H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Celebration of Srila Prabhupda’s disappearance

9th November 2010
Bhaktivedanta ashrama

We are in Bhaktivedanta ashrama, all silent and intent to celebrate the exceptional departure of Srila Prabhupada from this world, eternal source of spiritual inspiration.
Srila Gurudeva offers a heartful and deep reflection:
At the moment of our departure, we draw up all life’s experiences and understanding matured. We all must meet the moment of truth. Under these circumstances masks fall off and it appears a new unexpected reality. If life is surprise, you can imagine what the death will be. People think naively that it is possible to plan everything, being certain that the future is predictable regarding the present; actually, it isn’t so. It’s necessary to be prepared to meet every experience in life, all the more the moment of death.
Thousands of people pass away and each act of departing is unique; the being gets separated from its physical embodiment in a peculiar way and begins his journey somewhere else hard to predict. Therefore, it’s immensely important and of incalculable utility and convenience to learn from those who prepared themselves for that passage. What could we learn from others who avoided to talk about Death in their Lives, consequently not prepared for that crucial passage? We can only learn from the ones who prepared themselves for this experience in full consciousness and Devotion to God.
We can realize a treasure of Wisdom and Love, learning from Shrila Prabhupada, a pure devotee of the Lord, from the way he left this world, his level of consciousness and sentiments involved to prepare his Journey.

We read from Shrila Prabhupada Lilamrita, chapter entitled “The Final Lesson”: “Love wins over Death. The Eternal Love and Devotional Service can’t be taken away by Death”. This is the great lesson taught by Shrila Prabhupada.
“Shrila Prabhupada’s most precious and brilliant gem at his departure was his attitude of complete humbleness and his intensive affection for his disciples and all creatures.
On 14th November 1977 at 7.30 P.M., in his room at Krishna Balarama Mandir in Virndavana, Shrila Prabhupada left this world and returned to the Lord, giving us the most precious teaching. He taught how to live, he taught how to die. He taught that Life is pure Love for God and every living being.
Shrila Prabhupada taught through his books, his works, his life and through his death in the end.
The Spritual Master lives forever with his disciple, until the latter follows his teachings with fidelity and pureness.
The greatest gift is devotional service in separation, the highest ecstatic realization.

After reading, we chant “Je anilo prema dhana” and meditate on the Greatness of Shrila Prabhupada and of those who serve him in pureness and diffuse all Glories, Love and Mercy of the Lord.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Counseling based on a Bhaktivedanta approach - Interview given by Akrura Prabhu to Shriman Matsyavatara Prabhu (Part III)

Akrura Prabhu: If you like, we can now speak of the help relationship for those people who have not made a certain spiritual choice yet.

Matsyavatara Prabhu: Yes, these are people who are researching for a solution of their existential problems. There are many who suffer in their family environment because of difficult relationships with their spouse, their parents or their children. The family system is actually in a critical situation and problems in this environment are the most frequent. However, there could be problems even on the work place, in the economical area or in the health area. I personally worked for six years starting in 2002 in some of the biggest Italian hospitals by holding seminars accredited by the Health Ministry in the field of Psychology of the Assistance to the terminally ill and to their family members, by giving them the Hindu Vedic Traditional teachings. These seminars were mostly for the medical personnel: doctors, nurses, social-assistance workers, but also for people affected by irreversible diseases and their family, their assistants, their friends, etc. In this environment we deal with a huge amount of suffering, anxiety, anguish, fears and a number of other ailments that can be alleviated and definitively resolved through the introduction of spiritual teachings of universal value and applied to the specific context. I wrote a book on this subject “Psychology of the Cycle of Life”. I wrote this book after my experience in the hospitals and it is also related to a subject of our Study Course of the Indian Traditional Sciences.

The trauma of death and mourning are very difficult to elaborate, especially when the sudden death is the one of a offspring or young parents or a young spouse. In these cases we must help the individual with many necessities: emotional, psychological, social, professional, economical, etc.. Mainly, through our Counseling Courses for the harmonization and the development of one’s personality we help people with solving even practical aspects, for example on the legal field or maybe by re-projecting their professional career by always stimulating them to gain a superior vision through ethical-spiritual teachings of universal value and extraordinary instruments such a meditative visualization.

In any case, I would like to emphasize that at the base of each helping relationship there is reciprocal respect and the valorization of personal freedom.

Akrura Prabhu: Freedom of choice?

Matsyavatara Prabhu: Yes, freedom to make decisions in relation to our own lives. We offer instruments and stimulus for reflections so that those who desire it can choose with a mind free from conditioners, cultural and religious prejudices, etc. Shri Krishna Himself in Bhagavad-Gita (XVIII.63) says to Arjuna: “Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do..”.

In the help relationship there are four priority objectives that I try to favor: realizing one’s uniqueness, pursuing a good social integration by respecting and valorizing all cultures, living in autonomy and freedom of thought without being phagocytized by fake models and realizing one’s deepest spiritual dimension.

Realization of freedom should be expressed on two levels: my freedom as an individual and the respect for the freedom of the other members of the society and of all creatures. We cannot experience an authentic inner satisfaction if we don’t respect and favor the wellbeing of all living beings (See Bhagavad-Gita XVIII.54).

We should be ready to sacrifice some of our so called freedom to respect other’s freedom thus reaching a higher level of freedom.

Akrura Prabhu: This represents the essence of sacrifice.

Matsyavatara Prabhu: Of course. It the concept of yajna: giving up something to obtain something higher.

If a person doesn’t realize that other’s wellbeing is not different from his own, he will never achieve real success in life. Love others as you love yourself is the teaching of the Gospel and even in Bhagavad-Gita we find the same teaching expressed particularly in chapter XII from verse 13 through verse 20.

Bhakti is the most elevated expression of spiritual consciousness which is concretized in pure Love for God and can also be realized through service to humanity. This service leads us to the comprehension of existence of a superior Self, the universal Self, the Soul of humanity, Origin of life and Sustainment of every being. It is in this manner that we can gradually realize our deepest identity of spiritual nature, not in a dogmatic or stereotypical way, but through a major conscience of ourselves on a physical, psychological and emotional level. As a result of a deep inner work we can generate consciousness, vision, serenity, joy and capability to give and receive Love.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Counseling based on a Bhaktivedanta approach - Interview given by Akrura Prabhu to Shriman Matsyavatara Prabhu (Part II)

Akrura Prabhu: Therefore all this requires the development of eminently personal relationships?

Matsyavatara Prabhu: Certainly. Every person must be considered as a single world. A charming, universal conscientious unique being, different from others, with whom we can establish a unique and special relationship. No one must be stuck in a scheme or labeled as a certain psychological type. By viewing an individual in a schematic vision we can significantly diminish the help that we can give him. I would like to stress that this help is not comparable to a psycho-therapeutic cure. It draws teachings and spiritual values that can produce harmony, equilibrium and long lasting wellbeing to every component of the personality and in every sphere of existence (psychological, social, professional, etc. )

The available instruments of Krishna-Bhakti are formidable and extraordinarily powerful, but we must learn how to use them at their best by understanding how to apply them to ourselves. To do this it is important that we are encouraged to go deeply inside ourselves, try to really understand our feelings, what is against and what is favorable to our evolutionary process, and how we can better express our spirituality and devotion to the Lord. As it is explained in the Ayurvedic science, each individual has a determined psychological-physical profile: pitta, kapha or vata, at the same time in transcendent psychology, on the spiritual level, each one of us has his own rasa or spiritual sentiment that connects him to God in a peculiar way. By rediscovering that rasa, we can participate in ananda, hladhini shakti and happiness which is intrinsic in our original Love nature. And by realizing this rasa every negative tendency and behavioral defects disappear naturally. Consequently, discouragement, suffering, sadness, fears and depression will dissolve. Therefore, helping people first of all means helping them to re-settle in their human nature by stimulating them to do what is more in accordance to their nature, from which they can draw authentic satisfaction and benefits.

Devotional service means encouraging a person to center himself in his own rasa. If we do not stimulate the devotee to engage himself in his guna and karma coordinates and in the vision to realize his peculiar relationship with the Divine, he will hardly be able to live his spiritual life in a joyous and evolutionary way.

Akrura Prabhu: Therefore we must engage people in accordance to their nature.

Matsyavatara Prabhu: Yes indeed. This could be a priority even in relation to the principle of practical utility because this is the only way that we can really offer a good spiritual cure.

Akrura Prabhu: I remember reading a letter from Shrila Prabhupada in reference to this where He underlined the importance of acting this way.

Matsyavatara Prabhu: Yes, it is fundamental to comprehend inclinations and spiritual aspirations of each individual by helping him first with recognizing them. We must interact with each person in a personalized way. We could not act the same with two individuals, not even with twins! Each person is characterized by his peculiar nature and we must enter the same wavelength. This also includes the development of a peculiar modality of relationship, a modality more in accordance with our interlocutor.

Akrura Prabhu: It is a great principle, an important lesson.

How can you comprehend people’s problems and help each individual with expressing and facing his uneasiness?

Matsyavatara Prabhu: By establishing a personal relationship, sharing experiences, doing things together, educating him on how to reflect and weigh up his life and make projects for his future. This would help people with connecting even more the dreamed reality with the one lived every day by increasing their desire to overcome their limitations and to evolve by developing a greater sense of responsibility. One of the main causes for suffering is the inability to realize ones most intimate aspirations, the discrepancy between who we are and who we would like to be, between how we live and how we would like to live.

Akrura Prabhu: When and how do you generally include the importance of undertaking ones responsibilities?

Matsyavatara Prabhu: I try to make the individual responsible right away. He who doesn’t have a sense of responsibility, cannot aspire to bring improvements in his life.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Counseling based on a Bhaktivedanta approach - Interview given by Akrura Prabhu to Shriman Matsyavatara Prabhu (Part I)

Akrura Prabhu: I would like to hear of some fundamental principles that favor people’s spiritual healing.

Matsyavatara Prabhu: First of all we must distinguish between those who have already made a specific spiritual choice and those that have not done it yet and are not looking for a religious conversion, but they are interested in resolving their existential problems and finding answers and solutions to daily practical questions.

We can offer spiritual teachings to both of these categories of people, however using different approaches and modalities and in particular a different language adequate to their respective needs and interests. The common purpose of these helping relations is to favor conscience awareness of one’s deepest spiritual nature identity and favor a higher sense of living.

Akrura Prabhu: Please explain both typologies in relation to these helping relationships.

Matsyavatara Prabhu: I will begin by speaking of those that have already made a precise spiritual choice. When these individuals tell me that they have “spiritual” problems I try to convey to them that in reality there are no “spiritual problems”. Problems can arise on a physical, psychological or emotional level. Sometimes they can be on the economical, social, professional or in the religious life area, but not on the spiritual level. Instead, the solution of all these problems is indeed the acquiring of spiritual consciousness which is a vital state because it leads one to reach a superior point of view.

Crisis is constantly present in human life, however, it is the modality of our answers to crisis that makes the difference. Therefore, one of the first necessary steps is to help people to become conscious of their mental automatisms which lead to inadequate reactions to life events. A person must be helped with looking inside himself and become conscious of behavioral models used subconsciously and of the obstacles to his evolutionary path. Generally I begin this work by exploring repressed desires, trauma and fears.

Often we meet people that, in the name of spirituality lived in an immature way, have removed some aspects of their personality or dark episodes of their lives without making an effort to enlighten them with a superior conscience, thus solving the connected uneasiness and problems. Removing of such things is one of the principal causes of strong existence crisis and often they are favored by abstract pseudo-spiritualistic escapes. Uddhava Gita offers teachings in relation to this. It explains how spiritual life must provide in a way that cannot be put aside, the strict observance of sattvic principles that bring light, equilibrium and harmony in the psyche and personality in its complex. Such principles are important because they allow for a constructive satisfaction of requested and neglected needs, often removed much earlier.

Generally I ask people what they would like to do, how they would like to be, where they would like to live and with whom. These questions may appear simple and maybe trivial, however, the answers are crucial because we must be clear within ourselves and favor our spiritual journey by letting emerge those aspects of our personality on which we must intervene most urgently. For example, an uneasiness toward a job that we don’t like could arise. In this case it would be necessary to give teachings geared on how to overcome the attachment-repulsion dualism and on how to approach something that give us pain (dvesha).

Those who practice Krishna-Bhakti have many formidable instruments at their disposal to work on themselves such as Harinama japa, Meditation, Visualization, Devotional Service and Sat Sanga. The company of Bhakta, mainly those who are particularly evolved and experienced, is one of the principal “therapeutic” factors. However we must benefit from Sat-Sanga not in an abstract way, but through personal relationships lived with emphatic emotion in daily activities based on doing things together. This devotional service results in the best instrument of reciprocal knowledge, and allows for constructive, sound and extraordinary relationships which are beneficial for the evolutionary development of all.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Treasure of the Holy Name

Bhaktivedanta Ashrama, July, 1, 2010 This morning Shrila Gurudeva has given a very beautiful speech on the importance of chanting the Holy Names. We realize ever more that the Holy Name is a Treasure. It is the secret to happiness. “We obtain the highest level of consciousness while chanting the Mahamantra, while our conscience is completely taken by Radha and Krishna’s divine entertainments. Before we can reach these levels, we have to reach some intermediate levels, one of which is remaining fixed in concentration on the reciting and listening of the Holy Names. Through such prolonged concentration we can progressively reach a meditative level while at the same time, the external world begins to fade and the conscience escapes from the illusory strength of the objects of the senses. Serenity, satisfaction, gladness and joy increase and become a constant presence in our lives. We then enter that dimension of the living being where peace is the main state, where the worldly turbulence represented by the duality which generates continuous mood changes diminishes until it becomes null. This exhaustion does not remove joy but does exactly the opposite: it allows joy and inner satisfaction to fully manifest itself with all their force and consequent benefits. Rasa reveal themselves to the conscience. These are the sentiments of the soul that cannot be perceived while a person is subject to the dualities of life. These dualities enter and burst in our conscience when we give them attention and importance. This explanation may appear simple, but indeed the reason for all that happens is funded on a simple truth that is not simpleton, but a clear comprehension of reality. It is not an asura, a perfidious or evil man who injects elements of disturbance in our conscience. We are the ones who inject them, even though most of the times we do it subconsciously. In the end, each one of us is the cause of our bad fortune and our own persecutor. Only we are responsible of the poison that we allow to enter our conscience. After saying this, it is also true that the inner wealth that each one of us has was acquired by our own merit right when we have chosen to connect our spiritual essence to God who is the Origin of all Wellbeing and the Eternal Source of Grace and Mercy. If there are luminous elements in our conscience, we are the ones who introduced them by giving them our attention and taking them to the inner world and by turning ever more toward the Eternal and toward the non-dual world. In his works, Plato speaks of tensions between soul and body. The soul wants to free itself from the body but the body detains it through the psyche. Even Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita XV.7 explains that conditioners hide in our psyche and that we must research for the causes of our personality disturbances and for what leads us to believe that the duality of the world is attractive and that we can even find into illusion the solution of our problems and the joy we are aspiring to. Dreaming of getting happiness from the objects of the senses conceived as to be an end to themselves, ties ever more the body to the soul, multiplies the conditioners and by acting in this manner, the individual fouls himself into believing that happiness must be search out of himself. This is how life passes and exhausts itself by trying to reach that apple that is high up on the tree of desires because we believe it to be the sweetest, however, once we have reached it, picked it and eaten it, we soon thereafter discover that it doesn’t have any flavor and all of a sudden we realize the uselessness of all of our efforts. Even those who have reached high positions in the world, such as prestige, money, power and whatever else, at the end do not find a real and lasting satisfaction. Similarly, even he, who would drink not only a glass but an entire bottle of sea water, couldn’t indeed get rid of thirst, instead, the more sea water he drinks, the more he gets thirsty. We must escape from vanity and research for what can really give us joy. Materialistic people are in love with the immanent aspect of God but, because they do not connect it to His Origin they remain conditioned by the energies of Nature and lose the chance of benefitting from it without remaining tied to it. Spiritualists instead are charmed by the transcendent aspect of God and at the same time they appreciate even his immanent manifestation, but on contrary from the others, when they approach this manifestation they do it not for egoistical enjoyment but with a spirit of service toward the Creator who generated it. He who doesn’t lust after the matter but instead considers it an instrument that can be used for his evolution, will be immune from the conditioner generated by the objects of the senses which in return will lose all their negative potentiality. Shrila Prabhupada explains to us this subject with the following paragon: “ It is like being bit by a snake without his teeth. It would not hurt us because he needs his teeth to inject his poison. The same is for the devotee who works at the service of God and desires to participate in the divine lila even if he lives in the bodily prison. He is however free from conditioners of Nature and this is why he is described in the scripture as jivan mukta: free while still in life. He utilizes his body as a precious instrument to make evolutionary experience and help many people to reconnect with their spiritual essence and to God. To reach this elevated level, there is no practice more effective than meditation on the Holy Names, which becomes particularly powerful if undertaken in the Brahma-muhirta hours, between 4 and 8 in the morning and it offers us the opportunity to realize spiritual dimension. Obviously this result is not achieved by everyone even though many have the chance to obtain it. What hamper such an achievement are the conditioners that have penetrated ones conscience. This is the reason why it is so fundamental, as Caitanya Mahaprabhu explains the practice of ceto darpana marianam, cleanliness of the mind primary by listening to the sadhu who enforce within us the consciousness of the importance of meditation. To favor concentration and meditative practice, we must avoid giving in to distractions. The observance of the four regulatory principles is indispensible to avoid the most vicious distractions. The purpose to achieve is reaching that level of listening of the Holy Names that is not mechanical but felt deep inside. It is at that point that a fast purification is possible. This purification prevents mood swings and lowering of the conscience and leads to an enlightened consciousness. Then the journey becomes really charming, joyful and ecstatic, however, we will reach the goal through intermediate levels of progressive enlightening. One of the major dangers in meditation is falling asleep, that conscience state which is sleeping, drowsy under the effect of tamo-guna, in which one is not lucid nor fully conscious of what he is doing. The effect of rajas is not less harmful because it produces vikshipta or distraction which is the exact contrary of meditation. From a number of lives our conscience is used to carelessly accept everything that comes to us through our senses with the result that this confuse state does not appear to most people as something to avoid but instead a normality. The Acarya and the holy texts allow us to become conscious of this wrong cognition and offer us instruments to improve our conscience level. It is up to us to use them. Chanting the Holy names during the Brahma muhurta hours and trying to concentrate our conscience on the listening to these powerful spiritual vibrations leads to innumerable benefits even to those, having to fight a wild mind, are not yet capable to meditate on the qualities of the Lord, on His Divine Adventures (lila) and on His Divine Forms (rupa). The so called well thinkers, permanently serving pure rationality, could blame this practice by deeming it an imposition, but this practice of containment is indispensible to rediscover our original nature, the face of the Self beyond the masks of ego. Then when we become lords of our psychic home, it will no longer be necessary to fight our rebellious mind because we have reached inner peace, which is not related to the death of the psyche but to the optimum functioning and natural harmonization of the psyche with the soul. He who doesn’t have a good sadhana will be compelled to remain at a superficial level of meditation and his conscience will continue to fill itself with elements not fit for spiritual realization. It is for this reason that sadhana is a sine qua condition to reach spiritual realization. Pay attention: do not fall in the trap of cutting corners and believe too early that you are free or spontaneously in love with God because the contents of conditioners still present on the bottom of your conscience could become lethal. The scriptures explain the importance of never neglecting sadhana because it is a Divine gift that we have received because of the mercy of the Acarya. In sadhana, chanting the Holy Names is a priority. Before dedicating ourselves to you social responsibilities or to the holy seva duties, it is essential to begin the day with Harinama Japa. In devotional service everything is Vaikuntha, but in the Kali yuga the practice of chanting the Holy Name is superior to any other instrument of purification of the conscience. Practice it by trying to pay attention to the quality of your reciting other than engage yourselves for a sufficient long time period. Attentively observe what happens and what sounds inside yourselves, invocate the Divine Mercy and ever more you will discover yourselves to be able to improve you state of conscience.”

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Freeing Ourselves From Our False Ego

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

Our ego is a Destructor, the principle of separation and disunion. It is the opposite of Love.

The ego gives illusion to possess happiness, but if we come in contact with it we only get ephemeral pleasure. The ego gives illusion to possess love, but this sentiment, when it gets close to the ego becomes nothing else than unhealthy attachment. Divine immortal love belongs to the soul. Egoistical and conditioned attachments belong to the ego.

Freeing ourselves from the prison of the ego, (ahamkara) is the first and most important job to do for an aspirant spiritualist, whatever tradition or spiritual path we chose to follow.

By freeing ourselves from it we don’t lose our identity, instead our true identity can rise again only when the false identifications and masks of their personality (sarvo upadhir vinir muktam) will be gone. As long as we remain clutched to our false ego and we entertain ourselves with it, there will not be a reason to know God or ourselves. The job to be done is serious and demanding, but also wonderful and charming. It leads us to see ourselves, others and anything in this world with the eyes of the soul, by perceiving ourselves as creatures of the Lord and we will work for His Grace and Mercy, in harmony with the Whole.

In Buddhism ego is described as the cause for pain and of all illness. It is fought with the radical renunciation of the world. In the mid-oriental Traditions, Judaism, Christianity and Islamism ego is fought with renunciation, prayers and fasting. In the Franciscan order, the three perpetual vows are: poverty, chastity and obedience.

In Vedanta and Samkhya, ego is considered the principal cause of avidya, removal from God, collapse and degradation. It is the greatest obstacle to realization of the Inner Self and of Happiness. It is the strength that is opposed to the soul and to God. It is the main cause for envy and the falling of angels and men such Lucifer and Macbeth in ancient stories, as well as other examples in modern ones. Because of his ego, Lucifer becomes Satan and Lord Macbeth becomes a degraded and disgusting individual. In Lord Macbeth, the ego manifests itself in the form of Eva, Lady Macbeth who stimulates and increments his most negative tendencies. The principle of Eve and Adam is in each one of us, as in each of us is the angel, the pure devotee who aspires to liberation for himself and others. If we chose to feed the snake, the snake will win. If we feed the angel and his luminous spiritual nature, the angel will win. In each of us there are Vitra and Indra, Lucifer and Michael. Our destiny depends on the choices that we make, one way or the other.

Together with pride and haughtiness, the false ego is the principal characteristic of the asura. Humility is the opposite attitude and partially it is the antidote.

In a famous metaphor where Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu trains his greatest devotee, Shrila Rupa Gosvami, the Bhakti of the aspiring spiritualist is compared to a tender little plant, bhakti lata bija, surrounded by plants infested by the ego which aim to grow and destroy it. We must, with all of our might, take care of and protect this tender plant of Bhakti by practicing sadhana (spiritual discipline) in a constant way (abyasa) with emotional detachment from world phenomena (vairagya), by developing pure desire of service and offering to God. The offer to the Supreme of all that we own is defined by Shri Caitanya as the highest renunciation: yukta vairagya. The bad plant of the ego is eradicated by constant practice of sadhana bhakti with humility and in spirit of service.

In the vaidhi sadhana bhakti the centrality of the spiritual practices is constituted by Harinama Japa and Harinama Sankirtana, the imploration to God through the Holy Names and serving the Deities by calling His Name, because God and His Name are the same thing, His Name Itself is a divine manifestation.

Invoking the Holy Name with purity and without an offensive attitude takes humility. This derives from the consciousness of our nature of servants of God. The humility of one part relates to the Whole, to God, to His creatures and to His create.

Humbleness is developed by learning to respect and value all living beings, whomever or whatever they are, it doesn’t matter what body they temporarily wear. Only then, for divine mercy, the offenses that threat our spiritual realization will cease and it will be possible to chant the holy names in ecstasy.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

On Evaluation and Judgment

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

In life, to pursue our evolution, we must analyze what happens, understand it and make our own opinion. By analyzing the facts, we can even understand eventual mistakes made by us or by others, learn some lessons, without letting it determine our distrust in ourselves or our diminished gratitude toward others. Within ourselves and in others, there are not only light or shadow, that’s why our intelligence must be utilized to distinguish these two aspects to understand how we can correct and improve ourselves.
The analysis, the investigation and the evaluation of the facts, is everyone’s duty if we want to evolve. However, analysis and evaluation must not imply the stigmatizing judgment of condemnation of others. In the Gospel, according to Matthew (chap. 7) you may read: “Do not judge, so you are not judged, because with the same judgment that you judge other, you will be judged and with the same measurement that you will measure others you will be measured.” When we see individuals in conflict with each other, we shouldn’t ask ourselves who is right or wrong. First of all we should engage in understanding what happened and what is the right thing to do. We must be interested in doing the right thing, not in reporting who doesn’t do it or cheer who does it. Our soul pushes us upward, toward noble ideals and purity. Purity is our strength, astuteness and shrewdness are not. One can read all of the Shastra and memorize them, but, if his motivation is not a desire for an ever greater purity and harmony, he will never climb the evolutionary step. Let’s always engage ourselves in verifying our level of understanding and capability to apply these teachings. With the vaishnava, for example, we should behave with great respect, remaining close to them as we would be close to fire. We must be careful not to make offenses or we will get burned. The Scriptures inform us that staying with our spiritual master is a privilege that we get after numerous lives, just as getting the opportunity to serve the Deities or study the Shastra. To acknowledge their teachings we must be concentrated, offer mantra and express gratitude through chosen prayers to make contact not only with the book ma also with the flux or divine inspiration that will reach us when our heart is ready to accept the endless mercy. If there is no humble and devotional attitude, if we don’t approach these Realities with the consciousness of the great privilege that we have, we risk to lose the flavor for the Shastra, for Satsanga, for Prasada and for other immeasurable divine presents. We have a great fortune but we dilapidate it. Let’s engage ourselves to get conscious of the greatness of what was offered to us and of the rarity of being with people who have dedicated their lives to the purpose of reaching Love for the Creator, the create and the creatures. Let’s practice with faith, sincerity and purity, simplicity, Love for Krishna and for all of the living beings. The vaishnava works in the world to offer the opportunity to undertake this journey to all. The bhakta is not he who relegates himself in a cavern or in a hollow tree as a misanthrope but he is active among people with the sentiment of compassion to inspire all to harmonize themselves with the universe and make the experience of Life after death. This experience cannot be made if we don’t wake up spiritually, if we maintain the illusion to be happy in the matter and with the matter. Thanks to God we have received from Shrila Prabhupada and from the previous acarya not only theoretical teachings but also their example and life model. We were able to see how they behaved when they were applauded or insulted, when they were healthy or ill, in moments of abundance, or in strained circumstances. We must be grateful to the Lord because in this life we have all the instruments that we need to perform our journey and reach our destination. Are there going to be more tests to overcome, dangerous roads and perils along the way? The answer is yes, and it couldn’t be otherwise as long as we live in such a muting world. In this journey from birth to death we have the opportunity to learn many lessons to transform our existence in an evolutionary way and reach the highs of the conscience and realization with a sentiment of pure Love. The acarya describe our purpose by talking about a free way, of immense happiness, without constriction of time and space and mainly without the presence of death. Their words and realizations recall an inspiration that is in the heart of each one of us. The inspiration is of full consciousness, freedom, justice, immortality and beatitude. In the same measure that we dedicate ourselves to spiritual practices and we surrender to God and we intensely desire to evolve, we could free ourselves to the net of maya, thanks to the divine intervention and we will reach Love.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Imitating or Following Someone’s Footprints

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

Should we imitate wise men, the spiritual master, the acarya and the prophets or follow their footsteps?

Imitation or simulation of a behavior results in copying someone, sometimes it can be some kind of deceit, which is much different from following the footsteps of an elevated model in an honest and sincere attempt to activate latent faculties within ourselves that are still unexpressed. Following the steps of elevated people will allow us to grow and will help us if we practice it with humbleness by giving benefits to others.

The spiritual master must not be imitated, but followed and used as a model to creatively apply his teachings on one’s life. If we humbly strive to follow his footsteps, we gradually build in ourselves all of our inner requirements that will turn his model into our model. This would be an experience and a patrimony that step by step we can capitalize on. Vice versa, if we imitate him without performing a deep inner work, we will have the illusion to fly but we will discover that we have no wings to fly on. Only he who follows the footsteps, slowly gets close to who imprints these footsteps.

Therefore, imitating doesn’t bring any long term benefits. Instead it exposes us to many dangers. Following the footsteps allows us to develop and earn the qualities that we take as a model.

Shila Prabhupada used to say: “If you are not humble, act as if you where, If you are not a devotee yet, act like a devotee.”

“Acting as if” is a practice that can help us significantly in our spiritual journey. If I act as if I was a devotee, by maintain conscience of my limits and trying to overcome them, gradually, I will become a devotee. “Acting as if” allow us to progress in the same measure as we practice without pride and haughtiness, without pretending to ourselves and to others that we have already arrived.

If we follow the footsteps of those that are humble, we can also gradually become humble without making the mistake of building an illusion, however sincerely striving to find in ourselves that elevate quality of the soul. In reality virtue and knowledge already reside within us. We must realize existence and free ourselves from conditioners. Socrates used to define this teaching with the concept of maieutica and used to explain it as follows: what I do is simply putting people in the right conditions to
“give birth” to their knowledge. We can teach a child how to speak only because he already has in himself the faculty of speech, instead we could never do it with a monkey no matter how much effort we would put in it. By cultivating spiritual knowledge already intrinsic in our inner self and by practicing it in our life, we can awake in ourselves our superior nature, the only one that really belongs to us.

If we think that goodness, humbleness, justice, truthfulness, compassion, tolerance, mercy and love are qualities of our inner self, by practicing these values with faith and under the guide of who lives them coherently, we can gradually rediscover them by realizing who we are. We won’t realize it only at the intellectual level, but also by experiencing a superior flavor of those values, on the strength of an emotional wave that connects us permanently to our inner world. By doing this and predisposing ourselves in the best way with prayers and meditation, by looking for help from Shri Shri Guru and Krishna, we can achieve excellent progress, even though we are still prisoners in our bodies. This is because we will reconnect to the universal archetypes and to that cosmic harmony that guarantees evolution and wellbeing of all the creatures and that allows us to transcend the narrow limits of conditioners: space and time.

Imitating means depriving ourselves of that very precious personal contribution called creativity. Knowledge applied without creativity and artificially emulated, does not bring results. This is why we should not imitate the acaryas but instead follow their footsteps, by acquiring their teachings and making them ours, by expressing them through our individuality and personality with our peculiar feelings, with faith and purity. We need to ensure that those teaching become our voice, our perfume and our existence.

When a person imitates someone, that person is not himself. He can act well his part but inside him there won’t be tangible and significant changes as soon as the mask is off. If instead a person engages himself to apply the received teachings without fakeness, by expressing himself in every circumstance, without putting up any artifice, even if sometimes it would be evident that he doesn’t understand or he makes some errors, he would however have a bigger chance to evolve spiritually in comparison to a perfect imitator.

The Guru’s teachings must serve as orientation. The compass shows the destination, but we must undertake the journey to reach it.

To follow the Spiritual Master’s footsteps we must engage ourselves by utilizing every resource to continue on the indicated path. Our path leads to the same goal that we have undertaken as a model, but if we reach it on our own, maybe out feathers will be a little worn out, but we are the ones who reached the goal after we have undertaken the entire journey.

By imitating, we don’t do a true job on ourselves and therefore we don’t feel satisfied, instead by following the footsteps we experiment a great joy and a continuous increment of our gratitude toward he who has showed us the way and helped us undertaking it.

Along the path we can sometimes encounter some obstacles such a stream that interferes and confuses us because we cannot see footprints in water। That would then become the chance to deeply question ourselves, to internalize even more the received teachings and understand how to proceed by using all the means at our disposal. Following footprints requires all of our participation and this allows us to develop a taste for knowledge and for its application. When we can climb some evolutionary step, it becomes our conquest and the gratitude toward those that have inspired and educated us on our journey becomes ever greater.

Between imitating and following footsteps there is a great difference, mainly a different flavor. Following footsteps we can learn to apply teachings with our intelligence and creativity, by purifying and continuously renovating our motivation to reach ever higher equilibriums. If in this journey we wear out our feathers or our hair turn white there is no reason to complain, instead we should be proud that we spent our lives in pursuing noble ideals. There is no other valuable purpose in this world. He who dreams to be happy with the pleasures of the senses is like he who in a mirage sees water in the desert. Does our vision then oppose matter to spirit? No, the vision that the acaryas have donated to us integrates Hearth and Sky. In fact, even in this world and with the things of this world we can experience happiness, but it is real only as long as we are connected and we connect everything to the Spirit, the world and Its Creator along with the create and the creatures. Beatitude becomes possible even in this world when we contemplate and serve God in every creature.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Purifying and Renewing our Motivations

Bhaktivedanta Ashrama, March 3, 2010

catur-vidha bhajante mam

janah sukrtino 'rjuna

arto jijnasur artharthi

jnani ca bharatarshabha

(Bhagavad-Gita VII.16)

In this shloka, Krishna explains that there are four categories of people that come to Him. They are all characterized by their sattvic nature. He defines those people that have done good deeds as sukitinam. In the previous shloka he had indicated four more categories of people that can’t reach Him and that He defines duskritinam (those that have an evil behavior). Since the nature of the jiva is thtasha shkti, the living being can become enlightened or darkened depending on his behavior and on the influences that he entertains. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad explains the same principle when it says: he who performs good deeds will have a good outcome, he who performs bad deeds, will have a bad outcome. The sukrinam have a common denominator: they desire to undertake the enlightened way upward, they have in their heart the wellbeing and the valuing of all, they are transparent and truthful and they set themselves to face every problem with constructive spirit. The duskritinam instead, are those who not have chosen the evolutional path, they tell lies and their actions are evil. In the sixteenth chapter of Bhagavad-Gita, sixth shloka, Krishna defines the darkened people as follows:

pravrittim ca nivrittim ca

jana na vidur asurah

na shaucam napi cacaro

na satyma teshu vidyate

(Bhagavad-Gita XVI.6)

They don’t do what they should do, instead they do what they shouldn’t do, they are not pure, do not have a correct behavior and they are twofold and deceptive.

Do not consider lies, envy and other conditioners as exceptions. They are distributed in the Kali atmosphere as we find iron, copper and many other elements in nature. We must have this sense of reality if we wish to overcome the anartha without underestimating their power and predisposing ourselves for the best by identifying them and transforming them. Every time an enlightened structure forms in our personality, we must be aware that a shadow of the same size and strength forms itself. At the same moment that Krishna created the Deva, the asura rises. When God creates ranks of the most beautiful angels, the most illuminated among them, Lucifer, is overcome by envy and becomes Satan. This happens at the cosmic level as well as the individual level. Every time you make a choice that elevates you and you have a significant spiritual experience, a wave of the same size, but opposed, arrives. This is the test that, if we overcome it, will allow us to reach a superior balance. We must however have the firm will to overcome our limits.

With the help of knowledge we can see if we are acting well or badly and people of elevated knowledge who observe us, can see it better and before we can. They can give us suggestions to stimulate us toward evolution, they can help us and correct us, but only if we have the desire to truly listen.

The Scriptures explain that the deviations from the rightful path are caused by mistakes repeated and a neglected attitude or stubbornness in performing them, as our evolution is the result of a systematic series of behaviors that are ethically elevated, noble and finalized to our and other’s wellbeing. An healthy self critical knowledge always alerted is indispensable to progress in the enlightened path of liberation. Help and support from others is fundamental as it is not always easy to observe ourselves and understand when we make mistakes because our worse conditioners are those that have subconscious origin.

When a sense of uneasiness, a doubt or a sense of heaviness arise, at the first warning we should be able to take immediate corrective measures, just as we would do when a warning light in our car alerts us that there is a problem. Ignoring this warning can be lethal. This is why Shrila Rupa Gosvami explains in the Upadeshamrita the importance of revealing our mind to people of elevate conscience. Why? Because if there is anything wrong with us, we would have the opportunity to recognize it and begin to resolve it, otherwise, if we build a wall around ourselves, in the darkness of our loneliness we get stuck ever more in the tunnels of our mind. The poison that we keep inside destroys us and then we end up spreading it around and infecting others with our disease.

In Bhagavad-Gita VII.16, Krishna individuated the following four categories of people that can reach Him; the ones that are suffering, those that are trying to reach their objective (the search for a spouse, a job, etc.), the curious ones and those that are looking for knowledge. What do people that suffer do when they have solved their problems by using the teachings received? What do those people that were looking for an objective after they have reached it do or those who have received the knowledge as soon as they get it? They leave the enlightened path if their objectives remained only those that they have obtained and if in the meantime they had not elevated their motivation that lead them to the spiritual path. I saw many people coming to Krishna Consciousness for different external purposes. Even the knowledge of the Veda is to be considered a marginal purpose if it is not conceived as an instrument to reach the only true objective that allows for the full evolution of the human being, which is the realization of the immortal love for God and for every Creature. Even knowledge, if it is not an instrument to develop Love, becomes a useless distraction and causes haughtiness instead of wisdom.

Therefore, in our evolutionary journey, to reach our goal, we must be able to enhance our motivations and always renew our consciousness of the true meaning of this journey. We must be able to distinguish the instrumental aspects from those finalized to this journey which are param gatih, or the supreme purpose. Caitanya Mahaprabhu defines Love as the supreme purpose. It is so fulfilling that it includes and transcends all other purposes, and once it is achieved, we need nothing else. If we don’t purify and elevate step by step our motivations that led us on the evolutionary path, we couldn’t gradually make progress, and we wouldn’t ever reach our final destination. This purpose is the quintessence of life, it is the pure Bhakti or Shudda Bhakti and it is not contaminated by desires of sensorial gratification, personal honor, power, etc....

Krishna explains in Bhagavad-Gita IX.2: the path of dharma allows us to know our authentic eternal nature and it is applied with joy. Even a single step on this path can free us from the biggest fear. The benefits that we achieve, as we evolve, before we reach our purpose should not however distract us from the real purpose to be pursued. Why stopping at mid trip? It means condemning ourselves to remain inside the prison of prakriti, articulated by continuous births and deaths. This happens whether we know or don’t know the Veda, even if we have reached 90% of our journey. The journey continues to the final destination only if we can substitute our initial motivations with others more purified and elevated. The first ones will result inadequate to reach the ultimate level from which we will never fall again, where in fact the guna will not grab the person that is now established in the irreversible Bhakti. This perfecting is made possible by the continuous renovation of our motivations.

When we clash with the tendencies of virtue and sin, the ones that we chose to nurture the most will win. We need faith, perseverance and determination in achieving pure Goodness. Even when we make choices to strengthen the angel within us, to overcome our conditioners and dependencies, our journey is not however free of obstacles. The greatest obstacles never come from outside, they come from coercion to repeat destructive activities that we have performed in the past. The evolutionary journey is not easy, but those who want to be serious, that have a genuine desire to free themselves from their conditioners can make it if they commit their best and in the meantime look for shelter in God surrounding themselves with faith. In Bhagavad-Gita VII.14. Krishna explains: the guna are my divine energy, they are very hard to overcome, however, if you surrender to me, you will easily pass their limits. It is the faithful and loving surrender that represents our hope for salvation; surrender ourselves to God like we would surrender to the dearest of our friends, to the sweetest of our lovers, to our Protector and Savior.

This surrender is not possible if we don’t practice purity, become humble and behave in a transparent fashion. Krishna is the Lord and Protector of those that are sattvic and pray to Him continuously without egoistical purposes. In their heart, Krishna destroys all the coercion to repeat actions generated by old tendencies. Therefore, to be able to practice surrender and welcome the Divine Mercy, we must first of all initiate our purification. This is why Sadhana cannot be an option. We should constantly continue to purify our desires, thoughts, words, sentiments and actions. Life has full value when it is dedicated to this purification that step by step, with the divine mercy allows us to fully realize immortal love. When we have realized true love and secured it in our hearts, we will never again be touched by what is external, it won’t make a difference where we will live, if we have a material body or one made of light, because the person in love with God draws the most complete satisfaction while serving in a pure devotional state.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Shri Gaura Purnima Mahotsava, 28 February 2010

By Madhavipriya Dasi

Many devotees gathered at the Villa Vrindavana Temple to celebrate the most merciful Manifestation of God, Shri Caitanya Deva.

Shrila Gurudeva offers us teachings, images, memories, deep sentiments and ancient stories that reveal the most intimate nature of this charming Divine Figure.

Shri Caitanya Deva is ekatma: Radhe and Krishna together, one soul; Krishna as source of every power, together with the sweetness, compassion, welcoming and endless mercy of Shrimati Radharani.

The quintessence of the teachings of Shri Gauranga is the unconditioned love of Radhe for Krishna. An unlimited and extremely sweet king of love, manifested by Shri Caitanya throughout His life, constantly absorbed in that special rasa of love ecstasy.”

Shrila Gurudeva tells some salient episodes of Shri Caitanya’s life; His encounter with Ishvarapuri, his acceptance of sannyasa, his transfer to Jagannath Puri, his pilgrimage in southern India, the special love relationships with His devotees and his meeting with the mayavada sannyasi Prakashandanda Sarasvati.

Wherever he was, Shri Gauranga gave to everyone the endless mercy of the Holy Name. Every step he took, it was a dance, every word of his, a love invocation. “Let God enter your heart through His Holy Name. Chant the name of God and your heart will be purified.” Shri Caitanya explains to Shirla Rupa Gosvami the unforgettable metaphor of great suggestion called bhakti lata bija, the seed of the plant of devotional love. At the peak of our luck, our devotion, as a result of pious activities, it is possible to receive the seed of Bhakti, most likely from a devotee of the Lord. This seed must be hosted in our heart so it can become a flourishing plant, capable to give the fruits of devotion. The Bhakti plant must be taken care of so it is not annihilated by the sin.

We must constantly remove the weeds that try to suffocate and kill it. These weeds are called anartha, or conditioners. Our commitment should be to cultivate this plant by chanting the Holy Name of the Lord, without offenses, so that Krishnaprema, the pure love for God can sprout in our hearts.

To eliminate the offensive attitude, Shri Caitanya teaches us to look at every living being in his original constitutional position as servant of the Lord.

Let’s honor Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as a kind of Divine Manifestation and as a perfect model of devotee, who reveals the sweet rasa or sentiments of spiritual love for God, all the way to the most intense and elevate sentiment: viraha bhakti, Love while separate from the Loved one.”

At the end of the lecture, Shirla Gurudeva asks his God Brother Traidas Prabhu to offer his realizations on Shri Caitanya Deva. At the end, inspired by the received teachings, we offer a wonderful chant to Shri Gaurahari.

Shri Shaci-Sutastakam

His complexion is the hue of fresh cream tinged with kunkum. He is the ever-fresh Cupid who shoots arrows of newly blossoming flowers. He bears newer and newer moods of emotional ecstasies. He is fond of performing novel dances. He makes ever-new jokes that cause much laughter. His brilliant luster is like freshly cast gold.—I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Saci.

He is endowed with ever-fresh love of Godhead. His radiant luster is like the color of fresh butter. His fresh attire is arranged in ever-new fashions. He relishes ever-new mellows of love for Krsna. He shines in nine-fold new ways while executing the nine-fold processes of devotion. He is permeated with a most auspicious loving nature.—I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Saci.

He is absorbed in devotion to Sri Hari. He maintains the chanting of the names of Hari. While chanting He counts the holy names on the fingers of His hands. He is addicted to the name of Hari. He always has tears of love welling in His eyes.—I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Saci.

He is always removing the suffering of material existence for mankind. He is the goal of life for persons who are dedicated to their supreme interest. He inspires men to become like honeybees (eager for the honey of Krsna-prema). He removes the burning fever of the material world.—I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Saci.

He motivates pure devotion unto Himself. He is most attractive to His beloved servitors. By His dramatic dancing He exhibits the characteristics of the King of paramours. He causes the minds of beautiful young village women to dance.—I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Saci.

He plays karatals as His throat emits sweet melodious sounds and the vibrant notes of the vina are softly played. He thus inspires the devotees to perform dramatic dancing that is infused with aspects of His own devotional service.—I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Saci.

He is accompanied by the sankirtana movement, which is the religious practice for the age of Kali. He is the son of Nanda Maharaja come again. He is the extraordinarily brilliant ornament of the earth. His preaching mood is suitably adapted to the cycle of birth and death. His consciousness is fixed in meditation on His own form of Krsna. He is always accompanied by His transcendental abode.—I bow to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Saci.

His eyes, the soles of His feet, and His clothing are reddish like the color that heralds the rising sun. As He utters His own names, His voice falters. He awakens a sweet flavor to life throughout the universe.—I bow down to Gaura, the beautiful son of Mother Saci.