Franny and Zooey and Kirtan

Something I read today from J.D. Salinger’s novel “Franny and Zooey”. Zooey is trying to convince his sister Franny that she is taking shelter of the Jesus prayer with the wrong motivation based on her misunderstanding of the character of Jesus. I thought it had some interesting implications regarding how we understand kirtan and mantra […]

In Loving Memory of Aindra Das

In Loving Memory of Aindra Das: “His song was the cry of a dying man.A desolate voice accompanied only by a frail harmonium scale, slow and slightly off beat – crawling, barely dragging along. A man in the desert, drying up and desperate, crying for some water – just a small cup – just a drop. It was almost pitiful, but hauntingly beautiful – like nothing I’d heard before. It sounded so remorseful, so humble and completely sincere. It was the first time I heard a man desperately crying out to God.”

Oddisi Dance: Questions for Vrindarani Dasi

Oddisi Dance: Questions for Vrindarani Dasi Interview by Kaustubha das

Vrindarani Dasi (originally from St. Petersburg) is a 17 year old student at the Venunad Kala Kendra school of Odissi Dance in Vrindavan, India. Recently I had the pleasure of spending some time with her and her family in their beautiful home in Vrindavan. After an evening of kirtan in their small roof-top temple to Radha Govinda, Vrindarani kindly answered some questions about the classical form of Indian dance called Odissi.

Remembering Her Grace Rasajna Devi Dasi

This morning I got the news that my dear god-sister, Her Grace Rasajna devi
dasi, passed away from this world. I will miss her dearly. I can’t remember
where I heard the saying, but it goes something like, “One will be remembered
more for how one made others feel than for what one has accomplished.” I think
of Rasa in this way. It’s not that she didn’t have significant accomplishments,
but whatever she accomplished is over-shadowed by the simple fact that there
was just nothing bad in her heart.

Sri Ramanuja on Karmayoga

Sri Ramanuja is one of the great teachers of karmayoga, the discipline which unites action and contemplation. In his commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, Ramanuja argues that karmayoga is essential for all yogins, and is especially important in preparing oneself for higher practices of bhakti. I have translated the following commentary, which provides insight into a […]

Constructing the Exotic /A Review of the Art of Michael Bühler-Rose

[In a article for Whitewall Magazine, Meenakshi Thirukode reviews Construction of the Exotic, a recent photo series, by BhaktiCollective.com contributing writer Michael Bühler-Rose. Enjoy the article below. The entire series can be viewed at his website Michael Bühler-Rose. Kaustubha das] Whitewall’s South Asian Art Expert, Meenakshi Thirukode, looks at Michael Buhler Rose’s recent photo series, […]

An Appeal for the Merciful Sidelong Glance of Sri Radha

Sometimes called the national anthem of Vrindavan, here is Sri Sri Radha-kripa-kataksha-stava-raja (The King of Prayers which Petitions the Merciful Sidelong Glance of Srimati Radharani) from the Urdhvamnaya-tantra. Spoken by Lord Shiva and composed in a lovely meter, this exceptional prayer is daily sung in a charming melody by many Brijabasis (Vrindavan residents).

A Review of Stephen Phillips’ Yoga, Karma and Rebirth

Phillips rightly criticizes the trenchant world-denying escapism of classical Yoga, illustrating that it is both philosophically and yogically problematic. He rather embraces what is best in tantric thought: the idea that yoga practice is not merely meant for escape, but at best, to positively transform the world (especially ourselves as parts of the world).

Radhanath Swami on Sita’s Banishment

“This banishment of Sita, amongst people who have gone deep into the subject, is a very profound meditation on the loving exchange between her and Rama. This conclusion that I am speaking has been passed down for millennia. And how God and Goddess, male and female aspects, how they shared the ecstasy of love for each other is not limited by our ability to comprehend it.”

108 Names of Lord Krishna

Aug 13, 2009 marks the celebration of Sri Krishna Janmashtami (the Birth of Lord Krishna). On this day it is a common practice to chant 108 names of Krishna. Below you will find a particular collection of 108 names composed by Srila Rupa Goswami which is included in his most beautiful collection of prayers named Stava-Mala (A Garland of Devotional Prayers). He entitled it Premendu-sagarakhya Shri Krishna-namashtottara-shata (The Ocean of the Moon of Pure Love – 108 Names of Sri Krishna) and poetically set it in the form of a gopi pining for the vision of Lord Krishna. I’ve provided the transliterated Sanskrit texts, the word for word translation and the verse translations, all by Sriman Kusakratha dasa. In the final verse Srila Rupa Goswami begs “O learned readers, with the Mandara Mountain of your tongues please lovingly churn this ocean of the moon of pure love (premendu-sagara), which contains 108 names of Lord Krishna”. I humbly join him in his request.

Kustubha das

Sri Krishnamacharya’s Anjali-mudra

Behind every ritual should be meditation. Below one can read a short excerpt from the article My Studies With Sri Krishnamacharya by Srivatsa Ramaswami which originally appeared in NAMARUPA magazine. It is a description of the care his teacher showed, both externally and within, in folding his palms to offer prayer (anjali-mudra). Sri Krishnamacharya, (1888-1989), […]

Book Review: The Journey Home – Autobiography of an American Swami

Every now and then a book is released which becomes a spiritual classic–a book that brings people in touch with a distant world, opens minds to new possibilities and becomes standard reading for spiritual seekers. Autobiography of a Yogi and Be Here Now come to mind. With the release of The Journey Home – Autobiography […]

The Holy Appearance of Sri Caitanya

To celebrate Gaura Purnima – the holy appearance of Sri Caitanya, I will share some verses of the book Sri Caitanya Candramrita by Sri Prabhodhananda Saraswati. Please forgive the lack of the original Sanskrit as well as my ignorance of the translator (Kushakrata dasa?) and the artist of the painting above. The verses below, Texts […]

Slumdog Millionaire: An Oscar for Hope in the Face of Hopelessness

Even as the world celebrates the eight Oscars that “Slumdog Millionaire” took home tonight – including the coveted Best Picture and props to A.R. Rehman’s infectious soundtrack – in its native Mumbai, the film remains a hotbed of controversy and a musical metaphor for India’s conflicted view of itself. It is hailed for shedding light […]

Shivaratri in Vrindavan

On February, 23 the celebration of Maha Shivaratri was observed at the ancient Temple of Gopishwara Mahadeva in Vrindavan. Vaishnava’s honor the various Devas, seeing them as exemplar devotees of Lord Vishnu or Krishna. So in Vrindavan, the holy town of Krishna bhakti, Krishna devotees, following the edict of Srimad-bhagavatam, Vaishnavanam yatha shambhu,1 worship Lord […]

Flower Festival In Mumbai!/SLIDESHOW

On January 31, I was fortunate to be present at the Radha Gopinath Temple in Mumbai for their annual Pushya Abhishek, a devotional festival in which the temple congregation comes together to profusely decorate the deities of Radha and Krishna with flowers, and then offer them an extended shower of over a ton of fresh […]

“God”?

What the punctuation in the title indicates: Quotation marks: Draping the word God in quotation marks indicates that we are first concerned with the signifier, not the signified. (Compare these two sentences: I am interested in God. I am interested in “God.”) Question mark: The mark of interrogation backstopping “God” points us next to questions […]

Radhanath Swami: A Few More Thoughts About Terror in Mumbai

[EDITORS NOTE: On December 26th I arrived in Mumbai and have been the fortunate guest of Radhanath Swami and the many wonderful Vaishnavas of the Radha Gopinath Temple. Having seen my previous article “Finding Selflessness Amidst Mumbai’s Sorrow”, Radhanath Swami kindly shared some of his written thoughts about the Mumbai terrorist attacks. I’ll share them […]

Sense Gratification: An Essay in Pathology

In Bhagavad-gita (5.22) Krishna says this about enjoyment of the senses: ye hi samsparsha-ja bhoga duhkha-yonaya eva te “The pleasures that arise from contact between the senses and their objects are in truth the sources of all suffering.” The Sanskrit word bhoga (with the long ‘a’ of the plural) means ‘pleasures’ or ‘enjoyments’. What kinds? […]

Pointing

Sometime in the 1730’s, a young Scottish philosopher tried, and failed, to find himself. David Hume reflected upon this experience in his first book, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739). The passage is much quoted and anthologized. I encountered it frequently as an undergraduate philosophy major, for my teachers regarded it as a watershed in […]

The Reprehensible Delusions of Guruship

Sri Pillai Lokacarya (1217-1323) was a great teacher in the Sri Sampradaya who authored several works important to his Vaishnava bhakti lineage including the eighteen rahasya granthas known together as Ashtadasa Rahasya and Gadyatraya Vyakhyanam. In his Srivachana Bhushan (308-310), Pillai Lokacharya, points out three reprehensible delusions which must be avoided by the guru at […]

Feeling Separation from Krishna

yugayitam nimesena caksusa pravrsayitm sunyayitam jagat sarvam govinda-virahena me “O Govinda! Feeling Your separation, a moment feels like twelve years or more. Tears are flowing from my eyes like torrents of rain, and I am feeling all vacant in the world in Your absence.’ (Sri Siksastaka, Verse 7) Inspirations For devotees of Krishna, the world […]

The World as the Body of God

Sri Ramanuja, the great theistic Vedantin, provides a model of the relationship between the world and God which sees the world as God’s body. I thought we could explore that notion here. In Bhagavad-gita 10.20 Krishna says I am the self, Arjuna, dwelling in all beings. In his commentary on this text Ramanuja suggests that […]

Nine Symptoms of Advanced Bhakti

suddha-sattva-viseshatma prema-suryamsu-samya-bhak rucibhis citta-masrinya- krid asau bhava ucyate “‘When bhakti is executed on the transcendental platform of pure goodness (suddha-sattva), it is like a sun-ray of love for Krishna. At such a time, bhakti causes the heart to be softened by various tastes, and one is then situated in bhava (ecstatic emotion).” Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (1.3.1)

The Mother, The Mind, and Food

Recently my mother related to me how she was advising her daughter-in-law, who had become overwhelmed with the responsibilities of her family and job. She quoted to her daughter-in-law a Yiddish saying that her own mother told her when my mother was similarly overwhelmed with the care of her three young sons. She said something […]

Leaving the Noise of the Ten Thousand Little Things

The Art of “Retreating” In this retreat I would like to go deep into myself, leaving all the different layers behind. I know that deep down in the very bottom of my heart a treasure is waiting for me. I can find it by the process of “spiritual archaeology.” I feel that this treasure will […]

Creation, Karma, and Intelligent Design in Nyaya and Vedanta

The phrase “intelligent design” gets a lot of currency these days, from both its champions and foes. Its proponents contend that the organized structure found within the universe indicates an intelligent cause whereas its opponents claim that undirected natural processes are enough. I have heard some people claim that the notion of intelligent design is […]

An Expression of Conviction in Bhakti

From the Vaishnava Saint Bhaktivinoda Thakura: Give up the shackles of matter slowly. Cultivate your spirit inwardly. Give up prejudices which you have acquired from the so-called rational thinkers who deny the existence of spirit. Be humble in yourself and learn to respect those who work towards spiritual attainments. Do these with your heart, mind […]

On Santosha and Satisfying Uncontrolled Senses

“The entirety of whatever there may be within the three worlds to satisfy one’s senses cannot satisfy a person whose senses are uncontrolled.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 8.19.21 ) The above words of wisdom were spoken by Vamanadeva, the fifth of the Dasavatara (Vishnu’s ten incarnations), to Maharaja Bali. It’s one of my favorite verses regarding santosha […]

Oh, My Master’s Lotus Feet Are Bittersweet

Following the lunar calendar, the day after Sri Krishna Janmastami marks the celebration of the birth of Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami (September 1, 1896–November 14, 1977), the Vaishnava monk, global proponent of Krishna bhakti and founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. To honor the day I’ll share a poem penned for the occasion in […]

Sri Krishna Janmastami

Best wishes to everyone on Sri Krishna Janmastami! For the occasion I thought I would offer something nice to meditate on in the form of the above painting, by Murlidhara das, and the lyrics to a beautiful song by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura about the desire for Krishna to appear in ones heart. Both the original […]

The Yoga Chikitsa of Krishna’s Names

The Sri Sampradaya is one of four ancient Vaishnava lineages teaching bhakti-yoga. The name “Sri” refers to the Goddess Laxmi who is heralded as the founder of the lineage. The most prominent teachers of the Sri Sampradaya include Natha Muni, Yamuna Acharya and Ramanuja Acharya (all lived in the 9th and 10th centuries). Ramanuja, in […]

The Divine Names: An Adventure Continued- Episode Two

A group of us gathered in the bedroom after the wedding, and as the large reels of the tape recorder slowly revolved, the room filled with the sound of “the Swami” leading the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. I sang in response, answering his call. Looking back, the chanting on that August afternoon in […]

On Perceiving the Subtle in Bhakti-yoga

In the Srimad Bhagavatam’s third canto, chapter twenty-nine, Kapila (an avatar of Krishna) instructs his mother Devahuti regarding how a bhakti-yogi pleases the Lord, not through empty ritual, but through recognition of the Lord everywhere, and through behavior illumined by such vision. In this translation Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami uses the term “Supersoul” (usually used as […]

Yoga Journal’s Abstract Impressions of Bhakti

Yoga Journal’s June, 2008 issue features an article by Nora Issacs entitled “Everyday Ecstasy – See the Divine in everything, when you practice bhakti, the yoga of devotion”. In the magazine’s Editor’s Letter it is mentioned, “we welcome the criticism and praise we receive from readers – it helps us to ‘refine our alignment’ and […]

Five Lessons from a Pencil

When I was walking today, on the Island Mali Losinj, I felt my mind reach out over the blue sea to an island shimmering in the distance. When my mind returned, it brought a story with it, a story of spiritual instruction. Strange are the ways of inspiration. Here is the story: When Mohan returned […]

New Book on Kirtan

Author Steven Rosen and FOLK Books have just released a new book on kirtan. From the press release: “The Yoga of Kirtan explores the history, musical dimensions, and emotional content of sacred chant. Through a series of intimate conversations, this volume brings it’s readers into the company of present-day kirtan masters, such as Krishna Das, […]

Kirtan and Humility or: Scrambled Thoughts on Grass

“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and ready to offer all respects to others. In such a state of mind one can chant constantly.” (Shri Shikshastakam […]

The Lila of the Bewilderment of Brahma

Those who, even while remaining situated in their established social positions, throw away the process of speculative knowledge and with their body, words and mind offer all respects to descriptions of your personality and activities, dedicating their lives to these narrations, which are sung by you personally and by your pure devotees, certainly conquer your […]

Hari Sankirtan

From A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns & the European Image of India 1760-1824 More from Robert Hardgrave’s A Portrait of the Hindus: here is Balthazar Solvyns’s etching of a kirtan gathering in 18th century Calcutta. The term sankirtan – a compound of the Sanskrit words san (together), and kirtana (glorification) – refers to […]

Windows to the Material World

I just finished assembling my journals into book form for a final edit. Fortunately, I finished the work before my computer crashed. I knew it was on the blink, but I dreaded the day when it need to be sent for repair. Leaving the shop on my way home, however, I felt a surprising relief, […]

Sri Krsna-Lila-Stava

The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has recently published Sanantana Goswami’s Sri Krishna-Lila-Stava: Adoration of Krishna’s Pastimes . Sanantana Goswami (1488-1558) was the senior most of Vrindavan’s “Six Goswamis”, all influential teachers of the bhakti path. The description below is adapted from the book’s dust jacket.

An Etching of the Khol

From A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns & the European Image of India 1760-1824 As promised, from Robert L. Hardgrave’s A Portrait of the Hindus, Balthazar Solvyns’s etching of the khol or mridanga drum. Here, I’ve provided a detail of the etching. The entire image can be found below. I’ve included an excerpt from […]

A Portrait of the Hindus

Recently, while browsing the shelves of Strand Book Store, one title caught my attention: A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns & the European Image of India 1760-1824 by Robert L Hardgrave. Published by the Oxford University Press, the 568 page book measures 9×12, with 287 halftone and 78 color illustrations. In the following days […]

The Ornaments of a Sadhu

titikshavah karunikah suhridah sarva-dehinam ajata-satravah santah sadhavah sadhu-bhushanah The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime. (The Vishnu avatar Kapiladeva to his mother Devahuti, Srimad-bhagavatam 3.25.21) There is […]

More Thoughts on Ritual

I want to continue the conversation about ritual with Michael and Kaustubha (link 1, link 2). The basic idea which is being discussed seems to be that in bhakti, the purpose of religious ritual is fully realized. Without the spirit of devotion and, as Michael stressed, the proper mindfulness about the purpose of ritual, it […]

From Kulashekhara’s Mukunda-Mala-Stotra

Michael Bühler-Rose’s recent post, explaining ritual as a means to heighten spiritual mindfulness, reminded me of the following verse. In his Mukunda-Mala-Stotra (A Garland of Verses in Praise of Vishnu/Krishna) Kulashekhara Alvar derides observances and practices of sadhana performed in forgetfulness of Lord Narayan. Kulashekhara was the tenth of twelve Alvars, South India’s mystic poets […]

NAMARUPA #7

A short announcement: NAMARUPA magazine issue number 7 was recently released. For those unfamiliar, NAMARUPA, Categories of Indian Thought is a bi-yearly, beautifully produced magazine covering Indian philosophy and culture. In each issue, co-producers Robert Moses and Eddie Stern bring together a collection of deeply engaging articles along with exceptional art and photography.

Morning Rituals: Waking

A Brief Description of a Ritual of Waking Within the Bhakti Tradition In order to understand ritual, one must understand context. Within the Vedantic tradition of presentation there are three underlying principles: sambandha, the subject’s relationship to the object, abhidheya, the activity, and prayojana, or goal. A achieves C through B.

Unhappily Ever After

Now in Bookstores: The Post-Apocalypse World Recent bestsellers on life after Armageddon point to a growing paranoia: humanity may not be capable of managing its own survival. In her book Oryx and Crake, Booker Prize-winner Margaret Atwood tells a cautionary tale about a near-future time when the world has become a wasteland due to genetic […]

A Madman’s Discourse on the Workings of the Mind

Sometimes the most insightful counsel comes from the least expected source. The Sanskrit epic Srimad-Bhagavatam (also refered to as the Bhagavat Purana or simply, the Bhagavatam), depicts the life, or more accurately lives, of Maharaja Bharata.