Friday, November 30, 2007

Path of Auspiciousness

I think most of us first heard that word, 'auspicious,' from Srila Prabhupada. It was in reference to something very favorable, some success on the transcendental path. We used that word quite a lot in the early days, if memory serves me. I don't hear it anymore. Some Indians may use it, as part of their British-raj inspired English. And perhaps it's still part of the cultural vocabulary in Iskcon. But not many of us old-timers can be heard saying it.

Besides coming across it in Prabhupada's books, recently i found the word frequently used in a translation of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's Bengali conversations. Here are three short excerpts:

"To surrender to the Parama Purusa, Supreme Lord, in both happiness and distress, is the only path of auspiciousness. Krishna will certainly protect us....Our fortune lies in depending on Krishna. Otherwise we will have to suffer misery birth after birth....

"If we follow and serve the spiritual master, who constantly serves Krishna, we will no longer have any problem. There is no way to make our lives auspicious except to follow the Lord's devotees....Those who want actual benefit must serve the spiritual master and the devotees with love and devotion....

"The auspicious desire of the unalloyed devotees is that the jivas not remain in a suffering condition. Let them achieve eternal fortune. To achieve that good fortune, they must take shelter of a bona-fide spiritual master's lotus feet, a devotee who is most dear to Krishna. By taking shelter of such a devotee's feet, they will attain Nandanandana's service. It is important that these people hear Krishna katha from the guru's lotus mouth."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ajitananda, my friend

I just read in the Sampradaya Sun that an old friend from California, Ajitananda prabhu, has left this world. Ajitananda did not come across as a complicated person but was always nice. That's not to say that he didn't have his share of problems. Who doesn't?

Ajitananda was a very sincere personality. Not one to stand out in the crowd, or to impress others, he was sweet and simple. We first met in Los Angeles in the 70's. I really don't remember him well from those days. Then we met again in India, about 10 years ago. He had gone there with his wife and only daughter. They were always rather poor, just getting by. Somehow they got the money to spend some time in Vrindavan. Ajitananda loved the holy dham. When his wife and daughter felt it was time to return to L.A., Ajitananda opted to stay. He rented an apartment across from mine. We would run into each other there. He was excited about painting the qualities of Srimati Radharani on a large pink plywood board. When he completed it, he convinced the head pujari at Krishna Balaram Mandir to hang the signboard just to the side of Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara's altar. It listed all of Radhika's qualities. He was very pleased with it. And i believe Radharani was pleased with him.

We never had much to talk about with each other, but Ajitananda would always say something to me both simple and transcendental whenever we met. The last time i saw him was 3 years ago, in Berkeley, California. He was living in a room in a devotee's house. He had separated from his wife. He didn't seem happy, but he didn't complain either. I had heard he had a substance abuse problem, but neither of us mentioned it. Instead, he talked about Srila Prabhupada, how wonderful his qualities were. I listened to him as he told me about a book he was writing describing Prabhupada's 26 qualities as a pure devotee.

He published that book, and the article in the Sun mentioned that he had just completed a 4 part video based on the book. Ajitananda completed the videos just 6 weeks before he died, last week, during Kartik. Although we were not close, i feel sad to think that i will not see him again in this life.

Prabhupada collected many jewel-like souls. They were covered with dust or dirt, but they were jewels underneath, shining with faith and love. Ajitananda is one of them. Ajitananda prabhu ki jai! Srila Prabhupada ki jai!

p.s. the video can be found on YouTube:

Monday, November 26, 2007

And the Answer Is.....

My last post has solicited several comments, as predicted by a good friend. Most devotees have an opinion on this issue of how and why we came to this material world. Some suggested i could find the answer in Jaiva Dharma. They gave me specific chapters to read. Others gave me papers written by other devotees, quoting Prabhupada or scriptures to support the authors' own preconceived conclusions. There are also dialogues posted on the internet between devotees on this subject. Some are funny, like one devotee who complained: If we are Brahman here to experience suffering as one of the Lord's lilas, why didn't the Lord give us Bliss first?! Another said: If there is NO reason why we came here (as one devotee argued), this is asura vada, a demonic argument, similar to what the material scientists say about the laws of the universe.

Even after reading the relevant chapters in Jaiva Dharma and following the arguments of papers and internet dialogues, i still don't have an answer to my question. One thing that is interesting is that everyone else seems to (have an answer). But from reflecting, reading and replying to some of the devotees' comments, i am not sure anyone except the rare pure devotees really know the answer, and even they are not explicit. I do, however, have a few clues. First, above all, Krishna's role in this affair (of our coming to the material world) must be completely benevolent. Why? Because that's one thing that ALL the mahabhagavatas say.

For example, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakur said: "Everything about the Lord is merciful. Whatever He does is for the good of all living entities. Those conditioned souls who consider interference in their sense gratification inauspicious or as example of the Lord's cruelty, understand only one move of the chess game. They do not know what will happen four or five moves later." (translated from Bengali in Amrta Vani)

Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya wrote: "An atomic particle of the mercy of Mother Saci's son is able to purify and deliver the three worlds." (Sri Saci tanayastakam)

Locan das Thakur sang: " At the boat pier of my beloved Lord Gauranga, the ferry is taking everyone-- including the gross ones, the blind and the disturbed ones-- across the material ocean for free." (Ke jabi ke jabi bhai?)

Bhaktivinode Thakur sang: "To deliver you, Sri Krishna Caitanya has appeared in Navadwip. He has already taken so many miserable souls like you out of this material world." (Emona durmati)

So how could the all merciful Lord, who delivers everyone in Kali yuga as Gauranga Mahaprabhu, ever be unkind or sadistic towards the living beings? If He is famous as the deliverer of fallen souls, how could He have been cruel to these same souls by causing their suffering? While nothing is impossible for the Lord, one thing is clear: He always acts with Love towards his parts and parcels. Sometimes this Love takes the form of a blessing or a gift, and sometimes it takes the form of a curse or a lesson. But behind everything He does is Love. That is what the mahajans tell us.

The other clue i have is that i need to accept responsibility for being here, for being covered, for being weak and for being rebellious. If i insist that i am a passive victim of events outside of my experience, then i deny my individuality. Then i am no different than a stone. But I experience emotion, feelings, attraction and repulsion. I am a knower; therefore i must be a person. I may not like my circumstances, but as a person, i must accept that i somehow create my own enjoyment and suffering. This is a hard pill to swallow. But if i am to develop the motivation to surrender, i cannot be a victim. I must accept my free will, which gives me a chance to surrender. In other words, if i screwed up by falsely claiming independence from God, i have a chance, with the help of Srila Prabhupada, the all merciful previous acaryas and the most merciful sara avataras, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu, to become whole (and holy) again.

One of my favorite verses from scripture, one that i hope to eventually follow:

tat te 'nukampam su samiksamano, bhunjana evatma krtam vipakam
hrd vag vapurbhir vidadhan namas te, jiveta yo mukti pade sa daya bhak

"My dear Lord, one who sincerely waits for Your causeless mercy, while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds, and offering You his respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, as it becomes his rightful claim." SB 10.14.8