XXXXII: A STARVING BIRD IN A POLISHED CAGE

I’d like to introduce you to a place where there is constant conflict between people wearing different colours and varieties of clothing. For example, those in white shirts insult, abuse and cause harm to people wearing black shirts, and vice versa. Even those who are dressed in different shades of the same colour are unable to get along with each other. It sounds ridiculous, but the place I am describing is real – it’s called Earth.

This planet is full of discrimination and fanaticism on the basis of race, nationality, religion and gender, to name a few. But all of these designations are superficial – they are related to the body, which is nothing but a piece of clothing for the soul. In verse 2.22 of the Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa says, “As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.”

The apparent differences which cause so much division in society are completely irrelevant. The soul, which is who we really are, is not black or white, not British, American or Chinese, not Hindu, Christian or Muslim, not man or woman. The only way to eradicate discrimination from this world is to educate people about this fact.

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The Sleeper Must Awaken

Old dogs teach new dogs old tricks,
fanatically protective
of their box of cats.

Society, in the absence of
thoughtful questioning,
goes down the plughole,
just as trees decline
in the absence of light.

The focus on negativity
and irrelevant classifications
has distorted our field of vision.

Resisting the pressure,
look beyond the box
and judge for yourself.

Infused into the DNA
of disillusioned citizens
is the antidote
that will become the fabric
of a new society.

Heightened consciousness
connects us to the crowd,
planting the seed.

Emerging like a tree,
the age of principles
will see the light of day.

Source:
This “found poem” is constructed solely from words and phrases used in the following talk:
Martyn Lewis CBE & Seán Dagan Wood (2015) ‘Can we change the news for good?’
25 March, 2015. London: Action for Happiness.

The Sleeper Must Awaken

Prayer XVII

My dear Lord Rāmacandra, all glories unto You, who are the embodiment of virtue and morality and the source of ever-increasing pleasure for Your devotees.

When I was a child, I would read about Your pastimes with wonder, and it recently occurred to me that the very same Rāma that I heard so much about is now present before my eyes every day in His Deity form. It is only due to Your mercy that I am in such a fortunate position — please forgive me for taking so long to recognise that mercy.

My Lord, just as You entered the heart of Rāvaṇa’s kingdom and destroyed that lusty demon, I beg You to enter my heart and destroy the lust within it. For as long as I can remember, my heart has been a battleground, being the site of my daily battle with lust — please sanctify that ground with the touch of Your lotus feet and vanquish my enemy with Your arrows of purity.

Up until now, I have tried to fight the battle alone, but now I finally understand that without Your help, I will never be able to overcome the lust which keeps me away from You and which threatens to tear apart my spiritual life.

Rama slays Ravana

XXXXI: SPIRITUAL EMOTION

At this week’s Wisdom Wednesday session at Bhaktivedanta Manor, Bhakti Vijñāna Goswami gave a wonderful talk on the life of Rāma, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord and the embodiment of virtue, integrity and morality.

The first point that he made was that, like us, God is a person. He then explained that many people find it difficult to comprehend this fact – in this material world, people have faults and make mistakes, so they reason that since the Supreme is perfect, He cannot be a person. But the scriptures of the bhakti tradition emphatically proclaim that the Lord is a person, and that He therefore feels emotions.

However, as our speaker went on to explain, His emotions are nothing like the emotions of this material world, which always result in disappointment and suffering. Rather, He experiences spiritual emotions, which are always blissful. To put it simply, spiritual emotions are the natural emotions experienced by the Supreme Soul and all other souls (that includes you and me).

This material world is characterised by lust, and thus the general mentality is that happiness has to be taken by force. The great demon Rāvaṇa was very attracted to Sītā, the beautiful wife of Lord Rāma, and believed that she could satisfy his desires, so he kidnapped her. Rather than bringing him happiness, however, this act led to his destruction.

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XXXX: SEE WITH SPIRITUAL EYES

Some of the most powerful things in this world – the wind, gravity, love – cannot be seen directly, but anyone would call you crazy if you told them that those things did not exist. It seems strange, then, that the majority of people are quick to dismiss the existence of God simply because they cannot see Him with their eyes.

In a lecture given in Boston in 1969, Śrīla Prabhupāda said, “God is not invisible. Simply just like a man with cataract or any other eye disease, he cannot see. That does not mean the things are not existing. He cannot see. God is there, but because my eyes are not competent to see God, therefore I deny God. God is there, everywhere.”

The soul, being a spiritual entity, is able to see the Supreme Soul, who is also fully spiritual. However, because the souls in the material world are encased in material bodies with material senses, they are prevented from doing so. And if we rely solely on our limited and imperfect senses, we risk being led astray. There are many substances out there that can give us so-called “spiritual” experiences, and even more people out there who claim to be an incarnation of God.

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XXXIX: GOING NOWHERE FAST

The following is adapted from notes that I took during a Bhagavad-gītā sanga [discussion group] held on 11th March 2019, which was facilitated by my mentor, Kanchanābja Prabhu:

At theme parks, we often have to wait in a queue for hours to get on a ride that only lasts a few seconds. Similarly, in material life we have to work very hard in order to experience fleeting moments of pleasure. Is it really worth the effort? If material life were a business, those in charge would conclude that it wasn’t financially viable and abandon the whole idea.

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Just like the “fast track” priority queues that can be found at major theme parks, all of the so-called advancement of modern civilisation is aimed at reducing the waiting time to get what we want. These days, we all want things instantly, and if this expectation isn’t met, we become frustrated or even angry. If we order something online and it doesn’t arrive the very next day, or if we miss a train and have to wait a whole five minutes for the next one, we tend to act as if the world has suddenly come to an end!

I still remember the days of dial-up internet, when it took some time to see anything at all; now, after becoming accustomed to broadband, I would personally find such speeds to be intolerably slow, and I’m sure that the vast majority of people would feel the same way. Indeed, the rise of the internet has contributed greatly to the disease of impatience that currently plagues our society.

Because we have become conditioned to expect immediate results, a complete change of mindset is required when it comes to spiritual life. A lot more time and effort need to be put in before any significant results can be seen. In the end, however, it is infinitely more rewarding. Like a gardener, we must regularly water the seed of our spiritual life and patiently wait for it to break through the soil and blossom into a beautiful flower.

Rather than long periods of suffering and anxiety interspersed with brief moments of pleasure, we will then be able to experience a higher level of happiness that is independent of external circumstances. In other words, we will remain happy even whilst going through great difficulties.

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Prayer XVI

My Lord, when the demon Aghāsura came to Vṛndāvana, he assumed the form of a giant python whose body was eight miles in length and whose open mouth resembled a huge cave that stretched up into the clouds. He lay down on the road and waited for You and the cowherd boys to arrive, hoping to swallow you all.

When Your dear friends saw the demon, they debated as to whether he was a natural part of the landscape, a statue of a python, a dead python, or a living python trying to swallow them up. After concluding that he was the latter, they still entered the demon’s mouth, laughing loudly and clapping their hands as they did so. They felt no fear, being fully confident that You would protect them. And, seeing that the helpless cowherd boys had entered Aghāsura’s body like straw into fire, You did indeed vanquish the demon and save them all.

O Kṛṣṇa, Your pure devotees do not know anything but You, but this complete dependence makes them fearless, for You are the infallible protector of Your devotees. By Your arrangement, the cowherd boys are unaware that You are the Supreme Personality of Godhead — they simply see You as their dearest friend. However, they never hesitate to take full shelter of You. On the other hand, I am aware of Your supreme position yet I often take shelter of everything except You.

Just as Your friends entered the demon’s mouth despite knowing his wicked intentions, I repeatedly enter the dark cave of lust and pride, despite knowing that I will be swallowed up by the darkness. As long as I think that I can escape this cave without Your help, You respect my free will and do not interfere. But when I finally depend on You, realising that only You can save me, You immediately penetrate the darkness like a shining lamp and illuminate the way out. For this, dear Kṛṣṇa, I am very grateful.

Unfortunately, every time you free me from the clutches of lust and pride, I simply take shelter of them again. O Lord, please forgive this foolishness of mine. I pray that by hearing Your holy names and the transcendental knowledge emanating from the mouths of Your devotees, my heart will become purified and the natural love for You which has been perverted into lust will revert to its original form.

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