Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our Fragile Connection

"I am as vulnerable and fragile as it is possible to be."
  Rachel Hunter

This morning, my daughter comes down to the main house from the Vortex (it's the smaller house we call the Vortex as straight pictures look crooked and balls roll uphill - well, not really), and asks if we paid our phone bill.  She had called the house and gotten a disconnect message.   A little worried, as we've got a lot going on right now that requires the phone, I start checking everything and surmise that it is not our shoddy inside lines, but indeed a problem with the phone company.  That is a relief. In the 24 years we've lived here, I've strung several phone lines, and now all but one has been eaten by critters.  I'm told they're attracted by the electrical current that runs through them.  Either that, or they're trying to tap into our lines to make free long distance calls.  Damn critters.  But fortunately, it wasn't us this time.

The Stink of Enlightenment or Don't Enjoy Spiritual Rewards

"That's the scent, dude! When you get a good stink on, you are at one with the cosmos!"
   From Animal Crossing: Wild World

One time, my friend DJ, aptly pointed out that we have a tendency to try and enjoy the fruits of our spiritual labors. His analogy was a little weird, but went like this: Imagine that you have something like a trough, and in that trough are accruing, through your spiritual practice, nice shiny dimes.  Our tendency is to enjoy those nice shiny dimes, pulling them out and spending them hither and thither. However, if we let them lie, unattached, a metaphorical truck of spiritual weath will ultimately back right up and dump untold riches.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Facing Facebook

"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."
      - Carl Sandburg

So, somehow or other, I got myself on Facebook again.  I left it several years ago, swearing I'd never go back (well maybe not swearing).  But here I am again, and why?  Well, it turns out that there are a number of groups, individuals, help sites and so on, which I really needed to see, and that ONLY have Facebook pages.  I guess I understand.  After all, it is HIGHLY visible, almost everyone is on it, and it's free! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Metaphysical Implications of the Smart Phone

We live in a very weird world, which is so unimaginably different than at any other time in the history. Of this, I have no doubt.  Our lives, as "humans" went pretty much unchanged for thousands upon thousands of years, maybe millions. Anyway, bunches and bunches!  There we were, just sitting around campfires, or dung fires, or whatever fires, trying to keep warm, and eating whatever fruits, nuts, roots, grubs, or whatever we could find. 

And like most creatures, we had a few basic necessities - we ate, we slept, we mated, and we sought shelter.  I imagine we were not too different than the chickens we have on our farm.  They spend their time clucking and pecking. Constantly on the look out for that perfect bug or seed to eat.  They didn't have "meal times". Every moment is a meal time.  You pick a leaf or fruit and eat it. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

My One Experience with Madhudvisas Prabhu (ACBSP)

Sriman Madhudvisa dasa (ACBSP)
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord. They can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and they are full of compassion for the fallen souls." - Vaishnava prayer

I just learned this morning that Sriman Madhudvisa dasa (ACBSP) one of the very early disciples of my Guru Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada, passed away.

Madhudvisa was mostly known to me, in the early days as one of Srila Prabhupada's personal secretaries, at that time being Madhudvisa Swami, and that's how I knew him. He was one of the intimate inner circle devotees, while I was one of the rank and file, so I really had almost no other association with him, other than the following most transcendental experience. Through Madhudvisa Prabhu, I received a great benediction in Mayapura India in 1975.

At the 1975 Mayapura festival, (the same one I mentioned in an earlier post), I had been told that Srila Prabhupada's feet smelled like roses. Shortly after hearing this, Srila Prabhupada, (and all the devotees) were offering obeisances to the Deities, and I was just behind Srila Prabhupada. Wanting to verify this rumor, and perhaps have an opportunity to touch his lotus feet, which was NOT allowed (I actually didn't know that), I slowly creeped up toward Prabhupada. I was probably only a foot or two away when suddenly I got thumped on the head. I looked up, and there was Madhudvisa Swami, standing above me grinning, and holding Srila Prabhupada's cane while he was offering obeisances.
The Transcendenta Cane thut thumped me?

Ultimately, I was not able to test the veracity of the rumor, but I did receive the great benediction of being 'thumped' by Srila Prabhupada's cane. For this alone, I will be eternally indebted to my dear Godbrother, Madhudvisa Prabhu!

I pray that he has joined Srila Prabhupada in his eternal pastimes.

Prabhupada walking with cane.

These two last photos of Srila Prabhupada's cane look similar, but I can't be sure which one hit me.  This was nearly 40 years ago, but I think it looked more like the one the Prabhupada is walking with, as opposed to the one on the alter.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

"Awakening Day" Thoughts, Confessions and Apologies

"Never discourage anyone...who continually makes progress, no matter how slow."
- Plato

24 years ago today, as best I can reckon, is the day that "I" woke up.  Sounds pretty silly in one sense, doesn't it?  Who can wake up and to what?  Or, is there an 'I' to wake up?  So here's how I would define what happened.

Through the process of Self Enquiry - i.e. Who am I? - I recognized, clearly  and profoundly, that that which I spoke of as 'I' was/is Consciousness or Awareness. (People argue on semantics of these two words, as well as others.)  How I can best describe this at the present moment is a recognition that I am not this body, but rather am aware of the body, and that the awareness that I am is fairly indefinable. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

God Rocks! (Jagannatha Stones)

"Split a piece of wood: I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me there."
Gospel of St. Thomas Saying 77

In my quest to "Always remember God - Never forget God", as the Padma Purana advises us, I sometimes come up with some, maybe a little wacky, ideas.  My most recent is Lord Jagannatha stones, or as I like to call them, God Rocks! 

Lord Jagannatha is a form of Lord Krishna. Jagad means universe and natha means Lord. So, Lord Jagannatha means the Lord of the Universe.  Lord Jagannatha's form is quite unique and looks somewhat aboriginal with giant eyes and odd smile. But the story behind it is quite beguiling.  Krishna is known as the Lord of Love, and is famous for his intimate pastimes with the residents of Vrndavana, where he appeared some 5,000 years ago. He was particularly friendly with the Gopis, the milkmaids, and shared many beautiful moments with them. The Gopis were mad after Krishna, and would leave all their duties when they heard him playing on his flute.

Lord Jagannatha with God Rocks
Eventually, however, Krishna left Vrndavana, and eventually settled in to Dwaraka, where he exhibited a very opulent and royal lifestyle.  But the residents of Vrndavana, only remembered him as the darling cowherd boy who enchanted all the residents of their village.

One time, there was an eclipse, and so Krishna, along with many other residents of Dwaraka, went to the holy place of Kurukshetra to take an auspicious bath, thus conteracting the negative influences of the eclipse.  Many of the residents of Vrndavana, hearing that Krishna would be at Kurukshetra, also went, hoping to catch a glimpse of their beloved Krishna.  Once there, Rohini, who is the mother of Krishna's brother, Balarama, was telling the Queens of Dwaraka, who only knew Krishna in His opulence, about His intimate pastimes with the Gopis.  Krishna's sister, Subhadra, was stationed at the door to insure that no one intruded.  Krishna and Balarama came along and stood to either side of Subhadra. Upon hearing about His own intimate pastimes, Lord Krishna went into ecstacy, with His eyes opening wide, his neck disappearing, and his limbs retracting into his body.  Seeing this, both Balarama and Subhadra also went into ecstacy, and this is how this ecstatic form of Krishna came to be.  In fact, this form is called Mahabhava Prakasha, or the manifestation of Extreme Ecstacy.

To most all mystical teachings, the highest platform is ecstatic love for God, and Lord Jagannatha is the manifestation of this Love or Prema.  He is also called Patita Pavana or Savior of the Fallen, as He allows anyone to approach Him with devotion. 

When I first joined the Krishna temple in Seattle, in 1973, Lord Jagannatha was the presiding Deity there, and I formed a great attachment to His beautiful form, eventually becoming His primary caretaker.  Every year, Lord Jagannatha has a royal bath, or snana, and then 'catches a cold' and for a week, no one is allowed to see him, except for his caretaker. So, during that week, all the devotees would ask me, "How is Lord Jagannatha?  Is He feeling better?"  Of course, all these manifestations are simply to increase the devotees' love for the Lord.
That attraction has never gone away, and even today I have a beautiful Lord Jagannatha which I carved and my wife, Abhaya, painted.  (Traditionally, Lord Jagannatha is made from wood, and is therefore known also as Daru Brahman or God in the form of wood.) 

So, what about the Jagannatha stones? Well, another form of God in India are the Shaligram Shilas, ammonite stones from the Kali Gandaki River in Nepal.  Often these stones are decorated with eyes, mouth, ornaments and so on, and I had considered painting one or more of my Shaligram Shilas, but thought, perhaps, I should practice on regular stones.  So, I picked myself up some cheap acrylic paint, some paintbrushes, and went at it.  However, I found it quite addicting, and thought, I could just keep painting Jagannatha stones (God Rocks!) and giving them away, or leaving them places.  No, I am not particularly artistic, but devotion and ability do not have to necessarily go hand in hand.  Devotion is of the heart! 

Recently, my kids went to the beach, and I asked them to pick me up some rocks. So, now i have a whole bag of additional stones, just waiting to manifest a smiling face.  (Oh yeah, Lord Jagannatha is like the ORIGINAL smiley face!)

So...that's what I'm up to - chanting God's name and painting His face on rocks.  Hmmm!?!  I guess it's better than stealing hubcaps! 

And remember......


Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Fourth Bardo

"Must not all things at the last be swallowed up in death?"  

I was having a discussion with a friend, and relating how my life has turned as I have had the recognition that I am NOT going to get any real enjoyment here in this world. Yes, we get tastes of enjoyment, and we get freedom from the pain and suffering, which appears to be enjoyment, although it's often simply freedom from pain. And she said that if you think positively, you can be happier and healthier and feel good.  I'm not denying that, or that, to some extent, we can create our reality, or at least we can create our reaction to the reality that arises.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Me and Srila Prabhupada

Srila Prabhupada Center
Me, to his right playing cymbals.
"Even a moment’s association with a pure devotee cannot be compared to being transferred to heavenly planets or even merging into the Brahman effulgence in complete liberation. For living entities who are destined to give up the body and die, association with pure devotees is the highest benediction."
Srimad Bhagavatam 4.30.34

I was initiated by Srila Prabhupada (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami) in 1974, and had a few opportunities both before that time and after to have direct association with him.  Since he had originally come to the United States in 1965, by the time I came around, he already had thousands of disciplies and followers all over the world. So, getting any "quality time" or alone time, was almost impossible, unless you were one of the big "mucky-mucks", or senior disciples who had been around for some time.  Srila Prabhupada passed from this realm in November 1977, so I didn't have a lot of opportunities to be with or near him.

Over the years since his passing, I became almost obsessed with finding a photo that might have him and myself in it.  I knew of one, for sure, which was the opening of the Krsna Balaram Mandir in Vrndavana, in 1975, at which time I also received Brahminical Ordination from Srila Prabhupada. That was the ONLY time I was actually alone in a room with him, as he gave me the Gayatri mantras, placed the Brahminical thread on my shoulders, and showed me the method for chanting on my fingers. As it was the opening of the temple, there was also a group photo of the temple with Srila Prabhupada and all the devotees assembled in front.
Believe it or not, I can tell you which one I am, although, I'm not going to try to explain it here.

A few weeks earlier, before the Vrndavana temple opening, I had been at the annual Mayapur festival, which occurs at the birthplace of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, in West Bengal.  Srila Prabhupada was also there, and I was able to take a few photos with my little insta-matic camera. This photo on the left is one of the pictures that I took as Srila Prabhupada left the temple and ascended the stairs to return to his room. For what it's worth, although there are literally THOUSANDS of photos of Srila Prabhupada, this exact one, which I took, has never been seen outside of my home, where it's been sitting in a falling apart photo album for over 3 decades.

Several years ago, a Godbrother (fellow disciple of Srila Prabhupada), who had been one of the foremost photographers and videographers of Prabhupada's pastimes, started putting together a video series of Srila Prabhupada's pastimes over the 12 years, from his arrival in the United States, up until his passing. Although these videos are for sale, they can be found on Youtube.  So, of course, I downloaded them, cheap bastard that I am!   In my obsessiveness to find a shot of myself (which I found several) with Srila Prabhupada, I happened to notice a scene which looked eerily familiar - Prabhupada ascending the stairs. As I looked closer, one young bozo in the video was taking a picture of Srila Prabhupada, then turning around and running into another devotee.  That bozo, of course, was myself.  I thought it so funny and bizarre, to not only find a shot of myself, but a shot of me as I'm taking one of my cherished photos of Prabhupada, I thought I would copy that little clip and offer it for others to see.  (The elbow you can see is mine.)

I would like to point out, that although this seems to be about me, the truth is, Srila Prabhupada is the all-important one here.  I have, over the years, written down some of my few experiences with him, and may share those at some point.  I can only say, that my grasping for a photo of myself and him, is mostly because I can't believe I had the rare opportunity to actually associate, and be accepted as the disciple, of such an extremely rare and divine personality. All Glories to His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada!


(After publishing this, I found that sometimes the video doesn't show up. If it doesn't show up for you, here's the link:

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Chanting the Holy Name

"Nama cintamani krsna chaitanya rasa vigrahah
Purnam suddho nityamukto bhinnatvat nama-naminoh
The Name of Krsna is spiritual gemstone, the form of all transcendental mellows. It is complete, pure, and eternally liberated, due to the non-difference between the Name and the Named (Krsna)"

Forty years ago, I was initiated into the chanting of the Hare Krsna Mahamantra - Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare, which I would chant 1,728 times daily (16 malas of 108 beads) or approximately 25,000 Names of God daily.  However, when I got into Self inquiry, it was one of the things I let go. 

Sporadically over the years, I have taken it up again, chanting the required 16 malas or "rounds" of the mantra - something that generally takes 1-1/2 to 2 hours. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Advaita Apostasy

"Be leery of silence. It doesn't mean you won the argument. Often, people are just busy reloading their guns."    Shannon L. Alder

I've been thinking about writing this for quite some time - months, if not years, and have even made a couple of false starts.  So, I'll do what I usually  do, which is just start writing and see what happens. It's also, in part, why I haven't written much of late, as I've been somewhat torn as to what I want to say.

First, to describe the terms of the title: Advaita, of course, means non-dual, and specifically usually refers to the philosophy of Shankaracharya's Kevala Advaita or Absolute Non-Duality, which essentially states that everything is one non-differentiated Absolute and all apparent differentiation is an illusion.  Thus, you have loads of people running around saying things like, "what does it matter?  It's all an illusion."