Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lessons Series: Promises to Oneself

That time of year is almost upon us...the beginning of the New Year. It appears to be one of the few times that society in general takes a quick breather to take a look back and reflect upon the year that's passed by. Remarks like, "I can't believe it's gone by so fast," fill the air and there is a sense of disbelief and awe.

It's also the time when New Year's resolutions get thrown around. "This year I'm going to do x, y and z," are easily proclaimed and are even more quickly forgotten. As someone who has broken countless promises to herself, it saddens me. Why do I not take myself seriously?

As a child, and even now, my favorite book of all time has to be the Mahabharata. It has it all- intrigue, comedy, friendship, romance, drama and so much more. If I had to pick my favorite tragic hero in this great story, it would have to be Karna.

A striking incident that happened in Karna's life explains why. When Karna was born, he was adorned with a protective armor and earrings. It was said that it would always protect him and he would never die if he didn't take it off. Knowing this, Lord Indra (the father of Arjuna), schemed to part Karna with these protective features. Knowing that Karna had a weakness for brahmanas and that he had vowed he would always give whatever someone asked of him, Indra disguised himself as a brahmana. Receiving Indra, disguised as a brahamana, very nicely and serving him, Karna asked him what he could do for him. Indra at that time asked for his armor and earrings. Karna explained what these ornaments meant but Indra was insistent. Without hesitation, Karna cut off these ornaments from his body and laid it at Indra's feet and thus satisfied him.

That's how important it was for Karna to keep his vow. It meant so much to him, that he was willing to do whatever it took to keep it. Such was the character of Karna, what to speak of so many other exalted personalities in the Mahabharata and in our Gaudiya Vaisnava lineage.

In my opinion, this is the greatest strength of character- to keep promises to oneself. I know that I have argued on several occasions that it's easier to keep promises to others because they will catch me if I hesitate or break them, but it's just an excuse. We are always held accountable by the Supersoul. Krsna is watching everything we are doing and he is watching every time I break a promise I've made to myself.

I too would like to imbibe the genuine meaning of what vow actually means. The great soberness and heaviness that comes attached with it is something I am fearful of but I am actually the fool if I think that it isn't possible to accomplish. The entire Guru parampara is there, just waiting to help if I ask for it. As HH Bhaktimarga Swami once said during an initiation ceremony, "You have joined the strong, so you have no excuse to be weak."

I'm done with being weak. I want to become strong.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lessons Series: Filling in the Gaps

Ever try to really focus at a task at hand? So difficult! As aspiring chanters, we get a daily reality check when we sit down to chant our japa. Is it any wonder that we either can't focus, get easily distracted or even worse don't even bother attempting?

Chanting is a reflection of how determined and how sincerely we are attempting to become conscious. Even in doing seemingly "mundane" activities we often hear others bemoan that even simple tasks take them so long because it's impossible to focus. I realize that in myself it's not even a question of trying sometimes, but more a matter of simply giving up.

I was mentioning this to a senior devotee today. In my efforts to become more determined and directed in my life, it's hard to be patient when we are endeavoring for something. "There's only so many hours in a day I can try to focus, if even that!" I proclaimed. Sympathizing with me, she stated, "The most important thing is to fill in those gaps of time, when we are not focused on a specific task, properly. We must do our due diligence in endeavoring, but it's when we don't utilize the remaining time in strengthening our sadhana, that's when doubts may start to creep in. An idle mind is a devil's workshop."

Reflecting on her powerful words, I realized my problem. It's not only about focusing on one's efforts on specific tasks, it's about always endeavoring to remain focused. Oftentimes I say to new people, "Krsna consciousness is a way of life." But am I living the statement that I make? It should mean that every "gap" I have in my day should be used more productively. Whether it be reading, chanting or listening to Krsna katha, it's our choice whether we want to be focused.

Of course one should not artificially try to jump to an elevated level, but recognition is the beginning. Little by little, even if it is in increments of five minutes a day, switching from space out mode to KC mode can make a huge difference. It's my hope and goal that I can fill in the gaps by becoming more Krsna focused which will naturally help me become more Krsna conscious.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lessons Series- Tolerance

Every moment, every encounter and every situation is actually a lesson if we just take the time to recognize it. Personally, I think I am afraid of lessons for the simple fact that I'm afraid to fail. So instead of recognizing it as an opportunity to grow and learn, I instead try to ignore it and pretend they don't exist.

Sometimes, however, no matter how hard we try to run and hide, Krsna arranges a situation where you can't help but introspect. Yesterday that lesson was tolerance. I was getting onto a bus mentally preparing myself for a five hour drive. I carefully tried to pick a seat and prayed and prayed that nobody would sit next to me. Just as I thought I was in the clear, someone sat down. "Grumble, grumble," was the state of my consciousness.

Resigning myself to the fact that this was the way things were, I settled in for the ride. Immediately my ears were assailed by really loud music. I'm not talking just loud- it was ear-splitting. Twisting myself in my seat, I searched for the source. Behind me, earphones in his ears was a gentleman playing music on his laptop. What could I say? He had earphones in his ears and yet the music was blaring.

Fuming silently, I mentally was wondering "Why, oh why, did I choose this seat? Why am I being subjected to this?" As I was wondering, it suddenly dawned upon me- he wasn't just listening to any music but some Gospel music talking about the power of God.

Although it was loud, and one could argue intrusive to the others surrounding him, it made me realize how little tolerance I have. I wasn't in a situation where there was jarring rock music pounding in my ears or even worse a string of obscenities blasting out, instead the refrain kept repeating "The power of God, the power of God."

In his own way, this person was sharing the Lord's glories. Instead of looking at the positive, I was absorbed in my own comforts and was failing to recognize that. As I pulled on my own headphones and searched for some kirtan, I realized that tolerance is not something superficial. It means having true understanding and respect for others. Although I am not tolerant and didn't practice tolerance in that situation, I got a glimpse of my own progress in that regard.

Apparently though, Krsna didn't think that was enough! My strategy when taking long rides is to sleep. An ignorant escape, but at least one that makes the time pass by faster! As I listened to some kirtan, I slowly fell asleep only to wake up suddenly. There was a tapping noise that persisted.

Barely containing my frustration, I didn't know what to think. On one hand it sounded like someone was pounding on a keyboard and typing very quickly. Immediately I assigned the culprit to be this poor gentlemen behind me. Turning up the volume, I tried to escape. Slowly, intelligence sunk in and I realized that I had assigned blame too hastily. Indeed, it was the chair I was sitting in and no one else!

There was no where to move and nothing to do but tolerate. Such a small thing that could cause me to react so drastically internally. There was no way to take it other than recognizing it was Krsna's arrangement.

Upon reaching home, I could only laugh. Krsna is such a trickster! Normally I would do everything in my power to try to change or get out of a situation that requires tolerance, but he kept me trapped. Looking back, I recognize it was great mercy. I had an opportunity to listen to kirtan, try to absorb myself in some lectures (as a means of escaping the tapping sound) and introspect. Things I like to do, but often "don't have time to do."

I pray that I develop this most valuable jewel of tolerance. As aspiring chanters, it is the ornament we all must wear that will enable us to chant constantly.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Purity in the Moment

Mesmerized. I was trapped. Nay, I was ensconced in the maha mantra. Framed by two sweet girls, a mere eight years in age, I was rendered speechless. The sound of the holy names emanating from their lips reverberated through the ignorance and materialistic cavern that I call my heart. Completely untainted. Their voices unhurriedly chanting Krsna's names. The purity of their heart, uncluttered with screaming desires pierced the ether. Just for a fraction of a moment I could feel it. The potency. The strength. The love.

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Vraja Dham

After years of hearing about and dreaming about Sri Sri Radhe Shyam, this year I was granted entrance into their most amazing abode- New Vraja Dham (NVD). NVD is a beautiful farm community that is located a few hours away from Budapest. This hidden gem is nestled in the Hungarian country-side in what is known as Krishna Valley (aka: Krisna-Volgy).

Along with many others, I have seen pictures, videos and have heard live recordings of kirtans and lectures that have taken place here. However, it is impossible to actually imagine what NVD is actually like. Having heard that there is barely any electricity and of how it is austere, I had such misconceptions coming in. Were they ever shattered!

Everything is absolutely first class. The cleanliness, the overall design, the esthetic appeal, the homes, the guest facilities, the devotees, EVERYTHING is permeated with the overall mood of NVD- love for Sri Sri Radhe Shyam.

Radhe Shyam are the life and soul of the devotees here. In fact, until coming here, I have never experienced (outside of Mayapur) a community where the sole focus of living their lives is to serve their beloved Lordships. In every conversation Radhe Shyam comes up over and over and over again. How They look, what They like, what more we can do for Them, how to improve our service. Everything is about Radhe Shyam.

Granted, I had come during the Janmastami festival, but now the festival is over and still the conversations are the same. The love that resonates in the eyes of the devotees here when they speak of Radhe Shyam is something I only beg and pray to the cintamani dust of NVD to bestow upon me.

All the holy places of Vrndavana are found here in NVD. Everywhere you look you will find a past-time place of Sri Sri Radhe Shyam- Govardhan hill, Varsana, Janmasthan (birth place of Lord Krsna), Gokula, Kaliya Ghat, Kokilavana, Bahulavana, Radha Kunda, Shyam Kunda- everything is here.

The tremendous service spirit which is so lovingly nurtured and cared for by HH Sivarama Swami is so intense. Nothing is too difficult or impossible to do for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radhe Shyam.

I pray to Sri Sri Radhe Shyam that they bless me with this wonderful service attitude and that that they may always keep me at their lotus feet.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fitting It Together

Everywhere you look there are people who seem to have it made. Whether it be materially, spiritually, physically or emotionally, you name it and they seem to have it. Those well-put together strangers who walk by you on the street and bewilder you into thinking, "If only I looked like that."

It's the endless comparison game. That game which your mind plays that results in self-doubt and dissatisfaction. It's hard to control this mind-game from recurring especially when we reach certain stages in our life where we feel, "I didn't imagine myself to be here right now."

But if we were to take a survey of all those strangers or friends or friends of friends who our mind compares us to, we would probably find that most of them probably aren't satisfied or as put together as we thought they were.

In those trying times it's easier to get through them by looking at things from a different perspective. Our sojourn through this lifetime is like a jigsaw puzzle. It's exciting to shake all the pieces out of the box originally but putting it together takes patience and determination. As time progresses, we'll notice that some pieces fit together very easily, some we may not find for awhile (not realizing that they were still in the box) and others may be the ones we were sure fit together only to realize later on we forced them to when in reality those pieces belonged elsewhere.

The uncertainty and challenges we face are similar to constructing that jigsaw puzzle. It's only by persevering and changing our perspective can we ultimately finish the puzzle. As important as it is to focus on the big picture, sometimes it's just as important to work on small parts. Building momentum and gathering confidence helps us in sorting the rest of it out.

As well, it's important to note that puzzles come in all shapes and sizes. Comparing how one puzzle fits together with a different one is ludicrous. Yet, that is exactly what we do with ourselves. We are all unique individuals and similarly our situations, personalities and outlooks are different from everyone elses. This idea of comparing myself with others generally doesn't help anyone figure out their own puzzle.

At the end of the day Krsna already knows what our life will look like. We just need to have firm faith in Him and continue trying to fit the pieces together.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Breathe In

I was speaking to a dear friend today and we were talking about determination and enthusiasm in practicing bhakti yoga. She was mentioning how sometimes she finds it difficult to be steady and I just looked at her and said, "Only sometimes? Wow, you're doing well!"

Isn't it a fact? It's hard to remain consistent and focused on any discipline, what to speak of a spiritual discipline. Practicing mantra meditation, reading and performing some type of service isn't much. But, throw in school/work, family, friends, Facebook (:P) and of course that crazy, turbulent mind and all of a sudden that "isn't much" turns into a heavy burden.

At the end of the day, it really depends on where our priorities lie. At different stages in life, those priorities may shift and we have to be willing to adjust and re-adjust. However, the number one priority should always remain the same- our spiritual sadhana. Whenever I say I'm too busy it's code for: I know I should make my sadhana my priority but either due to laziness or lack of motivation I'm not going to.

So how can I kick out that laziness or lack of motivation? Because let's face it, as bhakti yogis most of us know that our sadhana is what keeps us connected to Krsna and therefore is our lifeline in this ocean of confusion we live in. So it's not a lack of knowledge that's the problem. When this happens to me, I can chalk it up to a lack of inspiration.

For me, inspiration means to see in action what I want to do or be. It means having a role model. Seeing someone walk the talk. That's truly inspiration. It's important to note that of our three-fold check and balance system (Guru, Sadhu and Sastra) two of them are personalities and the third is filled with exemplary personalities.

Looking up the etymology of the word inspiration, I discovered the root is from the Latin word breathe. In fact, to inspire is to "breathe in". Metaphorically that's what we do when we are inspired. We breathe in another person's mentality, outlook, determination, etc, etc... We get rejuvenated by breathing in fresh air and releasing our old, stale outlook. Just as we cannot subsist on stale air, similarly we cannot subsist on degraded thoughts.

In fact, if our air supply was cut off what would we do? We would do whatever it took to locate another source. This is how important seeking spiritual inspiration should be in our lives. We should constantly be searching for it and if for whatever reason we lose inspiration, we should go to any length to find it.

A nice meditation to reflect on the next time you breathe in.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Be Blessed...

"Get blessings." It's a common phrase we hear among those who frequent bhakti circles. But what does it mean to get blessings? Are they really necessary? And most importantly, can anyone give blessings?

When one genuinely wishes well for another person, that's a blessing. It's something that comes from the heart and cannot be faked or contrived. It means the one who is blessing is praying to the Lord to help guide and send auspiciousness into the life of the one receiving the blessings.

In this age of self-sufficiency and independence, the importance and role of blessings has almost faded away. Speaking for myself, it's imperative that I am constantly reminded on how nothing in my life can happen without blessings. Having grown up in an environment of "be the creator of your own destiny" and "you have the power to make it happen" it's easy to forget that. Definitely we must endeavor, but it has to be within the framework of blessings.

It's that framework that protects us and guides us because in order to receive blessings, we need to open our minds and heart. To do so, we need to genuinely take shelter and accept guidance and advice from those we are seeking blessings from. When we submit in this way, we are unlocking the hearts of those persons' and naturally blessings are a natural reciprocation. Who wouldn't wish the very best to someone who genuinely feels that they need help?

But it's important to note that there are all types of blessings. This idea of simply asking blessings for the sake of blessings has permeated many a person's consciousness, but there's something so much higher. Anyone who has even some saintly qualities will give blessings if asked, because in the simplest sense blessings simply mean to wish well for another. But, to get the genuine, real blessings there's no easier way to receive these than through service. Service not only attracts the heart of the devotee but ultimately the heart of Srimati Radharani herself.

It's Radharani's grace, those blessings, that descend upon us through the devotees that have the power to make anything happen. That's what it means to get blessings- to have the well-wishes of the devotees and the merciful side-long glace of Srimati Radharani protecting you.

So what are you waiting for? Go on and be blessed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taking It All In

This summer has been filled with so many experiences and emotions.

But through it all though, I've been haunted by one thought, "Am I really taking it all in?" At the end of the day it's the in between moments that really have the greatest impact on me. It's that one realization that Krsna suddenly gives to you during a particularly trying circumstance, that smile of infinite contentment you see wash over a dear friend's face for a split second or the loving chastisement of a true well-wisher. That's what really has an impact on my own sojourn in trying to become a devotee of Krsna.

I was reflecting on that today, actually giving myself time to relive the experiences I've had the honour of observing and living. Time which is otherwise consumed by hours on e-mail, Facebook and all kinds of other escapes I willingly embrace.

The first thing that came to my head was my friend Sara. I had the great fortune of meeting Sara in Vancouver this summer where we both participated in the Namamrta program faciliated by HH Bhakti Brhat Bhagavata Swami. This program is dedicated to helping devotees improve their japa in the venue of Srila Prabhupada's temples and following the full temple program.

Sara attended the program in full and was one of my greatest inspirations because her sincerity and realizations were so deep for one who had only started practicing bhakti yoga a mere few months before. I'll never forget her realization which she shared with all of us after our dedicated day of chanting more than 64 rounds. She was explaining how throughout the day she kept moving around trying to find a place where she could chant attentively. Finally, when all else failed, she sought out the Tulasi greenhouse. She said, "It was the only place where I could chant attentively, in the presence of Tulasi Maharani." Later on she sought me out and asked me to take a picture of Srimati Tulasi devi so that she could print it out and have it at home. She explained she wanted to chant in front of that picture everyday.

I was completely awe-struck. Here was this amazing devotee, seemingly new, who had already developed a rare and precious relationship with Srimati Tulasi Maharani. I revisit that moment often, especially when I see Tulasi Maharani.

I reflect on this one incident and then feel overwhelmed when I think of how many more are just waiting to be re-visited, to be truly imbibed in my heart. Although these moments seem to have come and gone, the true journey is just beginning- to take it all in.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Close Friendships

In the past two days I was reflecting on how important it is to have genuinely close devotee friendships. In today's day and age it's a challenge.

Most of us don't live in temples and the only time we may see one another is once a week at the Sunday feast. How is it possible to develop a friendship based on seeing someone once a week, especially if our "busy" lives don't allow us to communicate with one another during the week?

I know for myself, many of my close friendships during my university days came through school. The main reason being that you see one another EVERY day and go through the same experiences together. This brings those close bonds.

Similarly my closest devotee friends are those that I have had the great fortune of living with. Somehow Krsna has showered his unlimited blessings upon me and I have had the great fortune of living with so many wonderful devotees (though I doubt they would say the same thing! :)) Whether it be in Radhadesh, Mayapur, Toronto or Montreal, I cherish those/these times. I have learned and continue to learn so much from them.

In fact, just yesterday, two such friends were speaking to me about how much they feel Krsna in their lives. They were giving examples of different situations they were in and giving their realizations as to how they see Krsna's hand guiding their lives. It was just so powerful. Younger devotees who are genuinely Krsna conscious.

But these precious bonds don't come so cheaply. The investment one has to make is time- the most expensive commodity. I remember HG Kripamoya prabhu once saying that the main reason people stay in a spiritual organization is due to friendships. Everything may be perfect, but if one doesn't feel genuinely cared for, it is very easy to leave.

I feel so overwhelmed thinking of how many people have put effort into cultivating friendships with me. I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart because I know it is because of their love and care, that I am where I am today.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Full Circle

I once read a quote comparing a spiral staircase to life stating that we encounter the same lessons over and over but just at different levels.

There is a lot of truth in those words. Over and over I see how lessons, advice and situations come back full circle. When I first moved to Montreal during Kartik it struck me how I was living on the same street where my parents used to live when I was born. I had returned to where I had started (so to speak).

Similarly, I was musing over a conversation I had with my dad today. The gist of it was this- I need to go deeper. It's something I've known I should do for a long time now, but I think what is preventing me is that I'm not able to maintain my determination to remain single-minded and focused.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with my spiritual master once. I had asked him, "What should I look for in a spiritual master?" He replied, "You need someone who grounds you."

Both these conversations hold significant visual images of earth and stability. Krsna Consciousness is a wonderful process, but it is very easy to stay on the superficial, top surface. Whether it be service, relationships, chanting, etc..the list can go on and on. But it's not those "things" that help us, it is the quality of interactions and the consciousness behind it.

Becoming deeper to me means putting down deep roots such as sincerely chanting, hearing and reading. It also takes time. I need to til the soil through introspection. Go through the arduous task of identifying the weeds of my anarthas, take increasing shelter in the nourishing soil of the Holy Name and continue watering those roots with vaisnava sanga.

And what if I don't? Well, I think I'll just keep coming back to this realization: all those lessons, advice and situations I experienced are there for only one purpose- to help me take shelter and go deep in becoming truly Krsna conscious and I'll keep encountering them over and over until I really imbibe them. I pray for the mercy of the vaisnavas that I may be blessed as I re-begin my journey to become and go deeper in hopes of one day becoming a strong, deep-rooted servant.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Calm Down!

Ever notice when you are chanting that you get the best ideas? You realize that you’ve forgotten to do a million different things and start getting panicked and worried that if you don’t care of it right now then you’ll forget. Or maybe it suddenly hits you that you haven’t been in touch with a dear friend for a long time and you make a grab for your cell phone to send off a quick text message?

Welcome to my world of chanting. It never ceases to amaze me that when I sit down to chant I’m deluged with so many different pressing matters that I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. It happened to my again today. There I was trying to hear the sound of the holy names when I remembered a deadline for a service I’m engaged in. This is one of the hardest callings to ignore: when reminders of service and ideas for new services start to manifest when one chants. Anxiety started to wash over me, but suddenly from somewhere came a voice that said, “CALM DOWN!”

It was amazing! Immediately I started to calm down. Instead of giving a slew of reasons to stop chanting and get to work immediately on this service, my intelligence actually spoke up for a change and said, “There’s time. Don’t worry. You will get this done and I promise I won’t let you forget.”

As I continued chanting something else came up and this time I actually verbally spoke out the words, “CALM DOWN!” It worked. It also made me realize something. As most of us are practicing bhakti yogis who are trying to balance our material and spiritual lives, we are very busy individuals. When we are not involved with school or work, many are involved with spiritual activities. In the rare instances that we are not swamped, the only thing that most people want to do is relax. Take a break from the mental clutter and just do something effortless.

The problem is that nowhere in our busy lives do we actually make the time to just reflect. We don’t ever give ourselves even a mere 5-10 minutes of private, silent time on a daily basis. Is it any surprise then, when we sit down to chant, that our mind takes opportunity of that time to go crazy and remind us of a million and one things?

In fact, if you really think about it, those thoughts and reminders that creep up are actually disguises for a much deeper problem. They are indirect hints that we are not allowing ourselves to experience emotions. Our excuse for being busy is very convenient since we numb ourselves to all our feelings whether they be positive or negative. That’s why instead of feeling any taste or attachment to the holy names, we feel stress, anxiety, restlessness or any other milieu of emotions. It becomes the only time we actually feel everything we’ve built up inside of us.

How can we feel anything to the holy name when we’ve become so expert at not really feeling anything at all? It may sound crazy, but think about it. With our calendars chock-full of events and things-to-do, it’s not unusual for someone to have more than three things to do on any given day. Where is the time to process what we feel and what other people are feeling in relation to us if we’re just running from one thing to the next?

I’ve begun to notice that those individuals who are really able to dive deep into their chanting are those who actually take the time to introspect and reflect on a daily basis. They will sit in front of the deities or write for some allotted time. Most of the time we run on automatic pilot and try to ignore the mind’s demands because let’s face it, there’s no time. But the mind is just like a child- if you don’t willingly give time, it will just demand and grab it from you at inopportune times. So if you don’t give time to process experiences and emotions, most likely you’ll start to notice that you’ll do it while you are chanting.

So calm down and give yourself a break! There really is enough time in the day and you can afford to take a few minutes for yourself to really experience everything that is going on. It may be that elusive key to experiencing some emotion when chanting the holy names.

Friday, March 19, 2010

You'll be tested

Do you like giving advice? Do you get a rush of adrenaline and importance? Perhaps it makes you feel useful and valued. Or perhaps it allows you to step out of your own shoes and into someone else's for a few seconds or minutes. Whatever the reason may be, and I'm sure there are millions, the majority of people like to give advice. Few like to receive it. :) It's even been said that if you want to win someone over, all you need to do is ask for advice.

In a world where everyone thinks they have the answers it's actually the ultimate coup for someone to ask for advice for it signifies that the advisor knows more than the askee.

Of course most people know that's it's definitely easier to dish it out than to take it. We've all been there. It's always seems so easy to fix someone else's problems than our own. But what we don't realize is that as aspiring bhakti yogis that there is more to this scenario than meets the eye.

Especially as bhakti yogis, we often are placed in the position of advisors. Since the devotees are kind, compassionate and wish they best for all, others will naturally gravitate towards them. But beware, it's also a test.

Recently I was listening to a lecture by HH Radhanath Swami where he said that has seen numerous examples of this scenario where bhakti yogis have given advice. But here's the catch. Anytime they have given any kind of advice, Krsna has put those persons in a similar, if not exact same situation. Why? Because Krsna is not looking to see if we can just dish out good advice. He wants to make sure that we can walk our talk. If we gave some bhakti-centric advice, Krsna wants to make sure that we also recognize and actively implement that same advice when it applies in our own life.

The devotee is meant to be a role model. What good is a role model that just talks very nicely and never does anything themselves? In fact, real potency or ability to affect others, comes when someone practices what they speak.

So be ready! If you act in a role of an advisor, or confidante or friend or mentor keep your eyes open. Whatever wonderful advice you dispense to others, make sure that you pay attention yourself. The time when you may need to use it yourself maybe coming up sooner than you think.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Searching for the Lesson

I am searching. Like a lost wanderer searches through the dark, thick jungle for the path back to civilization, I search to find the key to be grateful.

As I search, I realize that I forget about all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me. They represent essential tools like a map, compass and water that assure me of my safe return back to my path. But due to that forgetfulness my meditation focuses on the disturbances. These disturbances are like pebbles, rocks and thick vines that trip me up in my quest and personify forms of annoyance, anger and self-pity.

But how can I brush past these disturbances and focus on the quest? How can I go deeper? The mercy comes in different forms. Even a lost wanderer receives help if they sincerely seek it. My help came in the form of sound vibration.

For the past few weeks I've been listening to one lecture over and over again. I don't listen to any other lecture except for this one and I highly recommend it. It's given by HH Radhanatha Swami and is entitled: "Accept Reversals Gratefully Without Getting Disturbed."

As Maharaja so beautifully elaborates, "One of our diseases that we come into spiritual life with is that we expect things to go our way. More or less we all expect like this. But the problem is if Krsna gave you what you wanted, you probably wouldn’t grow much at all because bhakti is not about getting, bhakti is about seeking shelter."

And THAT is the lesson I search for. That is my path. The lesson that Krsna is giving me what I need so that I can grow. Most of us in our spiritual journeys are lucky to have well-wishers who will chastise us when we most need it. They will tell us things "as it is" whether we like to hear it or not. In fact, there's a name for them: guru. :) Whether siksa or diska, that is what a guru does; they cut away at the illusion that blinds us. Oftentimes that cutting can be painful but if we have faith that they have our best interest at heart, it only increases our love for them.

Similarly this is what Krsna is trying to do. He is trying to elevate us. Instead of just letting me wander back to the path, he wants to bring me home. He is not willing to let me settle for fleeting happiness and instead wants me to experience lasting eternal bliss.

But in order to access that route which Krsna has planned out for me, that path which may be different from the one I have in mind, I need to look inside and access the gratitude that is lying dormant. It will allow me to see him in ever situation and turn to him in my time of need. It will cement the already existing bond that is already there of servant and master.

All I need to do is allow myself to feel the shelter that is already there.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Moments We Let Go Of

For awhile now I've been reflecting a lot on gratitude. What does it actually mean? How can we live a life of gratitude?

I had a small glimpse of how I could start to begin to lead a life of gratitude yesterday. Monday is the day that somehow, due to the mercy of Sri Sri Radha Manohara and their devotees, I am getting the great privilege of dressing Them. I gone to Ottawa to visit my parents for the weekend and arrived back late on Sunday just in time to catch the 8pm aarti and grab some of the delicious Sunday feast.

Knowing that I had to get up for mangala aarti the next morning, I set the alarm for 3:30am. It was with a combined sense of grogginess and enthusiasm that I woke up. After getting ready, I headed for the temple and straight to the pujari room to start preparing the clothes and jewelry. To my surprise I saw that they had already been prepared. Instantaneously I knew; the head pujari, having not seen me the night before and being so dedicated and loving, might have thought that I would not come to dress on Monday morning.

After mangala aarti I quickly caught up with her and was overwhelmed by her humility and sweetness. She flashed me a quick grin and said, "You're here. Great. No problem then, go right on ahead. In fact, it will be easier since everything is laid out for you." My heart just melted. Here is a devotee who has dedicated no less than 20 years of steady service of dressing their Lordships. She didn't have to get up early but due to her dedication she had just to make sure Their Lordships would be taken care of. Instantly I had to counter with, "No, please. You got up. If it's ok, I'll dress tomorrow. You please go ahead." After a sweet exchange, she went to dress them and I contentedly went to chant my gayatri and japa.

Upon finishing my gayatri one of the temple presidents came up to me and inquired, "Aren't you supposed to be dressing today?" I was actually overwhelmed at his thoughtfulness. I quickly explained the situation and told him I would be dressing the next day instead. Smiling, he went back to his japa.

Ordinarily, these are just some matter of fact exchanges that could happen to anyone. But I realized something- they aren't ordinary. In fact, these are the moments that we let go of and by letting them go, we also let go of our gratitude for those who care, spiritually nourish and support us. Every moment is an opportunity for us to realize this and although it takes an active effort, the more we recognize them, the more we feel sheltered and protected by Krsna.

Krsna always gives help. We just don't recognize it, but as the saying goes, "Where attention goes, energy flows." One thing I know. It is only by Krsna's energy, through his infinite mercy, that he allowed me to get a small glimpse of how sweet gratitude feels.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sweet Reunion

Whew! It's been a long time since I've had a spare moment to write. :( Although so many things have been happening, so many things to be grateful for, most of my reflections have not had the chance to make it to written word. That being said, despite all the things I could share, today I choose to write about a very precious gift Lord Nitayanada gave to me. He is just so magnanimous. Even though it is HIS appearance day, he gave me the greatest gift of all.

Yesterday evening, I accompanied my friend Tanya to a costume shop where she was picking up a costume for the drama she's going to be in tonight. :) Meeting up at her work place, she was still finishing off and so I took the opportunity to chant a few rounds. Upon her arrival, we head to the metro to go to the shop. Chatting and sharing realizations, we arrived at the shop and what a shop it is! It's a mish mash of anything and everything you could possibly think of in terms of clothes, shoes, jewelry, jeans, hats, costumes etc... You name it and most likely it's there.

As we went up the stairs to check out some wigs for an upcoming play, we started discussing what kind of wig would be best for the part. As we started to go through all of them, unfortunately nothing seemed suitable. Heading back down the stairs she rented her costume. Filling out the paper work and other odds and ends, I lounged on a chair and for a fleeting moment thought, "Maybe I should take this opportunity to chant." Thinking that it might be better to chant later, I instead took in the surroundings. Upon finishing everything up, we once again got onto the metro in the direction of the temple. Upon arrival, I took the opportunity to catch up on e-mails.

Having finished my e-mails, I thought, "It's still relatively early, I should finish my last few rounds." Looking into my schoolbag I stuck my hand in expecting to find my bead bag. NOTHING. Stunned, I slowly started turning everything inside out. "Ok, be calm," I coached myself. Turning to my laptop bag, I desperately prayed. NOTHING.

Surprisingly enough I didn't freak out, which normally would be my reaction. Borrowing some beads from a friend, I finished my rounds and all the while prayed and prayed and prayed. It was then I realized something. Everything that facilitated my chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra was in that bead bag and I was desperately lost without it.

In the asrama, my eyes happened to fall upon a calendar with Prabhupada quotes. Reading the quote for January 27, I was stunned:

"Some, something has dropped in the water, in the river, you cannot see the things dropped within the water by agitating the water. Just stand still for sometimes. As soon as the water is settled up, you'll see the things as they are. So as soon as our enthusiasm is agitated, it is better to sit down in any temple suitable and chant Hare Krsna. There is no question of being disappointed. After all, we commit so many mistakes. That is human nature. To err is human. That is not fault. But try to rectify with cool head. That is required." NOD Lectures, Calcutta, January 27, 1973

WOW! I felt an instant sensation of reciprocation. Krsna was reassuring me, calm was the way to go. Keep a cool head. It is only possible to rectify with a cool head.

That night before going to sleep I meditated about my lost bead bag. I could see and even feel everything so clearly Inside were my most cherished beads that had been chanted on by my beloved spiritual master. Those beads had also been dipped in the Ganga, Yamuna, Radha Kunda, Shyama Kunda, Vrnda Kunda and countless other holy places. In fact, tied around the eight bead was a small piece of thread from the brahmana thread Adwaita Acarya wore which I had received last year in Mayapur during Adwaita Acarya's appearance day. Along with these precious gems, my bead bag contains a nose ring from Srimati Radharani from Mayapur and a Ganja mala necklace that Chota Madhava wore. The bead bag itself was from Mayapur.

I mentally offered respects to my bead bag and told myself I would retrace my steps the following day.

This morning I woke up still meditating on my lost bead bag. During deity greetings I prayed to Lord Nityananda to please help ensure the safe return of my bead bag for it is a representation of his great mercy. The mercy of guru and the holy name.

As I made my way back to the shop, I kept visualizing my bead bag. As I pushed open the doors, I explained my predicament to the shop owners and made my way up the stairs. As I walked through the maze of clothing and nooks and crannys, I came to the dark corner where the boxes of wigs were kept. There, lying solitary in the darkness was my bead bag! I can't even begin to explain how happy I was to see it. I was reunited!

This event served to remind me of something very important. We never appreciate the most important things until we get a glimpse of how it would be if we didn't have them. The lesson is to cherish and be aware of everything. In fact Krsna had given me a hint. The thought to chant in the shop had come to my mind. If I had actually entertained it as opposed to just shoving it off to the side, I would have realized that I was missing my beads then and there. Krsna is always trying to help, the problem is we just don't listen.

It also made me realize that I am genuinely attached to my beads. For once, I can be proud of an attachment!

Wishing everyone a most ecstatic Nityananda Trayodasi! Nityananda Rama ki JAI!