25th of February, 2007 - 2:51
With a note on how Malati's been recovering at a substantial pace, the doctor let her leave the hospital on Friday afternoon. Four nights of rest in a 5Â½ feet bed for a 6 feet tall person makes you feel a bit stiff in the end, I'm glad it's over! The atmosphere there was extremely dozy, as much as you can expect of a place where most people are lying down and taking medications --- not exactly your bhajana-asrama of choice.
The Specimen is Moving
21st of February, 2007 - 11:19
After the operation, the doctor came in and informed me of the operation's having been successfully concluded. Then she asked, "Would you like to see the specimen?" ...
The other day I bumped into Dhanurdhara Swami as I walked across the Krishna Balaram yard to get a canister of filtered water. Through a twist of destiny we had been in touch last fall, once via phone and then over several e-mails, both related and unrelated to the original reason of our touching base. ...
Quick update on Malati
19th of February, 2007 - 10:52
It's 4 PM and I'm back from the hospital. The operation went well, even if she's still in quite some pain after the spinal anaesthesia is wearing off and as she's gradually becoming more and more aware of all that's changed within her...
Malati's health and being temporarily less available
17th of February, 2007 - 11:33
I'll be participating less, and will in general be less available over the following month or so, as Malati needs to go in for an operation to fix some health issues that have been bothering her since some time now, and as I will need to be tending to her needs and to all the housework during her period of recovery.
Clean clothes and ucchista
15th of February, 2007 - 7:42
The following was written to a friend who is puzzled over the undefined subtle issue on account of which he is told to change into fresh clothes before serving prasada to devotees.
When you eat, more often than not some food remnants end up touching your cloth, making them what's called ucchista (also called jhuta), something seen as contaminated due to contact with saliva. Such clothes are unfit for use during deity service, cooking and other services requiring full external purity...
On Becoming Free
13th of February, 2007 - 17:52
The adverse situations we find ourselves in are the consequence of our ill deeds and thoughts, we are caught in webs of our own weaving. Yet the situations are not deplorable inasmuch as deplorable suggests worthlessness, for they have been put in place for us to grow and to learn.
To let us take deep looks into our psyche, to firmen our natures, to make our hearts grow. To cultivate the field so as to let the crops flourish when the time is due. And when the time is due, events will unfold naturally â€“ of their own accord...
9th of February, 2007 - 18:06
A few days back, I came across a site called Dandavats where Vaisnavas discuss all varieties of pertinent matters, even if not as critically important as many of those ongoing at Chakra. An ongoing debate is about the bonafideness of chocolate.
Filled with lofty divine inspiration, I found myself writing a comment on a contribution titled "If Krishna does not accept my chocolates, who should I offer them to?". Here's what ensued.
Magic and Mystery
6th of February, 2007 - 18:52
Questions on avenues for sharing of one's experiences as a matter of proving the substantiality of the path of devotion to others ensued from an earlier blog entry dealing with hiding dreams and special experiences.
The core question, paraphrased, reads as follows:
"People wish to find a path that is substantial and can provide deep experiences when followed. If no contemporary practitioners are willing to elaborate on their experiences in penetrating into the mysteries of devotion, how can anyone ever gain faith enough to follow the way of bhakti? Indeed, even many practitioners have left the path behind over a scarcity of examples as nourishers of faith!"
Dreams and Special Experiences
6th of February, 2007 - 13:40
We sometimes come across Vaisnavas who are fond of liberally sharing of their experiences, gained in dreams and in wakefulness all the same, and we may also find ourselves puzzled with inspiration ensuing from experiences gained.
One should know that visions and dreams with special spiritual significance are private matters one should cherish within the chamber of the heart. By airing them out in the public, their impact on the self fades and vanishes over time.
On Cultivating Sattva
6th of February, 2007 - 4:48
These are notes written after reading an article by Muniraja Das, an old friend of mine from my brahmacari days in Finland, on the cultivation of sattva.
â€¢ Conquering sleepiness
â€¢ Sitting in proper asanas
â€¢ Purity of circumstances
â€¢ Japa techniques
â€¢ Purity of eating
Emotional Quality in Nama-bhajana
2nd of February, 2007 - 18:41
From recent correspondence â€“ question rephrased.
"I am chanting a regular quota of names on a daily basis. Nonetheless, I find that I am yet to overcome some very basic vice, lust and anger to name a few. Why so, and what can I do?"
â€¢ The essential "why" of chanting
â€¢ Cultivating emotion and relationship through nama-bhajana
â€¢ Gradations in invoking a feeling for the name
Posted: 25th of February, 2007 - 2:51
With a note on how Malati's been recovering at a substantial pace, the doctor let her leave the hospital on Friday afternoon. Four nights of rest in a 5Â½ feet bed for a 6 feet tall person makes you feel a bit stiff in the end, I'm glad it's over! The atmosphere there was extremely dozy, as much as you can expect of a place where most people are lying down and taking medications — not exactly your bhajana-asrama of choice.
The experience wouldn't have been complete without a small twist at the end. I had a car waiting outside, as Malati couldn't have handled a rickshaw ride at this point. Yet, we had to pay the balance of the bill before being discharged, an unknown amount that no-one except one particular clerk could take, and he happened to be on a lunch break since one and half hours. In the end, we found him wandering about the hospital yard in search of a better future, having lost the keys to his dear little office.
Overall the hospital experience was good, much better than I would have expected of a hospital trip in India. The treatment was adequate, and that really is all you need. If someone needs medical facilities in the Vraja area, you can find Brij Healthcare by coming from Ramana Reti along the parikrama-marga to the Mathura-Vrindavana road crossing with the large Mahanambrata Pravesh Dvara on the right side. The hospital falls to the right side of the road after some 200 meters as you go through the gate towards Mathura direction along the main road. There are a number of hospitals in the area, including the Ramakrishna Mission hospital; I don't have any experience of them.
We're now staying at Madhuvan Colony in the Hare Krishna Dhama. A peaceful place, much more so than Ananda Dham where I spent my first week. The place itself was great, but the kirtana that blasted out through loudspeakers day and night — starting at 4:30 am — wasn't exactly favorable for any kind of bhajana except hearing theirs. There was a lady doing kirtana around mid-day who had a pleasant peaceful approach to it, but most of the rest of it was of your typical passion-filled, over-fast yelling with the lead kirtaniya sometimes singing the lead and then inattentively shouting half the response to the mic, his voice going up and down and breaking amidst the shouts. All kirtana is good for someone, don't take me wrong, but much of it should never, ever go out through loudspeakers for so many reasons.
I met Dhanurdhara Swami one more time yesterday noon before his departure back to the States. While our previous meeting also covered a number of practical issues concerning events that surrounded our having coming in touch with each other in the first place, this time over we were content spending the bulk of our time in swapping notes on nama-bhajana, which is really what Vaisnavas ought to be talking about. We also spent a moment talking about the culture many Western Vaisnavas are embracing, a hybrid of bhakti, material life and distorted values, a combination in many ways antithetic to progressive spiritual life. Something I might be blogging a bit more on in the future. I've jotted down a long list of themes I've had inspirations to write on, but haven't in absence of time.
The Specimen is Moving
Posted: 21st of February, 2007 - 11:19
After the operation, the doctor came in and informed me of the operation's having been successfully concluded. Then she asked, "Would you like to see the specimen?" It goes without saying that I was expecting her to ask whether I wanted to see the patient. Hearing her question and without thinking twice, I figured she had an, um, interesting, and rather clinical way of referring to the patient. As the doors of the operation room opened, I was presented with the object cut out, neatly placed on a tray. "Uh, okay, could I please see the rest of the specimen now?"
Today is the first day she's been able to walk around, she's off the tubes and moving around a bit. It's just liquids for now, her stomach is a bit on the weak side, as is always the case after operations like this. I've been preparing light methi (spinach) soups for her to get some more iron into her blood, it's been on the low side since a long time. Today, walking around, I found some mint and parsley, both surprise discoveries in Vrindavana. It turns out we'll be staying here until the end of the month on doctor's recommendation. The bumpy road to Radha-kunda isn't exactly your preferred post-operation treatment, nor is going up and down the most comfortable thing to do, should a need to meet the doctor prior to the end of the month surface. By the end of the month, 28th or 1st, out go the stitches of her belly and we return to our dear Radha-kunda.
The other day I bumped into Dhanurdhara Swami as I walked across the Krishna Balaram yard to get a canister of filtered water. Through a twist of destiny we had been in touch last fall, once via phone and then over several e-mails, both related and unrelated to the original reason of our touching base. A bit further along the way, I invited him over to visit us at Radha-kunda when he was over at Govardhana. Swami came across to me as a thoughtful, gentle and deep individual. Yes we all have a history, and his is particularly well propagated across the internet — and he's gone through nothing short of a small hell over it, experiences I gather have made him grow immensely in many ways. I refuse to believe in unredeemable acts, saints are forged in purgatory fires.
Swami invited me over to visit his place at Radha Raman Bagicha. He's staying upstairs at Gunagrahi Swami's place in a peaceful and rather idyllic environment. A bit short of two hours of quality discussion on all things sundry and bhajana in particular reminded me, once again, of the fact that valuable points of view and worthy tidbits of wisdom rarely look at the shape of your tilaka or the color of your cloth. As Dhanurdhara Swami saw me out, we bumped into Gunagrahi Swami. Realizing I had no merits worth grasping, he greeted me with the briefest haribol and moved on with Dhanurdhara Ji to wherever it was they were going to. I walked down the lane, rattling my beads, enjoying the serene atmosphere off the main streets of Raman Reti, humored by a thought on how the Swami downstairs acted true to his name.
Quick update on Malati
Posted: 19th of February, 2007 - 10:52
It's 4 PM and I'm back from the hospital. The operation went well, even if she's still in quite some pain after the spinal anaesthesia is wearing off and as she's gradually becoming more and more aware of all that's changed within her. Her pulse was a bit on the weak side, presumably due to a slight anaemia she's been suffering of, but is returning to normal now. I have lots of spinach waiting for her for tomorrow.
It's been a long day. We left for the hospital at 6 AM, and I've been sitting there ever since up until now with little to do aside rattling my beads and comforting her. I'm accommodated at Ananda Dhama, a 15 minute walk towards Raman Reti from the Mathura-Vrindavana road. Time was too short in the morning for seva-puja, so Thakur has been resting here under his comfy blanket, no doubt waiting for his first meal. My belly hasn't been much more fortunate than his -- first eats and drinks Thakur, the sevaka follows.
Now off to a shower, placing the ingredients of a simple kichari on the stove, and waking up Thakur. Good morning Giridhari -- it's four in the afternoon. After the meal, back to the hospital where I'll be spending the night. I'll be posting updates whenever there's something worth a mention. Thanks to all who have sent their good wishes by e-mail and at Vilasa Kunja. You can also use the "Send a comment" link below if you wish to drop a line for her.
Malati's health and being temporarily less available
Posted: 17th of February, 2007 - 11:33
I'll be participating less online, and will in general be less available over the following month or however long it takes, as Malati needs to go in for an operation to fix some health issues that have been bothering her since some time now, and as I will need to be tending to her needs and to all the housework during her period of recovery.
Vaisnava Thakurani posing for a photo at our plot, and would she be upset if she knew I posted a photo of hers into our blog... And the stick is for keeping dogs and monkeys away, she can walk without one!
For those concerned, the hospital at Vrindavana â€“ Brij Healthcare â€“ is a decent modern facility, a branch of the all-Asian Apollo Hospitals Group. One of the few health care related places in India that have invoked a sense of confidence in me. The doctor, a friendly enough lady she is, Dr. Anubha, has been working in the Delhi Apollo Hospital for years. It's not as fine as what I'm used to seeing in Finland, but then again it's much more than I expected, and frankly quite reasonable.
Prayers and get-well messages are of course welcome. It'll take a minimum of a couple of weeks and possibly up to two or three months until she can resume her normal routines. Sitting on the floor, bowing down and any other activities giving pressure to the stomach area â€“ such as washing laundry in a bucket, which is by the way one of her favorite hobbies â€“ are completely off limits. Let us pray for a swift recovery. While she's done her fair share of homework on natural remedies and so forth, health tips from those better versed in matters of health on recovering from a hysterectomy operation would be welcome. For example, notes on foods that aid in rapid recovery, or beneficial yoga postures that could be practiced during the period of recovery.
I don't exactly know to what my daily routines are going to settle during this period. Whichever the case, it's going to mean less participation online, and any active online development work will be suspended for the time being. I'll try to keep up with my e-mails, but as most of you know I'm not being that successful with the task even during normal times. As a heads up for everyone, this period is most likely a lead-in to a more permanent shift in priorities. In a week or two, I'll be putting out a poll asking for devotees to assess the priorities of all things ongoing, and based on the feedback and my own best judgment, I'll start suspending things deemed less than vital.
There was a time where my inclinations called me to initiate and produce the bulk of what you find in my project index. Those days are gone, and those inclinations have been purged. My sincere wish is to invest much more of my time into sadhana proper, into acts of svarupa-siddha-bhakti versa aropa-siddha-bhakti, and through their gateway into deep internal cultivation.
At a quick glance, I stand to gain about a lakh of names more into my day with the shift, and when I contrast its value with the uncertain final worth of many things I have been investing myself into, the call for a new direction is obvious and natural. Good things have been put in motion, let others now come forward, take of them what is of value, and carry it into the future. I'll be writing more on this in about a week or so. Don't ask too many questions yet, I know most of them and I would have answered them all today, had I found the time for it.
Clean clothes and ucchista
Posted: 15th of February, 2007 - 7:42
The following was written to a friend who is puzzled over the undefined subtle issue on account of which he is told to change into fresh clothes before serving prasada to devotees. The first entry in the "Simple Things on Sadacara" series.
When you eat, more often than not some food remnants end up touching your cloth, making them what's called ucchista (also called jhuta), something seen as contaminated due to contact with saliva. Such clothes are unfit for use during deity service, cooking and other services requiring full external purity. Were such clothes to touch unoffered or offered but untasted items, they would taint the entirety of the food with the quality of your remnants, and of course it wouldn't be good to serve your remnants to the Vaisnavas.
Now, one may think that "certainly nothing touched my cloth this time", but there is always a lingering uncertainty there. Perhaps it did? You will never know which droplets landed where. For complete certainty, a subsequent sense of pristine purity and thereby peace of mind, separate sets of clothes should be used for these purposes. The Lord and the Vaisnavas deserve only the purest, and one of our duties in their service is to ensure the purity is not compromised.
In general, prasada that is served to initiated Vaisnavas, and especially to renunciates, should not be handled by the non-initiated, but this is something people do not seem to care about in ISKCON. Food is very vulnerable to influences, even when offered, and purity in eating is essential for the progressive attainment of more and more advanced states of devotional meditation and ecstasy.
On Becoming Free
Posted: 13th of February, 2007 - 17:52
From correspondence a few months back, written to a young friend seeking to commit himself to a life of bhajana amidst a life filled with adversities. Slightly revised and updated for general consumption.
The adverse situations we find ourselves in are the consequence of our ill deeds and thoughts, we are caught in webs of our own weaving. Yet the situations are not deplorable inasmuch as deplorable suggests worthlessness, for they have been put in place for us to grow and to learn. To let us take deep looks into our psyche, to firmen our natures, to make our hearts grow. To cultivate the field so as to let the crops flourish when the time is due. And when the time is due, events will unfold naturally â€“ of their own accord.
As an example, a young man wishing to leave the world behind, becoming an ascetic immersed in a life of bhajana. In the view of the Bhagavata, one becomes independent of debts to parents, forefathers and gods through complete and unreserved surrender. With that surrender, one becomes automatically free of obligations, for that is the principle of the nature. Yet, noble attempts to surrender, breaking free from the worldly shackles, may also take place before their due time.
Practical renunciation is feasible where liberation from bondage has already been established through complete surrender and renunciation within. Relationships exists both in attachment and in aversion. Liberation is attained with the vanishing of disposition, when a neutral state becomes the status quo. Aversion to the unholy is expressed through a lack of positive interest in their company; it need not take the form of express negative feelings, as negative feelings are a powerful captor of consciousness.
As for embracing the emotion of the gopis; reflect on the fact that none opted for a life in the forests in the end, even if they were ready for the same. Yes, responding to the flute's call they ran and met him in the midst of the dark night â€“ only to again return to their houses before the rising sun. Viraha and milana are both nourishers of the great bhava. Run to Vraja when the flute calls for you â€“ but do not respond to every instrument's mental play, for that could only make everything much worse and contribute to the tightening of your practical bondage. Cherish the spirit of detachment in your heart.
We are all bound, in a position to learn patience in waiting for a better tomorrow. Myself; though I have finally been given shelter at Vraja-dhama, I have a number of debts to clear away, I have a kutir to build, and I have pre-existing ties to a hundred directions I need to gracefully dissolve or bring to fulfillment. I will not find satisfaction in my model of sadhana until it assumes the shape of that of the mahatmas of the yore; yet my heart's fulfillment will have to wait for a favorable situation unfolding in the due course of time.
Then the bottom line for us all, stuck in diverse situations: As long as we can see light at the end of the tunnel and we walk in its way our level best, we are well situated. Or as I recently noted to a friend in plight, "As long as hope survives, there are survivors in the end."
Posted: 9th of February, 2007 - 18:06
A few days back, I came across a site called Dandavats where Vaisnavas discuss all varieties of pertinent matters, even if not as critically important as many of those ongoing at Chakra. An ongoing debate is about the bonafideness of chocolate. Filled with lofty divine inspiration, I found myself writing a comment on a contribution titled "If Krishna does not accept my chocolates, who should I offer them to?". Here's what ensued.
People can debate about the substantiality of the impact of chocolate in terms of its mildly stimulating theobromine content on the psyche all they wish, but the theobromine content isn't the reason of its having or lacking the quality of being offerable. Chocolate bought in stores is not offerable to Krishna because it hasn't been prepared by Vaisnavas. Moreover, it is a product of beans, which are an ingredient that carries more "karmic weight" than fruits for example, on par with rice and other grains, and cooking is involved in the process of its preparation.
Visvanatha Cakravarti, commenting on patraM puSpaM phalaM toyam, notes that while devotion is the essential factor, considerations of purity and so forth apply. One who has love will seek to offer pure ingredients prepared with love.
I once heard a note in reply to "Should I offer or not?" to the effect of "You can try to offer anything!". However, is this an act and an attitude of love? Throw everything at Krishna without consideration of how much or little it pleases him. Heavens, don't use Krishna as a prasada machine! That is not bhakti, nor are such offerings accepted â€“ even if the item offered might be offerable in itself! The offering becomes unfit due to the offerer's unfit mentality.
Arguably, taking into account the above considerations, you could then "properly" offer chocolate if you were to prepare it yourself from the very beginning, and you would be a proud consumer of some real bonafide chocolate.
However â€“ even if Krishna might love chocolate â€“ whether he will be happy in seeing his devotees eat foodstuffs that have the potential for causing addiction and unrest is a whole other consideration. He eats tambula, and we offer it on the altar to him. He takes honey punch too, we know from the acaryas' writings! Regardless, consuming the such does not yield beneficial psychophysical effects for those encaged in material bodies subject to negative influence arising from diverse ingredients.
A worthy topic deserves an epilogue. In replying to the question posed in the title of this contribution, "If Krishna does not accept my chocolates, who should I offer them to?" â€” if Krishna doesn't accept your chocolates, and your concern is more in eating karma-free chocolate than it is in acting for Krishna's pleasure, then you could try offering your chocolates to Shiva, or to his good wife, Parvati. They accept ganja and a host of other offerings, and aren't known to be that concerned over who prepared what. I'm sure chocolate would pass as offerable. To ensure that chocolate bar offerings are accepted, a tilaka formed with three horizontal lines may be worn at the time of the offering, so say the sages.
Magic and Mystery
Posted: 6th of February, 2007 - 18:52
Questions on avenues for sharing of one's experiences as a matter of proving the substantiality of the path of devotion to others ensued from an earlier blog entry dealing with the hiding of dreams and special experiences.
The core question, paraphrased, reads as follows:
"People wish to find a path that is substantial and can provide deep experiences when followed. If no contemporary practitioners are willing to elaborate on their experiences in penetrating into the magic and mysteries of devotion, how can anyone ever gain faith enough to follow the way of bhakti? Indeed, even many practitioners have left the path behind over a scarcity of examples as nourishers of faith!"
As a sadhaka becomes more and more immersed in his practices, his being becomes imbued with svarupa-sakti, the highest culmination of the base spiritual energy, cit-sakti, the awakening of which some know as the arising of the kula-kundalini. With the infusion of svarupa-sakti, the sadhaka attains a glow unseen in the world, and his very persona radiates a captivating halo of magic and mystery. With sahasrara, ajna and anahata wide open and vibrant over the realization of the truths of bheda-abheda, the lucid perception of the lila and the attainment of a deep devotional emotion respectively, the sadhaka is transformed into an other-worldly, divine entity.
Then, do not seek to make the effect and the impact by too many words of yourself in awakening others' faith in the fruits you have gained and are willing to share. Let them witness the same through direct perception. Over and above granting perception â€“ which is subjective to the samskaras of the recipients â€“ an accomplished sadhaka will have the power to infuse substantial divinity into a qualified candidate through his will-power alone. Conversely, where this power lacks, a presentation hundred thousand words laced with the best of reason and delicate consideration fail in empowering the candidate.
Yet again, the principle of selectiveness applies. Be observant, study the samskaras of others before making calls on how much and of what to place before whom in the way of spiritual gifts. Do not expose the powers of devotion to the faithless and the envious, let them remain unknown. There is a reason for Krishna's calling this knowledge of devotion the emperor of mysteries, the most confidential wisdom of all. And does he not warn at the end of the dialog:
idaM te nAtapaskAya nAbhaktAya kadAcana |
na cAzuzrUSave vAcyaM na ca mAM yo â€™bhyasUyati || 18.67 ||
"This you are not to speak to the non-austere or the non-devotee at any time,
Nor to one discinclined to hear, nor the one envious of me."
Sridhara Svami makes a number of interesting notes in elaborating on the theme in his commentary:
evaM gItArtha-tattvam upadizya tat-sampradAya-pravartane niyamam Aha idam iti | idaM gItArtha-tattvaM te tvayA atapaskAya dharmAnuSThAna-hInAya na vAcyam | na ca abhaktAya gurAv Izvare ca bhakti-zUnyAya kadAcid api na vAcyaM na cAzuzrUSave paricaryAm akurvate vAcyam |
"The restriction for instructing these precious truths of the Gita to those belonging to one's sampradaya is hereby spoken. These precious truths of the Gita spoken unto you should not be spoken to the non-austere, nor to those uncommitted to observances of dharma. And they should not be spoken to non-devotees who are devoid of bhakti for guru and God at any time, nor to those unwilling to hear, and those not engaged in worship."
Coming to the bottom line, the question we are certainly all asking â€“ "Why?" â€“ Svamipada notes:
mAM paramezvaraM yo'bhyasUyati manuSya-dRSTyA doSAropeNa nindati tasmai na ca vAcyam ||
"Those who are envious of me, the Paramesvara, will blaspheme with the attribution of perceiving me as an ordinary man â€“ therefore it is not to be spoken."
With this, we understand that caution must be exercised so as to avoid situations where the ignorant will disrespect the precious truths and revelations of devotion, for such disrespect is worse than ignorance as it forms a mighty obstacle in the way of their acceptance of this subtlest of spiritual paths. One who is indiscriminate in terms of his audience commits an act of violence towards the people he hopes to save.
There is quantity and there is quality, and the two rarely go hand in hand. You cannot give gold and diamonds to all. You need to make a call. Reflect on whether you wish to seek to give a bit of something to everyone, or a great deal to those few who are fit recipients. As people who are still largely unaccomplished in sadhana, we are finite in our energy and need to be conservative so as to not sacrifice ourselves in the name of attempting the world's salvation. If we are to over-extend ourselves, in the end neither the world nor indeed we ourselves will come to find the goal so cherished in so many words.
My writing this at midnight in the darkness of Radha-kunda with a thunderstorm raging above my head no doubt contributes to the eerie atmosphere of the contribution.