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Comments Posted By Madhavananda

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Emotional Freedom

Thank you, Maharaja Ji, for a well-written and very informative article. A voice direly missed. The understanding or lack thereof of the contents of this article has grand repercussions both on individual and collective level. The individual level has been amply covered in the article, even if the ramifications of this dysfunction in terms of evolving bhakti could no doubt be further explored.

In the broad scope of expanding Sri Caitanya’s mission, if there is a movement full of dysfunctional people, or even worse, an atmosphere forcing people into such a paradigm, it will both serve to attract more birds of the same feather, namely emotionally unbalanced individuals, as well as to alienate the more balanced section of people.

This in turn will effectively marginalize Krishna Consciousness and inflate its position as a religion to be taken seriously, not for its philosophy but for its people. And I should not say that in a future tense — time for change, people, for a thousand reasons, if you haven’t started yet.

Comment Posted By Madhavananda On 10.07.2007 @ 17:14

ABC of sattva-guna

Thank you, Muniraja-ji, for a good article, and a very important one at that – one of the few I’ve read here as of late. Yes, staying awake is very helpful indeed for a great number of reasons, and sattva-guna is one of the essential elements in building a foundation for sadhana. Yet alas, its cultivation is often sorely lacking among the broader Vaisnava community. Let me offer a garland of notes at the feet of your worthy yet brief gloss on the topic.

On sitting, I’d like to note that – while asanas and an erect spine in general are very beneficial for conquering sleepiness – some asanas are more beneficial than others. Drawing from my experience, asanas that automatically help in erecting the spine, such as vajra, vira and gomukha, allow a tired body to stay in posture more easily than asanas such as padma, siddha and so forth in which keeping the spine erect requires more endeavor, especially from a new practitioner.

When seated, one should curtail the mind’s urges to change postures or to roam hither and thither – one of its dearly cherished occupations. There is really no need as such to move around, or even move your hands or your head an inch’s worth, unless direct bodily concerns, such as your leg’s becoming stiff or an ant’s roaming about your face, merit action. The longer one sits still in one posture, the better in building a capacity for meditation.

Sitting on a pure mattress and in a pure environment as a matter of routine creates a samskara of pacification of the mind. With a pure asana, pure clothes – even clothes specifically reserved for the time of sadhana – are a given. The mind becomes habituated to attaining calmness under particular circumstances. The effects of the elements of nature can also be harnessed for our benefit. Sitting towards the east in the morning and the day, and the north in the evening, essentially following the course of the sun which has a tremendous influence on the mind, aids in attaining clarity. Indoors, facing sources or light, and especially daylight, creates peace, while sources of light behind and darkness ahead creates unrest. The introspective sadhaka should recognize the dynamics of the mind and take advantage of its predictability in building a life of sadhana.

Sitting in a proper asana and engaging in focused meditation is instrumental in the maintenance of brahmacarya, as with that one’s sexual energy is sublimated and employed as an aid for concentration, memory and a host of other virtues – while in the absence of sublimation the energy rages free and eats the sadhaka, who is yet to purge all desire from his heart, from within. Maintenance of brahmacarya is essential in a progressive devotional life geared towards internal realization.

On conquering sleepiness, sufficient oxygene cannot be emphasized enough. Keep the area ventilated. As a quick fix for sleepiness, deep pranayama is helpful. Kapalabhati in particular invigorates the body. In general, remember to breathe properly. All too many devotees do nothing but inhaling and exhaling through the mouth during their japa, which is a guaranteed method for disturbing the flow of prana and thereby your mental balance.

Especially with increased quantities of japa, from one lakha upwards and so forth, a change in the japa technique is vital in maintaining health over a longer period of time. I generally recommend upamsu, or muttering japa, instead of the literally “out loud” japa for people who wish to substantially increase their chanting. When chanting becomes more of an internal affair than a matter of broadcasting, it yields great benefits in the realms of withdrawal (pratyahara) and meditation (dhyana).

The importance of proper eating cannot be emphasized enough. As in the Chandogya (7.26.2): AhAra-zuddhau sattva-zuddhiH sattva-zuddhau dhruvA smRtiH smRti-lambhe sarva-granthInAM vipramokSaH – “From purity of eating ensues purity of existence, from purity of existence perpetual meditation, and from attainment of remembrance deliverance from all bondage.” Not taking foodstuffs from non-devotees is a vital first step towards purification of the self. The second step is in increased awareness of foodstuffs we prepare for offering, for ingredients also come in many flavors, many tainted with rajas and tamas, and some sattvika ingredients bearing adverse influence when used in immoderate quantity or combined unwisely. Sattvika ingredients must also be kept ritually pure, lest tamas enter into our preparations.

Beyond considerations on ingredient purity, one must pay attention to factors such as the cook’s and the pujari’s state of mind while preparing and offering. If these factors are neglected, the preparation – even if in sattva in terms of its ingredients – will bear an ill effect on our consciousness. As in Caitaya-caritamrita (1.12.50-51): viSayIra anna khAile duSTa haya mana, mana duSTa haile nahe kRSNera smaraNa, kRSNa-smRti vinu haya niSphala jIvana – “Eating the foods of the enjoyers, the mind becomes corrupt. If the mind is corrupt there is no remembrance of Krishna, and without Krishna’s remembrance the life goes in vain.”

Mauna. Silence. Shut up. Succinctly, that’s the gist of it. Only in silence can God’s voice be heard. Idle chatter – especially at the time of sadhana – is detrimental to focus, it shatters the mind into a thousand directions. Speak only when truly necessary, otherwise remain in silence and find shelter in prayer and in chanting the names. A day of observing complete mauna while chanting the names from the morning until the evening is a liberating experience indeed, something everyone should experience at least once in their lives, if not on a regular basis. The obvious perhaps goes without saying, then – don’t watch mundane films, don’t listen to mundane music, don’t read mundane books. Rather, hear the words of Sri Caitanya to Raghunatha Das, the essence of his instructions on sadhana (CC 3.6.236-237):

grAmya-kathA nA zunibe, grAmya-vArtA nA kahibe /
bhAla nA khAibe Ara bhAla nA paribe //
amAnI mAnada haJA kRSNa-nAma sadA la’be /
vraje rAdhA-kRSNa-sevA mAnase karibe //

“Hear not those village talks, speak not of the town’s affairs,
Do not eat well, and do not dress in fine garments.
Becoming humble and respectful, always take Krishna’s name,
And serve Radha and Krishna in Vraja in your mind.”

Without general purity of conduct, awareness of the pure and the impure, the offered and the unoffered, and their mutual influences in all circumstances, equilibrium of the mind is a mirage far removed from the sadhaka. External purity gives rise to internal purity. Beyond outer purity, if there is no cultivation of integrity in behavior, honesty, transparency and the rest of the behavioral virtues we read of in the scriptures, there is no question of prospects for attaining sattva.

Then, may we all take firm steps onward towards the acquisition of throrough sattva, the first great foundational level on the stairway from here to perfection.

Comment Posted By Madhavananda On 06.02.2007 @ 05:48

If Krishna does not accept my Chocolates, Who should I offer them to?

Yes, and I forgot to include a reply to the question in the title of the contribution. If Krishna doesn’t accept your chocolates, and your concern is more in eating karma-free chocolate than it is in Krishna’s pleasure, then you could try offering them to Shiva or his wife. They accept ganja and a host of other offerings, and aren’t that concerned over who prepared what. I’m sure chocolate would pass, too. To ensure that offerings are accepted, a tilaka formed with three horizontal lines may be worn at the time of the offering, so say the sages.

Comment Posted By Madhavananda On 06.02.2007 @ 12:15

People can debate about the substantiality of the impact of chocolate in terms of its theobromine on the psyche, but the theobromine content isn’t the reason of its being not offerable. Chocolate bought in stores is not offerable because it hasn’t been prepared by Vaisnavas. Moreover, it is a product of beans, which are an ingredient that carries more “karmic weight” than fruits for example, on par with rice and other grains, and as cooking is involved in the process of its preparation.

Visvanatha Cakravarti, commenting on patraM puSpaM phalaM toyam, notes that while devotion is the essential factor, considerations of purity and so forth apply. One who has love will seek to offer pure ingredients prepared with love.

I once heard a note in reply to “should I offer or not” to the effect of “you can try to offer anything”. However, is this an act of love? Throw everything at Krishna without consideration of how much or little it pleases him. Don’t use Krishna as a prasada machine! That is not bhakti, nor are such offerings accepted – even if the item offered might be offerable! The offering becomes unfit due to the offerer’s unfit mentality.

Arguably, taking into account the above considerations, you could then “properly” offer chocolate if you were to prepare it yourself from the very beginning.

However – even if Krishna might love chocolate, whether Krishna will be happy to see his devotees eating foodstuffs that have the potential for causing addiction and unrest is a whole another consideration. He eats tambula, and we offer it on the altar to him. He takes honey punch too, we know from the acaryas’ writings! Regardless, consuming the such does not yield beneficial psychophysical effects for those encaged in material bodies subject to negative influence arising from diverse ingredients.

Comment Posted By Madhavananda On 06.02.2007 @ 07:09

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