September 2009

What is the absolute, ultimate good for everyone?

The ultimate good for everyone is pure love of God achieved by constantly hearing about, glorifying, remembering and worshiping the Personality of Godhead.

What is the essence of all scriptures?

The essence of all scriptures is to please Lord Krishna by all one’s activities.

Why did Lord Krishna appear Himself?

Lord Krishna appeared in order to attract the living entities to His original form and pastimes, so that the living entities may go to his own abode, called Goloka Dhama.

Please decribe the pastimes of Lord Krishna

The Lord appeared as the son of Devaki. He was nourished in the house of Nanda Maharaja. He killed many demons like Putana and Kamsa. He took the side of the Pandavas and enabled them to win in the Mahabharata war.

Please tell us the purpose of the ten best-known incarnations

1 – To save the Vedas – the Fish Incarnation
2 – To uphold the Mandar Mountain – the Tortoise incarnation
3 – To lift the earth – the Boar incarnation
4 – To kill Hiranyakasipu – the Half-man/Half-lion incarnation
5 – To show mercy to Bali Maharaja – the Dwarf incarnation
6 – To kill the sinful kings – Parashurama
7 – To kill Ravana – Lord Rama
8 – To kill the demons like Dvivida – Lord Balarama
9 – To stop animal sacrifice – Lord Buddha
10 – To kill the plunderers – Lord Kalki

Where has religion taken shelter now that Krishna has left this world?

Religious principles have taken shelter of the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana

In this lecture, Prabhupada speaks of how a group of thieves had stolen something and were dividing the spoils amongst themselves. He refers to how they were going to ‘morally divide’ their booty. Then he gave an example of the United Nations: ‘The association of the “honest men”. All plunderers, rogues, thieves and they have made association: United Nations.’

This also reminds me of a quote I gleaned from The Path Of Perfection: ‘A society of thieves cannot be happy, because they have no aim in life.’

From the brahminical point-of-view, Haridas Thakur came from a family of untouchables. He was Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s nama-acarya (the leader in the process of self-realization for this age, Mantra Meditation), even though he was born into a pious muslim family.

The muslims, however, rejected him because of his practice of Vaishnavism; and the Hindus, especially the caste-conscious brahmanas, considered him to be an untouchable muslim.

Haridas Thakur was living in Phuliya-gram, near Sri Advaita prabhu. He was chanting a minimum of 300,000 names of Krishna every day. Haridas was experiencing ecstatic symptoms. Aside from chanting, he would explain the glories of the Holy Name to others. Because he was an embodiment of what he preached, he transformed the hearts of the people he met – muslims, Hindus and atheists. They all became Vaishnavas.

The Kazi became very envious of Haridas. He went to the Governor and said, ‘This rascal, he’s ruining our culture. So many of our distinguished muslims are becoming untouchable Hindus by his influence. He must be punished immediately! The Kazi ordered for his arrest. Haridas was happy to go to the Governor. He simply chanted as he was brought to the Governor’s residence.

On the way to the Governor’s residence, they passed a prison. The prisoners were eager to see Haridas Thakur because they were all very pious and religious people. They had been arrested, imprisoned and tortured on account of their religious beliefs. They begged the guards to allow them to see Haridas. They were so eager to see Haridas and, by seeing him, felt love of God. They experienced ecstasy as they offered prayers to Haridas.

Haridas smiled and said, ‘I offer you this benediction: May you always remain as you are.’ The prisoners were disappointed. A prisoner wants to get out of prison. Haridas said, ‘I see you are very disappointed. But look at you. You are seeing Krishna’s devotee and you are offering prayers. This is your benediction that you are entreating a devotee. In a few days you will be free from this prison, but please follow these instructions wherever you may be and in whatever circumstances you may find yourselves: associate with devotees; avoid the association of materialistic people who are not engaged in devotional service to Krishna; come together and speak about Krishna, hear about Krishna, always chant the name of Krishna, remember Krishna, never forget Krishna; and keep Krishna’s name on your mouth. In this way you will attain the goal of your life. They had only a moment’s association with Haridas Thakur.

Haridas then entered the chambers of the Governor. The Governor’s heart melted on seeing Haridas’s kind demeanour. He said, ‘My dear sir, you’re a respectable gentleman from the Islamic faith. You come from a family in the highest position of society. Why? Why is it that you are living like a low class untouchable, dirty, filthy Hindu? In what scripture does it say that by abandoning you own religion and accepting that of another you will know God?’

Haridas laughed loudly, in front of the Governor and Kazi, ‘Just see the power of Vishnu’s Maya! Ha ha ha.’ Then he turned to the Governor and Kazi and said, ‘There is only one God and every living being is the child of that God. The Puranas describe that one God, the Holy Q’Uran describes that one God. There may be many different names, there may be different rituals, there may be different ideals. All the scirptures of the world are declaring the supremacy of that on Supreme Lord who is all-pervading, who is the controller of all material and spiritual worlds, who is invincible and who is all-merciful. The Lord invests within a particular persons’s heart a particular mode of worship adn that devotee will naturally worship the Lord accordingly. The Lord has instilled within my heart devotion to Krishna and the chanting of Krishna’s names and there is nothing I can do to stop that. So, my request is this: that if a Hindu brahmana were to convert to become a muslim, that punishment that the brahmanas give to that person, you should give me.’

The words of Haridas actually charmed the heart of the Governor. He said, ‘What you are speaking is very learned and true.’ He said, ‘If you just preach from your own scripture, we will give you all facility. But if you preach from this other scripture, there is nothing I can do. Look at the Kazi, he is a powerful man!’ Haridas Thakur said, ‘I have no concern if you kill me, but I can never give up the chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna. If you like, you may cut my body into hundreds and thousands of pieces, but through it all, I will continue to chant the Holy Names.’

The Governor didn’t know what to do. He looked at the Kazi, and said: ‘What do you want me to do with this animal!?!’ The Kazi said, ‘Kill him. Not an easy death. Beat him through 22 market places of the city…until his life ends….’

The Governor summoned big, huge executioners. They dragged Haridas Thakur. They pulled him by the hair and began to beat him and beat him and beat him. There only desire in life was to murder this innocent man. The common people were enraged by this injustice. Some fell at the feet of the executioners and prayed, ‘I will give you all my wealth, everything I own, if you stop beating this man.’ Others said, ‘Beat me instead! Let me die in his place.’ They continued beating Haridas. The people of Phuliya wept in anguish, ‘Our whole civilization is going to be vanquished due to the offence against this innocent man.’ The executioners blasphemed Haridas with harsh words and beat him with sticks through all 22 market-places, dragging him along.

The executioners were exhausted at the end of the day. They couldn’t even move their arms anymore. They said, ‘Haridas, are you a human being? What is this! No man has ever lived through two or three market-places. Maximum. In history! We have beaten you in all 22 market-places! And not only are you alive, but every now and then you are smiling at us and didn’t even appear that you are in pain! It seems that you felt sorry for us! We don’t know what to do because if we are not able to kill you, the Kazi will have us killed.’

Haridas Thakur smiled, ‘If my bein alive is of some difficulty for you, then you watch and see what I shall do.’ Then he sat down on the ground and all symptoms of life disappeared – no pulse or heart-beat or life-breath. The executioners went and through Haridas at the doorway of the governor. The governor said they should bury him. The Kazi, however, objected, ‘No. No burial. Burying is the way that a proper Muslim’s body is disposed of. If he’s buried, he’ll go to paradise!’ Then some people said, ‘Just burn him like a Hindu!’ Then some brahmanas came and said, ‘No. You can’t burn an untouchable!’ So, what to do. No-one wanted his body. Eventually, the Kazi said, ‘Throw him in the river like a piece of trash. Let him suffer forever.’

The executioners took Haridas’s body to the river. When they were about to pick him up, however, his body became heavier than the earth – he was so filled with Krishna because of his constant chanting, he became as heavy as Krishna (who is heavier than the heaviest). Again, they struggled. All of a sudden, Haridas became light, and they threw him in the Ganges. He floated on the surface for some time, then sank under the water and disappeared. Later, he came back to consciousness. He returned to Phuliya-grama

The executioners fell at his feet, and surrendered. Then the Governor came and offered him obeisances and gifts and asked forgiveness, ‘Please forgive me! Now I know you are a real saint, a genuine lover of God.’ Then the Kazi came and surrendered to Haridas, begging forgiveness.

After this scene, Haridas went and met some brahmanas. They wanted to know why he was tortured so. What did he do? Haridas said, ‘I heard them blaspheme Krishna’s name. I heard them balspheme Krishna and His devotees. Because that sound vibration entered through my ears, I deserve a reaction millions of times worse than the reation I got being beaten in 22 market-places.’ This is how sensitive Haridas Thakur was to hearing an offence to Krishna, His devotees and the Holy Name.

(Taken from a lecure by His Holiness Radhanath Maharaja on Haridas Thakur’s quality of forbearance, given at Pune in 2001)

A friend of mine, Emina, asked me, ‘What do you do?’ I don’t know why, but I had to think about it for a while (I am fairly busy believe it or not). ‘What did you do today?’, she asked. An easier question. I didn’t have to think. ‘I went to the market to buy vegetables and other goods for our food stalls’, I said. ‘Oh, and I was uploading pictures from my camera to my hard-drive.’

‘What do you do to become happy?’ I pondered this question a while, then gave my answer, ‘Well, I chant Hare Krishna.’ But then I thought that was not a complete answer. ‘Before I became a devotee I used to drink and smoke. And I had radical mood swings. But I stopped that after some time and I also became a vegetarian. Since then I stopped having mood swings. And the chanting also helps, of course’. I proceeded to tell her a story from my book distribution days in Cape Town. The one day I was distributing books in St. George’s Mall. It was a cold winter’s day. I wasn’t feeling that great. In fact, I thought I must have looked miserable. Then a person came up to me and said, ‘You look so happy!’ When I got back to the Temple I reflected on the day’s occurrences and realized that although I had not been in a particularly joyful mood, I was happier than most of the people around me. The gauge for this happiness was my former tendency to manic-depression and not a sense of smugness or superiority.

So what have I been up to? Well, on Thursday we had our vegetarian food stall at the Killarney Fine Food Market, which I helped set up with Arne from 9-10:30am, and I went out distributing spiritual literatures with Rupa Raghunatha Prabhu from 10:30-4:45pm. Friday, after two hours of chanting, I also sold books and raised funds at Sandton City, 10:30am to 5pm. On Saturday we went to the Yoga Camp at Zoo Lake and conducted a little Harinama Sankirtan (processional chanting with traditional musical instruments) from 9:30-11:30am, with Lerato doing firedancing and Poobal playing sax. Gaura Shakti and I taught our third session of our Vegetarian Cooking course from 12-3pm the same day. In the evening, I cooked kichari. Rupa and I took kichari with nkomasi (a kind of yoghurt), lemon and rotis. Sunday was Blu Bird Wholefood Market, prashadam distribution, followed by a simple Sunday Programme at the Vedic City project. Rupa and I went out on Sakirtan again, this time to Clear Water Mall. Rupa spoke, and the last of our guests left by around 7pm.

Monday, giving out kichari to my friends at David Krut, admin and a talk at the University of Johannesburg 11am-2pm. The talk was very nice as there was a good turnout of intelligent, spiritually inquiring youth. We then chatted with the devotee students and Nandarani, at Nandarani’s office. I bought some soya burgers and we had burgers and salad, and a cold drink. Went on facebook for a while and posted some e-mails. This morning we chanted from 5:30 for two hours, performed some worship and conducted a little class (this is our routine when we don’t have markets). I made some important calls and went online to see if there was any news of the consignment of books I ordered from America and received a call from Steve Newman, the accomplished guitarist and fellow yogi (we are going to have lunch at the ashram on Friday). I went to the market at 9:45 with Gaura Shakti, returned around 1pm, mooched around the hood a bit, went online, uploaded photos, chatted to Emina and now I am finishing this blog. Hare Krishna.

‘The secret of success in understanding the intricacies of knowledge of the Absolute Truth, the Personality of Godhead, is the causeless mercy of the Lord. Even in the material world, the father of many sons discloses the secret of his position to the pet sons. The father discloses the confidence unto the son whom he thinks worthy. An important man in the social order can be known by his mercy only. Similarly, one must be very dear to the Lord in order to know the Lord’

(His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Srimad Bhagavatam 2.9.32 purport)

Krishna does not envy any living entity. If that is the case, then why does Krishna appear to have favourites? Prabhupada gives the analogy of a king. A king takes care of all the citizens, but has very familiar and loving dealings with his own family members. Similarly, Krishna loves and takes care of all living beings, but has an intimate relationship with His devotee. The potential for that sweet, intimate relationship of love, with Krishna, is there for all living beings. In the Bible it is said: God helps those who help themselves. Jesus Christ also explained this situation in his parable, ‘The Prodigal Son.’ The son (or living entity) could live in foreign lands with swine and prostitutes (the material world); or return to his father’s estate (the Kingdom of God) and be part of the family again.

Question: ‘In this time of Kali Yuga, is it possible, that a lay man could…uh…see the Paramatma with his naked eye? And if he can what he has to do? Or what?’

Prabhupada: ‘The Paramatma cannot be seen with your naked eye. You cannot see anything with your naked eye. You are very much proud of your eyes, but you do not see things as they are. Just like you are seeing daily this sun. You see, it is just like a disk, but it is not a disk: it is 400,000 times bigger than this planet. So, you cannot see God, Paramatma, by this eyes. This material eyes. That is said:

santah sadaiva hrdayesu vilokayanti
yam syamasundaram acintya-guna-svarupam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami

You can see God, or Krishna, when you have developed love for Him. Otherwise, you cannot see Him. So this is the formula: you have to develop. That is explained in ‘Bhagavad-gita’ chapter seven. I was speaking yesterday:

mayy asakta-manah partha
yogam yunjan mad-asrayah
asamsayam samagram mam
yatha jnasyasi tac chrnu

This is practice how to see God. Uh…but…in this Kali Yuga, as we have mentioned, Kali Yuga, it is very simple thing. Uh…what is that? The simple thing is kaler dosa-nidhe rajann/ asti hy eko mahan gunah. In sastra it’s said this Kali Yuga is an ocean of faults. But, there is a very nice thing. Eka mahan guna. A very great quality. What is that? Kirtanad eva krsnasya/ mukta-sangah param vrajet. If you simply chant Hare Krishna mantra then you will become perfect. Is it very difficult? But we are so unfortunate, we are not prepared to chant. So, we have to make little determination that I will chant henceforward Hare Krishna mantra. The you will be free of doubt.’

Here is just a little update, dear readers, of the activities of ISKCON Johannesburg North. The highlight was, naturally, Deena Bandhu prabhu’s visit on Saturday the 22nd August. Otherwise, just fighting the good fight, I suppose…

The Janmasthami/Prabhupada Appearance Day weekend blew the wind into our sales, then promptly out again. All those late nights. A weekend of loss for my devotee friends: Jacques’ ex, a single mother of a seven-year old boy, was mercilessly shot by thugs; Krishnadas and his family lost their beautiful home; and the South African Vaishnava Community lost Madan Mohan prabhu, one of my dearest friends, on Janmasthami morning (Friday 14 August).

In the wake of Janmasthami, we were blessed with three programmes by His Grace Deena Bandhu prabhu – Krishna-Balarama Youth Group, Tuesday 18; Nandakishore’s Nama Hatta, Friday 21; and our very own ISKCON Rosebank on Saturday 22nd August. Hansa, “Krishna’s Florist”, kindly made a garland for Deena Bandhu prabhu. On each occasion, Deena Bandhu prabhu shared heart-warming stories of Prabhupada, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nandalala, Krishna. On Saturday night, he said you can go to Vrindavan without paying airticket or visa. Too true. There was a fair turnout of about 15 devotees and friends. I was thinking that the pastimes of Krishna in Vrindavan might be a little too much for the newcomers, but they were very appreciative of Deena Bandhu prabhu’s charming descriptions of Vraja and his sweet brijbasi bhajans.

Gaura Shakti and I gave our second Cooking Class that Saturday morning, much to the delight of our students. We kind of flopped the panir, but more than made up for it with the puris. Gaura made a perfect dough, got the students to roll their own puris and then had them throw the puris in boiling oil. It was one of those “Kodak moments”, with everyone cheering and exclaiming…nearly all the puris came out perfectly.

Gaura and myself went through to Lenasia again, to get darshan of His Holiness Bhakti Caru Maharaja on Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25. It was thrilling, but a little sad also, to hear Krishnadas and Sharm matajis realizations after the fire in their house. I was amazed how bright-faced they looked considering the trauma they had been through. Krishna certainly favoured them. Thursday night we went to the Temple for Radhastami. Nrsimhananda prabhu gave a wonderful class, we took the feast with our friends Giridhari and Estelle, and left. Another hectic week, with food stalls wedged inbetween.

We had an intimate programme on Sunday the 30th August with Damian, Janine, Tamar, Lungile, Arne and Gaura. Janine said she had chanted with the devotees in Cyrildene about 20 years ago. ‘They would chant for hours. I loved it’, she said. It was very encouraging to have such an enthusiastic chanter in our midst. I kept the talk simple, explaining the Vedas and the importance of sabda-pramana. Tamara, a yogi in her own right, was also very enthusiastic. ‘Thank you very, very much’, she kept on saying to me. Lungile described some of his personal Kurukshetres with us…he is a spokesperson and representative for the National Postal Services…which was recently on strike. It was nice to chant in the association of such sincere souls.

When we are not going out on Sankirtan or to the market, I cook and invite neighbours and friends for lunch. That is how I spend my downtime (aside from internet or reading). Premkishore and I are planning to conduct weekly Friday night Harinams in the northern suburbs of Joannesburg, like Melville and Parkhurst. In honour of World Holy Name Week we will be having a Harinam procession at the Zoo Lake Yoga Camp on Saturday 5 September.

Forthcoming attractions at The Vedic City Project (ISKCON Johannesburg North) include: His Grace Partha Sarathi prabhu speaking on his experiences as a soldier and a monk on Sunday 20 September; and His Grace Vrishabanu prabhu speaking on Sunday 27 September.

Bhakta Arne is off to India at the end of September. We are also expecting Radhanath Maharaja’s Autobiography, ‘The Journey Home’, to arrive any day now. ‘The Journey Home’ is R250.

Jaya Srila Prabhupada! Jaya Sri Sri Panchatattva! Jay Sri Sri Nitai Gaurahari! Ki Jaya!

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