Thursday, July 30, 2009

Putting Krishna Back Into the Equation

For the past few days I've been taking advantage of one of the things I love about Ottawa— the winding, scenic walking paths. It allows me to escape into the serenity I am searching for.

As I've been taking these long japa walks, I've noticed that a lot of realizations have come bubbling to the surface. Although I have been searching for answers and guidance, I realize now that I'd been searching for it externally. Why? Because it is just so much easier!

As an aspiring bhakti yogi, I practice mantra meditation, associate with other bhakti yogis and try to perform as much bhakti yoga as possible. It's easy to fool myself into thinking "I try to work very hard on my internal spiritual practice," when in reality I'm just running on automatic pilot.

The problem is, like everything in life, things start to become routine. But that's just it. This is a perfect example of imposing a material perspective on a spiritual practice. Bhakti is NOT a routine. It is ever-fresh and full of bliss. While engaging in my sadhana and practices, I albeit unknowingly, take Krishna out of the equation!

How is that possible, you might say? Well it can actually be pretty easy. It's when we take Krishna out of the equation, that everything becomes dry, routine and tasteless. It becomes just like any other job you've ever had.

The only way to put Krishna back into the equation is by re-focusing. Nothing is as important as chanting the maha-mantra. Nothing. But it just can't be any kind of chanting, it has to be chanting with emotion.

Now if you are like me, most times when I chant the only emotion I feel is "eager anticipation." Not the eager anticipation to please Krishna, sorry folks, but the eager anticipation to finish my sixteen rounds! Sad, but true.

But the path of bhakti is amazing. Despite any handicaps one may have, there is a way! In this case, just channel any emotion you feel into your chanting. If you are eagerly anticipating finishing your rounds, then eagerly anticipate to hear at least one mantra properly. If you are feeling sad, then pray to Krishna that one day the intensity of the sadness you are feeling at that moment may one day be the intensity of love you will feel for him.

We can all experience guidance and strength. It's within our capacity. We just need to put Krishna back into the equation and get rid of the "I'm too busy," or, "there's no time," that prevents us from feeling it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Getting Back to Nature

Recently I got an indication that I should spend sometime with Nature.

Being in Toronto with its towering buildings, bright city lights and fast-paced lifestyle, always surcharges me with lots of energy, but it also does a number on my subtle consciousness. Being a person who is always trying to control things (I'm working on it!) and likes to keep active, I oftentimes lose perspective that I am just a mere instrument who is trying to remember Krsna.

Now that I'm back in Ottawa and removed from my "natural habitat" of whirlwind chaos, I am trying to ground myself again. It's funny, when I once approached my Guru Maharaja asking him what to look for in a spiritual master, he told me, "You need someone who grounds you." It's true, we all need that.

Not only do we need people in our lives who help to ground us whether it be emotionally, mentally or spiritually, but we also need to seek out personal time to indulge in this very necessary practice.

One way is to get back to Nature. One can experience so much support and strength just by sitting in the grass. The earth is always supporting us whether we realize it or not. Similarly, what better way is there to hear music than to listen to the chatter of the birds, the humming of the bees or the rustling of the leaves. In fact, sometimes they make the best accompanying instruments for a kirtan!

Most importantly of all, Nature can help us remember Krsna. Krsna's favorite haunts include his Vrndavana forest, the flowing river Yamuna and the beautiful forest animals.

We are so lucky to have these gifts which are not only so valuable but also freely available to us. Our lives are filled with so much chatter and it makes it very difficult to hear what the soul is crying out for. It also makes it very difficult to hear what suggestions Krsna is revealing to us within our hearts.

So, whether we live in a huge metropolitan city or a small farm, take the time to spend some alone time with Nature. You'll never know what you'll hear.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Encouragement and Confirmation

After the wonderful Ratha Yatra/Yoga Meltdown that took place this past weekend, I've been spending a lot of time reading, contemplating and meditating on my Guru Maharaja, Niranjana Swami. Specifically, I have been reading one of his books books: Collected Letters Written to Friends and Disciples.

You see, I'm one of those people who is always wondering if they are doing the right thing. I am always questioning, "Is this what I'm meant to be doing? Is this what Krsna wants me to do?" Yesterday when I was reading, I came across something that answered this question which I'd like to share:

Maharaja was quoting from the purport of Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter 1, Verse 60 where it states, "Unless one gets this spiritual encouragement by following the instructions of the spiritual master, it is not possible to make advancement."

Maharaja goes on to explain that this encouragement which Srila Prabhupada refers to in his purport must also come from within. The Lord as Supersoul, gives direction and encouragement from within- to those who are eager to please Him by serving the instructions of a bona fide spiritual master. The spiritual master instructs from without, delivering the conclusive truths from both scriptures and the previous acaryas, and he also guides from within as the Supersoul, who is a manifestation non-different from the instructing spiritual master.

Therefore, Maharaja goes on to instruct, that we should especially focus on Srila Prabhupada's words, the statements from the Srimad Bhagavatam and Caitanya Caritamrta and then try to listen for some confirmation within our hearts of what they are all saying. It may not come right away, but if you desire the confirmation and intensely pray for it with steady determination, it will surely come when the time is right. This encouragement must be an ongoing process, and it is connected with the resolute desire to "stick to the instructions enunciated by the spiritual master.

Powerful, isn't it? Personally, these statements by HH Niranjana Swami bring to light many aspects that are required for one to become eligible to receive this type of confirmation and encouragement. For one thing, it is not something that comes very cheaply. The key to become eligible is the "resolute desire to stick to the instructions enunciated by the spiritual master."

Alongside this desire, patience, sincerity, determination and faith are all required. Especially patience! LOL! I know that oftentimes I pray for confirmation and many, many times it doesn't come right away and I get disheartened. But it is so important to remember that " will surely come when the time is right."

Who are we to know when the time is right? Krsna often tests to see how sincere we are and how determined we are. How often do we fail those tests? We are so lucky to have such a wonderful Lord who keeps trying to help us no matter how ungrateful and impatient we become.

So there is hope! And much of it! All it requires is that we steadfastly hang on to the instructions of Srila Prabhupada and the guru parampara and try to execute it to the best of our ability. Through this endeavor, both Guru and Krsna within our heart will guide us.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

37th Annual Festival of India (Ratha-Yatra) Commerical

I am so grateful to be part of such a progressive and innovative team of individuals who are trying to share the beauty of bhakti-yoga. Below is this year's commercial which will be seen by millions in Toronto, inviting them to take part in this event.

Kirtan- Toronto Style!