“How many likes” or “who likes”

The social media has become extremely popular among masses today. One among the different jargons that are used is “like” or many versions of it in different social media websites. It is a common practice to write something for the world to see and be anxious about how many likes we get. “How many likes” is a common concern for all today. The concept of likes existed throughout the history of human race. Humans have always been anxious about the likes they get on the activities they perform. This is spread across all categories of people and all age groups. In fact, getting likes is an aspiration of the soul. I can recollect the first experience my daughter had when she took help of my hands to stand up. She was also concerned as to when will I like her act. When I appreciated her, she became extremely happy.

Although likes has always been a concern for humanity, there has been an inherent change in the nature of likes that are expected. This is due to the cultural changes across the world. One simple example that we can think of is that of youths visiting temples or attending spiritual gatherings. Their mothers aspire that the children visit temples. But their friends desire otherwise. So, if a young one visits a temple, he or she will get a like from the mother but not from others. But if one doesn’t he or she may lose the mother’s like but may get likes from a large number of people. So, the quantity of likes has overpowered the quality of likes. “How many likes” has become a more important question than “Who likes”. This can be seen everywhere including spiritual institutions like the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). For instance, a friend of mine was telling me that the best thing that ISKCON has done is the program to feed poor children. Unfortunately, our founder Acharya thinks otherwise as indicated in the following quotes:

What is more public welfare than Krishna Consciousness? To awaken everyone’s original consciousness is the best public welfare in the whole world. read more

LEADING WITH SHASTRA

Dear prabhu, while you are an historic devotee who has done tremendous service for Srila Prabhupada, the way you understand and explain spiritual subjects is not the way that Srila Prabhupada told us to understand them. If we consider the way Srila Prabhupada himself explained them, whether in his books or lectures especially, he lead with shastra; only seldom did he quote his own Guru Maharaja. But most of us don’t do that. In these debates we tend to either quote Srila Prabhupada at length or quote from our own experience of him and seldom quote from shastra. And there are many reasons why this leads to innumerable misunderstandings.

Consider the case when we happen to speak with devotees who do not belong to our sampradaya. For example, Sri Vaishnavas. When we discuss spiritual subjects with them, we don’t quote Srila Prabhupada at length, we quote shastra at length and then may sometimes add the support of our acharya, Srila Prabhupada. Otherwise, they will not accept what we say, even if it is right. And we can’t blame them for that. We would do the same if they started bashing us over the head with quotes from whomever their current acharya is.

So the first point here is that when we lead with shastra, then that evidence has wide authority, more so than any other kind of evidence. Srila Prabhupada wanted to present the teachings of Lord Krishna in the most authoritative way, which is why he placed so much emphasis on shastra in his own presentations. read more

Bamboo Skyscrapers

H.H. Hridayananda Goswami’s Krishna West project is based on the simple idea that if you remove the non-essential, Indian cultural trappings of present-day ISKCON from its spiritual essence, then ISKCON will be restored to its former potency and once again become the dynamic preaching movement with high levels of recruitment it once was. According to the Krishna West mission statement, they “do everything possible to make bhakti-yoga easy, relevant and enjoyable for Western people, without in any way compromising, diluting, or diminishing the purity and power of a glorious ancient tradition.”And they aim to do this “by offering the essential spiritual teaching and practice in its entirety, without requiring students and practitioners to embrace a new ethnicity composed of non-essential Eastern dress, cuisine, music etc.” Therefore they say they are giving the people in the West “the chance to practice genuine bhakti-yoga within an external culture that is comfortable and natural for them.” The big idea behind Krishna West is that bhakti is internal whereas culture is external, and their aim is to establish a complete and mature Krishna conscious community on this principle.

In some respects, Krishna West’s approach to preaching is no different from other long-standing bridge-preaching programs like spaghetti night at the local university or the successful loft program pioneered in Australia, whose focus was to create a “hang-out” for young people so they could feel comfortable, make friends with devotees and eventually become devotees. The idea is that there is a kind of cultural rift that prevents people who would otherwise like to become devotees but due to cultural attachments won’t. Therefore, as its name implies, the program tries to “bridge” that cultural divide and make it easier for them to cross over to Krishna consciousness. Successful bridge-preaching programs generally have to deemphasize certain aspects of ISKCON’s internal culture in order to be effective.

But Krishna West is different from these past and on-going bridge-preaching projects in that it aims to establish a fully Krishna conscious society on the idea that culture is external to bhakti, that it is irrelevant. Bridge-preaching before Krishna West had always operated under the assumption that once one becomes serious about Krishna consciousness, he, or she, will automatically warm up to ISKCON’s internal culture. Krishna West, however, rejects this assumption. Because they say that culture is external, encouraging others to adopt some other culture foreign to their own tastes should be discouraged and considered undesirable. Since they regard culture as external to bhakti, they consider culture to be just as irrelevant in the mature stage of Krishna consciousness as it is in the beginning. The Krishna conscious community envisioned by Krishna West is therefore bridge-preaching scaled up from a peripheral outreach program to an extensive, fully mature, Krishna conscious society, but one in which culture is considered irrelevant to Krishna consciousness. read more

Where Do the Fallen Souls Fall From?

When we hear that we live in this material world because we are “fallen souls,” it’s natural for us to ask, “Where have we fallen from?”

Srila Prabhupada says that as living souls we are all originally Krishna conscious. But what does that mean? Were we all originally with Krishna in the spiritual world? And if so, how could we ever have fallen? InBhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, “Once you attain to that spiritual world, you never fall.” So how then could we have fallen from there to begin with?

Some have tried to work around this problem by suggesting a different idea: We fell not from Krishna’s personal abode but from the brahmajyoti, the effulgent light that surrounds it. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam, yogis who seek the impersonal aspect of the Supreme may merge into that effulgent light—only to fall back later to the material world. Perhaps, then, we originally fell from the brahmajyoti. read more

Covering The Head Has Nothing To Do With Muslims

This is a response to a comment made by Gaura Keshava Prabhu in which he espouses the opinion that head covering by North Indian women is an imposition from Islam.

The theory that North Indian women cover their head with a sari because of Islamic influence is not a sound idea for several reasons. There are places in North India that had very little or no Islamic political domination yet the women cover their heads with sari. And there are large swaths of South India that were under Islamic domination for centuries and the women there don’t cover their heads with saris.

Nepali lady with head covered at marriage read more

Nothing Can Taint The Words Of Srila Prabhupada

Q: Prabhu, how to distribute books if they are stolen from us by treacherous generals? You see, I’m angry. Isn’t spiritual knowledge so delicate in its conveyance? Don’t we become camp followers by spreading knowledge that has already tainted spots? Isn’t that a trap for others and ourselves? Prabhu, kindly help this lost soul in his confused state, that does not know what to be done and what not to be done.

A: Dear Bolo Gauranga Prabhu, whoever you are. Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Assuming that your “anger” is powered by real concern for the purity of Srila Prabhupada’s movement and the maintenance of His legacy, I can only say that such purity would be certainly far more effectively protected if book distribution would be worldwide considered absolute priority as it was the case during Srila Prabhupada’s presence. And so I can only answer as follows: read more

Chastity – What Does It Actually Mean?

On the 26th of July we welcomed 40 ladies in Kharkov/Ukraine, who had traveled all the way from Moscow, Minsk, Moldova, Crimea and various corners of Ukraine to participate in the two-week course for ladies entitled “Exploring the Roots of Spiritual Culture”. As every year we had arranged for their accomodation in a nearby hostel of a ladies’ college. Our youngest participant was ten years of age and the oldest mid fifty, and everyone was excited to embark on this transformational journey. Each and every participant received a colorful folder with printed materials and articles. We had a tight schedule with a three hours’ session in the mornings, and another 2 hours in the afternoon. Every morning we began the lessons with a role play demonstrating the topics of the previous day’s discussions. Whenever ten-year old Manjari took part, the role plays were especially heart moving and sweet.

One of the many captivating topics was chastity – what exactly does it mean? These days we often have a very shallow and superficial understanding of this most important quality, and since women in materialistic culture don’t aspire for it at all, the term is therefore almost lost and forgotten today. I distinctly remember how I was preaching at a Sunday program many years ago in Sydney, Australia, and I mentioned this term ‘chastity’ to some newcomers. One of the ladies exclaimed with a thousand question marks written all over her face: “Chastity? What’s THAT??” Also in the German language the term chastity (Keuschheit) sounds like something from the Middle Ages.

The two main tools for a woman to cultivate chastity are tolerance and shyness. Unless a woman is tolerant, she will demand, complain, answer back, get disturbed at the slightest provocation and inconvenience, and can easily leave her husband and walk out. Tolerance is a most important quality within spiritual practice. It is the main criterion in order to measure a devotee’s advancement and spiritual strength. Tolerance indicates that the false ego is subdued and reduced. Prahlada Maharaja and Haridas Thakur are always famous examples for the topmost level of tolerance. Also Devahuti serves as a wonderful example of a wife following her husband in utter tolerance and submission. And she received such outstanding rewards— great opulences in the flying mansion which Kardama Muni created, and finally giving birth to the Supreme Lord Himself! What more would a woman desire?! She received those wonderful benedictions by paying the price of serving her husband in tolerance and submission. The main tools for cultivating tolerance however are humility and firm faith in Krsna. Unless these two elements are there, it will be impossible for a person to be tolerant. read more

Krsna’s sweetness

I remember, one year I was with Sacinandana Maharaj and a whole group of devotees on a boat, sailing in Danish waters. Maharaj gave this seminar about Krsna’s sweetness. It was all about Krsna being so sweet, looks so sweet… and this sweet and that sweet… and at one point, it just got too sweet for me.

Having a bad character and being not sweet myself, when things get too sweet, I cannot handle the sweetness. So, I spoke after Maharaj and I said, “Well, I very much appreciate the presentation of Sacinandana Maharaj but I have one little question. Why is it that in the Middle Ages, one third of the world population died of the Black plague? Why is that just a decade ago, in three days, five million people were killed in Rwanda? In one night in Bangladesh, five hundred thousand people drowned? Where is your sweet Krsna in the middle of all that? Is that sweet also?“

So I asked him, how is Krsna so sweet? I remember that he rolled-up the sleeves of his sweater and he even loosened his scarf. He was getting serious and philosophically explained how even this is sweet, bitter sweet! Because ultimately, the sweetness of Krsna means that Krsna will leave no stone unturned. Krsna is not a passive Lord who is just seated on a throne, accepting our offerings – another golden plate with beautiful fruits, “Bless, bless…” No. That is not Krsna. Krsna is the one who, out of his sweetness, is destroying our material life. As death he destroys everything. He acts as a destroyer – very sweet. Simply because Krsna cannot wait. read more