Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Contemplative Side

"Contemplation is the highest expression of man's intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness, and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, an awareness of the reality of that Source."

Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation

The Merton Institute For Contemplative Living
The Thomas Merton Center and International Thomas Merton Society

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Nectar Chronicles: Part 4

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.

Lecture #5


Never was there a time...the eternal gift of our individuality is that it allows us the chance to participate in the acts of loving exchange. It is these exchanges which are the fountain of meaning in our lives, and which become perfected as we enter into the spiritual atmosphere.

Today, Prabhupada mentions the importance of rasa, the taste or mellow which allows us to relish and become fully and personally involved in the activity or relationship in which we find ourselves at present.

The application of rasa can be very direct and understandable, as we see in the affection a young boy and young girl feel for each other, or it can be esoteric, as Prabhupada relates by using the beautiful but ghastly example of Bhismadeva pouring arrows into Krsna's body during the Battle of Kurukestra. Prabhupada says:

""Bhisma was also piercing His body with arrows. And Krsna was accepting the arrows move lovable than the flowers. This is the dealing. Therefore that is a rasa, ghastly rasa. Apparently it appears to be very severe, that Krsna is being pierced by the arrows. But Krsna was feeling pleasure.

So Srila Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur has explained this portion very nicely, that he has given the example of kissing. Sometimes there is hard pressure of the teeth, but still it is pleasurable. He has given this example, that although Krsna was being pierced by the arrows of Bhismadeva, still Krsna felt very pleasing."

Krsna is ready to respond to any rasa in which we want to deal with Him. These exchanges of pleasure, of love, of service, are very dynamic. It is not always just flowers. Sometimes it is arrows, although we must remember that these more esoteric rasas, including ones of lust, are only for the very advanced sadhakas.

We should simply desire to learn how to become the steady and loving servant of Krsna's devotees, and by our sincerity and determination, our original relationship, our original rasa, will be revealed in due time.

The beginning of our committment and engagement in the art of bhakti-yoga comes as we learn to control and dovetail the activities of our minds and senses in devotional service.

Prabhupada speaks that "if your mind is fixed up always in Krsna, then your senses will be also engaged in Krsna's service. Because mind is the center of all activities of the senses"

This engagement of the mind in bhakti-yoga begins with the tongue, tasting Krsna's Name and His prasadam. Prabhupada writes in the Caitanya-Caritamrta:

“‘Therefore material senses cannot appreciate Krsna's holy name, form, qualities and pastimes. When a conditioned soul is awakened to Krsna consciousness and renders service by using his tongue to chant the Lord’s holy name and taste the remnants of the Lord’s food, the tongue is purified, and one gradually comes to understand who Krsna really is.’ CC Madhya 17.136

The further effect of this is that by purifying our senses and our mental activities, we can begin to see who we actually are: the eternal spirit soul, freed from the cumbersome designations of body, mind, nation, society, family, etc that seem so natural but which yet are the very chains of our bondage to the material world.

In the Caitanya-Caritamrta we further find:

“‘Bhakti, or devotional service, means engaging all our senses in the service of the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the master of all the senses. When the spirit soul renders service unto the Supreme, there are two side effects. One is freed from all material designations, and one’s senses are purified simply by being employed in the service of the Lord.’ CC Madhya 19.170

Simple for the simple...The key to unlocking the door of eternal answers to our persistent problems is found in the vessel of service, in selflessness and devotion to our friends and loves ones on the spiritual path, to stepping outside the doors of our temporary designations and breathing the fresh air of bhakti.

Stepping out into this sunshine means we are acting in such a way as to be seen by Krsna, and also to be seen by and to please Prabhupada himself. HH Satsvarupa Maharaja writes about this in his Prabhupada Meditations, Volume III:

"If you could be in the same place with Prabhupäda, then your reward was to see his actual lila. On the other hand, if you served him anywhere in the world, you had the advantage of actually attracting the pure devotee. By that attraction he would come to you. Prabhupäda said that we should not try to see Krsna, but act in such a way that Krsna sees us.

He gave the example of an office worker in a big company who does his job very nicely. One day the president of the company examines his file and is impressed at the man’s work. Then the president comes to that man’s desk and congratulates him. We attract Prabhupäda by carrying out his orders. Let us make our hearts pure and enthusiastic to receive him."

Prabhupada says in his lecture:

"You cannot see Krsna, but by being satisfied with your service, Krsna sees you. Just like you cannot see sun at night. But when the sun sees you, you can see the sun and yourself, both. Similarly, when Krsna sees you, being satisfied with your service, then you can see Krsna, you can see yourself and you can see the whole world."

Being able to see the whole world means being able to see the brahmana and the dog-eater with the same vision, as spirit soul, not as the outward dress.

The sincere effort to purify our senses, cleansing our hearts of material dust alongside this, is the foundational prerequisite to this kind of vision, to becoming worthy of being seen and recognized by Krsna.

Krsna can only be served in a spiritual way, therefore we must have purified senses in order to truly serve Him. Prabhupada says:

"And Krsna, being Supreme, He's Supersoul, we cannot approach with our material consciousness. Therefore the consciousness has to be changed. Then we can approach Krsna. That is Krsna consciousness movement. Unless we change our consciousness... Just like, without being fire, you cannot enter into fire.

If you simply see Krsna with your eyes, then your eyes will be purified and spiritualized. Because you are touching... Just like if you keep yourself always in touch with fire, you become warm. Warm, warm, warmer. If you put one iron rod in the fire, it becomes warm, warmer, warmer, and at last, it becomes red hot. When it is red hot, it is fire. It is not more iron rod. You touch that red hot iron anywhere, it will burn. Similarly, if you keep always in touch with Krsna, you become Krsnaized, and you can appreciate what is Krsna."