H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Class about Markandeay Rishi on Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's anniversary. By Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

This part of the Shrimad Bhagavatam could be defined: “The allegory of death”. Whatever Markandeya rishi witnesses in the macrocosm, I believe it is not different from all that each of us will witness at the moment of dissolution, of the microcosm of our body because, as it is explained in the Upanishad, macrocosm and microcosm are one the reflection of the other.
At the time of death, we will be carried away like a floating leaf into space and, in a second, under the influence of a powerful driving force, we will be projected out of the body.
Only through a spiritual realization we will be reminded of our origin, by understanding what is happening and acting in a sensible manner.
Markandeya rishi’s tale is the story of a realized soul who through the passage beyond death meets the Lord. In the ocean of universal devastation, the Lord appears to him as a toddler who floats on a leaf and sucks his big toe in tenderness, whilst the light that emanates from his body entirely disperses darkness.
Markandeya protects Him in his heart with deep devotion.
Today is His Holy Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's anniversary. I remember one of Shrila Prabhupada’s lessons held in this occasion in order to glorify his Master for the great work made to value the Vaishnava image and that one of an authentic Brahmin. During this lesson Shrila Prabhupada narrates the story taken from the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Naradamuni meets the sons of a Brahmin, of a king and of a butcher. Each of them asks him in turn: “Tell me what my future will be like. Is it better for me to live or to die?”. Narada answers to the Brahmin’s son: “Living or dying does not matter to you because you are practising spiritual activities and you will do the same after death”. Narada’s answer to the prince is: “It is better for you to live because you have made so many sins, therefore having ceased the pleasures of this life, you will have to suffer a great deal in your next life”. What is the answer to the butcher’s son? Narada says: “Living or dying is the same for you. You are suffering in this life and likewise you will suffer after death".

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Scientific exploration for the Existence of God. By Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

It is time for science and religion to reconcile and complement each other; this is possible only by realizing the difference in fields of application and results of each discipline.
Prof. V.V. Raman defined science as the collective endeavour to understand the universe in a consistent and coherent way, based on reason, rationality and empirical evidence. By exploring the concept of multiverse, prof. Mann indicated thelogy and science as having different approches to address the question of what is reality; theology’s approach is teleology, a goal-oriented search for the scope of the universe, which the theologies of all traditions share; while science’s approach is ecbatology, that is the search for a necssity and/or chance for the universe as it is to emerge. The exploration of biophilic selection effects, that is life-friendly conditions, reveals that the universe seems fine-tuned for life; two possible explanations for this arise: the existence of a super-intelligent Agent, that is God, or the succession of similar attempts which sooner or later will lead to conditions conducive for live, that is a multiverse.
On the other hand the concept of transcendence in Vedic literature, is beyond space and time, as it is not a physical reality and is knowable only beyond the domain of facts and logic, specifically the domain of science. It seems therefore important to remember that scientific knowledge is basically what the human brain can make of the universe; as prof. Raman wrote, scientific objectivity is but collective subjectivity, while the universe is structured on different levels of information, ranging from a first order composed of physical and biological laws, to a superior order producing experience and reflection. The concept of consciousness, as explored by Dr. Sushant Sharma, comes to play a very important role in our understainding of reality. Alternative models of reality, as in Penrose’s quantum gravity model or in Vedanta and Yoga psychology, state that consciousness is not a result of any mechanistic process, rather it is a symptom of the conscious living force that dwells in the body. Even the brain is treated as non-intelligent, rather it is but a computing instrument, a device that the consciousness uses to express itself.
The concepts presented by the speakers in this session, seem to address the question of what is life, and I would like to propose the exploration of such concepts also with the aid of basic views present in Vedic literature, such as the structure of reality on multiple levels (adhibautika, adhidaivika, adhiatmika) and consciousness as a fundamental attribute of the atman, the conscious, immortal living being and as the very foundation of any representation of reality.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Love and Freedom: Betrayal, Rancour and Forgiveness. By Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

Turin, May 21st 2011

Everyone is in search of freedom and love, but very often our actions imprison us instead of making us free, and we suffer instead of loving.
Love and freedom are the signs of triumph that shows we make realizations by listening and following the voice that we hear from within: the voice of consciousness. The same voice resounds in the prisons, in the hospitals, in the innocent children’s hearts and in the life of tired elderly people and it reminds us of the real purpose of life: to evolve in order to become aware of our divine nature and learn to love.
Without freedom, without love, without forgiveness and compassion, the human being is no more than a spiritual dwarf: he may walk but certainly he does not fly, he may stutter or speak, but certainly his heart does not sing because he does not know the joy of the people who live in harmony within themselves, with the others, with the whole world.
Power intimidates people, whereas compassion generates love. By forgiving the person finds the divine power and relieves oneself from attachments, resentments and feelings of guilt, anger and revenge. The one who forgives is able to love and enjoys love of the others.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

DEATH. A stage of life (part 2/2). By Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

In the Fedone, Platone makes Socrate say, in one of his last phrases: “The time has come that I must go; every one of us continues with his or her program: I go off to die, you all go on to live, but no one knows who will be better off, only God knows”. And Tagore wrote: “Birth and death are two parts of life, just like to walk you must lift a foot and then lay it down”.
Birth and death are two dots in a circle that the sages of the Veda call samsara, the repeated cycle of birth and death, since, like the Bhagavad gita teaches, all that is born will die and all that dies will be reborn.
Birth and death are like awakening and going to sleep: we are here before we awake and we are here again after we have fallen asleep. The similitude between dream and death is very close.
The fear of death, besides the terror generated from the unknown, from the journey to an unknown destination, is primarily constituted from the fact that we must leave the objective world, the body, our dearest people, the social position, the prestige, the richness, the pleasure of food, of sex and various possessions. Yet, doesn’t the same happen during our dreams? In the dream doesn’t the subject abandon its physical body? Doesn’t he abandon the social prestige? He abandons a large quantity of things for which he has often developed a morbid attachment. The realization of the self permanence in a different dimension from the one of the wake state of consciousness, is something to be reinforced when we have the resources to make an investment of knowledge, to resolve the problem of death in life.
Death, as the Veda teache, is a passage towards another dimension, passage through which we renew our lives’ projects; it is not the end, but the beginning of a successive existential cycle. It is like exiting from a theatre scene and entering into another; the actor does not disappear, he is gone only to the observer’s eyes; the same is for the living being at the death moment: the protagonist does not disappear, but simply goes elsewhere. The Gita compares the body to a dress; death is like undressing from old clothes and wearing new ones.
Our prejudices, the social schemes, the way of facing certain phenomena and certain passages of life, are to be reconsidered at the renovated light of intelligence. The image of the self is not what the mirror shows. Death can lose its dramatic power if we come to a new vision of reality, by acknowledging and experiencing ourselves beyond the multiple masks of ego.
The fear of being annulled, zeroed, terminated, is the product of a certain culture, a prejudice, a negative dogma that generates tormenting thoughts, swinging between remorse and irony. Many make irony on death trying to exorcise their fear, but the right approach to the phenomenon must be honest, serious, through an in-depth study, not only intellectual, but experimental.
The subjective world and the objective world, the psychical introverted and extroverted functions and the needs of all the living being should be harmonized. It is by harmonizing these functions that we can grow up, that we can illuminate our personality. Life is a continuum, birth and death correspond to the appearing and disappearing of a physical body, and the same is for the appearing and disappearing of thoughts, illusions, wishes, opinions. If emotionally detached we put ourselves in the position of observers, we can see that the psychical contents float in our conscience as objects on the surface of a river, and therefore we can manage them at our best. What slips off our control, instead, is all that we identify ourselves with and obviously what we ignore.
The fear of death is caused by the identification with our body. Who identifies himself/herself with the body they are wearing will experiment, as years go by, growing fear and terror of death.
What wins death is love, together with consciousness. Love is the strongest feeling, it outlives death, because living means to give and receive love. To love in its widest meaning is to love life itself, therefore all that is living: all creatures. This should set our way of life, of eating, of relating with others. The more we love life and we understand its nature, the less we will fear death.

Monday, 19 September 2011

DEATH. A stage of life (part 1/2) By Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

No matter what our descendant roots are, noble or of humble origin, rich or poor, old or young, illuminated or not, we are all destined to die. We know that it is inevitable, but we deceive ourselves by thinking that others will die before us, that we will be the last to go. Death always seams far away. Isn’t it a misleading way of thinking? Isn’t it an illusion, a dream? This makes us negligent and we shouldn’t believe it. We should be courageous and prepare ourselves, because sooner or later death will knock at our door. (Yamamoto Tsunetomo, samurai monk of ending 1600)

Death is most likely the most complex, painful and captivating phenomenon with which man has always had to deal with; generally it irrupts very strongly in the story of an individual, of a family unit and society reality, often leaving behind desperation, emptiness, and mental derangement.
Intelligent people of every era, though living in health, have come across this problem with genuine spirit of research, looking for the comprehension of the events that obligatorily move to a different level from the one merely pertinent to the sensorial perception.
The thought of death is located deep in the human soul and strongly affects the entire course of life and the character, mostly operating at a deep conscience level.
The objective of this analysis is the reinterpretation of the phenomenon, reinterpretation that takes the abandoning of those preconceptions structured in our mind since the green age, and connected to apparent realities and to the destructive image that the idea of death carries with itself.
To face this arcane and dramatic argument in the over-rational perspective, lightly expressed and surely unusual for the western culture, we need to take an “inner journey” , to the roots of our deepest and concealed experiences. The rational mind can capture and encode the physical reality, but not all the reality is reconductible to this level. How can the rational function explain in a full and satisfactory way the “intra-psychic” dynamics? How can it answer the existential questions on the imperceptible nature of oneself and explain the mystery of life? In front of death or of a disconcerting medical report even the most solid rationality will vacillate showing all its limits.
The sages of the Veda, mind and life scientists who belong to a millenary tradition, indicate how the human being complexity must be studied in its entire bio-psychic-spiritual reality. The classic Indian works explain that barriers between the physical, psychic-energetic and spiritual-metaphysic do not exist; the same human life is a combination of these three interactive dimensions of reality. Man does not only have a physical body but also a psychic body, which represents one of the fundamental bases for the development of the personality. But physical and psychic do not complete the picture of a human being: the physical body and the mental structure are two tools utilized from the purusha, the spiritual self, the subject that perceives, thinks and acts using in fact the body and the mind. Only those that are fully conscious of their self can influence deeply and with determination their physical and psychic bodies, activating inner resources that allows the rediscovering of the auto-healing path. What unifies the physical world and the psychical world, that makes them interactive and gives them a meaning is the self, the vital spark, the witness, the one that sees, that hears, that understands; all the rest are tools.
We need to underline that every living being is eternal, therefore the living entity does not have a beginning (anadi) or an end (ananta). The Veda knowledge teaches that we do not die with the body but at the moment of the spiritual journey out of the body we are moved elsewhere aboard of the psychic structure. From this perspective we can transcend the mistaken contraposition of the binomial life-death, rediscovering the living being’s dimension in which death, being a life phase, is not in opposition with life, but with birth. Similarly, the “asleep” state of consciousness, the one without dreams, is not in opposition with the “wake” state of consciousness. If we made life coincide exclusively with the wake experience, then we can say that sleep has nothing to do with life, but we know very well that it is not true at all. Without sleep there could not be the wake state: during sleep the neurons healthily interact, all the cells easily surrender their wasted products and regenerate.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The most blessed event of my life. By Matsyavatara das (Marco Ferrini)

2011, August 30th

Today, thirty five years back, I had Your Divine Grace darshana for the first time.
I thank You again and again and in occasion of this holy day, please accept my humble offering as a praise at Your glorious life.
In all of these past years I have repeatedly gone over the scenario of our first encounter and, after deep meditation, I always come back to the same conclusion: even though I approached You that first time with insufficient purity and spiritual feelings, You took my sincerity very seriously and, as if in a dream or a play, You instilled in my heart faith in God, in His devotional service and in His pure devotees. As if under a spell, the chains of material nature that had me solidly bound loosened their hold, my attachment to illusory pleasures almost vanished and I desired to serve the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, experiencing feelings of intense transcendental happiness and sharp compassion for those still spiritually unaware.
If having given so little I received so much I can guess what could happen if one day, following Your sacred teachings, I will be able to abandon myself completely to the mercy of the Supreme Will, to Lord Sri Krishna.
Dear Srila Prabhupada, since it is not in my power to perform this change of hearth and consciousness and since You are an authentic patita pavana, who just came for this job, I humbly beg Your Divine Grace to have compassion for me and to infuse me with the spiritual strength necessary to situate myself constantly at Your glorious lotus feet: an indispensable position for obtaining divine loving service unto the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krishna.
Your ever grateful disciple,
Matsyavatara Dasa

Monday, 18 July 2011

Against violence, towards animals as well. By Matsyavatara das (Marco Ferrini)

In every religious tradition, the commandment “Do not kill” represents the main teaching. In the Veda such principle is spread out with the concept of ahimsa, “do not damage the others”, which is the core of the sadhaka, the scholar who attains a spiritual discipline, religious life. “No Violence” is a law carved in the heart of every human being, even before one starts studying the Sacred Scriptures. The act of killing repels everyone and hurts one’s sensitivity, therefore it is clear that this principle, as stated in the Sacred Scriptures, is referred not only to the killing of human beings.

Glories to You My Lord with all Your living creatures!". St Francis of Assisi

The world of living beings is a whole organism. The general life of this organism is not God, but it is only a partial aspect of His manifestations, the same as our planet is a part of the solar system which itself is a part of another greater system and so on”. Lev Tolstoj

There will be a time when man will not have to kill for food and even the killing of one single animal will be considered as harmful and immoral”. Leonardo da Vinci

Along the long path of evolution with the purpose of perfection, humanity has not yet become aware of the need for compassion, towards animals too.

The list below outlines the lack of sensitivity that still affects the majority of human species, according to the statistics of 2009 regarding butchering of animals in the world reported by the National Geographic in the issue of May 2011.

1.7 million camels

24 million Indian buffalos

293 million cows

398 million goats

518 million sheep

633 million turkeys

1.1 billion rabbits

1.3 billion pigs

2.3 billion ducks

52 billion chickens

The magazine editors point out that the above statistics do not include fish!

In Bhagavad-gita, Krishna offers a perspective that can help each sensitive person to avoid becoming an accomplice, neither in active or passive way, of the horror of slaughtering the great number of poor animals. The fundamental ethical principle is to act for the good of every being and it is stated by Krishna in a straight forward way, by explaining how this principle can be fulfilled on earth, in this world, by showing benevolence and compassion towards all creatures.

“The devotee of Mine who is non-envious, who bears benevolence towards all living entities, free from false ego, equal in distress and happiness, forgiving, always content by performing devotional service with unflinching determination, who relies his mind and spiritual intelligence upon Me is very dear to Me.

One who do not cause disturbance to others, who is never disturbed by anybody and who is freed from mundane pleasures, anger, fear and anxiety such a person is very dear to Me.

The devotee of Mine who is pure, detached, expert, free from worry, or agitation and unconcerned with any mundane endeavor, such a person is very dear to Me”.

Bhagavad-gita XII.13-16.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

How to transform a rebellious mind into a Wonderful Mind (2/2). By Matsyavatara das (Marco Ferrini)

The act of offering the Supreme all that we possess is defined by Shri Caitanya as the highest form of renunciation: yukta vairagya. The bad weed of ego is uprooted by the constant and humble practice of sadhana bhakti in a spirit of loving service. Authentic humbleness comes from the awareness of our nature, which means to be God’s servants; it’s the humbleness of the part which stands in relationship with the whole, with the Creator, with the creatures and with the creation. Humbleness grows by learning to respect and to value the good qualities of every being, no matter which body it temporarily wears. Having such an attitude, thanks to divine mercy, the mistakes and the offences which hinder spiritual realization cease, and our journey towards the supreme Destination, param gatih, goes on rapidly. Freedom, justice, serenity, wisdom, happiness and love. The more we care about spiritual teachings, the more we stick to them and bring them inside our everyday life, the more our inner voice awakens and grows stronger. This inner voice is our inborn wisdom concerning discernment, and in the Krishna-bhakti tradition, in the Gaudiya-Vaishnavism, it is called tattva-viveka, discerning awareness. If we start to distinguish the inexistent, tempting as well as deceitful voices of the false self - which indeed has no ontological existence - from the truthful voice of the real self - immortal reality, and if we deliberately and irrevocably choose to let us guide by the latter, the real self will clear us the way to freedom, to salvation, to joy and Love. Only then the bright memory of our authentic nature - the spiritual one, which is undivided from the Whole - starts to reveal itself in all its splendour and divine truth. At this point the ravings of the false ego don’t thwart anymore the right vision and even the last doubts, together with the whims of the once rebellious mind, cease. As a rebellious mind is the real obstacle to spiritual realization, once it is subdued and turned into a docile instrument controlled by the soul, we can promptly experience an ineffable ecstatic bliss. The psychological experience of hell precedes the ascent to Heaven, almost unavoidably going through the intermediate stage of the purgatory. The first, concrete step on this path is to surrender to God, formally carried out through the initiation rite (Hari-nama diksha). Besides, life blessed by initiation is a divine gift that allows us to turn our mind into a pure diamond - requires clearness, honesty, courage and steadiness. Indeed, when we have sufficiently practised and strengthened in our personality these basic qualities, Divine Mercy descends upon us and everything becomes enlightened; the once overshadowed mind assumes golden dazzling colours, the soul is released from the slavery of matter and hovers in Heaven… Only then spiritual evolution proceeds rapidly and turns into a concrete reality, even in the tridimensional world.

Friday, 1 July 2011

How to transform a rebellious mind into a Wonderful Mind (1/2). By Matsyavatara das (Marco Ferrini)

From time immemorial it seems that inside us two “persons” have been dwelling together. There is an everlasting battle going on in order to gain supremacy over our personality between the superior self and the ordinary self. For a human being subject to the conditionings the most painful dilemmas are caused by the exhausting tension between these two poles, which produce different solutions depending on different motivations. These tensions continue until the ordinary self - which is a product of the arbitrary choices of our psyche - is harmoniously reintegrated in the energetic field of the superior self, the soul. The doubts which are sometimes alluded by the mind are connected to the ever changing and mutable world of transience, and it is normal that this phenomenon becomes more intense when we approach choices of vital importance. When we deal with such choices, the ordinary self protests, but one shouldn't be frightened. For a long time the ordinary self, the false ego, had the command over an individual, obscuring one's real self; unpunished, ego has dominated one's personality one life after another, turning it into a slave of mere illusory dreams of happiness, of delirious ambitions and of the fear of death. Trying to dethrone this tyrant, we are winning back our freedom: obviously it becomes rebellious. The ordinary self, also called “false ego”, is suspicious, presumptuous, proud, self-centred, unsatisfied and irritable. It is like a sly and ravenous beast, always looking for a prey in the form of prestige and illusory pleasures. The superior self is the real self, the hidden spiritual being, the atman, whose clear and wise voice we seldom have heard and listened to. False ego is the Destroyer, the principle of separation. It is the antagonist of Love. Ego gives us the illusion of reaching happiness, but if we are connected to it, we can experience only fleeting pleasure.
Ego gives us the illusion to possess love, but when this feeling gets in touch with the ego, it turns into an unwholesome attachment. Divine immortal love belongs to the soul; selfish and conditioned attachments belong to false ego, to the ordinary self. The first and most important work an aspiring spiritualist has to carry out is to free oneself from the false ego’s prison (ahamkara), no matter which tradition or religious path he chooses to follow. To free oneself from ahamkara doesn’t mean that one loses his own identity; on the contrary, one’s real identity can rise again only when the false identifications and the masks of our personality have been cast down (sarvo upadhir vinir muktam). Until we cling to false ego and delight ourselves in it, we won’t be able to get acquainted neither with God nor with ourselves. The path of inner transformation requires efforts and responsibility, but it is also grandiose, magnificent and fascinating. It leads us to see ourselves, the others and everything in the world with the eyes of the superior self, to perceive ourselves as God’s creatures who are acting thanks to His grace and mercy, in harmony with the Whole. Buddhism describes ego as the cause of pain and of every evil; and it opposes to it a radical renunciation to the mundane things. The Middle Eastern Traditions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, oppose to it renunciation, prayer and fasting. In the works of Vedanta and Samkhya ego is considered to be the main cause of avidya, of one’s turning away from God, of Fall and degradation, of the loss of one’s spiritual identity. It is the biggest obstacle to self-realization and to happiness; it is the power opposing the soul and God. It is the main cause of envy and of the Fall for angels and for human beings: from Lucifer to Macbeth, both in ancient and in modern events. Due to the ego Lucifer becomes Satan (“the Antagonist”, in Hebrew) and Lord Macbeth becomes a murderer, a degraded and horrible person. To him the destroying ego manifests itself as his wife, Lady Macbeth, who awakens and fosters his negative tendencies. The principle of Eva and Adam is inside each of us, and so are inside us both the angel and the demon. If we choose to foster the demon, he will win. If we foster the angel and his bright spiritual nature, the angel will win. In each of us there are Vritra and Indra, Lucifer and Michael. Our fate depends on our choices, on our decision to favour the one rather than the other. Together with pride and arrogance, false ego is the main distinctive feature of the asura. Humbleness is the opposite attitude and, partly, it is even its antidote. In a famous metaphor through which Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gives teachings to his main disciple, Shrila Rupa Goswami, the devotion of the aspiring spiritualist is compared to a delicate little plant, bhakti lata bija, surrounded by the ego’s infesting plants which tend to choke her. If we wish evolution and happiness, we should take care with all our forces of the delicate little bhakti plant, protecting her by practising spiritual discipline (sadhana) constantly (abhyasa) and with emotional detachment from the material phenomena (vairagya), strengthening the pure wish of serving God and offering everything to Him.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The role of will power for the harmonization and development of Personality, determination and perseverance (2/2). By Matsyavatara das (Marco Ferrini)

Self-determination and
Perseverance Exercise.

Determination is a state of mind that can be cultivated and developed with a right predisposition. Like all mental states, determination arises from psycho emotional factors and attitudes like:

1. Desire. In the presence of a well defined and intense desire it is easier to develop and maintain determination for the pursuit of the target we aim at.
2. Definition of Purpose. Knowing what a person wants is the first thing, and perhaps the most important one, to develop self-determination. A strong motivation will help to overcome initial and unpredicted difficulties.
3. Self confidence. Trusting our own abilities to achieve a target, will encourage us to follow our program with determination.
4. Program definition. Organized programs, even when they are not well defined and focused, will encourage determination and strengthen perseverance.
5. The accuracy of acknowledgment. Knowing that our projects are based on solid reality and experiences that attain to our evolving nature, will favor determination. “Presumption of Knowledge” opposite to “real knowledge”, will weaken determination.
6. Cooperation. Empathy, tolerance, comprehension, harmonic cooperation among members of a team will strengthen determination for each member or element of the group.
7. Will power and planning capacity. Constant practice of will power and concentration on our thoughts – in a profitable manner – for the definition of a project, with the intention to schedule the targets we aim at, will develop determination.
8. Habit. Determination is the straightforward result of our mental frame, of a habit, of a deliberate performance, of an action used as a constant conscious behavior pattern. Our mental frame is modified in relation to our actions that, even unconsciously will influence the psychological structure with behavior models that are acquired and represented automatically in accordance with the adopted and acquired schemes. Fear, one of the worst and most powerful, destructive emotions, can be cured by the voluntary repetition of acts of courage. All the people that have made this experience know it well enough.

Friday, 17 June 2011

The role of will power for the harmonization and development of Personality, determination and perseverance (1/2). By Matsyavatara das (Marco Ferrini)

By analyzing, the relation between the inner self and will power and, on the other hand, the various psychological functions of the mind, we can very well notice how strong the link between will power and the inner self is: it is almost an identification of one another. Furthermore, by using will power, the self works on the other functions of the mind, governing and directing them. We are open to consider the existence of other two relations: firstly between the spiritual self and its reflex as a distorted self, the ego: the total of psychological contents in which the subject identifies himself. Secondly, between the individual (spiritual) self and the cosmic Self, the Supreme Soul or God for religious believers and theologists. Whereas the first relation is often contradictory, because the soul interacts with a distorted image (with the ego, the historic and transitory personality), the second version instead, related to the cosmic Self, is blessed, it is the source of complete harmony, of ecstasy. The problem of which will power to privilege depends on the relation we choose, either the first or the second one.
The unconscious process does not have a will power of its own, it is rather a self automatism, we cannot see its movement with our visual power, nor examine it with a rational thinking. However we can experience the existence of a dynamic process for which it functions spontaneously by responding to inputs that we provide for it with our conscious thinking, with or without a voluntary deliberated action. Our conscious thinking chooses the targets, selects the material, makes calculations, values and comes to a conclusion and, generally without knowing it, activates an unconscious process. Through the power of will – that represents the most immediate and direct function of the ego personality - we can produce a mental image of the target we aim at. It works straight forward in the subconscious in order to achieve its purpose, even though we do not know the way it works.
The conscious thought is not the doer of the material result, but it makes the mechanism work. Therefore, by acting here and now in the most ethical and correct way as possible (dharmya) the unconscious process is able to reach spontaneously the best results, without making any efforts. This is the reason why by acting properly and trustfully here and now, there is no need to worry about the future, because the targets will be achieved by the unconscious process that has been activated. The will power works at its best when we provide for the initial start- up and we let the unconscious elaboration to carry on naturally and spontaneously.
In order to fulfill a satisfactory and lasting success by using will power, we have to act accordingly, with no concern for the final result, rather by dealing with the psychological functions. As a matter of fact, the best way to use will power occurs when we activate and direct all the powers of the mind.
Before acting, likewise the physical world, the complex system of the ruling laws is taken into account, similarly before an action of will we need to consider the psychological dynamics and the ruling laws that such action implies.
Faith, discipline, courage, interest, optimism, to favor either an evolutionary or destructive purpose, will strengthen the power of will and vitality. Futility, pessimism, frustration, resentment, remorse, envy, jealousy, fears, nostalgia: they activate destructive dynamics that reduce the power of will, vitality and, as a consequence, the perspective of life. In turn such kind of attitude will accelerate the aging process. Every person in life feels the urge to satisfy fundamental needs, by following and realizing them in a healthy and ethical method (dharmya) they favor the development of will and strengthen it.
These major needs are:
- giving and receiving love
- finding and giving security
- being able to express one’s own creativeness and encourage others to do so
- feeling one’s own value and appreciating the value of others
- living new experiences and encourage others to make new changes
- developing self esteem and trusting mankind and divine providence
- living with a wholesome and fulfilling sense of satisfaction, inspiring others to do likewise

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

How to build up constructive and lasting relationships. By Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

People suffer for not being able to bring harmony in relationships and at the same time tend to start new conflicts due to their conditionings. There are more people suffering from relational difficulties than people suffering for the wars or for epidemics and, on the other hand, good relationships are the biggest patrimony we can build up for our well-being; and this doesn’t cost anything. Experiencing peaceful and tension-free relationships is the very basis for building up relationships set on a shared system of values and lofty principles. These are the grounds, while the top of the structure is made up of common purposes and of the mutual reliance on the fact that nothing can ruin the relationship anymore, not even the hardest trials or difficulties, because we don’t bring forward any suspects, doubts, misunderstandings, but, on the contrary, estimation, affection, love rule the relationship. The duration of a relationship is not the only principle on which we can judge its quality. What really makes the difference is a constructive and developing attitude.
On which basis should we found our relations?
The human being is struggling between his impelling need of freedom and harmony on one hand, and the strings with which he constantly binds himself through his bad choices, on the other. It’s a terrible paradox: we wish we could be free and happy, but we continue to bind ourselves through our own actions. For this reason human relationships are that difficult, and only few people are able to manage them at the best. Our personality is on the way: we build it up trough our decisions, one after another, and for this reason it’s essential to learn how to act with a clear consciousness. In this growing process of harmonization, our willpower has a central role. If we manage to use our willpower properly we can understand the great truth the rishi convey to us: the difference between being and not-being, between life and death. The worst suffering is caused by a situation of struggle between opposites; if we experience this situation inside ourselves, we can’t help bursting it out even outside, on our relationships with the others. Contraposition tears. It’s an engagement to make our opposite parts dialogue with one another: it implies the wish of becoming disciples of enlightened guides, because if we continue to judge people and situations from our limited subjective perspective, we will never be able to cross the threshold of our limits. In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna explains that the one who relies on Him with faith has an unbiased vision. This equanimity is the essential presupposition to cultivate good relationships. Samah darshinah is “the one who has an impartial vision”. Darshana is inner vision, the only one that allows us, despite the differences we perceive externally, to join us to the essence. Differences refer to immanence. Equanimity is the natural impulse when we experience the transcendental dimension. Even more, in the Gita Krishna says: “The one who sees everybody inside Me and Me inside everybody, is extremely dear to Me”: this is the very basis of equanimity. In the origin nobody is, from an ontological point of view, good or wicked: everybody is good. The one who has a vision which transcends time, loves the spiritual essence of any person, without disregarding the personal historical experience of that particular individual in order to understand how to relate with him at the best. Another essential element to keep good relationships is having a bent for forgiveness. The one who feels offended by the mistakes of others, often going wrong in judging his own responsibilities and those of the others, isn’t able to build up harmonic and deep relationships. If you don’t practise a spiritual discipline, you can easily mistake an ant for an elephant or vice versa, while a wise person isn’t prone to distortions; on the contrary he is an expert in the art of all arts: forgiveness. We are conquering our own freedom when we practise forgiveness in all circumstances, when we forgive small as well as big mistakes. If we learn to forgive small mistakes, step by step, we will be able to forgive even big mistakes. Another important ingredient to build up healthy relationships is the ability to understand the peculiar characteristics of the others, accepting the diversity. To do this, first we have to know ourselves deeply. In relationships concerning love we should not burn out the stages: we need to act gradually. Prudence is the life of relationships. Step by step we should try to identify the elective affinities which link us to the others, the only ones which can connect us deeply. Excitement makes us move jerkily and makes us experience the hell in this world, being unable to weigh what are the right decisions to take. Without an orientation we experience an everlasting anxiety. If we act frenetically, we lose a far-sighted view, while the control over our impulses is the essential basis to recover harmony within ourselves and with the world.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

FAMILY, PARENTS AND CHILDREN (Part 2/2) by Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

Nowadays, most of people hardly consider family as a sacred entity but rather as a kind of limited liability company that can be broken up at anytime on the basis of an economical agreement. Abortion, betrayal and divorce as a result of a free and irresponsible sexual behavior, has become an ordinary practice. By dreaming of such an illusory freedom, this idea of moral degradation is mistaken for emancipation. Parents work hard to provide for the increasing pseudo demands required by a consumerist culture. On the other hand it is a negative attitude for the youngsters, who suffer the lack of education and the lack of a leading example from parents. Children education is always more often delegated to strangers and to the media. According to the traditional Indovedic culture, the family (griha) is one of the four evolving stages of human path towards liberation, with the final aim to offer affection, protection and education to its members. The traditional family used to be a solid institution because it was built on the strong ethical and spiritual principles. The family members included grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, cousins. Responsibilities and roles were well defined and used to be learnt since childhood. Social values included respect for civil laws, respect for the elderly, for the sages and love for God. The Creator, the world and all creatures, human and not human - all had the right to exist in their own earthly and cosmic dimension.
In a family only the parents had the decisive role to raise the kids. Teaching is efficient in relation to the strength of the model. Only highly-civilized parents, at the same time strong and loving, loyal to everybody, correct and generous, would be able to inspire their kids to behave in the same way.
At the time of Indovedic civilization, young people used to attend the guru school until the age of maturity. At school they used to be educated to a spiritual life by accepting family responsibilities. They were encouraged not to get married until recognition of their spiritual, social and ethical maturity by the guru, which was essential in order to begin a family life successfully. It was highly recommended not to take the role of a parent if a person resulted unable to facilitate spiritual and human progress of the children, and by means of complex liturgies, to facilitate the post-mortem journey of the elderly people in the family, by helping them towards a final liberation.
In a traditional family the father is the social-spiritual guide, he teaches with the example, he provides for the needs of the family members and protects them from any danger; he educates the kids and helps them to choose the spiritual master who will give them initiation (diksha guru) and who will gradually guide them towards their divine and luminous nature and their relation to God. A woman is brought up since early age to develop the virtues to succeed in the family life, cultivating qualities like: kindness, welcome approach, patience, faith, loving cooperation with the husband, children care and care for the guests and the household. A wife, besides being a generous and loving mother with her own children, is an indispensable teacher and the most intimate assistant to her husband too. Therefore she is loved and respected as a queen (Rig-Veda X.85, 20-47) by all the family members. On the other hand, husband is educated to take care of his wife by providing all she needs according to one’s possibilities, but most of all by helping the spouse in her spiritual growth, teaching with his own example. According to the Vedic tradition wife is treated as the better half of the husband’s personality and she knows that she cannot reach liberation (moksha) without fulfilling her duties to him and the family. A husband is aware not be able to evolve unless he takes care, from a human and spiritual point of view, of his family which depends on him. Job, prayers, food, relationships, weddings, birth and death rituals, the whole family life is seen as a series of activities aimed at a spiritual consciousness purification and development, until man can achieve the pure feeling of love and devotion to God (bhakti-yoga). In this traditional context the home is like a temple and the family is like a community permeated by spirituality: it is a tribute to devotion where man rejoices in serving and praying God; it is a place to lead a pure, simple and holy existence. Children’s education becomes the main purpose of parents so that the kids as adults would be able to organize their life successfully. Nothing is left by chance: delivering and raising of children is regulated by religious rites (samskara) with the aim to sanctify the path of their existence. In the Sanskrit language “son” is called putra, which means ‘the saver who redeems the consequences of failure’ (literally the word pu means hell). A parent who spends energies for the spiritual education of the children will gain as many rewards as those obtained by people who made every kind of sacrifice (yajna), austerities (tapas), pilgrimages (dharma, tirtha), donations (dhana) and study of the Veda (svadhyaya). A great sage who lived in India 2.300 years ago, Canakya Pandita, in his famous work about ethical behavior (Niti-shastra) taught that children have to be treated sweetly until the age of five, have to be taken care of firmly until the age of fifteen and treated as friends for the rest of their life. By speaking reproachfully to the kids in their late teens, if they did not receive a proper education and did not develop a sufficient awareness of their responsibilities, of the esteem and affection towards the parents, such behavior would make them enemies. The sage Canakya said that to have kids with no devotion for God and who do not study the sacred science, it is like having blind eyes, worthless accessories that cause only pain.
In our days social conditions have got worse so much that many people fear to create a new family; they do not trust one another and worry for the future; they fear betrayals, challenges and wrongdoings from the family members, they worry for a tormented life. However, considering the huge and objective difficulties that, nowadays more than ever, people have to face when starting a family, the one who is not willing to give up dreaming to become husband or wife, father or mother, should know that, in the modern society a constructive alternative to family life has not been created yet. All the attempts to try a different approach turned out like painful failures. If the family as it appears today does not look reliable, if husband and wife do not trust one another, if the parents and kids look at each other with suspicion, what to do then?
As human beings we suffer from our limits, but we ought not to forget our divine matrix, it is better to ask for the Lord's mercy and follow the path of spiritual progress so as to destroy unconscious conditionings, for the harmonization of our personality and the elevation of our consciousness, in order to improve the relationship with ourselves and with the others, the perception and visualization of superior levels of reality. With an enlightened consciousness it is so possible to organize the family and social life without phobia, anxiety, gradually structuring habits and human relations according to the model of universal values given by the sages of all times.

About procreation
Before making a decision on whether to give birth to a child, it would be necessary to check a series of preconditions from a physiological point of view; good health condition and age are important. By consulting a gynecologist the parent will receive all the necessary information.
Physical fitness is very important, but even more important are: tendencies, inclinations, emotions that build a good, steady and harmonious character, with qualities that inspire trustfulness and serenity. With opposite psychological conditions, consequences would be unexpected.
Far more important than a psychological state is the genuine vocation to motherhood, that means: self-abnegation, hospitality, carefulness for the others, inclination to assist, to feed, to cure, to teach, to correct, to provide for the ordinary needs knowing that this commitment will last at least thirty years for every child, a time long enough to spend with serenity, joy, dedication, perseverance and sense of responsibility.
A specific background is required for pregnancy. The house is the container, the family is the institution, the economical tools are the necessary resources, but nothing of this, although indispensable, is itself sufficient. The feeling of love is an essential quality that each parent should convey to the child.
A constant attention is required for the children, an intense desire to take care, to give affection, to sacrifice oneself for a superior wellness. If mother or father has no vocation to become so, it will affect the role of being a parent and it will be a psychological disadvantage for the child.
As the Scriptures teach and as life experience points out, becoming a parent means to accept responsibilities which require an adequate preparation so as to enlighten a trustful vocation without being conditioned by social pressure.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

FAMILY, PARENTS AND CHILDREN (Part 1/2) by Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

We are living in a particular age of rapid social and cultural changes and it is our responsibility to ask ourself whether and how delicate and essential family relationships between parents and children can endure, without missing the meaning and purpose of a basic relationship, for the sake of every person and for a human and spiritual development.
Nowadays, there are parents and children whose family structure is poor of ethical and spiritual values. Therefore we risk to sink in a ‘no land man’ with uncertain boundaries, with feelings, roles and attitudes that need to be arranged and experimented by paying a high price for human, individual and collective damages.
The influence of a hedonistic-consumerist culture, has progressively diverted the attention of the majority of people from a spiritual oriented path to a pseudo-value alternative which has deeply transformed and distorted people and family concepts.
Technology has given a strong support to science in many fields, but it has not been able to develop a similar ethical model in order to solve all those problems that new technological developments have dramatically and urgently made us to face with. Some of the problems are: a low supply of energetic and nutritious ailments, uncertainty about the use of nuclear power, finance and economy, genetic contamination. Because of old and new tensions and because of the impoverishment of a religious spirit, a wide degenerated ethical behavior has spread all around.
All this has contributed to afflict the traditional relations within a family household, in particular between husband and wife, between parents and children. By taking into account modern changes, family rights have been revised. We can think, for example, of single mothers’ rights, most of whom are very young ladies. We can also think of the increased number of abortions, or of the million drug, smoking and alcoholism addiction victims. Another clear sign of sorrow is the kid’s sufferance because of divorced parents and others who suffer from family violence. In this crazy world, the first victims are children, who are always more affected by character disturbances.
By reading these facts carefully, we cannot avoid to notice the lack of ethical and spiritual values which has been the cause of its development, neither can we avoid to notice that the family has lost the motivation of its well-being: the purpose of transcendental living. Nowadays more than ever, religion has become a formality and we call God only to demand a social wellness which has become the sole purpose of life. With such low morality, parents and children, even husbands and wives, very often show egoistic interests which contrast the spirit of the family. Therefore most of them live together for convenience, sharing an empty relationship with no sacred meaning and without a superior love. When one of the two parents, in fact, does not gain anything in return, very soon one shows weariness, lack of spirit of sacrifice and without thinking and with no regret leaves the family.

Monday, 2 May 2011

A DAY DEDICATED TO LOVE. By Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

March 18th 2011,
the day before Shri Gaura Purnima
Ponsacco, PI

Dear fellow devotees, please accept my obeisances; all praises and glories to Shrila Prabhupada and to Shri Shri Gaura Nitai! Shri Gaura Purnima, ki jay! He Krishna! He Govinda! He Gopala! Param vijayate Shri Krishna Sankirtanam! I'd like to share with you the rasa with which I hope we can spend the time tomorrow, celebrating the sacred recurrence of Shri Caitanya Deva's birth in this world.
I wish we could celebrate Gaura Purnima dipped in God’s Love, praying the merciful Lord by an uninterrupted invocation of His sacred Nouns, in order to give Him the chance of purifying us from all contaminations. Even though there are great faults in our personality which trouble our spiritual life, you have to know that the day of tomorrow is so powerful - thanks to Shri Caitanya Deva’s mercy - that, if we devote ourselves to Nama-yajna with a sincere longing for freeing and for purifying ourselves from all material desires, in a short time we can make great improvements on the way towards real Happiness and real Love. From mangala arati until evening we will devote ourselves to chanting japa, to singing bhajans, to reading from the Scriptures, meditating on episodes of Shri Caitanya’s life, in order to get dipped in His spiritual qualities, relying for our salvation on that extremely powerful strength - God’s love - which has become human through the divine figure of Shri Caitanya himself. May the Divine Name resound in our minds, straight into the deepness of the soul, and may we appeal to the unconditioned mercy of Shri Caitanya, begging sincerely with mind, body, intellect and soul to take part in His Love. As Shri Caitanya is God’s Love himself in its highest expression of pitifulness and mercy, for all of us the day of tomorrow could be an unforgettable day, if we dedicate it to that divine Love which can allow us to turn towards the right, constructive, virtuous and spiritual direction all our energies, our wishes and affection, in order to turn them to clear, flowing water that nourishes and gives life, instead of keeping them as foul stuff that taints with the conditionings, the claims and the greediness of the ego. The day of tomorrow should be spent merged in the invocation of God’s glories, in order to go back to our original purity, to that Happiness and Love which are already inside ourselves, but which in daily life are hardly able to show themselves and for which we feel an undescribable longing. Shri Caitanya Deva, ki jaya! Shri Gaura Purnima, ki jaya! Hoping you can be with us tomorrow at Bhakti Bhavan to celebrate Shri Caitanya Deva, with love!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Being or becoming conscious of God. By Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

24th march 2011
Morning class at Bhaktivedanta ashrama,
Perignano (PI)

In the conditioned state it is a difficult undertaking to be Krishna conscious, due to the heavy and uninterrupted conditionings we are subject to. A thought which has helped me many times and which I offer you, hoping it will help you too, is the one which leads you to concentrate your attention non only on being, but on becoming Krishna conscious. The idea as well as the wish of “becoming” it, has an enormous power, extraordinarily greater and stronger than the one of “being”. Indeed, “becoming” points out a dynamic movement, it implies that you have to apply yourself to a task with devotion and clear orientation. While the idea of “being” is static, the one of “becoming” includes the awareness of the need of one’s application and engagement to reach what we know is the result of a daily achievement. To become Krishna conscious means thus uninterrupted devotion and engagement, considering that at the moment our consciousness is conditioned. We live neither inside a bell-glass which protects us from every contamination, nor in a state of definitely and irrevocably obtained bliss. In the most blissful moments we can taste states of happiness which follow one another, but each of these is the result of an uninterrupted work on ourselves to renew in every moment our connection to God. Unfortunately we are not Krishna conscious, but thanks to His unconditioned mercy, we are trying to become it. I think that the following image could be of some inspiration: let’s think about ourselves as on the way, marching towards perfection, towards spiritual realization, liberation and, beyond that, towards bhakti. As we live states of consciousness which are still subject to conditioning, we should always keep a good watch on ourselves, pointing straight towards the goal. We haven’t yet reached our destination, so anything but resting or taking our attention off: it can take just a moment to be heavily off road. For us it’s essential to have a constant sadhana, an uninterrupted discipline, abhyasa. The mood we have when we know we have to conquer something is much more stimulating and productive than the thought that we already achieved a goal and just have to maintain it. To tell the truth, to maintain an achievement is very difficult, because the idea of having already achieved the goal leads you to a condition of mental steadiness and makes the task even harder. As it is difficult to keep the balance on a stationary bike, similarly it is difficult to maintain personal balance or the achieved spiritual goal if our interior life is not dynamic. Only if you pedal you can win the trend of losing the balance, and even more: you can restore the balance by pedalling. This uninterrupted movement and acting in view of the goal is essential and exactly in this lies the sadhana carried on unceasingly, abhyasa. For the mentioned reasons, maintaining oneself Krishna conscious is much more difficult than becoming it. Becoming conscious of God doesn’t imply in this case greed for contaminating material objects. Having the wish of becoming God conscious means acting to escape from the snare of the gunas and it is the most beautiful and the biggest discovery we can make: it’s the discovery of our divine nature. In the ordinary state of embodied life our consciousness is dominated by two basic impulses: sexuality and aggressiveness, which are functional to the survival of the species. The reconquest of a divine consciousness, which exceeds the limits of the ordinary, conditioned one, is the result of an uninterrupted effort, undertaken deliberately thanks to an aware and strong will which, blessed by Divine Grace, can lead us where we always long to be and stay. I wished to offer you this reflection in an attitude of spiritual friendship; as during time, always with a renewed consciousness, it has been helpful to me, I hope it will be for you, too. All that is true, that concerns spiritual reality, blossoms again and again as in spring, bringing renewed vision, faith and enthusiasm and stimulating an always greater effort in order to reach the goal”.