Friday, April 25, 2014

Texas Faith 128: How should we suffer?

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 Lenten season is closing now in Holy Week. It comes around each year to remind Christians of Christ’s suffering and the suffering that we all endure in life. But, of course, the question of suffering extends to all faiths and is experienced by people regardless of religion.

David Brooks wrote recently in the New York Times that, in a culture chasing happiness, it is suffering, and suffering well, that truly defines us.

We suffer, and people suffer around us, in so many different ways. Some of it is widespread, the suffering of whole societies under war. Some of it is deeply personal, the death of a loved one or a divorce or a financial collapse. Whatever the circumstance, suffering can be profound.

How can faith sustain us through suffering and how should suffering inform our faith? Is suffering essential to being whole as a human? And what does it mean to accept suffering rather than reject it?

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

Suffering comes about as a karmic reaction for past deeds to encourage the self to not act against the laws of nature. Because a saintly person realizes that he is not the body, he does not identify with sufferings related to his body and mind.

A simple example is man who works hard and is very attached to his car, when the car gets damaged he practically feels pain. Another man, perhaps extravagantly wealthy, in the same circumstances does not feel the same pain as the man with great attachments to his car.

Therefore, those who are spiritually rich with practical realization of the self beyond the body do not suffer like those who are in the bodily conception of life.

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Echo question; Did Krishna become many? – HH Giriraj Swami

Hare Krishna Giriraj Swami

Please accept my humble obeisances

All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda

Yesterday I mentioned my doubt about the eko bahu syam verse.  My understanding is that this verse is in relation to the material world. In the following purport to CC Adi 6.14-15 it seems to hint at that, although the verse is not directly quoted. 

"He desired to expand Himself into many living entities, and with such a desire He first created a vast expanse of water within the universal space and then impregnated that water with living entities.”

In addition to that there are the extensive commentaries on the first verse of the catur ślokī, aham evasam evagre. 'It was I in the past, and only I in the future, and I in the present.'

In the commentaries the acharyas present that I in the past means with associates and abode. Then sastra is quoted that the abode and associates exist prior to this creation and are transcendental to it. 

However the way that this verse is sometimes quoted seems to indicate some sort of creation or existential aspect of Krishna existing alone at some point. Which doesn't seem correct to me. Perhaps it is an acintya subject and therefore cannot be understood by plain philosophy.  I do not know if there is any commentary on that verse to give a clear indication as to what it is regards to.

The way that I see it is that the Lord and his abode is a confidential subject and those subjects are not always directly spoken about in the Vedas and are rather more intimately revealed in books like Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.  So in this verse it is speaking just in regards to the material realm, Maha Visnu impregnating the pradhana.  Please let me know how you understand it. Thank you. 

Your humble servant,
Nityānanda Chandra Dās

My dear Nityananda Chandra Prabhu,
Please accept my best wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

When you first approached me with your question, I thought to share with you the following passage, and having read your letter now, I still think the passage is relevant. It is an excerpt from a talk that Srila Prabhupada gave in NYC in 1967, which was later edited and rendered as the Introduction to CC.

"Radha and Krsna are one, and when Krsna desires to enjoy pleasure, He manifests Himself as Radharani. The spiritual exchange of love between Radha and Krsna is the actual display of Krsna's internal pleasure potency. Although we speak of 'when' Krsna desires, just when He did desire we cannot say. We only speak in this way because in conditioned life we take it that everything has a beginning; however, in spiritual life everything is absolute, and so there is neither beginning nor end. Yet in order to understand that Radha and Krsna are one and that They also become divided, the question 'When?' automatically comes to mind. When Krsna desired to enjoy His pleasure potency, He manifested Himself in the separate form of Radharani, and when He wanted to understand Himself through the agency of Radha, He united with Radharani, and that unification is called Lord Caitanya. This is all explained by Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja in the fifth verse of the Caitanya-caritamrta."

What I have understood is that Lord Krishna and His energies exist eternally, simultaneoulsy, but because Krishna is primary and His energies are subordinate, we say that they come from Him. For example, we say that the sunshine comes from the sun, because the sunshine is secondary to the sun, but as long as the sun has existed, the sunshine has also existed.

In his introduction to the Bhagavad-gita, Srila Prabhupada states, "Isvara (the Supreme Lord), jiva (the living entity), prakrti (nature), kala (eternal time), and karma (activity) are all explained in the Bhagavad-gita. Out of these five, the Lord, the living entities, material nature, and time are eternal. . . . This material nature is the separated energy of the Supreme Lord, and similarly the living entities are also the energy of the Supreme Lord, although they are not separated but eternally related. So the Lord, the living entity, material nature, and time are all interrelated and are all eternal. However, the other item, karma, is not eternal."

The same thing seen from different angles will appear different and be described differently, thus to properly understand the Vedic knowledge one must see it from different angles, and then apparent contradictions are reconciled. And, as you mentioned, the subject is acintya - acintya-bhedabheda-tattva.

Anyway, I hope these few thoughts help.

And incidentally, I thought your presentation of the question and your discussion of it were very thoughtful and thought-provoking. Thank you very much.

Hare Krishna.

May this meet you in good health and enthusiastic spirits.

Yours in service to Srila Prabhupada,
Giriraj Swami

TEXAS FAITH 127: In faith and gender politics, what does submission mean — as in, submissive spouse?

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 Sarah Palin ran for vice president, as Hillary Clinton considers a race for president and with Wendy Davis actively engaged in a bid for governor, one aspect of that culture war is what it means in religious terms to be submissive – most notably, a submissive wife. A recent USA Today article notes the subject is popping up these days, preached from the pulpit, pontificated about in a spate of new book releases and prominent on the agenda of next month’s Southern Baptist leadership summit. “All seek to answer the question of whether wives are 100 percent equal partners or whether ‘biblical womanhood’ means a God-given role of supporting their husbands — and, in turn, knowing their husbands are honor-bound to die for them, if necessary.”

Biblical references to husbands leading their households have long invited interpretations that sound to many people a lot like inferiority. Where’s the equality in submission?  And yet Cynthia Rigby of the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and a member of the Texas Faith panel noted in the USA Today story, the Scriptures came out a world where women couldn’t own property and could be divorced by their husbands saying the word three times. In that world, holding wives up as “holy and without blemish” was a radical idea, she said. In her upcoming book, “Shaping Our Faith: A Christian Feminist Theology,” Rigby explores the idea biblical submission and its implications in the wider public debate.

With gender politics is so much part of our public debate, how do we interpret the idea of submission? What does submission in a religious, political and modern cultural sense really mean?

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

In order to have a stable culture stable family life is necessary.  If there is irreligion in the form of divorce it breeds lack of faith and stability in the children along other degrading qualities.  Submission by the wife is a psychological tactic for a peaceful and strong marriage.  Men in general like to feel that they are in charge.  If a woman can give him that illusion, that he is the leader, the relationship can be more strongly supported from the danger of break up.  In a traditional Vedic marriage the wife is the queen at home and the husband in the king in public.  Because of this ancient social science there is hardly any divorce in India and outside of the modernized urban areas it is practically non existent.

Ultimately one is to become submissive to God.  The material world is a place where souls go who have ego problems.  Those of us in the material world have a tendency to lord it over others.  Because a good and peaceful family life is conducive towards dharma and spiritual life, a spiritual aspirant will try to cooperate with their spouse towards that goal.  The idea is that pleasure and happiness comes by serving the whole just as watering the root of the tree supplies water to its leaves.  Similarly a spiritual relationship is free from mentality of getting something out of another but rather to work together to serve the whole.  When a couple truly serves the root with love, they, the leaves, become nourished and satisfied.

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