Adventures in Humility

News, Views, and Chews on spiritual issues.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

More Janmastami pics

I forgot to post some more pics. The first is the brass murti of Bala-Krishna that is placed on a lovely little jhulan. In previous years visitors were allowed to give Krishna a swing, but for some reason that did not happen this year. The second is the murti of Srimati Vrnda-devi that was beautifully decorated in the Tulasi greenhouse. And the last is a very COOL cardboard-cutout of Maha-Vishnu that was part of the 'Creation' exhibition.

Janmastami Celebrations

Hmm, a belated blogging, but here goes! All was great for Janmastami 2005! The only regret was that I was not able to serve to the fullness of my capacity due to a relative coming to stay during the period. I was only able to serve one day, but it was nice that it was the actual day (Friday) itself! This year Janmastami was celebrated at Bhaktivedanta Manor for three days continuously!

It is a Manor custom to celebrate the festival on the actual day itself and also on the nearest Sunday for those who were not able to attend. Due to a calenderial (is that a word?) quirk this year, it seems that the Gujarati samaj is celebrating Janmastami on Saturday. So officially the celebration was on Friday and Sunday, but an informal celebration took place on Saturday too! How interesting. I was not able to attend Mangal -arati as my usual practice due to the relative situation, but I ended up being able to arrive there around 18:00 and immediately began my service which was in the queue system.
I was at a good vantage point to see the harinam-parties pass by, allowing me the opportunity to chant the holy names often in my mind and along with the party. The Deities were very beautiful too. As it was not very busy, one of my fellow sevaks suggested that I should take advantage of the lull to view all of the exhibits and the Deities too. Off I went!

And I just LOVED this particular exhibit. Proper rasika-lila with Yugal-Kishor. Amazing. And it was the first time ever that the Manor had done these sorts of outside exhibits. They were very beautiful to see. A ring of jewels on the ground around trees helped me to understand all those sastric descriptions of how the land in Vraja is cintamani. There was even a nice model of Krishna killing Kaliya in the Manor lake. Of course the Deities themselves were looking very beautiful.

Here are some choice pictures of the Deities on Janmastami day:

And a nice close-up:

I was actually lucky to get these particular pics, as the ones I took when I had my first darshan did not turn out very good due to being in a pushing queue. These two poics were taken after midnight (the birth hour) just befoe the curtains closed for the night. I have more pics which I may upload and collect some other time. It was great for me to finsh my service and go off to the main tent to see the Utsava-deities get the midnight arati. It turns out that I missed the abhishek (oh heck!) but I was just in time to wiggle my way through the crowd in the main tent so I could be reasonably close enough to see the utsav-deities midnight arati. It turned out that I was actually quite far from Them, but right up close to a TV projector screen where I could see everything that was going on. I decided to be satisifed with this and chanted along with the 'Govindam' prayers as they blasted into my left ear from the huge 6-foot speaker I was standing next to. I took some nice pics of the utsav-deities while the arati was still going on and while the crowd were allowed to move closer for a more intimate darshan. The utsav-deities looked so beautiful.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cardiff Realisations

When I visited the temple on Thursday for Balarama's Birthday, I noticed a sign-up sheet on the temple noticeboard; they were inviting one and all to join them in a trip to Cardiff to attend the first every Ratha-yatra there. How could I say no, especially when the transport was free too?

So there I was, standing in the morning chill at 7am waiting for the coach. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the Ratha-yatra went off very well. Holding it for the first time ever, it was understandably a small-scale affair compared to the pomp of the London event, but was very well implemented nevertheless. It was nice to witness history being made. There was even a black (Rastafarian?) guy with long dreadlocks shouting at us and the procession. I heard later that he was denouncing idolatry and asking (shouting) that we should accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour! The police escorts dealt with him...
It was also nice to have Hari Sauri das with us, as well as Mahavishnu (younger) and Bhakti Vidya Purna Swamis. HSd did not talk much but it was interesting to be in the presence of a Parabhupada stalwart. Anyway..

On the way back, I was having some interesting realisations which I will try to describe here. I was thinking how all throughout the day from morning onwards, I had been chanting the mahamantra within my mind, if not on my mala. I have noticed this peculiar occurrence quite frequently, and it always happens when I am in close proximity with the devotees or to the temple. I concluded that because of the constant chanting performed by the temple inhabitants, the whole premises had been sufficiently sanctified so that sensitive persons can pick up the 'vibes'. This is true because this always happens whenever I arrive at the temple. This is the power of Harinam.

And it works with close proximity with devotees too. Whenever I am in their association, I find that I spontaneously start remembering the Harinam and chanting within my mind. So I was realising all of those edicts in shastras about how sadhu-sanga is very important for us and to maintain our bhakti. Something powerful is at work because of their constant chanting of Harinam, attentive or not.

yAGhAra darzane mukhe Aise kRSNa-nAma
tAGhAra jAniha tumi 'vaiSNava-pradhAna'

[Sriman Mahaprabhu said:] He, by whose darshan the name of Krishna automatically arises
in your mouth, you should know him to be a chief of Vaishnavas.
(Caitanya CaritAmRta 2.16)

This verse came to my mind when I was thinking these things. And then I sighed a long sigh when I think of all those silly debates on GD about how IGM have no "power" due to Sri Bhaktisiddhanta's having no diksa and so on. Really,who cares? The last debate lasted more than 20 pages, and for what?

I am not undermining the importance of taking diksa, but the simple fact remains is that these are Vaishnavas whose mere presence or sight makes the name of Krsna arise on the tongue. And I hardly spoke with any of them, I only know the names of one or two, so it was by their presence that the inspiration to chant Harinam was arising within my mind. Why not be generous and give them credit where credit is due? In that last 20+page debate, I thought that perhaps only Lalitadasji showed the most maturity of all. He was asked for his opinion on Sri Bhaktisiddhanta, and his reply shocked me. It was along the lines of "I don't care about all the controversy, he is a Vaishnava who chants the holy name and that's enough for me, so I show him respect". I was very impressed. I was so surprised, but very impressed. Here is somebody who has actually understood Vaishnava culture and is making an effort to practice what he preaches. For all the guff, it appears that there are few who show enough maturity to have their opinions weigh in on whatever debate has arisen.

Whatever the controversies may be there with IGM, they are still Vaishnavas who are chanting the most sacred collection of Names. I feel ashamed to be in their presence, a filthy toad like me. I am almost envious of their spiritual strength. I feel that my spiritual practices have slackened with time due to other external and emotional pressures, so who am I to point any fingers?

There is so much more to say as I was realising all of this with greater eloquency and more points to make, but I believe that I have covered most of the general points. One of the things that appalls me is that lack of Vaishnava culture and manners, both online and offline. I thus realise that I cannot point fingers at anyone, even if my own personal behaviour is in order as that would violate Siksastaka 3. It is enough for me if I gain the association of correct devotees (like Lalitadasji for example) and learn from them how to view the world and all the people with all their faults with due respect, bowing down to all who chant to Holy Name. Divisions of respect are there à la Rupa Gosvami's Upadesamrta 5 of course, but the point remains that respect mush be given to all Vaishnavas. And not just Vaishnavas, as Siksastaka 3 applies to all also.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Santa-rasa in Vraja

This is a great topic and an outstanding exegesis by Madhava. This is something that I'll be returning to for a long, long time.

The idea of santa-rasa being present in Vraja has always troubled me, kinda. When you hear different opinions from different teachers, there is a good chance that you will become confused. But in any case, I guess that I am happy that the matter is resolved through sastra. This just goes to that a serious and in-depth study of sastra is needed to understand siddhanta properly. I think it is imperative that some serious study of sastra is done, along with the japa.

You may as well know what you are doing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Performance of worldly duties

markaTa-vairAgya nA kara loka dekhAñA
yathA-yogya viSaya bhuñja' anAsakta hañA

Do not display artificial renunciation to the people.
For now, enjoy material things without attachment as is befitting.

antare niSThA kara, bAhye loka-vyavahAra
acirAt kRSNa tomAya karibe uddhAra

Be strong in faith internally and act ordinary outwardly,
and very soon Krsna will uplift you [from that situation].
(CC 2.16.238-239)

This was in response to a devotee's query on GD about how to live life in the world, how do we as devotees handle them , and whether we should even bother with such duties when they are possible hindrances to the uninterrupted contemplation of Sri Sri Yugal-Kishor.

I was heartened to know the reply of Mahaprabhu. Personally I would love the idea of giving up everything and going to Radha-kunda or Navadvipa. I feel that I have been possessed by the renunciant attitude ever since age 15, but if I am truly honest with myself, my renunciation would have been 'markata-vairagya'. I am definitely very far from the ideal standard as exemplified by Sri Sri Rupa-Raghunatha, but I hope to follow in their footsteps one day. In any case, it is heartening to know that Sriman Mahaprabhu does not force a sadhaka to follow a specific path. It is heartening to see that Mahaprabhu understands our plight and advises us to "carry on", yet still showing us a trick by how we can gain release from such a situation.

Also there are more hints and tips from Mahaprabhu on how to live a nice gRhastha life. I spotted some of these reference in the last part of Sri Bhaktivinoda's 'Bhaktyaloka' book. Nice tips for wannabe babajis too.

Monday, August 15, 2005


Great stuff, the Bloglet feature has been added and can be seen to the right. This enables users to subscribe to this blog and they will receive blog postings in their email, so they don't have to come and view this site every day. The downside to this is that the Bloglet email updates pay pathetic attention to formatting; if I decide to do some fancy typing with plenty of paragraphs and all, the Bloglet update does not show this formatting and only shows a large chunk of text, whatever I've written. At the end of the day, people can subscribe to this blog and receive postings every day and they can also log in here if they wish to view the same posts in a more aesthetically pleasing style.

Links to Gaudiya Discussions forum has been enabled, as well as to the Lake of Flowers productions. Click on the LOF logo to view the site and download some fantastic videos and audio of festivals in Vraja!


Jaya Gaura!

I'll be using this site to blog my thoughts on a variety of spiritual topics as I come across them during my readings of spiritual literature and so on.

I hang out at Gaudiya Discussions these days (see link at right) and it is a hugely exciting forum filled with a lot of knowledgeable people who understand Gaudiya siddhanta. Association with devotees there (even virtual association) has deepened my understand of Gaudiya siddhanta in various ways. There's not much else to say in this regard, as I said it all in the first paragraph.

I have no idea who might be interested in these crazy thoughts of mine, hehe, but it's there for anyone to read anyway. I'll supply Bloglet subscription services for those who can't be bothered to read here every time, and they'll get automatic updates in their email with the full posts. Cool huh?

An Auspicious Beginning

vande shree krishna chaitanya
nityanandau sahoditau |
gaurodaye pushpavantau
citrau shandau tamo nudau ||