Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dear fellow aspiring Vaisnavas,

It seems to me (and i hope i’m wrong) that the bulk of aspiring Vaisnavas in America have a decreased enthusiasm for spiritual advancement since the last decade or two.  And with mainstream societies values slowly aligning with ours, (increased acceptance of vegetarianism, vast number of yoga enthusiasts, etc.) i would have expected to see another burst of enthusiasm for the imbibment of spiritual principles.

We may get confused by the word “principles” because of our well-known term “four regulative principles”, but vegetarianism, sobriety, informed decision-making and sexual abstinence are merely details that support a higher principle.  To consider these four to be principles on their own, without their proper connection to the actual spiritual principle, is a big mistake.  We learn from Bhagavad-gita (3.13) that even vegetarianism is subject to the laws of karma unless the food is first offered to Krsna.  From this example it is easy to see that vegetarianism is the detail and the principle is to put Krsna in the center of our action of eating.  And it is the same with the other three “regulative principles”.  Simply following a “rule” does not necessarily imply that one is in line with the principle.

Another word that i think we have less than a full grasp on is “yoga”.  The word means to link to or connect, much like the word “religion” (re-legion) means to re-connect.  But to the common man yoga means physical exercise and, although in some places devotees try to rectify this by introducing kirtan into their exercise classes, i still do not think we have a full grasp on the word.  Once again the import of this term comes down to whether or not Krsna is in the center of our action.

For good measure, i will address one more term that i believe we have ill-defined for ourselves.  “Sadhu-sanga” literally means to implement into your own life, the way of the advanced spiritualist.  In order for something to be considered sadhu-sanga, there has to be an exchange of transcendental subject matter.  Merely being near a saintly person does not qualify as sadhu-sanga unless said transcendental exchange occurs.  So going to the movies or out to eat with other aspiring Vaisnavas does not necessarily count as sadhu-sanga.  Not surprisingly the determining factor on whether or not something qualifies as sadhu-sanga is, yet again, whether or not Krsna is in the center of our action, thoughts or words.

So, as it turns out, there is really only one principle with several supporting details.  Srila Prabhupada named his movement the International Society for Krsna Consciousness, which very precisely points out this single principle.  But unfortunately this term is also commonly misused or even abbreviated, allowing us to miss the point of being a member of this most important movement.

i myself admitted that i could be wrong about the decreased aspiration for spiritual advancement.  After all, we also learn in the Bhagavad-gita that, externally, spiritual actions and material actions can be indistinguishable, so who am i to say that people are not doing what they are supposed to?  And although it may seem that way, i am certainly not trying to make that claim.  What i am trying to do, however, is point out that in general when something is running properly, there are certain noticeable side effects that come along with it.

Srila Prabhupada instructed us to “boil the milk” (which is not referring to making burfee)…  He wanted the devotees in his society to become cultured ladies and gentlemen so that we would give an accurate example of what our society has to offer.  If we fail to attempt to continue to make spiritual advancement, we are not properly showing what our philosophy is capable of doing.

It is important for me, at this point, to say that we should be very cautious about what comes next.  When we start talking about expected side effects of one properly engaged in spirituality, it is our conditioned nature to use that knowledge to judge others and not ourselves.  But not only are we unqualified to pass such judgments, when we do so it greatly hampers our chance to continue to make spiritual advancement…  it’s not called the mad elephant for nothing.  So please be very careful to only use the following information to specifically and exclusively evaluate your own self, as there is no way for one to understand anyone else’s personal situation, nor is it our duty to “fix” others against their will.

It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam (5.18.12) that “All the demigods and their exalted qualities, such as religion, knowledge and renunciation, become manifest in the body of one who has developed unalloyed devotion for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vasudeva. On the other hand, a person devoid of devotional service and engaged in material activities has no good qualities. Even if he is adept at the practice of mystic yoga or the honest endeavor of maintaining his family and relatives, he must be driven by his own mental speculations and must engage in the service of the Lord's external energy. How can there be any good qualities in such a man?

Although it is not expected that we possess all of these qualities immediately after taking up the devotional process, it is expected that they at least gradually and continually appear in our character as a side effect of our spiritual advancement.

So here is my proposition.  i invite everyone who reads this to do a little experiment for a couple of weeks. (i did this once before at a Sunday feast lecture in Philadelphia and the results were interesting).  i want each of you to think of a devotee that you look up to and determine what quality that person possesses that you admire the most (humility, tolerance, steadfastness, detachment, determination, kindness, truthfulness, magnanimity, knowledge, etc.).  For the next two weeks, try to consciously enhance this particular quality within your own self, and take note of how it affects your life (are there challenges or obstacles which make this quality difficult to embody?, does this newly reinforced quality effect your dealings with others?, do others seem to notice or react to this change?, was it easy?, has it enhanced your spiritual life? etc.)

Of course, this experiment is not to make you a more likable person or a more efficient worker.  As we addressed before, these are mere details to a higher principle, so do not try to embody these qualities because it will make your dealings with others more pleasant, embody them because it is the type of behavior that Krsna prefers and is the type of behavior that exists in the spiritual world.  Look at it as training for our reentry into Sri Krsna’s eternal pastimes.

i also request that if you think this is a worthy exercise, please send a link to your friends or share it on your preferred social media site.

And finally, i hope that those who attempt this exercise will email me ( with their subsequent experiences so that i can share the results with others (anonymously if you prefer).

In my current situation, i am without much physical devotee association, so i have to resort to e-association, or essociation if you will, so please write me with your thoughts (positive or negative).

Thank you.

Hari, Hari!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A new beginning

By carucandra dasa 

During the last couple of months i have been contemplating my next move.  Being a goal-oriented person, it is fairly uncomfortable for me to not have a specific plan to follow. 

Anyone who knows me knows that i always go big…  the results are rarely proportionate to the endeavor, but i would rather go big and come up short than to go small and come up with nothing.  In fact perhaps my best quality is that i try hard…  and although “participation awards” aren’t held in the highest regard, i think that these days participation is a huge step up from what the majority of people do.

We have all heard the expressions, “if at first you try but don’t succeed, try, try again”, and “brush the dirt off and get back on the horse”…  but to me these adages, while true, do not quite fully encompass our philosophy…  they still leave room for one to eventually give up after getting bucked off one too many times.  So i was inspired to come up with a new expression that describes the type of determination that an aspiring vaisnava should possess…  “forever endeavor.”… not only does it completely describe the unflinching determination that we should have, but it also has a nice ring to it…  plus it prompts some to call out “amen!” after hearing it (or maybe that’s just me).

So no matter how many times i fail, i wont give up…  after all, my goal is an honorable one…  its not like i am saving up for a car to impress a girl, or undergoing physical training to take out my enemies and rule the world, i am simply trying to serve Srila Prabhupadas mission with my natural inclinations…  and that’s all he ever asked of us….  He wanted us to keep doing whatever we were doing, but with Krsna in the center.

My default back-up plan for the past several years has been to move to Mayapura and spend time studying and perhaps teaching.  But the reason that was a secondary plan as opposed to a primary plan was because i feel that i have a debt to Srila Prabhupada to help spread his mission in America.  

So while i could just move to Mayapura and spend the rest of my days there, i feel i cant turn my back on my duty in America fully…  so as i continue to spend half of the year there, i will keep on exploring options in America for the spring and summer months. 

Perhaps there is another retreat center in the future for the Bhagavat Commune on a piece of land similar to our first property where we had our wonderful Govardhana Puja celebration back in 2010.  If it comes to that i will be less focused on making it suitable for year-round residents and more geared toward retreats and workshops at first to keep expenses down.

i will post updates here as they happen.  Thank you for showing interest and please feel free to email me with your own thoughts on our vision.

Hari, Hari!