A Special Gift

75eb3c33c1627b593a3bd7481da927d7By Krsna’s grace my health has been allowing me to get up early and chant rounds before the sunrise. I am also able pray and read during that time. I know that all of you know the importance of being awake during the brahma muhurta hour, or as close to it as possible. Nevertheless,  when I am relishing the pristine atmosphere during that time and the relative ease with which I am able to focus, I often think of writing to all of you to share that experience and remind those of you who might have forgotten: That sweet taste for spiritual life is not as elusive as one might might think. Starting the day with some quality sadhana puts it easily within our grasp. And the more we partake of the nectar, the more we will find ourselves racing to get to bed early at night and looking forward to our spiritual festivities early the next day.

Perhaps some of you have read the Vyasa Puja offering I wrote to Srila Prabhupada some years ago in connection with the above. I have included it here again.

May you all be blessed with an increasing taste for sadhana.

Gunagrahi Das

NOTHING ELSE WILL EVER DO

Pristine morning hours.
My favorite time to be
absorbed in meditation
on all you’ve let me see.
Early morning hours.
Just you, the Lord and me.
I wish that it could last
for all eternity.
Realizations journalled,
strengthening my day.
Krsna’s pure devotee
Showing me the way.

Your words, your voice, your smile,
placed upon my heart.
I pray that they remain there
to help me stay apart
from the deadly world of maya,
that beckons as the sun
rises in the heavens,
calling everyone.

As kali’s agents lure,
mad after their prey,
early morning thoughts recalled
will get me through the day.
With transcendental knowledge
I’ll beat them at their game.
Your words and books will tame them,
and help them chant the name.
Transcendental sound,
your mystical infusion,
will shower Kali’s agents,
ending their intrusion.

This chanting and remembering,
inspiring others, too,
is our eternal pastime,
revealed to us by you.
Sankirtan forever.
What can be as sweet?
Communing with the Lord,
and everyone we meet.

As the day’s brought to a close,
and morning comes once more,
again I yearn your darshan,
your mercy to explore.
And if I cannot get it,
if time does not allow,
I’m pained in separation
and cannot figure how
I’d go on fighting maya
if I couldn’t hear from you,
who’s giving love of Krsna.
Nothing else will ever do.

Spiritual Intoxication

8da2bb992387fb6d8ee63fcf2389330cIt is quite interesting to hear how advanced one can become regarding detachement from this mortal body and inner absorption on the Lord. Below is an excellent example in this regard. I pray that at the time of death we can all come to this level:

“Just as a drunken man doesn’t notice whether or not he is wearing his coat or shirt, one who is perfect in self-realization and has thus achieved his eternal identity doesn’t notice whether the temporary body is sitting or standing. Indeed, if by God’s will the body is finished or by God’s will he obtains a new body, a self-realized soul doesn’t notice, just as a drunken man doesn’t notice the situation of his outward dress.”

SB 11.13.36

The Play of the Cowherd Boys

10-18pralambhaHere are some sweet details regarding the paraphernalia Krsna and His friends used every day while playing in the forest.  Although these are simple descriptions, they bring great transcendental pleasure when one visualizes them in the mind.

Gunagrahi Das

 

TRANSLATION
Krsna stood with His brother while Their friends, playthings in hand, joyfully sang, danced, and glorified Them.

COMMENTARY
Among the various things the boys carried were balls, drums, fans, flags, seats, umbrellas, camara fans, hand cymbals, wooden shoes, and food and drink. This was the paraphernalia for their games in the forest. The boys were very happy to be away from their homes and on the way to the forest, where they could play however they liked.

BB 3.6.164

Govardhan-dhari

giridhari-1It is said in the Bhagavatam that “discussion of the pastimes and activities of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very pleasing and satisfying to the ear and the heart” 3.25.25.  Please take the time to absorb yourselves in the following narration from Sivaram Swami’s Nava Vraja Mahima and relish how wonderful Krsna and his devotees are. It is sure that it will melt your hearts.

All is well here in Vrndavana. Please come!

Gunagrahi Das

Krsna Convinces the Gopas That He Can Lift Govardhana Hill

Indra was furious that the Vraja-vasis had stopped offering the sacrificeme ant for him and offered it instead to Govardhana Hill. He thus sent rains of  destruction to punish them. It was in Paitha that Krsna consulted with His  cowherd friends what to do.  Rain fell in solid columns, flooding the pastures around Govardhana Hill. Beneath an expansive kadamba tree, Krsna, knee  deep in water and shivering from cold, held Sridama’s hand as He
addressed His  friends.

“O friends! Subala, Madhumangala, and Subhadra! Angry King Indra is determined to destroy the Vraja-vasis.”  As Krsna spoke, a nearby tree, toppled by the wind, crashed to the ground, dramatising Gopala’s statement. Frightened by the crashing tree and pelting rain, little Visala wrapped himself around Krsna’s left arm and buried his face in Krsna’s chest.

With a slight smile, an older gopa said, “Kanai! It was Your suggestion that our people ignore the king of heaven. Now it is Your duty to protect them.”  “Protect them?” exclaimed another older boy, Gobhatta. “How   will our butter-soft friend protect the Vraja-vasis against this deluge?”   Krsna replied, as He gently stroked Visala to comfort him, “Friend!  I have  a plan.”  As if in defiance of Hari, lightning flashed over Giriraja and  the gale-force winds gusted even stronger. The air was thick with rain, leaves, and flying debris.  Krsna’s soft radiance enveloped His stricken friends as His soothing voice continued, “The best protection from a rain storm is an umbrella. Therefore I propose to protect the Vraja-vasis.”

“By giving them umbrellas!” exclaimed Subala.  “It will take more than umbrellas to protect us from this torrent,” Vijaya added.  “Maybe you should give them boats,” said another drenched gopa.  Krsna accepted the  sarcasm of His friends with a beneficent smile and, with a soaked peacock  feather dangling from His turban, replied, “There is one umbrella which will  also serve as a boat to carry us over this great danger.”

Raising His voice over the roaring thunder Hari added, “After the Annak¡ta ceremony, Govardhana Hill assured us of His protection. Therefore He will be our  umbrella and our boat.”  The cowherd boys cast incredulous glances at one  another. “And who will lift Your gigantic umbrella?” they asked in unison.   The rain, thunder, and lightning let up to give everyone a better chance to hear  Krsna vow, “I will! I will lift Giriraja and give shelter to
our people and  animals.”

None of the boys took their talkative friend seriously. One by one, they simply humoured Him.  “Oh, that’s rich,” replied Sridama. “I have to carry Your lunch pack because it’s too heavy .”  “And you’re going to lift a mountain?” finished Vijaya.  Subala chided, “Friend! This is no time for jokes. Let’s hear a practical proposal.”  But Krsna simply raised His charming eyebrows and smiled.

Still hugging Krsna’s arm, little Visala looked up and cried, “Kanai! I cannot let You do anything dangerous.” Devaprastha added, “Let’s find  Baladeva, He’ll solve this problem.  He’s the eldest.”  But Krsna  merely turned towards Govardhana Hill and continued, “Empowered by the love of  My friends, I can lift the three worlds, what to speak of a hill.”

“Impossible!” said the older boys. “It’s too dangerous,” added the younger  ones.  “Even if it were possible,” Stokakrsna asserted, “I would never allow it!”  But Krsna just kept smiling, as rainwater dripped from His turban onto His face.  The boys, knowing well Krsna’s willful nature, exchanged uneasy glances. Then an older boy spoke up, “Kanai. Don’t bite off  more than You can chew. You may have killed some demons, but lifting Govardhana Hill is another thing. If You failed, surely You would sink in a mire of embarrassment.”  “It’s beyond You,” yelled one gopa. “You’re dreaming,” said another.

Stokakrsna began to think that Krsna might just be able to do  it.   Hadn’t He already performed miracles? But if Krsna were to  suddenly lift Govardhana Hill without warning, some of the boys might die of  shock, overwhelmed with anxiety for Krsna’s safety. So to reassure the boys of  Krsna’s strength, Stokakrsna thought to test Him.  Stokakrsna said, “Be  reasonable Kanai! A little wrestling tires You. How can You lift a hill?”

Just as Krsna was about to reply, Madhumangala, head wrapped in his cadara,  stepped forward and said, “Friend! Right as you are about Krsna’s excessive  self-esteem, why do you underestimate me?”  Startled, Stokakrsna turned as  Madhu announced, “Krsna may be a weakling, and His fickle appetite may be the  cause of His frailty, but I am a storehouse of mystic power. I can empower Him  to do the impossible.”

BLOG 2Madhu stuck his thumbs in his belt and rolled on his heels, and the gopas laughed hysterically. When their laughter died down, Stokakrsna challenged both  Krsna and His friend, “Brother! Let us test Your strength — and Madhu’s mystic  power.” Pointing to the tree that sheltered the boys, Stokakrsna said: “First  let us see You twist the trunk of this kadamba tree, like wringing out a wet  piece of cloth. When You have done that, then we light believe You can lift  Govardhana Hill.”  In the midst of applause, Sridama stepped
forward and  announced, “Stokakrsna! Even I can twist this puny twig. Let Gopala not only  twist the trunk of this tree but also tie its branches together in a knot.   Then I will give my consent for a greater undertaking.”

Stokakrsna looked to his friend. What could Krsna not do? Such feats would hardly be a challenge for Him. Yet true to Krsna’s humanlike pastimes, Stokakrsna raised his eyebrows as if to say, “Kanai! Do the needful.”  And Krsna did just that. As easily as Mother Yasoda could twist the churning rod in  a pot of butter, He twisted the tree’s trunk between the palms of His hands and  then, to the amazement of His friends, gathered the branches of the tree into  two enormous handfuls and tied them together in a knot as the gopas clapped and  cheered.

Love and wonder are inseparable; the greater the love, the greater is the sense of marvel. And for those who love Krsna, that increasing sense of wonder  causes the impossible, the superhuman, to seem merely wonderful. Thus the  humanly impossible feats Krsna performed, rather than distancing Him from His  friends by awe, simply endeared Him to them all the more.  Tying the branches of a tree into an enormous knot or lifting  Govardhana Hill are deeds  beyond the scope of great mortals, what to speak of small boys. But the Vraja-vasis loved Krsna so much that they accepted Krsna’s superhuman acts as  mere wondrous feats. They could not think of Him as superhuman. They simply  thought, “How wonderful is our boy Krsna!”  And with every wonderful deed  Krsna performed, the Vraja-vasis’ love for Him increased more and more. They  never considered Hari to be anything but a cowherd, one of them, a village  acquaintance, the whimsical son of Mother Yasoda. Having satisfied His friends  with His prowess and secured their permission, Krsna hurried off towards  Govardhana Hill. The cowherd boys followed in Krsna’s wake, entering the  rain-filled darkness, fully confident that once again He would do something  truly wonderful.

Krsna’s Lovely Tongue!

scan132a“Neither words nor the mind can form a picture of how Krsna’s lovely tongue, rising to His dawn-pink upper lip while He chewed, sported within the cheeks of His lotus face, a face resplendent with the beautiful dancing of His lotus eyes and bowlike eyebrows.
COMMENTARY
Even how Krsna chews on jalebis and other foods is a wonder to behold. Everything the Supreme Lord does is attractive, and so too is everything done by His fully surrendered devotees.” (BB 3.6.125)

The above is so true in relation to Prabhupada. Thus whenever we would be in
His Divine Grace’s presence he would completely captivate us.. I remember greeting him at the airport in Los Angeles. The devotees presented him with a gigantic platter of  beautifully arranged fruits, flowers, and sweetballs. We were all transfixed in ecstatic anticipation waiting to see what Prabhupada would take.  With the most sublime grace and elegance he picked up a piece of fruit and popped in his mouth, and all the devotees spontaneously raised their hands high in the air and blissfully cheered at the top of their lungs! Such is the effect of every movement of Krsna and his pure devotees.

Gunagrahi Das

Cucumbers!

img-20160904-wa00001This beautiful and animated pastel drawing of Lord Caitanya and His associates was given to me by a very talented devotee. She came to our kirtan the other night, and when it came time to pass out the delicious looking sweets at the end, in a joking mood I asked all the devotees if there was anyone who was not attracted to eating any of them. To my surprise thos mataji raised her hand and replied that she was not. I asked her what it was then that she was attracted to eating, and she said, “Cucumbers!” Everyone laughted, but afterwards when they were relishing all those tasty sweets, she looked even more happy honoring that entire plate of cucumbers that we had presented to her.  She came up to me later, thanked me for the cucumbers, and she told me that we had met about 40 years ago in San Diego before she joined the movement.

She had been kicked out of her house, was very hungry, and was looking everywhere for food. I invited her to the temple to have some prsadam, she gratefully accepted, loved everything about the temple, and soon joined the movement. She was overjoyed and very thankful that we met in Vrndavana after so many years and  came back a few days later to present me with that captivating pastel of Lord Caitanya that she had just drawn.

It is wonderful to see how Krsna reciprocates with His devotees. I had the fortune of being able to give Lord Caitanya to her and now she has also given Him to me.

Gunagrahi Das

Radharani’s Mirror

radha_bana_bihariAs promised in my last post, here is a description of the the sweet pastime that the Govardhana silas – Radha Bana Bihari – in the center of the framed on my alter represent. In this post I have included a fuller size foto of these adorable deities, who are the presiding deities of Kusuma Sarovara and are wonderfully taken care of by a very nice Iskcon couple. When you meditate on the picture please don’t fail to notice Radharani’s
mirror at the bottom right :)

The pastime:

One day Krsna came upon the gopis picking flowers at Kusum Sarovara and tried to get them to stop doing so by falsely claiming proprietorship over the area. He even threatened to encarcerate them. The Gopis rebuked him and defeated his arguments.  Although the gopis wanted to punish Him by tying him up and throwing Him in jail, Radharani, kindly queen that She was — sentenced Him to the labour of dressing Her tousled hair. He accepted the sentence, gathered all the necessary ingredients and paraphernalia, and took up the task. Below is an exerpt from the Nava Vraja Mahima, Vol. 3 continuing the description of this pastime:

radha_mirror“His work complete, Krsna stood in front of Radha and proudly declared, “Now it is finished.” Radhika cast a curious glance at Her friends and said, “All right, let us see the fruit of Your labour.”

As Radha gazed into the mirror, Krsna walked around behind Her peer over Her shoulder, the gopis gathering around as well. Radha’s first impulse, however, was to look at Krsna’s reflection, not Her own.

Like a thirsty cakora bird, She drank the rays from His moonlike face, now even more beautiful due to signs of His labour. Finally, Their eyes met and He beseeched Her, “Dearest! What do You think?”

Only for Krsna’s pleasure did Radha examine Her own reflection. It was incomparably beautiful — the eternal residence of loving sacrifice in which Her forehead was a golden sacrificial altar.

Radha spoke to Krsna in the mirror: “Syama! No one has ever decorated Me as nicely as You have. You are truly the presiding deity of adornment. Hari! You have outdone even My dearest friends.”

Radha’s words made Krsna beam with happiness. This had been the consummation of a long-cherished desire, the attainment of which prepared fertile ground for future desires only Radha could fulfill.”

Gunagrahi Das

Prayings

IMG-20160902-WA0000[1]Dear devotees,

It’s good to be able to be in touch again. I have, by Krsna’s grace, been receiving all the support I need here in vrndavana. I am now fully settled in and have the time and the energy to renew my posting. Being able to get up early and chant my rounds has helped a lot in that respect. Otherwise, as you all know, having to chant rounds during the day is a lot more time consuming, difficult, and not nearly as relishable. Rising earlier and feeling some energy is also giving me more time to study, and there is nothing greater than that for enlivening one in Krsna consciousness. Kirtan can be counted on the same level, and the nightly chanting sessions we have here are another highlight of my day.

IMG-20160903-WA0000[1]After showering and before starting my morning program I find great satisfaction in reciting various verses and prayers that I find relevant to my conditin in life. And I also take an ample amount of time to offer my own prayers. During those moments I apologize profusely to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krsna for my past transgressions which have caused me and others so many problems. I give thanks to Prabhupad and Krsna for continuing to grant me their shelter in spite of all those offenses,. And I promise to never commit them again. Lastly I beg for the spiritual strength to absorb myself undeviatingly in Krsna consious activity and thought throughout the coming day.  The above praying is a great aid in helping me get in touch with myself and focus properly on guru and Krsna, and since offering prayers is one of the principle limbs of our process, I highly recommend that you also try to take some time out of your morning hours to benefit yourselves by praying.

Attached are some fotos of the alter we set up in my room. It is a constant source of inspiration for me. For my next post I will tell you the story behind the framed picture at the bottom.

Gunagrahi Das

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Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja Offering 2016

09081606nama om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale
srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine
namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine
nirvisesa-sunyavadi-pascatya-desa-tarine

Dearmost Srila Prabhupada,

All glories to Your Divine Grace on this most auspicious day of your Vyasa Puja. I had the great fortune of coming in contact with the devotees in 1968. Inspired by their enthusiasm and cordiality, I visited your temple in Buffalo, New York, one Sunday a few hours before the feast. In spite of my far from brahminical appearance, I was invited into the kitchen to help, and after a two minute briefing on the protocol of cooking for Krsna, I found myself on the assemply line folding samosas. I love to cook, but what I remember most about that day was how warm and kindhearted everyone was. I chose to be sheltered by Iskcon from then on, and I am very happy to say that for 47 years your movement has fully satisfied my heart. There are many reasons for that, but the main one is the love shared amongst the devotees.

While writing this offering, I was reading in His Holiness Sivarama Swami’s book, Krishna Sangati, the  following description of the deer’s despair due to intense separation from Krsna after the Lord’s departure to Mathura from Vrndavna:

Once-playful deer, unmindful of the soft grasses that had lost their flavour, longingly gazed towards Mathura. In sadness they simply listened to the echo of Krsna’s flute-song. And if that echo were ever to leave the valley of their ears, then how would these timid creatures have continued to live? They would live only by hearing of Krsna, as did the gopis, who had sustained Vrndavana with their love, as did the bees, birds, and sparse foliage, who had all abandoned their duties in the trauma of Krsna’s absence. And live they must, for if one tiny insect, one insignificant blade of grass, or any of Krsna’s associates were to die, Krsna would im- mediately perish of a broken heart.

How relishable it is to read about Krsna’s divine love for his devotees and how much He cares for them. And how equally relishable it is for us to meditate on that same love which He imbued you with and which you showered upon us through your personal dealings, compassion, intimacy, concern for our wellbeing, and huge personal sacrifice. You clearly showed, just as did your Lord thoughout His pastimes, that your devotees were more dear to you than your own life.

Iskcon is now 50 year old, and although you left this planet after being with us for only 12 years, the legacy of love, so sweet and impelling, that you powerfully instilled with us has been transferred from generation to generation for 40 more years.

We see that your Iskcon has not only stood the test of time but is replete with wonderful accomplishments that will surely continue to propell us far into the future with great transcendental force. I am so happy to have visited yatras where Iskcon is expanding at a rate reminiscent of the days you were personally with us. Although it is impressive to see all the big beautiful buildings that are going up and projects that have been started, what I have been truly overwhelmed by more than anything else is how many pure hearted souls your stalwart disciples and their followers are attracting. Everywhere I have gone I have met saints, young and old, decorated with one vaishnava quality after another. Their nature is such that it makes me feel as if I have known and loved them forever. They are warm, humble, openhearted, joyful, and enthusiastic, and reflect your mood in such a way that one cannot help but want to associate with these devotees again and again.

You say in your Upadesamrta that this movement was started to facilitate the love shared amongst the devotees.  That love is what everyone truly wants, and when sincere seekers find themselves in an atmosphere permeated by it, they become greedy for it and come back again and again for more. That is the Iskcon you gave everything for and sheltered us with. It is the gift of lifetimes, the spiritual world on earth, and the only hope for the lonely, alienated, hapless souls of this dark age. You bestowed it on all and continue to do so as your  transcendental potency flows like a river of nectar that, as predicted, will continue to rise and flood every town and village of this world.

In spite of all the inspiration you have bestowed upon me through your purehearted devotees, still I have for so long been shamefully aware of my unwillingness to wholeheartedly follow in their footsteps. Therefore I am begging you, Srila Prabhupada, to please continue to cast your merciful glance upon me so that in some lifetime this aspiring bhakta can take proper advantage of your treasurehouse of good fortune.  Until  then, I will continue to pray for the day when I am free from the envy, lust,  and lethargy that has blocked my path.  On that  glorious day, I will truly know what it means to have joined your Krsna  consciousness movement.

Your grateful servant,

Gunagrahi Das

Visit to Govardhan Eco Village, By Bhagavan das

Hare Krishna!

My name is Bhagavan das. I was initiated by Guru Maharaj in December of 2014 in Houston, Texas. Vrindavan Bihari das, who was also initiated at the same time, and I traveled to Bombay to serve Guru Maharaj in Chowpatty. We also traveled with Guru Maharaj to Vrindavan to serve him.

During our stay in Chowpatty, we visited the Govardhan Eco Village, a beautiful farm community and retreat center. Guru Maharaj was very impressed with the farm, and how it is set up in an extremely eco-friendly way. The farming is completely organic. They have intricate systems in place to conserve the water, manage waste, and provide alternative energy. Also, the retreat center attracts many people from all over the world and is used to host yoga retreats and educational seminars on the architecture and design. Many devotees live at the farm and have various services such as taking care of the cows. Devotees will come stay at the farm to have extensive courses on scriptures such as Srimad Bhagavatam. Inside the community, they have designed an exact replica of Vrindavan, including the seven main temples of Vrindavan, Govardhan Hill, and other important places. They also have a school for the children and Guru Maharaj loved spending time with the gurukulis, who danced in ecstasy during one evening kirtan that we had at the temple. The Deities are beautiful. Coincidentally, the names of the Deities are Radha Vrindavan Bihari!

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Guru Maharaj was particularly fond of the cows! More than anything, he wanted to spend time with the cows. The cow shown in this picture is only 1 week old! When the devotees brought her out, she ran up towards Guru Maharaj. Guru Maharaj kept saying, “I’ve been waiting for you. I’ve been waiting for you for a long time!” It was really sweet seeing Guru Maharaj interact with the cows. He became very innocent, like a child, as he was petting and playing with the cows.
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