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Reflections

LVI: IF HE HAD NOT COME

Diary entry dated 4th April 2020:

This morning, I was listening to some kīrtana tracks which used very contemporary genres of music as a medium by which to share the holy name with listeners. The names of the Lord are constantly expanding their influence across the world, and nothing can stop this expansion, for it is Kṛṣṇa’s desire that His name be heard in every town and city.

I reflected that this had all been made possible by Śrīla Prabhupāda. He changed the world in such a profound way, and continues to do so even now. In a mood of gratitude to Prabhupāda, I wish to share my Vyāsa-pūjā offering for 2019 (dated 24th August):

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Reflections

LV: GREAT EXPECTATIONS

The following is adapted from a class on Bhagavad-gītā 8.9 which I gave at Bhaktivedanta Manor on 30th April 2019:

Bhagavad-gītā 8.9

kaviṁ purāṇam anuśāsitāram
aṇor aṇīyāṁsam anusmared yaḥ
sarvasya dhātāram acintya-rūpam
āditya-varṇaṁ tamasaḥ parastāt

“One should meditate upon the Supreme Person as the one who knows everything, as He who is the oldest, who is the controller, who is smaller than the smallest, who is the maintainer of everything, who is beyond all material conception, who is inconceivable, and who is always a person. He is luminous like the sun, and He is transcendental, beyond this material nature.”

In this verse, Kṛṣṇa is described in many ways, but Śrīla Prabhupāda states in his Purport that the most important thing is that Kṛṣṇa is a person – the word rūpam indicates that the Lord has a form. He is not a formless, impersonal entity. However, His form is described as acintya, or inconceivable.

Because we only have experience of what people are like in the material world, many find it difficult to accept that the Lord is a person. Their argument is that people are imperfect – they have faults and make mistakes – but the Supreme being is perfect, so He cannot be a person. However, this argument is refuted in this verse. Kṛṣṇa is beyond all material conception, so we cannot understand Him based on such conceptions. The Lord has a form, but that form is not made of matter – it is completely spiritual. It is sac-cid-ānanda, which means that it is eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss.

In a lecture which Śrīla Prabhupāda gave in London on 26th August 1973, he said, “Unless we accept this principle that Kṛṣṇa, or God, has got inconceivable power, acintya-śakti, we cannot understand. If we put Kṛṣṇa within the jurisdiction of my limited understanding, that is not understanding of Kṛṣṇa.”

In other words, real understanding of Kṛṣṇa means accepting that there are things about Him which can never be fully understood.

Another interesting point that I took from this verse is that Kṛṣṇa doesn’t have to match our expectations of what He should be like or how He should act. After all, He is a person, not a mindless machine. Śacīnandana Swami says that “Kṛṣṇa is known again and again to jump out of all the limited conceptions we humans impose upon Him.” If we try to put Kṛṣṇa in a box, we will become bewildered or confused. These days, we are all told to think outside the box – well, Kṛṣṇa is so far beyond the box that you can’t even see where the box is!

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Reflections

LIV: STRENGTH IN SURRENDER

The following is adapted from a class on Bhagavad-gītā 7.10 which I gave at Bhaktivedanta Manor on 20th March 2019:

Bhagavad-gītā 7.10

bījaṁ māṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ
viddhi pārtha sanātanam
buddhir buddhimatām asmi
tejas tejasvinām aham

“O son of Pṛthā, know that I am the original seed of all existences, the intelligence of the intelligent, and the prowess of all powerful men.”

Kṛṣṇa is the source of all intelligence and prowess, so those who are intelligent or powerful shouldn’t think that their intelligence or prowess belongs to them – it has been given by Kṛṣṇa, and He can take it away at any time. Understanding this fosters humility.

If our intelligence and prowess belong to Kṛṣṇa, then they should be used in the service of their rightful owner, otherwise we are simply thieves stealing from the Lord. Kṛṣṇa is known as the greatest of thieves, so He can easily take away the gifts He has given us if we misuse or abuse them. We can clearly see that in today’s society, most people use their intelligence and prowess to mislead, manipulate and exploit those who are less intelligent or less powerful.

In his Purport to this verse, Śrīla Prabhupāda says, “Kṛṣṇa is the source of everything. He is the root. As the root of a tree maintains the whole tree, Kṛṣṇa, being the original root of all things, maintains everything in this material manifestation.”

The whole of creation can be likened to a tree – Kṛṣṇa is the root of this tree, and the countless living entities are the leaves. By watering the root of a tree, all the leaves become nourished. In the same way, if we satisfy Kṛṣṇa by performing devotional service, each and every living entity will become satisfied as a result. This is the correct use of our intelligence and prowess.

Verses 12-15 of Chapter 15 of the Bhagavad-gītā describe Kṛṣṇa’s position as the maintainer of all things. The light and splendour of the sun, moon and fire come from Him, and we cannot survive without these things. Kṛṣṇa also sustains all the planets, including this one, and keeps them in orbit by His energy. Without Him, we can’t even eat, since He is the cause of digestion in the bodies of all living entities. Kṛṣṇa also explains that He is within everyone’s heart and is the source of remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.

The conclusion of the Vedic scriptures is that we should always remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget Him – understanding that Kṛṣṇa is the source of all these things helps us to remember Him throughout the day. We can remember Kṛṣṇa when we enjoy the sunlight or moonlight, when we use fire to heat up food, when we eat, and even when we simply remember things. For example, when I sat down to write my notes for this class, ideas just kept coming to me without any effort, and I thought to myself, “How is this happening?” Then I understood that it was Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement – being present in my heart, He was giving me the knowledge that I needed. So, in this way, I was able to remember Kṛṣṇa.

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Reflections

LIII: KṚṢṆA’S HEART

Diary entry dated 17th March 2020:

When we hear about Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, one thing that becomes very apparent is that His heart is full of gratitude towards His devotees. Everything belongs to Kṛṣṇa, so there’s nothing we can give Him that He doesn’t already possess. The only thing that we can give Him – the only thing that actually belongs to us – is our love. And when we willingly give Him our only possession, Kṛṣṇa’s heart becomes overwhelmed with gratitude.

Everything in the spiritual world has consciousness, from towering trees to humble blades of grass, from massive mountains to tiny pebbles – everything serves Kṛṣṇa with love, and He is very grateful for their loving service.

Although He is unaffected by heat, cold, thirst or hunger, when Kṛṣṇa passes through the forests of Vraja He says to the trees, “Thank you for kindly giving Me shelter from the burning sun, and for offering Me such juicy fruits to satisfy My hunger!”

Though the sound of His flute puts all other sounds to shame, when Kṛṣṇa hears the singing of the birds He smiles and tells them, “My little winged friends, your sweet songs are so pleasing to My ears!”

Smelling the scent of the forest flowers, He says to them, “What a wonderful aroma! Surely it is because of you that Vṛndāvana is such a pleasant place!”

And to the particles of dust on the ground, He says, “Thank you for protecting My feet from thorns by creating such a nice, soft path for Me to walk on!”

Such is the extent of Kṛṣṇa’s gratitude!

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Reflections

LII: INTO THE UNKNOWN

Diary entry dated 13th March 2020:

About three years ago, there came a point when I thought to myself, “I know what Kṛṣṇa wants me to do, but I don’t have the courage to do it.” A few months later, however, I finally followed the direction of my inner voice and quit my job to take part in the Sabbatical residential programme at the Manor.

During those months of deliberation, my mind was in turmoil, but as soon as I made the decision to quit, I felt completely at peace. I took this as a sign that I had indeed made the right decision. The experience taught me that if we fight against Kṛṣṇa’s plan for us, we will be miserable, but if we accept His plan, we will feel at peace.

I mention this because I’m now in a very similar position. After some discussion with my seniors and a lot of thinking on my part, I have decided to move out of the Manor ashram.

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Poetry

Why Won’t You Leave Me?

Why won’t You leave me, Lord?
Why won’t You let me go?
I’ve proven time and time again
That I care little for You,
Yet You remain with me wherever I go.

Why won’t You leave me, Lord?
No one would blame You.
They’d say that he’ll always have
One foot in and one foot out;
He’s never going to become serious
And place that other foot
In the boat of Your lotus feet.
Why do You waste Your time on him?

Why won’t You leave me, Lord?
It must mean that there is hope for me yet;
That there is real love hidden
In this heart of mine,
And one day it will shine.

I don’t deserve a friend like You,
But Lord I certainly need one!
And so I beg You, dearest Kṛṣṇa,
Please don’t ever let me go.

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Reflections

LI: THE MOST FORTUNATE FLY

Diary entry dated 27th December 2019:

This morning during Guru-pūjā, a fly landed on Lord Rāma’s nose, and the Lord kindly allowed it to stay there for some time and take shelter of His transcendental body.

Such a thing could not happen unless the Supreme Lord desired it, so I began to wonder what devotional service that soul had performed in their previous life to be given the opportunity to touch His body. Perhaps due to some small offence or unfortunate turn of events, they were forced to accept the body of a fly for a short time, before taking on another human body in order to perfect their devotional service.

Whatever the story may be, I reflected that that soul was immeasurably fortunate to have ended up in that situation, especially when you consider how short the life of a fly is (the average lifespan of a housefly is two to four weeks). To be allowed to touch the transcendental body of the Lord is a mercy I can only dream of achieving!

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Reflections

L: BEGGING FOR MERCY

“O vanquisher of all distress, please show us mercy. To approach Your lotus feet we abandoned our families and homes, and we have no desire other than to serve You.”

— The gopīs, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.29.38

Diary entry dated 23rd November 2019:

During japa period this morning, one devotee who was sitting cross-legged on the temple room floor had what appeared to be an upside-down hat in front of him. When I saw this, my first thought was that it resembled a person sitting on the street with a begging bowl in front of them.

And of course, our mood when we chant the Lord’s holy name should be that of a beggar. When we chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, we are begging Kṛṣṇa to bestow His mercy upon us and give us the opportunity to serve Him. And, ultimately, we are begging for pure love of God to awaken in our heart.

When one possesses pure love for Kṛṣṇa, one feels utterly blissful at all times, but that is not why a devotee begs for such love. Rather, a devotee begs for pure love so that they can serve the Lord with all their heart.

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Reflections

XLIX: SON OF VASUDEVA

bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ

“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.”

— Bhagavad-gītā 7.19

Throughout the Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna address each other by various names, and there is always a reason for the choice of name. Kṛṣṇa is sometimes addressed as Govinda, Mādhava, Keśava, Madhusūdana, Janārdana, Hṛṣīkeśa, Vāsudeva, and other names. In April, I gave a class on the verse above, and I wondered why the Lord specifically chose to refer to Himself as Vāsudeva, which means “son of Vasudeva”.

At the time of Kṛṣṇa’s appearance in this world, Vasudeva and Devakī were in a fearful situation, being held in the prison house of Kaṁsa. However, it is described that when Kṛṣṇa appeared, Vasudeva no longer had any fear. As per Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.3.12, “Vasudeva could understand that this child was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Having concluded this without a doubt, he became fearless. Bowing down with folded hands and concentrating his attention, he began to offer prayers to the child.”

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Reflections

XLVIII: A SLICE OF HUMBLE PIE

“Humility means that you are convinced beyond any doubt that there is nothing in this world, absolutely nothing in this world, not your money, not your family, not your fame, not your gun, not your education, nothing that will save you except the mercy of Kṛṣṇa. When you are convinced like this, then you are humble.”

— Śrīla Prabhupāda (as recalled by Hari Vilāsa dāsa)

Diary entry dated 20th November 2019:

Every day, I am very much aware of my lack of humility and how it is preventing me from making significant progress in my spiritual life. Today, two little incidents occurred which were no doubt arranged by Kṛṣṇa to help me develop some humility.

In the morning, I was asked to sing the maṅgala-ārati prayers. When I got to the second half of the first verse, I somehow forgot the words, even though I had my temple song book open in front of me! The same thing happened when I got to the second half of the second verse. In Bhagavad-gītā 15.15, Kṛṣṇa says, mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca. This means that He is the source of remembrance, knowledge, and forgetfulness. My talent for singing has caused me to become prideful, so I suspect that Kṛṣṇa arranged for me to forget the words in order to humble me.

Then, in the afternoon, I went to the kitchen to set aside some prasādam for the Mind Body Soul programme that would be taking place later. One of the cooks was taking some rice out of a tray, and I noticed that they dropped a handful of rice on the floor as they did so. Not realising what had happened, they turned their attention to other things.