Real Renunciation

There is a nice story from the Sri Sampradaya where Ramanuja Acarya grew tired of hearing his celibate brahmacari and sannyasa students squabble over little things like who accidentally put on someone else's cloth, who had another person's lota, etc ...

They would also constantly deride Ramanuja's householder disciples as being materially bewildered and lacking in renunciation.

Sri Ramanuja had a very devoted householder student who lived a simple married life. The only material wealth he possessed were two costly bangles around his wife's wrists as per south Indian tradition.

Sri Ramanuja instructed that one of his brahmacari disciples should sneak into their home while they were unaware and take whatever they could find of value.

One brahmacari eagerly volunteered and then began to stake out the home waiting for an opportunity to, according to his vision, reclaim some material possessions from Maya and use it in the service of the Lord.

The husband left the home and soon the wife laid down to take rest. The brahmacari then carefully crept into the home but couldn't find anything of value. He tiptoed into the room where the wife was lying on her side and caught sight of the gold bangles around her thin wrists. Her body was quite frail due to an austere diet.

She seemed deeply asleep so he carefully slipped the bangle from one wrist off of her hand. Her other wrist was going to be more difficult to take from because she was partly lying on it. If he were to try to slip that bangle off it would most likely wake her.

Just then she stirred in her sleep and rolled over, exposing the other bangle. Despite that now the bangle was accessible, the brahmacari was already jumping out of the open window in fear that she had awoken and would catch him in the act of stealing.

He ran back to the ashram where Sri Ramanuja was waiting.

"Well", Ramanuja inquired, "Did you bring me anything from this householder?"

"Guruji, all I could find of any value was this bangle."

"I see, and where is the other one?"

"Your Divine Grace, I couldn't bring that one to you because she woke up and I had to flee."

Then Sri Ramanuja called all of his renunciate disciples to an assembly. He also sent someone to bring this householder couple.

When everyone had arrived he asked the couple to come forward.

In front of the assembly he asked, "Why are you only wearing one bangle, dear mother? Please speak clearly so all can hear."

She obediently cleared her throat and, while modestly looking at the ground, explained in a clear voice: "Your Grace, I am wearing only one bangle today because one of your brahmacari students was so desperate for money that he crept into my home while I was trying to rest. I felt pity on him that he must not be getting enough food to eat or enough cloth to keep him warm so I let him take my bangle while I pretended to sleep. When I rolled over to let him take the other bangle he fled out of fear and thus I couldn't fulfill my duty as a householder and support the young student. Please forgive us, Maharaja."

The entire assembly of saintly renunciates sat quietly aghast at the deeply selfless admission of this woman.

Sri Ramanuja filled the silence with one statement, "That is renunciation."

Then he returned to his quarters.

Janardana's Blissful Kirtana

If 10,000 suns were to rise simultaneously in your heart, I reckon it might sound something like this:

Janardan Kewin - Hare Krishna Maha Mantra by Wild Mind Productions

These recordings are from the 12 hour Kirtan hosted by ISKCON New Govardhana, Australia on the 25th of July 2010, organized by Krishapada Dasa and Sitapati Dasa from Kirtana Australia kirtanaustralia.com. Recordings by Ekendra Dasa (go-run-ga productions).

Check out my Facebook page for more kirtans. I'll upload them as I finish editing.

Be Satisfied With What You Have

Bali Mahārāja said to Lord Vāmanadeva: O son of a brāhmaṇa, Your instructions are as good as those of learned and elderly persons. Nonetheless, You are a boy, and Your intelligence is insufficient. Thus You are not very prudent in regard to Your self-interest. I am able to give You an entire island because I am the proprietor of the three divisions of the universe. You have come to take something from me and have pleased me by Your sweet words, but You are asking only three paces of land. Therefore You are not very intelligent. O small boy, one who approaches me to beg something should not have to ask anything more, anywhere. Therefore, if You wish, You may ask from me as much land as will suffice to maintain You according to Your needs.

The Personality of Godhead said: O my dear King, even the entirety of whatever there may be within the three worlds to satisfy one's senses cannot satisfy a person whose senses are uncontrolled. If I were not satisfied with three paces of land, then surely I would not be satisfied even with possessing one of the seven islands, consisting of nine varṣas. Even if I possessed one island, I would hope to get others. We have heard that although powerful kings like Mahārāja Pṛthu and Mahārāja Gaya achieved proprietorship over the seven dvīpas, they could not achieve satisfaction or find the end of their ambitions.

One should be satisfied with whatever he achieves by his previous destiny, for discontent can never bring happiness. A person who is not self-controlled will not be happy even with possessing the three worlds. Material existence causes discontent in regard to fulfilling one's lusty desires and achieving more and more money. This is the cause for the continuation of material life, which is full of repeated birth and death. But one who is satisfied by that which is obtained by destiny is fit for liberation from this material existence.

A brāhmaṇa who is satisfied with whatever is providentially obtained is increasingly enlightened with spiritual power, but the spiritual potency of a dissatisfied brāhmaṇa decreases, as fire diminishes in potency when water is sprinkled upon it.

Therefore, O King, from you, the best of those who give charity, I ask only three paces of land. By such a gift I shall be very pleased, for the way of happiness is to be fully satisfied to receive that which is absolutely needed.

When the Supreme Personality of Godhead had thus spoken to Bali Mahārāja, Bali smiled and told Him, "All right. Take whatever You like." To confirm his promise to give Vāmanadeva the desired land, he then took up his waterpot.

Sri Nrisimha Maha-mantra

ugram viram maha-vishnum
jvalantam sarvato mukham
nrisimham bhishanam bhadram
mrityur mrityum namamy aham

"I bow down to Lord Narasimha who is ferocious and heroic like Lord Vishnu.
He is burning from every side. He is terrific, auspicious and the death of death personified."

Hide Your Guru

This article, written by Madhavananda Dasa, appeared in issue number 17 of Sri Krishna Kathamrita Bindu.

In Hari-bhakti-vilasa, verse 2.147, Srila Sanatan Goswami quotes Sammohana-tantra:

gopayed devatam istam gopayed gurum atmanah
gopayec ca nijam mantram gopayen nija-malikam

One should hide one's ista-deva, one should hide one's guru, one should hide one's mantra, and one should hide one's japa-mala.

Wise persons keep their valuables in a confidential place. Similarly, an intelligent sadhaka does not advertise his or her guru, nor do they broadcast themselves as disciples of their guru. Considering themselves as low, fallen, and unfit to be considered disciples, sincere devotees do not want to advertise who their guru is.

Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has illustrated the mood of a devotee and disciple:

jagai madhai haite muni se papistha
purisera kita haite muni se laghistha

I am more sinful than Jagai and Madhai and even lower than the worms in stool. (Cc. adi 5.205)

Similarly, Thakur Bhaktivinode has stated:

garhita acare, rahilama maji',
na karinu sadhu-sanga
laye sadhu-vesa,ane upadesi,
e bada mayara ranga

Remaining absorbed in abominable activities, I never kept company with sadhus. Now I adopt the garb of a sadhu and act out the role of instructing others. This is maya's big joke. (Saranagati 7.3)

Although Thakur Bhaktivinode had so much association with elevated vaisnavas, including his siksa-guru Jagannath Das Babaji Maharaja, he did not flaunt that. Rather, he considered that, na karinu sadhu-sanga - "I have never had association with sadhus".

The essential principle in being a disciple is to follow the order of the guru. Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami has described:

acaryera mata yei, sei mata sara
tanra ajna langhi' cale, sei ta' asara

The order of the spiritual master is the active principle in spiritual life.

Anyone who disobeys the order of the spiritual master immediately becomes useless. (Cc. adi 12.10)

Similarly, it is stated in the Raghu-vamsa:

sa susruvan matari bhargavena
pitur niyogat prahrtam dvisad-vat
pratyagrhid agraja-sasanam tad
ajna gurunam hy avicaraniya

Being ordered by his father, Parasuram killed his mother, Renuka, just as if she were an enemy. When Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord Ramachandra, heard of this, He immediately engaged Himself in the service of His elder brother and accepted His orders. The order of the spiritual master must be obeyed without consideration. (verse 14.46, quoted in Cc. madhya 10.145)

Srila Thakur Bhaktivinode has described that there are two types of disciples, the antarmukha-sisyas and the bahirmukha-sisyas. Antarmukha literally means "inward-facing". It refers to someone who is introspective.

Bahirmukha literally means "outward-facing", and refers to someone who is absorbed in external things.

Antarmukha-sisyas are desirous of bringing pleasure to their guru. Their focus is on following the guru's instructions. The antarmukha-sisyas practice gopayed gurum atmanah. They keep their guru and their relationship with him confidential. An antarmukha-sisya is not interested in advertising himself as a disciple of his guru, but prefers to follow the guru's instructions. His meditation is to try to understand what will please his guru. The antarmukha-sisya is anartha-mukta-avastha, he is free from anarthas. His vision of guru is known as sevya-darsana. He sees that guru should be served and pleased.

Bahirmukha-sisyas are disciples who practice the opposite of gopayed gurum atmanah. They are absorbed in advertising their guru and in making a show of themselves as being big or intimate disciples. Such a disciple is also known as guru-giri, or one who makes a business out of guru and one's relationship with guru. They are not absorbed in the inner intention of guru. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur has described persons who act on such an external platform as dharmadhvajis ("religion flag-wavers"), meaning those who make a hypocritical or pretentious show of religiosity.

Following the logic of atmavan manyate jagat (everyone thinks like I do), the bahirmukha-sisyas consider that their guru thinks like they do. Because they are motivated by the desires for fame and adoration they think that their guru also wants such things. The bahirmukha-sisyas are anartha-yukta-avastha, they have anarthas, material desires, in their hearts. Because of those anarthas they only see guru in terms of their own pleasure. This vision is known as bhogya-darsana. They think that making a big show of devotion will impress their guru and enable them to come close to their guru. Their idea of guru-bhakti is to loudly proclaim to the world, amar guru jagad-guru - "My guru is the best or the only one and any other guru is lesser." They think that such publicizing will please their guru.

Neglecting or minimizing their guru's instruction regarding the worship of Krishna, the bahirmukha-sisyas place more emphasis on worshiping their spiritual master.

In the histories of all the major religions of the world it is commonly seen that the followers prefer to worship the guru, prophet, or founder rather than follow the instructions of that prophet to worship the Lord (who is unseen and unknown to them). Srila Prabhupada addressed this topic on a morning walk in Bombay on 29 March 1974 when some devotees mentioned to him that some of the followers of Swami Narayan were chanting the name of their guru instead of Krishna's name:

Devotee: In England they are chanting, "Swami Narayan," not "Krishna".

Prabhupada: Just see.

Indian man (1): No, they are also krsna-bhaktas.

Devotee: How are they, if they are chanting Swami Narayan's name?

Indian man (1): They actually work for the Krishna only, and they...

Prabhupada: No, no. Krishna recommends sastra, harer nama, harer nama, harer namaiva kevalam. So why they should chant "Swami Narayan"? ... In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, satatam kirtayanto mam - Krishna. Why should one chant any other name? Krishna says satatam kirtayanto mam. Hare Krishna. Not any other name.... But they are chanting "Swami Narayan." They're saying Swami Narayan is better than Krishna. What kind of preaching is this? ...

This is nonsense. People will go to the temple and the preacher will say that Swami Narayan's name should be chanted....

Indian man (2): Swami is their guru and Narayan is God, so both, Prabhupada and Krishna, Prabhupada and Krishna, Prabhupada Krishna...

Prabhupada: But that does not mean they should chant [like that]. Just like, we are not instructing our disciples to chant my name, "Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Swami." No. They're chanting Hare Krishna. hari-tvena samasta-sastrair uktah - "Guru is respected as good as Krishna." But that does not mean I shall teach them to go and chant my name, "Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Swami." What is this? We are teaching, "Chant Hare Krishna." Harer nama, harer nama...

- Srila Prabhupada morning walk, 29 March 1974, Bombay.

Although the antarmukha-sisyas, who follow the instructions of guru, get the full blessings of guru, the bahirmukha-sisyas do not get the proper result.

In this connection Srila Jagadananda Pandit has written:

gorara ami gorara ami mukhe balile na cale
torara acara gorara vicara laile phala phale

It is not enough to repeatedly advertise that one is a devotee of Mahaprabhu by saying, "I am Gaura's! I am Gaura's!" Rather, those who follow the practices taught by Mahaprabhu are understood to get the results of being the Lord's follower. - Prema-vivarta 8.6

Sometimes we see that bona fide spiritual masters allow themselves to be advertised in order to preach. However, this is done in service to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Such personalities are not materially desirous of receiving prestige from their disciples. The daksina, gift, that the guru wants is jnana-sandesah - the sincere search for spiritual knowledge (Bhag. 11.19.39).

As the ideal guru, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has taught us how to please the spiritual master. Mahaprabhu instructed His followers:

yadi ama prati sneha thake sabakara
tabe krsna-vyatirikta na gaibe ara

If you really love me, then you should love My instructions: Don't think of anything but Krishna. Don't utter any name but Krishna. (Caitanya-bhagavat madhya 8.27)

Understanding that his spiritual master is always with Krishna, the antarmukha-sisya knows that by chanting Krishna's name he will come closer to his guru. In the Vamana-kalpa, Lord Brahma explains:

yo mantrah sa guruh saksad yo guruh sa harih svayam

One should understand that the mantra one has received from the guru is identical with the guru and that the guru is identical with Lord Hari.

(cited in Srila Jiva Goswami's Bhakti-sandarbha, anuccheda 237.8)

Srila Rupa Goswami has described:

atha guroh sri-pada-dvandva-bhaktim

The holy name gives devotion to the guru. (Padyavali text 24)

Historically, the sadhu-samaja, the society of saintly vaisnavas, has never been impressed with mere external shows of devotion. They are moved, however, when they see the genuine vaisnava humility and other good qualities that have manifest in a devotee due to that devotee's dedication to the instructions and bhajan given by guru (guru-nistha). Hence, introspective devotees prefer to keep their guru hidden and glorify him by exhibiting exemplary behavior.

For some devotees, pushing their guru is an easy way to avoid facing the reality of their own lack of advancement. They want respect, and they think it is easier for them to get it by broadcasting themselves as a disciple of a great personality than for themselves to manifest the qualities of a vaisnava. However, this kind of cheating mentality will never attract the attention of saintly persons. They are not impressed with whom we have taken initiation or instructions from. Rather, they want to see what is our own level of realization.

Since such neophytes equate the showing of respect to themselves with the showing of respect to their guru, when they become chastised or fail to receive the honor and recognition they want, they accuse the devotees, "You have offended my guru!" In this way, Kali, the personification of this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, is able to enter the movement of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and cause dissension, distracting them from their real business of chanting and distributing the holy names.

So Srila Sanatan Goswami's instruction gopayed gurum atmanah - "One should hide one's guru" - is advising devotees to go deeper in their relationship with guru by basing that relationship on following the instructions about service and bhajan that their guru has given.

Bhaja Hu Re Mana

Bhaja Hu Re Mana

This recording of Bhaja Hu Re Mana ("Oh Mind, Please Worship Nanda Nandana"), is a traditional Gaudiya bhajan originally written by Govinda Dasa Kaviraja at some time in the late 17th century. Traditionally it is sung in Raga Bhairavi in Tintal but here is a contemporary version.

Arrangement: Mohini Murti Devi Dasi and Ekendra Dasa
Lead Vocals: Ekendra Dasa
Response Vocals: Malika Des Fours, Amber McRae, Mohini Murti Devi Dasi, Seva Kunja Devi Dasi
Editing, Producing: Ekendra Dasa
Recorded at Go-run-gaa Studios, ISKCON New Govardhana, Australia

LYRICS:

bhajahū re mana śrī-nanda-nandana
abhaya-caraṇāravinda re
durlabha mānava-janama sat-sańge
taroho e bhava-sindhu re

śīta ātapa bāta bariṣaṇa
e dina jāminī jāgi re
biphale sevinu kṛpaṇa durajana
capala sukha-laba lāgi' re

e dhana, yaubana, putra, parijana
ithe ki āche paratīti re
kamala-dala-jala, jīvana ṭalamala
bhajahū hari-pada nīti re

śravaṇa, kīrtana, smaraṇa, vandana,
pāda-sevana, dāsya re
pūjana, sakhī-jana, ātma-nivedana
govinda-dāsa-abhilāṣa re

Translation:

1) O mind just worship the lotus feet of the son of Nanda, which make one fearless. Having obtained this rare human birth, cross over this ocean of worldly existence through the association of saintly persons.

2) Both in the day and at night I remain sleepless, suffering the pains of the heat and cold, the wind and the rain. For a fraction of flickering happiness I have uselessly served wicked and miserly men.

3) What assurance of real happiness is there in all of one's wealth, youthfulness, sons, and family members? This life is tottering like a drop of water on a lotus petal; therefore you should always serve and worship the divine feet of Lord Hari.

4) It is the desire and great longing of Govinda Dasa to engage himself in the nine processes of bhakti, namely hearing the glories of Lord Hari and chanting those glories, constantly remembering Him and offering prayers to Him, serving the Lord's lotus feet, serving the Supreme Lord as a servant, worshiping Him with flowers and incense and so forth, serving Him as a friend, and completely offering the Lord one's very self.

You Know You are Gurukuli When ....

I'm not a Gurukuli but I have 3 kids who are or will be. Some of these are hilarious ....

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=119418038078638

Bad Advertising

This photo amazes me. Factually, this is a very caring initiative where the workers at ISKCON's Mayapur center can bring their children for an education for which they may not otherwise get the opportunity. But the sign is a shocker. The look of the building and the sign combined make for really bad PR. I couldn't believe it when I saw it.

Presumptuous Bullet Point Analysis (Yuck!) and the Power of "Waffling On"

"It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable."

- ARMY BRIG. GEN. H. R. McMASTER, on the growing use of PowerPoint presentations among military commanders. (From the article ''We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint" - New York Times 27/4/10)

------------------

I'm 38 years old and am still attending school. But it isn't as if I got a late start in life; I just don't seem to be able to keep a deep interest in anything long enough to call it a 'career'. Some people say I'm a professional student. I can live with that as a job title and it's only by circumstance that I'm able to maintain such a lifestyle despite being married with three children. Most men my age have already established themselves in some sort of niche. I'm digressing here, but you obviously don't have anything better to do than read this so why not let me waffle on a bit? Waffling can be a surprisingly good way to give and receive information. I'll go deeper into that later.

The reason I'm presenting this aspect of my life here isn't because I'm working on a draft for my autobiography. I respect trees and even LEDs enough not to bother them to be used as a medium to tell my story. I'm just trying to qualify myself to make the following criticism of a social and educational trend that I hope dies out soon.

What I'm talking about is the global obsession with PowerPoint slides. Yes, I'm aware how they can be used to good effect and supportive of important points that need to be made. They provide an outlet for the visually creative presenter as well as an 'inlet' for visual learners.

But here's the downside. Far too many times have I seen individuals use the PowerPoint medium in ways that, indeed, present 'the facts' but fail to convey the context of those facts. Bulleted lists seem to lend themselves to a summarized brevity that I interpret as presumptuous. Few people, it seems, know how to let the content drive the medium. More often they end up with a reversed presentation where the medium drives the content.

"True eloquence is the truth spoken concisely." said the great 16th century poet Krishna Das Kaviraja. Being concise and being presumptuous, I feel, are two different things altogether.

For example, the quotation at the beginning of this post asserts that we cannot reduce the nuance of interpersonal conflict down to a set of bullet points. In fact, whenever we are dealing with people, the entire medium is usually inappropriate.

I've learned that when I've had problems with another individual there are often complexities that take time, patience and prayer to resolve. No quick fix bullet point slide show does the trick. (if it was only that easy)

After nearly a decade of tertiary education (and one year of teaching high school) I've realized that the best learning takes place through a healthy relationship. It doesn't matter how slick the teacher is with multimedia as much as how genuine their concern is for the student's well-being.

For instance, my five year old son doesn't learn how to speak, read and interact with others via a set of memorized 'points'. His education at this level is achieved mostly by osmosis. Does that change as we grow older? I doubt it.

There is a lot of learning that takes place by just 'hanging out' with someone and waffling on about whatever comes to mind. Tangential conversations reveal the heart of a person. This helps to contextualize and personalize the message. By engaging in light discussion we can learn about the presenter's:

- interests
- concerns
- aspirations
- vulnerabilities
- miscellaneous other things

Just see how dorky that looks? It's misleading to even present such a subject in a way that presumes that you can summarize everything there is to know into a slide the size of your screen resolution.

In the last five years I've especially noticed that getting off-topic is practically considered taboo for a presenter. Personally, I love it even if just for the respite it provides from the barrage of bullet points being fired into the audience.

I also love it when the projector doesn't work properly. Funny how that seems to happen all the time. (No I don't sabotage - I just don't offer to help get things up and running.)

So next time you are tasked to give a presentation please consider these ideas. Sorry, but you'll have to read things over if you want an obvious summary. True I'm lazy, but I don't want to contribute to your intellectual laziness by assuming the role of expert and trying to wrap everything up into a nice tidy take away container. Waffle on, get off topic occasionally and you might find that your audience is far more interested in what you have to say. You might find it more interesting yourself.

The Misuse of Free Speech and How I Try to Tolerate It

Lately it seems as if this blog has attracted comments from some folks with some far out views. I'm not surprised as this has been a consistent thread in my life (offline and online) for the last 20 years at least.

I'm not going to delete them in the interest of letting people say what they want. I do want to point out that while the mostly anonymous posters are entitled to their views, they do not usually reflect the views of Ekendra Dasa who maintains this blog.

But the banter I engaged in with the person who accused me of being a reptilian cannibal who shapeshifted into human form is all mine :) !

Any other people who took acid 20 years ago and never quite came in for a landing are welcome to post so long as they can manage something coherent and don't mind me being amused and responding with whatever humor I feel like at the time.

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