Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Essence

As an aspiring bhakti yogi, what would you say is the most important thing in your spiritual practice? Would you pick service, the association of like minded bhakti yogis, the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, prasadam, kirtan or something else?

As I was chanting the maha-mantra today, I realized how far I am from being a true bhakti yogi. The essence of bhakti yoga is to always remember the Supreme, Krishna, and to never forget Him. The prescribed method to do this, is to chant the Holy Names of the Lord.

I chant the maha-mantra everyday, but the quality of my chanting is far from desirable. My tendency is to focus on service, associating with other bhakti yogis, eating prasadam or joining in a great kirtan. But....if one seriously thinks about it, the practice of all these other spiritual activities can be deepened and more fully experienced when we become fully dependent upon the chanting of the Holy Name.

How does that happen, you ask? Because the Holy Name is non-different than Krishna. By developing our relationship with Krishna, by chanting the Holy Name in a mood of separation and longing, all our other activities become even more spiritually surcharged.

One of my spiritual mentors, HG Brhat-mrdanga prabhu, once said, "It is hypocritical to think that we are doing service if we do not chant our rounds. Chanting our rounds is our service."

I beg and pray to the Holy Name to please give me the desire to chant with more sincerity, with love and with a great desire to re-establish my eternal relationship with Him.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yoga Meltdown!

Whew! It's been awhile since my last post and the reason for that is Yoga Meltdown has taken over my life!!! What is Yoga Meltdown you might ask? It is an initiative that Toronto's Ratha Yatra (which is celebrating its 37th year!) has come up with.

There is a burgeoning yoga community that is growing in Toronto, which is a phenomenon that happening everywhere. More and more individuals are taking interest in yoga and Yoga Meltdown is a mini-festival within the 37th Annual Festival of India.

On July 19, 2009 (the second day of our two day festival) we are inviting all yoga enthusiasts to come and join us on Centre Island, Toronto to experience a yoga revolution. This is an opportunity to introduce many to not only the benefits of yoga itself but more importantly the spiritual side to yoga and more specifically bhakti yoga.

The event will be highlighted by numerous free activities such as:
- Non-stop outdoor yoga classes and demonstrations
- Vegan and vegetarian cooking demonstrations
- Mantra meditation
- Power-packed chanting and kirtan
- A non-stop stage program including drama and theatre
- An all-you-can-eat, free vegetarian feast, presented by Festival of India
- A South Asian Bazaar and much more!

For more information please visit Please also visit our official Ratha Yatra website at

Please help to spread the word and invite one and all to this yoga extravaganza and an opportunity to introduce many to the spiritual side of yoga!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beautiful Nrsimhadeva

I think my love affair with Nrsimhadeva began when I heard the words of HH Sacinandana Swami. It was a few years ago when I was fortunate enough to be celebrating Nrsimha Caturdasi at New Simhacalam in Germany. Nrsimhadeva there is unlike any other. In fact, that murti is one of the few, if not the only one, where Prahalad Maharaja is actually sitting on his lap. As we were celebrating and meditating on Nrsimhadeva, HH Sacinandana Swami said that we should always think of Nrsimha as our benevolent father. Yes, he can be fierce and very angry, but just like a lioness provides all affection and protection to her cubs, he provides all strength, shelter and love to his devotees.

Those words had a very deep impact upon my heart and so for me, that Nrsimhadeva in New Simhacalam is like a father to me. He is sweetly fierce and extremely merciful.

Fast forward another three years, when I had a chance to attend my first Nrsimha Caturdasi with the beautiful and wonderful Nrsimhadeva in New Vrndavana. We have always had a picture of this Nrsimhadeva on our altar ever since I was little, but I rarely ever had a chance to spend a lot of time with him in person. He is so regal and majestic and as my friend Mandali puts it, "He is a warrior!" This year, I got to render some very special service for him and got to know him a little bit better. He is very soft-hearted and listens very attentively to the heartfelt desires of his devotees.

But now any meditation Nrsimhadeva is not complete without remembering the active and wonderful Nrsimha in Mayapur. For close to 4 months, every morning I got to pray and marvel at that multi-armed ugra Nrsimhadeva. Although many find him extremely fierce and angry, I have always found him to be so cool! He always looks like he's going to jump off the altar. How wonderful would it be to have the eyes to see him dance jubilantly in the Radha Madhava temple room. He is always dressed so beautifully, but my favorite outfit is when he's wearing his pants. It gives the devotees a glimpse of how spectacular he is.

After spending so much time in Mayapur, I started developing the desire to worship Nrsimhadeva. He is my ever-protector and I wanted to reciprocate by serving him more personally. Then somehow through the mercy of the devotees, he came in his sila form. And so now, I'd like to introduce the newest member of my family: Sri Sri Lakshmi Nrsimhadeva. Although I thought that he would protect me and take care of me, apparently my dear Lord had other plans. Instead he is my baby Nrsimhadeva who is constantly demanding my attention and time. I personally think he's speaking too much with my Radha Damodara who are exactly the same way!

But its so wonderful to be able to serve him everyday. If I learned anything from HG Jananivas prabhu and HG Pankajanghri prabhu it is that the murti of the lord and the lord are non-different. That's why we can have different relationships with different deities and all of them are perfect. The lord likes to reveal himself in his different forms. All we need to do is become aware and conscious of that. I am definitely light years from realizing that the lord is a person but it definitely helps to have role models in your life to help show you the way.

Nrsimhadeva Bhagavan ki JAI!

New Simhacalam, Germany

New Vrndavana, West Viginia

Sri Mayapur Dham, India

My beautiful Lakshmi Nrsimhadeva

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Taking the Opportunity

Sometimes taking someone up on an offer to ride along with them to get some groceries can be the best thing that you do.

After a wonderful Festival of Inspiration 2009, I am now back in the comfort of my parent's home here in Ottawa. The past few days I've been talking with several friends about what were the highlights of this year's FOI. There were so fact I think I will dedicate the next couple of posts to reflecting about many of them. But I found it funny that it wasn't until yesterday that I remember truly appreciating and reflecting about how one conversation with a good friend of mine really made this year's FOI very special for me.

It was the day of Nrsimha Caturdasi. Already the anticipation and excitement of a festival day was upon everyone in New Vrndavana. However, that being said, since most of the celebrations were taking place in the evening, I found myself meandering around the New Vrndavana grounds that afternoon. As I was chanting and wondering what I should do, I ran into my friend (and little brother) Jettu.

Immediately upon seeing me he asked, "Hey, do you want to come along with me to the grocery store? My mom wants me to buy some bhoga to offer to Nrsimhadeva." I asked how long it would probably take to go and come and Jettu said about an hour or so. I didn't even have to think, saying sure, we got into the car and off we were to the grocery store.

Jettu is one of the wonderful "younger devotees" in ISKCON Toronto. A kirtan enthusiast, quick witted and extremely funny individual, he is also one of my friends who I just never get a chance to spend a lot of time with. But here was an opportunity and I grabbed it.

There was never a dull moment in the car with us alternating between laughing and making fun to talking about serious and thought provoking realizations. It made me appreciate how special and unique every devotee is. Although in age Jettu may be younger than me, there is still so much that I can learn from him and so much to appreciate about him. Of course, I'll always take the opportunity to lecture him or make fun of him in a sisterly way, but its so nice to have someone like that.

Although I am an only child I have rarely ever felt it. I've always had plenty of younger/older brothers and sisters. Such is the gift that Srila Prabhupada has given all of us. It's up to us to take every opportunity we can to get to actually spend time with one another and get to know each other.

So thanks Jettu for asking me to come along for the grocery ride. I don't think I've ever had so much fun picking out fruit. :D

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What Role Does Astrology Play In My Life?

What role does astrology play in a devotees' life? Well, it depends on who you ask. My personal opinion is that astrology can be very useful, IF you have a good astrologer. In fact in Srimad Bhagavatam it states:

Whether one has a short life or a long life, one must suffer the threefold
miseries of material life. Therefore any gentleman, dhira, must be
interested in jyotisa, astrology (Bhag. 10.8.5)

But that being said in the Bhagavad-gita it also states:

"If you become conscious of Me, you will pass over all the obstacles of conditioned
life by My grace. If, however, you do not work in such consciousness but act
through false ego, not hearing Me, *you* will be lost" (Bg. 18.58)

So how to reconcile these two statements? Well, I heard something very profound that made a lot of sense to me. Astrology gives you an idea of the environment that you have to work with. But it doesn't mean that something WILL happen because there is always that Krsna factor that can change everything.

That once again puts the responsibility on you. I think sometimes getting an astrological chart done makes someone feel that "Ok, this is what is going to happen. I don't need to do anything." That is such a fatalistic attitude that completely disempowers an individual.

We always have free will and the entire purpose of material existence is to become educated. Educated that we do not belong here. The planets are simply teachers that help us in our education. If however, we learn our lessons voluntarily, then we do not need those lessons and hence sometimes those things that are predicted in our charts do not come true. There is no point in teaching someone something they have already learned.

So yes astrology is useful, but more important than astrology is self reflection and dependence on Krsna. By self reflection and association with devotees, Krsna will give indications of those things we need to work on whether it be cultivating humility to becoming a compassionate individual. If we voluntarily start to work on our anarthas, while keeping Krsna in the centre, then Krsna will personally help us. If, however, we want to learn the hard way then the planets will happily teach us by arranging for us to learn our lessons.