Farewell, Hospital
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 5½ 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 – of their own accord...
Bonafide Chocolate
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.

• Conquering sleepiness
• Sitting in proper asanas
• Purity of circumstances
• Brahmacarya
• Japa techniques
• Purity of eating
• Silence
Emotional Quality in Nama-bhajana
2nd of February, 2007 - 18:41
From recent correspondence – 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?"

• The essential "why" of chanting
• Cultivating emotion and relationship through nama-bhajana
• Gradations in invoking a feeling for the name

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On Cultivating Sattva
Posted: 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 importance of cultivating of sattva-guna.

Yes, staying awake is very helpful indeed for a great number of reasons, and sattva-guna is one of the essential elements in building a foundation for sadhana. Yet alas, its cultivation is often sorely lacking among the broader Vaisnava community. Let me offer a garland of notes at the feet of your worthy yet brief gloss on the topic.

On sitting, I'd like to note that – while asanas and an erect spine in general are very beneficial for conquering sleepiness – some asanas are more beneficial than others. Drawing from my experience, asanas that automatically help in erecting the spine, such as vajra, vira and gomukha, allow a tired body to stay in posture more easily than asanas such as padma, siddha and so forth in which keeping the spine erect requires more endeavor, especially from a new practitioner.

When seated, one should curtail the mind's urges to change postures or to roam hither and thither – one of its dearly cherished occupations. There is really no need as such to move around, or even move your hands or your head an inch's worth, unless direct bodily concerns, such as your leg's becoming stiff or an ant's roaming about your face, merit action. The longer one sits still in one posture, the better in building a capacity for meditation.

Sitting on a pure mattress and in a pure environment as a matter of routine creates a samskara of pacification of the mind. With a pure asana, pure clothes – even clothes specifically reserved for the time of sadhana – are a given. The mind becomes habituated to attaining calmness under particular circumstances. The effects of the elements of nature can also be harnessed for our benefit. Sitting towards the east in the morning and the day, and the north in the evening, essentially following the course of the sun which has a tremendous influence on the mind, aids in attaining clarity. Indoors, facing sources or light, and especially daylight, creates peace, while sources of light behind and darkness ahead create unrest. The introspective sadhaka should recognize the dynamics of the mind and take advantage of its predictability in building a life of sadhana.

Sitting in a proper asana and engaging in focused meditation is instrumental in the maintenance of brahmacarya, as with that one's sexual energy is sublimated and employed as an aid for concentration, memory and a host of other virtues – while in the absence of sublimation the energy rages free and eats the sadhaka, who is yet to purge all desire from his heart, from within. Maintenance of brahmacarya is essential in a progressive devotional life geared towards internal realization.

On conquering sleepiness, sufficient oxygene is essential. Keep the area ventilated. As a quick fix for sleepiness, deep pranayama is helpful. Kapalabhati in particular invigorates the body. In general, remember to breathe properly. All too many devotees do nothing but inhaling and exhaling through the mouth during their japa, which is a guaranteed method for disturbing the flow of prana and thereby your mental balance.

Especially with increased quantities of japa, from one lakha upwards and so forth, a change in the japa technique is vital in maintaining health over a longer period of time. I generally recommend upamsu, or muttering japa, instead of the literally "out loud" japa for people who wish to substantially increase their chanting. When chanting becomes more of an internal affair than a matter of broadcasting, it yields great benefits in the realms of withdrawal (pratyahara) and meditation (dhyana).

The importance of proper eating cannot be emphasized enough. As in the Chandogya (7.26.2): AhAra-zuddhau sattva-zuddhiH sattva-zuddhau dhruvA smRtiH smRti-lambhe sarva-granthInAM vipramokSaH – "From purity of eating ensues purity of existence, from purity of existence perpetual meditation, and from attainment of remembrance deliverance from all bondage." Not taking foodstuffs from non-devotees is a vital first step towards purification of the self. The second step is in increased awareness of foodstuffs we prepare for offering, for ingredients also come in many flavors, many tainted with rajas and tamas, and some sattvika ingredients bearing adverse influence when used in immoderate quantity or combined unwisely. Sattvika ingredients must also be kept ritually pure, lest tamas enter into our preparations.

Beyond considerations on ingredient purity, one must pay attention to factors such as the cook's and the pujari's state of mind while preparing and offering. If these factors are neglected, the preparation – even if in sattva in terms of its ingredients – will bear an ill effect on our consciousness. As in Caitaya-caritamrita (1.12.50-51): viSayIra anna khAile duSTa haya mana, mana duSTa haile nahe kRSNera smaraNa, kRSNa-smRti vinu haya niSphala jIvana – "Eating the foods of the enjoyers, the mind becomes corrupt. If the mind is corrupt there is no remembrance of Krishna, and without Krishna's remembrance the life goes in vain."

Mauna. Silence. Shut up. Succinctly, that's the gist of it. Only in silence can God's voice be heard. Idle chatter – especially at the time of sadhana – is detrimental to focus, it shatters the mind into a thousand directions. Speak only when truly necessary, otherwise remain in silence and find shelter in prayer and in chanting the names. A day of observing complete mauna while chanting the names from the morning until the evening is a liberating experience indeed, something everyone should experience at least once in their lives, if not on a regular basis. The obvious perhaps goes without saying, then – don't watch mundane films, don't listen to mundane music, don't read mundane books. Rather, hear the words of Sri Caitanya to Raghunatha Das, the essence of his instructions on sadhana (CC 3.6.236-237):

grAmya-kathA nA zunibe, grAmya-vArtA nA kahibe /
bhAla nA khAibe Ara bhAla nA paribe //
amAnI mAnada haJA kRSNa-nAma sadA la’be /
vraje rAdhA-kRSNa-sevA mAnase karibe //

"Hear not those village talks, speak not of the town's affairs,
Do not eat well, and do not dress in fine garments.
Becoming humble and respectful, always take Krishna's name,
And serve Radha and Krishna in Vraja in your mind."

Without general purity of conduct, awareness of the pure and the impure, the offered and the unoffered, and their mutual influences in all circumstances, equilibrium of the mind is a mirage far removed from the sadhaka. External purity gives rise to internal purity. Beyond outer purity, if there is no cultivation of integrity in behavior, honesty, transparency and the rest of the behavioral virtues we read of in the scriptures, there is no question of prospects for attaining firmness in sattva.

Then, may we all take firm steps onward towards the acquisition of throrough sattva, the first great foundational level on the stairway from here to perfection.
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