take charge of your all affairs. Don't worry," so we may doubt an ordinary man, because we know the capacity of an ordinary man. But when Krsna says that "I take charge of you," then how much relief you should feel. Krsna is not ordinary man. Krsna is all-powerful, the Supreme Personalty of Godhead. He's Yogesvara. He's the Absolute Truth. So when He assures that "I take charge of you...," aham tvam sarva- papebhyo moksayisyami [Bg. 18.66], gives assurance that "I shall get you liberated, delivered, from the reaction of all sinful activities..."
The material world is an ocean of in auspiciousness, with particularly virulent whirlpools here and there (I'm looking at you Manhattan), but it is pure devotional service, and our humble attempts to pursue it, which is the real wellspring of actual auspiciousness, free from intoxication and sentimentality.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Nectar Chronicles: Part 11

Inspired by the "Nectar of Devotion" lecture series given by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada from October 20-November 13, 1972 at the Radha-Damodara Temple in Vrndavana, India

All of these lectures are available for download at ISKCON Desire Tree.


We must have the constant meditation that we are stuck in a very unnatural state. The workings of the material body and mind do so much to convince us that we are shuffling along on the mortal coil, comfortable and content, following the society crowd to balls and bazaars selling only the flashiest kinds of "perfection."

But in our heart of hearts, we know something is drastically wrong. This inner imbalance creates in our flawed being of paranoia and fear, so deeply rooted into us that even when the best of our best friends-Krsna-arrives to bring us out of the ruts, we shun him and avoid his gaze and his loving embrace with all the muddled energy we can muster.

But for those of us who choose to face His gaze, we begin to rediscover our natural self-humble yet confident, dynamic yet simple, and understand of how to properly give and receive real love.

On this autumn Braja evening, Prabhupada, as always, has us start us from the ground up, by bringing the natural flavor of bhakti into our sensory engagements. He says:

"So Krsna consciousness movement means to purify our senses from the designation and engage the senses in the service of the Lord. Hrsikena hrsikesa-sevanam bhaktir ucyate [Cc. Madhya 19.170]. That is described here. That is wanted. It is called bhakti. "In our conditional state our senses are engaged in serving these bodily demands. When the same senses are engaged in executing the order of Krsna, it is called bhakti." This is bhakti."

What is our natural position? That we are the part and parcel of Krsna, the most intimate association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and this is eternally so. We've forgotten this intimate bond, and we yearn for it.

When we center our life in this way, taking spiritual pride in our oneness yet loving difference with Krsna, we see and feel and hear and experience our existence in its natural flow. Prabhupada says in this regard:

"We are part and parcel of Krsna; therefore our only duty is to serve Krsna. That is natural. There is no question about it. Part and parcel means helping the whole. As we have several times explained that this finger is the part and parcel of my body, so it is the duty of the finger always serve the body, whole body. It has no other occupation. As soon as I desire, "Finger, you come to this place," immediately it comes. "Finger, you come to this place," it immediately comes. So we can study. What is the meaning of part and parcel? Part and parcel means to serve the whole. Krsna is the Absolute Truth. We are relative truth. Therefore it is our duty to serve Krsna. That is our natural position."

It is the position of the pure devotee that he/she sees all living entities purely as spirit soul. In their consciousness, they are literally seeing through our material bodies and minds to our natural essence.

There are numerous accounts of devotees bearing the gaze of Prabhupada and having this distinct impression that he was seeing beyond and through all their nonsense, to who they really were and always are.

This, of course as we have mentioned again and again before, is one of the real revolutionary aspects of Prabhupada's mission. He says:

"This is the only platform, Krsna consciousness, where we can unite on spiritual platform. We cannot be united by resolutions. Just like the United Nations: they are trying for the last thirty years to become united -- simply resolution. On that platform we cannot be united. On political platform or social platform, that is not possible, because the designations are there. When we are free from designation, sarvopadhi-virnirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam, when we are purified, then we can unite in the service of the Lord, Krsna. That is real unity"
This leveling of the playing field, to the core of the spirit soul, is the natural equality that humanity will never find by artificial means. Indeed, it is Lord Caitanya's own mood:

"‘I am not a brahmana, I am not a ksatriya, I am not a vaisya or a sudra. Nor am I a brahmacari, a householder, a vanaprastha or a sannyasi. I identify Myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krsna, the maintainer of the gopis. He is like an ocean of nectar, and He is the cause of universal transcendental bliss. He is always existing with brilliance.'" >>> Ref. VedaBase => Madhya 13.80
It is interesting to understand Prabhupada's direct context and application on this evening, as he had acutely taken notice that his young and sincere American disciples were not being accepted on various social and spiritual levels by the residents of Vrndavana.

Prabhupada is strong, unequivocal, and humble pleading and offering to the Brajbasis that they too should understand and realize their deep spiritual heritage, based on this platform of ultimate spiritual unity, and apply this vision to their dust-smeared eyes. He says:

"These are clear things. There is no hazy idea. Everything is clear. We have to become designationless, free from designation. We shall forget. Not that "Here are some foreigners. Pick up some quarrel with them and try to drive them away. Why they have come?" So many nonsense things are going on, for want of actual spiritual education. This is not good, at least, for Vrndavana. This is not good. People have not been educated properly with the Vrndavana spirit. Therefore things are happening like that. Sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam: [Cc. Madhya 19.170] how to engage the senses, being freed from designation, in the service of the Lord. That is Vrndavana life. That is Vrndavana atmosphere. If there is any other purpose than this, then it is very difficult to utilize the opportunity, the fortune of living in Vrndavana. One has to be designationless."

This equal vision purifies our purpose, and although it certainly seems abstract and distant to this neophyte, it is certainly attainable by a steady and certain test of our faith, a call to lay our roots down in the character building of the rules and regulations, strong association, and our sincere attempts to please the spiritual master.

Once again, by our effort, we come into the natural flow of bhakti, and we instinctively appreciate, honor, and deeply befriend all those on the same path. Prabhupada here again is speaking with a humble entreaty to his fellow Brajbasis when he says:

"Similarly, natural flow of Krsna consciousness is that as soon as one sees a person in Vaisnava symptoms, he should be eager to welcome him. He should be very much anxious to talk with him about Krsna, Krsna-katha. Bodhayantah parasparam tusyanti ca ramanti ca. Krsna conscious people should be so nice that as soon as they meet together, they talk about Krsna, they try to understand about Krsna, and they feel pleasure in that way. That is Krsna consciousness society. We are trying to make a Krsna consciousness society to give this opportunity to these people, how one should be engladdened by seeing one devotee and talk with them, one another, about Krsna, forgetting their designations. That is Krsna consciousness."
Krsna consciousness means this eagerness in three ways. Eagerness in our own personal effort and dedication, eagerness in our enthusiasm, confidence, and patience to pass this gift onto others, and our eagerness to share, love, and support our fellow Vaisnavas, creating the kind of community that sustains all of individually in this sometimes illogical and difficult task to be a spirit in the material world.

When we dive into this eagerness, we find that the material distresses that leave us stuck in the box of designations, illusions, and strife dissolve away, and we come to real love, to real happiness, as Prabhupada lovingly concludes on this evening:

"When actually one comes in the platform of devotional service, for him, there is no problem. The whole world is disturbed, agitated with so many problems, but for a devotee, there is no problem. Visvam purna-sukhayate. And they are trying, the whole world is trying to become very big man. Somebody's trying to be very big merchant or big industrialist, or minister, or this or that, and others, they are trying to occupy the post of Indra, Candra, devata. That is competition, going on. As soon as there is some competition, even persons, demigods, like Indra, Candra, they become disturbed, and they try to stop it. But a devotee has no such concern. He's not disturbed. Because he's engaged in the service of the Lord, he feels so much happy that he has no disturbance."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Nectar Chronicles: Part 10

Inspired by the "Nectar of Devotion" lecture series given by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada from October 20-November 13, 1972 at the Radha-Damodara Temple in Vrndavana, India

All of these lectures are available for download at ISKCON Desire Tree.


Peruse through the spirituality/yoga section of your local bookstore's magazine racks, and you'll find a lot of theorizing, mind-bending and mind-blowing, about the actual nature of our place in reality.

A lot of very intelligent people, even labeling themselves "gurus" and "pandits", are using every inch of their brain muscle to figure out the fabric of the perceptions and experiences that surround us at each moment. But the questions are: Are they getting anywhere? Are their attempts at conclusions/ideas/pragmatic things to do really worth the spiritual salt that's going to get you out of here, out of this hellish place of suffering we call the material world?

On the other hand, there is the Krsna conscious personality, in his perfected state of consciousness, is free from material desires and free from philosophical speculation:

anyabhilasita-sunyam jnana-karmady-anavrtam anukulyena krsnanu- silanam bhaktir uttama "‘When first-class devotional service develops, one must be devoid of all material desires, knowledge obtained by monistic philosophy, and fruitive action. The devotee must constantly serve Krsna favorably, as Krsna desires.'

We have to understand that the path to Krsna, to the Truth, is through the humble heart, in loving submission to the spiritual master, and not solely through the mind muscle. These speculative gentleman inside the magazine racks may have their noble intentions, and they're certainly beyond the pale in terms of raw materialists, but they can only go so far.

In the introduction to the Nectar of Devotion, Prabhupada writes:

"Only rarely by philosophical speculation can one reach the conclusion of worshiping Vasudeva, Krsna. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad- gita itself. The ultimate end of philosophical speculation, then, must be Krsna, with the understanding that Krsna is everything, the cause of all causes, and that one should therefore surrender unto Him. If this ultimate goal is reached, then philosophical advancement is favorable, but if the conclusion of philosophical speculation is voidism or impersonalism, that is not bhakti."

As real pleasure-seekers, we are aiming to satisfy the self, and simply through mental gymnastics, we will not find the nectar lying in wait. In his purport to S.B 1.2.8, Prabhupada writes:

"The self is beyond the gross body and subtle mind. He is the potent active principle of the body and mind. Without knowing the need of the dormant soul, one cannot be happy simply with emolument of the body and mind. The body and the mind are but superfluous outer coverings of the spirit soul. The spirit soul's needs must be fulfilled. Simply by cleansing the cage of the bird, one does not satisfy the bird. One must actually know the needs of the bird himself."

While the Krsna conscious souls are there, who understands the real needs of the self and how to fulfill them, we can also see the widespread attempts at religiosity and morality, at least amongst the more human members of our society as a genuine reflection of our real nature.

But how do we separate the real "defenders of the dharma" from those who are ultimately insincere and/or incapable. The test is in their expressions, in their conclusions. We see in Prabhupada someone who understands what is truth, who is truth, and how to find this truth.

It is coming from him "As It Is", uncontaminated by imperfect mental speculations. It is the bhagavat-dharma, the sanatana-dharma, the eternal nature of us all. On this evening in Vrndavana, Prabhupada speaks thusly:

"There are so many different opinions, different philosophers, different religious system, according to the modes of nature. But actually every system must be targeted towards realization of Krsna, or God. Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyam [Bg. 15.15]. That is Bhagavata-dharma. Bhagavata-dharma means realization of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Prahlada Maharaja recommended culture of this Bhagavata-dharma from the very beginning of life: kaumara acaret prajno dharman bhagavatan iha [SB 7.6.1]. That is the success of human form of life, to execute Bhagavata-dharma."

The goal of our mental speculators is generally to create some "unified theory" which will encompass all experiences and possibilities, providing all opportunities for humanity to fulfill its full potential. What they don't understand, what they can't and don't place at the center is the actual center Himself, Krsna.

As bhaktas, we understand, on a very personal level, that it is not possible to unify, defend, or understand what is real dharma without placing Krsna at the center. Bhagavat-dharma is the fullest possible understanding of the Absolute Truth, and when we place this at the center of our own lives, we simply lose taste for any less complete, less realized speculation on the whole "meaning of life."

Prabhupada says in this regard:

"There are so many different opinions, different philosophers, different religious system, according to the modes of nature. But actually every system must be targeted towards realization of Krsna, or God. Vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyam [Bg. 15.15]. That is Bhagavata-dharma. Bhagavata-dharma means realization of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Prahlada Maharaja recommended culture of this Bhagavata-dharma from the very beginning of life: kaumara acaret prajno dharman bhagavatan iha [SB 7.6.1]. That is the success of human form of life, to execute Bhagavata-dharma."

It is our great good fortune, by the mercy of Prabhupada's determination and effort, that the fact of Krsna, Who He is, and who we are in relation to Him, stares us straight in the face, demanding with a loving smile and glance to give up our wayward material paths.

It leaves us little choice. This boy Govinda, playing His flute on the river Yamuna, has captured our attention and soon our heart. Our full, loving surrender to Him is the real dharma.

Prabhupada writes of this in his purport to S.B SB 6.3.19

"That principle is stated in Bhagavad-gita. Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja: [Bg. 18.66] one should give up all other duties and surrender unto the lotus feet of Krsna. That is the real religious principle everyone should follow. Even though one follows Vedic scriptures, one may not know this transcendental principle, for it is not known to everyone. To say nothing of human beings, even the demigods in the upper planetary systems are unaware of it. This transcendental religious principle must be understood from the Supreme Personality of Godhead directly or from His special representative."
Of course, one of the defects of a desire for a lifestyle of liberation is that it's very prevalent in the Kali-Yuga is that we cannot be sure how authentic or manufactured the process is that we choose to follow. "Hodge-podge" is easy to do and gives one a sense of control and comfort that precludes the necessary surrender and humility needed for real spiritual progress.

Prabhupada warns us in two different ways:

"Srila Jiva Gosvami has discussed this point in his Tattva-sandarbha, that we cannot accept any manufactured ideas. Because everyone is defective by the four defects of material life, we have to accept the version of Vedas"

And to those of us on the bhakti path:

"Without following these principles, the so-called devotional service, Hari-bhakti, utpata, simply disturbance, simply a disturbance. Therefore we have to follow the principles laid down by the Gosvamis, Sad- gosvamis. Vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau. And then our attempt will be successful."

We must discipline our fickle and over-curious mind, with the nature of a excited toddler fresh to a fresh world, to remain steady in devotion, trust, and understanding to the road of the acaryas.

However much our mind and intelligence may be thirsty for jnani moods and our previous psychedelic-flavored conditionings, we must trust and know intimately that the process of Krsna Consciousness fulfills all the longings and needs of the self, from the body to the intelligence to the soul.

We should not commit offense against the sastra with a mood that it is not sophisticated, contemporary, or mentally engaging. It is all of this, and much more.

Prabhupada sweetly and simply concludes:

"The fact is that one should take simply to the devotional path, bhaktya mam abhijanati [Bg. 18.55]. If you are actually serious to know God, or Krsna, then you must take to this process of devotional service. Without this you cannot understand. Not through karma, not through mystic yogic exercises, but through devotional service."

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Nectar Chronicles: Part 9

Inspired by the "Nectar of Devotion" lecture series given by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada from October 20-November 13, 1972 at the Radha-Damodara Temple in Vrndavana, India

All of these lectures are available for download at ISKCON Desire Tree.


Good fortune often seems to be nothing more than an accident. Sure, according to material calculations, we can place ourselves, by working hard and with due diligence, into a situation where this fortune may be more available, but what is the ultimate benefit? What is the ultimate result?

The fortune we seek in stock markets, lottery tickets, slot machines, and random luck does nothing to satisfy the desires of our spiritual nature-the desires for real, permanent happiness and love that permeate through our material coverings. On this Vrndavana evening, Prabhupada defines for us who is the real fortunate person.

It is that person who comes in contact with the bonafide spiritual master. And how is he bonafide? He is the sold-out representative of Krsna, without deviation or adulteration, whose only mission is to canvass expertly for his sweet Lord. Prabhupada explains:

"So that is bona fide guru. Where is the difficulty to find out a bona fide guru? Just like Caitanya Mahäprabhu. Caitanya Mahäprabhu said, yäre dekha täre kara krsna upadesa [Cc. Madhya 7.128]. Caitanya Mahäprabhu says that "You preach the words of Krsna." Therefore He's bona fide. Similarly, anyone who is representing Krsna and canvassing for Krsna, he's bona fide guru. Where is the difficulty? Is there any difficulty? Anyone can understand that if Krsna is the original guru, and if somebody's canvassing for Krsna, he's bona fide guru. If somebody canvassing for himself, he's not bona fide guru."

We must be ready to accept Krsna in our heart, guiding us by His will, and by this readiness and sincerity we can understand who is the bonafide teacher who can guide us. In his purport to S.B 2.1.10, Prabhupada explains our qualification or lack thereof:

"For advancement of material knowledge there is a need for personal ability and researching aptitude, but in the case of spiritual knowledge, all progress depends more or less on the mercy of the spiritual master. The spiritual master must be satisfied with the disciple; only then is knowledge automatically manifest before the student of spiritual science. The process should not, however, be misunderstood to be something like magical feats whereby the spiritual master acts like a magician and injects spiritual knowledge into his disciple, as if surcharging him with an electrical current.

The bona fide spiritual master reasonably explains everything to the disciple on the authorities of Vedic wisdom. The disciple can receive such teachings not exactly intellectually, but by submissive inquiries and a service attitude. The idea is that both the spiritual master and the disciple must be bona fide."

Krsna knows our heart. He knows and sees the sincere desire for His love and His service which is like bright, stark sunlight somehow covered over by the clouds of our material desires and conditioning. As soon as we show Krsna we want Him in a serious way, He is duty bound to deliver to us the bonafide teacher who will open the door for us. Prabhupada explains:

"So Krsna can understand. We cannot hide anything from Krsna. That is not possible. Because Krsna is sitting side by side, just like two birds, sitting side by side. One bird is eating the fruit of the tree. Another bird is the witness. That is the Vedic version. So as soon as I become serious to know about Krsna, Krsna can understand, "Now My friend is very serious." So He will find out a bona fide guru for him."

Krsna's personal direction, through the via medium of the spiritual master, is the most intimate and loving guidance we can ever have. It gives us our real intelligence, unstained by the mental machinations and imaginations that can only lead us further down the rabbit hole.

The matter is surrender to Krsna: sarva-dharman parityaja. It is a matter we should consider and strive for with our utmost sincerity and effort. As Prabhupada describes in the purport to this verse:

"As soon as one seriously engages himself in devotional service to the Lord in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, at once he becomes freed from all contamination of material nature. There are different processes of religion and purificatory processes by cultivation of knowledge, meditation in the mystic yoga system, etc., but one who surrenders unto Kṛṣṇa does not have to execute so many methods. That simple surrender unto Kṛṣṇa will save him from unnecessarily wasting time. One can thus make all progress at once and be freed from all sinful reactions."

It is a simplicity which includes everything. For myself, having what you might call an "activist" history and tendencies, or a deep-rooted but not always well-expressed desire to change our collective human situation for the better in a moral and just sense, I begin to understand that the umbrella of Krsna's mercy, the "house the whole world can live in" that Prabhupada built, is the shelter that can satisfy anyone's desires for peace, equality, and happiness without fail.

So it is also for the spiritual seekers. One-pointed focus and surrender to the loving will of Krsna quicky, simply, and sublimely brings us to the goal, back to our natural condition. It's all-inclusive and the summit of all spiritual benefits, as Prabhupada speaks this evening:

"If one understands Krsna, then Paramätmä and Brahman becomes automatically known. Just like if you have got 100,000 dollars, ten dollar is within it, fifty dollar is within it, five hundred dollars is within it. So in the Bhagavad-gitä everything is discussed there, jnäna-yoga, karma-yoga, dhyäna-yoga, buddhi-yoga, so many yogas. But Krsna says, sarva-dharmän parityajya mäm ekam saranam vraja [Bg. 18.66], ultimately. That means, "If you surrender unto Me, all these yogas are included." All these yogas, karma- yoga, jnäna-yoga, dhyäna-yoga, all yogas are included. Yoginäm api sarvesah [Bg. 6.47]. That we have to understand. We have to become fortunate to understand this philosophy."

It is our great good fortune to have Krsna in our life. He is the loving father, the head of the family of devotees who keep us close and make us whole. It's a wholeness that comes not from impersonal oneness, but from oneness of purpose, oneness of determination, a purity and clarity that unites and brings real peace. Prabhupada says:

"Oneness does not mean that all these individuals become one, homogeneous. No. They keep their individuality, but they become one in the service of Krsna. That is oneness. Now everyone is working for his sense gratification, personal. When everyone becomes agreed that "We shall satisfy Krsna," that is oneness. That is oneness. One nation. We can understand: one family. One family means they're individual persons, but they're working for the interest of the family—all of them combinedly, conjointly, working."

Or as Prabhupada continues to plead with us: "Your love for me will be shown by how much you cooperate with us." One thing I personally realize as I grow up and out in the Krsna Consciousness movement is that differences of opinion are ever-present, so we must embrace the dynamic opportunities within this dichotomy to fully embrace what Prabhupada has given us.

Working together brings about success or failure, and success only comes when Krsna remains at the center of our deliberations. Krsna, as the best friend of each and every one of us, should be the center of all we do, think, and feel. This is a natural feeling of absorption that we can experience in a limited way with loved ones in our own life.

Our unity of purpose, in Prabhupada's mood, is to gives Krsna's sublime friendship to everyone we can. Prabhupada says in this regard:

"If one preaches Krsna consciousness and teaches everyone that Krsna is your best friend... He does not say, "I am your best friend." "I am your best friend in this sense that I am giving you this information." Actually, Krsna is your best friend. What can I do? I am a teeny living entity. What can I do for you? I be..., may become your friend, but when you are in danger, I cannot give you any protection. Krsna can give you protection. This is real friendship. He does not take himself. He always carries the message only."

The spiritual fortune is rare to have and hold, but it is the liberal mercy of our mission that its rare nature does not preclude its full accessibility to every living entity, everywhere, and at all times. We must try to understand simply how to be a humble, empowered instrument of this mercy and fortune.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Man vs God

From the September 12, 2009 edition of the Wall Street Journal

We commissioned Karen Armstrong and Richard Dawkins to respond independently to the question "Where does evolution leave God?" Neither knew what the other would say. Here are the results.

Karen Armstrong says we need God to grasp the wonder of our existence

Richard Dawkins has been right all along, of course—at least in one important respect. Evolution has indeed dealt a blow to the idea of a benign creator, literally conceived. It tells us that there is no Intelligence controlling the cosmos, and that life itself is the result of a blind process of natural selection, in which innumerable species failed to survive. The fossil record reveals a natural history of pain, death and racial extinction, so if there was a divine plan, it was cruel, callously prodigal and wasteful. Human beings were not the pinnacle of a purposeful creation; like everything else, they evolved by trial and error and God had no direct hand in their making. No wonder so many fundamentalist Christians find their faith shaken to the core.


But Darwin may have done religion—and God—a favor by revealing a flaw in modern Western faith. Despite our scientific and technological brilliance, our understanding of God is often remarkably undeveloped—even primitive. In the past, many of the most influential Jewish, Christian and Muslim thinkers understood that what we call "God" is merely a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence, whose existence cannot be proved but is only intuited by means of spiritual exercises and a compassionate lifestyle that enable us to cultivate new capacities of mind and heart.

But by the end of the 17th century, instead of looking through the symbol to "the God beyond God," Christians were transforming it into hard fact. Sir Isaac Newton had claimed that his cosmic system proved beyond doubt the existence of an intelligent, omniscient and omnipotent creator, who was obviously "very well skilled in Mechanicks and Geometry." Enthralled by the prospect of such cast-iron certainty, churchmen started to develop a scientifically-based theology that eventually made Newton's Mechanick and, later, William Paley's Intelligent Designer essential to Western Christianity.

But the Great Mechanick was little more than an idol, the kind of human projection that theology, at its best, was supposed to avoid. God had been essential to Newtonian physics but it was not long before other scientists were able to dispense with the God-hypothesis and, finally, Darwin showed that there could be no proof for God's existence. This would not have been a disaster had not Christians become so dependent upon their scientific religion that they had lost the older habits of thought and were left without other resource.


Symbolism was essential to premodern religion, because it was only possible to speak about the ultimate reality—God, Tao, Brahman or Nirvana—analogically, since it lay beyond the reach of words. Jews and Christians both developed audaciously innovative and figurative methods of reading the Bible, and every statement of the Quran is called an ayah ("parable"). St Augustine (354-430), a major authority for both Catholics and Protestants, insisted that if a biblical text contradicted reputable science, it must be interpreted allegorically. This remained standard practice in the West until the 17th century, when in an effort to emulate the exact scientific method, Christians began to read scripture with a literalness that is without parallel in religious history.

Most cultures believed that there were two recognized ways of arriving at truth. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were essential and neither was superior to the other; they were not in conflict but complementary, each with its own sphere of competence. Logos ("reason") was the pragmatic mode of thought that enabled us to function effectively in the world and had, therefore, to correspond accurately to external reality. But it could not assuage human grief or find ultimate meaning in life's struggle. For that people turned to mythos, stories that made no pretensions to historical accuracy but should rather be seen as an early form of psychology; if translated into ritual or ethical action, a good myth showed you how to cope with mortality, discover an inner source of strength, and endure pain and sorrow with serenity.

In the ancient world, a cosmology was not regarded as factual but was primarily therapeutic; it was recited when people needed an infusion of that mysterious power that had—somehow—brought something out of primal nothingness: at a sickbed, a coronation or during a political crisis. Some cosmologies taught people how to unlock their own creativity, others made them aware of the struggle required to maintain social and political order. The Genesis creation hymn, written during the Israelites' exile in Babylonia in the 6th century BC, was a gentle polemic against Babylonian religion. Its vision of an ordered universe where everything had its place was probably consoling to a displaced people, though—as we can see in the Bible—some of the exiles preferred a more aggressive cosmology.

There can never be a definitive version of a myth, because it refers to the more imponderable aspects of life. To remain effective, it must respond to contemporary circumstance. In the 16th century, when Jews were being expelled from one region of Europe after another, the mystic Isaac Luria constructed an entirely new creation myth that bore no resemblance to the Genesis story. But instead of being reviled for contradicting the Bible, it inspired a mass-movement among Jews, because it was such a telling description of the arbitrary world they now lived in; backed up with special rituals, it also helped them face up to their pain and discover a source of strength.

Religion was not supposed to provide explanations that lay within the competence of reason but to help us live creatively with realities for which there are no easy solutions and find an interior haven of peace; today, however, many have opted for unsustainable certainty instead. But can we respond religiously to evolutionary theory? Can we use it to recover a more authentic notion of God?

Darwin made it clear once again that—as Maimonides, Avicenna, Aquinas and Eckhart had already pointed out—we cannot regard God simply as a divine personality, who single-handedly created the world. This could direct our attention away from the idols of certainty and back to the "God beyond God." The best theology is a spiritual exercise, akin to poetry. Religion is not an exact science but a kind of art form that, like music or painting, introduces us to a mode of knowledge that is different from the purely rational and which cannot easily be put into words. At its best, it holds us in an attitude of wonder, which is, perhaps, not unlike the awe that Mr. Dawkins experiences—and has helped me to appreciate —when he contemplates the marvels of natural selection.

But what of the pain and waste that Darwin unveiled? All the major traditions insist that the faithful meditate on the ubiquitous suffering that is an inescapable part of life; because, if we do not acknowledge this uncomfortable fact, the compassion that lies at the heart of faith is impossible. The almost unbearable spectacle of the myriad species passing painfully into oblivion is not unlike some classic Buddhist meditations on the First Noble Truth ("Existence is suffering"), the indispensable prerequisite for the transcendent enlightenment that some call Nirvana—and others call God.

—Ms. Armstrong is the author of numerous books on theology and religious affairs. The latest, "The Case for God," will be published by Knopf later this month.
Richard Dawkins argues that evolution leaves God with nothing to do

Before 1859 it would have seemed natural to agree with the Reverend William Paley, in "Natural Theology," that the creation of life was God's greatest work. Especially (vanity might add) human life. Today we'd amend the statement: Evolution is the universe's greatest work. Evolution is the creator of life, and life is arguably the most surprising and most beautiful production that the laws of physics have ever generated. Evolution, to quote a T-shirt sent me by an anonymous well-wisher, is the greatest show on earth, the only game in town.

Indeed, evolution is probably the greatest show in the entire universe. Most scientists' hunch is that there are independently evolved life forms dotted around planetary islands throughout the universe—though sadly too thinly scattered to encounter one another. And if there is life elsewhere, it is something stronger than a hunch to say that it will turn out to be Darwinian life. The argument in favor of alien life's existing at all is weaker than the argument that—if it exists at all—it will be Darwinian life. But it is also possible that we really are alone in the universe, in which case Earth, with its greatest show, is the most remarkable planet in the universe.


Charles Darwin

What is so special about life? It never violates the laws of physics. Nothing does (if anything did, physicists would just have to formulate new laws—it's happened often enough in the history of science). But although life never violates the laws of physics, it pushes them into unexpected avenues that stagger the imagination. If we didn't know about life we wouldn't believe it was possible—except, of course, that there'd then be nobody around to do the disbelieving!

The laws of physics, before Darwinian evolution bursts out from their midst, can make rocks and sand, gas clouds and stars, whirlpools and waves, whirlpool-shaped galaxies and light that travels as waves while behaving like particles. It is an interesting, fascinating and, in many ways, deeply mysterious universe. But now, enter life. Look, through the eyes of a physicist, at a bounding kangaroo, a swooping bat, a leaping dolphin, a soaring Coast Redwood. There never was a rock that bounded like a kangaroo, never a pebble that crawled like a beetle seeking a mate, never a sand grain that swam like a water flea. Not once do any of these creatures disobey one jot or tittle of the laws of physics. Far from violating the laws of thermodynamics (as is often ignorantly alleged) they are relentlessly driven by them. Far from violating the laws of motion, animals exploit them to their advantage as they walk, run, dodge and jink, leap and fly, pounce on prey or spring to safety.

Never once are the laws of physics violated, yet life emerges into uncharted territory. And how is the trick done? The answer is a process that, although variable in its wondrous detail, is sufficiently uniform to deserve one single name: Darwinian evolution, the nonrandom survival of randomly varying coded information. We know, as certainly as we know anything in science, that this is the process that has generated life on our own planet. And my bet, as I said, is that the same process is in operation wherever life may be found, anywhere in the universe.


What if the greatest show on earth is not the greatest show in the universe? What if there are life forms on other planets that have evolved so far beyond our level of intelligence and creativity that we should regard them as gods, were we ever so fortunate (or unfortunate?) as to meet them? Would they indeed be gods? Wouldn't we be tempted to fall on our knees and worship them, as a medieval peasant might if suddenly confronted with such miracles as a Boeing 747, a mobile telephone or Google Earth? But, however god-like the aliens might seem, they would not be gods, and for one very important reason. They did not create the universe; it created them, just as it created us. Making the universe is the one thing no intelligence, however superhuman, could do, because an intelligence is complex—statistically improbable —and therefore had to emerge, by gradual degrees, from simpler beginnings: from a lifeless universe—the miracle-free zone that is physics.

To midwife such emergence is the singular achievement of Darwinian evolution. It starts with primeval simplicity and fosters, by slow, explicable degrees, the emergence of complexity: seemingly limitless complexity—certainly up to our human level of complexity and very probably way beyond. There may be worlds on which superhuman life thrives, superhuman to a level that our imaginations cannot grasp. But superhuman does not mean supernatural. Darwinian evolution is the only process we know that is ultimately capable of generating anything as complicated as creative intelligences. Once it has done so, of course, those intelligences can create other complex things: works of art and music, advanced technology, computers, the Internet and who knows what in the future? Darwinian evolution may not be the only such generative process in the universe. There may be other "cranes" (Daniel Dennett's term, which he opposes to "skyhooks") that we have not yet discovered or imagined. But, however wonderful and however different from Darwinian evolution those putative cranes may be, they cannot be magic. They will share with Darwinian evolution the facility to raise up complexity, as an emergent property, out of simplicity, while never violating natural law.

Where does that leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God's redundancy notice, his pink slip. But we have to go further. A complex creative intelligence with nothing to do is not just redundant. A divine designer is all but ruled out by the consideration that he must at least as complex as the entities he was wheeled out to explain. God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.

Now, there is a certain class of sophisticated modern theologian who will say something like this: "Good heavens, of course we are not so naive or simplistic as to care whether God exists. Existence is such a 19th-century preoccupation! It doesn't matter whether God exists in a scientific sense. What matters is whether he exists for you or for me. If God is real for you, who cares whether science has made him redundant? Such arrogance! Such elitism."

Well, if that's what floats your canoe, you'll be paddling it up a very lonely creek. The mainstream belief of the world's peoples is very clear. They believe in God, and that means they believe he exists in objective reality, just as surely as the Rock of Gibraltar exists. If sophisticated theologians or postmodern relativists think they are rescuing God from the redundancy scrap-heap by downplaying the importance of existence, they should think again. Tell the congregation of a church or mosque that existence is too vulgar an attribute to fasten onto their God, and they will brand you an atheist. They'll be right.

—Mr. Dawkins is the author of "The Selfish Gene," "The Ancestor's Tale," "The God Delusion." His latest book, "The Greatest Show on Earth," will be published by Free Press on Sept. 22.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Top 25 Censored Stories for 2010

These revealing and frightening stories, censored from the mainstream channels of information, show very clearly that the materialistic mindset, the "American dream", or a world shaped and misshaped by the so-called "scientific renaissance" has reached a dangerous point of no return.

Let the turbulent emotions brought up by this information resolve in us to further increase our dedication to bringing about a real, compassionate, spiritual shift in society.

Top 25 Censored Stories for 2010

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Nectar Chronicles: Part 8

Inspired by the "Nectar of Devotion" lecture series given by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada from October 20-November 13, 1972 at the Radha-Damodara Temple in Vrndavana, India

All of these lectures are available for download at ISKCON Desire Tree.


On this autumn Vrndavana evening, Prabhupada reveals to us the essential nature of Krsna: He means everything and He includes everything, He is never alone, and all of various and wonderful expansions, as numerous as the waves in the ocean, and as perfect, cognizant, and eternal as He is.

He is the most wonderful person, the most beautiful and charming bluish cowherd boy. Just look at His pictures, His face, His expressions, His poses, His charm. Only the hard-heart turns away, back into the material pool of blood and suffering, of shadows and menace.

He is the original purusa, the all-encompassing enjoyer whose enjoyment we participate in, feeling a bliss that is beyond the comprehension of blunt senses and over-philosophized mental platforms. By serving His enjoyment, we become happy with such a variety of tastes that can never be experienced through the travails of selfish endeavor.

Prabhupada says tonight:

"We living entities, if we simply try to serve Him and make Him happy, as the gopis did, then it is very congenial atmosphere as it was in Vrndävana. Everyone is serving Krsna. Everyone is trying to please Krsna. The birds, the beasts, the trees, the land, the water, the cowherd boys, the gopis, Krsna's father, mother, elderly people—everyone—the central point is Krsna. That is Vrndävana. So we can have Vrndävana anywhere and everywhere. Vrndävana is not that limited. It is not material."

The practices of bhakti make possible the Vrndavana mood anywhere, from the middle of Manhattan to the Amazon jungles. It is not a material consideration, and therefore we must be careful to rid ourselves of the offensive attitudes of poor faith that prevent us from diving into the nectar that is always there for us.

To find this constantly, we must rid ourselves of the insidious and deep-rooted conditioning that we are the enjoyer, the producer, the doer, and the predominator. As the marginal potency, we dive right into our inferior nature if we decide to become absorbed in our own "God-project."

Prabhupada speaks of this as the absence of Krsna Consciousness, when he says:

"Inferior means not actually inferior, because they, there cannot be anything inferior which is emanating from Krsna. The inferior in this sense: by our absence of Krsna consciousness. Because we have come here, in this material world, to enjoy to satisfy, sense satisfaction, sense gratification, we have made it inferior. Otherwise it is not inferior. One who knows how to utilize this energy, for him, it is not inferior. One who does not know how to utilize this material energy for the purpose of Krsna, for them, it is inferior."

Our developed intelligence, through the processes of humble purification and realization, gives us the proper knowledge of using the principle of yukta-vairagya in such a way as to pleasing in our thoughts, words, and deeds to Krsna and His pure devotees.

Ultimately, this means anointing the eyes with the salve of love for Krsna. This is the vision of the pure devotee, which Lord Caitanya shares with Ramananda Raya in the Madhya-Lila:

“The mahä-bhägavata, the advanced devotee, certainly sees everything mobile and immobile, but he does not exactly see their forms. Rather, everywhere he immediately sees manifest the form of the Supreme Lord.”
Madhya Lila Chapter 8: Verse 274

In the purport to that verse, Prabhupada writes:

"Actually nothing is separate from
Kṛṣṇa. When a devotee sees a tree, he knows that the tree is a combination of two energies — material and spiritual. The inferior energy, which is material, forms the body of the tree; however, within the tree is the living entity, the spiritual spark, which is part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa. This is the superior energy of Kṛṣṇa within this world.

Whatever living thing we see is simply a combination of these two energies. When an advanced devotee thinks of these energies, he immediately understands that they are manifestations of the Supreme Lord. As soon as we see the sun rise in the morning, we arise and set about doing our morning duties. Similarly, as soon as a devotee sees the energy of the Lord, he immediately remembers Lord
Śrī Kṛṣṇa."

It is the chanting of the Holy Name that sets us on the path to this pure devotional service. If we allow this sweet, blue boy to dance on our tongues, and if are able to taste that His name and His substance, His personhood, are the same, then there is no doubt that we will understand exactly what to do to please Him and receive the graces from Him that will restore us back to our original condition.

We must approach Him through His name with an attitude of deep respect and humility, born out of our sincere love that yearns to get closer, to become more intimate when we ourselves are more worthy of it. This begins at the fundamental level of our attention to the Holy Name, as Prabhupada relates:

"Therefore, if we are sensible, then we should take very much respectful attitude to the name, because name and Krsna, the same. Suppose Krsna comes here. How much respectful we shall be, immediately. So similarly, when we chant Hare Krsna mantra, we should know Krsna is there. Therefore we should be very much cautious and respectful, not neglectful. That is offense. That is offense. If you become inattentive, that is offense. You should know this. Try to avoid."

If we are going to strive to see the holy dhama everywhere, then it is essential we take this concentrated effort to avoid offenses and apply to it ourselves and the environment we interact with. Impurities are everywhere, and they stain our consciousness with the misplaced desires and misconceptions that lead us to the offensive attitude.

Seeing Vrndavana everywhere, Prabhupada instructs us:

"Those who are living in Vrndävana, they should try to understand Krsna tattvataù. That is their business. Not that take advantage of Vrndävana and make some jnäna-karma. No. That means we are wasting time. You'll get the chance because you have come to Vrndävana. Vrndävana's so powerful. But if we commit offense and sinful activities, it will be delayed. My Guru Mahäräja used to say that "Don't waste time. Don't wait for another life. In this life, finish this business, to understand Krsna, and go back home, back to Godhead."

That is required.
But if it is done not willingly, but if you commit sinful activities willingly, daily, then you'll be punished. That is laws of nature. Even if you are bhakta. You'll be given chance, but you'll have to be punished. So therefore we must be very careful. We are chanting Hare Krsna mantra means dealing with Krsna directly. Therefore we must be very careful, cautious, respectful. Then it is nice, it is success."

A loving relationship begins with the development of trust, with a respectful formality that shows our sincerity and most of all our humility and our willingness to
learn, hear, and submit to the higher authority that is via medium of all transcendental knowledge.

The little blue cowherd boy will then embrace us and take our own warm embraces, and offer us everything we have ever wanted and ever needed. This is true love, much more than the fictional cinematic variety. Let us move our life and being in such a way towards this direction, by our sincerity, humility, and respect.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Right Way To Pray?

From the Sept 20th edition of The New York Times Magazine

"Most people don’t live in churches. And these days, most laypeople tend to do more contemplative prayer and less confession. The sacrament of penance has radically diminished since Vatican II.” In today’s American Catholic Church, in Rabbi Gellman’s terms, Oops! is being replaced by Wow! There is a renewed popularity to the mystical component of prayer, and it is found especially in the retreat movement.

Ruffing explained to me that retreats, particularly for laypeople, are like marathons; you have to train for them. Beginners usually start with a weekend. Eight-day retreats are the next step, and for those with sufficient spiritual stamina, there is a full month of exercises. One technique used on some of these retreats comes from the Contemplative Outreach movement. Retreatants are given a single word, “like a mantra,” Ruffing says, and urged to return to it when their minds wander from prayer and contemplation. Some Catholics (and many Episcopalians) use the John Main method, named after a Benedictine monk. This is essentially Hindu chanting, which Main, who introduced the method, learned in Kuala Lumpur in the 1950s from a swami who gave him what Main called a “Christian mantra.”

“There has been a watershed recovery of mystical theology in our lifetime,” Hinze says. “The church is experiencing globalization. Buddhism and other Eastern practices are increasingly influential, and we are at an early stage in our understanding of them. The fear among some is that Christians will develop an enthusiasm for Eastern traditions without discovering their own mystical sources. Still, this is the way a significant portion of American Roman Catholicism is moving. The old us-versus-them doesn’t work anymore.”

Click here to read the full article "The Right Way To Pray", on the practice and theory of contemporary prayer, by contributor Zef Chafets

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Sweet Savor Of Liberty

From The Seven-Story Mountain by Thomas Merton

The monastery is a school-a school in which we learn from God how to be happy. Our happiness consists in sharing the happiness of God, the perfection of His unlimited freedom, the perfection of His love.

What has to be healed in us is our true nature, made in the likeness of God. What we have to learn is love. The healing and the learning are the same thing, for at the very core of our essence we are constituted in God's likeness by our freedom, and the exercise of that freedom is nothing else but the exercise of disinterested love-the love of God for His own sake, because He is God.

The beginning of love is truth, and before He gives us His love, God must cleanse our souls of the lies that are in them. And the most effective way of detaching us from ourselves is to make us detest ourselves as we have made ourselves by sin, in order that we may love Him reflected in our souls as He has remade them by His love.

That is the meaning of the contemplative life, and the sense of all the apparently meaningless little rules and observances and fasts and obediences and penances and humiliations and labors that go to make up the routine of existence in a contemplative monastery: they all serve to remind us of what we are and Who God is-that we may get sick of the sight of ourselves and turn to Him: and in the end, we will find Him in ourselves, in our own purified natures which have become the mirror of His tremendous Goodness and of His endless love...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Nectar Chronicles: Part 7

Inspired by the "Nectar of Devotion" lecture series given by His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada from October 20-November 13, 1972 at the Radha-Damodara Temple in Vrndavana, India

All of these lectures are available for download at ISKCON Desire Tree.


Krsna Consciousness is the art of all work. On the most practical level, we learn how to act and how not to act, what to do and what not to do, in the context of a real, eternal culture.

We are able to rise above the constraints of our contemporary, morally relativistic society to live and love God in such a way that gives the tangible life, the authentic spiritual experience, free of hypocrisy and duplicity and duality if we take the charge of ridding ourselves of these things.

We no longer are caught up in our own "God project", in following the post-psychedelic mantra of "if it feels good, do it!". We learn the proper purports of positive and negative action, moving well beyond the "shades of grey" in our thoughts, feelings, and actions. We learn how to think properly. We learn how to feel real bliss. We learn how to act in such a dynamic way to please each other and the acaryas.

On this evening, Prabhupada clearly lays out the path to this most valuable of education, of knowing what to do and what not to do, and it is a path which lands squarely at the lotus feet of our spiritual master.

In the Nectar of Devotion, Prabhupada writes:

"Those who are cultivating spiritual life and executing devotional service are always engaged in activity. Such activity can be performed with the mind or with the, with the body or with the mind. Thinking, feeling and willing are all activities of the mind, and when we will do something, the activity comes to be manifest by the gross bodily senses. Thus, in our mental activities, we should always try to think of Krsna and try to plan how to please Him, following in the footsteps of the great äcäryas and the personal spiritual master.

There are activities of the body, activities of the different senses, and activities of speech. A Krsna conscious person engages his words in preaching the glories of the Lord. This is called kirtana. And by his mind a Krsna conscious person always thinks of the activities of the Lord as He is speaking on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra or engaging in His various pastimes at Vrndävana with His devotees. In this way, one can always think of the activities and pastimes of the Lord. This is the mental culture of Krsna consciousness."

This mental culture is a most valuable part of our sadhana. It is the source of our sincerity, and it takes our external activities off the mundane plan and makes them valid, real, and beyond going through the motions.

We must think of Krsna at the time of death. As Bob Dylan said "he's not busy being born/he's busy dying." Our meditation should be that we are rapidly approaching the time of death, that we are walking "the green mile" and we don't know how far the end is from us. It could be just around the corner.

Diving into the mental culture of Krsna Consciousness, diving into His pastimes, His qualities, His lovely personality, at least trains us for the pivotal change of bodies and gives us the chance to achieve the perfection of liberation. At most, it places our whole being back into its natural state, into a blissful life beyond our present imagination.

It is about a respiritualization of our whole existence. Spiritual life does not merely begin or end with certain rituals, initiations, or baptisms. These are the springboards to the real internal change, to the necessary, blissful, and glorious struggle to get back home.

We must give up the chains to the dictates of our own selfish will, our false ego, and give ourselves fully and without hesitation into the loving arms of Krsna, doing what pleases Him.

Prabhupada says in this regard:

"The thinking, feeling, and willing... This thinking, feeling, and willing now polluted on account of material coverings. Therefore we have to revert to the thinking, feeling, and willing by Krsna consciousness. As it is explained here, that we shall always think of Krsna's activities, we shall always feel for satisfying Krsna, and we shall always will to enact as He desires."

The formula is the intelligent use of yukta-vairagya, under the guidance of realizes, trustworthy, experiences souls. In this way, we can learn the most valuable art of transmuting the material energy into the spiritual, of not abandoning the world, but using its resources to reveal the divine reality of Krsna.

Prabhupada says in his lecture:

"Actually in pure Krsna consciousness there is nothing material. I have several times explained. Material activities means activities without Krsna consciousness. That is material activity. Just like we are speaking through this microphone. We do not reject it as material. We take it as spiritual. Because it is being used in spreading Krsna consciousness. Therefore if Krsna is spirit, then these so-called material elements, they are also spirit. But it is used as material because we do not remember the relationship of these material elements with Krsna.

Therefore the conclusion is when we are forgetful of Krsna, then it is material. Otherwise, there is nothing as material. Everything is spiritual.
So if we think in that way, thinking, feeling, and willing, if we utilize our psychological activities in Krsna consciousness, then we keep steady in attached with Krsna. Yukta-vairägyam ucyate. Vairägya means renunciation. We do not require to renounce anything, provided we see everything dovetailed in Krsna consciousness."

It is so very important that we do not manufacture our own ways and speculative realizations in this regard. The principle of yukta-vairagya is a slippery slope that can be easily taken advantage of by the immature sadhaka, who uses the improper application of this principle in such a way to justify their continued attachment to various kinds of sense gratifications that do nothing to actually serve the Lord and His devotees.

This unfortunate bond can be broken by making the order of our spiritual master our life and soul. In the Nectar of Devotion, Prabhupada writes:

"Similarly, we can offer many services with our bodily activities, but all such activities must be in relationship with Krsna. This relationship is established by connecting oneself with the bona fide spiritual master who is the direct representative of Krsna in disciplic succession. Therefore the execution of Krsna consciousness activities with the body should be directed by the spiritual master and then performed with faith."

The essence of this mood is expressed in verse 80 from the 13th chapter of the Madhya-Lila:

"'I am not a brāhmaṇa, I am not a kṣatriya, I am not a vaiśya or a śūdra. Nor am I a brahmacārī, a householder, a vānaprastha or a sannyāsī. I identify Myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the maintainer of the gopīs. He is like an ocean of nectar, and He is the cause of universal transcendental bliss. He is always existing with brilliance.'"

When we actually feel this mood, and dovetail our living, loving activities in this way, then we can understand that the spiritual energy is actually interacting with and influencing our lives. We become absorbed in the order of the acaryas and there is no danger of becoming mistaken in our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

It is this shelter, this actual productive and positive comfort and protection, which is the aspiration of our devotional creeper. Our creeper must cling to the order and protection of the guru in order to survive and thrive. Prabhupada says in this connection in his lecture:

"Bhakti-latä seed. Bhakti's compared just like a creeper. The creeper does not stand alone. It embraces another tree and then it grows. Similarly, bhakti-latä, bhakti always embraces the lotus feet of Krsna, and then grows. Therefore it is called bhakti-latä. So bhakti-latä-bija. If one is fortunate, by accumulating this imperceptible good activities, by association with devotees, then he gets this bhakti-latä-bija, the seed of bhakti-latä.

Just like you get some nice seed of rose flower. So if you sow it on the ground, just becoming a nice gardener, and pour water, then it gradually grows. So we have to take the bhakti-latä-bija from the bona fide spiritual master, and sow it within the heart. And pour water. Just like simply sowing the seed is not your business is finished. You have to sow, you have to pour water."

Through this connection, we get the strength of the spiritual energy from our guru, and the knowledge of how to use it. We learn, in a very scientific and practical sense, how to use our energy and who to use it for. It becomes inspired by Krsna, for Krsna. Prabhupada concludes:

"This is spiritual energy. Just like Arjuna is fighting. That energy is inspired by Krsna. So Arjuna took it, "I must fight. Krsna wants it. I must satisfy Krsna." This is spiritual energy. Just see. The other party, they are also fighting in the same energy, but they have no Krsna consciousness. So to act in Krsna consciousness is nothing wonderful. Simply you have to divert the energy for Krsna. This is Krsna consciousness. Everyone has got energy, but when it is enacted for one's sense gratification, that is material. And when it is enacted for the satisfaction of Krsna, that is spiritual."