Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Texas Faith 2: When is it okay to use God to advance public policy?

Here is another new series,
Recently I was invited to participate in the Texas Faith Panel. This new column in the Dallas Morning News, William McKenzie/Editorial Columnist describes as follows ,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.
This weeks question.
The Pentagon's top secret wartime memos that mixed Scripture and battle photos sparked a lively debate -- rich, heated and very diverse -- among our Texas Faith panel this week.

Over a photo of a U.S. tank entering Baghdad was a verse from Isaiah, "Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps the faith." Above another photo of a tank roaring through the desert was a quote from Ephesians, "Therefore put on the full armor of God ..." Some in the Bush administration worried that if the cover sheets got out, they could cast the Iraq invasion as a holy Christian crusade. Others saw no problem.

Religion is about absolutes; public policy is about subjective judgments. And yet, our currency invokes our trust in God, our leaders pray for divine guidance and, apparently, the Pentagon annotates briefing memos with Bible verses.

So here's the question: When, if ever in our secular democracy, is it appropriate advance public policy with God's words? When it is okay?

And more the point, when does it cross the line?and here was the response:

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

It is always appropriate invoke the words of the Lord. But the Lord's agenda must follow. Religion, according to the Vedic tradition, means developing one's love for God. Lord's states in the Bhagavad Gita 9.29 "I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him."

The Lord does not concern Himself with religious affiliation but rather quality of consciousness. That is Lord's agenda, to unite people of the world though loving service to Him. The problem is not that God is in the picture, for Truth is the Truth, in all circumstances. The problem is that people, 97% to 99.9% of the time, are trying to advance their own agendas, with the exploitation of God words. We should understand it is as the evidence presents itself. A crusade. If our religious fervor in going to Iraq was to teach Muslims to become better lovers and devoted servants of Allah, then surely we would be acting according to God's agenda. The truth is that the political figures want to give a color of righteousness. To use the power of religion under the sway of their agendas. Religion, like any powerful thing, can be misused.

One example of such misuse is that of the great Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi took use of the Bhagavad Gita to advance his noble political cause. But the truth is, rather than using God to promote his political cause, he should of used his political cause to promote consciousness of God. For a faithful and realized man will know that such consciousness of God, seeing all beings as God's loving servants, is the cure all for all social ills.

Another important point is that religious teachings are incomplete without logic. When we delve in that realm where religious thought is free from logical analysis we may find many fanatics and even terrorist reside there. Srila Prabhupada, our founding spiritual master, has stated his purport to Bhagavad Gita 3.3 that "Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation." Similarly Albert Einstein wrote: "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."

So our agendas should be clear and our religious thought logical.

Hare Krishna :)
Your humble servant,
Nityananda Chandra Das

Friday, May 22, 2009

Texas Faith 1: Misunderstanding (my) religion

Here is another new series,
Recently I was invited to participate in the Texas Faith Panel. This new column in the Dallas Morning News, William McKenzie/Editorial Columnist describes as follows ,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.
So far last Tuesdays post has already 59 comments. Because my post just was just inserted today, due to being a new contributor, there has not been any comment yet regarding it. But I am sure some interesting dialogue will ensue in due course.

So here is the question for this week:

What don't most people understand about religious faith?

What don't most people understand about your faith tradition?

and here was the response:

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

One item I believe that is misconceived is that many people think faith is an anomaly that only happens in religion. Often people do not see that their every day life involves faith. One can board a bus or train because they have faith that it will not fall apart. Or one will enter a building with the faith that the roof will not collapse on them.

Another item is that an atheist may think a theist does not value life and therefore the theist thinks about death and other seemingly unimportant inevitable matters. But actually, if someone values something then it is certain they would also value maintaining it. For example, if someone loves their girlfriend, then it would be quite unlikely that person would say, "I love you very much but if we break up I would be fine." Rather, if someone values something, then rational conclusion is that they would want to maintain it. Thus,those who value life are those who sincerely endeavor to understand the after life.

The single most common misconception about Hinduism is that it is a religion, rather than a family of different religions and that Hindus are polytheistic or henotheistic (all gods together represent God). Historically and in modern times, the largest religion in Hinduism is Vaishnavism, which comprises about 80% of Hindus. Vaishnavas maintain that there is one Supreme Lord, Sri Krishna, also known by many names such as Vishnu. This Supreme Lord has His own cabinet of employees, devas (demigods). Just as there is only one Bill Gates but many employees who work for Microsoft, similarly there is one God, Krishna, and many demigods, Shiva, Ganesh, Indra etc. who work for God under His authority.

Hare Krishna :)
Your humble servant,
Nityananda Chandra Das

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Katha at Kalachandji's 1: Giriraja Swami on Ratha Yatra

Here is a new series of blogs called, Katha at Kalachandji's, talks about Krishna at our temple. In this series I will try to summarize some of the points of the lectures that happen here at the temple.

Sunday feast after Ratha Yatra, Sunday April 26th, 2009,

It is a very beautiful day and we are blessed to have the association of His Holiness Giriraja Swami. Here are some the points of his lecture.

Snana Yatra is a very special day after which there is no darshan of the deities of Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra. I will read some verses which explain how Lord Caitanya experienced Snana Yatra and Lord Jagannatha's vipralambha, love in separation.
Śrī Caitanya Caritāmṛta Madhya 1.122

When Jagannātha was absent from the temple, Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who could not see Him, felt separation and left Jagannātha Purī to go to a place known as Ālālanātha.

Ālālanātha is also known as Brahmagiri. This place is about fourteen miles from Jagannātha Purī and is also on the beach. There is a temple of Jagannātha there. At the present moment a police station and post office are situated there because so many people come to see the temple.

The word anavasara is used when Śrī Jagannāthajī cannot be seen in the temple. After the bathing ceremony (snāna-yātrā), Lord Jagannātha
apparently becomes sick. He is therefore removed to His private
apartment, where no one can see Him. Actually, during this period
renovations are made on the body of the Jagannātha Deity. This is called nava-yauvana. During the Ratha-yātrā ceremony, Lord Jagannātha once again comes before the public. Thus for fifteen days after the bathing ceremony, Lord Jagannātha is not visible to any visitors.

CC Madhya 1.123: Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu remained for some days at Ālālanātha. In the meantime, He received news that all the devotees from Bengal were coming to Jagannātha Purī.

CC Madhya 1.124: When the devotees from Bengal arrived at Jagannātha Purī, both Nityānanda Prabhu and Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya greatly endeavored to take Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu back to Jagannātha Purī.

CC Madhya 1.125: When Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu finally left Ālālanātha to return to Jagannātha Purī, He was overwhelmed both day and night due to separation from Jagannātha. His lamentation knew no bounds. During this time, all the devotees from different parts of Bengal, and especially from Navadvīpa, arrived in Jagannātha Purī.

CC Madhya 1.126: After due consideration, all the devotees began chanting the holy name congregationally. Lord Caitanya's mind was thus pacified by the ecstasy of the chanting.


Being absolute in all circumstances, Lord Jagannātha's person, form, picture and kīrtana are all identical. Therefore when Caitanya Mahāprabhu heard the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, He was pacified. Previously, He had been feeling very morose due to separation from Jagannātha. The conclusion is that whenever a kīrtana of pure devotees takes place, the Lord is immediately present. By chanting the holy names of the Lord, we associate with the Lord personally.

Two important points in the verse and purport. Both the Deity and the Nama are the Lord Himself. Padma Purana. Says that if one thinks that the deity is just a statue made of stone or wood. Or if thinks that a Vaishnava is part of a caste or community or if he thinks that the pure devotee an ordinary man then he resides in the lowest regions. Lord Caitanya was so eager to see the Lord that he rushed to enter the temple. He began to run toward the deity that He saw as Syamasundar and the fell unconscious. From the material point of view Lord Jagannatha is just wood and paint not even artistically done. The atheist may see it as primitive folk art and Lord Caitanya saw that the Krishna deity is Krishna. Lord Caitanya is Krishna in the mood of Radha thus He felt so much separation that he could not stay in Puri. So he went to Alalanatha. He did not want to come back until the Ratha Yatra festival but so many disciples requested him so He came back. But in Puri he was so unhappy, His unhappiness know no bounds. But that separation is only apparent when it is ecstasy. So the devotees were thinking what to do. So much separation Lord Caitanya was experiencing.
So they decided to do Kirtan when Lord Caitanya heard the kirtan He became pacified. Because the holy name is Krishna. No difference. If you are hungry and chant mango it will not satisfy your hunger. But if you chant Krishna, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, Krishna is actually present dancing on your tongue. and when pure devotee chant they feel Krishna . Naham Tishtami vaikunthe. "I am not in Vaikuntha nor in the hearts of the yogis, I am where my devotees perpetually chant my holy names" So when we chant the holy name of Krishna and feel the presence of Krishna and we feel ecstacy and that will satisfy the soul, nothing else will satisfy the soul.

Like a bird in a cage. Decorated with jewels but if you do not feed the bird it will be dissatisified. So the bird is like the soul and cage is the body. If we do not feed the soul, the soul will not be happy. The food for the soul is the association of the Lord though chanting the Holy Names, the hearing Kirshna katha, serving the deity, this is the food for the soul.

No matter what we do for the cage, without feeding the bird, the bird will be fustrated. Bhakti man abhijananti. So how many of us have that consciousness . That is the question how many of us have the hellish mentality we think that the deity is just a statue. Of course some people who do not know the are hedging their bets. "Maybe there is some god, so let me invest" Some pranam and money in the box but the mentality is not of services just personal gain. You want to get someone to do something for you. You might invite them to dinner speak nice words. Similarly often we see that one worships the Deity of Krishna but they wants something from the deity. Not to serve Krishna but rather to love the body. Selfish. Actually. But it is still is good because they are approaching Krishna. Thinking, "Maybe deity is Krishna" but such dharma will not satisfy the soul. Even if they get what they were praying for . Often sooner loose everything. Superficial cannot keep it. Because in the material world all material things are temporary.

So why not invest our time and energy is something that lasts. We might think "I will live a long life." But still the illusion of maya is such that we think that we wont die and we make so many plans. But how do you know. So why not invest in something that will satisfy the soul. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

Krishna is manifest through the Holy Name, the deity, and the Srimad Bhagavatam, but the advantage of the Holy name is that one can chant anywhere anytime. One think we have the ability to speak or hear. All this is by the grace of the Lord, there is no guarantee that we will always be able to chant and hear. It can be taken away. By accident or one can grow old. But now we can speak hear. So we should do that. So many things what we take for granted. Generally when we sleep we assume that the next day will be the same. But one day something will happened something that we don't want,
One morning I woke up and I had a pain in my right wrist. I did not take it seriously at first but as I chanted it got worse and worse. Inflammation of the joint. Arthritic pain. The doctor told me that I would have to have complete rest for my wrist and use a slint . No moving. But I was attached to chanting my rounds. I asked "But what if I keep the splint but chant just with fingers tips. But what if I do move." "Well then your condition will get worse." It was very difficult not have use of it. I had my tongue mind ears. So strange. I had to chant with my left hand. and Now I DO NOT TAKE MY RIGHT HAND FOR GRANTED. Inflammation of the joint. Just one example. It is a gift, this experience. While we have these opportunities we should use them. King Kulashekar said '"Pada pankaja.. now let the swan of my mind be entangled in the lotus of Krishna. Swans like to sport in the water in the stems of Lotus flowers. At the time of death the three doshas . Kapha, pitta, and vayu will be disturbed and my voice will be choked." This is from the Ayurveda. When the doshas are disturbed then Disease. "Let me dies young while everything works good." Death is what is sure. Cataclysmic event. Practice now. We have too. The final exam. A child may say I do not want to study I want to play, party then suffer later. So spiritually we are like naughty children. Work to make money that is also playing. Who has the most toys wins. That should not be our focus.
Hare Krishna
Your humble servant,
Nityananda Chandra Das