Appearance Day of Srila Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Maharaja

Why do I keep on striving in my spiritual life when life is so hard? Today I got the sweet answer in a rememberance story from Kishori Mohan:

Today is the Appearance Day celebration of my spiritual uncle, Srila Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Maharaja, the beloved Godbrother of my Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Goswami Maharaja.

Here are some of my memories:

Once, Sudevi and Anu Radha were in his room and he was affectionately ‘harassing’ them with questions.

He asked them, “Why do you want to love Krsna?”

They answered, “Because He is beautiful!”

He said, “No, that is for You! Why do you want to love Krsna?”

They seemed perplexed and answered, “Because Gurudeva told us to!”

Sudevi saw me listening from outside and said, “Maharaja, my husband is outside. Ask him!”

So I had to enter the room. He was very strong in his classes, so I was a bit timid.

He asked me, “Why do you want to love Krsna?”

I replied, “I don’t know Maharaja. Please tell me!”

He responded, “Because it is your NATURE!”

He was so simple, yet so profound.

I loved his classes. They were a bit heavy, but I needed it. They always grounded me.

I remember in 1996, not many devotees were attending his classes. Srila Gurudeva told us that we should hear from him. He said something like, “He may look frightening, but actually, he’s very soft!”

Srila Gurudeva would always lovingly argue with him. Pujyapad BV Trivikrama Maharaja would say something like, “Candravali is the best devotee of Krsna.” And he would give his reasonings.
This would cause Srila Gurudeva to become very enthusiastic to prove the superiority of Srimati Radhika. I remember once that this conversation continued for quite a long time.
We were out on Parikrama at Rama Ghata, and it still continued.
They walked together to take acamana at Yamuna River and the arguing still continued. Finally, Srila Gurudeva jokingly said to him, “Anyhow, they all came to hear me speak, not you!” They were both laughing. Srila Gurudeva walked ahead and Maharaj was just laughing and shaking his head.

Later on, that same day, at Biharvan (where all the cows are), Maharaja sang Radhe Jaya Jaya Madhava Dayite, his eyes full of tears.

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Maha-mantra ponderings

japa-malaThe greatest treasure in my spiritual life is when I start pondering a question and I usually get an answer even if it takes months (or years). My ponderings on the maha-mantra is one of those where I haven’t found the solution, but I’m still working on it. One of the qualities I have is a tendency to push until I understand the subject in question. Though I must say that understanding what it takes for me to put an effort into japa is the most interesting adventure so far.

Chanting japa steadily requires taste, it requires dedication, a loyalty to practice. But what continues to baffle me is why I find it difficult to do when I like chanting. I find chanting soothing, attractive, it balances me in a way nothing else does. Chanting in a noisy environment with disruptions seems easier than chanting when I’m alone.

I’m wondering if my lack of enthusiasm is the main problem? That I’m in the stage of ghana-tarala? But how do we progress from there. Again I’m meeting the wall where we are urged to keep in good association to progress. It’s almost like I’m breaking ground where I figure out how to progress in spiritual life without association.

I’m urged in all my readings (and by my faithful commentator Syamananda Prabhu) to chant attentively. In other words, I have to work on my practice. Which I do, I will and I will continue to work on it.

Then I though of this funny comment:

 But we’re also not totally uninterested in the maha-mantra. Like, when my brother starts to speak about cars, his passion, I just want to die. I’m not THAT uninterested in the maha-mantra.

This is a sign of progress. How have my dedication to chanting improved? The truth is that I haven’t chanted this much and at such steady instability in years.

For every attentive utterance its intrinsic motivation will be rubbed off on me. If I feel discouraged by the time it takes, I can zoom in and look how it converts one atom after another, one storage unit in my citta after another, each attentively uttered name.

I can also say I haven’t been this emerged into krishna consciousness before. Sure I had more enthusiasm before, but what I experience now is deeper and contains more understanding. I understand better now. Where I before just “wanted to achieve the goal”, I know understand that to achieve the goal I have to transform myself. Transformation takes a long time, and it’s a nice process to go through.

And that is the key – I have transformed. There is a difference in me if I zoom in and look at me now vs how I was a couple of years ago. But oh, what a small progress there is. But whatever progress I’ve had is very precious to me.

“nāmāparādha-yuktānāma namani eva haranty-gham – for those chanting with offences, the holy name Himself will gradually remove all obstacles” (Padma Purāṇa)

But what is the cause of this progress? I don’t know. I can’t really say it comes from me. It must have come from my Gurudeva and the maha-mantra somehow rubbing off on me. I have no other explanation.

Though waiting for the maha-mantra to rub off on me even more, so I somehow will chant steadily? Well, I prefer to keep pushing until I found the golden key.

From sannyasa vesa to babaji vesa

 

sannyasa dressOne person who received sannyasa from my Gurudeva, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja, has changed from being a sannyasi to accepting babaji vesa and a new name from Sri Ananta das Babaji of Radha Kunda.

Just to be clear, I have never heard of Sri Ananta das Babaji of Radha Kunda before this situation and I have never read his books. I also don’t know the sannyasi, I have only seen him during festivals.

This is controversial and generates a lot of discussions in the sangha. So whenever I encounter something I know little about, I always try to approach it without judgment and caution.

So the first thing is to figure out what my Gurudeva and the parampara say about this. This fragment of a lecture tells me what the difference between sannyasi and babaji vesa is:

Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: We are not speaking about giving bābājī-vesa. He never gave bābājī-vesa to anyone who was previously given sannyāsa. Our Guru Mahārāja also gave bābājī-vesa, and Śrīla Prabhupāda Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura also gave bābājī-vesa to some, but they never changed anyone from sannyāsa to bābājī.

There is almost no difference between a sannyāsī and bābājī, in the sense that the mantra of both is the same. The main difference is that the bābājī is mostly a bhajanānandī (a renunciant who mostly concentrates on his personal bhajana, spending less time in preaching activities), and the sannyāsī is a goṣṭhyānandī (a preacher who is also engaged in bhajana). Only those who don’t know the principles of either can change their dress. We should not change.

Source: Gaudiya Sannyasis Never Become Babajis

So there really isn’t much difference in terms of meaning except the dress signifying that one focus more on one’s personal bhajana. Of course, I believe there is room for a sannyasi to focus on his personal bhajana as well for longer periods of time if that is needed, but okey.

If there is any philosophical difference between Sri Ananta das Babaji and the Guru parampara, I don’t know.

Today the sannyasi gave a statement:

Sri Sri Guru-Gauranga Jayatah!
Jaya Sri Radhe!Dear Vaishnavas and Vaishnavis, please accept my humble pranams.I am updating my status to share with you my joy of all the great mercy that as been bestowed upon me recently. By the mercy of Srimati Radhika and Her dear maidservants in our glorious Rupanuga Vaisnava lineages I have been blessed in the most unexpected and most glorious way. I am asking for your blessings and prayers as I continue with my spiritual quest to attain the eternal service of Srimati Radhika.
After the departure of our most beloved Gurudeva, Srila BV Narayana Goswami Maharaja, I have been praying for direct guidance in my life of someone who could help me realise what he so expertly instilled a greed in me to realise, the transcendental mood of the maidservants of Srimati Radhika, manjari bhava. Such persons are indeed rare in this world and to meet even one is astonishing. He taught us that if even a drop of greed for these moods comes into our hearts our lives are a success. I cannot say how much greed he gave me but I can say that I want nothing else and have wanted nothing else for many years. So you can imagine my great happiness when I met yet another great Guru and maidservant of Sri Radha who has captured my heart just as Srila Gurudeva, Srila BV Narayana Goswami has done. By the causeless mercy of Radha Kunda Mahant, Sri Ananta das Babaji Maharaja I am proud and overjoyed that such expert guidance is continuing in my life.I realise that this may seem a very radical decision to some of you and that many of you will reject me even after years of close friendship and service to Sri Guru and Gauranga but I pray you will read on a little more and hear my reasons and perhaps you will bless me even if you cannot accept me any longer.
All my life I have pursued Love of God. First as a Christian wanting to love God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength as is the main teaching in that faith. Although I knew very little about God I wanted this above all else. In the mid 80’s I met the Hare Krishnas and was delighted to learn that God is indeed Krishna. Now I was learning so much about Him and His associates. This was and continues to be the greatest revelation of discovering my relationship to Him and His associates. You can well imagine how my Christian colleagues took that “radical” news. I was shunned to say the least. Then after many years of learning more and more about Bhakti I prayed for a Guru like Srila Prabhupada, who in my eyes and heart was like Jesus Christ.Such a great personality finally came into my life in the transcendental personality of Srila BV Narayana Goswami Maharaja, Srila Gurudeva. Instantly he captured my heart and mind and I dedicated myself to his service and pleasure sincerely and fully. Many glorious years of enlightenment followed as he showered me with his mercy. He awakened in me the feeling that I could certainly be a maidservant of Srimati Radhika and encouraged me to fully dedicate myself to this goal. He told me to see that everything I do is connected to that goal. And so, with what I knew and with the boldness that comes with greed for something, I pushed on without compromise. I had been taught that such a Guru needs to be a pure self realised soul, as Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (4:34). After my most beloved Gurudeva disappeared from this world my heart longed to again be under such guidance. Gurudeva is always present in my heart and is guiding me still from within. Every day more and more mercy comes from him showing me the way forward. We need to always be in sadhu sanga, the association of those who have the mood we aspire for and are affectionate to us, thus giving us a taste of the transcendental love of God they have in their heart.
Then two years ago I did something that was officially shunned by the Institution around Srila Gurudeva, I read the books of Sri Ananta das Babaji of Radha Kunda. The wonderful thing is that I found the exact same mood of my dearest Gurudeva in his books and became very happy, as you might imagine. Then last year I had the good fortune to meet him and my heart immediately recognised Sri Guru! There is no doubt in my heart and mind and I feel Srila Gurudeva, BV Narayana Goswami’s blessings strong as ever to take shelter of him for my further realisation. I know many strongly disagree with this conclusion but I know Guru when I see one. I was ostrecised for leaving ISKCON to come to Gurudeva but soon had my faith confirmed with his association. And now the sanga of devotees that followed Srila Gurudeva officially have rejected me and plan to convince all of you to do the same. I am deeply sorry for any pain this is causing or confusion but I can only follow the flow of greed in my heart towards my goal. I am endeavouring to see that everything I do is connected to my goal of realising my identity as a maidservant of Srimati Radhika. How could I ever reject such an opportunity even at the expense of losing so many sweet friends and well wishers?

And so if you unfriend me I understand and only pray that you bless this little jiva will one day find her way back home to Godhead.

All glories to Srimati Radhika!
All glories to Sri Gauranga!
All glories to Sri Nityananda!
All glories to Sri Rupa Goswami!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
All glories to Srila BV Narayana Goswami Maharaja!
All glories to Sri Ananta das Babaji Maharaja!

I have been indeed blessed that they have all blessed me beyond my dreams but in answer to my prayers.

My new name is Madhavananda das and I am wearing Babaji vesha to please Sri Guru.

Your humble,
Madhavananda das

It’s a lovely statement, and usually I would become happy if a person has found genuine sadhu-sanga. People advancing spiritually is a joyous occasion and makes me happy.

Here’s the thing that makes it hard to reconcile:

If there is little difference between babaji vesa and sannyasi vesa, why change dress? Wouldn’t the act of changing dress be a let down of the one giving sannyasa and also the guru-parampara?

Doesn’t the act itself show that one has gone outside the guru-parampara?

 

(And let me just comment on this statement “And now the sanga of devotees that followed Srila Gurudeva officially have rejected me”. I only speak for myself, but to reject a person is an immature action. The mature action is to welcome a person and deal with something from situation to situation. Krishna wants us all, though sometimes we walk off path, sometimes we follow the path but on the grass and rocks beside the path and sometimes we walk in the wrong direction. Though in my experience is that when those “big” words like rejection is used, it generally doesn’t mean rejection, but that one has been disallowed doing something for a while.)

Update 22.01.2014

The sannyasi linked to an article on vnn.org about Srila Bhakti Hriday Bon Maharaj who was a disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja. Hriday Bon Maharaja apparantly gave up sannyasa for babbaji vesa, then took up sannyasa again.

So how to reconcile these things?

Update on 27th january 2014
There’s a sound file where Gurudeva makes some statements about Sri Ananta Das babaji. But I can’t for the life of me understand what he’s saying because of the bad sound quality.

The maha-mantra frustration

“For instance, we are chanting Hare Krishna. If Krishna was different from the chanting of Hare Krishna, then how would we be satisified chanting the whole day and night? This is the proof. An ordinary name – if you chant “Mr. John, Mr. John” after chanting three times you will cease. But this Hare Krishna mantra – if you go on chanting twenty four hours a day, you will never become tired. This is the spiritual nature of the Absolute Truth. This is practical. Anyone can perceive it”. (Civilization and Transcendence ch. 7)

This statement and experience is the reason why I like the maha-mantra and keep trying to practice it.

I’m trying to find the key to giving myself over to the name. I have tried to read different books about japa, but they are just dry to me. There is no shortage of texts that glorifies the names and the qualities of it.  The names are spiritual, they are beyond this material nature – and therefore they are also beyond my understanding.

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Spiritual life for me dynamic, it’s something that demands something of me, continually challenges me to be better, do better, keep advancing. So why isn’t the maha-mantra doing this for me?

“If you chant “Radhe Radhe Govinda, Govinda Radhe” you will soon become intoxicated with ambrosial nectar and completely forget your bodily identity.”

 

“Chanting Krishnas sweet names purifies the heart; santifies and steadies the mind; destroys the six enemies [lust, anger, greed, envy, illusion, madness]; stops birth and death; dissolves sins; scorches samskaras; anihilates attachment; induces detachment; uproots desires; empowers one; makes one fearless; removes illusion; bewtows supreme peace; delivers prema; reveals the Lord and His dhama; shows one’s svarupa; showers bhakti-rasa; and engages one in his nitya-seva for the pleasure of Radha-Syama”.

Yes, there really are no shortage of wonderful things that the name is supposed to give. So why is it so hard? And really, it’s not enough for me to hear: Because we have so much anarthas from time immemorial.

We are encouraged to chant at least 16 rounds every day, so most people focus on just getting those done. I have been there and I’m not going back. Whatever rounds I chant, it’s because I *want* to, not because I *have* to.

I don’t see any consequences that makes me think I have to put a lot of effort into japa. Why should I make japa a priority? I read all these books and statements and they are just dry to me instead of inspire me to do japa. I’m looking so hard for inspiration and I find none. I mean: How did the conditioned people find inspiration in the names. The books certainly lay it wide when it comes to somebody who has broken the code and chants away, but they don’t mention how they got there. If they struggled with the names and how they overcame it. What inspired them? It’s like the names are supposed to be nectar that you should understand from the start of.

I think most people experience it’s not the case. Then you hear you have a disease like the jaundice where the maha-mantra is the medication, but you can’t taste the sweetness because of the disease.

Again – this is not good enough an argument for me to find my intrinsic motivation to put an effort into my chanting. When I change – it’s because I have found an intrinsic motivation that changes everything and makes me do what needs to be done, and I find it to be an effort that is worth while. I have not found this in japa.

Mind the lesson

Spiritual life is dynamic, and not in any way static. Spiritual life speaks to you through events and challenges and life.

I have been unhappy for a long time. I know exactly how I got to a point where I often thought “I hate my life”. It’s so strange to be in a place where I hate my life, have small options to change it and the thoughts and the corresponding feelings are not because of an underlying depression. No – I hated my life because my needs weren’t met, and every day I do a load of stuff for others and the stuff I do isn’t something I like doing. I was continually asked to do more than what my ability is. For a couple of years I have been scrambling to be able to perform more than my ability is. Let me try to emphasize how difficult it is: you have a limit to what you are able to perform before it seriously affects your life negatively. If you have to over-perform continuously, you get broken down. Damaged, but without any option to scale down. You can be as damaged as you like – you still have to continue working at the same over the top capabilities without any end in sight.

Then it happened – a month or so ago. I was asked to give even more than that. What I was giving wasn’t enough. I had to give even more. That’s when it happened. I broke. Or I surrendered.

The spiritual word is “surrender”. The material word for it is “break”. The only way I was going to be able to give even more than I was doing was if I stopped the mind from getting in the way. I had to stop thinking “I shouldn’t be going through this, he should be doing more, this is unfair” and all the other things the mind comes up with. I also had to stop thinking “I hate my life”. To be able to do more I had to let every thought just slide off my mind without attaching itself and just do what I had to. If something needed to be done, I had to do it and not think somebody else should do it. There is the physical sensation of feeling exhausted, but I couldn’t let the mind attach itself to the thought. There was no room for any negative thoughts and if some surface thought came up, I just let that thought slide away. To be able to do more, to give more – there was no room for the fickleness of the mind.

So a mood came over me that made this transition. For a couple of weeks I had a certain mood and surface thoughts that were of no use to me just slided off. I have for a long time been friends with my mind, it is for the most part calm and silent. But with this change, it became real silent. It was beautiful.

But of course, the mood that made the transition easier lifted after a couple of weeks. The pressure on me to do stuff lifted a little bit. Then the next phase entered. The mood that made it easy to let thoughts of no use for me slide – I had to work more for it. When it happened, I had to notice it and practice the new skill I had acquired. It’s like a muscle that has to be continually used to grow and get good at and situations kept occurring so I could continue practicing.

Then I noticed that to make this a truly spiritual lesson, I had to beware the other side of the knife. I found myself feeling sorry for myself. I could let resentment grow. So I had to let those feelings slide away as well. If I had let those feelings grow I would not have learned my lesson. I would instead have grew some other material weeds that I would had to remove at another point.

Now I don’t hate my life. Now I thank my Gurudeva for giving me this lesson. I thank him for a mind that has gone even more quiet. If my Gurudeva wants to keep me in this life and situation that is fine. I only pray that he will help me to continue growing spiritually in the situation I’m in. To stop growing spiritually would certainly be death. Now I understand.

My life hasn’t changed – I have.