Bhakti-rasayana

During Gurudevas presence, I used to go to the festivals in Europe. I was an avid reader and whatever books I could get my hands on, I purchased. One could always see me hovering around the book table. I’ve been to many of Gurudevas lectures, but those were difficult for me. I didn’t understand what Gurudeva said (I struggled with his dialect) and even if I wrote things down it was in one ear and out the other. I had and still have a teflon brain where nothing sticks.

The last few years I have been unable to read books. I loved reading books and devoured them, it was even the primary way I stayed connected during my years of no association. Now I’m unable to read. I don’t know how many books I have begun reading and only come a few pages into them, never to be continued. It’s been frustrating. Perplexing. Reading used to give me so much pleasure and now this quality has disappeared. Poof.

Instead I have turned to audiobooks and I have found it a wonderful avenue. Audiobooks now gives me what reading used to give me. I love it. I put my headphones on, and I can do whatever I want to while still listening to harikatha and books. It’s amazing.

The first audiobook I turned to was Bhakti-rasayana. It was specifically this video that got me on the track of audio narrations of books.

I remembered I had a CD with the narration of this book by Bhaktivedanta Tridandi Swami and I can greatly recommend it. Tridandi swami has a voice that works perfectly for listening to and his narrations is well spoken. He enhances the story, not getting in the way of it.

I have tried to find the books online, but without luck. I sent the following letter below to GVP Publications (contact form: http://gvpbookdistribution.com/contact/ ) in the hopes they will make them available. If this is something that speaks to you, send them a letter as well as this is a very important service I would like to see so much more of.

(I have the mp3s, but I’m not making them available as they are not my intellectual property. It’s better to mail GVP and hope they become enthused to publish them online)


Dandavat pranamas.

All glories to Guru, the Vaishnavas and Gauranga!

I have been greatly enjoying the narration of Bhakti Rasayana (Ambrosia of divine love). It’s a cd I purchased many years ago. I have been looking to see if its possible to download it somewhere, but it isn’t.

Is it possible to make it (and all other audiobooks) available? For example on amazon.com?

The audiobooks are expertly produced and Tridandi Swami has a perfect voice for narrations. I’m hoping that by me sending this mail, you will make the audiobooks available for devotees and hopefully produce more of them. It’s an overlooked service that I am now very grateful for receiving.

Most fallen,
Haridasi

The best books on Japa

A friend of mine, Kantimati, invited Caru Chandrika Dasi to Norway for about a week and I attended for a couple of days. It was nice to talk to somebody who understands my values and perspectives. The good thing is that it’s so easy to make a lot of jokes when you have the same understanding. I laughed and goofed around a lot.

During my stay, Caru didi kind of made me and Kantimati to make a vow to do a certain amount of Japa each day. Let’s just say things were a bit crazy when I got home, but I have at least been able to catch up on all my rounds after a while.

During my search for good books on Japa, I found one gem that is truly a cintamani. The book Japa by Bhurijana Dasa. This is a book I’m already on reading for the second time and I will read it again and again. I cannot praise this book enough.

This is not a book with a lot of high-minded quotes that are supposed to be inspirational (though there is many of those there as well). This book is about how to practice chanting, using the Siksastaka for guidance. I can’t imagine me ever putting this book aside, instead it’s always on my bed table or on the table next to my computer. It’s always near.

I can also recommend Japa Walks, Japa Talks. Not because it’s such a great book, but because sometimes it comes upon questions and subjects I have never even thought about. Getting introduced to new ideas is always refreshing.

These are the best books I have found so far on my quest for Japa inspiration.

Controlling the senses

I’m currently reading the Spiritual Warrior series: Spiritual Warrior II: Transforming Lust into Love and Surrender: The Key to Eternal Life. These books are great, they bridge the gap between this high philosophy which explains the spiritual means and ends, but not the itty-gritty details on how to achieve and deal with everyday life which means sex (celibate men have a lot to say on that subject), love, relationships, the ego, dealing with challenges, leadership. Pretty much a lot of the subjects that I’m interested in and qualities/experience that I have to use every day within my job, friends and family. It so great to read and recognize what is written with my own experiences. More importantly, there’s usually some aspects I haven’t thought of that enlightens me further. Secondly, they are easy to read.

Then I enter the chapter about controlling the senses. Now, this is interesting for me because I have little sense control. Or a weak mind as he called it – and well, I agree on that label. The material body consist of the senses, the mind, the intelligence and the ego. The senses give the mind orders (I want that chocolate!) and the intelligence backs up the mind and adds morality to it (chocolate may be a disturbance to your spiritual progress). Since I’m a very practical person I always look for two things: a solution and an explanation (in that order). So here’s the explanation:

When the intelligence is connected with transcendental knowledge, it has sufficient power to harness the wild mind

What is transcendental knowledge? Because when I want chocolate this is how the process goes:
Senses: I want chocolate.
Mind: Sure.
Intelligence: This is not good for you and really, your body doesn’t need it.
Mind: I couldn’t care less.

I guess the answer the intelligence is giving isn’t transcendental enough, but really? I don’t get it. How do I connect the intelligence with the transcendental knowledge in harnessing the senses?

When you are reading these books, don’t ‘read’…. serve!

Sometimes strange things happens. Since Syamananda made me aware that reading books can be considered seva, I have been contemplating it, but not understanding how reading is seva. I love reading, I read a lot, but it has felt more like the authors are serving me by giving me this wonderful literature to absorb. Even though Syamanada gave me such a great explanation, I just couldn’t get it.

Then this came up:

dont read, serveSo there was yet another clue that there is more to reading than what I understand and practice. So I asked Gaudiya Vedanta Publications about this statement as well, and this is the answer:

Srila Gurudeva has mentioned:

“We should treat all the books of the Gosvāmīs as our śikṣā-gurus. We should offer praṇāma to the books, and then read them. If we do this, we will realize that all siddhānta is coming automatically in our heart. This is the process of reading ‒ not reading, but serving ‒ the books.”

“When you are reading these books, don’t ‘read.’ Serve. Offer praṇāma, place the book on your forehead and heart, and pray, “O Prabhu, you are personally Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī. Please be merciful to me.” This is the process of reading.”

“When you are reading the dialogue between Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and Rāya Rāmānanda on the bank of the Godāvarī, you can think, “I am on the bank of Godāvarī. Rāya Rāmānanda and Mahāprabhu are sitting here. I am also peacefully sitting with them, and hearing all their topics. O Mahāprabhu, O Rāya Rāmānanda Prabhu, please be merciful to me. Please sprinkle your mercy upon me so that I can understand this high-class siddhānta.” Without praying in this way, you will have doubts and you will not be able to realize anything.”

“When reading the books of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, you should think, “He is instructing me.” If you are reading a book of Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, think that Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī is speaking to you; and if you are reading Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, think that Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī and Śrīla Vyāsadeva are speaking to you. And, always pray to Lord Krsna and Śrī Gurudeva to sprinkle their mercy upon you.”

 

So I’m told very specifically to do certain actions while reading and this I can do. By working on doing this correctly every day I might end up doing some seva. This excites me. It seems like there is some hidden depths to reading I can uncover. This is so exciting!

But of course, I had to ask a follow-up question:
“Can serving the books give progress in spiritual life or do you need the physical association of a pure devotee to achieve progress?”

Answer:

Srila Gurudeva:
“If you want to read anything, don’t read on your own. Your mind is not controlled, and it is not pure. You should therefore go to any realized person and serve that tattva-vetta purusa (a self-realized soul, who is a knower of all truths). And then hear from him.

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darsinah
[“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.”
(Bhagavad-gita 4.34)]

You should go to a person who has realized all spiritual truths. Serve him, and after that you may ask a question. With folded hands you may ask him, “If I am qualified to hear, then please explain such and such.” Then he will speak, and then there will be no doubt. On the other hand, if you will read by yourself so many doubts will come. If you will read Mahabharata, you may say, “Oh, Krsna has left His body and died.” If you will read Ramayana, you may think that Rama died, Laksmana died and all the monkeys died. This doubt may come; and if it comes, you will be ruined. Your bhakti will disappear.”

Srila Svami Prabhupada:

“So if you read different scriptures, you will be bewildered…But there is adjustment. If you go to the authorized person, he can adjust. But you cannot see. You see, you’ll see contradiction.”

“So Caitanya Mahaprabhu says the medium is sastra, and direction is the guru. Sastra also we cannot understand any book, what to speak of the scripture. Sometimes we find contradiction in the scripture. That is not contradiction; that is my poor fund of knowledge. I cannot understand; therefore assistance of guru, a spiritual master, is required.”

It seems like a bit of a contradiction that one can serve the books, but only have progress by association with a guru. So again I asked and got the answer:

It seems that definition of ‘progression’ is the point of contention here.

“Yes, in the general, reading Vaisnava literatures can bring progression in spiritual life, in that it can stimulate the desire to associate with sadhus and follow the path they have delineated. From there, perfection can be achieved, not by the reading itself.”

Well, I hope I’m getting massive amounts of sukriti going for me.

My hidden love

na karma-bandhanam janma,vaisnavanams ca vidyate
visnor anucaratvam hi, moksam ahur manisninah

“A vaisnava does not take birth under the jurisdiction of karmic law. His birth and disappearance is transcendental. The wise have declared that the servants of visnu are eternally engaged in the liberated service of the Lord and hence are free from the laws of material nature.”

tvp-shop-klv-oneOne of the things I really wonder about is how the pure devotees got to the point they are. To attain prema is no easy thing or achieved in one lifetime. I remember sitting in one of Gurudeva’s lecture where he stated “To achieve prema will take many lifetimes. For you – maybe twenty lifetimes”. I thought for myself: that’s a lot of lifetimes.

The trouble is – people like my Gurudeva; I don’t really think he ever was a conditioned being. I think for some reason he chose to display his pasttime here and I happened to stumble across his path. But my path is from the conditioned state, and I have to walk that path to prema.

I would liked to just spend time with a person who has walked the same path and just ask, ask, ask how that person dealt with different situations, the decisions he/she took, what the reasoning behind them was, how it felt. How it feels now. Because I’m envious. I know there are people both younger and older than me that have chosen to live doing service towards a pure devotee. How did they get there?

I know I’m where I’m supposed to be now – I can’t really see I will be able to change it or even if I’m ready. I believe that things happen when you are ready for it, and I’m in the path I’m in for a reason.

That’s why one of my hidden pleasures is reading biographies, and the one biography that have given me the most is a biography of Srila Gour Govinda Maharaja. What a gem of a book! What really makes this book important for me is that it’s written about how Gour Govinda Maharaja changed. It’s apparent that he was born in an conditioned state, and it tells about his transition to prema. How his body changed color, when he came to external consciousness he had to be told: this is your foot, hand etc.

But more important for me is how his life was before he changed. How he led his life. He went through hardships I can’t imagine, and I wonder how Krishna can be so harsh towards his devotee that are so dedicated to him. He just kept on going, tolerating this harsh material life, having material responsibilities that tried to eat him up, but he kept on going. Never wavering.

Now – that I can relate to. That’s what I’m looking for. I want to relate to people that are walking this conditioned life and somehow made it to the end or close to it. I want to hear their experiences and everything.

But of course, Gour Govinda Maharaja was no ordinary being. He was born in a famous Kirtana family, a devotee from birth and he had paramahamsas in his family which chose when to leave their body. I don’t think he was born with any material desires, he just had some small steps left (and I have no idea what those steps was). So this was his last lifetime while I still have at least 20 lifetimes before I might be where he was. So I guess I need to read at least 20 different lifetimes of biographies 😉

So, do you have any book/biography recommendations to me?

The book of Dharma

bookofdharmaThere are few books out there that bridge the gap between the Krishna conscious philosophy and personal development, which is what this blog is about (or may be my struggles would be more accurate). The books write about enlightened people that have figured it out, while all of us others are bogged down with mundane struggles like dealing with job, family, friends and somehow fit a religious life into it. Few are able to give it all up and become a celibate, living in a temple or work as a travelling preacher living the way he/she preaches. The gap between what we ideally would like to live and be versus how we actually are and live is huge. It takes years and years to align intention with action.

So when I heard about “The Book of Dharma: Making Enlightened Choices” I was intrigued. I wondered if this book would somehow teach me something new, give me some moments of insights.

While I was looking at the vedic texts for information, they were designed to lead me to transformation.

The Book of Dharma

When we read personal development books it’s about making changes to our life. We gather information and in that process working to change something in us that we want to change. So would this book teach me something new? Would it make me see things in a different perspective? More importantly, would it make me want to change anything, create that seed of different beginnings?

If you sit on a bicycle with your hands on the handlebar, you act of steering has no potency or effect unless you are moving forward. Similarly, these wisdom principles are principles in action. We invoke them by living them. When we no longer live them, they withdraw. They remain then on the level of artefacts of the mind, what the ancients describe as ‘mere weariness of the tongue’.

The Book of Dharma

The book has a lot of great quotes like the one above written in an easy, understandable language. He comes from the Gaudiya Vedanta line using the vedas as the basis, but one doesn’t need to have any philosophical understanding to read and understand this book. Though I suspect that few will pick up this book without knowing or being in the Gaudiya line. The book title makes sure of that since few westerners know of the word dharma unless you somehow are spiritually inclined. That’s a little bit bad, because it’s such a good book that it deserves a bigger audience, especially in the personal development category. This book touches upon subjects like non-violence, purity, truth and action that has not been touched on any other personal development books I have read.

So what is Dharma? It’s the art of bringing out our full latent potential as human beings. The first part of it is called “Living by intelligent design”. It was well written, but if you have read Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth”, you have the same message just spread over a vast larger amount of pages and in more detail. And for me – I was beyond it. But, enjoy it, read it and read Eckhart Tolle if that is where you are.

When we dishonour who we are, we live against Truth. This brings instability and weakness into our life.

The Book of Dharma

Part two is where it gets interesting and the four dharma principles are discussed: truth, purity, non-violence and discipline. I really loved reading about this principles as they each made a mark on me. These principles is how I want to live my life, just written down and made more clearly. I suddenly saw what I had to work with within each of these principles. No other book has given me this before. I had come at a standstill in my development because I didn’t know what to work with. I don’t have any deep ingrained issues from childhood or whatever I needed to work through. I have found the type of work that is perfect for me. I have a boyfriend and have no interest in pursuing romantic interests. My personality is pretty much how I like it to be except small modifications needed here and there that I deal with whenever a situation arises. So why am I still so exhausted from my life?

When I got this principles I suddenly saw there are still areas I could grow. More importantly, I could use these principles in my life as it is now, even though I’m not happy in my life. Following these principles and putting them into measurable goals will improve my life, thereby making it more in line with who I am. So I got the answer, but I haven’t really been good at following them but that’s another blog entry for another time.

The third part is about applying these principles in everyday life. That’s where I thought this book became a little bit weak. It’s easy to follow these principles when you are a munk in a temple. It’s a whole different bargain when you are a grihasta, having a family, job, children, living outside of india or anywhere close to spiritual association. He does have some good points though, it just became a bit easy for me. Does it matter?

None at all. I got what I needed from this book anyway and I’m more wiser because of it.

Hating life spiritually

I’m going through some rough times where every day is becoming more and more about surviving just one more day. I woke up one day with my son crying and the first sentence I uttered before I was even out of bed was “I hate my life”. In Norway we have a saying: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. That’s utterly bullshit, of course. The truth is more in terms of “What doesn’t kill you, you persevere”.

Or how about that quote every krishna conscious devotee and ex-devotees have heard: “Chant and be happy!” Well, when is that happiness coming, because it sure can’t be found here much?

I do believe the quote from Srila Prabhupada, but I also know it’s not easily attained. I will probably not realize it fully in this lifetime. So how do I approach dealing with a hard life when there is no spiritual books to guide me?

Turns out that I was wrong. The books I needed somehow ended up in the mail at the time I needed them. Three months ago I purchased some books written by Gour Govinda Swami: Trnad api sunicena, Vedic dharma and the grahasta-ashrama and Encountering the Krshnalingita Vigraha. Shipping ends up costing almost as much as the books even when you choose the three months delivery option, but it was well worth the wait.

20121209-122757.jpgI browsed through the table of contents and quickly found out that trnad api sunicena was the book to start with? Just read these titles:
How to develop tolerance, Happiness and distress is mental concoctions, humility is needed, Crookedness – the great stumbling block, society without envy, the source of envy and intolerance.

I found exactly what I needed in my current situation, a whole book dedicated to how I develop tolerance, how to deal with the distress I’m drowning in etc. I’m already almost half way into the book as I’ve devoured the book any spare moment I have. On hating my life I got a new perseptive from the book I have to work myself through:

In the world of duality – that is to say, in the material world – so-called goodness and badness are both the same. Therefore, in this world, to distinguish between good and bad, happiness and distress, is meaningless because they are both mental concoctions (manodharma)…

mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya
śītoṣṇa-sukha-duḥkha-dāḥ
āgamāpāyino ‘nityās
tāḿs titikṣasva bhārata
Bhagavad-gita 2.14

“O son of Kunti, the non-permanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.”

So that is part of my lesson right now. To tolerate distress without it affecting my mood and bhajana. So: tolerance, tolerance, tolerance, perseverance. That is my motto and mantra for the time being. Let’s hope I learn this lesson fast.

Personal growth and spirituality

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I used to love reading personal growth books. I used them to work through issues I had, to find love (or the correct love challenge), read everything I came over about happiness, work and how to thrive in a work environment (damn hard by the way). I came to a mental place which was okey. I’m not saying great because living is difficult. As soon as one challenge and problem has been resolved, there are other issues that come to the surface that you didn’t have before. The good part is that the new issues only arises because you become more and more mentally healthy, the other issues just hadn’t had any possibility to arise before.

Speed forward to today where personal growth books is in most part uninteresting to me. I find books that seem interesting, buy them, only to discover there is nothing there for me. They have nothing to teach me anymore. If I want to continue evolving (which I really, really want), I have to start looking towards my religious beliefs where there are tons of books.

The trouble is that it’s deep, deep philosophy that sometimes can get really technical (I love that). Religious books aren’t created like personal growth books. They aren’t tailored towards specific issues that comes up in daily life, they contain more general advice. It’s easy to tailor the general advice to specific issues, but I need more. More than quotes and paragraphs. I need to work through the issue. Having a whole book dedicated to something I need to work on gives me new information, and a lot of days to work through it.

Not so much in religious text. Then you get a small paragrah (if you are lucky – two!) that is tailored towards your trouble, and a whole book about something more/different with statements here and there. Furthermore, the vedic texts doesn’t deal so much with different types of material consciousness, as it does by actions. Actions define us, but the mental part has too be there (first). Vedic texts contain instructions to follow, but not so much info when you are unable to follow those instructions.

Then you get those general things like: Keep chanting, and the trouble you have will disappear with time.

Well… yes. Time does that.

It doesn’t help to know that the issue you have is only temporary when you haven’t entered that consciousness yet. There’s a reason something is a problem: It’s because you haven’t learned to deal with it yet. Chanting a problem away? Well, chanting does help in clearing the mind to come to a decision. Making a problem go away? That requires action. And by action I’m not talking about chanting at the other person. That would be offensive.

I’m coming to an understanding that spiritual life requires a new approach. A different approach I haven’t done before. I understand I need to study it more thoroughly, but I have troubles in doing the study part which require learning by rote. Writing things down and go over the notes, again and again. Sticking to one subject and book.

Figuring out how to balance my material life with who and what I really am. Because I figured something out today. I’m not so much physically exhausted as I am mentally exhausted. That’s my real problem. I’m mentally exhausted.

Now where is that problem addressed in the vedic texts?