Saturday, December 8, 2007

Saranagati Walk, Part 2

All issues are meaningless talk, without walking the Saranagati Walk.

Six transformative steps on my walk:

1. Because i want to obey you, Srila Prabhupada, i will focus on engaging in hearing from you and the previous acharyas, and chanting the names of Hari.

2. Because i want to obey you, Srila Prabhupada, i will fight with my mind which tempts me to engage in actions that are averse to your instructions and cause me to suffer.

3. Because i want to remember you, Srila Prabhupada, i will accept that Sri Krishna is able to protect me from my enemies, within and without.

4. Because i want to remember you, Srila Prabhupada, i will depend on Sri Krishna to maintain me in this life and sustain me forever.

5. Because i wish to please you, Srila Prabhupada, i will cultivate the sense that I belong to Lord Krishna and to you. I will declare my dependence on you as my eternal master in life and in death.

6. Because i wish to please you, Srila Prabhupada, i will remember that despite the voices of my false ego, i am really an atomic spiritual spark of the Lord, meant to be humble in the service of the Lord. My desire is to become saturated with your mood of loving devotion to the Lord.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Saranagati Walk, Part 1

I came across this description of Saranagati from Sripada B.B.Tirtha Maharaj:
1. anukulyasya sankalpa - Accepting those things that are favorable for pure devotion.
2. pratikulyasya varjanam - Rejecting those things that are averse to pure devotion.
3. raksisyatiti visvasa - Having firm faith that Sri Krishna will protect us under all circumstances—
from inside and outside foes.
4. goptrtve varanam - Accepting Him as the only Sustainer and Maintainer of our real and apparent selves.
5. atma-niksepa - We all belong to Him, i.e. we are of Him.     
6. karpanya - We should give up all material egos, we should think that we are a spiritual spark, minutest part of the marginal potency (tatastha-shakti) of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, i.e. we should be humbler than the blade of grass.

"A completely surrendered soul has no cause of being worried under any circumstances, under any pressure in this most transitory world. Supreme Lord Sri Krishna protects and sustains always a bonafide surrendered soul. According to our Karma we get congenial and uncongenial environments. Nobody is to be blamed for this."

How can one achieve this state of divine peace in this disturbed world? Only thru obedience to the transparent via medium, servitor supreme, paramahamsa vaisnava guru. However many lifetimes and however many lessons it takes to accept myself as an obedient and receptive student at the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada, to clear away the Mountains of anarthas in my heart and dry up the Oceans of sinful reactions in my karma, and to fully dedicate my words, mind and body to his divine grace, let that be possible.

All issues are meaningless talk without walking the Saranagati Walk.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Half Empty Half Full

It’s the old folk wisdom about the optimist and the pessimist, one seeing the glass half full, the other one seeing the same glass half empty. I must admit to being of the half empty perception these days. Our world, despite so much information access, enormous wealth and impressive technology, seems always half empty. There is unity in the universal embrace of greed and power. But polarity is everywhere else: in politics, religion, even amongst vaisnavas (who are supposed to be transcendentalists). Cooperation is only possible with bribery and “Love” is an old Beatles song (now co-opted to advertise SUVs).

You could say i’m cynical and you’d be correct. But wasn’t Prabhupada cynical about the material scientists? He gave them a beating not because he was against science. (He called Krishna consciousness the science of God). He was against cheating. The scientists cheat when they deny a Supreme Intelligence and claim that accidents of matter create consciousness. First of all, they can’t prove it and second, behind their claims are always selfish interests.

I was thinking about George W. Bush, probably the most unpopular president in the last century. What is it about him that makes him appear so incompetent? My conclusion is it’s his hubris combined with a tunnel vision that qualifies him perfectly for the description in the Bhagavatam that Prabhupada loved to quote: sa eva gokarah. Just like a cow or an ass— he’s stubborn, attached to the narrowest and most parochial of interests, a perfectly ignorant, ordinary, selfish man in a position of overwhelming material power and leadership. Total mismatch.

His is the typical hypocrisy of our times: an apparent attachment to religion and lip-deep morality (he says Jesus saved him and prays to God every nite), together with an asuric need to bully, sabre rattle and attack those who don’t conform to his definitions of what is good , godly and American. But then, what can you expect from a Texan cattle rancher who loves meat? We suffer collectively from little demons dressed as leaders.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Beautiful Devotee, Narahari Sarkar Thakur

About four miles west of Katwa, in the rural Barddhaman district, is the small Bengali village of Shri Khanda, the birthplace of Narahari Sarakara Thakura. I spent one week there four years ago, for the annual mela that celebrates Sri Narahari Thakur's Tirobhav, his disappearance day, on this Ekadasi of the dark moon.

When i visited Sri Khanda it seemed caught between those golden times of Mahaprabhu's associates and modern times of West Bengal. The temple sevant and leading citizen of Sri Khanda, Nityananda Thakur, is the 18th generation from Narahari Thakur, if i remember correctly. He was 91 years old when i stayed at his home four years ago. He was in charge of the temples and a living descendent of the great mahabhagavatas and associates of Mahaprabhu, Narahari Thakur, his brother Sri Mukunda (the royal physician) and Mukunda's son, Sri Raghunandana Thakur. All three are mentioned in the Caitanya Caritamrita as major branches of Lord Caitanya's tree.

Sri Narahari Thakur was connected with many of Mahaprabhu’s pastimes. Narahari Chakravarti Thakur writes in Bhakti Ratnakara: “Sri Narahari Thakur's glories are wonderful. In Vrindavana he was Madhumati, and his excellences were boundless.” Sri Lochan Das Thakur was a dear disciple of Narahari Thakur. In his Chaitanya Mangala he describes his gurudeva as follows: “Sri Narahari is my Lord. He has taught me transcendental knowledge, and I am under his influence in many other ways. His abundant Krsna-prema saturates his very being; its symptoms are clearly evident in his body. No one can understand the extent of his Krsna-prema. In his former existence in Vrindavana he was known as Madhumati, a dear gopi friend of Sri Radha who was a storehouse of sweetness. That very sakhi friend of Sri Radha appeared in the pastimes of Shri Gauranga during the age of Kali as Narahari, a storehouse of Radha-Krsna prema.”

Bhaktivinoda Thakura mentions Narahari Sarakar in his Gaura-Aroti song: “narahari adi kori chamara dulaya, sanjaya mukunda vasughosh adi gaya.” Narahari Thakur was a great singer as well as a poet. He wrote many poems and songs in connection with the pastimes of Gauranga and Nityananda. He wrote in Bengali and also in Sanskrit. One book of his Sanksrit songs is called Shri Bhajanamrita. A book of songs called Padakalpataru, describing intense separation from Shri Gauranga has also been attributed to him.

In Sri Khanda, there is a special five day festival to remember and glorify Narahari Thakur. Over a thousand pilgrims attend the mela, where Mahaprabhu is carried in procession, and many songs written by Narahari Thakur are sung by a few family members and local devotees who carry on his tradition of sankirtan. I could not follow the meaning, but the expression is very beautiful. I filmed this festival and have many hours of dv footage of the kirtans, processions, darshans and interviews with some of the surviving family members. I would like to make a documentary of this festival which has been annually celebrated since Narahari Thakur's passing. With most of the family descendants now living in Kolkata and disconnected from the bhakti line, and very few devotees left in Sri Khanda, i'm not sure how much longer the tradition will continue.

It is said that Narahari Thakur was the first of the associates to glorify Mahaprabhu directly in poetry and songs. Srila Lochan Dasa Thakura has written, “Before the sankirtan lila of Sri Gauranga began, many different ragas were written by Narahari which sang of Vraja-rasa, glorifying Radha and Krsna. Later he wrote songs of Gauranga Mahaprabhu."

Narahari Thakur was the only devotee who had the adhikara (right) to do Gaura-kirtana in Gaurasundara's presence. Ordinarily, if anyone would praise Mahaprabhu or chant his names in front of Him, Lord Caitanya would block his ears and call out: "Visnu! Visnu!" Narahari, however, enjoyed the special privilege of being allowed to sing about Mahaprabhu in his presence, in a unique and intimate mood, with sweet descriptions of his transcendental beauty.

Sri Narahari's disappearance is on the Krsna ekadasi (the eleventh day of the dark moon) in the month of Agrahayana. That corresponds to today or tomorrow (depending on which continent you are standing). An excellent time to sing one of his songs or remember him in any way.
Sri Narahari Sarkar Thakur ki jaya!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Odd Fellows

Life is a mess. No matter how you try to get it together. Sooner or later, it falls apart.
If you add "Krishna" and "Gauranga" into that mess, that is success.
So congratulations; to some degree, just by reading those names and sometimes chanting them, you are successful!
But, to become consistent and to become a great soul, you need to preach, to share your good fortune with others.
Kirtaniyah sada Hari. Always remembering and chanting Hari.
Sankirtan means to work on the root cause of personal and collective suffering in the world--
the lack of Krishna and Gauranga Consciousness.
That requires some cooperation-- difficult, perhaps impossible, cooperation. Once Prabhupada called Iskcon,
'the international society for odd fellows'.
That describes the entire vaisnava world.
Can't leave them, but can't work with them either.
Odd fellows.