H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Marriage and Family (Part 1/2). Lecture by Matsya Avatar dasa (Marco Ferrini), dated May 13th, 2008

Family, marriage, children represent inseparable elements which compose a complex situation, and their dissociation is the cause of heavy mistakes, bearing discomfort and suffering as a consequence. Our intention is to explain this complexity according to the Shastra: Indovedic psychological thinking and philosophy texts, in relation to the teachings of Masters who have lived and realized the principles of Tradition, yet considering the cultural, social and psychological contaminations of our degraded era. It is not easy to release from the pressure they exert on all aspects of our daily life, they strengthen antic tendencies and bad habits that we assumed in the pursue of wrong doings to ourselves or others.
Those who wish to get married ought to consider well some decisive features, the most important one being the level of responsibility of the person we choose as partner; indeed such responsibility is not to be measured in words, but most of all in facts, observing the deeds and the personal history of the subject. The level and the quality of responsibility that we are allowed to take and maintain in course of time are of vital importance for a successful marriage.
Marriage means children and bringing up children implies education, therefore a long, complex and absorbing commitment, which nowadays means at least thirty years of constant care and assistance. Making decisions on impulse, resulting from not sufficiently elaborated passions, and indulging in the wrong attitude to accept or deny the husband or wife without a proper preliminary evaluation, does not appeal to the mentality of those who wish to live in wellness, which necessarily means “well-being”.
Faithfulness is not a secondary quality required in marriage, it is the first priority for both, the man and the woman. It is a life choice.
Although there are cases of men and women who separate and get married to another person, this should not be a common phenomenon, as it unfortunately occurs nowadays. It rather ought to happen occasionally, an exception based on strong motivations, not depending on a superficial attitude, weakness, vulnerability or fragile love, or due to a wrong process of evaluation and choice of the spouse. If the mind is not trained to make a deep analysis and is carried away by impulses that rebel to the conscience, it will endure in the mistake to switch from one object of desire to the next and then yet another.
Those who show such tendencies and features, lack the sufficient maturity to start a married life.
Chastity is an essential value in marriage, it is a duty for both wife and husband, although there are people who laugh at it because they believe the sensorial dimension to be the only one that matters. Nowadays many believe that those who practise chastity suffer from inhibition or brain-washing. Who is forced to brain-washing? Those who believe that life is limited to the expression of the senses and say: “enjoy it all while you can”, or those who spend life working on their own development as persons on the physical, psychological and spiritual level? Those who choose the latter engage in a discipline which neither represses nor denies the satisfaction of primary desires by intimidation, but turns them into higher emotions and activities as a natural process, an evolution step by step.
Loving is a need to be fulfilled indeed, the same as the need to love and be loved, but in order to satisfy its demand it is necessary to understand the best, appropriate and beneficial approach. Talking about a life-style without loving and love, sounds like terrorism made to kill the core of the person; it would be a threat, as though being forced to a diet without the supply of food. Exchanging love is an essential psychological process, likewise loving is a natural Spiritual propensity. Success in love depends on the authentic meaning of Love, on the conscious belief that it cannot be separated from the cosmo-ethical Order which controls the life of all creatures: the psychological, reciprocating law which connects our every action to its corresponding influence on our conscience, by which whatever we do to others is given in return, either good or bad, because our subconscious acts as a big and infallible receptive instrument – it records each of our physical and mental movement. For this reason the Upanishad recites: if you act badly you will turn to evil, likewise if you act well you will turn to goodness.
If you live your affectionate relations and feelings in a foolish way, first of all you damage yourself and as a consequence others, because the concepts of faithfulness, loyalty and love are ruined in yours and others’ eyes. Children brought up in an unhealthy household become the victims of confusion, unstable feelings and lack of loving; and it is well known that the damage may even grow and get always bigger. A family should not be a casual association, a way to cover up a mischief such as an unexpected pregnancy or simply an escape from the fear of not wanting to be alone. A family is like a Mission – if that is the choice – it requires all our best energies and consistent dedication, taking marriage as an instrument to improve ourselves, to mature and develop affectionately, psychologically and spiritually. Of course the experience of a family is not a must for everyone to reach self-realization: getting married is not an obligation, it is rather a choice to be made according to one’s own inner needs and personality features. History brings the example of spiritual people with bright lives, who – having already specific understandings and experiences – were able to follow with satisfaction the path of renunciation and that way they experienced self-realization.
Everywhere in the world we witness ill ecological conditions, heavy or pathological behaviours, and even terrible mischief is treated legally. However in history there are some schools and traditions– high examples of wise thinking and spiritual wisdom – that show us noble methods to make our passage in the world a developing journey towards freedom from attachments, favouring the evolution of authentic knowledge and genuine Love. Indovedic traditional Masters of psychological and spiritual teachings not only teach concepts and healthy models of thinking, most of all they give concrete examples of developing behaviours, which can enlighten human actions in the world, in affectionate-sentimental relationships, in professional skills and in every other aspect of living.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Women in the Vedic Vaishnava Tradition. By Matsya Avatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

The Vedic civilization describes women of high and noble character and great inner strength, the real examples for humanity (Draupadi, Kunti, Damayanti,etc.).
Even today in India there are women who play the role of spiritual guide and contribute significantly to convey the message of Tradition.
Women in the Vedic tradition play a central part of great dignity, in a sense more valuable than women in the western society, not only socially but above all from anthropological and cosmic viewpoints. 
The concept of woman's freedom emerges from the Vedic revelation - mainly from Rig Veda and Atharva Veda – one can not certainly compare it to the model asseverated from the battles of '68: considerable achievements that what's more, have remained on paper.
The artificial acceptance by women of the male social pattern aimed at overcoming the gender discrimination and lack of equal opportunities is certainly not a real solution, nor can it restore to the woman the dignity she deserves.
This dignity can be restored to the extent that women and men learn to value their unique and specific qualities, complementing one another by expressing their nature, talents and potentialities. In solidarity and harmonious cooperation aimed at raising awareness is the key to the completion and realization of both, men and women.
The goal is the rediscovery of one's inner completeness, awakening to one's spiritual origin, God, beyond all duality, beyond the temporary connotations of historical personality, with all its overpowering limitations and conditionings. The Masters of the Vaishnava Bhakti teach us to view ourselves not as men-women, either black or white, but in terms of spiritual entities.
The individuality of the human being is eternal, immutable while the personality is transient and is constituted, as Jung explains, by the sum of the psychic contents with which the individual identifies himself.
Experiences, impressions, facts and external circumstances change the personality, but not individuality.
The historic personality which we can define from autobiographical point of view is often characterized by an imbalance between Logos and Eros. Logos is quest for knowledge, analysis, clarity, rigor, is the law of intellect, the prevailing characteristic of the male character.
Eros represents the principle of hospitality, unity and connection, and is the emotional sphere associated with femininity.
Generally, the person tends to give greater emphasis to one of these aspects (male and female), focusing generally on what is reflected physically.

This polarity between the masculine and feminine sides is the main feature of the human being. The imbalance between these two poles creates a sense of incompleteness and suffering.
Throughout history cultures have mainly favored the masculine aspect compared to that feminine.
Mistaking the physical strength for the moral one, considering the rationality of intellect as superior to intuition, the most important roles in society were granted to men.
Since there is a lack of understanding that the advanced personality of every man and every woman is the result of a synergy and integration between male and female aspects, a static order has been created, producing dichotomies, involution and disharmony.
In reality nobody is exclusively male or female, as in the personality of each are included male and female characteristics, in greater or lesser extent depending on the karmic residue of experiences in this life and in previous ones. The mindset of our past lives remain in our current tendencies, talents, inclinations and innate defects.
Working at the integration of personality is essential to capture the best qualities of male and female characteristics, in order to develop them irrespective of the gender to which one belongs. The goal is recover one's original completeness.
Actually each of us is unique and eternal essence (atman), characterized by a purely spiritual individuality complete in itself. 
The embodied being, although the bearer of a body of male or female, should not identify itself neither with gender nor with other psycho-physical characteristics, being aware that they are temporary and external to its inner original nature. All these characteristics represent a mask formed as a result of experiences done and tendencies gained in the course of numerous lives.
When the individual is centered in his self, the two cerebral hemispheres - the right deputed to the imaginative activity and the left to logical and rational one – work in perfect harmony and in accordance with beneficial and powerful dynamics that are activated by compensating any deficiency and karmic imbalances. In that way all the forces that the body uses become forces of development towards holistic wellbeing, and the person becomes the best expression of health and self-realization.
In the sacred Indovedic iconography the figure of God is represented as the ultimate expression of inconceivable unity and perfect combination of masculine and feminine elements.
Similarly, a fully realized human being is the one who rediscovers this divine inner unity, according to Lao-tse, the one who “knows to be male and keeps to be female”.

Monday, 7 March 2011

My first meeting with my Guru Maharaja: His Holiness A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Shrila Prabhupada -PART 2/2- Di Matsyavatara dasa (Marco Ferrini)

It was ten o'clock a.m. and an italo-australian devotee (Sajanashraya dasa), eager for an opportunity to be in Prabhupada's company, agreed to act as translator and accompanied me to Srila Prabhupada's room; I came up a flight of stairs and turned to my right. I went in. The room was bright with sunshine and Shrila Prabhupada was sitting between two windows on a big cushion, surrounded by some of his disciples (one of them was Gopal Krishna dasa, at that time a grihastha). The floor was covered with a white sheet. I came close to Prabhupada's desk and bowed down in front of him. I had seen this gesture of respect performed many times before in the ashrams I had visited, but personally had not yet performed it. This time, to bow in respect felt very spontaneous. Shrila Prabhupada looked grave and luminous, and we looked each other straight in the eyes for a while. Then he smiled and asked me: "Have we already met?".
I answered: "No, never, but during these days I have intensely and repeatedly thought of you."
Prabhupada: " Do you believe in God?", I answered: "Yes, I do". I thought that this was the first time that I actually meant it. Then he became grave again and told me:" Well, unfortunately modern society is not on God's side, for this reason it can't win, it's already defeated! The false progress that characterizes our society, renders it disgusting: It is a society of ignorant people, with artificial needs. Mankind's greatest victory is to realise that we are not this body, we are spirit souls, part and parcel of Krishna, His eternal servants. Therefore, without God consciousness there can be neither progress nor happiness. To have a material body means to suffer, but people are so ignorant they think that the miseries of life are natural and even enjoyable. To attain the human form is very rare.We are very fortunate to have this body, because the human form is unique among the innumerable other forms of life, in that it can allow us to re-establish our eternal relationship with God. We can attain knowledge of Krishna by leading a simple life based on cultivating the land and protecting, not abusing, cows. Krishna consciousness actually means simple living and high thinking, in harmony with nature. Many people believe themselves independent from nature, they try to take advantage of her as if she were their slave, but inevitably, they are defeated by her laws. The tendency to dominate nature and other living beings can only create a cats and dogs society."
Shrila Prabhupada asked me what I thought about this and I agreed with him. As he spoke to me I realized that meeting him was the opportunity of a lifetime and if I did not take advantage of this experience, it would be useless to continue circling the world looking for God. I felt sure that Prabhupada was totally reliable and for the first time in my life I felt I could abandon myself. All the problems that had previously disturbed me were swept away by his words.
Smiling he asked me: "So, what is the problem?"
I answered: "If I could live here with you and the devotees, dressed like this, there would be no problem. I'm worried about going back home, where I have many responsibilities. I am engaged and will soon be married, I manage various companies and collaborate with many partners. How can I conduct a spiritual life with all of these social responsibilities.
Prabhupada said to me: "Don't worry, just become a devotee, chant Hare Krishna, read the Bhagavad-gita and Krishna will reveal Himself to you. In the Gita you can find the solution to any material problem. In order to put an end once and for all to samsara, the transmigration of the soul from body to body, species to species; animal, plant, human, we have to know Krishna. Don't waste time. You are a gifted man. Do you know where talent comes from? What is it's source, to whom it belongs? It is the property of God, just like everything else that exists, including the fruits of your labor. Therefore you have only one responsibility: put all of your talent to the service of Krishna because the goal of life is to know Krishna and He can be attained only if we serve Him with love and devotion. Go home, chant Hare Krishna, talk about Krishna to the people you meet, Krishna will take care of you, don't worry. Hare Krishna!
A few hours after my encounter with Prabhupada, I left New Delhi to return to Italy. I was determined to follow Prabhupada's instructions and I planned, after some time, to go back to India to inform him how things were going in my life. During the return trip I was worried about the impact I would have on my surroundings, on my family. How would my girlfriend, friends, parents and partners react to my conversion? But Prabhupada's words rang in my ears, giving me hope: "Don't worry. Simply study the Bhagavad-gita, chant Hare Krishna, and Krishna will take care of you". In this state of mind, on the return trip, I started reading "The Bhagavad-gita As It Is", printed by the Macmillan Company, the first edition of the B.G. printed by Prabhupada in America. Something extraordinary happened. Even though my knowledge of written english was very scarse and I had no pretense of understanding the profundity of a philosophic discourse, I had, instead, the clear sensation of understanding it's significance!
After landing in Rome I took a train to Livorno where my falmily was waiting to pick me up. On the train I began to think about planning a concise and delicate explanation for my family about how I was going to organize my life, but Krishna and Prabhupada had another plan! The ticket controller, curious about the strange Indian clothes that I was still wearing, started to ask me questions and I spoke to him about Krishna, Prabhupada and existential topics for the whole trip. I was so happy to have glorified the Supreme Lord and His pure devotee, that I realized I was in Livorno only as the train pulled into the station. I hadn't given even a moments thought to what I would say to my family and friends!
At the station, my father and my girlfriend, Marisa were waiting for me. My father drove us back to our home in Perignano di Lari, province of Pisa. My father was driving, I was by Marisa in the back seat. Right away, I started talking to her about Krishna consciousness, about my encounter with Prabhupada and my intention to accept him as my spiritual guide. After listening to me attentively, Marisa told me that everything that I had just explained to her were the values that she had always admired most in life and that she was determined to follow me on the path of Krishna consciousness. My father listened to my whole story without saying one word. In the meantime, we arrived home, where my mother had prepared a sumptuos meal in honor of my return. Unfortunately, as is common in most of Italy, the table was laid with foods not acceptable to a spiritual life. I spoke to my mother alone and explained to her that it was my firm conviction to change my lifestyle and become a devotee of the Lord, Shri Krishna. She had always been profoundly religious and to hear the message of Krishna was like rediscovering something which for some reason had been forgotten. Almost desparate, with her hands in her hair she cried:"What have we been doing all these years? We've wasted time, we've wasted our lives. We have to put ourselves back on the right path and serve the Lord with love and devotion, like Prabhupada says."
My father did not accept all this right away. He was a person with a strong character, solid and concrete and he could not consider changing his life from one day to the next. After some days of observation, reflection and exchanges of points of view between us on various practical and philosophic aspects, more precisely after a few weeks, even he started on the path indicated by Shrila Prabhupada, gradually becoming an excellent devotee, generous, loyal and dynamic. From then on, for the rest of his life, he was dedicated to Prabhupada's mission. Among his various services, the last was the realization of the marvelous policrome marble temple for the worship of Shri Shri Radha Vrajasundara at Villa Vrindavana near Florence, Italy.
Srila Prabhupada was right. By his causeless mercy my family was now a family of devotees, and my home was a temple. In the spring of '77 Marisa and I were accepted as disciples of Prabhupada, married and initiated, with the spiritual names of Manupatni devi dasi and Matsyavatara dasa. The following summer I returned to Vrindavana to thank His Divine Grace for the priceless gift he gave to me and to my family.
Srila Prabhupada Ki-jaya!