August 2011


‘The living entities are combinations of the material nature and the spiritual nature.  Such living entities are seen not only on this planet but on every planet, even on the highest, where Brahma is situated.  Everywhere there are living entities; within the earth there are living entities, even within water and within fire.  All these appearances are due to the mother, material nature, and Krsna’s seed-giving process.  The purport is that the material world is impregnated with living entities, who came out in various forms at the time of creation according to their past deeds’ – A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita As It Is 14.4 Purport

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My first contact with India was through Grandpa Jerry. He had served as a Doctor in the British Military Administration in Lucknow for most of the Second World War. My Grandparents were married in ‘The Church Of The Holy Name’ in Wodehouse Road, Mumbai. My father was born in the cool Hill Station of Nilgiry Hills; and his brother, Clayton, in Srinagar. I won a book-prize in matric for English Literature about Rudyard Kipling’s life in India.  I never really paid much thought to this.

My grandparents spent their old age in the coastal town of Scottburgh in Kwazulu Natal.  It was Grandpa Jerry, again, who explained the meaning of the word Natal to me. Though he had held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army, and was awarded an OBE, the villagers at Abbeydorney barricaded the road when he came home. They did not like the fact an Irishman had served the British.

Grandpa Jerry knew a lot about martial history. He would go on and on about the armies of the world. He had a lot of respect for the Indian army – their infantry, cavalry and the famous gurkhas. He often spoke of life in India. The Reidys had also lived in Kenya – so there was a wealth of books and stories on East Africa, the Mau Mau and African wildlife. They had accumulated kists from Burma, busts from Indonesia and other souvenirs – like the little jade ashtray on the coffee-table – from Hong Kong. We have photos of this.

My Grandfather told me if I ever got swept out into the Indian ocean I should just tread water, because there was a warm current that would bring me back to the shore.  Once, at Park Renie, I nearly got swept out to sea.  I panicked, and struggled against the mighty Ocean.  Fortunately, a few breakers plunged me back spluttering to the shore.  Clayton pointed to the horizon and said if you go far enough in that direction you would reach Australia.  He pointed in a north-easterly direction and said, ‘And if you go in that direction, you will reach India’.  My childish mind tried to grasp the possibilities of reaching foreign lands.  I couldn’t even swim fifty metres into the Ocean, let alone reach a foreign shore!

My research of the Abolition of the Slave Trade led me into the Indian Ocean once again. This time I got swept into the intellectual current of Ethics, Western Philosophy and Economic History.  I began to question, very seriously, the need for an institution as cruel as Slavery.  Studying the Slave Trade was like opening a Pandora’s Box to the evils of this world. I started to look within my own heart as I questioned my role in the processes of history. I felt lost. I was way out of my depth. Fortunately, for me, I met the Hare Krishna’s during this time. They taught me how to chant the maha-mantra – Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare HarThe/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare – which brought serenity to my mind. The chanting was the warm current that would carry me to the shore of my aspirations.  Sometimes words or a metaphor can have a more profound meaning in a later context.

‘The living entity can see only when the Lord sees, the living entity can smell only when the Lord smells, and so on.  The idea is that the living entity cannot do anything independently.  He can simply think of doing something independently, but he cannot act independently.  This independence in thinking is there by the grace of the Lord, but the thinking can be given shape by the grace of the Lord, and therefore the common saying is that ‘Man proposes, God disposes’.

‘The whole explanation is  on the absolute dependence of the living entities and the absolute independence of the Supreme Lord’ – SB 2.10.20 Purport

‘Everyone is independent to think or desire, but the fulfillment of one’s desire depends on the Supreme will’ ie. “Man proposes, God disposes’ – SB 3.4 p.442

Swami Prabhupada sent two young devotees – Rsi Kumar Swami and Ksudhi Das Brahmacari – to introduce the Hare Krishna Movement to South Africa.  After some time, however, Rsi Kumar had difficulties.  Later, at the Laguna Beach Temple, he told Prabhupada, ‘I was trying to forget Krishna’.  Prabhupada replied, ‘That is not possible’.

Shakespeare contemplates death in the Graveyard Scene of his famous play Hamlet.   The young prince, Hamlet, is walking through the graveyard watching the grave-diggers burying a corpse.  He sees skulls.  He asks, ‘Who was this?’   The grave-diggers know: ‘This one was a courtier.  This one was a lawyer’.  When the body dies the designations of this world are no longer important.  Death is the leveller.  We are left with a pile of bones.  However great you may have been, however beautiful, however strong, however intelligent…that is gone.  The soul moves on.

Our souls are covered, in this world, by the illusion of thinking we are something that we are not.  The word Maya – what devotees refer to as material illusion – means ‘that which is not’.  In  the Caitanya Caritamrita, Lord Caitanya says that our spiritual identity is full of pure love of Krishna – nitya siddha krishna prema.  The real position of the living entity is to be full of the ecstasy of love of God.  But we are desiring something else and getting a different result.

Why are the gopis so beautiful?  Their beauty is composed of their desire to please Krishna.  Just like the flowers in Vrindavan.  They are making themselves appear very beautiful for the pleasure of Krishna.  When Krishna smiles, they become even more beautifu.  And Krishna is pleased.  So the flowers become more beautiful.  And this goes on eternally.  There is a nice verse in Caitanya Caritamrita 1.4.128 on the expansive nature of Sri Radha’s love for Krishna:  radha-prema vibhu-yara badite nahi thani/tathapi se ksane badaye sadai – ‘Radha’s love is all-pervading, leaving no room for expansion.  But still it is expanding constantly’.

There is a process to re-awaken our spiritual nature – beyond material conditionings and designations.  This is described by Caitanya Mahaprabhu in His Siksastakam prayers – ceto darpanam marjanam/bhava maha davagni nirvapanam.  The chanting of Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare takes the dust of material existence away from our heart.  How can we transform lust into love?  Our passion to enjoy this world must be transformed to a deeper passion to please Krishna, love Krishna and to worship Krishna.

Krishna is Bhagavan.  He is full in all six opulences – beauty, fame, intelligence, strength, renunciation and wealth.  The Sanskrit term for this is sad aisvarya purno.

A devotee should live his life as if he was going to die today.  He should do so by taking shelter of Krishna.  We should not play around with Maya.  Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur said, ‘If you try to become the master of Maya, you become her servant’.

If we take shelter of the process of Krishna Consciousness, through the associtation of devotees, we can make rapid spiritual advancement.  Visvanath Cakravati Thakur prayed, ‘I am lame, but the only way I can move is by the stick of the mercy of the Vaishnavas’.  Bhaktivinoda Thakur wrote that the best way to make advancement is to engage in the six loving exchanges of Rupa Goswami.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati wanted genuine surrender, not just a show.  He told his disciples, ‘It’s your minds that I want.  Not just your words and your bowing’.  Love is demonstrated, ultimately, by actions.

Prabhu quoted Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s verse in relation to brahmacarya – naham vipro.  Gopinath is the worshipable Lord of our sampradaya.  The final goal is Gopinath (the isthadeva of ISKCON).

Brahmacarya is not an eternal factor.  Brahmacari asrama is the first asrama.  Generally, one progress from brahmacarya to the other asramas.  From sannyasa we get Vaisnava.  Shouldn’t identify with these designations, ‘It’s actually the last thing we want to do.’  These conventions are useful for social dealings.  The word asrama comes from asraya – which means to take shelter, according to our consciousness.  Brahmacarya is for students.  It is a very simple asrama.

According to your tolerance level, you can remain a brahmacari.  Tolerance is, ‘One of the main qualities of the brahmacari asrama.  It is the only way we can overcome desire’ (according to Bhismadeva).  That applies to all asramas, but we are speaking in the context of brahmacarya here.

Modern society is not Krishna Conscious, so it is better to remain a brahmacari – ‘By developing tolerance, one can remain fixed’.  Arjuna asked Krishna for a solution to his problem.  Krishna replied that there was no solution.  He told Arjuna to tolerate.  We have to tolerate the urges of material nature.

ISKCON is a preaching movement therefore, ‘We have to face the material world.  We have to face Maya directly.  It is very difficult to be true or strict brahmacaris.  Consciousness is, therefore, more important than varna and asrama‘.

We should identify ourselves as the eternal servant of Krishna.  Everything is the property of Krishna.  If there is too much identifying with your asrama, there will be problems.  We act according to our asrama, but we are eternal servants of Krishna.

Srila Prabhupada was on a walk in Mayapur.  Someone asked him, ‘Who wants to be a sudra, Prabhupada?  In our society we get 2nd initiation etc.’  Prabhupada retorted, ‘Not everyone should get 2nd initiation.  If he likes working, he should be a sudra.’  Harikesh Swami asked, ‘But who wants to be a sudra? ‘  Prabhupada:  ‘They are not sudras.  They are higher than brahmanas.  They are acting as sudras, like someone acts as a king in a play.  He has another identity, but he simply plays a part.’

Our first business is to establish a relationship with Madana Mohana, the attractor of Cupid.  ‘We are trying now to turn our attraction from Cupid to Madana Mohanji’.  When one gets that – from Krishna and Krishna’s devotees – advancement is given.  They are awarded, by one’s devotional attitude.  The Brahma Samhita demonstrates how there are, ‘Slow degrees of self-realization’.

Even Brahman realization is attractive.  Bhagavad-gita explains that upon gaining this one thinks there is no greater gain.  You perceive Krishna as Brahman and yourself.  This comes after anartha-nivritti – when all the dirty things in your heart have gone.  That is relationship with Krishna in His pervasive aspect.  He is so attractive as Brahman, the jnanis and mayavadis are willing to sacrifice their own identity (which everyone loves).  Krishna is always attractive in any of His features.

Unless you realize aham brahmasmi, you can not understand Krishna’s pastimes.

Paramatma.  For one who has controlled his mind, immediately Paramatma is reached.  Ceto darpanam marjanam.  That is when Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s movement begins: we give up the dirty things in the heart and engage in Krishna’s service.  We have to strictly follow the principles of sadhana-bhakti as long as we have a material body and our intelligence sticks to that identification.  Pangam means ‘lame’.  We cannot move independently, spiritually.  We are spiritually lame.  All we can see is the material.  First, get your spiritual legs.  Understand what is spiritual ground.  Then progress can be made.

Realization of nama, is realizating Krishna’s presence.  He will reveal rupa, guna and lila.  Srila Prabhupada – Just surrender to the sound vibration and just depend on the Holy Name to reveal Himself.

We should not jump over prematurely.  We have to first approach Madana Mohana.  There is a progression that has been given by the acaryas.  So, to come to the point of Madana Mohana, we have to strictly follow the rules of sadhana bhakti.  That is called, ‘Cleaning the heart’.  We cannot get Krishna by sadhana.  But persons who are part of the hladini sakti (Rupa Goswami, Rupa Manjari) are giving this for the people of Kali Yuga.  You can only obtain Krishna by love.

The mind and intelligence are saying, ‘I am the Lord and enjoyer’.  Guru and the guru’s instructions are non-different.

Questions and Answers

What about reading ‘high’ books?

Answer:  Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati asked Bhaktivinoda Thakur, ‘Can I print Govinda Lilamrita?’  Bhaktivinoda Thakur replied, ‘No’.  Then he said, ‘Yes.  You can print two copies.  One for yourself.  And one for anyone as advanced as you’.

We shouldn’t  put ourselves there or canvas, ‘Our group knows what’s happening’.  You need to know where you are in KC.

Siddha Pranali.  The sahajiya groups spoiled this.  And this was amongst cultured people.   Now you’re taking this to mlecchas and yavanas.  What will they do with that?  So Caitanya Mahaprabhu has given a simple process.  First deserve, then desire.  Prabhupada told Bhakti Caru Swami, ‘I will come and reveal everything’.

‘Empiric study is valuable as a codified record of our disappointing worldy experience’ – Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur

‘Service in Krishna consciousness is, however, best practiced under the able guidance of a spiritual master who is a bona fide representative of Krishna, who knows the nature of the student and who can guide him to act in Krishna consciousness.  As such, to be well versed in Krishna consciousness one has to act firmly and obey the representative of Krishna, and one should accept the instruction of the bona fide spiritual master as one’s mission in life’ – A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita As It Is 2.41 purport