Sunday, September 27, 2009

Krishna is Present With Us At Every Moment

This is an excerpt from a lecture that HH Radhanath Swami gave. I found this to be so beautiful and relevant that I wanted to share it. You can find the complete lecture transcription at

So we find here, Gajendra in his condition has complete faith. He’s not offering a prayer that "Maybe the Lord will come, I hope He comes, I hope He hears me, I hope He exists." Have any of you chanted with that frame of mind? You chant in a very very dangerous situation. We’re chanting the Holy Names and we may be thinking, "I hope Krishna exists, I really need Him and I hope He hears me and I hope He reciprocates." In other words we are practicing bhakti but we don’t have complete shraddha, nista. Nista means very, very deep and strong faith. This is preliminary to bhava or to love awakening within our hearts. We have to have very strong foundational faith in whatever we do. When we’re making a garland, we have such faith that Krishna at this very moment is accepting my service or we’re sitting in Bhagavatam class, when we’re chanting our rounds, when we’re doing kirtana, when we’re sweeping the floor or washing the walls or whatever service we’re doing, management or book distribution or taking care of our child or our parents or studying in school with a spiritual purpose. Whatever service we may be doing it’s important that we have complete faith that here and now at this very moment, Krishna is present. Present in my heart, present in between every atom, present in the effulgence of Brahman, present in the moon and in the sun, present watching, hearing, responding, accepting my efforts and if I’m doing it properly, Krishna at this very moment is pleased with me. That is bhakti. Not that, "I’ll please Krishna tomorrow, today there's just some other things I have to deal with in my mind." Tomorrow never comes in that sense.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What Kind of Love?

This weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to attend Russell's revived "Riverfest". Russell is a small town about a half an hour from Ottawa. My godbrother Kacper was one of the key players in reviving this little festival which consisted of showing Russell's artistic talent. The festival took place in a small parking lot which overlooked a small ravine/hill where the centre stage was set up.

In the parking lot there were different booths set up including the small Russell newspaper, different artisan craftsmen showcasing their wares as well as a booth for Govinda's! Kacper had the brilliant idea of having Govinda's provide hot meals for the festival. As my dear friend Vraja put it, "Prasadam has now hit Russell!"

The event was really sweet. Being a small town, everyone is so friendly, obliging and welcoming. There were two highlights for me though. First of all, being allowed to help serve out prasadam to those who had never received it was truly mind-blowing. Secondly, I had an opportunity to spend time with my senior godbrother- HG Paramahamsa prabhu.

Paramahamsa prabhu is hands down one of the most inspirational devotees I have the good fortune of knowing. He is a gentle soul who truly practices the art of sadhu sanga. He is dedicated to serving our beloved Guru Maharaja and the vaisnavas through body, mind and words. Never wanting to be in the spotlight, he is the seemingly invisible mover and shaker who gets things done and is an incredible father as evidenced by his two wonderful children Agata and Kacper.

As the day progressed, I had an opportunity to hear some of his realizations and one of them really struck me. He was speaking about co-operation and was quoting Srila Prabhupada's famous words "You can show your love for me by how you cooperate with one another."

As he was speaking about cooperation, he brought up a very insightful point. He was saying that as devotees it's not enough that we simply cooperate. We need to take a good and hard look at how we cooperate. For example, we can simply tolerate one another, forget to value and appreciate each other and say, "Yes, I'm cooperating!" But Prabhupada said that our love is shown by how we cooperate. Is that the kind of love we have for one another then? Simply using each others' time, energy, talents and resources in the name of service?

We need to value and respect one another. Of course, we may not always agree, but respect and affection must be there. It should be the basis of all our dealings as bhakti yoga practitioners. How can we expect to go back to Godhead if our dealings with one another here are any representation of how we would act if we went back to the spiritual world? I don't think Krishna wants that kind of love.

Prabhu went on to say that the vaisnavas are the most valuable gems that we have. They are our lifeline. Without them we would be lost and so it is most imperative that we learn to how to interact with one another properly. If we do so, then not only can we cooperate nicely but we can truly show Srila Prabhupada how much we love him.

Thank you Paramahamsa prabhu for showing by example what it means to love Srila Prabhupada.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Engulfed in a Memory

Have you ever been engulfed in a memory? Somehow just whisked away and dropped into a moment that was long forgotten? Yesterday I was carried back to Italy.

During the summer of 2005, my best friend Sudevi and I traveled through different parts of Europe attending different festivals. Upon arriving in Venice-Treviso, we had to take a train to get to our next destination of Trieste. Since neither of us spoke Italian, both of us were utterly confused and so what should have taken us moments to figure out ended up costing us minutes.

I still remember how we were waiting in an impossibly long line to get our tickets when we heard an announcement saying the train we were supposed to be on was about to leave. Considering the fact that we had to catch a bus leaving that night from Trieste to Zagreb, Croatia, this left us in a dilemma. On one hand we had no ticket in our hand and on the other hand we HAD to make that train.

Within seconds I found myself running after Sudevi who was running for the train. My Canadian mentality was thinking "We don't have a ticket! How can we get on the train!?" A few minutes later a weary and exhilarated Sudevi and I found ourselves on a moving train towards Trieste.

As we caught our breath, we saw the ticket inspector walking around. As I calmly started panicking, Sudevi remained cool. In an off-handed manner she reassured me that in Europe you can just buy your ticket on the train. So when the inspector came to us, we somehow managed to convey to him that we needed to buy a ticket. Consulting his clipboard he informed us that it would cost us each 30 Euros. What? It didn't make any sense. At the station the ticket would have only cost us 5 Euros. The inspector nodded and said that this was the penalty for buying the ticket on board. He then gave us two options: 1. we pay the outrageous price or 2. we get off at the next stop, buy the ticket at the station and take the next train.

Considering we were traveling on a very meager budget, the choice was clear and so we disembarked at the next station. This was the exact moment I was carried away to yesterday. A flashback of Sudevi and I sitting on the pavement at this remote station somewhere in Italy, after having bought popsicles. The early evening sun shone upon us and we were giggling at the predicament we were in.

These are the special moments. Moments where you remind one another that this must be Krishna's arrangement and you take the time given to you to talk Krsna katha rather than curse the universe for not allowing your plans to work out the way you want to.

I had forgotten that moment. I had forgotten the muggy air, the 45 minute wait for the next train and the joy of eating a popsicle with my dear friend. As I sit recollecting now, we never did make the bus that night as that second train ended up getting delayed. Instead we had to spend a night in Trieste where we ate some gelato and wandered around the beautiful seaport city before heading to Zagreb in the morning.

I still don't remember exactly what we spoke about that day, but the image still brings a smile to my face as I think back to two girls, a remote train station and peals of laughter piercing the Italian evening air.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

You've Joined the Strong...

Initiations are a time for a reflection, introspection and gratitude. It is the time when the bhakti yogi is formally "beginning" their spiritual life and is connected to the great teachers of the disciplic succession.

I personally love attending initiation ceremonies because they act like little alarm clocks. An alarm clock "wakes" us out of the illusion that we can continue to sleep for hours blissfully in ignorance and jolts us into the reality that we need to wake up and perform our duty. Similarly, initiation ceremonies shake me out of my complacency and once again make me conscious to the gratitude that lies sleeping in my heart that my own spiritual master has granted me shelter at his lotus feet.

HH Bhaktimarga Swami gave a beautiful initiation talk speaking of various different points including the importance of the holy name, taking shelter of Srila Prabhupada and the importance of taking formal initiation.

One point, however, just jumped out and has now taken up residence in my heart and my mind: "By taking initiation you are now aligning yourself with Srila Prabhupada and the Guru parampara. You've now joined the strong, so there is no excuse for you to be weak."

It is SUCH a powerful point. "You have joined the strong, so there is no excuse for you to be the weak." Firstly, this statement shows how strong HH Bhaktimarga Swami's own faith is in Srila Prabhupada and the Guru parampara as through his own actions we see how he always remains strong and steady in his service to his spiritual master.

Secondly, this is a statement we should all inscribe onto our own hearts. It doesn't matter what happens. It doesn't matter what maya throws at us. We have joined the strong side which means we don't have any more excuses to give. Why? Because if we become weak and start giving excuses it simply means that we are not tapping into the oceans of strength that are there for our disposal.

We have the best support system in the entire creation. We have Srila Prabhupada, Rupa Goswami, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu etc, etc. All of these great stalwart and amazing personalities are on OUR side and are just waiting to help us out. It is only due to our own lack of faith and trust that we would ever dare to think that we are alone and cannot overcome any obstacles and anarthas that we face.

I feel humbled and unqualified to think that I have "joined the strong" because I see how weak I am. However, I am so grateful that I was allowed to be present at this wonderful event and I am so grateful that somehow Krishna allowed me to hear this life-changing statement. I may be weak, but I too will become strong.

To all the initiates, including my dear friend Radha-prema who received the beautiful name Radha Krishna devi dasi, congratulations! You have joined the strong and we all pray that you may feel the gratitude, love and strength that you are feeling now and will continue to inspire all of us in your service to your guru and Srila Prabhupada.