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Giving From Nature

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 25, 2013

Flowers“The Lord says, patram pushpam phalam: He is ready to accept from the devotee any kind of offering, never mind what. Even a leaf, a flower, a bit of fruit, or a little water, which are all available in every part of the world, can be offered by any person, regardless of social position, and will be accepted if offered with love.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2 Purport)

“A friend’s wedding is coming up. It’s tough to figure out what to do as far as a gift goes. Cash doesn’t seem right to me. There’s no thought in that. You’re showing up to a party that someone else invited you to, and then you give them money? That’s like paying to get in. It’s not really a festive occasion then. There’s something expected. Anyway, to not give a gift is bad, so I will have to give something. I see that they are registered at an online retail outlet. This is perfect, I think. I’ll buy something that they’ve listed on there. This way they’ll get something they want, I won’t have to carry it with me to the wedding, and everyone will be happy.”

“I’m going to a friend’s house tonight for dinner. I should pick up something along the way. It’s considered rude to show up empty-handed. I will stop at the doughnut place first. I’ll get a dozen or so doughnuts, of assorted flavors. This will be perfect, since we are being served dinner. This will take care of the dessert portion, and I’ll be able to get some enjoyment from the gift too.”

“It’s my wife’s birthday today. I will buy her flowers. I can’t go wrong with that. I’m not so used to purchasing flowers, but I see there is a section at the local supermarket. I’ll walk over there and see what they can do for me. They seem to have a good selection. The flowers look fresh as well. Getting a dozen or so will help me to meet my obligation to my wife.”

flowersIn studying the science of bhakti-yoga, we learn that offering something as simple as a leaf, a flower, or water will bring tremendous benefits. The mood of the offering is what counts, as the beneficiary already has everything. Though it may seem silly to go to the store to pick up a flower to be offered on an altar, we already do similar things quite frequently. From the above mentioned hypothetical situations, objects created by others routinely serve as gifts, with others thinking nothing of it.

What would they think?

Well, when purchasing a gift online for a wedding, it’s not like the gift-giver has created the gift. They didn’t even have to take much effort. They simply looked at a site, picked what appeared to be interesting, and then made the purchase. Someone else did the majority of the work. The company manufactured the product. The other company sold it, and one of their distributors handled the packaging and shipping. Someone else, namely the people getting married, even picked out the item. Despite so much influence removed from the part of the gift-giver, the gift is appreciated all the same.

Wedding registryFlowers are created through nature’s arrangement. The seed cannot be created by any human being. You must find those flowers in nature. There is effort in planting the seed and then waiting for the flowers to bloom, but again the effort is only fruitful when other aspects of nature cooperate. Only when the soil is fertile, the weather just right, and there is ample water available can there be flowers to be used as a gift later on.

The doughnuts in this instance are created by someone else. They are not baked for the specific benefit of the person hosting the dinner. They are made with profit in mind. That is the point to the shop. It is in business to stay in business. To stay in business requires profit, which in this case comes from the sale of doughnuts. The gift-giver has done nothing but exchanged some time in work for a finished product. The exchanged item is then given as a viable gift.

Doughnut plant doughnutsThe gifts are accepted by the recipients because of the thought put in. In the same way, the offering to God is accepted wholeheartedly when the intentions are right. The Supreme Lord has everything, so what does He need from anyone? The flower is generated by Him. Water comes from Him as well. Thus in the offering process the worshiper essentially takes something that God already created and then presents it as a gift. It’s like someone going into your room, taking your favorite shirt, wrapping it up in a package, and then presenting it to you on your birthday. This would seem silly, but the same practice with God is so much appreciated.

From such offerings made on a regular basis, the consciousness of the worshiper changes. No longer do they think that they are the sole proprietors of the land on the earth. No longer do they seek only to satisfy their own sense demands, which can never be fully met. Instead, they think only of how to continue in service, and since it is to God, the all-attractive Lord, they remain blissful in the process.

Nimai NitaiThese objects come from nature, and their proper use is in devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. The water has no other purpose except to be used in increasing the devotional consciousness of every individual. Water used for forgetting God thus does not have the same potency. In that use it cannot change consciousness for the better. On the flip side, if placed in a tiny vessel and presented before a picture representation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the water becomes the purest beverage. Its taste is instantly charged with the potency of the all-powerful.

Even if there is no water around to offer, one is not shut out from the offering process. Through chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” one can offer sound. Just like the offered water and flowers, this sound directed at God in a mood of love has tremendous potency, so much so that it changes consciousness quickly and permanently, leading to the best condition.

In Closing:

Tonight to friend’s house to go,

That I must bring something I know.

 

Some doughnuts from shop I will take,

Gift appreciated though I did not bake.

 

Take gifts of nature in the same way,

Offer to God, with love and devotion pray.

 

No water, then no problem still,

With sounds of holy names air to fill.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Leftovers

Posted by krishnasmercy on September 4, 2012

Lord Krishna“Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu considered, ‘Where has such a taste in this prasada come from? Certainly it is due to its having been touched by the nectar of Krishna’s lips.’” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 16.94)

One of the benefits of visiting a temple where Shri Krishna or one of His non-different expansions is worshiped is the prasadam distribution. The deity is non-different from the worshiped personality, as the process is authorized since time immemorial. At the end of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Krishna Himself briefly touches on the principles behind deity worship and how it is to be performed. Even prior to that time, the tradition of worshiping a statue made of wood, stone, or resin existed, and when performed properly the worshipers derived tremendous transcendental benefits. The combination of sincerity and purity in items offered returns a potent potion to feed the spiritual hunger that everyone has inside of them.

How do we know there is a spiritual hunger? Material hunger can never bring full satisfaction. This is because our identity does not come from the material elements that surround the soul. The eyes, ears, legs and hands are body parts, so they help us to act, feel and will, but they do not determine our existence. Any one of these parts can go out of commission, either temporarily or permanently, and that automatically doesn’t stop our existence. Relying solely on sense satisfaction fails to bring real pleasure, as the soul inside is what craves ananda, or bliss.

Spiritual hunger is fed through yoga, or connection of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. As this connection is difficult to maintain in a land where the inferior energy known as material nature is mistakenly assumed to be superior, there are various tools of implementation to help the suffering individual. Deity worship is one such tool, and when it is utilized as part of an overall discipline of bhakti-yoga, it alone can lead to perfection.

Can you have deity worship outside of bhakti? Bhakti is love of the divine variety. It is different from what we normally consider to be love, which is usually lust or some emotion tied to the ego. For instance, we think we love someone else, but usually the sentiment is tied to an emotional response we receive. Our significant other makes us feel good. They act in a way that brings pleasure to the heart; hence we think we love them. But when they cease to behave in such a manner, the loving sentiment changes. Therefore the original emotion can not be classified as real love, which cannot depend on reciprocation.

Real love exists only in bhakti, which is devotion to God. You can have devotion to many other divine figures, but that sort of relationship is similar to the friendships we form in everyday life. Worshiping a deity of a divine personality who provides temporary material rewards is akin to conducting a business transaction; so bhakti in this case is absent.

In the deity worship authorized by the respected figures who take charge in teaching bhakti-yoga, the sole desire is to love God. Even if there is impurity mixed in at the beginning, since the object of worship is God Himself, the original Personality, eventually the impurities will be removed, provided the worship continues in sincerity and in an authorized manner.

To stand in front of the deity and stare at it is one way to worship. Another way is to offer obeisances, such as bowing down in front. Another way is to offer prayers, sort of like talking to God. Part of this worshiping process, which is known as archanam, is offering pure items to the deity’s liking. In the Vedic tradition the Supreme Lord in His original form is known as Krishna, and He has kindly told us what items He prefers.

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that if someone offers Him a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or some water with love, He will accept the offering. Krishna doesn’t require food to eat, as He is entirely self-sufficient. If He so desires, He can create thousands of fruit bearing trees in an instant. He can also create a mechanism to pick the fruits and bring them to Him. With the offerings from the devotees, Krishna does not consume everything. In fact, to the worshiper, it appears that Krishna doesn’t eat at all, as the food remains right where it is.

But in reality, the Supreme Lord puts His glance on the food, and it is considered eaten by Him. What gets returned to the worshiper can be considered leftovers. Normally, such a practice is quite repugnant, akin to getting back a sandwich that is half-eaten by someone else. The food has been in someone else’s mouth and it has their saliva on it, so why would we want to touch it?

IMG_0192But with Krishna prasadam, the same contact has a purifying effect. Indeed, such remnants are available from the spiritual master’s food as well, offering the disciple a wonderful chance to make rapid progress in their devotional practices. The anchor that keeps one firmly fixed to the material creation is the false ego, which takes the individual self to be the enjoyer and the material elements to be a vehicle for that enjoyment. Under a pure ego, the individual rightfully identifies as a servant of God and then uses the same material nature for the Lord’s pleasure. The spiritual master is God’s representative, so he is to be treated as good as the Lord, though he is never actually equal to Him.

When Krishna appeared on earth as Lord Chaitanya, He relished the role of servant of God. He would take the prasadam of Lord Jagannatha at the temple in Puri. Due to the intoxicating taste, Lord Chaitanya would know that the food had indeed touched Krishna’s lips. This is the magic that exists in all aspects of bhakti-yoga, as the names of the Supreme Lord also originally descend from the Lord’s lips. So, by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, one can relish a similar taste, except this time the tongue produces the nectar and the ears then consume it. This mantra is regularly heard in Krishna temples, where sumptuous prasadam is also available, allowing any person to rapidly progress in meeting life’s ultimate aim.

In Closing:

The gift of the tongue let me not waste,

Krishna’s prasadam daily let me taste.

 

Food that Krishna’s lips have touched,

Carries transcendental potency much.

 

The Lord glances and then leaves behind the rest,

Acquiring taste then that is the best.

 

Not a tale, this explanation with sincerity buy,

Visit Krishna temple and for yourself try.

 

Same potency in holy names to hear,

Chant often and bring nectar to the ear.

www.krishnasmercy.org

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Free Food

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 8, 2012

Krishna eating butter“Without distribution of food, no function is complete, and that is the way of Vedic culture.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.11.15 Purport)

You can never go wrong distributing food for free to guests. Should a person not be hungry they still might indulge in a few delicacies if they are offered them without charge. If the food items look delicious, if they stimulate the taste buds upon first glance, then why not at least try some of the food, see if it is worth tasting? This tendency in the human being can be used to the advantage of the sincere spiritualist looking to revive God consciousness within the society at large. Everyone is hungry, so why not feed them the remnants of sanctified food, items which are offered in a mood of love and devotion? This sort of consumption can start a spiritual revival whose benefits spread throughout the population.

The cable television network ESPN years back started running a series of now famous commercials to promote its nightly highlights show called Sportscenter. These advertisements showcased some of the on-air talent, depicting mock scenes from within the offices where the personalities would interact with each other and sometimes with professional athletes. In one of the commercials, one of the anchorpersons for Sportscenter is sitting at his desk, which is in a sort of cubicle area, and watching people run by him, one after another. In a quiet office environment a person running through the halls will garner attention. Similar to hearing the wailing sirens of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars out on the streets, the person whizzing by your desk will not go unnoticed.

After a few moments, the man sitting at his desk starts to wonder what the commotion is about. Are people playing a game? Are they running to try to catch the person running away? Is there an emergency situation that one should know about? Next thing you know, the man at the desk checks his email. He has a new note that was sent to the entire office. It reads something like, “Leftover muffins and donuts in the conference room.” As soon as he reads the email he jumps out of his seat and runs towards the conference room, essentially following the same behavior of the other workers in the office.

blueberry muffinsGood humor always has an element of truth to it, and there is no doubt that if you announce that there is free food available to an office full of employees, there will be a mad dash towards the area where the food is sitting. Should you have already eaten your lunch or breakfast, there is no matter, for how often do you get free food? Plus, you better take advantage, as you don’t know when this perk will come around again. Someone else is paying for it, so you wouldn’t want their money to go to waste, would you?

In Vedic culture, this tendency in the human being is fully accounted for and taken advantage of at the same time. Yet, just as with the Christmas season it is said that it is better to give than to receive, the initial offering in these Vedic functions is what matters most. The cycle is complete when the remnants are distributed to as many people as possible. So what is the difference between giving out this food right after it is cooked versus offering it to someone else first?

The act of love and devotion is what makes the remnants taste so nice. The food turns into a healing potion through the love that goes into the preparation and offering process. The person accepting the offering is pleased not by the amount of food nor its exact makeup but rather by the underlying sentiment. That’s because the person accepting the food is not hungry at all. He has everything He needs; hence one way to describe Him is atmarama, or completely satisfied in the self.

If He is in need of nothing, why does He recommend we offer Him things? In the Bhagavad-gita, this recommendation is made by Him in His original form of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Offer Krishna a leaf, a flower, fruit or water with love and devotion and He will gladly accept it. No need to go to great lengths if you don’t have the time. Rich or poor, young or old, anyone can make a simple and sincere offering and purify their consciousness in the process.

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

Lord KrishnaBut Krishna is the superior entity. He possesses the largest wealth, as everything in this world belongs to Him. If He’s got it all, shouldn’t He be the one giving gifts? Shouldn’t we pray to Him to offer us kind rewards such as beauty, good birth, and intelligence? Actually, these kinds of gifts are already available without an explicit request. The animals don’t have the ability to pray, but nature provides for their necessities regardless. The human being also has an abundant supply of water, milk and grains, which are generally easy to procure and relatively inexpensive.

The offering is made to Krishna for the benefit of the person doing the offering. As the living entity is the constitutionally subordinate entity, humbly submitting before the superior Krishna is the natural order of things. Through this method one finds the happiness they are looking for. If you think that you’re superior and don’t need to surrender to God, why do you offer so much service to other people already? If you didn’t have the service mentality within you, you wouldn’t be inclined towards the behavior even in the absence of a spiritual awakening.

With the process of offering food to Krishna, the service propensity is purified. At the same time, those who may not be willing to hear the truths of Vedanta – whose final conclusion is that one surrender to God in a mood of love and be delivered from all negative reactions – can gradually progress in consciousness by partaking of the remnants of the offerings made to Krishna. Thus the devotee who serves Krishna simultaneously does the best service to mankind through their love. Opening a hospital primarily affects those who will use the facility. The same goes for opening a school. Donating food to the poor and helping the distressed have a temporary influence only on the affected parties.

With bringing what remains of offerings to Krishna [prasadam] to as many people as possible, the right consciousness is gradually instilled within the consumers. From a proper consciousness one learns how to shape their activities so that they can simultaneously keep in line with piety and receive repeated happiness. That proper consciousness can then be spread to others as well. At the end of life, the cycle of birth and death is finished for the God conscious soul. If the catalyst for this awakening is the smelling of a flower offered to Krishna or the eating of foodstuff kindly prepared for the Lord, then the person making the offering deserves so much credit for their kind and influential work.

Flowers offered to Krishna's feetThis tradition of offering food to Krishna and then distributing it as part of a formal function has been carried out since time immemorial. When the Lord was present on this earth the tradition was also followed. One time He returned home to Dvaraka from Hastinapura, and the citizens laid out all sorts of offerings in His honor. They lived in an opulent city populated by the Yadu dynasty, so no one spared any expense in the celebration. When Krishna arrived to His city, He saw so many nice decorations and offerings of flowers and curd preparations laid out in front of the houses.

The same style of offering was seen many thousands of years prior when Krishna in His form of Lord Rama returned home to Ayodhya. That celebration later turned into the tradition known as Diwali, which is still celebrated today. The “festival of lights” as it is known now, Diwali sees the homes of devotees decorated with many lamps, flowers, and food offerings made to the Supreme Lord.

These offerings never go to waste. The people setting them up get to think of their beloved Bhagavan during the work. We have to apply work to support an end, so depending on the nature of that supported structure, our consciousness will have a specific object to focus on. If our work is to support our family, we will have one kind of consciousness. Better than this is to work to support a lifestyle focused on bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Through this method even routine work such as bathing in the morning and commuting to the office helps to support a purified consciousness.

In addition to the purification in consciousness within the workers making the offerings, there is the benefit received from distributing the remnants. In temples devoted to Shri Krishna and His non-different Vishnu forms there is regular distribution of prasadam. Chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and eat prasadam. This formula is simple enough that it can be followed by anyone, and pleasurable enough that it can be repeated day after day. The offerings made to Krishna upon His return to Dvaraka weren’t the first ones He ever accepted, but He still enjoyed them so much because of the love that went into them. To find happiness in this life and the next, think of your home as situated in Dvaraka and pretend that Krishna is returning there today from Hastinapura. Welcome Him nicely with kind offerings and then distribute them to as many people as possible. In this way stay connected with the charming Shyamasundara, from whom the bountiful gifts of nature emanate.

In Closing:

Everyone running to room meant for a break,

So that leftover muffins and donuts they can take.

 

Free food always to put a smile on the face,

Sumptuous food to delight buds of taste.

 

Vedas take advantage of this tendency in man,

With prasadam distribution help society you can.

 

Take simple flower, water, or make a luscious cake,

With love and devotion to Krishna offering make.

 

With sincerity in emotion Lord offering will accept,

The kind attention of loving devotees He will never reject.

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Better To Give

Posted by krishnasmercy on January 17, 2011

Lord Krishna “One cannot satisfy the Supreme Lord by his riches, wealth or opulent position, but anyone can collect a little fruit or a flower and offer it to the Lord. The Lord says that if one brings such an offering in devotion, He will accept it and eat it. When Krishna eats, the entire world becomes satisfied.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 9.44 Purport)

The old adage, “Tis better to give than to receive”, is invoked quite often, especially during the Christmas holiday season. In America especially, Christmas brings with it the frantic search for gifts, with young children standing to benefit the most from the receipt of heaps of presents. Those who are able to anticipate such an event start to ponder over what they will receive and how they will enjoy it. In such circumstances, the parents and other wise elderly members of society will remind everyone that the act of giving is actually the greatest gift, for receiving doesn’t result in as much pleasure as bringing a smile to someone else’s face. If this principle holds true in our worldly dealings, it most certainly must apply to our relationship with the most loveable object, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna.

Lord Krishna Why do we enjoy receiving gifts? The answer is quite obvious. For starters, a gift will have some value to us. In our youth, the annual “back to school” season, which signaled the end of the summer holiday, meant it was time to go shopping for new clothes. In some states, this time of year brings discounted prices and relief from sales tax. Parents make sure their children are well-equipped with the latest clothing, outerwear, and footwear. But when we get older, there really isn’t a need to buy new clothes. The body stops growing at around eighteen years of age, so if our clothes don’t wear out, there is no reason to buy new ones, save for fashion considerations.

In adulthood, the gift-giving times of the year are when we’ll likely receive new clothes such as sweaters, dress pants, and dress shirts. Gifts are always nice to receive because the act of giving shows that someone else cares about us. In addition, there is a use for the items we receive. For children, the annual occasions which call for the giving of gifts bring about enjoyable presents such as new toys, video games, bicycles, and other entertainment items. More humbling than the actual gift is the thought that goes into it. If too many extravagant gifts are given, the receiver will likely become spoiled. If we get something very expensive as a gift in one year, the next year we will expect something even better. Therefore it is wiser for the gift-giver to present something from the heart, an object whose sentimental value exceeds its worldly value.

Lord Krishna Goswami Tulsidas, the great devotee of Lord Rama, accurately notes that the worldly value of an object, i.e. what society deems to be valuable or worthless, generally remains steady, despite what a particular individual’s estimation might be. For example, if something very expensive such as jewelry and gold is tossed aside by one who is not very intelligent, the worldly value of the object doesn’t change. On the flip side, something which is used by Lord Krishna, God Himself, doesn’t necessarily increase in worldly value due to its association with the Divine. Lord Krishna regularly wore peacock feathers in His hair and black ointment around His eyes, yet these items remain relatively inexpensive on the open market.

More important than worldly value is sentimental value. When a gift is given from the heart, it takes on more meaning, especially when the flickering nature of material happiness brought on by association with objects which have a high worldly value is understood. In the famous American television sitcom Cheers, there was one episode in particular which dealt with such gift-giving issues. One of the main characters on the show, a bartender named Woody, started dating a girl named Kelly who was from a very wealthy family. Woody was invited to one of Kelly’s birthday parties and he was worried about what to bring as a present. At the party, Kelly opened up all her presents, which included lavish items such as a new Mercedes automobile, while Woody’s gift to her was a song that he wrote and performed in front of her. After hearing the song, Kelly asked Woody where his real present was.

Long story short, Woody finally explained to Kelly that he didn’t have money and that the song was his gift to her. Understanding the true sentiment behind the gesture, she realized that his gift was more valuable than anything else she had ever received. The appreciation of the pure motives behind a kind act unlocks the secret to gift-giving; it’s the thought that counts. The more thought and emotion you put into a particular gift, the greater the value it will have to the receiver. This rule applies especially to our dealings with the Supreme Lord.

Lord Krishna God is indeed a person. Depending on the scriptures that are read and a person’s angle of vision, the Lord may be taken as an impersonal effulgence whose attributes are not clearly defined, a powerful localized spirit, or a grand personality full of every opulence. This last viewpoint is the most accurate, for it includes the other two. Under the most complete angle of vision, the liberated soul sees God for who He is: Bhagavan. The Supreme Personality is not the sole property of any group of individuals, and neither is He a figment of anyone’s imagination. Though our bodies always change, Bhagavan’s does not. He remains transcendentally situated for all of eternity, with His various energy expansions taking care of what we deem as vital functions such as creation, maintenance, and dissolution.

There are different scriptures and religious systems, but the variety of spiritual traditions doesn’t indicate that there are different Gods. For example, if someone were to write our biography, the accounts would vary depending on who was writing the book. Our mother would tell our life’s story from a certain perspective, as would our father. Our siblings would have a completely different viewpoint of our activities and nature. Along the same lines, liberated souls view the Lord in different moods of transcendental love, thus there are various scriptures which detail the Lord’s attributes and activities. Some individuals are even devoted to the Lord through an inimical attitude; hence they author books which put forth philosophies that are grounded in atheism.

“They [the asuras] say that this world is unreal, that there is no foundation and that there is no God in control. It is produced of sex desire, and has no cause other than lust.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.8)

Lord Krishna Since only the works compiled and authored by the bhaktas describe the Lord in His original forms that are full of potent features, taking to philosophies written in the moods of enmity and envy will lead the followers astray. The difference in the two paths can be thought of in this way: Krishna’s multitudinous energy expansions generally belong to one of two categories: spiritual and material. Association with spirit brings spiritual rewards, while association with matter brings results of the material variety. Spirit is permanent, immutable, and blissful, while matter is impermanent, mutable, and the source of misery. Both are energies of Krishna’s, but only the spiritual side leads to association with Krishna and thus positive results.

Krishna’s feature as Bhagavan is the most complete because it allows for interactions between the individuals souls and the Supreme Soul. It is the nature of the individual spiritual spark, the atma, to crave companionship and enjoyment through association with other spiritual entities. The tendency towards divine love is an intrinsic property of the soul, therefore taking to acts of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is the natural engagement of the individual.

When the natural loving propensity is covered up or redirected elsewhere, activities of altruism and affection for friends, family and nation take effect. The loving nature of spirit is actually responsible for the practice of gift-giving. Since everything in this world is a reflection of the purified version of the same object belonging to the spiritual world, even the practice of giving gifts to others is something that is seen in Krishna’s land. As such, we can most certainly have the same exchanges of heartfelt gifts and their resulting emotions with the Supreme Lord.

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.26)

Lord Krishna with Mother Yashoda But what can we give Krishna? Can we give him money? Who do we send it to and how do we offer it? He created everything in this world after all, so why would He accept anything we gave Him? Lord Krishna is the seed-giving father of this universe; thus everything, including vegetation, grains, fruits, water and milk are coming from Him. In the conditioned state, however, one is forgetful of this fact. Gathering seeds in the hand, one puts them into the ground, tills the soil and then regularly waters the surrounding areas to bring about growth in the form of plants, which eventually bear fruits that are enjoyed. The bewildered spirit soul, conditioned by the three modes of material nature [goodness, passion and ignorance] views himself as the doer of activities. The individual certainly takes the impetus for action in the seed-planting scenario, but wherefrom did they get the water and soil needed to grow the plant? Where did they get the sunlight necessary for photosynthesis? These things are taken for granted, for the sun and earthly elements existed long before our present birth.

Yet just as we came from somewhere, namely the womb of our mother, the elements of this world, including the incomprehensible sun, have a source: God. Therefore instead of being proud of their abilities to secure fruits through worldly activity, a wise person will realize that nothing is possible without the intervention of God. Not even a blade of grass can move without Krishna’s intervention. The pandita, a learned man who views all living entities equally, sees the hand of Supreme Spirit in everything. Therefore, even when eating sumptuous food, the humble sage will make sure to offer up such items to the Supreme Lord first.

“I consider that this quantity of chipped rice will not only satisfy Me, but will satisfy the whole creation.” (Lord Krishna speaking to Sudama Vipra, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 26)

Lord Krishna welcoming Sudama Vipra How do we know if Krishna will accept such items? How can the offering be made to Him? Fortunately for us, the Lord has appeared on this earth many times in the past. While roaming the earth in the guise of a human form – one so enchanting that others mistakenly took it to be the body of an ordinary, but beautiful, mortal being – Krishna gave practical evidence to support the statements of the Vedas that glorify His nature. In the Bhagavad-gita, the most complete and authorized Vedic text, Krishna assures Arjuna that He accepts simple things such as fruit, water and flowers when offered to Him with love and devotion. This is not simply a theoretical statement, but a fact substantiated by Krishna’s personal dealings with others. A poor brahmana named Sudama once visited Krishna and only brought with him a small bag of chipped rice. Since it was not a very extravagant gift, the brahmana was so ashamed to present his offering to Krishna, but the Lord, as antaryami, or the omnipresent witness, knew of the chipped rice and snatched it away from the brahmana and began to eat it. Krishna enjoyed this rice more than any ordinary elaborate preparation since it was brought to Him with love and devotion.

Krishna doesn’t even have to perceivably partake of the offering to accept it. In a previous time, Bhagavan roamed the earth in the guise of a pious prince named Rama. In accordance with an order given by His father, Rama traversed the expansive wilderness located in the area today known as India for fourteen years, living the life of a mendicant. Early on in His journey, He was greeted kindly by the Nishada chief, Guha. Guha was so pleased to have Lord Rama visit him that he offered the Lord wonderful food to eat. Shri Rama, appreciating Guha’s sentiments, informed him that He had taken a vow to live the life of an ascetic and thus He couldn’t partake of the nice preparations. A vow is a vow after all, so it shouldn’t be broken even if someone else is offering us gifts out of kind sentiments. Lord Rama informed Guha that if he could take care of the group’s horses, which were driven at the time by the royal charioteer Sumantra, He would be equally as pleased. Rama also made sure to tell Guha that his offerings, though not eaten, were wholly accepted by Him.

Lord Rama The dedicated, faithful and unwavering servants of Bhagavan are His representatives on earth. Just as the pleasure of the horses brought satisfaction to Shri Rama, the pleasure of the brahmanas, the saintly class of men, brings the greatest joy to the Lord. If we want to offer something nice to God, the proper etiquette is to first present the offering to a bona fide brahmana, a guru who teaches us about Krishna and His glories. When simple offerings such as fruits, water and milk are offered to the guru, the gifts eventually make their way to Krishna. Usually the offering is presented in front of a deity representation of the Lord, the non-different archa-vigraha expansion which brings the divine vision of Bhagavan and His pleasure potencies. But even if we only offer our food to the guru, the kind gesture will still please Krishna just the same.

“That thing which comes to Me at the destruction of friends or relatives I do not accept, just like food mixed with poison.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 97.4)

The key is to make an offering with love and devotion. While our gift to Krishna can be something as simple as water, the idea is that we should offer whatever we are capable of preparing and giving up. Sacrifice performed with the mood of love and devotion, keeping in mind what Krishna likes and what He doesn’t like, is what matters. Krishna especially prefers milk products and sweets, so usually the best offerings are those which combine both aspects. The Lord doesn’t accept meat, for it involves violence towards animals. Other divine figures, such as the demigods in charge of the material creation, may accept meat offerings from time to time, but such worship is not in the mode of goodness. Bhakti transcends all the material modes of nature, thus there is no need for harming anyone while practicing the religion of love. The Lord will not accept anything that comes at the expense of another innocent living entity.

Bhakti is available for every single person. Even the poorest man can take some water and offer it to Krishna. The Lord is bestowing His gifts upon us every day, but giving is more satisfying than receiving. By viewing every day as a new opportunity to give back to Krishna, we can take the necessary steps to rekindle our eternal loving relationship with the ultimate reservoir of pleasure. When Krishna eats, the whole world eats, so the potency of the process of transcendental gift-giving should not be overlooked.

Krishna and Balarama deities Gift-giving is also a reminder of how others feel towards us. Even a married couple which has successfully raised multiple children and been faithful to each other still can be doubtful of the level of affection harbored by the spouse. “Does he still love me the same way? Does she not love me now that I’m older?” Such doubts are quite natural, so the gift-giving season helps lovers solidify their relationship and reestablish their dedication and love. Similarly, though we are natural lovers of God, sometimes the loving propensity is forgotten. In fact, the forgetfulness of our relationship to the Supreme Spirit is the root cause behind the existence of the phenomenal world. Therefore it is vital to take the necessary steps to remind Krishna just how much we love Him. Through acts of bhakti, which involve hearing, chanting, remembering, and worship of the deity, we can remind the Lord every day just how much He means to us. Such a practice will solidify our relationship with Him and allow us to return to the spiritual sky after our time on earth is finished.

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Thanksgiving 2010

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 24, 2010

Mother Yashoda and Lord Krishna “The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)

Thanksgiving is one of the important holidays in the American tradition. Known for its bringing of families together through frantic travelling and the eating of large portions of food, Thanksgiving has become a tradition of culture shared by citizens from diverse backgrounds. The origins of the holiday are completely grounded in religion, with the original event serving as a way of giving thanks to the Supreme Lord for all His blessings. The lessons of Thanksgiving also unlock the secret to economic freedom and the real purpose of human life.

Thanksgiving Economics is a widely discussed and studied topic because there always seems to be those who are dissatisfied with the outcomes that result. Even in the greatest of economic booms, there are people who are deemed to be suffering, those not participating in the economic largesse of the time. There are many purported experts on economics; intellectuals who hold panel discussions or come out with books which prescribe what should be done to stimulate the economy of a particular area. Stimulus is the main focus, with each expert having their own idea on what it takes to create a viable economy. Yet from studying the example of a small group of brave individuals some four hundred years ago, we see that the secret to economic success doesn’t lie with charts, tables, textbooks, stimulus, or tax policy, but rather with a firm and untiring belief in God and respect for His children.

Economics is actually quite easy to understand, provided that one is honest in assessing their own behavior. The economic viability of a particular region is dependent on the independent actions of many smaller entities. If we can understand how we operate and what our thought process behind making economic-related actions is, we can understand how the system works on a macro level. The driving force behind economic activity is artha, which is the Sanskrit word for profit or economic development. It is in the fiber of the being of the individual to search after its self-interest, or profit. This is often mistaken to mean selfishness, but self-interest is something much simpler and non-threatening. For example, waking up on time in the morning to ensure reaching the office at a specific hour is an act of self-interest. Getting to work on time will equate to keeping one’s job, which will then allow such a person to pay their bills on time. The driving force is self-interest, the search for profit and the desire to maintain one’s livelihood.

The entire economic system follows the same model. People want to work for a living and be paid as much money as possible while providing the least amount of work. The proprietor of a business wants to turn a profit selling their good or service. This shop owner wants their business to be as productive as possible, which means generating the greatest amount of output with the least amount of cost. The consumer is looking to pay the cheapest price for a good that is of the highest quality. All of these factors can balance themselves out, but we see that the driving force is incentive, the desire to fulfill one’s self-interest. Economics experts and politicians run into problems when they only choose to focus on one area of interest, while neglecting others. Since everyone is acting in their self-interest, it would be silly to say that one person’s interest is of more value than another’s. By saying that one business is worthy of succeeding, i.e. turning a profit at a decent rate of productivity, over another, the principle of artha is quantified, something which doesn’t square with the equality that is shared amongst living entities. Yet this preferential treatment is precisely what occurs through targeted economic policy. It is not surprising then to see the angst and dissatisfaction that results.

mayflower_17540_lg A small group of settlers was faced with their own economic issues several hundred of years ago. This group had escaped the land they called home due to the oppressive nature of the government. Desiring more than just economic freedom, this group wanted to freely practice their religion, their worship of God, without any force or coercion from higher authorities.

“Any person who desires the fruits of the four principles religiosity [dharma], economic development [artha], sense gratification [kama] and, at the end, liberation [moksha], should engage himself in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for worship of His lotus feet yields the fulfillment of all of these.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.8.41)

The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that the rewards of human life can be grouped into four general categories: dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. Goswami Tulsidas, the great poet and devotee of Lord Rama, accurately points out that achieving all four of these rewards in one lifetime is very difficult. One may get economic success and sense gratification, but these two rewards can get in the way of religiosity. When adherence to religion is absent, there is no question of moksha, or release from the cycle of birth and death. In the animalistic stage, the individual entity is only conscious of sense gratification, or kama. Therefore there is no chance of any advancement to a higher lifestyle while in that type of body. The spirit soul is the driving force behind activity, but when it is trapped in a state of ignorance, it cannot take the necessary steps to rekindle its loving relationship with the Supreme Lord, its life partner by constitution.

Krishna's lotus feet Only in the human form of body can the soul take part in a civilized community, which begins with dharma. But if one only takes to economic development and sense gratification, their life is really no different than that of an animal. The courageous individuals who fled their homeland in Europe were seeking religious freedom more than anything else because that is the real business of human life. Animals cannot serve and love God, nor can they even understand what life and death are about. The individual soul, when placed in a human form of body, can take the necessary steps to change their desires, which in turn alters their consciousness. When this consciousness is purified at the time of death, i.e. when one’s thoughts are focused on the lotus feet of the transcendent Lord, the individual soul is granted moksha, the freeing from the shackles brought on by material contact.

Those fleeing from Europe became known as the Pilgrims, and they set sail for what was known as the New World. They landed on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, and eagerly began their new life. There was a wrinkle in their plan however. While they had the religious freedom they were looking for, the other aspects of life, namely artha and kama, were missing. There were no innkeepers or restaurants to greet them, and there were no heated homes to take shelter of. The first winter was very cold and life was extremely difficult. The Pilgrims decided that for their economic affairs, they would have a commune style government. Everyone would live on shared land, and whatever was produced through farming would be equally distributed amongst the community. This sort of central planning is not uncommon to see implemented by governments wishing to work in the interest of the common good. Under the Pilgrims’ model, the personal labor put forth in the production of food grains essentially became a public service.

“Every one of us must be satisfied with those things the Supreme Personality of Godhead has allotted us. We should not encroach upon the possessions of others. This simple idea can be expanded in our daily lives. Everyone should have a piece of land given by the government, and everyone should possess a few cows. Both of these should be utilized for one’s daily bread.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 25.101 Purport)

Shrila Prabhupada The community was barely surviving in the commune-style system, so the settlers’ dream of freedom wasn’t really panning out. Young, able-bodied men did not feel it was fair to work hard for the production of food, items that would be consumed by others, and not be compensated for such labor. The governor of this new colony, William Bradford, decided that a change needed to be made. He decided to instead divide up the land and give each family their own plot. Moreover, each group was allowed to keep whatever they produced. This simple alteration, wherein the natural penchant for fulfilling one’s self-interest was allowed to be acted upon, resulted in an economic boom. Along with the help from the neighboring Native Americans, who taught the new settlers how to skin beavers for coats and grow corn, the change in economic systems brought about a flourishing society. The first harvest was so bountiful that the new settlers decided to hold a grand feast, where they thanked God for all His blessings. They were really interested in worshiping the Lord after all, so they sincerely thanked Him for giving them the ability to survive in a new land where the conditions weren’t always favorable.

It is often pondered why America, above any other tract of land, has turned out to be such a flourishing society in a material sense. In fact, many nations follow the daily happenings of America very closely, often making comparisons with the economic growth rates of their own country. Yet the secret to America’s success in the area of economic development is not very difficult to understand, nor is it something that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Ironically enough, the path to economic freedom laid out by William Bradford is actually the same path practiced for thousands of years by followers of the Vedic tradition.

As mentioned before, the aim of human life is to learn about God and use that knowledge to lovingly serve Him. Before this pursuit for knowledge can take place, one must have a peaceful lifestyle, one where enough food is readily available. In order for food to be available, there must be production, which comes through farming. In order for farming to take place at a healthy pace, there must be a reward for hard work, an incentive for the producers to produce. By allowing citizens to own property that they can farm on, economic development is allowed to flourish. If a family raises enough food for their personal needs, they can peaceably and voluntarily trade whatever surplus they have. This is precisely what occurred with the Pilgrims, as they began to trade with the American Indians soon after their food production started to pick up. Under the private property model, one family may have a surplus of apples, while another has a surplus of rice. Each individual, acting on their self-interest, will trade for whatever products they want, all the while keeping price and profit in mind. In such a system, production is not a problem, and neither is profit. The resulting economic security allows ample time for the real mission of life: devotional service.

Lord Krishna Ironically enough, only in the human species are there problems with relation to economics. In the animal community, even amongst the carnivores, there is ample food. A tiger only eats animal flesh, and though it cannot find meat every day, it is still given enough food periodically. Though self-interest drives the pursuit of profit, the results to action can only be supplied by God. When the human civilization forgets the Lord’s supremacy and His unmatched ability to provide for everyone, chaos, cheating, lying, exploitation, and greed take over. Lust is the product of misdirected love, wherein one forgets about their loving propensity towards the Lord and instead hankers after some personal association that they know isn’t proper. Unsatisfied lust then leads to greed, the situation where one knows that they already have enough material opulence to survive, yet they continue to search after even more profit. Anger results from frustration, unchecked desires borne of lust and greed which aren’t met. As mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita, these three sentiments are the gateways to hell.

“There are three gates leading to this hell-lust, anger, and greed. Every sane man should give these up, for they lead to the degradation of the soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.21)

What is hell? On the highest level of thinking, any person who takes birth in the material world, a land which exists separate from the Supreme Lord, can be considered to be in a hellish condition. When scriptures mention condemnation to a hellish realm, the reference is to the further separation that will occur between the individual soul and the Supreme Lord. The aim is to gradually elevate oneself from a hellish condition to that of a heavenly one. The only heaven that exists forever is in the spiritual sky, where the Supreme Lord, who is always full of form and bliss, interacts with His purified servants, those entities who never desire separation from their prananatha, or Lord of their life air.

“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be…” (President George Washington, Thanksgiving Day 1789, A Proclamation)

Though the miracle of Thanksgiving showed the natural desire for man to offer service to God, we know from history that as economic development increased, the desire to thank the Lord diminished. The first President of the United States, George Washington, declared in his 1789 Thanksgiving Day proclamation that the annual holiday was a day of service to God. He asked the Lord to forgive the citizens of the country for their transgressions and to kindly bestow His favor and protection upon them. But we know that if such a speech were offered by a President today, he would be sternly rebuked for having violated the perceived notion of separation of church and state. As mentioned so wonderfully by Goswami Tulsidas, the four rewards of life are difficult to achieve at one time. One reward can cause a person to gradually lose their interest in the others. Therefore the wiser choice is to take directly to bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.

Tulsidas How is bhakti different from economic development? Bhakti can actually be anything, provided that the Supreme Lord is involved and that He is viewed in the proper context. Another analogy given by the intelligent Vedic seers is to that of the number zero. Everything in this world, when removed from its relationship to God, can be taken to be the number 0. When 0 is by itself, it is nothing; it has no value. But when this same 0 is put next to a 1, it becomes 10. Once another numeral is present, adding more zeroes actually increases the value of the resulting number. The Supreme Lord can be thought of as the numeral, and the zeroes as the objects of sense gratification in this world. We may have a thriving business, a wonderful family life, and every object of material sense pleasure at our disposal, but if God is not part of the individual’s thought processes, all other things can be thought of as 0. But when the Supreme Lord is added, the ancillary things in life take on meaning.

Therefore, the secret to success in bhakti-yoga is to simply add the Supreme Lord to activities that are already performed. Since we like to sing songs to ourselves, better to take to chanting the sweet and blissful names of the original Divine Being, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Dancing is certainly a popular activity; otherwise dance clubs would always be empty. Under the model of bhakti, one can direct their dancing for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord. The starters of the sankirtana movement, the congregational chanting of the Lord’s names in public, would regularly chant and dance in the streets as a way of releasing their dormant loving sentiments directed at the Supreme Lord.

Krishna with cows The primary aim of economic development is to provide enough food to eat. One can roam from house to house and place to place enjoying life, but they still need to eat. In this regard, economic development is certainly encouraged, but one is not advised to become dependent on anyone. Once we are dependent on another living entity for our livelihood, we are indebted to them. The only person we should feel directly indebted to is the Supreme Lord, who is the creator of everything in this world. In the Vedic tradition, even the sannyasis, those who are advised to beg for a living, don’t depend on any single individual or family for their well-being. Sannyasis, mendicants in the renounced order, certainly beg for a living, but they don’t ask for alms from the same people every day, nor do they remain in the same dwelling for too long a period of time.

Once we are independent and able to provide for our own food, the aim shouldn’t be to simply eat voraciously with reckless abandon. As we saw with the example of the settlers of the New World, when there is good fortune in terms of abundant food to eat, there is an even greater impetus to thank the Lord. Therefore it is not surprising to see that one of the central aspects to bhakti-yoga involves eating in a spiritually conscious way. For thousands of years, devotees of the Vedic tradition have prepared and offered nice food for the Lord to eat. In His incarnation as the archa-vigraha, or deity, God can take the food which is offered to Him with love and devotion and enjoy it. Such food is known as bhoga, or enjoyment for the sweet Lord who is kind enough to appear in a form visible to the conditioned soul.

Deity worship of Radha and Krishna The resulting food is then left for others to eat. Since it has a spiritual infusion, the remnants are known as prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy. In this way, we see that under the model of bhakti, every day can be treated as Thanksgiving. Such a mindset proves to be much more beneficial in the long run, for one who gives thanks every day to the only entity truly deserving of it will certainly be rewarded with moksha at the end of life. Being released from the cycle of birth and death, the soul retains its original nature as eternal servant of the Lord in the spiritual sky, where every second brings another opportunity to give thanks to the most benevolent entity.

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Saying Grace

Posted by krishnasmercy on August 1, 2010

Sita in meditation “Then taking the payasa from Indra’s hands, Maithili [Sita], a woman possessing luminous smiles, mentally offered it to her husband, Rama, as well as to Lakshmana.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, Ch 57)

Eating prasadam is one of the central practices for devotees of Lord Krishna. Similar to the concept of saying grace, eating and honoring prasadam is a way of thanking the Lord for all His blessings. Prasadam means “the Lord’s mercy”, and it applies to anything that is first offered to God and then returned to the giver. Usually the term is associated with food, for eating is one of the most important aspects of day-to-day life. Due to time and circumstance, it is not always possible to only eat prasadam, but for the highly advanced devotees, their dedication to honoring and thanking God for food is unmatched. Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama, was one such devotee.

Shrila Prabhupada distributing prasadam Those growing up in America are exposed to Judeo-Christian values, which recommend that one say grace before taking a meal. Some followers don’t adhere to these rules except on special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. When practiced, saying grace is certainly a nice devotional act. As is obvious to anyone, without food we could not live. In the modern age, most of us buy our food from the supermarkets, thus we sort of lose sight of how food is actually produced. If we want to eat, we simply go to the store or to a restaurant and partake of the food of our choice. The food doesn’t get produced in these retail outlets, but rather on farms throughout the world. Seeds are planted at the beginning of the season, the crops are maintained, and then the harvest takes place at the end of the season. An intelligent person will realize that this food is a gift from God, for its production is a miracle that none of us could create on our own.

“O Arjuna, I control heat, the rain and the drought. I am immortality, and I am also death personified. Both being and nonbeing are in Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.19)

Lord Krishna Vegetables are a form of life, and the Vedas tell us that the plants even have souls. Those of us who maintain plants in our own homes know how difficult it can be to manage them. These plants require constant attention and just the right amount of food; otherwise they will wilt away and die. Now let us imagine the same care on a macro level, with a field that produces hundreds and thousands of crops. What makes them grow properly? It takes just the right combination of soil, rain, and climatic conditions to make sure that we all can have enough food to eat. This is all done through God’s mercy, for He controls the heat, rain, and everything else.

None of us could survive without the magic of vegetables. Even the meat eaters rely on vegetables; the animals they eat survive by eating grass and other forms of vegetation. So we see that it is God who sustains our life by providing the rain that enables the vegetables to grow. We know that God is responsible for the rain because we know that there is no way for us to produce it. Spirit is always superior to matter, for our bodies are useless if there is no spirit soul residing within. Once the spirit soul exits the body, the body is considered dead and starts to rot and decay. In a similar manner, the potency of vegetables comes from the life inside them. Without life, vegetables also very quickly start to rot and decay. Thus we see that spirit is always superior to matter, and it forms the basis of life. In the same regard, God forms the basis of spirit. Even though we living entities have limited control over certain things, God has control over everything. For this reason, living entities are sometimes referred to as ishvara, while God is the supreme ishvara, or parameshvara.

“In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Vishnu, and blessed them by saying, ‘Be thou happy by this yajna [sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you all desirable things.’” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 3.10)

Satyanarayana puja Devotees of the Vedic tradition realize that God is ultimately responsible for everything, so they dedicate much of their time towards pleasing Him. One of the central practices of spiritual life in the Vedic tradition is yajna, or sacrifice. A yajna usually involves some sort of fire and the offering of various items such as clarified butter, water, etc., accompanied by the chanting of Vedic hymns and mantras. While yajnas are usually associated with rituals, it is interesting to note that yajna itself translates to sacrifice. What are we sacrificing? The material disease is that we tend to think in terms of “I” and “Mine.” This is a flawed mindset because we are not the proprietors of anything. This earth existed before we got here, and just because we take birth and associate with various transformations of earth, it doesn’t mean that we all of a sudden become the owners of matter. This is evidenced by the fact that after death, all our possessions remain here, while our soul goes somewhere else. Knowing this, how can we claim to have complete ownership over anything?

The forces of nature are so binding that it becomes very difficult to break out of the flawed possessive mindset. To help us along in the process of realizing the supremacy of God, the Lord gave us the practice of yajna, or sacrifice. By voluntarily giving up certain things and offering them to God, we slowly but surely detach ourselves from our possessions and our false claim of ownership. The beauty of a Vedic sacrifice is that there are always remnants left over. This is because God kindly accepts whatever we offer Him, but then gives it back to us after it has been spiritualized. These remnants are referred to as yajna-shishta. Since these remnants are the mercy of the Lord, they are also known as prasadam.

“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice [yajna-shishta]. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 3.13)

Krishna eating laddus Devotees try to only eat prasadam, or at the very least, when they prepare food, they do so only for the Lord’s benefit. It is not that one gets a craving to eat something, makes the necessary preparations, and then offers it to God as a formality. Prasadam is not meant to work that way, for it is intended for the Lord’s benefit. The impetus must be to please the Supreme Lord Krishna. Devotees prepare and offer food for Krishna’s satisfaction. It is assumed that Krishna will eat the food, provided that it is in the mode of goodness [vegetarian, along with some other stipulations] and offered with love and devotion. Devotees offer the food as part of a sacrifice, meaning they have no claim to it. They are voluntarily giving it up. What occurs, however, is that God leaves all the food for the worshiper to eat after eating it Himself. This is why prasadam is known as the Lord’s mercy. Krishna doesn’t have to give the food back, nor do the devotees expect Him to. But He is so kind that He wants the devotee to eat the sanctified remnants, so He returns the food intact.

Some devotees are so fortunate that they get to prepare and offer food directly to God in His personal form. One such devotee was Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. Lord Krishna is God Himself, but His personal expansions are non-different from Him. Lord Rama is one such expansion, and He appeared on earth many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. He was married to Sita Devi, the daughter of the pious King Janaka of Mithila. Sita was actually an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, God’s eternal consort in the spiritual world. As Rama’s wife, Sita was accustomed to offering everything to her husband. She viewed her husband as her foremost deity, a practice which is taught to all women growing up in the Vedic tradition. As part of the couple’s pastimes, they embarked on a fourteen year trek through the woods of India. Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana, accompanied the group. While living in the forest, Sita would prepare the meals and then offer them to both Rama and Lakshmana. This is similar to how mothers cook for their families. This practice is also very common in Hindu households, where the women usually do all the cooking and then don’t eat until after the male members of the family have eaten.

Sita Devi eating with Rama and Lakshmana Through a series of unfortunate events, Sita ended up being kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. He took her to his island kingdom of Lanka and held her captive in an ashoka garden. Sita was mortified, as she had just been taken against her will to live with a man who wasn’t her husband. This was all part of the demigods’ plan, for they needed an excuse for Rama to take on and kill Ravana in battle. By kidnapping Sita, Ravana set the wheels in motion for his demise. Upon reaching Lanka, Sita decided that she did not want to eat anything. Ravana was a Rakshasa after all, meaning he was an avid meat eater. Not only that, but he was a dreadful demon, so Sita considered all the food in his kingdom to be tainted. She decided that she would rather starve herself to death than associate with anything offered to her by Ravana.

Sita Devi Obviously the demigods did not want Sita to refrain from eating. The chief of celestials, Lord Indra, visited Sita and offered her a magical concoction of payasam, which is a kind of rice dish mixed with ghee and milk. He told her to eat it since it would let her remain alive for the duration of her stay in Lanka. In the above referenced passage, we see that while Sita is about to partake of the payasam, she first mentally offers it to both Rama and Lakshmana. This represents the pinnacle of devotion. She was in the midst of the most troubling circumstances of her life, but she still remained true to dharma.

What’s ironic is that Lakshmana, being the younger brother of the husband, was technically inferior in stature to Sita. In the Vedic tradition, the older brother’s wife is referred to as bhabhi, and she is an object of worship. Prior to leaving for the forest, Lakshmana’s mother, Sumitra, told him to view Rama as his father and Sita as his mother. Yet we see that Sita is mentally offering her food to Lakshmana as well. She viewed Rama and Lakshmana to be the same God, for they were so dedicated to each other. Sita Devi is actually hinting at Lakshmana’s true nature as an incarnation of Ananta Shesha Naga, or Baladeva. Krishna is also known as Vasudeva, and Vasudeva’s immediate expansion is Baladeva or Sankarshana. Thus Lakshmana is almost equal in potency to God.

Rama and Lakshmana eating When we eat our food, we should always try to remember this great level of devotion from Sita Devi. It may not always be possible to eat yajna-shishta, but in those situations, we can still mentally offer our food to the Supreme Lord and His wife. This is the highest form of saying grace, and by following this model, at least our minds will be purified at the time of eating.

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Service to Humanity

Posted by krishnasmercy on April 25, 2010

Lord Krishna “The sufferings of humanity are due to forgetfulness of Krishna as the supreme enjoyer, the supreme proprietor, and the supreme friend. Therefore, to act to revive this consciousness within the entire human society is the highest welfare work.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 5.25 Purport)

Comment: “I believe serving humanity is the best way to serve God.”

Response: Sometimes those who are unfamiliar with the true meaning of the Vedas, or those don’t believe that God has a name or a personal form, will take to philanthropy and other charitable work as a way of life. Viewed as service to humanity, this kind of welfare work seems appealing on the surface, but the Vedas tell us that the best way to serve all of mankind is to directly serve the Supreme Lord.

“A person engaged only in ministering to the physical welfare of human society cannot factually help anyone. Temporary relief of the external body and the mind is not satisfactory.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 5.25 Purport)

Shrila Prabhupada Service to humanity has limits. This is because at the core, philanthropy and other charitable acts all aim to please the body. In the Vedic discipline, the first instruction given to aspiring transcendentalists is that we are not our bodies, aham brahmasmi. We are spirit souls, part and parcel of God. The body is just a temporary covering composed of material elements made up of the qualities [gunas] of goodness, passion, and ignorance. This is the first instruction given to religious students because understanding this truth presents the biggest hurdle towards making real progress. By default, we all associate and identify with our body. We don’t know anything else, so why shouldn’t we think this way? However, if we apply a little intelligence, we see that our body keeps changing. We started off as a small pea inside the womb of our mother, and through the course of time we developed into full grown adults. Our bodies constantly go through changes, but our identity remains the same. This is because our true identity comes from the soul inside, atma. The soul is eternal, and does not go through birth or death.

“Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.17)

Lord Krishna At the time of death, our current body is discarded and we are quickly given a new one. Therefore any intelligent person will not ascribe much importance to the gross material body since it is subject to destruction. Yet philanthropy and general service to humanity work solely on the material platform, aiming to please the demands of the body. The core of animal life consists of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Human beings also engage in these activities, though they manifest in different forms. Humans eat elaborately prepared meals, whereas animals eat whatever they can find in the forest or in the water. Human beings sleep on cushy mattresses while animals sleep on the bare ground. However, the humor is the same. There are varieties of dishes that one can eat, but the resulting pleasure doesn’t vary much at all.

If we study some of the common welfare activities of today, we’ll see that they primarily address the animalistic concerns of the human body. Feeding the hungry and the poor is a very common welfare activity. In America, some people are homeless and in need of a good home-cooked meal. Soup kitchens and food banks do their best to try to make sure that no one in America goes hungry. These are very noble intentions, but what is the result of such activities? If a hungry person is given food, it will certainly give their body pleasure and relief for a brief period of time, but then what? Are all of their problems solved? The animal kingdom actually has no worries for food since God provides everything they need to eat. Human beings are supposed to have a higher level of intelligence, so why would they worry so much about eating?

Another factor to consider is the type of food that is given in charity. The Vedas tell us that every activity done on the material platform, including eating, has karma associated with it. The material platform refers to the material world in which we live. It is classified as material because it has gunas, or qualities, associated with it. Also it is a temporary place full of miseries. The spiritual world is just the opposite since it is composed of God’s superior energy. Spirit is superior to matter because spirit is eternal, whereas matter is not.

“Yet there is another nature, which is eternal and is transcendental to this manifested and unmanifested matter. It is supreme and is never annihilated. When all in this world is annihilated, that part remains as it is.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.20)

Mother Yashoda seeing the spiritual sky inside of Krishna's mouth One may make the argument that since we are spirit souls living in the material world, how can this place be considered part of God’s inferior energy? The reason is that since we are constitutionally spirit, our natural home is in the spiritual world. Yet we are technically considered a separate expansion of God, jivatama. We are part of God’s marginal energy, meaning we have a choice as to whether we want to associate with His inferior or superior energy.

Material activities refer to anything that keeps one attached to this temporary material world. At the time of death, our work and our desires are measured, and we are given a new body in the next life. Performing material activity means doing things which cause us to take birth again in the material world. By default, all activity is considered material if it is done to satisfy our senses. Eating is included in this category. Therefore everything we eat has karma associated with it. If we feed the hungry with meat and other animal flesh, there is a negative karma that follows. Meat eating involves unnecessary violence towards animals. This naturally has negative karma associated with it, for one must suffer the consequences of the sin of unnecessary violence. These negative consequences don’t just attach to the killer of the animal, but also to the distributor and the eater of the animal flesh. Thus by feeding the hungry with meat, we are actually doing a disservice to them. Other activities such as opening hospitals, helping the poor with money, and searching for cures to common diseases also fall into the material category since they aim to please the body.

“It seems that all welfare activities are bad? What should we do with our time then? How do we help people?” The Vedas tell us that this human form of life is meant for understanding God. The consciousness at the time of death determines the next type of body for the spirit soul. If one elevates their consciousness to the spiritual platform, they are guaranteed to assume a spiritual body in the next life. Spiritual bodies reside in the spiritual world, i.e. God’s home. Once a spirit goes there, it never returns to the temporary material world.

“That supreme abode is called unmanifested and infallible, and it is the supreme destination. When one goes there, he never comes back. That is My supreme abode.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.21)

Hanuman performing devotional service So how do we elevate our consciousness? The Vedas recommend that we practice bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Though it can be classified as a method of self-realization, the spirit soul is actually naturally inclined to serve God in a loving way. Every person believes in God at their core, but this belief and love is currently in a dormant state due to the effects of material nature. By following the regulative principles of bhakti yoga in the beginning stages, this love for God can slowly be aroused. Bhakti yoga is not just a religious practice, but a way of life. Religious leaders around the world recommend that we attend church once a week. Well if thinking about God once a week is a good thing, wouldn’t it be even better to think about Him every day? This is what will truly make us happy. Our life should be adjusted in such a way that we can always be thinking about God.

“If we engage in religious activity all the time, how will we maintain our lives? Don’t we have to work to maintain our families?” The beauty of devotional service is that it doesn’t require renunciation of activity. Bhakti yoga is very comprehensive and can entail many different processes, but the recommended method for this age is the constant chanting of the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Krishna and Rama are names of God and Hare refers to His energy potency; Radharani, Sita, Lakshmi, etc. Chanting is so nice because anybody can do it, at any time, and at any place. Thus we can continue our occupational duties and still remain fixed on the transcendental platform.

Hare Krishna Not only should we chant to ourselves, but we should induce others to connect with God through the bhakti yoga process. In addition to regular chanting, devotees are advised to avoid the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex. These principles can be taught to any person, regardless of their religious affiliation, skin color, or nationality. God is one, so chanting His name is something anyone can do. The Vedas tell us that Krishna is God’s original name, meaning He who is all-attractive. Inducing others to take up devotional service is the highest benefit to mankind since it helps souls return to the spiritual world.

“The rewards of your service to humanity can only be seen in the afterlife, which is something we can’t even be sure of. Ordinary service to humanity, such as charity and feeding the poor, produces immediate results that we can see.” Actually, we don’t have to wait for the afterlife to see the benefits of bhakti yoga. Since God is the creator of everything, He is the source of the humanity that we aim to please. By serving God, we automatically serve all things related to Him. It is similar to how we feed plants. We pour water on the roots of a plant since this means that all the branches and leaves will automatically be fed. To serve the body, we must supply food to the mouth, which transports the food to the stomach. The stomach then evenly distributes nutrients to the rest of the body. Our arms and legs are certainly parts of our body, but we would never think of trying to intake food through these body parts, for they wouldn’t know what to do with the food we were giving them. In a similar manner, the material creation, which includes humanity, the animal kingdom, plants, and aquatics, can only be properly served by bhakti yoga, or devotional service.

Marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati“How does bhakti yoga solve problems such as infidelity, violence against women, poverty, etc.?” If we study any common problem in the material world, we will see that the root cause is mankind’s forgetfulness of God. For example, divorce, abortion, and teenage pregnancy all are caused by illicit sex life. Illicit sex is strictly prohibited for devotees, meaning that those who practice bhakti yoga will never have to deal with the resulting problems. If we study the poverty rates in America, we see that the chances of ending up poor are greatly diminished if a person graduates high school, waits until they are married before they have children, and then remains married.

Service to God automatically addresses these issues. The Vedas consist not only of religious sentiment, but are themselves a comprehensive intellectual pursuit. Great scholars and academics have studied important Vedic texts for thousands of years. Vedic guidelines recommend that a person get married as soon as there is any inkling for sex life. Instead of the misery that results from free intermingling between men and women, getting married early on in life under religious principles ensures a happy and successful marriage. Householder life is actually referred to as a spiritual institution, the grihastha-ashrama, in the Vedas. The husband and wife are advised to focus their attention on God, and to perform all religious activities together in the hopes of advancing in spiritual life. Married couples are advised to only have sex for procuring children. In this way, we see that following the regulative principles of bhakti yoga can help people avoid the major problems of the day.

Lord Chaitanya hugging Krishna “But why should we worship one particular God, Krishna, when we can worship and serve the entire whole, which is represented by all of mankind?” God is a person. Since He is the source of everything spiritual, He himself is also a spirit. Therefore we are equal to God in a qualitative sense, yet different in a quantitative sense. This simultaneous oneness and difference is referred to as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva by Lord Chaitanya. The complete whole of mankind and material creation, as we see it, is only one of God’s features, known as Brahman. Impersonalists mistakenly believe that Brahman is the highest spiritual realization, but actually Brahman itself has a guiding force, the Supreme Soul.

“The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth, and it is that Brahman that I impregnate, making possible the births of all living beings, O son of Bharata.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 14.3)

Paramatma is God’s expansion as the Supersoul residing within the hearts of every living entity. The Supersoul acts as an impartial witness. Since it is a direct representation of God, it is not subject to the bewilderment or illusion caused by material nature. Paramatma is an expansion of God, meaning it has a source which expanded to create it. This source is Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bhagavan is God; the supreme person who has forms, pastimes, and spiritual qualities. The beauty of chanting Hare Krishna is that it directly addresses Bhagavan in a loving way. Impersonalists love to recite om instead of Hare Krishna because they refuse to believe that God has a name or a form. Om is certainly a spiritual vibration, but it also was created by God to be used in Vedic mantras and hymns.

“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.8)

Radha-Krishna and associates The best way to serve humanity is to chant God’s names, induce others to chant, and to distribute as much Krishna prasadam as possible. As God is worshipable, so is His food. Prasadam is food in the mode of goodness, prepared specifically for the Lord. Offered with love and devotion, this food is then returned to us by God for us to enjoy. This simple formula of chanting and prasadam distribution will benefit all of mankind.

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Thanksgiving 2009

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 26, 2009

 Radha Krishna “Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.6)

Thanksgiving is one of the more popular holidays in America. Celebrated annually in the month of November, it is best known for food and family. Though the holiday has evolved into an annual tradition of families getting together, Thanksgiving started as a religious holiday.

The Thanksgiving weekend is known as the largest travel weekend of the year in America. Since the holiday always occurs on a Thursday, the Wednesday before and the Sunday after are two of the single largest travel days of the year. People travel far and wide to be with their families to celebrate this festive occasion. It is such a deep rooted tradition, that many married couples have trouble deciding which family they will spend Thanksgiving with, the husband’s or the wife’s. The cornerstone of the holiday celebration is the Thanksgiving meal. Turkey is the traditional main course, along with side dishes including stuffing, cranberry sauce, cornbread, pumpkin pie, etc. Families settle in for the meal and eat as much as they can, for all this sumptuous food is made to be enjoyed. Afterwards, the male members of the family usually settle down on the couch and watch football. Thanksgiving is such a popular holiday that it is even celebrated by people outside of the Christian faith. The name of the holiday gives us hints into its origin. The real meaning of Thanksgiving is to give thanks to God.

A long time ago, during the early 1600s, the Pilgrims settled on this land known as America. They had fled from England due to restrictions imposed on their religious practices. The Pilgrims wanted to have religious freedom so they bravely journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean in hopes of a better life. This is the natural yearning spirit of man. Aside from wanting freedom, man wants to be religious, for that is his nature. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that each living entity is constitutionally a part and parcel of the Supreme Lord Shri Krishna. Due to contact with nature, the soul accepts different types of bodies based on qualities and desires. Though it is the tendency of the living entity to forget its original position as servitor to the Supreme Lord, an inkling of that devotion to God still exists inside the body. In every living entity, there exist two souls. The atma is the soul that represents the living entity’s identity. Along with the soul, there is the Supersoul, also known as the Paramatma. The Supersoul is God’s expansion. It is the presence of the Supersoul that allows the living entity to have any God consciousness at all. In the purified state, the living entity becomes fully conscious of the Supersoul and thus takes direction from Him. Most of us are in the conditioned state where we are forgetful of our relationship with God. Nevertheless, mankind’s true nature is to be Krishna conscious.

Pilgrims arrive on the Mayflower Life in the New World was initially very difficult for the Pilgrims. When they arrived in America, they were met with harsh conditions. Many of them died during the first winter due to sickness. They had expected to find paradise, but all they encountered was hardship. William Bradford was the governor of the new colony and he described the early events in his diary. The Pilgrims’ trip to America was sponsored by merchants in England, so there was immediately a debt that needed to be repaid. The Pilgrims decided to have a socialist/collectivist style of government where the community, or the state, owned everything. Each person worked as hard as they desired, but the fruits of their work were all placed in a common store to be divided equally amongst the citizens. This system didn’t work very well since the output of food wasn’t very high. Bradford realized that people had no incentive to work harder than anyone else.

"The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years … that by taking away property, and bringing community into common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God…For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense … that was thought injustice." (William Bradford)

To remedy the situation, Bradford decided to unleash the power of freedom and free enterprise. After all, they had escaped England to seek out freedom in the New World. Bradford assigned each person their own plot of land. People were then allowed to keep whatever they produced. A tremendous harvest resulted. The output was so great that the Pilgrims were able to pay off their debts to the English merchants much sooner than expected. They now had an overabundance of food, which they then used to trade for goods with the local Indians and other citizens.

"This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been." (William Bradford)

The first Thanksgiving This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. Lord Krishna, God Himself, single-handedly maintains millions of planets in the air. At the same time, food for the 8,400,000 varieties of species is also taken care of by God. Birds, tigers, reptiles, and even ants, none of them rely on any economic systems to provide for their food. Animals don’t require a Federal Reserve Chairman, elaborate tax schemes, large government bailouts, or a big economic summit to solve their eating problem. God takes care of all that. The human society should be no different. The starvation problems we see today are often attributed to overpopulation or the uneven distribution of wealth. These excuses are simply bogus. In terms of economics, It is the inherent nature of man to want to provide for himself and for his family. A government’s role is not to check this desire unnaturally, but rather to ensure that innocent life is protected and that transactions take place voluntarily. Such conditions will always result in an abundant food supply.

Even with this new free market system, the Pilgrims weren’t silly enough to think that all this food came solely through their own efforts. They held the first Thanksgiving celebration as a way to thank God for the great harvest.

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Bg. 3.27)

Lord Krishna Thanking God in this way represents an elevated level of consciousness. Pure devotees of Lord Krishna act in a similar manner, except they take things one step further. The Lord is the primary source for everything. In His expansion as Lord Vishnu, God simply exhales once to create innumerable universes. Thus everything in this world can be attributed to Him. Food is our lifeline. Without it, we couldn’t survive. For this reason, a smart person will thank God for any and all food they receive. In the Vedic tradition, devotees take things one step further by offering food to the Lord.

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Bg. 9.26)

Devotees of Lord Krishna try to eat as much prasadam as possible. This is a higher form of worship than simply asking God to supply us food or even thanking Him for what He gives us. Since He is the source of everything, why not offer food to Him? Preparing elegant and sumptuous meals for our family is certainly a nice thing, but doing the same for God is an even higher practice. “Here God, I prepared this elaborate food for You because I love You and I want You to be happy. You have been kind enough to allow me to always think of You, so I am trying to repay that kindness by offering You this nice dish that I prepared specifically for You.”

To those unfamiliar with Vedic traditions, this practice may seem strange. The food is offered to a picture or deity of the Lord. Some may take the deity to be stone or wood, but it is actually an authorized form of God. Lord Krishna Himself authorized this practice of deity worship when He personally appeared on earth some five thousand years ago. It’s not as if devotees simply take anything and turn it into an idol. Rather, the deity is treated to be as good as God Himself, for there are specific procedures in place to maintain the deity. When vegetarian food is prepared and offered by a devotee, the Lord eats the food by glancing over it. God doesn’t require hands or a mouth to eat. Since He is omnipotent and supremely powerful, He can eat with His eyes. After the Lord eats the food, He leaves the remnants for us to partake in. This leftover food is known as prasadam, meaning the Lord’s mercy.

Krishna eating lunch with friendsThanksgiving day is so nice because it gives people an opportunity to give thanks to God for all His blessings. Many families have a tradition where they go around the dinner table asking each family member what they are thankful for. This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for everything God has given us, but most of all, we are thankful that He allows us to remember Him. Krishna is so kind that, in this age, He appears in the form of His holy name. By regularly chantingHare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, we can give thanks every day.

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With Love and Devotion

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 7, 2009

Lord Rama “’Who, O mighty-armed one, receives such a welcome guest as Yourself? ‘ Then speedily bringing various kind of sapid rice and arghya, he (Guha) said, ‘O mighty-armed one, has Your journey been a pleasant one? This entire earth is Yours. We are Your servants, You are our master. Do You rule here, accepting the eatables,drinkables, excellent beds for Yourself, and fodder for Your horses.’ When Guha had said this, Raghava answered him, saying, ‘We have been well received by you and are well pleased with you, since coming here on foot you have shown us affection.’ Then pressing Guha hard with His arms, Rama said, ‘O Guha, it is by good luck that I see you whole along with your friends. Is your kingdom in peace both as regards your friends and the forest? Do you know me as assuming an ascetic mode of life in the woods, in which I am to wear kusha and bark, and live upon fruits and roots. So with the single exception of the food for the horses, I require nothing. With these horses being well kept, I shall consider myself as entertained and honored by you.’” (Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 50)

Here is the perfect example of how one can satisfy the wishes of the Supreme Lord under even the most difficult of circumstances. The purpose of human life is to rekindle our forgotten relationship with God, our dearmost friend who is kind enough to warmly welcome us as soon as we come to Him.

Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead according to the Vedas. People have different names for Him, but there is still only one God. He comes to earth from time to time in various forms to deliver the pious and to punish the miscreants. In the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, the Lord came to earth in a human form as Lord Rama. As one who gives pleasure to others, Rama was kind and compassionate towards everyone even though He belonged to the warrior class, the kshatriyas. He was the rightful heir to the throne of Ayodhya held by His father Dashratha, but as events played out, His coronation would have to wait. As part of a deal made with his youngest wife Kaikeyi, Dashratha ordered Rama to leave the kingdom and spend fourteen years in the forest, disconnected completely from the kingdom. The Lord accepted the order, and His wife Sita Devi and younger brother Lakshmana also accompanied Him, for they refused to live without Him.

Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana leaving for the forest In the Vedic tradition, if one vows to live in the forest, there are strict rules that must be adhered to. Lord Rama lived the life of a person in the vanaprastha ashrama, one who is retired from family life and no longer living at home. Because of this vow, Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita travelled through the forest, going from one place to another, not remaining in any area for too long. One of their first stops was at the camp of Guha, the leader of the Nishada tribe. Nishadas were forest dwellers, considered uncivilized and generally viewed as a lower class. Rama however, made no such distinctions when it came to judging others. Guha was a humble devotee who viewed Rama’s visit as the greatest moment in his life. He quickly welcomed the Lord, Sita, and Lakshmana by offering them a nice sitting place, some water, and the most palatable foodstuff he had available to him.

Since Rama was observing the life of a vanaprasthi, He was unable to partake of the food that Guha had offered Him. Rama’s family traced all the way back to Maharaja Ikshvaku, one of the first kings on earth. Thus Rama viewed it as His duty to protect the good name and reputation of the Ikshvakus. Since Dashratha had ordered Him to accept a certain lifestyle, Rama wanted to make sure that the orders weren’t violated. For this reason, He informed Guha that He was unable to eat the food offered to Him. More importantly, however, the Lord made sure to inform Guha that He gladly accepted all that was offered to Him. “You have treated me well Guha. Your service to me is exemplary. Though I am unable to eat what has been offered to Me, I still gladly accept it.”

Rama's group travelling with GuhaThis is a very key point. The Lord is so kind that He doesn’t look at the quantity or quality of what is offered to Him, but rather the mood in which it is presented. God declares in the Bhagavad-gita that one can offer Him a leaf, a flower, or even some water. If one offers these things with love and devotion, then He accepts them. If one presents these things to the Lord with material desires or ulterior motives such as wanting something in return, then the Lord wants nothing to do with such an offering.

It is very natural for us to want to eat food that satisfies our taste buds. The urges of the tongue and belly are very difficult to control, and eating nice food brings us some temporary happiness. In spiritual life, we don’t necessarily have to give up eating nice food, but instead we just need to change our consciousness as it relates to eating. We can still prepare very savory dishes, but they should be offered to the Lord first. This principle holds true in all aspects of life. If we shift our focus to pleasing the Supreme Lord, we automatically become free of sins.

“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.13)

One should eat yajna-shishta. Yajna means sacrifice and shishta means remnants. The highest form of sacrifice is that which is done for the satisfaction of Vishnu, or God. Krishna, Vishnu, Narayana and all the other Vishnu-tattva forms of God are all equal in potency for they represent the same original God. In this instance, Guha performed a sacrifice for Lord Rama, thus the offered food became known as prasadam. Rama gladly accepted it, and left the remnants for others to eat. This is the most sanctified of all food since it is completely free of karma. Done for the satisfaction of Vishnu, it inherits all the qualities of the Supreme Lord, with the primary quality being complete purity. Normally when we eat ordinary food prepared by others, we are eating food that bears the qualities of the cook and the cooking area. So if we eat food prepared by devotees, our food becomes infused with love for God. Prasadam is the highest quality food because not only is it prepared by devotees, but it is made solely for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord.

Hanuman worshiping Rama From Guha’s example, we see that one doesn’t have to be a brahmana or other person of a high birth to become a devotee. Love is the most natural sentiment exhibited by all living entities, thus one who shifts his love towards God automatically becomes a bhagavata, which is higher than a brahmana. If we chant the holy names of Lord, think of Him throughout the day, follow the regulative principles, and prepare and eat as much prasadam as possible, we are sure to reap the highest benefits.

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The Krishna Diet

Posted by krishnasmercy on November 1, 2009

Satyanarayana Puja “There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.16)

The diet industry is huge in America. Television channels are filled with infomercials on the weekends and early morning hours that are dedicated to weight loss and exercise. These companies collectively make millions of dollars catering to those who want to lose weight.

Most of us wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds, irrespective of whether we are actually overweight or not. In America, there is no shortage of food. The technological revolution has brought about a huge paradigm shift in the general workforce. As recently as one hundred years ago, around forty percent of the workforce was involved in farming, whereas today it’s less than ten percent. At the same time, food production has rapidly increased due to the use of advanced machinery. Productivity has increased since the cost to produce food has decreased while the output from such production has increased. The U.S. government even goes so far as to pay farmers to not grow food in hopes of stabilizing prices. They want farmers to be profitable, which will allow the majority of food to be produced domestically rather than being imported.

With this overabundance of food has come the rise in fast food restaurants and supermarkets. The question nowadays isn’t how will one eat, but what kind of food does one feel like eating. Since so many of us eat out at restaurants, the food we eat is usually high in fat. A restaurant is a business, so their goal is to attract as many customers as possible. For this reason, their food is generally high in fat since fat that tends to make food taste better. Since fast food, food that is very high in fat, is so easily accessible, naturally there is an obesity problem in the country. Not just obesity, but most people in general feel like they could stand to lose a few pounds. For this reason all the various diets and exercise regimens have sprung up.

Prasadam A few of the more popular diets are the South Beach, Low Carb, and Low Fat diets. Whichever diet a person chooses, they are all almost guaranteed to work. The reason for this is that any diet requires regulating one’s food intake. If we regulate our eating habits, it makes senses that we will lose weight, for the initial cause of our being overweight was our irregular eating. Some of these diet programs just provide guidelines as to what a person should eat and at what times. Other programs, such as the Nutrisystem Diet, go so far as to actually send food to customers. This way dieting won’t be an involved process; a person can just eat whatever is provided to them. Though all these diet programs work, people generally don’t stay on them for any extended period of time. “Oh I need to lose weight before the summer season so I will look good when I go to the beach… I need to lose at least ten pounds before this wedding so I can fit into my dress…I’m going on vacation in a few weeks and I know I will gain weight while on it, so I need to go on a diet now as a way of preparing.” These are some of the thoughts of people wanting to diet.

The root of the problem with dieting lies in the fact that it is temporary. As we can see from the example of successful dieters, weight control involves controlling habits. This is also the injunction of the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. God has laid down a system whereby one is advised to not eat too much or too little. Actually the entire Vedic system revolves around routine and habit. One is advised to rise early in the morning, just around the time of sun-up, and to take a bath. Afterwards, they should worship the Lord’s deity and chant His name, either in the form of the maha-mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, or the gayatri-mantra for those who have been initiated by a spiritual master. For food, one is advised to eat prasadam, sanctified food that has first been offered to the Lord.

Prasadam is actually the key ingredient in weight control and in maintaining a healthy diet. We all require food to maintain our bodies, but most of us go outside the boundaries of necessity and actually use food as a form of sense gratification. This is the root cause of our irregular eating habits. If one can control the desires to satisfy the tongue and the stomach, then he or she will be successful in regulating their weight and health. Vedic injunctions prescribe that one should prepare and offer food for Lord Krishna, or God, instead of just for themselves. Preparing food for ourselves is generally better than eating out at restaurants because we at least get to control the ingredients. Not only that, but if we make the food ourselves, then we are less likely to overindulge in it. It’s a lot easier to over-eat when someone else has worked hard to make the food than it is to eat something that we put our own time and effort into preparing. More than just offering the food to the Lord’s deity and then eating it ourselves, prasadam should be distributed to others. Those in the grihastha ashrama, married family life, are required to be charitable. Before taking a meal, one should first offer it to any guests, children, or elderly family members. The householder is then allowed to eat whatever remains. This is another way of maintaining one’s weight. If we prepare food for Krishna and for other devotees, then it will be harder for us to overindulge.

Lord Krishna Becoming overweight is actually very easy to prevent. One just needs to follow the regulative principles of devotional service to Krishna, and all other problems are taken care of. Most diets recommend that one eat at least four small meals a day, spread out in regular intervals. This way, the body doesn’t go into what is called “fat storage mode” but rather stays in “fat burning mode”. The Vedic concept is similar, except that it enjoins that one not only eat regularly, but rather one should do every necessary activity regularly. Chant, read, hear, offer prayers, etc., all these things should be done on regular intervals. Following these guidelines, one will always be happy and thus be able to control all urges for material sense gratification. The first step is to become a devotee of the Lord by chanting the maha-mantra daily at least sixteen rounds on a japa-mala, while strictly adhering to the four regulative principles of abstinence from meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex. Then one can take the next step and begin preparing and offering all their food to Lord Krishna, which is the highest form of sacrifice.

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