Sunday, December 31, 2017

Mayapur Memories

At sharp 4:30 a.m. the conch shell blew first at the panca tattva hall and then at Sri Sri Radha Madhava hall.  The gigantic curtains were slid and Srimati Radharani in her whitish complexion and Sri Madhav in his blackish complexion surrounded by asta sakhis – 8 principal gopis - appeared in front of us. They were colourfully dressed and decorated with flowers and ornaments. Sri Sri Radha Madhav with their big eyes were looking at us and seeing the temple hall which was filled by thousands of devotees had a broad smile on their lips. The pujari began the arati and one devotee started singing  Sri Sri Gurvastakam prayer  and other devotees repeated after him in rhythm.  Pujari was very carefully worshipping the Lord. He first offered incense and then ghell lamp to the deities. After that the deities were bathed with scented water and then dried using a cloth. After this fresh colourful flowers were offered and at the last using a chamar the Lord was fanned.

Men and women, rich and poor, young and old, Indians and non Indians, so called upper caste and lower caste, Hindus and non Hindus all had congregated. They had forgotten their  material designations and were together singing happily and loudly the prayers and the Hare Krishna Mahamantra from the core of their heart to please the Lord. Once the arati was completed the curtains of the altar of Sri Sri Radha Madhava were closed and simulatanesouly the curtain of the altar of Lord Narasimhadeva opened. The pujari whorshipped Nrsimhadeva and devotees sang Narsimha arati. After Narsimha arati there was tulasi arati followed by Sistastakam prayers followed by few announcements from the temple management.

 The mats were then quickly spread in the temple hall and devotees sat together to chant the Hare Krishna Mahamantra.  Srila Prabhupada always advised to practice devotion in association. While chanting I observed that just by seeing the seriousess and enthusiasm of fellow devotees we too try to chant sincerely.

We had to leave for Lord Jagannath temple which is in Rajapur. This temple is very dear to me as I got married there. It is always a great privilege to take darshan of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baladeva and Subhadra Devi here because in front of them me and my wife took our marriage vows and it is because of their blessings are our marriage is successfully continuing.

This temple is also associated with many pastimes. Devotees performed 3 dramas here. I too participated, I was given the role of Lord Jagannath. It was a spontaneous drama, we prepared just 10 minutes before performing.  One drama was about Lord Jagannath coming out of the altar, climbing the tree to eat jackfruit. Another was when Lord Baladeva slaps a person who was trying to steal ornaments of Lord Jagannath. The third drama was about a non Hindu girl who disrespectfully throws away Jagannath’s prasad. Later in the night she is punished by Baladeva and Subhadra. The girl is paralysed.  The father of the girl comes in the morning carrying a basket of fruits to offer to Jagannath and wanted to take the prasad to give to her daughter.  Devotees say that still the girl comes with her family members to take darshan of the Lord and she now respectfully takes prasad.

Drama was the best way to explain the pastime to the new devotees. We then left for Yogapitha, the birth place of Lord Chaitanya. After taking darshan we returned to Mayapur temple for breakfast prasadam. We then went to Gurukul to see how young children from different parts of the world stay together in a traditional environment to learn Vedic scriptures.  In fact a separate article could be written on the Gurukul experience, I will try to write something about that experience.

Today evening in the temple there will be Krishna Conscious party on the eve of New Year which will go upto 12. I too hope to participate.  But again I do not want to miss the morning Mangala Arati at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mayapur Memories

I am in Mayapur today,  Isodyan building, room no: 1216. It is now 10:15 p.m.  Just 10 minutes back I completed my mandatory chanting of 16 rounds of Hare Krishna Mahamantra.  Me and my wife decided to spend 30th and 31st Dec in Mayapur, it is the best way to welcome 2018. It isn’t a new year according to Vaisnava calendar but nevertheless Srila Prabhupada taught us to utilize every occasion and opportunity to come closer to Lord Chaitanya.

We started from Kokata at around 6:45 a.m.  I was fearful because the devotees were traveling by bus.  I have motion sickness and I am always afraid to travel by bus. I am a very bad traveller.  But it is always nice to travel with the devotees so I agreed reluctantly. Praying to the Lord and after taking 1 stemitil I boarded the bus. But after sometime I was feeling sick but fortunately the bus stopped for  breakfast  and I quickly got down to breathe fresh air.  All the devotees were enjoying hot noddles but I could not. Once HH Radhanath Swami Maharaj was expalining that it is all our previous karma. Some devotees may relish malpua and crave for more. But some could not digest even a small morsel of it. I also wanted to enjoy noodles but I could not.

Again we boarded the bus, I took another stemitil. I had prepared few quiz questions and some DUMB Charade activity. HG Anant Bhagavan Prabhu asked me if I can conduct quiz. I agreed. All the devotees who were travelling were newly introduced to Krishna Conscisouness but they knew all the questions well. The level of questions were simple but they also need to be complemented for their knowledge about Krishna’s pastimes , Mahabharat and Ramayan. I have never palyed DUMB Charade so HG Anant Bhagvan Prabhu organized it. Later HG Sri Nitai Prabhu sang a very melodious kirtan which everyone enjoyed. I was constantly inquiring when are we going to reach Mayapur. And finally we reached Mayapur by 12:15 p.m. By the time we collected our room keys and prasadam coupon it was almost 1 p.m. So we rushed to Gada Bhavan for prasad. Prasadam as usual was tasty. After prasadam we took rest till 4 p.m. and then we had a class by HG Acharya Ratan Prabhu, co – director of ISKCON Kolkata. I was told to be part of one drama which the devotees were to present in the evening. I got the role of being the narrator. The devotees brilliantly performed the drama, everyone relished. We then took dinner prasadam at Gada Kitchen and  returned. The day was totally packed, in bus I was not able to chant so I finished my rounds late today.

Have to take rest early today because we want to attend tomorrow’s Mangala Arati.  Many new people have come with us, one of them is my colleague who works with me in IBM. He is also too eager to attend Mangala Arati in the morning. I am also too eager. Hope we will be able to shed our lethargy and be in the temple at 4:30 a.m.tomorrow to welcome Sri Sri Radha Madhav and Panca Tattva.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How to please Goddess Durga during Durga Puja

Candidasa was a devoted worshipper of Goddess Durga while his brother was a pure Vaisnava who would worship Shaligram. Candidasa was rich but his brother was poor. Candidasa had a very big and beautiful garden, he used to offer the flowers from the garden to Durga Devi. His brother too desired to offer these beautiful flowers to his Shaligram. And once he mentally offered a beautiful and colourful flower of the garden to his Shaligram. And it so happened that on that day Candidasa offered the same flower to Goddess Durga. As soon as the flower was offered Durga Devi appeared in front of Candidasa. “I am extremely pleased with you Candidasa. What benediction you want?”   Candidas was surprised, "I worship you daily but why are you so pleased with me today."  "It is because you have offered me the flower which has been offered to Shaligram i.e. Lord’s maha prasadam.   By seeing that prasadam flower I became pleased, so I appeared before you."

Candidasa immediately inquired, “Is it that you get pleased when one worships the Supreme Lord Krishna.” Goddess Durga in a compassionate voice said, “Yes, the Supreme Lord is the cause of all causes and He is the original source of all creation. I get extremely pleased when anyone worships the Supreme Lord Krishna. So if you want to please me worship the Supreme Lord, Krishna.” Candidasa understood the ultimate truth and he became a great devotee of Krishna and this pleased Goddess Durga, the consort of Lord Shiva. Candidasa later composed many songs in which he described the transcendental feelings of separation of Srimati Radharani and Krishna. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu would love to hear the composition of Candidasa.

Who is Goddess Durga?

In the spiritual world, there are three potencies – samvit, sandhini and hladini. Samvit potency helps the residents of the spiritual world to recognize their relationship with Krishna. Sandhini potency ensures variegatedness in the spiritual world. Hladini potency provides ultimate pleasure to Krishna. Srimati Radharani is the hladini potency, she is the source of all the pleasures. 

The hladini potency transforms into the personality of Goddess Durga in this material world. Here she has the responsibility of reforming those souls who have rebelled against the laws of the spiritual land and have come to this mortal material world.

This world which we call wonderful and delight to live in is compared to a prison. Here life is uncertain, misery is inevitable, relationship is temporary and death a certainty. As prisoners are given a uniform, similarly we have been given a uniform – uniform of a human body, animal body, plant body etc. And as long as we have this ephemeral body made of flesh, bones, mucus, blood etc. and we are in this material world we are under the jurisdiction of Durga devi. She on behalf of the Supreme Lord takes complete charge of this material world, she acts under the direction of the Supreme Lord just as shadow follows the substance.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura explains, “Durgā is the presiding deity of this entire material universe. She is ten-armed, representing the tenfold fruitive activities. She rides on the lion, representing her heroic prowess. She tramples down Mahiṣasura, representing the subduer of vices. She is the mother of two sons, Karttikeya and Gaṇesa, representing beauty and success. She is placed between Lakshmi and Sarasvati, representing mundane opulence and mundane knowledge. She is armed with the twenty weapons, representing the various pious activities enjoined by the Vedas for suppression of vices. She holds the snake, representing the beauty of destructive time.” (Brahma Samhita 5.44 purport)

Prisoners of Choice

The unwillingness to live amicably with the family and friends of the spiritual world make us unfit to be part of the spiritual world. Once imprisoned in this mortal material world, we forget our original constitutional position and start considering ourselves as one of the material products. So, we suffer terribly under the influence of the material modes owing to this unholy contact. The vicious cycle of birth, old age, disease and death perpetuates our miseries.

In fact the more we identify ourselves with this material world and the material body, and the more we endeavour to enjoy in this ephemeral world the more we suffer.  The Supreme Lord never wants any of His children to get illusioned by the external energy and suffer in this world. The Supreme Lord is compelled to sentence the spiritual beings to the material prison house so that he learns his lessons and get reformed. A doting father sometimes has to put his disobedient child under the care of a strict teacher so that his child gets disciplined. Even the external energy who is a devotee of the Lord does not like to inflict suffering upon us.  It’s a thankless task for the external energy but she happily assists the Supreme Lord so that the rebellious souls get reformed.  The actual disease which is the cause of all the sufferings for all the living beings in this world is because of being illusioned by the external energy of the Lord.

Carrying her trident she looks for the rebellious souls

Like a loving mother, Goddess Durga continuously gives a clarion call to all the forgetful souls to return back to the kingdom of Krishna. But the stubborn souls who desire to enjoy independent of the supreme Lord and loves to disobey the laws of Krishna needs to be punished. And Durga carrying her trident looks for such rebellious souls to punish them. The trident which she always carries with her represents the threefold material miseries-adhytamika (miseries due to our body and mind), adibautika (miseries due to other living entities) and adidaivika (miseries due to natural calamities). Without any exception everyone at every moment suffers due to one, two or all the three of these miseries. 

One of the most celebrated incidents related to Goddess Durga is her killing the demon Mahisasura with her trident. Mahisasura also symbolically represents our demoniac mentality and Durga through the sharp edges of her trident strikes hard to vanquish our evil mentality. The purpose is not to punish us but to make us understand that the more we go away from Krishna’s spiritual care the more we suffer in this world. She always tries to tell us, “This isn’t your home. Go back to your original home. Krishna is waiting for you.”

Her chastisement forces a soul to eventually think, ‘Although I explored all means to enjoy but why suffering always follows me like a shadow. Why am I forced to be in a womb for nine months in an upside-down position in complete darkness? Why I get diseased? Why I am growing old? Why every moment someone is dying? Although I don’t want to die but why I am not allowed to live here forever.”

Once awakened the living entity immediately wants to get out of this horrendous world and immediately wants to be part of the spiritual world.

The best way to please Goddess Durga

Durga being the energy of the Supreme Lord can never be conquered or fooled. She is extremely powerful and when she strikes with her trident then nothing can save us. Durga Devi can give us material benediction but with it comes tons of sufferings.  The only way to escape from Durga’s powerful trident is by promising her that we don’t want earthly pleasures but we seriously want spiritual happiness. And as soon as we start endeavoring for it by practicing loving devotional service to Krishna, Goddess Durga is delighted, she immediately withdraws her trident and showers her love upon us. She doesn’t want to imprison us in this world forever. And those who are imprisoned she wants to release them as soon as possible. 

She tests our dedication to the Supreme Lord, she checks if our heart has been thoroughly purified of all material diseases such as lust, greed, pride, anger, envy, illusion and false ego.  and when she finds that our heart has developed deep love for Krishna then she immediately releases us from this prison house. It is explained that in this age of Kali Yuga, the Supreme Lord incarnates with all His powers and all His opulence in the sound vibration of the Holy Name, “Kali kale Naam rupe Krishna Avatar.” So the best way to practice devotional life is by chanting the holy names of Krishna like the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. We should chant this mantra with love, with devotion and with determination. Goddess Durga, the guardian of this world, will assess our dedication and our intention regularly. She even tested Haridasa Thakura’s devotion to Krishna. And Haridasa Thakura passed the test with flying colours because he used to be completely absorbed in chanting the Hare Krishna mahamantra, in fact he had taken a vow to chant the mantra 3 lakh times a day. If we too want to please mother Durga then we have to become serious in our devotion to Krishna.

Durga Puja is not about playing movie songs and dancing on those songs. It is not about eating delicious foods and having fun. The best way to celebrate Durga Puja is to understand who goddess Durga is and how she could be pleased. And the best way to please her is to follow the footsteps of Candidasa.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Only a disciplined disciple develops love for Krishna

Published in Dandavats

We are so serious, so enthusiastic and so happy when we are just about to receive the beads from our spiritual master during the initiation ceremony. We promise to ourselves that as soon as we will get the beads we will chant not just 16 rounds but many more rounds with utmost sincerity, will follow the 4 regulative principles not just carefully but with extraordinary determination and with extraordinary zeal will serve the mission of Srila Prabhupada.
And in fact, for few days or weeks or even for few months we live up to our expectations.  But gradually the enthusiasm starts waning and we start taking our devotional life casually. 

We chant just to complete our rounds, follow regulative principles only grossly and do services casually.

Initiation isn't a formality or a name giving ceremony but it's a very serious commitment, it’s connection of the heart. A disciple is utterly serious about serving Krishna and he knows that the best way to be Krishna Conscious is by consciously serving as per the instructions of his spiritual master. Spiritual master isn't just a designation, he is not an ordinary soul but he represents the guru parampara and so the mercy of Krishna is reaching to us through him.
Great souls in the past through their exemplary examples have shown us the importance of having a spiritual master and how to practice devotional life as per the instructions of the spiritual master.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura was seriously contemplating to give up his life when Srila Gaur Kishore Das Babaji Maharaj, out of his humility, was not willing to initiate him. With tears in his eyes, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura said, “karuna na haile kandiya kandiya prana na rakhibe ara – If there is no mercy, weeping and weeping, I can sustain my life no more. If I do not receive your mercy I do not see any need in holding onto life”.  The prayer melted the heart of Srila Gaur Kishore Das Babaji and he happily accepted him as his disciple.

Lokanath Goswami had taken a vow not to accept any disciple so he was finding ways so that he can avoid initiating Narottama Das Thakura. But Narottama Das Thakura desperately wanted to take initiation from Lokanath Goswami. With utmost humility, he pleaded, “The guru guides his disciple in practical spiritual life. I have no spiritual insight, and I am feeling separation from the Lord. For this reason, I beg for your mercy.” In his heart, he had already accepted Lokanath Goswami as his spiritual master. He followed his instructions seriously, happily served him even doing menial services for him and patiently but eagerly waited to get initiated.  After waiting for a year, he again approached Lokanath Goswami, “I am like a young woman who has already chosen her husband. My heart is clear without any doubt. A young woman who makes up her mind in this way prays that her father will agree with her choice. I pray that our Father in heaven agrees with my choice.”  Lokanath was so moved by his sincerity. Accepting him as his disciple, the great sage said, “Your fierce determination has exceeded my own – but you are the only disciple I will ever make.”

These great devotees of the Lord through their conduct have demonstrated that for our spiritual progress we need a bonafide guru.

Spiritual master is our spiritual father who is very much interested in our spiritual growth.  A father knows the best for his child so our spiritual master knows what is the best medicine which should be administered to us to cure our manifold material miseries.

We can never repay our debt to our spiritual father who has taken the responsibility to take us back to the kingdom of Krishna. But yes, we can at least become a responsible disciple and try our best not to commit any sinful activities. We should not be just sentimentally attached to our spiritual master and neither be a pretender trying to portray ourselves as a dedicated soul.

But in fact, we should be devoted and determined. And should always accept the fact without any doubt that our spiritual master is more elevated than us and is our best well-wisher.

Srila Prabhupada explains, “Chaitanya Mahaprabhu taught us this instruction that we shall always remain a foolish student before our Guru Maharaja. That is the Vedic culture. I may be very big man, but still, I should remain a foolish student to my guru. That is the qualification. Guru more murkha dekhi karila sasana (Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi 7.71). We should be always prepared to be controlled by the guru. That is very good qualification. Yasya prasadad bhagavat-prasada. Ara na kariha mane asa. So, we should become always a very obedient student to our guru. That is the qualification. That is the spiritual qualification.” His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada's Disappearance Day, Lecture -- Hyderabad, December 10, 1976:

Initiation is a serious commitment and if we are serious to seek shelter of Krishna then we must seriously practice our devotional life by enthusiastically following the vow which we take during initiation.

Only a disciplined disciple develops love for Krishna and is welcomed in the kingdom of Krishna.