Monday, December 10, 2007

Spiritual Lessons from Salt

Today I was listening to a lecture by HH Radhanath Swami given during the South Indian Yatra of 2005 - 2006 spoken at Tirupati. In the lecture titled "Qualities of a True Vaishnava", he talks about a past time of devotees in the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya where he describes the conversation between Parasara Bhatt and a Devotee at Sri Rangam.

(I am writing the intro to the story based on Maharaj's lecture.

The Devotee asks Parasara Bhatt what are the true qualities of a Vaishnava. Parasara Bhatt advices him to go to Tirupati and fall at the feet of Ananta Acharya. When he asks Ananta Acharya the question, he doesn't reply. When the devotee sees that Ananta Acharya doesn't reply, the devotee feels that he is qualified and thinks that he needs to become more humble. Sometime later at a festival, when a lot of devotee were present and Ananta Acharya asks this devotee to serve. And he keeps asking till all the other devotees are fed. The devotee humbly agrees and doesn't complain and does his service enthusiastically.

After the festival, Ananta Acharya reveals to him the answer to the question of the symptoms of a True Vaishnava. He says:

"A true Vaishnava is like a crane, is like a cock, is like salt and is like you"

Now the devotee gets more confused and goes back to Parasara Bhatt and asks for the explanation of what Ananta Acharya said. Parasara Bhatt understood what Ananta Acharya said and proceeded to explain:

Crane: White is the color of the crane and it is also the symbol for purity and pure goodness. In the same way the heart of a Vaishnava is always completely pure and his actions are always for the good of others. Another quality of the crane is that they stand on one leg for hours and keep looking in the water. If they see a small fish, they let it pass by, but when they see a big fish, they feast on it Similarly a Vaishnava does not want to hear the talk of mundane people who are like little fish but they are eager to feast on the wisdom of great devotees who are like Big Fish. Another quality is that during the rain it leaves the flooding sea to a lake. Similarly when a Vaishnava sees that a place in which he is living is full of Material dealings, he will leave that place and seek the association of true devotees.

Cock: A cock goes to garbage bins which are full of rubbish and picks out some very wholesome seeds, it eats them and feeds them to the kids. Similarly, a Vaishnava is only concerned with the essence not with other things.

One of the things I really took from this lecture was when Maharaj describes what Parasara Bhatt tells the devotee about why is a Vaishnava like salt.

Salt: Although it is the Salt that brings out the element in any preparation, it is hidden. When you taste a very delicious preparation, do you glorify "The salt is so nice"? It is the salt that brings out the flavour but it remains hidden. Similarly the devotee, a true Vaishnava is ever willing to do great service and yet doesn't want any glory and wants to remain hidden. Inspite of doing great service, they don't consider themselves significant. Such is the humility. Similarly, in order to give flavor to the preparation, the salt is willing to melt and completely willing to give up its identity. Similarly, a Vaishnva is willing to give up everything just to serve the devotees.

I thought this was beautiful. All of us use salt in our preparations and it is probably the most essential part of our food preparations. However, we never acknowledge it. Similarly, so many devotees are out there, who have been so instrumental in making this already perfectly tasting message of Chanting the Holy Name taste even more perfect.

This is a dedication to all the devotees around the world, who like salt continue to do glorious service to Srila Prabhupad and help him to spread the message and humbly shy away from glory.

I offer my humble obeisances to you.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hare Krishna World

For a long time, I've been trying to find my copy of the "New Hare Krishna World" CD(not so new anymore because a LOT more has happened after the 10 years of that video being made: More Rath Yatras, more Centers, Panch Tattva Dieities, Ujjian Temple, etc etc.!).

And being the "google fan" I am, I googled it and I found a Google Video link to it!

Part 1:

Part 2:

The reason I really liked this video presentation other than the fact that it highlighted some of the amazing aspects of our movement, it is one of the best videos to show to people who have no idea what this movement is, to show them how HUGE our family is!

I remember my parents playing this video at one of our initial Bhakti Vriksha classes at home in late 90s and we had a room full of new devotees. People have it such a thundering applause at the end of it!

Old memories rekindled of this presentation!

Hope it rekindles some memories for you all too!

Hari Hari

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Remembering Srila Prabhupad

Today, being Srila Prabhupad's disappearance day from the material world, I dropped a quick visit at the temple before heading out for a program at the University Campus. The temple room was silent, except for the low humming sound coming from a Prabhupad chanting machine and dimly lit with the candles after the Damodara prayers.

I sat before Srila Prabhupad and tried to chant a round so that he would continue to shower the mercy he has been showering on me for the past few months. On my way as I waited for the cab to take me to the University, I was feeling sad that on this occasion, a lot of us couldn't be there in the temple due to other preaching commitments.

Now home from the University Program, as I sorted through my computer, I came across this one picture:
This was taken outside 26th 2nd Avenue on September 15th at a P-Sena Vyasa Puja Celebration there. Here, Amul being hoisted by a few of the other youth devotees opened the shutter that had closed the sign "Matchless Gifts".

This was the place where it all began; the store front from where the seed was planted for one of the biggest, fastest and most prominent spiritual revolution in the 20th century. The reason why I felt this picture was special was because of a very cool underlying meaning to this picture.

As a 2nd generation devotee (well almost!), I always wonder what it could have been to meet Srila Prabhupad. Offlate, I have been watching Yadubar Prabhu and Visaka Mtjs Following Srila Prabhupad collection and each remembrance and memory there makes me want to go back to the 60s and be with Srila Prabhupad, serve him, learn from him, get chastised by him. In Philly recently, hearing Mother Rukmini share some personal memories of Srila Prabhupad, it made me want to go back in time even more.

But then, when I saw this picture, I realised that Srila Prabhupad is still here, very much. He is there in his spiritual sons and daughters, he is there in the books he wrote, he is there in the recordings of lectures, he is there in every page of the Back to Godhead, he is there in every single temple room and he is definitely present in that Matchless Gift Storefront.

The picture to me symbolizes the future. Srila Prabhupad's mission rests on our hands, our shoulders and to revive and keep this glorious teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu to go on, we need to re-open those shutters which we have put over the matchless gift which Srila Prabhupad has given us. The only way to reach those shutters is with the help and association of devotee friends, who like you aspire to do that. They say that a picture speaks a 1000 words. Well this picture does.

My first visit to 26th 2nd Av., made me realise how fortunate I was to be given an oppurtunity to be a part of the movement. It also got me closer to trying to fathom the mercy of Srila Prabhupad. It made me value his sacrifises and it showed me my responsibility.

Today, on the occasion of his disappearance day, as I think more; yes a lot of us weren't at the temple, because we were trying our level best to get the message of Bhakti out, to either Yoga enthusiasts at a Yoga Studio, or curious students at the University.

As I try to discover my responsibilty towards the mission and towards serving Srila Prabhupad, I sincerely hope I can do justice to everything and will be able to play a significant role in helping him, Guru Maharaj and other exhalted devotees take the chanting of the Maha Mantra to every town and village.

And I know that every youth in ISKCON desires that and we will strive together to make it possible.

I hope Srila Prabhupad is smiling at all this...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Remembrance Day Prayers

Yesterday, November 11th was the Remembrance day, a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, especially since the First World War, which ended on this date 89 years back.

Around Canada and many other nations around the world, this day is marked with tributes to the great warriors who have given up their lives for the betterment of their fellow country men. A part of this remembrance is to mark a 2-minute silence in memory of these martyrs.

We were all at one of the devotee's house in the morning for a small prep talk on Leadership for some of the youth at our temple. On our way back at the elevator, one of the devotees mentioned, that today is Remembrance day and we should observe a moment of silence to pray for those souls.

When he said that, my mind first went to the first verse from the Nectar of Instruction:

vāco vegaḿ manasaḥ krodha-vegaḿ

jihvā-vegam udaropastha-vegam

etān vegān yo viṣaheta dhīraḥ

sarvām apīmāḿ pṛthivīḿ sa śiṣyāt

"A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind's demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world."

In the purport to this verse, Srila Prabhupad comments on "the urges of the tongue" when he says:
"Controlling speech, however, does not mean self-imposed silence (the external process of mauna), as Māyāvādī philosophers think. Silence may appear helpful for some time, but ultimately it proves a failure. The meaning of controlled speech conveyed by Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī advocates the positive process of kṛṣṇa-kathā, engaging the speaking process in glorifying the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa."

Keeping Srila Rupa Gosvami's teachings in mind, I wondered, is 2 minutes of silence really what will give respect to these Martyrs? Again, this 2 minute of silence, is our method of identifying with their body, not with their soul. What good will this 2 minutes of silence do for the soul, whose eternal nature is sat-chit-ananda : eternal, full of knowledge and full of bliss.

If it is the souls eternal nature to be happy, we need to reconnect the it with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is eternally blissful and who is the primal cause of all causes as described by Lord Bramha in the first verse of the Bramha Samhita.

In order for us to really give respect to these compassionate "souls", who like the kshatriyas, fought to defend their land (maybe not for the right reasons, maybe not even in the right way, but none they less, they are warriors, not spiritual sadly, but warriors), we need to pray to Lord Krishna to help these souls to understand that in their past life they were warriors who saved the land and by doing a good deed, they should new become spiritual warriors, so that they can help together combat the forces of maya in this battlefield of the material world.

And what is the best way to pray for them in this age of Kali?

At a lecture given in London in 73, Srila Prabhupad speaks about the verse in the 12th Canto:

"In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, in another chapter, Twelfth Canto, it is said, kaler dosa-nidhe rajan. These instructions were given by Sukadeva Gosvami to Maharaja Pariksit. So he addressed the king, "My dear king, in this age the faults are like the ocean," kaler dosa-nidhe rajan. Dosa-nidhe. Nidhi means ocean. "There are so many faults in this age that it can be accepted as the ocean of faults." Kaler dosa-nidhe rajan asti hy eko mahan gunah. "There is one great opportunity. Although it is full of faulty things, still there is one hope. That hope is," kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah param vrajet, "if one simply chants the holy name of Krsna, Hare Krsna, then gradually he becomes purified from the contamination of this age." Kirtanad eva krsnasya mukta-sangah: "He becomes free from the contamination of this age."

Hence, the recommended way for us in this age is by glorifying the Lord, by surrendering unto him. And this is the best form of purification for all of us fallen souls.

Back to my story of Remembrance day, as couple of us walked back home, we took a detour to another devotees house and spent around 2 hours just jamming by singing some beautiful bhajans and the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.

I think that was the most powerful silence and the most powerful prayer we could offer to the soldiers of the wars.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Man is an amazing animal

"Isn't a man an amazing animal? He kills wildlife by the millions in order to protect his domestic animal and their feed. Then he kills domestic animals by the billions and eats them. This in turn kills man by the millions, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer. So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of

man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year sends out
cards praying for "Peace on Earth."

-Preface from Old MacDonalds Factory Farm, by C. David Coates

Friday, November 2, 2007

Greetings from New Remuna Dham

Been in New Remuna Dham (Toronto) for the past 3 years, I have grown and indescribable attachment to Radha Kschira Chora Gopinath :-) ! He is really my Homeboy ;-) !

The following video is a 2-part presentation couple of us devotees put up for Janmashtami to showcase the activities happening at the Radha KschiraChora Gopinath Temple at ISKCON Toronto. Hope you all find the videos enlightening.

Its our humble offering to HDG Srila Prabhupad, who gave our dieties that wonderful name, HH Bhakti Marg Maharaj, our "cool" GBC who has always encouraged us in every endevour, Mother Subuddhi, our temple President who is more of our mother/grand mother taking care of our every single need, whims and fancies.

This is also our offering and dedication to all the fantastic devotees of ISKCON Toronto who have put in hours and hours into conducting all the events that take place here. Its because of their selfless and humble attitude, was this presentation able to be made.

Please enjoy this presentation/s and feel free to drop a line!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Hare Krishna !!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Reflections on Connecting with the Holy Name

Every weekend I get to spend with the devotees is so special and leaves me with such a wonderful high that I just don't want to ever get down !

Add to devotee association, some gorgeous kirtan with Gaura Vani Prabhu, morning group japa with Yajna Purusha Prabhu, Prabhupad memories you can never get tired off by Mother Rukmini, fun filled activities with Yadunath Prabhu, the most fantastic Prasadam cooking with love by the devotees of the Philadelphia temple, Damodar prayers in front of Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Sharadbihari, great loved filled tight hugs from Krsangi, debates and discussions about future of ISKCON with Vyenkatta[VBD] and not to forget, fantastic sandwiches and Prasad at Govindas and GTG.. that weekend becomes precious as the Cintamani Touchstone itself!

I am just back from the Cintamani Youth Retreat and I started to actually pen these down sitting in the airport as I waited for my flight to arrive.. I wanted to share some of my reflections about the retreat.

But as I sat down, I felt that I am really at the lack of words to describe what happened in those 48 hours in Philadelphia, where for the 47 hours it felt like time had no meaning, but at the 48th hour, it struck how fast the time flew. In those 2 days, all of us present there could experience sheer power, beauty, bliss, love and the personification associated with the Holy Name.

Personally, I understood what it meant to "Connect with the Holy Name" there. Its been around 10 years since I've been chanting and a few years since I've been chanting seriously, a few months since I've been chanting regularly and giving it top most priority. But first time, I realized that the Holy Name is LITERALLY the personification of the Lord. Else, why would our tears well up when we heard the blissful Kirtans, or why would hair rise in the ends during Morning Japa? It felt like Srila Prabhupad was smiling at us, and Radha Sharadbihari were enjoying the atmosphere in the temple room.

Two incidents I'd like to share happened which proved to me the power of the Holy Name and the effects of chanting it with devotees..

1. When I leave leaving Toronto, my room mate said, Are you sure you want to go this weekend, there is a forecast that it is going to rain all wknd in Philly. My relatives in Pittsburg whom I stayed with before the retreat told me the same thing. Infact, even on Friday, the first day of the weekend, it was a DOWNPOUR !! Every one predicted an overcast and a wet weekend and we were a bit disappointed as it would result in cancelling Hari Naam and all that jazz !! Saturday dawned with heavy rain, but by the time our morning japa was over, the clouds parted, the sun shine blazed through!! It was a perfect day, clear, a bit chilly, but nonetheless completely devoid of rain ! Who would have ever believed? THAT is the power of the Holy Name.

2. So finally the Sunday dawned, and I had to leave. I called my cab but as usual I hadn't finished packing till he came! He actually came earlier and said he'd go back to fill air in his tire and get back in 10 minutes. Though I wanted to stay with every one and not leave the wonderful atmosphere, I had to get back to Toronto to carry on my material commitments. I was a bit frantic so I called the cab company again and they said the cab would be there shortly. As the cab drove into the driveway, I had this urge to say bye to every one again, so I ran back in to give a one big hug to Krsangi and the rest and my Cab driver came out smiling. As I wiped the tears from my eyes and got back into the cab, my Cab driver asked, what was going on there? I said it was a Mantra Meditation Retreat. He was like, were you guys doing this together? I said Yes. He said, can I share with you something. I usually pick up people from religious gatherings, but the minute I stepped out, I felt something so positive, so powerful that I felt instantly happy. What do you guys meditate on?

Now I usually don't talk much in Cabs and not in a new place, but I felt this was such an oppurtunity to preach, so I tore out a paper and wrote the temple address and hte Hare Krishna Maha Mantra telling him thats what we meditate on. He started to chant the Mantra in the car! And then when dropping me off, he said, I was thinking when I saw you crying that you were in a hurry for me to come, but when I came you didn't want to leave. After hearing what you have and after feeling the power in the courtyard, I can safely say that true love and friendship still does exist.

To me, That was a clear proof of what happened during the Cintamani Retreat weekend, it was magical and unique, an experience one had to be there to experience. At the end of the retreat, it was almost as if the nectar of the Holy Name was so lovingly poured down our throats, the sweet after taste is being felt now. I wish this taste never dies.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Harry Potter or Hari Putr (Son of Lord Hari) ??

I confess, I am a HUGE fan of Harry Potter !! But unlike the 1000s and millions around the world who have a fascination for this bespectacled young wizard, I see it very differently. After reading the books very carefully, I conclude that there is a good underlying message of KC principles in this book.

Maybe I am just beating around the bush here and trying to say that reading Harry Potter is a good thing, but nonetheless, its always good to learn things from around our surroundings !!

So here I present 3 interesting principles I think what can be learned and implemented from Harry Potter.

1. Idea of Dementors: Dementors (forgive me HP buffs that I am going into detail here), are basically creatures that embody all sadness in life. They breed in the fithiest conditions and the purpose of their sole existence is to suck happiness away from human beings. Isn't that the whole point of all the qualities like Envy, Greed, Lust, False Ego, Pride etc. ? They breed in the deepest, darkest corner of our hearts and wage a constant battle with the "goodness" in ourselves and try to conquer our minds.

In Harry Potter, dementors are fought by thinking of good thoughts which produces a shield around you. Similarly, in KC, thinking about Sri Sri Hari, Sri Gaura Nitai, Lord Jagannath, Srila Prabhupad and all those devotees around the world and in history who give us true happiness, we can produce a shield around us. Most of all, chanting the Holy Name produces the strongest Patronus (Shield in Harry Potter lingo) to take care of us us and save us from the thoughts that induce happiness and keep us eternally happy.

2. Instructions vs Physically Presence: In the book preceding the final book, Harry Potters mentor and guide, Professor Dumbledore (my FAVE character from that book, has so many shades) dies. In the final book however, what saves Harry's life is his instructions showing that as important and as pure physical association is, it is non different from the instructions.

So many of us younger people keep thinking how wonderful it would have been to be present during Srila Prabhupad's time in this material manifestation. But we often forget that He is always there with us, in his books, in the Temples he established, in his wonderful disciples and in every single instruction he gave. If we want to conquer the evil, we need to take shelter of his instructions and try to follow them sincerely.

3. Concentration is the Key: The series end with the death of Voldermort (The most evil Dark Wizard in HISTORY !) by Harry Potter with the uttering of the unforgivable curse "Avada Kedavara" with utmost concentration and with the sole purpose to kill some one, only then will the curse be effective.

Similarly, if we want to kill the evil in our hearts and Destroy the Ravana within we need to sincerely chant, with concentration, focus and love for the holy names of Lord Krishna.

In the Kalisantarana Upanisad it is stated that:

hare krsna hare krsna
krsna krsna hare hare
hare rama hare rama
rama rama hare hare

iti sodasakam namnam
natah parataropayah
sarva-vedesu drsyate

"The sixteen words--Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare--are especially meant for counteracting the contaminations of Kali. To save oneself from the contamination of Kali, there is no alternative but the chanting of these sixteen words."

So inorder to destroy the evil and fight our inhibitions, we need to Chant the glores of Sri Hari.

There are a lot more lessons that can be learnt from the books, but I will stop at these three at the time being. Maybe next time, more lessons to be learnt ?!

On a closing note, from a sole marketing of the book perspective, the way these books became a revolution is interesting. Written by a single mother on scrap paper in a remote coffee shop in London to one of the most selling books in the world, its the stuff fairytales are made up off. What is there for us to learn from this is how to market out material better. What content we have in our books, in the ancient vedic texts beats the lessons which kids derive from Harry Potter ANY day! The action and drama seen in texts like Ramayan and Mahabharat are far more interesting and exciting than the countless fights Harry has and ofcourse, The Bhagavad Gita gives so much more crucial and critical knowledge about Good vs Evil, about Right vs Wrong and about how to achieve "success", all which HP fails to deliver! Yet, people are reading this and not our books. So, something for all of us to try to analyze.

How can we make this wonderful knowledge Srila Prabhupad has presented us in such a way that one day, at 4 00 am all around the world, millions of people wait, in front of the ISKCON temples, for the diety doors to unravel, for the arati bells to go off..

To get darshan of Lord Sri Hari !!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Real Beauty

When a friend of mine sent me this ad, my respect for Dove products increased immensely !! I still don't like that line of products as I don't think they work for my skin, but this ad had so much of Krishna Consciousness in it that I felt it had to be posted here.

From a broader perspective, the term "beauty" is often misunderstood. This point has been stressed since time and millennium and by various sources, by quotes that say "Beauty isn't skin deep", by TV shows like Ugly Betty, where the main protagonist is an unattractive yet brilliant young girl who gets a job with a fashion house where she proves her worth with her brain power.

Still, STILL, billions of dollars is spent every year in cosmetic industry, thousands of women go for botox and other surgeries and toxic methods to enhance their looks, teenage girls all around the world idolize Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez for their perfect 10 figures and not for the struggle they underwent to become successful. Looks, in particular, Good Looks still play a great role in peoples life.

Saying this, I will not deny the importance of looking good. But I do object to the hours and money spent on "looks" when it can be used for so many other purposes.

But what I object to the most is the fakeness in the obtainment of these good looks. As shown in the Dove ad, what is real beauty? Who are we to define real beauty? And what we see in todays "most beautiful women", is that real beauty?

On a more deeper level, this advertisement tells a lot about our "real" identity and gives a better perspective to answering the often questioned "Who am I". The girl stayed the same. Her real identity (soul) stayed the same through out the makeover (transition from childhood to youth to adult to old age) and though it was the same person, she looked so different. Can any one say that she is different from what she was before the makeover? No, because "she" is the same.

People are running all over to try to find the "real beauty" or the "real knowledge" in this case, but no one wants to stop and really look around. Just as the way people after seeing the ad would be searching all over for the "beautiful" girl but that girl was always there!

Besides, what beauty are people running behind? What is "Real Beauty" ?

In the Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupad describes that All beauty is one the opulences of Lord Krishna. Seeing Lord Krishna in such a ultimately beautiful form, makes me wonder, why are people running around for true beauty, when the real beauty is found in abundance?

The name Krishna means All Attractive. If we need to be searching for anything, it should be searching to acquire the taste of the Holy Name that will inturn help us to increase our attraction for the all attractive.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Vege..what ?

When Payal sent me this cartoon to think of a caption for yesterday, I was remembering another cartoon I had seen recently about cruelty to animals.

This was sent to me by a co-worker, who was just adopting a vegetarian diet. His journey was very interesting. A few months ago when I met him, he used to eat meat and he felt that his life was incomplete without it. Over lunch one day, he noticed that all I was eating was salad and he asked. So when I told him I was a vegetarian. He said, "vege...what?"

Giving a smirk, he continued, "I don't get it, why are people vegetarian? I am sure you are one because your parents are Vegetarian too".

His taunt reminded me of all the times I had to tell people that I was a Vegetarian even without understanding what that word meant! Yes, maybe I was born a Vegetarian, but today, I believe in it strongly!

Back to my co-worker, after we spoke about the pros of a vegetarian diet and all the positive effect it has on you emotionally, physically, mentally and most important, spiritually. He listened, but I don't think I made an impact.

People say Love is a strong thing and he fell in love with a Thai girl who was a vegetarian, Vegan infact! She tried to talk to him, but of no avail, so she made him see a video which I am guessing is similar to the famous "Meet your Meat" production. After seeing it for 10 minutes, he stopped the TV and has become a devout Vegetarian since then.

A 180 degree change? You bet!! [Maybe I should try to get him to chant Hare Krishna next =) ]

After his transformation, we were talking about how much better it makes him feel and he brought up a beautiful point, which leads to my first cartoon posting, he said "I was such a hypocrite when I was a meat eater. I would sit and relish the carcus of a poor animal but if a kid were so close to even patting my dog too hard I would get angry. I would join organizations like K9 and other animal welfare organizations, but didn't realize that the biggest welfare we can do them is by treating them good and keeping them alive!"

How true!

So many people are hypocritical about Animal Welfare.

Want to see real Animal Welfare ?

- Become a Vegetarian
- Love ALL Animals
- Engage them in the service of the Lord, they enjoy it =)

Mostly, treat them with respect as you would another living being.

I am glad my co-worker had that transformation. If only more people owned videos like Meet your Meat....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Step Away from Death...

People often talk about near - death experiences or times, when they felt their world crashing and everything just seemed void. Its these experiences that often force people to become more God Conscious because it is that point when they realize how volatile this life and in particular this body is, which in a minute can become useless.

Today, I had such an experience. Not once, twice.

I wish I was a more serious devotee that at the point it happened, I thought of the Lord. To be honest, the first time today, my mind just went blank. It happened at one of the busy intersections here, an intersection I cross almost a billion times each day. It was my right of way, and I was running to catch the street car. Suddenly, in a few mins, all I hear is LOUD horns, a screeching sound, a woman's voice screaming "what the h**l are you doing ??" and I am on the ground, not hurt, not flat on my back, but kinda squatted and my mind blank. All I remember was the driver of the street car getting out to see if I was fine. When I regained some sense, I tried to see if the driver of the car that almost ran over me was around, and to my extremely annoyance, I found out that the car just drove past me after seeing that I wasn't dead. At that point, I was just mad. Before that, my mind was blank.

As I sat in the street car, thinking of why people drive so silly and trying to chant to calm myself down, I realised that my round wasn't at all effective. Just then, my stop came and as I was about to step out, I was held back by someone and thankfully so, because another car, for no rhyme or reason, sped the way through the free lane where he was supposed to stop to wait for us to get off the street car.

Again, saved, just by an inch.

After such an adventurous 10 minutes of my life, I crossed the road and sat on the stair case of the University building, closed my eyes, trying to clear my head which had completely shut down and I felt cold. After a few minutes, as I slowly opened my eyes, the reality hit me that both times I was just a step away from "death", but both times, my mind just blanked out, didn't think even once about Lord Krishna.

Is that how its going to be when the final moment actually arrives?

Its a very scary thought. After hearing so many lectures, reading so many books, its surprising how in such a situation, our mind so covered by conditioning of this material world refuses to still go towards Lord Krishna. Even at such a pinnacle and brink of suffering, does it seek to enjoy.

To me today, it wasn't the fact that I was almost hit was shocking, it was more shocking to realize that I am not able to think of the Lord when I need him the most.

However, the most beautiful thing, which made today bring about a major spiritual realization is that He REALLY does have your back!! I mean, I was just a step away and even inspite of me not thinking about him, he cared so much that he ensured that I was all alive to be able to blog at this unearthly hour. He gave me a small slap on the head to tell me not to be proud of my spiritual life but to be happy and consider myself fortunate to be even worth of getting something so special.

I was indeed a step away from death, but today, I have taken a step towards trying to become more Krishna Conscious!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

7 Habits of Highly Effective People.. in Krishna Consciousness!

My father has always been on my case to read this book and I finally bit the bullet and read the book last summer. However, around this time, on a conversation with him about how this book helps us not only learn "powerful lessons in personal change" but help us move forward in our Spiritual life.

So, I am going to attempt to read the book again, and this time try to give a spiritual twist to each of those 7 habits, more for my own internal realization and for me to adapt it into my routine lifestyle.

Hopefully, I am going to try setting a target to finish it by the end of this month. Thats the only way I think I can motivate myself to read!!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Friday Night Fun .. ? Sure !!

I've always been a sticker for having the most fun on Friday nights! I strongly believe that after an entire week of studying, working, cleaning house, washing dishes and the other "routine" things of life, I feel that we NEED to wind out in order to be human.

The question is, "how" exactly we wind out.

Since University, my friday nights have always been eventful. Either they would involve watching some senseless Bollywood movie with my roomates or friends sitting in the comfort of our dorm rooms (now apartment living room) with popcorn and some pop to pass, or they would involve just taking a long walk outside. Sometimes, they did get onto the wilder side with parties, garba nights, bowling nights or just late nights outside.

However, for the past few months, most of my Friday nights have been spent in the Temple, some program or the other, or cleaning up, or preparing for the retreat, or just doing stuff around, never really got around doing other things. Yesterday, I was recovering from a serious sore throat and a friend calls, lets call them F.

F: Yo, wanna come tonight to A's house to chill?
M: Umm.. *cough* no, my voice is really bad. I didn't go to work for the past 2 days because I sound like a guy. Can you make out?
F: Ya, you do sound awful. Are you sure? Its going to be fun!! We'll prolly just like hang out and then I dunno.. chill a bit maybe? Clubbing.. if you are up for it??
M: *more cough*, seriously I can't !! Besides, I have the TM meeting to go for. I'll probably come home and sleep.
F: Fine..get well soon then. We'll definitely miss you!

On the second line, I get a call from a devotee friend, lets call her D:
D: Hari Bol! Tonight is Bhakti Marg Swami's Vyasa Puja. You are coming right?
M: *cough* Hari Bol! Seriously, I would love to, but I can't talk!
D: Okay, get well soon! Hope to see you at Sunday.

However, I did have a TM (Toastmasters - Public Speaking Grp.. I run the club at the university have some meetings for that.aah all that jazz) meeting and after that, sitting in that Starbucks where we meet, I felt, let me go to the temple and get some darshan and possibly Prasad since I hadn't eaten. So, reluctantly I took a cab and went for the Program.

And it was AWESOME! Fantastic Kirtans, Glorious Darshan of the dieties and an Oh-So-Wonderful Cheese cake!!

On our way back home, still high from the Kirtans and the Cheesecake, at the Subway station, while Keshava drummed his Mrdanga a bit, on the other side we saw a few guys who were sneaking a few Vodka shots in the Subway Station not aware of any1 seeing them. Keshav remarked the irony that one side we are playing the Mrdanga and discussing our fave kirtans, the other side, young guys, who can be out doing anything else are getting wasted.

At that moment, I was glad to be on the correct side of the Subway, the side that would take me back home..

Friday, October 5, 2007

Looking back...Looking forward...

I can officially claim to be the worse blogger on the WWW considering I blog once in 6 months !! Its not that I am lazy to sit down and pen something down, its more like there is so much to pen down that its hard to figure out where to start!

Maybe to start off with a picture which I find very powerful, saying the essence of the Bhagavad Gita and the root teachings of our Philosophy.

I had this picture up on FaceBook and my room mate commented:

Subah hoti hai.....Shaam hoti hai.....umar yuh hi tamam hoti hai
[Morning comes... evening comes.. and in this cycle, life gets wasted]

Truly life is like that. Srimad Bhagavatam says that with every sun rise and sun set our time in this world is shortened. In this world, with so many difficulties where even so called happiness is derived from some one's pain, what is the solution to not seeing that this life doesn't go tammam [waste]?

Looking back, I think about all the stupid things I have done, the number of times I put things in front of my chanting, my devotional service and looking back makes me realize how many days I have wasted in pursuing false happiness, mere temporary enjoyment and the so called luxury of life? I think about the number of times, I questioned by belief system, questioned those around me..

But then today, I see a new hope. I think Srila Prabhupad has given us such a big reason to not look back but to look forward, not to forget what you did in the past, but to focus on your energy for the future, not to think about what we did wrong, but to think about what we can do right.

From now on, I want to look forward not look back...

And as I look forward, I see the sun rise and shine brightly on the future of our movement, I hear the beats of the Mrdanga, I hear the sounds of the Kartals, I hear ecstatic kirtans and as the clouds part, I see the smiling face of Srila Prabhupad with his hands raised high in the air and looking up there, I see the smiling face of Sri Sri Radha Kschirachora Gopinath!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hare Krishna

Hare Krishna

Welcome to my blog space; where I shed my material fears and inhibitions and share some of my spiritual realizations and understandings.

A bit about myself, I was born in a very religious family in Southern India. Both my parents grew up in the atmosphere of Sri Vaishnavism (One of the sampradayas for which Sri Ramanuja Acharya is the head). When I was around 4, we left India to come to the Middle East. It was here that my parents got into KC. So, I have been virtually brought up in this movement. My parents took initiation in late 90s with HH Jayapataka Swami.

Though my parents were in KC, they never really forced a lot on me and even from a young age let me chose on what I wanted. Though they insisted on attending Bhagavad Gita classes and being a Vegetarian, there was never a push and they gave me space to decide what I really wanted to do. I think it was that push that helped me question a lot of the traditions from a younger age.

When it was the time for me to go to University, going against practically every devotee we knew, my parents agreed to let me come abroad to study. The usual perception is always that when some one, especially at the age of 17, and more so a girl, goes abroad, it is going to be a serious blow on their spiritual growth. However, I am more career oriented and materialistic than most people,so I persisted. Another reason was, so many Maharaja's I met, told me about how active KC is in North America too. And reading stuff about Pandav Sena activities just got me more excited about going abroad.

Another key reason was, I wanted to challenge myself and see how strong is my faith which at that point was very shaky. I needed to question it and being in my comfort zone, I would never get the answers I am looking for.

Once I came to Canada to study, for the first time I had to face NUMEROUS challenges to pursue my KC life. However, amidst all these hardships, many realizations dawned to me about the interesting aspects of studying here. Possibly the biggest being that, for the first time, I had questions and those were being answered.

Today, I don't consider myself worthy enough to be called a devotee. But as an aspiring 2nd generation ISKCON devotee, I see myself and many like me playing a huge role in pushing the movement forward, along with the balancing act of handling our material lives normally. The new mantra is 'dovetailing' and it still remains a challenge on how to dovetail.

It is a tight rope walk, but I have the stick called Prabhupad's mercy and a soft landing called Devotee association below me, and for me destination, none other than Krishna Bhakti.

I think this tight rope walk would be a rather enjoyable one as I balance to seek Bhakti.