Friday, December 30, 2011

I went to Jail today.

It was fun. I went there to get fingerprints, as it is one the steps to getting my name legally changed to Nityananda Chandra Granger. They do a background check just to see if you are wanted by the FBI.

As I was invited to walk in the secure office one the officers asked about my dress. I told her that I was priest. She asked what the tilak meant and the śikha as well. She was very happy with the answers. I told her about our temple and restaurant and she immediately took a virtual tour on our website http://Kalachandjis.com

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Santas, the saints, on sankirtan, book distribution

Book distribution

The devotees of the Supreme Lord, or the persons who are in Krishna consciousness, are called santas, and they are always in love with the Lord as it is described in the Brahma-samhita (5.38): premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva hridayeshu vilokayanti. The santas, being always in a compact of love with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda (the giver of all pleasures), or Mukunda (the giver of liberation), or Krishna (the all-attractive person), cannot accept anything without first offering it to the Supreme Person. – purport to Bhagavad-gita As It Is 3.13

Yesterday was another ecstatic day of distribution of Srila Prabhupada’s books.   We have our own nice table set in the main entrance of the mall in the main hallway in front of the place where you go to get your photos with Santa Claus.   We had that day a total of nine devotees distributing numbers of books in the this wonderful mall.  It was great.   We also sold a lot of books using Square credit card terminal on iPhone and iPad.  We had seasoned veterans such as Narottamananda Prabhu and Radha Vinod Prabhu and many other devotees such as Mother Sucharya, Bhaktin Elizabeth.  We also had many devotee who were getting on the job training such as Mother Githa Narayana and the Madana Kisor Prabhu and his whole family, as well as Muraleedharan Prabhu.  All the devotees did wonderfully.  Because the books very easily flowed out of their hands it was a very nice place to learn how to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books.  Devotees felt enlivened and satisfied in heart, even one devotee was crying tears of happiness.  Hare Krishna.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 54: Why is music central to Christmas -- or any religious story?


Dallas Morning News,
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.

We are now full bore into the Christmas season, where parties are being held, presents are being bought and Santa's sleigh is about to reappear as a mystery to young children.
At the same time, churches are rolling out classic hymns, malls resound with music from the season and the drive home from work is made less tense by the car radio playing Christmas carols. Even for those who do not participate in this unique time on the Christian calendar, music is a way to share in the season.
Which leads to this week's question:


Why is music so central to Christmas - or any other religious story?

In Brahma's work, the Śrī Brahma-saḿhitā, a very detailed description of the kingdom of God, the following description is given, "kathā gānaḿ nātyaḿ gamanam." Meaning that in the kingdom of God every word is a song, and every step is a dance.

Kirtan, singing God's glories with music, is the easiest form of religious practice. It requires no wealth, or austere vows. One does not need to be a great scholar or season practitioner. All one needs is to sing God's glories with unwavering devotion. Therefore the father of kirtan, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, has recommended that in this Age of Quarrel, the most effective means to bring about God-consciousness is by chanting His holy names, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, or any actual name of God.

 

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

Thursday, December 8, 2011

If the dress is superficial, why should you change your dress to please people who are so serious about the superficial?

Prabhupada: Why your dress is not as a sannyas?


Tusta Krsna: The robes make people uncomfortable, Prabhupada. They see you as different and can’t relate. They won’t relax enough to listen when I wear robes.


Prabhupada: But sannyasis must dress in saffron with robes and shaved head.


Tusta Krsna: I am following all the principles, but the dress is external and superficial. Why should we let it hamper the preaching?


Prabhupada: If the dress is superficial, why should you change your dress to please people who are so serious about the superficial? [Pause.] You understand my point? Superficial people become controlled by superficial and external things. Why do you dress to please superficial people? You should dress to please Krsna.


Tusta Krsna: So you would like me wear saffron and shave up?


Prabhupada: Yes, I want you to promise this. Only wear saffron and keep your head shaved. This is sannyäsi dress. You should promise.


Tusta Krsna: Yes, Prabhupada. I promise.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 53: Why Should We Be Thankful?


Dallas Morning News,
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.

Thanksgiving Day.

It's a holiday that many people often say is their favorite one. No gifts to buy. No parties to attend. Just families and friends sharing a meal around the table.
But why should we be thankful?
The nation faces a massive debt. Washington is polarized. We're at war to keep terrorists from striking us. Poverty rates are alarming. The gap between rich and the middle class is widening. And that's before you even get off the front page.


So, why should we be thankful? And what should we be thankful for, either personally or at the larger national/global level?

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

Thanksgiving is a beautiful day wherein we lovingly gather around the table and all are very happy, all except for the innocent bird who has a knife in its back.

We all have many things to be thankful for. Number one is God, who arranges for all our facilities of life. Whenever there is a deficiency, we can see that deficiency either due to nature responding to our misuse and exploitative tendencies or directly in relation to our misuse and exploitative tendencies.

God does not only provide all of our subsistence but also arranges the education by which we can solve all of our problems by becoming fully God conscious. He teaches us how we can live sanely with such precepts as "Thou Shall Not Kill."

By God's will, He sometimes descends to this world as an avatar in His own form such as Krishna, Buddha, Rama and so on. Or sometimes He sends one of His unlimited sons, such as Jesus (or daughters) and empowers him to teach on His behalf.

This brings us to number two: We can be thankful for God's pure devotees, those who help others by teaching them how to be free from all distresses. By reawakening our natural relationship as a servants of God, such teachers teach by their example so that spiritual life can understood beyond the theoretical platform.

We have many, many other debts or persons to whom we should be grateful too, but none of them carry such weight as the first two choices.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Govardhana Puja–Dallas 2011

Last Sunday we had our 8 foot x 4 foot mountain of cake celebrating Sri Krishna's lifting of Govardhan Hill.  It was  a great event that drew in a large crowd.  One week earlier I had given a several classes on Bhagavad Gita to a total of about 150 students of Brookhaven college, thanks to our great friend Dr. Trish Dodd.  She had informed them that if they come to the festival they would earn extra credit.  About 20 students showed up from Brookhaven.  Another person that I met at my yoga class brought eight of their friends and we had over another 20 that showed up from Occupy Dallas, thanks to Lavanga and the prasadam distribution crew.

 

Each year we make a carob cake mountain and here you can see Chef Giovanni expertly frosting the mountain of Mother Laxmipriya’s cakes.   Radha Kunda, Mita, Randy, Sri Rupa, Vrinda, Mother Sucharya & others were also a great help. 

Hare Krishna
Your humble servant,

Nityananda Chandra Das

Friday, October 21, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 52: What does the Occupy movement say about American society?


Dallas Morning News,
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.

First, we had the Tea Party movement. Now, we have the Occupy Wall Street movement. Both are citizen-driven efforts to get our leaders' attention.

At this point, though, it is hard to grasp what precisely drives the Occupy movement. New York Times columnist David Brooks described it this way:

"If there is a core theme to the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is that the virtuous 99 percent of society is being cheated by the richest and greediest 1 percent. This is a theme that allows the people in the 99 percent to think very highly of themselves. All their problems are caused by the nefarious elite. Unfortunately, almost no problem can be productively conceived in this way."

Here, then, is the question for this week:

How do you interpret the Occupy movement? What do you think it says about American society?

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

The Occupy movement is opposed to the support of selfishness. Selfishness is a by-product of a civilization that is devoid of spiritual vision.

It is caused by maya, the illusory conception of the self. Under maya's influence, we misconceive the body as the self and thus we accept various types of identities. Caucasian, African-American, Chinese, Republican, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and so on are all based around the temporary body and temporary situations. This is contrasted with the fact that we are all eternal, beyond the body.

Just as polishing a cage does not satisfy the hunger of the bird, so the needs of the self cannot be fulfilled by one chasing the desires of the body.

The general tendency in modern society is to look for material solutions. However, this selfishness that is being protested is not a material issue but rather a spiritual problem. Without understanding where we are, an eternal spirit soul, we cannot venture towards our desired destination, which is peace and happiness.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 51: Why does a strong belief in heaven and hell motivate people?


Dallas Morning News,
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.

Baylor University released its latest survey of religion in America last month. As always, there's plenty to digest. The findings about competing beliefs in heaven and hell especially caught my eye.

According to the survey, more people believe in heaven than hell. That's perhaps not surprising. Most of us like the idea of heaven more than hell.

But the report also showed that people who believed in both were more satisfied with their jobs, strove for excellence and found meaning in their work. This is how the report framed this discovery:

"The majority of people who absolutely believe in Heaven and Hell are always or often motivated by their faith to pursue excellence, which certainly would please most organization owners. This relationship is strongest among those who absolutely believe in Hell."

So, what does this say to you? Why would it be that a strong belief in heaven and hell are a motivating factor in people's lives?

 
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 
 
The report illustrates that those who have recognized that there are metaphysical consequences for one's actions and decisions are more likely to be mindful and focused in their endeavors.

I find that this mindfulness is even more prevalent for those who understand consequences that are dealt with in this life are due to actions of previous lives. Thus, when difficulty approaches, the intelligent do not blame others, such as society and ultimately God.

Rather, such a mindful person blames themselves realizing that by God's powerful law of karma one is completely protected to only suffer only those circumstances that are actually due to oneself. Not a blade of grass can move without the sanction of God.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 50: Is it ever right to divorce a spouse with Alzheimers?


Dallas Morning News,
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.

When Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson told a caller on his TV show that a married man dating another woman because his wife was suffering from Alzheimer's "should divorce and start all over," it caused a predictable reaction. Even his co-host reminded Robertson that couples vow to remain together "for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer." But Robertson did not back off: "I hate Alzheimer's. It is one of the most awful things because, here is a loved one, this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly, that person is gone. They're gone. They are gone." Alzheimer's, he said, "is a kind of death." And he said he would not put a "guilt trip on someone who divorced for such a reason."

What to make of this? Conservative Christian leaders were swift to condemn Robertson's remarks. But as the New York Times reported, many doctors and patient advocates had a more complex response - some suggesting that he had broached an important subject, how spouses and other family members of dying patients can prevent their lives from being engulfed and start to move on.

How do we reconcile the practical and moral conflicts in Robertson's advice? Is it ever right to divorce a spouse suffering from Alzheimer's? What is the morally acceptable thing for people who develop new relationships while caring for a spouse in the last stages of Alzheimer's?

Our Texas Faith panel weighs in with some provocative, and often surprising, answers on a very difficult issue.

 
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 
 
The by-product of religion, or spiritual connection is satisfaction and selflessness. Those who are not connected with God seek the outer path, as hinted last week by our panelist Ric Dexter. They seek to satisfy the self or extended self. However those who first of all have the basic understanding of the soul, that the self is different from the body, do not look for externals for comfort, for they are connected with God. Thus a true practitioner does not see others with the eye of exploitation.

What is the eye of exploitation? It is when we view others as objects of enjoyment, thinking "what can this person do for me?" Because in America we do not have a God conscious culture rather we have a iGod conscious culture we cannot have steady relationships. As soon as person is no longer useful for the others gratification there is divorce. Whereas in India there is a remnant of spiritual culture remaining. Marriage is held together by the sense of duty. That I have a duty to God, society, and saints to properly uphold the marriage institution. Therefore I am duty bound to protect and care for my spouse, regardless of how difficult it is. Such duty is purifying for our heart and produces spiritual realizations.

Life is meant for shreyas, working for ones ultimate good, rather than preyas, instant gratification. Living a life for your own gratification only produces dissatisfaction. On a side note one who at the age of 80, at the door step of death should not seek additional relationships but rather should marry themselves to God.

Only that person who is ready to renounces everything (home, wealth) to work for the highest good is permitted renounce family ties and thus be a sannyasi.

"A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires -- that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still -- can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires." -Bhagavad Gita As It Is 2.70

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 49: Is monotheism superior?


Dallas Morning News,
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.

The three Abrahamic faiths are known for being monotheistic religions. They worship one Deity, even though they may leave room for several concepts of the Divine. For example, Christians believe in the Trinity.
But other faiths aren't monotheistic. They allow for more than one god. As Texas Faith panelist Amy Martin wrote in an email:
"If you ask a Hindu if they are monotheistic, they will acknowledge the all-encompassing nature of the Brahma and say that all their gods and goddesses are simply aspects of that godhead. Even pagans say the same thing. The spiritual-not-religious, like Buddhists, posit an all-is-one divine energy, but do not define it as God."
Over time, these concepts have shaped traditions, cultures and even nations. So, for this week I'd like to hear your answer to this question:
Do you think monotheism is a superior form of religious belief?
If so, why? If not, why not?

 
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 
 
I would like to thank Amy for this nice question. One item I would like to clarify is that Hinduism in not a religion nor a way life but rather as Sanskrit and Indian Studies Professor Dr. Howard J Resnick states, "A family of different religions."

Of all religions of Hinduism, Vaishnavism is the most prominent. It is over 70% of the Hindu population.

If the term Hindu has any value, it would be to indicate a geographic designation rather than a theological one. The Vaishnava tradition is not monolantry, nor pantheistic. It is monotheistic.

The scriptures of most traditions all emphasize monotheism. For example in the Bhagavad Gita, God states that he is not only the father all beings on this Earth but also the father of the angels (devas), who some call the gods (BG 14.4).

The Vedas also state, Eko nārāyana asit, "that only God exist in this material world at the time of creation." The devas are all His creation. Therefore. according to scripture, polytheism is not supported.

Logically and also according to the scripture, absolute monism, Advaita, is not supported. It is true that every soul shares a qualitative feature of God since we are all spiritual, without creation and without destruction.

However, there is a quantitative difference. Our consciousness is limited. Others are not aware that I have to go to the bathroom unless I inform them. Our consciousness is primarily limited to our own bodies. We are not conscious of all bodies, where God is conscious of all bodies (BG 13.23)

A simple analogy can be given. If you take a drop of water out of the ocean, that drop will have the same qualities of the ocean. It shares the qualitative oneness of the same percentage of salt and minerals.

However, if you were to examine it quantitatively, you will see that there is a gulf of difference between the drop and the ocean. So, in this way, there is a difference and oneness between the soul and God. (BG 15.16-19)

I would also like to add that impersonal monotheism is also incomplete. The idea that God is faceless, formless, and without personal attributes goes against the very nature of monotheistic philosophy.

In monotheistic traditions God is understood to be the source of everything. If I were to possess qualities and attributes that are not found in God, then that would indicate that God is incomplete.

Therefore, it is suitable to accept that God has a form, the perfection of form. Not an old man as speculatively imagined by some artists but rather nava-yavanam, an ever youthful beauty, Krishna.

  The following are comments that I have left in response to panelist’s submissions.  Click on the link above to see them all.
 
    • Regarding Mr. Ghouse post. It is our humility, or inferiority, that is realized when we realize the superiority of God. To claim God supreme is not arrogance but rather a humble recognition of the truth of our position in relation to God.
      Yes pride and stupidity grow on the same tree and therefore the Brhat Bhagavatamrta equates the terms, Love of God (Bhakti) and utter humility (Dhainya) to be practically the same thing.
      One who has a mature relationship with God knows that those who approach the Father approach the same Father whether known by the name of Allah, Jehovah, or Krishna. The point about uniqueness people also can been in favor of Monotheism as many proclaim a desire for universal brotherhood and sisterhood, yet all are different. Such universal brotherhood and sisterhood cannot be realized without understanding we have a universal Father.
    • Both Zachary Moore and Cynthia Rigby bring up the problem of evil. This issue is easier understood with the understanding that the soul is not born with the body but is actually eternal. We experience karmas from our previous lives and thus suffer from our own doing rather than from neglect from God.
    • Dear Ric Dexter, you have mentioned "Nichiren discussed inferior and superior religious beliefs, and held that beliefs which sought redemption through external intervention were not superior to the ultimate law of life and death."
      a. Not all monotheistic traditions desire redemption,
      "na dhanam na janam na sundarīm
      kavitām vā jagadīśa kāmaye
      mama janmani jamanīśvare
      bhavatād bhaktir ahaitukī tvayi
      Translation
      O Lord of the universe, I do not desire material wealth, materialistic followers, a beautiful wife or results of good karma. All I want, life after life, is unmotivated devotional service unto You. Śrī Śiksāstaka - 4" Specifically the phrase 'life after life' is used to illustrate that the uttama bhakta does not even desire mukti, liberation. He is ready to go to hell, if there is an opportunity to serve God there.
      b. What is the logic behind the idea that spiritual inner work is superior to divine intervention? Some things are beyond our ability. Another point about this is that Love is not a one party relationship, to experience love, the highest experience, another party is necessary.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Separation of Church and Steak

Separation of Church and Steak

by Madan Oppenheimer

Which part of "kill" don't you understand?

Doesn't "Thou shall not" sound like a command?

 

Amidst the braying and crying

You only hear your greed

Drowning out the voices

Of those on which you feed

 

Hurting them to help yourself

Taking care of your own hide

You have dominion over them

And you feel justified

 

Which part of "kill" don't you understand?

Doesn't "Thou shall not" sound like a command?

Chewing flesh, saving souls

Portrait of a lie

Embodiment of contradiction

Never asking why

 

Give it up, walk away

Turn the other cheek

The Earth shall be inherited

By the humble and meek

 

Which part of "kill" don't you understand?

Doesn't "Thou shall not" sound like a command?

 

Meat is Murder, God is love

Where is the connection?

Docile stare, knife blade glare

Crime escapes detection

 

Words of truth interpreted

Ask your fellow man

 

Which part of "kill" don't you understand?

Doesn't "Thou shall not" sound like a command?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 48: Should we pray for rain?


Dallas Morning News,
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.

With the drought creating havoc across Texas, including leading to brutal fires in Central Texas, it's not uncommon to hear people either jokingly or seriously assert that they are going to pray for rain. Gov. Rick Perry even issued a proclamation last April asking Texans to pray for rain over a 72-hour period. Part of the proclamation read this way:

"WHEREAS, throughout our history, both as a state and as individuals, Texans have been strengthened, assured and lifted up through prayer; it seems right and fitting that the people of Texas should join together in prayer to humbly seek an end to this devastating drought and these dangerous wildfires;"

What is your view on this?

Should Texans or, for that matter, others afflicted by drought pray for rain?
If so, how would you pray? And what would you expect?
If not, why wouldn't you pray for rain?


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

This is an example of one's dependence upon God. Regarding this subject a great teacher, Srila Prabhupada has said,

"If nature likes, there can be profuse rain. That is nature's arrangement. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā. Parjanyād anna-sambhavah. Parjanyāt: you must have sufficient rain. And for having sufficient rain, you must execute yajña, or sacrifice. Yajñād bhavati parjanyah. So these leaders are now becoming rascals. They are not performing yajñas. They are opening slaughterhouses. How will there be rain? Instead of performing yajñas, they are opening big slaughterhouses"

According to the Vedic tradition, nature, which is one of God's energies, reciprocates with the activities of man. If we perform our spiritual duties (yajna) and abstain from sinful actions, such as killing the innocent and defenseless (meat eating and abortion) then nature will shower her blessings upon us. A pious society receives all their necessities from Mother Nature.

Our modern so-called materially advanced society does not cultivate an understanding of the dependence upon God. Children and adults alike believe that their food comes from the grocery store and the foolish technologist believes that they can eventually conquer death. The intelligent reject this post-dated check and understand that we cannot live on nuts and bolts but rather only survive by the mercy of God.

The easiest form of yajna in our modern age is the performance of kirtan. Kirtan means to glorify and specifically means the chanting of the many names of God. One can chant Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare or one may chant any name of God from the various traditions. Such chanting is a form of prayer wherein we ask the Lord to engage us in His loving service. By such chanting one can purify one's existence and at the same time directly experience God. God is never ungrateful for sincere efforts of loving service (Matthew 6:26) and therefore provides all that is needed. (BG 9.22)

 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 47: Do Jews, Christians and Muslims better understand each other since 9/11?


Dallas Morning News,
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.
Since September 11, 2001, many conversations have taken place among Muslims, Jews and Christians. There are official interfaith conversations occurring all over the globe, where participants dig into each other's texts. And numerous personal dialogues have been established over the last decade. Many of us have learned more about the three Abrahamic faiths since September 11, 2001 than perhaps we knew before that day.
But here's this week's question, which is simple in its wording but not necessarily simple to answer:
Do followers of the three Abrahamic faiths really understand each other better since 9/11?
Please explain the reasons for your answer.

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

Progressing in a clear direction by car not only requires a proper destination, but also knowledge of where one is coming from. I view this question in a similar way. If I am driving to Tulsa, I need not only the route but an understanding of where I am starting from.

By far, most religious philosophies do not deal with the subject of the self, the soul, in great detail. The difference between the body and our consciousness is not really discussed. Nor do we discuss this point: Although we reincarnate from a baby's body through childhood and youth, we, the soul, are the same person.
As a great calculus equation has little value if it is based on the premise that 1 + 1 = 3, so is interfaith and spiritual study without deep philosophical understanding of the self.

Egalitarianism based on the body fails since we are all different. This sentiment can be logically upheld by a spiritual philosophical basis by which one recognizes that the soul is of the same quality in all beings.
By deeper study, one can intelligently accept that there is only one God, by which all can approach with love calling Him by His different names. Allah, Jehovah, Krishna, Christ is just the tip of the iceberg. For as God has unlimited qualities and glories, therefore there exists unlimited names of God.

To see all responses of the TEXAS Faith panel click here. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 46: How do you interpret the Genesis creation story?


Dallas Morning News,
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.

Gov. Rick Perry made plenty of news last week, including offering the observation that creationism is taught alongside evolution in Texas schools.
He later was corrected about that point. The state's science standards do not require a tandem approach.
But certainly there have been battles to teach the creation story in Texas schools, as well as elsewhere. And, naturally, there has been plenty of pushback against linking them, including from some religious leaders.
The back-and-forth could go on for a long time. Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says the evolution debate goes to the heart of Christianity. And Gallup reported back in 2005 that 40 percent of poll respondents thought competing views of the origins of humankind matter a great deal.
With that as the background, here is this week's question:
How do you interpret the Genesis creation story?

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

I am not sure what I make of the Genesis creation story. To me, much of it is quite vague and too open to many interpretations. This contrasts with the fact that the Bhagavatam and other Vedic literature discuss creation in great detail in volumes of literature.

Why is understanding creation important? It is not enough to understand that God is great. Rather endeavors should be made to understand how great God is.

TEXAS FAITH 45: Modern connections between religion and art


Dallas Morning News,
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.

Despite the economy, it's likely that many Americans still toured Europe this summer. While there, they surely went into some of Europe's great cathedrals to view their towering architecture, stained glass windows and ornate statues. And they likely took in one or more of Europe's impressive museums, viewing works of art that often had a religious connection.
Even if many Americans didn't make that trek this summer, it is one that countless Americans have made over the years. In their tours, they were steeping themselves in the connection between religion and art.
But here's this week's question:


Where would you take a visitor today to see a modern connection between religion and art?

If you have an idea in mind, please explain why you would take a visitor there. If nothing jumps to mind, what do you think that says about the modern relationship between religion and art?

 

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 
 
Vrindavan would be my first choice. It's a town of 50,000 people with over 5,000 temples. Some of them are over 500 years old and some more than thousands of years old.

The place is rich in art and architecture but the main feature is the culture. Everyone in Vrindavan is constantly singing the glories of God, from four in the morning to the late hours of the night. Even when the rickshaw driver is asking you to move out of the way he says "Radhe! Radhe!" (a name of God's feminine aspect) instead of chanting, "Go, Go!"

This town of Vrindavan has been celebrated in the scripture and in history as the most sacred place in India for over 5000 years.

From Moses to Mahaprabhu

by Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838 –1914)

bhaktivinoda.gif - 23543 Bytes

If the reader carefully considers, it will be found that the spiritual science gradually evolved from ancient times and became more simple, more clear and more condensed. The more impurities arising from time and place are removed, the more the beauties of the spiritual science brightly shine before us. This spiritual science took birth in the land of kusha grass on the banks of the Sarasvati river in Brahmavarta. As it gradually gained strength, this spiritual science spent its childhood in the abode of Badarikashram, which is covered with snow. It spent its boyhood in Naimisharanya on the banks of the Gomati river and its youth on the beautiful banks of the Kaveri river in the province of Dravida. The spiritual science attained maturity in Navadvip, on the banks of the Ganges, which purifies the universe.

By studying the history of the world, it is found that the spiritual science reached its peak in Navadvip. The Supreme Absolute Truth is the only object of love for the living entities. Unless one worships Him with attachment, however, the living entity can never attain Him. Even if a person gives up all affection for this world and thinks of the Supreme Lord, He is still not easily achieved. He is controlled and attained by transcendental mellows alone. These mellows are of five types - shanta, dasya, sakya, vatsalya and madhurya.

The first mellow, shanta, is the stage in which the living entity surpasses the pains of material existence and situates himself in transcendence. In that state there is a little happiness, but no feeling of independence. At that time the relationship between the practitioner and the Lord is not yet established.

Dasya rasa is the second mellow. It contains all the ingredients of shanta rasa as well as affection. "The Lord is my master, and I am His eternal servant". This type of relationship is found in dasya rasa. No one cares much for any of the best things of this world unless they are connected with affection. Therefore dasya rasa is superior to shanta rasa in many ways.

Sakya is superior to dasya. In dasya rasa there is a thorn in the form of awe and reverence, but the main ornament in sakya rasa is the feeling of friendship in equality. Among the servants, one who is a friend is superior. There is no doubt about it. In sakya rasa all the wealth of shanta and dasya is included.

It is easy to understand that vatsalya is superior to sakya. A son gives more affection and happiness than any friend. Therefore in vatsalya rasa we find the wealth of four rasas. Although vatsalya rasa is superior to these other rasas, it appears insgnificant before madhurya rasa. There may be many secrets unknown between father and son, but this not the case between husband and wife. Therefore, if we deeply consider, it will be seen that all the above-mentioned rasas attain perfection within madhurya rasa.

If we go through the histories of these five rasas, it is clearly understood that shanta rasa was seen in the beginning days of India. When the soul was not satisfied after performing sacrifices with material ingredients, then transcendentalists like Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanat-kumara, Sananda, Narada and Lord Shiva all became detached from the material world, situated in transcendence and realized shanta rasa.

Much later, dasya rasa manifested in Hanuman, the servant of Sri Ramachandra. That same dasya rasa gradually expanded in the northwest and manifested in a great personality named Moses.

In the age of Dvapara, Uddhava and Arjuna became the qualified authorities of sakhya rasa. They preached this rasa throughout the world. Gradually that rasa expanded up to the Arabian countries and touched the heart of Mohammed, the knower of religious principles.

Vatsalya rasa manifested throughout India in different forms at different times. Among the different forms, vatsalya mixed with opulence crossed India and appeared in a great personality named Jesus Christ, who was a preacher of Jewish religious principles.

Madhurya rasa first shone brightly in Braj. It is extremely rare for this rasa to enter the hearts of conditioned souls, because this rasa tends to remain with qualified, pure living entities. This confidential rasa was preached by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the moon of Navadvipa, along with His followers.

Till now, this rasa has not crossed beyond India. Recently a scholar from England named Newman realized something about this rasa and wrote a book about it. The people of Europe and America have not been satisfied with vatsalya rasa mixed with opulence as preached by Jesus Christ. I hope, by the grace of the Lord, in a very short time they will become attached to drinking the intoxicating nectar of madhurya rasa.

It has been seen that any rasa that appears in India eventually spreads to the western countries, therefore madhurya rasa will soon be preached throughout the world. Just as the sun rises first in India and gradually spreads its lights to the West, the matchless splendor of spiritual truth appears first in India and gradually spreads to the Western countries.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Birth of Janmastami, Krishna’s Appearance Festival

Kalachandji

This is an excerpt from the Hari Bhakti Vilasa: Sri Janmastami Vrata Fifteenth Vilasa, Volume Two beginning with text 249

Sri Krishna said: O Yudhishthira, after I had killed the demon Kamsa, Devaki embraced Me, placed Me on her lap, and wept.  When the wrestling was over she stood up in the grandstand. The Kukuras and Andhakas praised her.  Her affectionate kinsmen and their wives surrounded her. Vasudeva came, embraced me, said, "Son! Son!" and wept with a father's love.  His eyes filled with tears, he embraced Balarama and Me. In a choked voice he said, “Today my birth has born fruit. Today my life is lived well. Now I have met my sons, the two glories of the Yadu dynasty.” O king, seeing My parents' happiness, everyone else became happy. Bowing before Me, everyone spoke these words: “Today we are happy. Today Krishna is born. Today the demon Kamsa has fallen in a wrestling match.  O Lord Krishna, please glance at the people in this festival. Please give Your mercy to them and to others also.O Krishna, O Lord who removes all sufferings, please give to us the day when Devaki gave birth to You. We will celebrate a festival in Your honor. O Krishna, please be kind to Your sincere devotees.” Filled with wonder to hear the people speak these words, and the hairs of his body now erect in ecstasy, Vasudeva glanced at Balarama and said:  “It should be so. Please tell the people.”  O son of Pritha, then, on My father's order, I revealed the vow of Janmastami to the people of Mathura. The brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas, shudras, and all others who are pious, from the age of eight years and older, should observe Janmastami. (ekadasi is followed at the same age as well.)  O people, during the monsoon season, on the ashtami of the dark fortnight (krishna-paksha, of the month of Bhadra, when the sun was in Leo and the moon and the star Rohini were both in Taurus, in the middle of the night I was born as the son of Vasudeva and Devaki.  This day will be known in this world as the vow of Janmastami. On this day celebrate a great festival honoring both Me and the goddess. First this festival will be celebrated in Mathura. Later it will become famous in the whole world.  Hearing of this festival, the people began to observe it. May there be peace amongst them. May they be happy. May they have good health.  This festival should be observed every year, for that is pleasing to the Lord. The scriptures also describe some offenses in its observance. 

In the Skanda Purana it is said:

Prahlada and other great kings very faithfully observe the auspicious vow of Janmastami, which is dear to Lord Krishna. Their purpose is to please Lord Vishnu

It was nice noticing Lord Sri Krishna’s prediction that this festival would be celebrated all over the world.  Hare Krishna

Monday, August 8, 2011

Weekend Teachings

As the days get closer and closer to Janmastami our temple and activities become busier and busier.   Last Saturday morning I performed a Nam Karan Yajna, a ceremony by which the newborn baby’s name is decided.   The name chosen was Lalita Devi, the dear friend of Srimati Radharani.   The baby was born during Ekadasi last month right near the Visakha Nakshatra (Visakha is the dear friend of Lalita) and later on found out that her aunty, who is a nice devotee, also has the name Lalita.  Also the beautiful baby looked just like little Lalita in the Little Krishna cartoon.

After finishing that program I went to what I thought would have been another home program.  I was invited a few weeks ago to come and speak at a Bhagavata Saptaha that a Nepali man was organizing.  Much to my surprise there were well over 300 people at this event.  It was held at the Nepali Cultural Center in Dallas.  Entering in the building reminded me of India.  It was about 110 F outside and the building’s AC was struggling.  AC water dripped from the ceiling as the hundreds of Nepalis approached the altar and vyasasana for blessings.  Even with the AC maxed out it was quite hot inside.  There was a big platform and canopy as a vyasasana and I was motioned to sit and speak.  The host asked if I could explain the essence of the Srimad Bhagavatam and its glories.   I spoke at first about so called “material qualities” of the Bhagavatam.  That there is a chapter wherein it is discussed the the smallest calculation of time based on atomic interaction.  Or that there are accurate measurements to the various planets in our solar system, or that you can find accurate descriptions of the growth of the fetus.   Then the discussion let to why the Bhagavatam was produced, the story of Vyasa’s spiritual maturation and finally the goal, Bhakti.   One could see the appreciation that all the Nepali devotees had hearing Bhagavatam Katha.  We followed by inviting them to come to the Janmastami festival.   Later that evening the whole family and I attend a great lecture by His Grace Manonatha Prabhu who led a question and answers session on Veda and Vedanta and spoke about his upcoming Yoga Sutras discourse.  

On Sunday morning we had another very nice program.  I was invited to speak at the Christ United Methodist Church in Plano.  A church with a membership of about 8000.  Murari Vallabh Prabhu, accompanied me on this trip to their beautiful facility.  The building must have had at least 40 class rooms.  We were invited in a room wherein sat fifty 60 year olds.  It was to be a class on Hinduism 101.  We first gave the explanation of the word Hindu and gave a basic Bhagavad Gita 101.   The class was very well received.  Many came to thank us after the class and particularly a gentleman came to me and reading his notes stated, “We are a soul in the vehicle of the body, wow this REALLY puts perspective on things.”  The day was then followed by a wonderful kirtan led by Urjsvat Prabhu at the Sunday Feast. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tulasi Kanthi–neck beads of the Krishna devotees

Tulasi bead
A few weeks ago I posted an article about Tilaka.  In this article Srila Prabhupada was quoted saying,
“I have no objection if members of the Society dress like nice American gentlemen; but in all circumstances a devotee cannot avoid tilaka, flag on head (shikha) and (tulasi) beads on the neck. These are the essential features of a Vaisnava." (SPL to Brahmananda, 14th October, 1967)
Tulsi Kanthi in on this list so I thought that I should also share some info about the kanthi, neckbeads as well. 
The Krishna conscious culture teaches that anyone who is an aspiring devotee of Krishna should wear Tulasi neckbeads for Tulasi is so spiritually potent.   The following are some verses from the Hari Bhakti Vilasa
yah punas tulasī-mālām krtvā kanthe janārdanam |
pūjayet punyam āpnoti pratipuspam gavāyutam ||326||
One who engages in the worship of Śrī Janārdana while wearing tulasī neckbeads accumulates piety equivalent to giving ten thousand cows in charity for each of his flower offerings.
tulasī-kāstha-sambhūtām yo mālām vahate narah |
phalam yacchati daitārih pratyaham dvārakodbhavam ||332||
A person who wears tulasī neckbeads all the time obtains the result of living in Dvārakā.

sadā prītamanās tasya krsna devakī-nandanah |
tulasī-kāstha-sambhūtām yo mālām vahate narah |
prāyaścittam na tasyāsti nāśaucam tasya vigrahe ||334||
tulasī-kāstha-sambhūtām śiraso yasya bhūsanam |
bāhvoh kare ca martyasya dehe tasya sadā harih ||335||
There is no need to perform atonement for a person who wears tulasī neckbeads. Factually, he does not become contaminated at any stage in his life. Śrī Hari resides in the body of a person whose neck and arms are decorated with ornament made of tulasī.
tulasī-kāstha-mālām tu preta-rājasya dūtakāh |
drstvā naśyanti dūrena vātoddhūtam yathā dalam ||337||
tulasī-kāstha-mālābhir bhūsito bhramate yadi |
duhsvapnam durnimittam ca na bhayam śastrajam kvacit ||338||
Just by seeing the tulasī beads on a person’s neck, the Yamadūtas flee to a distant place. A person who wanders here and there after putting on tulasī neckbeads has nothing to fear from an accident, bad dreams, or weapons.
tu_05__00913
Srila Prabhupada also states,
In the Padma Purāna there is a statement describing how a Vaisnava should decorate his body with tilaka and beads: "Persons who put tulasī beads on the neck, who mark twelve places of their bodies as Visnu temples with Visnu's symbolic representations [the four items held in the four hands of Lord Visnu—conch, mace, disc and lotus], and who have visnu-tilaka on their foreheads, are to be understood as the devotees of Lord Visnu in this world. Their presence makes the world purified, and anywhere they remain, they make that place as good as Vaikuntha."
In response to a list of several question asked by disciple Vidya dasi, Srila Prabhupada replies
“1) Tulasi is one devotee who appears wherever there is devotion to Krsna. 2) Tulasis body is spiritual. 3) Yes, jewelry is all right. 4) If possible. 5) Tulasi leaves should be offered to the Deity.
Answers to
1. Is each Tulasi a separate jiva soul or an expansion of one pure devotee?
2. Where does her spirit soul go when she leaves this body?
3. (missing)
4. When tulasi is being cared for by householders in their homes, must two aratis still be offered?
5. When tulasi is being cared for by householders in their homes, may they use her leaves and manjaris on their home offerings or should they take them to the temple?
Srila Prabhupada has also said,
"Just as a pet dog has got a collar, similarly we are pet dogs of God. So we have got this collar. And Yamaraja, the Lord of Death will understand that he-the devotee-is God's dog; he should not be shot down."
Because Tulasi kanthi is so important they are never taken off, but they can be replaced.  Anyone who wears Tulasi neckbeads at the time of death is greatly benefited beyond imagination, therefore it is important to keep them on at all times.   Tulasi also identifies one as a follower of Lord Chaitanya. 
Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sings in his Svīkara: Acceptance of Activities Favorable to Pure Devotion - Song 2 Verse 3
gaura-bhakata-priya-veśa dadhānā
tilaka-tulasī-mālā-śobhamānā
3) I will put on the garb that is dear to the devotees of Lord Gaura-sundara, including the twelve Vaisnava tilaka markings on my body and beautiful beads of tulasī wood around my neck.

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur also writes in his Jaiva Dharma that of the 64 angas of devotional service the remaining fourty-four are observed to increase one’s bhakti.  Item number one is decoration of the body with the Vaisnava signs of tilaka and tulasī beads.
Q. One may ask that if we are not the body then what is the need of instructions of decoration of the body?
A. Yes we are not the body but unless were are Paramahamsa pure devotees then we are still conditioned by the body.  We don’t want to become falsely transcendental and reject those good things that the greatly intelligent pure devotees has suggested for our spiritual welfare.   Yes, if we are not the body then we also do not need to eat, but because this body is Krishna’s property we take care of it and because this body is Krishna’s property we decorate it in the suggested fashion.  Hare Krishna
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 44: What responsibility should Murdoch or any CEO take for their company?


Dallas Morning News,
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.

Should Rupert Murdoch resign?


That has been one of the top questions swirling around the breathtaking scandal unfolding in Murdoch's media empire in Great Britain. He has apologized for the phone hacking that some of his employees engaged in or knew about. But Murdoch made clear to Parliament last week that he was going nowhere.
That decision upset some critics, who thought he should step down. No doubt some want Murdoch to go because they don't like his journalism, including at Fox News. But others thought it was his responsibility to take the fall.
But is it?


Murdoch contends he didn't know everything everyone below him was doing, which seems plausible. In fact, how does the head of any major company, institution or government agency know what is happening several rungs down? We in the media are often quick to want heads to roll. But why should folks at the top take a fall, if they were not directly involved?


So, here's the discussion for this week:
What does your training as theologians, ethicists, clergy, academics and people of faith teach you about situations like this? Specifically, what responsibility should the leader of an organization take for his or her institution?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 
 
The Vedic tradition teaches that if your children are employed and married you should then immediately retire and live a simple life dedicated to increasing your loving attachment and consciousness of Krishna, God.
 

Comments

FormerlyTexasbankerIsStillTwisted

why worship a false god who is a demon in servant hood to Satan, the arch enemy of the one true Living God who gave up His son Jesus, who died for the sins of the world, in order to reconcile mankind to God.

Nityananda Chandra Das

As there is only one Sun. It is not Mexican although known as Sol, or Indian although known as Surya. So similarly there is only one God. Some know Him as Jehovah, some as Jehovah, some as Krishna.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The baby grabs the surgeons fingers – Sivaramaswami.com

The baby grabs the surgeons fingers
July 22nd, 2011

An article sent  by Kesava Bharati Maharaja

Read before looking!

Please read before viewing the picture – it’s worth it. A picture began circulating in November. It should be ‘The Picture of the Year,’ or perhaps, ‘Picture of the Decade.’ . The picture is that of a 21-week-old Unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas, who is being operated on by surgeon named Joseph Bruner.

The baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and would Not survive if removed from his mother’s womb.

Little Samuel’s mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta


She knew of Dr Bruner’s remarkable surgical procedure. Practicing at Vanderbilt Univ Med Ctr in Nashville , he performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb.

During the procedure, the doctor removes the uterus via C-section and makes a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon’s finger.

Dr Bruner was reported as saying that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile.

The photograph captures this amazing event with perfect clarity The editors titled the picture, ‘Hand of Hope.’ The text explaining the picture begins, ‘The tiny hand of 21-week-old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas emerges from the mother’s uterus to grasp the finger of Dr Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the gift of life.’

Little Samuel’s mother said they ‘wept for days’ when they saw the picture. She said, ‘The photo reminds us pregnancy isn’t about disability or an illness, it’s about a little person.’Samuel was born in perfect health, the operation 100 percent successful.

Now see the actual picture.

 

One Response to “The baby grabs the surgeons fingers”
  1. Gina says:

    July 22, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Oh wow, that was worth seeing!..Thanks for uploading. What else do they need, for the child to speak? It is so unfortunate, but in Kali it won’t make much difference to those who want to do these acts… just like animal slaughter, the cries of the animals fall on deaf ears..

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Vaishnava Tilak–Marking your body as the temple of God

In the Vaishnava tradition devotees wear the urdhva pundra made of gopi chandan commonly known as tilak. 

"Tilaka means victory personified." (SPL to Tilaka devi dasi,)

By wearing tilak not only does one identify ones body as the temple of the Lord but also one is blessed by the auspicious protection of the Lord.  Not only is the wearer immensely benefited but even those who see the tilak marks are benefited.

“In Kali-yuga one can hardly acquire gold or jeweled ornaments, but the twelve tilaka marks on the body are sufficient as auspicious decorations to purify the body. “  SB 4.12.28 Purport 

Srila Prabhupada emphasized that tilak was part of the essential dress of a devotee. 

“I have no objection if members of the Society dress like nice American gentlemen; but in all circumstances a devotee cannot avoid tilaka, flag on head (shikha) and (tulasi) beads on the neck. These are the essential features of a Vaisnava." (SPL to Brahmananda, 14th October, 1967)

Tilak is applied with the Lord’s holy names thus giving protection to the whole body.

“While decorating the body with tilaka, we give protection to the body by chanting twelve names of Vishnu. Although Govinda, or Lord Vishnu, is one, He has different names and forms with which to act differently.” SB 10.6.27-29 Purport ACBSP

"Persons who are decorated with tilaka or gopī-candana [a kind of clay resembling fuller's earth which is produced in certain quarters of Vrindāvana], and who mark their bodies all over with the holy names of the Lord, and on whose necks and breasts there are tulasī beads, are never approached by the Yamadūtas." The Yamadūtas are the constables of King Yama (the lord of death),  - Nectar Of Devotion Ch. 9

Srila Prabhupada has given the example of a policeman.  He can be identified by his dress.  Downing the dress, the policeman is also reminded that his behavior should honor his position. 

Simply by seeing someone wearing tilak, people are induce to utter the words, “There is a Hare Krishna” and thus they immensely benefit thus we should not see it as something external.

“Just like sometimes on the street some outsider, seeing you, they chant Hare Krsna only by the symbolic, sānketya. Because they see: "They have got tilaka, kunti." Therefore these things are required. Don't become immediately paramahamsa—no tilaka, no kunti and no bead bag. This is not good. Sānketya. So that others may understand, "Here is a Vaisnava. Here is a Krsna devotee..." And if he is simple, he'll chant, "Hare Krsna." This chance should be given. Therefore it is necessary, how people can utter. That chanting may save him from the greatest danger. Therefore it is said, sānketyam pārihāsyam. If somebody jokes... Sometimes they do that. "Hare Krsna" means he is not seriously chanting, but he is trying to joke the other party who is engaged in chanting. And that is also good, pārihāsya.”  - Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.2.13 -- Vṛndāvana, September 15, 1975

Here is a quick video tutorial of how to put on tilak.

Thank you

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Now eternally conditioned, now eternally liberated

As long as the jīva takes full shelter of the Supreme Lord he remains a resident of the spiritual planets, but when he forgets the innate spiritual knowledge about the Lord he is placed outside the transcendental realm. The jīva is compared to a ray of the sun, but under the cloud of maya, or the illusory energy, his conditioned state is an unconstitutional and hence unnatural term of existence. The jīva exists to support and participate in the Supreme Lord's transcendental pastimes, but his marginal nature makes him vulnerable and can bring him under maya's spell, to suffer the pangs of repeated birth and death. But as soon as the individual spiritual spark awakens to realise his original self, the dark mist of ignorance, or maya, dissipate, and the long suffering of repeated birth and death at last comes to a halt. He regains his true spiritual identity.

 

The innumerable living entities go through, varied stages of existence, now eternally conditioned, now eternally liberated. When the jīva rejects the Supreme Lord he becomes forever ensnared in matter. But again aspiring for His shelter, the curtain of maya that separates the jīva from his eternal transcendental identity is forever removed, and he is immediately restored to his original pure self.

- Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura Śrī Sanmodana Bhāsyam

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bhagavad Gita 7th Chapter summary

Taking the advise of my dear Godbrother Omkara I gave this Sunday Feast class on the entire 7th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita As It Is.  by Krishna's and Guru's grace all verses were recited from memory.
Sunday Feast Class - Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7
 Hare Krishna
Your humble servant,
Nityananda Chandra Das

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dhotis on Distribution?

jedi kirtan
Q. Prabhuji, I am asking your personal opinion on book distribution in big cities in Texas.  Dhoti/tilak or jeans/pullover for showing BBT books to public. A senior book distributor devotee recommends looking like Joe Public or a yoga student to show Prabhupada’s books?
Here is my reply:

Jeans were good in the 70's because back then speaking to a person in a dhoti on the street was like speaking to a grown man wearing a diaper on the street. It totally freaked people out, thus it was very hard to communicate. Such is not the case today. Just as chanting with others, san-kirtan, helps each other advance. Which is different than japa which is only for individual advancement. So similarly wearing a dhoti in public helps others remember Krishna and not just the person you are speaking with. People think, "There are the Hare Krishna's" By this public presence we do not become the forgotten cult of the past but rather a part of public life. People can easily recognize us by this method. Just imagine you are distributing books and that there is a person across the street who is interested. That person may not recognize you without devotional dress. Many of the people that I find that are very interested are the ones that approach me due to the dress.
...
photos from www.RedAshram.com
I have personal experience of distributing books in large cities such as New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and many others, wherein people would come up to me and say, "Hare Krishnas!, I thought you guys ceased to exist, extinct!" In New York there are many homeless people and charlatans who are well dressed and clean looking selling items and asking for donations. By wearing devotional attire, people are instilled with confidence that we are not out there just to make a buck but rather to distribute knowledge.

People respect the dress and are spiritually benefited by such an offering of respect. Often I am attached, which is not good, to special treatment that we devotees get when dress like priests, monks, and religious folk. People not only speak to you differently, but inquire from you about your beliefs as well.

(student dressed up for a school project)

One of the devotees who is responsible for the revival of devotional dress here in the States in public is Prithu Prabhu.  Back in the mid 90's and so on he had all the book distributors going out in Vaisnava attire. I remember back in Portland he had his very tiny little temple, however that little tiny temple had more young devotees joining and accepting initiation than any other temple in the U.S. This went on for several years. In the town, everyone knew the Hare Krishnas, we were part of the city's culture rather than a forgotten past.

Just one last thing I would like mention.  A disciple of Srila Prabhupada, Misra Bhagavan Prabhu, told me an anecdote the other day.  He spoke about how in the 70’s there was a wonderful video of Srila Prabhupada’s BBT production, “Brilliant as the Sun” ending with a devotee distributing books dressed in dhoti, tilak, and kurta.  Misra Bhagavan recalled, “Wow I wish I could distribute books like that.”  This was back in the day of tacky wigs, slacks, and button-up shirts and no disclosure. 

There are situations where I would not wear a dhoti. Like places I should not be distributing books.  But if it is just a public place then there is no harm and definitely benefit.

Friday, May 27, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 43: What gives rise to end-times predictions?


Dallas Morning News,
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.
I had wanted to avoid the May 21st rapture debate because it seemed like so much of a chip shot. Even many who believe in one form or another of end-times theology have disagreed with the prediction of Harold Camping of the Family Radio Network. He's the fellow that predicted Judgment Day was to come Saturday. (As I understand it, Camping, a civil engineer, reached that conclusion by pegging May 21 to being exactly 7,000 years after Noah got caught in a flood.)
But his prediction has generated plenty of attention. And since Judgment Day didn't come, and we all are still here, let's deal with the underlying issue in this discussion. And that is the ongoing prediction of the world's end.
Camping is hardly the one to offer a precise date. The New York Times reports how Seventh-Day Adventist Robert Reidt long ago predicted February 6, 1925 as the day of reckoning. And the Christian Science Monitor last week catalogued five big examples of end-time dates, going back to one in 1844.
Here, then, is this week's question:
What gives rise to precise end-times predictions?
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

It natural to expect change as we see in this world there are four seasons. Also, a lot of religious literature speak about a change in times.

For example, the Vedas speak of this age, Kali-yuga, and its end times. This end time is explained to be 427,000 years from now. But this event is cyclical, like our four seasons. Not an actual end of this world but rather a change in the spiritual direction of the populous.

Should end times be a motivation for religious renewal? According to the great saint Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, religious motivation based on fear is low-grade religion.


Why worry about end times, everyone already has their own end time to worry about. Even though America is technologically advanced, the death rate is still a steady 100%. Bhaktivinoda Thakura teaches that in general there four levels of religious motivation.

1) Bhaya -- out of fear.
2) Asha -- for satisfying material aspirations.
3) Kartavya-buddhi -- out of a sense of duty (literally, "a mentality of what should be done").
4) Rāga -- out of genuine attraction for the Lord.


Lord Krishna similarly states in the Bhagavad Gita As It Is chapter 7 that there are those who approach God because of difficulties, those who approach because of material aspirations, those who approach because of inquisitiveness and those who approach because there are sincerely seeking the Absolute Truth.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 41: Is science leading to a new literalism?


Dallas Morning News,
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.
British theologian and Anglican cleric Keith Ward contends that the growing role of science in the world, where countries depend upon scientists and inventors to drive their economies, has led to a growing literalism.
 
Or so reports Michelle Boorstein on the Washington Post's On Faith blog. Writes Boorstein;


"Keith Ward, a British philosopher who was for years the canon of Oxford's cathedral, argued that the rise of science has led in the Judeo-Christian world to two things: literalism, because people no longer value things they can't prove, and secularism, because critical thought can tend to shift people to look at the Bible like any other book.."


(For more about Ward's thinking, you can read the lecture he gave in 2009 about science and religion at this link.)


Let's put aside the secularism point and focus on the scientific angle. We certainly live in a world where science and technology are on the rise. Many of us benefit from that reality, whether through advances in health care, being able to say hello to friends and family around the world through new technologies or learning more about the origins of our universe.
 
But does Ward have a point?
?: Has science, with its emphasis on empiricism, led to a new literalism, where we value things we can prove more than things we cannot?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas
The attraction to modern science is its practicality. Put some food in the microwave, turn it on, and the food comes out hot. No belief, just practical results. Similarly religion is not supposed to be based on belief but rather its ability to produce practical results. The foremost of which is happiness.
Religion without philosophy is simply sentiment or fanaticism and science and philosophy without religion is simply mental speculation. Real faith is attained with practical results.
Therefore I feel that they problem is that religious groups have moved away from practical experiences of a spiritual connection to the realm of blind faith.