Comments Posted By Akruranatha

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Spiritual Culture - Krsna’s Divine System for Devotee Care

Good article.

Chanting Hare Krishna should change us in many ways. It should make us want to learn spiritual culture, too.

When I was in college (before the intrernet or even the cell phone was invented), I used to have roommates from India, Nigeria, Arabia, Spain and other places. One thing these international students would always tell me is, “We can make good money in America, but there is no family life here.” They would see that all the American familes were split up, living far apart, often with divorces and “blended” families, no connection to a home place or patch of land.

Culture is something we are not really taught in some academic curriculum. I mean, we can read about culture and study how people of different cultures behave or feel in different circumstances, but we actually acquire culture by osmosis. It seems to seep in from our family, our association, our modes of living and working, the films and television and music we consume, and the food we eat.

Marxists (and other materialist social scientists) see culture as largely dictated by material ciorcumstances such as the economics of how people earn their living. I guess there is something to it. That’s why many devotees feel we cannot really experience varnasrama culture witout changing to agrarian village life.

Of course, the other side of the argument is that culture itself is a catalyst for change. If we did not believe that, why would we chant and hear and worship the Deities? Krishna consciousness will change us from the inside out. But it does seem that culture does not change as quickly as we might hope. American devotees remain somewhat American.

Of course to properly worship the Deities involves “material,” external changes too. We have to rise early, bathe, get initiated, chant gayatri… We change our lifestyle in many different ways by becoming devotees. And if we really thoroughly do it, it should naturally change the way we treat our parents, the poor, the brahmanas, women, children, cows.

Some preachers worry that by adopting too many Hindu cultural trappings, we may become irrelevant to western audiences who find us too foreign, “not for me”. But I guess we still have to change the culture from one of self-centered, sense-gratification centered individualism to one of responsibility and properly caring for family members and for dharma, for cows and the earth and the devotees.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 14.09.2014 @ 19:35

Detroit 3 Day Harinama at Jazz Fest 2014

Music and religion, music and spirituality, have always been connected.

Also, people try to perceive God in art and in the beauty of creation, the artist’s creation being a microcosm of the creation of the gigantic and awe-inspiring phenomenal universe, with its “harmony of the spheres”.

Many jazz musicians and their fans have seen something spiritual in their art, and in a way this is an attempt to reach Krishna, even if it is preliminary and indirect. “Those who worship other gods actually worship only Me, O son of Kunti, but they do it in the wrong way.” (B.G. 9.23)

In San Francisco there is even something called the “Church of John Coltrane”. They collect money in the San Francisco Airport, an activity pioneered by ISKCON.

Anyway, it is nice to see the harinama sankirtan going on outside the Detroit Jazz Festival. Kirtan is a perfect expression of how sound vibration can lead to God and can be directly a form of God. Many of the early students who used to come to Srila Prabhupada’s (”Swamiji’s”) kirtans in a Bowery loft before ISKCON was even started were jazz musicians, and some of the early ISKCON devotees like Acyutananda Prabhu were jazz musicians.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 04.09.2014 @ 17:07

A Happy Wife Has a Good Husband

Now that comedian Joan Rivers has passed away, there may be a spot available on the TV show “Fashion Police” for some lucky devotee.

But other than that we should not be too eager to enforce dress codes on other devotees, unless they happen to be our own children or disciples.

Yes, there was a way Srila Prabhupada asked us to dress. Our hairstyle with sikha brought us instant recognition, especially during the ’70s when men’s fashion was to wear long hair and beards. We have a “uniform”, and when people see a devotee with robes or a nice sari and tilak and an effulgent face, it creates an impression of meeting an angel from Vaikuntha.

The uniform is not all-important though. We are a society for Krishna consciousness, not a society for Vaisnava clothing and hairstyles.

Some orthodox Jewish men think God wants them to wear earlocks and yarmulkes and fringes, and some Muslims think God wants them to have beards or burkhas; Sikhs must have beards and long hair in a turban, with bracelet and ceremonial knife, and Christian Orthodox priests have beards, while Catholic monks have different kind of tonsured hair according to their sect. Christian nuns wear different kinds of habits and wimples, though some have given that up now. Mormons wear special underclothing, and there is even a “sakhibheki” sect (about which I know very little) in which men dress as cowherd girls in their effort to cultivate gopi-bhava.

All these different followers of religious dress codes display some obedience to God’s desire (as they understand it) and also affirm and proclaim their own faith, perhaps also remembering considerations which led their past preceptors to adopt such standards.

Yes, it is worthwhile to discuss why Srila Prabhupada asked us to dress in a certain way. There may be many different angles from which to consider these instructions (spiritual, social, preaching effectiveness, economic practicality, etc.)

But something seems wrong to me for us to assume the role of enforcer and judge over the way other devotees choose to dress, as if that is the be all and end all of their relationship with Srila Prabhupada or the sine qua non of what it means to be a devotee.

A well-dressed fool goes unnoticed until he speaks. We should recognize devotees based on their behavior and speech, rather than superficial appearances. And we should give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 05.09.2014 @ 14:04

With regard to women preachers who may not cover their hair, I consider it may be a legitimate attempt not to turn off the intended audience by foreign cultural trappings.

Consider this Purport (S.B. 7.5.7):

“In our Krsna consciousness movement, the tactic of dressing oneself like an ordinary karmi is necessary because everyone in the demoniac kingdom is against the Vaisnava teachings. Krsna consciousness is not at all to the liking of the demons of the present age. As soon as they see a Vaisnava dressed in saffron garments with beads on his neck and tilaka on his forehead, they are immediately irritated. They criticize the Vaisnavas by sarcastically saying Hare Krsna, and some people also chant Hare Krsna sincerely. In either case, since Hare Krsna is absolute, whether one chants it jokingly or sincerely, it will have its effect. The Vaisnavas are pleased when the demons chant Hare Krsna because this shows that the Hare Krsna movement is taking ground. The greater demons, like Hiranyakasipu, are always prepared to chastise the Vaisnavas, and they try to make arrangements so that Vaisnavas will not come to sell their books and preach Krsna consciousness. Thus what was done by Hiranyakasipu long, long ago is still being done. That is the way of materialistic life. Demons or materialists do not at all like the advancement of Krsna consciousness, and they try to hinder it in many ways. Yet the preachers of Krsna consciousness must go forward—in their Vaisnava dress or any other dress—for the purpose of preaching. Canakya Pandita says that if an honest person deals with a great cheater, it is necessary for him to become a cheater also, not for the purpose of cheating but to make his preaching successful.”

But even considering it may be a personal weakness for dressing in a modern or “more attractive” style (according to taste), Citrarupini, it seems unfriendly and mean-spirited to publicly attack Jahnava’s sartorial choices here in this forum.

I know, with my own wife, she dresses “western” and goes to the beauty parlor and gets her hair colored, but she does tons of devotional service. I do not think it makes her less of a devotee, or that it is my duty as her husband to insist that she set a better example of “Vaisnava dress”. I can tell you for sure: it is not because she is trying to attract a paramour (if that is what you are implying). It is just a matter of “style”.

Can’t we be a little friendlier to each other?

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 04.09.2014 @ 16:51

Spiritual Communism, Organized Religion, Varnasrama-Dharma, and Self-Reliance

I get the sense, talking to many devotees from those old days, that for many of them, moving out of the ISKCON temple economy and getting a “karmi” job and their own residence was very traumatic.

It was for me. I moved out in stages, and Bir Krishna Maharaja was kind enough to let me stay in the temple while attending college during some of that time. But it was a kind of huge conflict for me because I had come to see “surrender to Krishna” as synonymous with living full time in an ISKCON temple. Our internal surrender was supposed to be demonstrated externally by being fully under the “government” and “economy” of ISKCON.

That is the way it was in those days for many of us. That is the way we were being taught.

It had its benefits as well as its drawbacks. Our sadhana was good, for one thing. It was required. We had to be at mangal arati every day and chant our japa in the temple room.

Many older devotees from those days seem to have never reconciled themselves with their move to become congregational devotees. Some still think (some devotees I talk to on the internet) that by moving out of the temple and becoming independent of the authority of an ISKCON temple president, they “left ISKCON”. For them the idea of membership in ISKCON entailed living in an ISKCON asrama, sort of being in the ISKCON army.

And for some of these devotees, the trauma of having left that former lifestyle has caused them to maintain a sense of separate identity, even of disagreement with or critical attitude toward ISKCON. It did not deliver for them everything it had promised.

Maybe we over promised in those days. We encouraged people to give up their “karmi” lives in mainstream society and be full-time devotees, and we at least implied that not only would they become Krishna conscious bhakti-yogis, eligible to go Back to Godhead, but they would also live in a kind of ideal society where the enlightened management authorities would help arrange their lives to be perfect and without any anxiety.

Maybe in some rare cases ISKCON lived up to all those promises. We should still try to manage our asramas for full-time devotees so perfectly. I guess we just have to recognize, however, that we cannot expect utopia and there may be reasons for people to live “outside”, and that is okay, too. It does not mean giving up on ISKCON.

Nor has ISKCON “failed” by developing a congregational model. It was natural and to be expected.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 13.09.2014 @ 12:16

Thanks Pusta Krishna, for keeping this thread alive. Yes, I think that is what I was driving at, the fact that as devotees we should protect the treasure of our Krishna consciousness as the most important thing, and yet we can go on with our lives in different ways. We do not have to have a stereotyped idea that to be a devotee means moving into a temple.

I do not think devotees these days have such an idea, but when I joined that was a basic mode of seeing things in ISKCON. When someone became a devotee, they demonstrated their “surrender” by moving into a temple and following the temple authorities.

The unspoken (and kind of naive) idea was that as we preached, more and more people would move into our separate ISKCON temples and communities, and each would be expected to be fully “surrendered” and not engaged in pursuing money or material comforts, and that is how ISKCON would grow.

We can understand the ideal of being on the perfect paramahamsa stage much sooner than we (most of us) can act on that platform, completely neglecting bodily needs. We are not meant to pretend to be on a higher platform of renunciation and surrender than we are actually capable of sustaining. Krishna does not demand that. He does not even want that. He wants us to be good examples of happy devotees who are becoming gradually purified by chanting His holy names and remembering Him throughout our lives, day by day and step by step. It is practical. It works.

It may be that ISKCON grows by developing larger and larger ideal communities that are well-governed and well-organized for the genuine welfare of all the members. But it will also grow by influencing people from all walks of life to read Srila Prabhupada’s books, chant Hare Krishna, follow the regulative principles, even while having their own jobs, cars, houses, and bank accounts.

Meanwhile such devotees, whether living as full-time members in ISKCON communities or as congregational members, will gradually realize that everything is owned and controlled by Krishna and nothing is really ours, nor are we the doers of the activities performed by our material bodies and senses.

Such complete Krishna consciousness, whether living as a sannyasi or householder, as a full-time member or part of the outside congregation, is real “self-reliance” in the sense of genuine self-realization, that being Krishna’s eternal, spiritual servant is our real identity.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 12.09.2014 @ 12:51

Bhadrasrava, the ruler of Bhadrasva-varsa, and his intimate associates, prayed to the Lord’s expansion known as Hayasirsa, as follows:

“O Lord, although you are completely detached from the creation, maintenance and annihilation of this material world and are not directly affected by these activities, they are all attributed to You. We do not wonder at this, for Your inconceivable energies perfectly qualify You to be the case of all causes. You are the active principle in everything, although You are separate from everything. Thus we can realize that everything is happening because of Your inconceivable energy.” (S.B. 5.18.5)

Lord Vasudeva is so amazing and wonderful! He is not affected by any material cause, and although He remains aloof from the causes and effects of this material world, He is still the active principle in every moving and non-moving thing, inconceivably. Only He can be truly self-reliant or independent (”svarat”, see SB 1.1.1).

And yet He is always eager to satisfy His pure devotees, for whom He serves as message carrier or chariot driver. Although He is the cause of all causes, His love for His pure causes Him to do many wonderful things. Therefore the ultimate self-reliance is pure devotion to Krishna, which is inconceivable and is on a par with Krishna’s own self-reliance.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 11.09.2014 @ 23:39

I attended a lecture on European Medeival History in which the professor (a former Greek orthodox seminarian) said, “As the world became more Christian, Christianity became more worldly.”

One might well be concerned that as Hare Krishna devotees become more involved in worldly and academic careers, the tendency might be for them to water down the purity and urgent mood of the early days of ISKCON in the west.

My optimism leads me to believe, however, that in this age of Lord Caitanya, if His followers remain strict in the matter of chanting Hare Krishna and following the principles, as they branch out and infiltrate the various occupational fields and learned professions, the tendency will be for them to Krsna-ize everything.

“The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.”

Devotee writers of today, creating their own precursors, will eventually transform all the arts and sciences, the political and business institutions, into a Krishna-centered, Vaikuntha-like hegemony. With Lord Caitanya such things are possible.

I hope J.L. Borges will not mind my humble effort to make him my precursor in this way.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 09.09.2014 @ 19:31

I do not want to leave the impression that I thought Ida Fox Berkowitz was a Gaudiya Vaisnava or even that she had ever read Srimad Bhagavatam. (I am sure she must have read Bhagavad-gita at some time, because I remember the walls of her house were stacked with books from all kinds of religious traditions).

I do know she was a theist in the devotional tradition, because my father and her wrote some poems “debating” with one another, she taking the devotional side (”How should I praise?”) and my father taking the demonic, mayavadi side (”I damn heaven; I am heaven!”)

She was not a follower of regulative principles or, as far as I know, any particular religious tradition. She tended to see God in nature. I once told her (I must have been 14), looking at a fantastic seashell, that when we admire artists who make wonderful paintings, how much more should we admire the artist who made these shells, birds, butterflies and the world. She approved, “I never heard it said any better than that.”

But in interpreting her poem to refer to Krishna, I am taking a little license. She was an intuitive poet who may or may not have known exactly what she meant. She was more interested in getting the right words in a state of poetic inspiration. She wrote me that “note” when she was up all night with shingles and could not sleep, after our conversation about the seashell. (I may have gotten the word order wrong. I now think she the mystery of the “whole, hole, whole”.)

One way to interpret texts is to be less interested in the author’s conscious intention and more in what the words convey to the reader. In his essay “Kafka and His Precursors”, Jorge Luis Borges cites T.S. Eliot, saying: “The fact is the every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.”

In this same vein, our acaryas often demonstrate how a demon like Sisupal, trying to blaspheme Krishna, is actually praising Him. In spite of the intended meaning, Krishna cannot actually be blasphemed. The words themselves are His servants!

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 09.09.2014 @ 13:31

I used to think the Billie Holiday song, “God Bless the Child Whose Got His Own”, was only about money. Maybe that was the author’s intention. I don’t know. But nowadays I think it applies to everything and anything we may need, including spiritual realization (our greatest necessity).

It is one thing to have a good spiritual master or religious tradition, and that makes one very fortunate. But unless one has really pleased that spiritual master and Krishna gotten full command of all the imports of the Vedic literatures by revelation in one’s heart (yasya deve para bhaktir yatha deva tatha guro…), something is still missing.

A pure devotee may please Krishna even if he is very poor. Anyone can get a little water and a flower, leaf or fruit to offer Him. Bhakti is the essential ingredient to make the offering successful, and no matter how rich one is or how opulent the offering, without the bhakti it cannot please Krishna.

However, we are performing service here in the material world, and to do so, to do the service required of us by our superiors, we need to have the proper facilities. What is that verse in Brahma-Samhita about how men imbued with devotion sing the mantra-suktas of the Vedas by gaining their appropriate beauty, greatness, thrones, conveyances and ornaments?

We all have different roles to play, as parents and children, teachers and students, providers and dependents, husbands and wives, bestowers and recipients of blessings.

Of course any real teacher or blesser worth his salt will know that Krishna is the ultimate parent, teacher, provider and giver of blessings, and that as parents or demigods or holy men we are only servants and representatives of Krishna. But we still need to get the knowledge and holiness to be able to fulfill that role in society.

And likewise we need to get the money in order to fulfill our duties to give charity in the proper time and place and with the proper motive. Not from a feeling of possessiveness and false ego, but from a sense that we should accept and fulfill the duties and social roles that Krishna has assigned to us.

We should not hanker for material benedictions, but when they come our way we should readily accept them and use them properly in Krishna’s service. Yukta vairagya.

God bless the child whose got his own. The ultimate blessing is bhakti, but our bodies and senses and ingredients with which we perform the activities of bhakti are also blessings.

Comment Posted By Akruranatha On 05.09.2014 @ 13:13


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