Saturday, June 9, 2007

Doyal Nitai Caitanya

The merciful Nityananda & Caitanya
a song by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur

doyal nitai caitanya bole, nac re amar man

“Dear mind, chant the merciful names of Nitai and Caitanya and dance.”

nac re amar man, nac re amar man

“O my mind, just dance, just dance!!”

emon doyal to nai he, mar kheye prema dey

“No one is more merciful than Nityananda Prabhu, who gave prema to someone who beat him!”

(tobe) aparadha dure jabe, pabe prema-dhan
(aparadhera-bicara to nai he)

“He does not take your offenses into account when you chant the names of Gaura Nitai, and after your offenses have gone, you will get the treasure of prema.”

tokhon krsna-name ruci hobe, ghucibe bandhan

“By Nitai’s mercy you will get a taste for Krishna’s names and your material struggle will be over.”

(anuraga to hobe he) tokhon anayase saphala hobe jivera jivan
(krsna-rati bina jiban to miche he)

“You’ll become deeply attached to the names of Krishna and your life will be successful. Without this attachment, life is simply a disappointment.”

sese vrndavane radha-syamer pabe darasan
(gaura-krpa hole he)

“With the mercy of Gauranga, you’ll receive a vision of Radha and Shyam in the forest of Vrindavan at the end of your life.”

Friday, June 8, 2007

Pearls of Wisdom

The transcendental brilliance of nitya lila om visnupada Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur can be appreciated by hearing just a few of the divine instructions he gave to his disciples.

An exalted devotee or mahabhagavata knows that all others are his spiritual masters. Therefore an exalted devotee is jagad-guru.

A person who flatters others cannot become a guru.

Many people wrongly accept imitation as following. They are two separate things. To dress like Narada Muni is imitation, but to practice sadhana as Narada displayed is following.

One can never become eligible to serve Govinda by neglecting to serve he who is Sri Nanda nandana’s life and soul (the pure devotee), or by neglecting to serve that person’s servants (the disciples of the pure devotees, the godbrothers).

Our only bridge to cross over this material world is to follow the footsteps of the mahajans.

Life as an animal, a bird, insect or any other species is acceptable, but taking shelter of deceit, duplicity and pretense is completely unacceptable.

Simple-heartedness is synonymous with vaisnavism.

Drawing conditioned souls away from their perverted attachments to the material energy is the greatest compassion. To rescue even one soul from mahamaya's prison, is a greater act of compassion than to open millions of hospitals.

We have not come to this world to be construction workers. We are messengers of Sri Caitanya dev's instructions.

We are not doers of good or bad deeds, nor are we scholars or fools. We are the shoe carriers of Hari’s pure devotees and our mantra is:
kirtaniya sada hari.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Diary of a Betrayed Godbrother

I’ve found it interesting and somewhat amusing to follow the critique on the brahminical website, Sampradaya Sun (, of Indradyumna Swami’s “Diary of a Traveling Preacher” by Rocan, and now the rebuttal of that critique, “In Defense of a Traveling Preacher,” by a gurukuli who finds the Swami’s writing “mildly inspirational.” First i would like to know what “mildly inspirational” means? Is it a form of inspiration that doesn’t quite get you motivated but makes you feel good? Or is it some new age spiritual literature that inspires you to become a kind of Krishna conscious Indiana Jones character? “Hey, Maharaj: Go to Tibet and give them the nectar!” I’m not writing to criticize Kapila prabhu or Indradyumna Swami. I respect their opinions and right to preach, immature or self serving as they may seem to me. But i have my own small anecdote and sad tale to share with you, dear readers.

I’m a godbrother of Rocan’s and Indradyumna’s. I joined Iskcon in the same temple and maybe the same year as Indradyumna did, Bhagavan’s Jefferson St. temple in late 1970. Iskcon was quite different then. But soon i left to go to other temples and we never knew each other during those early years. It was several decades later, after the Swami started his internet diary that i came into some contact with him again. A devotee friend of mine in Holland who also liked his mildly inspirational writing, forwarded a couple of his travel pieces to me. I don’t like self promotion, and that’s exactly what the “Diary” smelled like to me, so after reading the articles, i asked my friend not to send me any more. That was a few years ago. I was living at that time in Vrindavan, at MVT. It happened that Indradyumna Swami also came to Vrindavan that year for Kartik and stayed in the flat next to mine. Although i didn’t know him personally, i knew he was part of the GBC guru establishment, and i didn’t like his “Diary,” but i decided to be friendly. After all, we’re godbrothers, i thought. And maybe i’m wrong in my judgement. So whenever we passed by each other, i would smile and say “Haribol.” Although he could see i was living next door to him (in the flat above his actually), and he must have known that we’re godbrothers, he never once stopped to talk with me or even ask my name. Fair enough, i thought, he’s a busy guy. We ran into each other the whole month of Kartik and i continued to be friendly.

The following year, i found another forwarded “Diary of a Traveling Preacher” in my mailbox, again sent by the same friend in Holland. This time i got upset and told my friend i really didn’t appreciate receiving unsolicited articles and to please never send me another one. I had no interest in the Swami’s globetrotting heroics. A few months later, i was at the International Airport in New Delhi waiting to catch an Emirates flight to Dubai. (Sounds like my own travel diary now). Guess who’s in the transit lounge waiting for the same flight? Yep, Indradyumna Swami. I thought to myself, should i say hello to him, or should i ignore him, as he ignored me when we were neighbors last Kartik? We were the only devotees in a transit lounge full of passengers. I decided to approach him and walked over to where he was standing in the cue.

“Maharaj, haribol!, how are you?”
He looked at me, not recognizing me, but said, “Haribol.”
“We’re godbrothers, you may not know me. My name’s Nava Jauvana. We were neighbors when you stayed at MVT last Kartik.” He gave me a slight smile but no reply.
“Are going to Dubai?” i asked him.
“No, i’m going to South Africa.”
“Oh, i’m on my way to Amsterdam,” i said.
No response from him. Well maybe he’s tired, i thought. But we were just standing in the cue waiting to board the flight. So i gave it one more try.
“I’ve been living in Vrindavan for the past 3-4 years. I just recorded an album of original devotional music. The cd’s called Jivatma Express.”
He gave me a look that a traveling salesman must get when he solicits business from someone who has no interest at all. He just stared at me. Well, i wasn’t trying to sell him anything; i just wanted to have a conversation. If he doesn’t say anything back, i thought to myself, i’m not going to continue. I paused another second, waiting for some feedback, and when none came, i said:
“Well, have a nice flight, Maharaj.”
He looked relieved. “Yea, you too.”

As i walked back to my place in the economy line, (he was standing in the premier business/first class cue), i felt like a jerk for approaching him. Here was a godbrother sannyasi who loves to talk, gives classes for hours, sits on his vyasasan meeting hundreds of people. Why, i thought, would he not have the slightest interest in talking with an old godbrother? While waiting to catch a plane with nothing else to do? But this is part of the problem that young devotees like Kapila and thousands of other younger devotees cannot understand. Godbrothers who become “somebodies” (GBCs, gurus) don’t like to waste time with “nobody” godbrothers. It is almost a disturbance to them. If they know you from the “old days,” you might get a condescending haribol or a limp handshake and a “how’s it going?” If they want something from you, some favor, they may show you some warmth. But real friendship, genuine interest, concern, give and take exchange, revealing of minds, listening, help? Forget it. (As always, there are a few rare exceptions, but this neglect is almost universal.)

I don’t wish to judge Indradyumna’s entire career as a devotee or his service as a preacher just by a couple of small insignificant encounters with me. But these are not isolated incidents. Time and again, in countless ways, disciples of Prabhupada who took leadership positions in Iskcon and became gurus have betrayed their godbrothers. It started with the original “Zonal Acaryas” who forced themselves on their godbrothers, and has continued with the “Guru Reformers” who themselves became gurus but not reformers. My little incident with Indradyumna is nothing compared to the betrayal experienced by many if not a majority of godbrothers. And that abuse and neglect is perpetuated by the absolute silence from each and every GBC and guru godbrother about the mistakes of the past and present. That silence continues to this day.

So it’s really more than a critique of a Traveling Diary that Rocan is making when he writes about Indradyumna’s self serving prose. It’s about a history of 30 years of godbrothers stealing the spiritual wealth and legacy given to us by our uncommonly great father, Srila Prabhupada. We are not talking about jealousy here. Most godbrothers would be more than happy to let their guru godbrothers keep their positions, their service and their disciples, if they were doing their job properly and not behaving like wannabe rock and roll celebrities. If they were attached to following the example of Prabhupada's humility rather than their personal fame.

How could anyone complain if everyone had a fair opportunity to express themselves and participate in devotional service? But the structure does not allow this. Since Prabhupada's departure, Iskcon has become an exclusive club of elites and rank-and-file. Either you’re in or you’re out. And loyalty to the club, not individual inspiration to serve Prabhupada, is the gold standard. It sounds more like a totalitarian state than a society for promoting love of God. Or perhaps an ecclesiastic church. In any case, it’s not the same movement envisioned and nurtured by Srila Prabhupada, no matter what the propaganda on says. We need more than Traveling Diaries to bring about a spiritual revival of the movement founded by our beloved Guru Maharaja in Tompkins Square Park 41 years ago. We need devotees who have the courage to speak the truth. Millions of obeisances to Srila Prabhupada for the courage he had to tell the world about Krishna, and the sacrifices he made to teach his disciples the truth.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Arrogance Is Us

In yesterday’s New York Times (June 5, 2007) there is an article about the latest findings on the nature of the universe (The Universe, Expanding Beyond All Understanding).

Now i don't understand physics. Not even the basics. But i found the article interesting because it points out some fundamental defects of human nature. And scientists, like the rest of us, are human. So i will paraphrase the essay’s main points. You can find the original article online at

In a paper to be published in The Journal of Relativity and Gravitation, two physicists write that in the far future (100 billion years or so) “observers in our (universe) will be fundamentally incapable of determining the true nature of the universe.” In other words, the universe will change in ways that will not lend itself to an accurate observation of itself. One of the authors told the NY Times, “You can have right physics, but the evidence at hand could lead to the wrong conclusion. The same thing could be happening today.”

The culprit, according to the physicists, is something called ‘dark energy.’ This mysterious force was discovered in 1998 and is thought to be accelerating cosmic expansion, causing galaxies to rush away from each other, like married couples getting divorced, or Prabhupada disciples leaving Iskcon.

The current view of the universe is that it is now around 14 billion years old and composed of a trace of ordinary matter and a lot of dark matter. This matter is being pushed by dark energy, throwing galaxies away from each other until they reach a sort of horizon and simply vanish from view, as if slipping into a black hole. Not a very bright prospect. Eventually this runaway dark energy will suck all the life out of the universe. One prominent scientist called this kind of universe, “not very appealing.” Another one said it was simply “the worst possible universe.”

Einstein, whose theories are still intrinsic to how physicists see the universe, once said, “The Lord God is subtle, but malicious he is not.”
So subtle is God’s energy that even the greatest minds don’t know what they don’t know, and never will. The problem, according to cosmologist Max Tegmark is not divine malice, but human arrogance. “We have a tendency to put ourselves at the center of the universe,” he said. “We assume all we see is all there is.”

Big Bang theorists think that basic aspects of the universe are already out of sight. One of their theories is called inflation, which says that just a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, an extremely violent form of dark energy exploded, pushing away chaos and debris and perhaps even sending other universes out of our visible sky. So, they say, we live in a messy universe that just looks smooth and orderly.

Is the universe a mess or is it tidy? It could be both. But how it really acts will always remain a mystery, because it's supramundane and mystical. daivi hy esa gunamayi (BG 7.14) Nature's actions are so wonderful, so subtle, both in creating and in destroying itself, because it's God's energy. Nature is divine because it's controlled by divine will.

mayam tu prakrtim vidyan mayinam tu mahesvaram (Svetasvatara Upanisad 4.10)

“Although maya or illusion is false and temporary, in the background is the supreme magician, the Lord, who is its controller.”

The dark energy that physicists have recently discovered can never be brought under their influence. It is super arrogant to think that cosmic intelligence can be brought under the control of beings who are themselves subject to the control of cosmic intelligence. And dark energy will never lead us to enlightenment. Pursuing it in various forms will only lead to frustration because our approach is arrogant.

Arrogance, it turns out, is our real enemy, not nature. False pride is the dark energy of human beings. It leads us to separate ourselves from our natural love for God, to remain averse to God, and to experience ignorance and fear in "the worst possible universe." But for one who can become humble, everything becomes friendly.

As Srila Prabhupada wrote to his disciple, Krishna das, in 1968: “A Krishna Consciousness person thinks always about himself as the lowest creature in the world, and the more one thinks like that he becomes elevated more and more.
"A Krishna Conscious person is never falsely puffed-up; he is satisfied with his humble position as the servant of the servant of the servant of Krishna.”

How much different would our world be if even 1% of the population would think and act like this? How different our society would be? How different our experiences in Iskcon would have been, if those in responsible positions had thought of themselves as servants rather than masters?

No, God is not malicious, as Einstein correctly wrote. But man is arrogant. That’s the problem.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Whose Kingdom?

At the last stage of his life Srila Jagannatha das Babaji Maharaj decided to go to Nabadwip, leaving Vrindavan dham for good. He normally stayed six months in Vrindavan and six months at Nabadwip. Hearing the news he was leaving all the Braj devotees approached him and asked, “Why are you leaving Vrindavan at this old age?” Hearing these words Srila Jagannatha das Babaji Maharaj became emotional and said, “You can all stay at Vrindavan but I will go to Nabadwip. Nitai and Gauranga are the incarnate form of compassion and they never judge the mistakes I make."

When Srila Jagannatha das Babaji Maharaj came to live in Nabadwip he told his disciple, Bihari das Babaji:
"Look, in whose kingdom are you living? You try and acquire his good quality! In Dwapara yuga that was Sri Krishna's kingdom. Now it is Sriman Mahaprabhu's kingdom, and now his advice is to be followed. If we stay at Vrindavan then we will salute Radharani, Vrishabhanu Nandini. But those who are clever in the devotional path, they will live in Nabadwip, because every mistake is judged at Vrindaban and there is no forgiveness. But in my Nabadwip there is no mistake. See! for a two penny worth clay container mother Yashoda tied Krishna with rope. But, at Nabadwip, Nimai broke all the clay containers, spoiled the rice and cereals, but mother Sachi said nothing. Similarly there is punishment when you make mistake in chanting Hare Krishna Mahamantra. But in my Sriman Mahaprabhu's mahamantra there is no punishment when i make some offense!"

Of course, we cannot imitate the behavior of a paramhamsa devotee like Jagannath das Babaji. We cannot just go to Navadwip and do bhajan. We live in different times. Kali yuga has advanced and we are truly unqualified. But this makes our choice even more critical. Babaji Maharaj was demonstrating that even in the stratosphere of pure bhakti, one needs to follow one's heart. In my world, i must decide: in whose kingdom do i wish to live? There are so many choices. Do i want to live in the kingdom of mass media: TV, internet, hollywood/bollywood/hip hop/porn? Or in the new age world of feel good/love your mind/love your body? Or in the business world of corporate slickness and comfort? Or in the Iskcon world of imitation detachment and see/hear/speak no evil of the mistakes of the past 30 years and current history?

Somehow i must find a kingdom where i can make progress without being abused, sabotaged or taken hostage. Where even the slightest trace of bhakti will be accepted, compounded and returned to me with interest. I am so weak, so needy, so poor in bhakti. Srila Jagannath das Babaji Maharaj has given us the hint. Don't pretend. Don't posture. Don't be distracted by even the highest things. If you want help, go to where mercy outweighs justice and qualification. Go to “Sri Krishna Chaitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Gadadhar, Srivasadi Gaura Bhakta Vrinda.”

Monday, June 4, 2007

All Attractive

Gopala-tapani Upanishad (1.13):

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is beautiful like a fresh monsoon cloud.
He has two lotus petal eyes, two strong arms and his garments are brilliant like lightning.
He wears a garland of fresh five-colored forest flowers and is the source of perfect knowledge."

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Garlands of Reality

“hara boliya, galaya parili
shamana kinkara sapa....”

“Death is like a snake, it can come at anytime. But thinking it to be a flower garland, you wear it around your neck.”

These are the biting words of Locan Das Thakur, the great 16th century vaisnava poet, from his song: Avatara Sara. The Thakur cries out to us: “why are you so attracted to the garlands of karma and jnana that you’re wearing? They are actually snakes around your neck, not garlands, and they can kill you at any moment! But you proudly wear them. Brothers, why can’t you give up this illusion and just worship the essence of all avatars, Sri Gauranga?”

Money, friends, social prestige, approval, control over others, fame. We’re busy in this world desiring these garlands, acquiring them at any cost, and then proudly wearing them! But these garlands are only external decorations for the soul. None of them give us real beauty, real charm, real life. They actually bring us closer to death. Short of prema bhakti, all the opulence we acquire here, gross and subtle, are simply garlands of repeated birth and death.

In our early days in Krishna consciousness we used to demonize the ‘karmis’ for their materialistic careers, bank balances and family ties. That was immature on our part. But now we see that some of the sannyasis and gurus who used to criticize the karmis for their attachments, now own $100,000 cars, live in large villas, trade stocks, go to universities to get PhDs, or write novels about sex life, while continuing to accept the worship of their disciples and to remain silent about the mistakes they made as leaders of Iskcon which caused so much suffering to so many devotees. Are these the activities of liberated souls, or are these men living in illusion, wearing some of maya’s most subtle, dangerous garlands? It is not our business to judge others, lest we be judged. But neither should we be blind or mix too closely with those who compromise.

The path of spiritual life is not a wide highway of mixed interests and selfish intentions. The path to freedom starts as a narrow lane of inner focus. If we want reality, we need to turn off the public freeway of popular votes and acceptance. We must not follow the common flow of social life, but take the side road of sacrifice and truth telling. The previous acaryas give us the wisdom, mercy and courage to follow them on this road that leads to freedom. We have only ourselves to blame if we get misled.

Pure devotees who worship the Lord wholeheartedly, without interruption or material ambition, know the road to freedom. They are truly liberated and spontaneous because they know, without any doubt, that it is Braj Kishore who wears the vaijayanti garland of five colors. They know that the source of beauty and energy and life is not their egos, but Krishna. “Vasudevah sarvam iti: one who realizes that everything is dependent on me, Vasudeva, surrenders to me. Such a great soul is extremely rare.” (BG 7.19)

A great soul is very rare. We cannot imitate his activities by some show. We came to this material world because we wanted to imitate God. To get out of this world we need to follow a rare devotee, not imitate one. It’s a practice and it’s not easy. It requires all the humility and perseverance of a baby learning to walk. We have fallen countless times and will continue to fall for sure. Our friends or family members will fall or fail us. Some of our closest friends may appear to leave the scene completely. Others may disappoint us by by putting on false garlands and abusing us or making a show of the practice. But we should not become discouraged. We should never stop picking ourselves up, despite our own obvious weaknesses. Never giving up, and never giving in to the temptation to imitate. Then,one day, by the mercy of a pure devotee, either in this life or in another, we will actually start walking. We’ll be naked of illusion and free from the garlands of death hanging around our necks. Our attachment to this false world will be gone and we’ll cry and dance in ecstasy, worshipping the essence of all avatars, Sri Gaurasundar, to our heart’s content.