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Archive for the ‘Weblog’ Category

Sacinandana Swami

A Little Roadside Temple – and the Lamp of Devotion

We have arrived in India and are on our way to Haridwar to enter the merciful waters of Mother Ganga. We will stay in the guesthouse of the Dev Sanskriti University for two days and deliver a workshop as part of their second festival on yoga, culture and spirituality. Then we will continue our pilgrimage to Badrinath.

We are speeding through the night. Our car stops before a little roadside temple. The driver needs a pause! It’s 3 a.m. and still very dark. But the Lord’s temple is open. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

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 chanting.

CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Radhanath Swami Celebrates the Life of Aindra Das With Tears of Gratitude.

AN OFFERING OF THE HEART by Radhanath Swami

As the effulgent sun of Sri Aindra Prabhu’s divine personality has risen in the spiritual world of Goloka Vrindaban, the sun of his physical presence has set in Gokula, the Vrindaban of this world. And we cry in separation. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

In Loving Memory of Aindra Das

The first time I visited India was in 1989. My flight arrived at the Delhi Airport at some early hour and I took a precarious taxi ride through the morning fog to the holy town of Vrindavan. Upon arriving, I prostrated in the dust of Vraja and headed straight for the Krishna Balaram Temple. It was shortly after the daily scriptural discourse and the place was nearly empty. As I approached the foot of the alter a musician caught my attention. He was alone, sitting before the shrine of Sri Sri Radha Syamsundar. He appeared austere. It was cold and he was wrapped in a ragged wool shawl. His music was unlike anything I had heard before. The melody was stripped bare. A desolate voice accompanied only by a frail harmonium scale, slow and slightly off beat – crawling, barely dragging along. His song was the cry of a dying man. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

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. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Photos of Kumbha Mela

Here’s a link to some nice photos of the current Kumbha Mela posted by Vinod Bangarshettar on Smashing Pics.

Kaustubha das

Sacinandana Swami

Focus on the Essential and Escape the “Tyranny” of 1000 Urgent Things


Dear friends,

The lives of everyone in the global community have been moving faster over the past so many years. Gone are the days of peaceful contemplation. Instead, the average person’s life is filled with small and large projects, most of them unessential. We’re flooded with information, news, conversation, jobs, activities, commitments, duties, relationships, meetings, travel, and we have too much access to the internet. As our lives speed by, the list of things we think we have to do seems to only get longer and create more stress. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Dhanurdhara Swami

Remembering Her Grace Rasajna Devi Dasi

December 29, 2009
Sri Vrindavana

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. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

NAMARUPA Issuse 10 Vol.05

For those still unfamiliar, NAMRUPA is a Internet magazine (with the option for print on demand) featuring well written articles and beautiful photography related to all varieties of Indian thought and culture. Of all the yoga related publications I’ve come across, NAMARUPA stands out as one of the most interesting and authentic. The latest issue (issue 10 volume 5) features a review of Radhanath Swami’s book The Journey Home by Rachael Stark, an article about the Polish humanitarian and Hindu Swami Maurice Frydman by Abdi Assadi and a National Geographic article from December 1905 entitled “The Parsees & The Tower of Silence at Bombay”. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Dhanurdhara Swami

Seven Ways In Which Hearing Sacred Texts Purifies the Mind

Hearing (sravanam) is the conduit of knowledge. It is thus the first principle in the practice of spiritual life. Without gaining faith in a spiritual goal by first hearing about it from an authoritative source, why would anyone be inspired to take up an arduous path of spiritual practice? And even if one did, without sravanam how would one understand the intricacies of that practice? CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Matthew Dasti

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 central feature of karmayoga, seeing oneself as an instrument of God. Elsewhere, Ramanuja describes that the self has agency (kartritva) which is under God’s will. But here, he stresses seeing God as the agent or doer of all actions. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

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, “Constructing the Exotic.” Find out if his work is merely the continuation of the Orientalist fixation or the embracement of another culture?

A strikingly beautiful young woman of European descent dressed in Bharatanatyam (a classical dance form that originated in Tamilnadu, in the south of India) costume sits poised on an ashen colored rock, the softness of her expression jarringly in contrast to the insentient stone. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

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). CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Matthew Dasti

A Review of Stephen Phillips’ Yoga, Karma and Rebirth

Stephen Phillips is a leading scholar and interpreter of classical Indian thought amongst professional academic philosophers. His work has ranged from a study of Sri Aurobindo’s conception of Brahman to a fairly technical translation and commentary upon the epoch-making epistemological text Tattvacintamani by the Nyaya master Gangesha Upadhyaya. His recent release Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy (Columbia University Press) is, in one sense, something of a departure for Phillips. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Radhanath Swami on Sita’s Banishment

“There is more love in separation than in union, for in union the beloved is found in one place only, while in separation the beloved is found everywhere.” Braja poet Nanda das

[One can not estimate the influence of the Ramayana on India’s culture and art or it’s importance to the panorama of India’s religious and spiritual traditions. Rich in the teachings of ancient Hindu sages, the Ramayana’s 24,000 Sanskrit verses follow the life of the Vishnu avatar Rama, from his childhood as prince of Ayodhya, to his youth amongst the sages, his marriage to Sita, their exile to the forest, the kidnapping of Sita to Lanka, the rescuing of Sita and their triumphant return to Ayodhya. But then Rama, who had throughout the epic professed his unending love for Sita, upon hearing an ordinary washer-man’s doubts about Sita’s chastity during her captivity in Lanka, banishes Sita from the kingdom. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

108 Names of Lord Krishna

Aug 13, 2009 marks the celebration of Sri Krishna Janmastami (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. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Matthew Dasti

New Yoga Sutras Translation

Those who are familiar with Edwin Bryant know him to be both a scholar and a serious yoga practitioner. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (North Point Press 2009) is the product of both sides coming together in a wonderful way. I do not think it is an overstatement to say that the publication of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali should be greeted by widespread enthusiasm and gratitude by the community of persons who are interested in India’s yoga traditions. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha 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), taught many of the key figures in modern-day yoga, including B.K.S. Iyengar (founder of Iyengar Yoga), the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (the founder of Ashtanga Yoga), the late Indra Devi, T.K.V. Desikachar (his son), as well as the article’s author Srivatsa Ramaswami. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

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 of an American Swami, I believe Radhanath Swami has given the world a new spiritual classic, one destined to both fascinate minds and touch the hearts of thousands. In recent memory, most presentations of bhakti that have arisen in the mainstream have been done by those not thoroughly seasoned in the practice itself. For instance, Deepa Mehta’s film Water and Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love both have something interesting to offer, but neither can provide the appreciation of an insider. Therefore, I’m particularly delighted to see a presentation of bhakti-yoga enter the mainstream from a such a worthy practitioner. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

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 57 through 79, comprise the Seventh Chapter of Sri Caitanya Candramrita entitled Upasya Nistha (Resolute Devotion to the Worshipable Lord). They are a beautiful example of Sri Prabhodananda Saraswati’s vivid and dramatic style. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Vineet Chander

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 on Indian slums, and yet condemned for exoticizing them. It calls Indians to cheer in pride (a film about our slums WON at the OSCARS!), while simultaneously hanging their heads in shame (a film about OUR SLUMS won at the Oscars!). It is either proof that India has finally arrived in the mainstream, or evidence of the film industry’s neo-colonialist agenda. Like the very city it depicts, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a land of contradictions. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

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 Shiva as a Krishna devotee in his form of a gopi (Gopishwara Mahadeva). CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

  1. Shambhu (Lord Shiva) is the greatest of Vaishnavas
Kaustubha das

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 flower petals.

In the early morning devotees gathered to pluck the petals from millions of fragrant flowers. In the evening 2000 devotees squeezed into the temple as thousands more gathered in the temple courtyards to watch via video screen. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Ravindra Svarupa Dasa

“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 concerning the concept or idea of God. What does it mean? Aren’t there many different meanings? Isn’t the meaning often vague or ambiguous? CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

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 with you below.

Kaustubha das]

It was a balmy autumn night in Mumbai. Over a hundred close friends were gathered for a reunion on a tenth floor rooftop garden near the sea. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Ravindra Svarupa Dasa

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? The pleasures born (ja) from samsparsha, ‘the bringing into contact’—implicitly, the contact of the senses with their appropriate objects.

This is what we mean by “sense gratification”: enjoying the pleasures that arise when the eyes, or nose, or tongue, the hands, skin, or genitals comes together with their particular objects.

Krishna says something about those pleasures startlingly counter-intuitive: the enjoyments thus obtained (te) are the birth places or origins (yonaya) of suffering (duhkha). CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Finding Selflessness Amidst Mumbai’s Sorrow

When we see innocent people running our city streets, scrambling for shelter from acts of violence committed in God’s name, whether in Manhattan or Mumbai, it’s a good time to ask ourselves whether our religion is making us more divine or deranged. On the verge of 2009, it’s become all the more apparent that the first decade of the new millennium will, in many ways, be defined by the impact of religious terrorism on our nations, communities, families and minds. Times like these call for us to examine how our faith affects our reasoning. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

On Reason and Love

Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a nineteenth century religious reformer in the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya. He was a prolific author, songwriter, poet and proponent of Krishna bhakti. The following is from his article “The Temple of Jagannath at Puri” written on September 15, 1871. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Sacinandana Swami

May You Be Blessed


May your eyes be blessed
with sweet tears of longing
for the beloved of your heart,
Sri Sri Radha and Krishna,
for such tears cure the “mistaken outlook”
and make the bitter tears of misery disappear. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Ravindra Svarupa Dasa

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 Western philosophy. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

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 all costs. Sobering words for one who would accept the role or title of guru and useful also for one who seeks a genuine guru. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Sacinandana Swami

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 feels empty in the absence of their beloved Lord. In affairs of love there is no substitute for the beloved—no other person, toy, or material object can replace one’s beloved. Without Krishna the world seems like a playroom filled with meaningless toys—toys that hold no fascination. A devotee wants only Krishna.

CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Matthew Dasti

The World as the Body of God

Sri Sampradaya logo
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 a self relates to a body in three ways. First, it supports a body. The self is suporter (adhara), while the body is supported (adheya). Second, it controls a body. The self is controller (niyatri) while the body is controlled (niyamya). Finally, a self is the purpose-giving end which is served by a body. Here, the self is the principal (sheshin) and the body, the accessory (shesha). CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Nine Symptoms of Advanced Bhakti

Rupa Goswami Logo 1

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) CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Ravindra Svarupa Dasa

Disease

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The heroes of my youth were the great healers of humanity. While it’s true that in those days I could be seen with other American boys paying homage to the likes of Elvis Presley and Joe DiMaggio, I rendered them only lip service. My real—if somewhat secret—devotion was reserved for a pantheon of great medical pioneers like Edward Jenner, discoverer of the smallpox vaccination; Robert Koch, who identified the tuberculosis bacillus; and Ignaz Philipp Semmelweise, who crusaded to save women from childbirth infection by teaching doctors to disinfect their hands. I avidly studied the life stories of these saviors and dreamed of becoming like them by slaying some modern scourge—leukemia, say, or coronary thrombosis. In my eyes there was no higher calling than to wage war on behalf of humanity against disease and death. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Dhanurdhara Swami

The Mother, The Mind, and Food

GFV LogoRecently 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 to the effect that ‘it will all soon pass.” Now that my students have children and I am often living among them, I have become more aware of how much sacrifice a mother has to make. Somehow, until my mother recently told me about her own struggles as a mother raising young children, I never realized that she also underwent a similar sacrifice taking care of me and my two brothers. I have to say that over the last few years my admiration for motherhood has soared. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Sacinandana Swami

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 give me the strength required to deal with the compromises I make in my life that keep me in the so-called comfort zone. It is a dangerous zone that gets darker each time I act in a way contrary to what I know to be true. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

“The Yoga of Kirtan” Excerpt: Bhakti Charu Swami Interview

Bhakti Charu Swami

An excerpt from Steven Rosen’s new book The Yoga of Kirtan – Conversations on the Sacred Art of Chanting.

Steven Rosen: In our remaining time, can you talk a little more about kirtan? I know this is actually the center of your current practice and also the main theme of your recent temple, opened in Ujjain.

Bhakti Charu Swami: The way I understand it, kirtan is actually a prayer to the Lord. Originally, those prayers were very personal, when initially composed. And then they take on more general expression, and anyone can chant it. But, early on, these were confidential prayers, like the mantras in the Vedas, where they are not open to the general public. Those mantras – like Gayatri, for example – were meant for meditative chanting, but they were circumscribed, only for special clientele, so to speak.. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Matthew Dasti

Creation, Karma, and Intelligent Design in Nyaya and Vedanta

vishnu shesha 4The 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 merely an attempt to repackage Christian creationism in a respectable way. But, this is clearly false. It’s a Hindu notion as well. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

An Expression of Conviction in Bhakti

BVT

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 and strength in the company of spiritual people alone and you will see Krishna in no time. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

On Santosha and Satisfying Uncontrolled Senses

vamana detail

“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 (contentment), one of the niyamas in ashtanga-yoga as well as an essential quaility in bhakti-yoga. Thursday, September 11, marks the observance of Vamanadeva’s appearance. I’ve included a few verses from from Vamanadeva’s discussions with Bali. One can read a more complete telling of lila here. The painting is by B.G. Sharma.

Kaustubha das

CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Dhanurdhara Swami

Japa Thoughts I

GFV LogoJapa takes concentration. A moment of inattention and the mind jumps from the mantra to mundane thought. We even sometimes become lost in one of the deep groves of attachment (samskaras) embedded in our consciousness, sliding on the path of those impressions until good sense drags us back to the holy name. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Ravindra Svarupa Dasa

Munchies for the Mind II

SIH-logo

So They Say:

Prayer

I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and his Angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his Angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door.
John Donne (1572-1631) CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Oh, My Master’s Lotus Feet Are Bittersweet

Prabhupada stamp

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 1986 by one of Sri Bhaktivedanta Swami’s disciples, Tamal Krishna Goswami. It’s a poem I find particularly edifying in understanding the nature of the relationship between guru and disciple as well as the tension between the pains and joys of renunciation. It’s entitledOh, My Master’s Lotus Feet Are Bittersweet”.

Kaustubha das CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Sri Krishna Janmastami

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 Bengali and English translations are included.

Kaustubha das CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Sacinandana Swami

The Unexpected Call

utbt-logo

Ring! Ring! Ring!

It’s already the second time this morning.

The first time you ignored it—it’s far too early for phone calls.

Normal people, you have learned, phone after 10:00 in the morning and before 10:00 at night.

A little nervous you ask, “Who is there, please?”

A long silence—a timid silence, almost as if the person is afraid to identify him or herself.

You demand to know the answer. “Who is phoning at this inhuman hour?”

“Here speaks your soul, your self.”

It sounds too unusual to be fake but too strange to be real. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Photos of Srirangam

Srirangam Gopuram

Resting on an island in the Kaveri River in Tamil Nadu, South India, is the city of Sri Rangam and the famous Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. Lord Vishnu is worshiped there in a reclining form along with His consort, the Goddess Laxmi. The temple complex, occupying 156 acres, was conceived as a cosmic mandala with seven concentric walled enclosures. Each enclosure is entered though magnificent, intricately decorated gates (gopurams).

I recently discovered an online travel log [rammesh.kaaninilam.com] with photos of Srirangam. What is unique about this site is the way the photos are layed out corresponding with the actual layout of the temple complex. There are over 100 high resolution photos. The site also includes great photos of the Brihadisvara Temple in Tanjore. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

The Yoga Chikitsa of Krishna’s Names

Sri Sampradaya logo

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 particular, established the systematic philosophy of Vaishnavism. But all three were preceded by the ecstatic mystic poets called the Alvars (those immersed in God). The Alvars were twelve saints from South India who have left behind a great legacy of devotional poetry in praise of Lord Vishnu/Krishna. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Ravindra Svarupa Dasa

The Divine Names: An Adventure Continued- Episode Two

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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 1967 appears to me now as a rare moment in time, a kind of karmic singularity, like the pinched waist of an hourglass, into which my whole past poured and from which my entire future would expand. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

On Perceiving the Subtle in Bhakti-yoga

Verses of sb

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 a literal translation for Paramatma) for the Sanskrit bhuta-atma and atmanam, referring to the four-armed form of Lord Vishnu residing in the hearts of all beings, who acts as the overseer and the enabler of their actions as well as the friend who reminds them of how to act towards their own advancement. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

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 explore beyond our normal boundaries”. In this spirit, I’d like to offer some constructive criticism. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Ravindra Svarupa Dasa

The Divine Names: An Adventure

SIH-logoMy first connection with the Hare Krishna maha-mantra happened during the “Summer of Love” in August, 1967 in the course of a wedding within a three-room apartment in Powelton Village, the budding hippie district in Philadelphia. The wedding epitomized the time and place. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Sacinandana Swami

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 from his journey to Jagannatha Puri, he was a changed man. Those who had never met him were impressed with his character, but those who had known him before were suspicious. Why was Mohan so clear-minded and suddenly so happy? There seemed to be no good reason, because while Mohan was on his way to Puri, his spiritual master, Gurudeva, had left his body. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

New Book on Kirtan

Yoga of 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, Jai Uttal Vaiyasaki, Ragani, David Newman, and others. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Dhanurdhara Swami

Kirtan and Humility or: Scrambled Thoughts on Grass

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“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 verse 3)

Pradyumna, a friend and noted scholar, recently shared with me, in his own words, Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s interesting commentary on the phrase trnad api, “lower than a blade of grass” from Shri Shikshastakam (Shri Caitanyas eight core instructions), where the anonymity of the kirtaniya (kirtan leader) is described: CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

The Lila of the Bewilderment of Brahma

Brahma-vimohan front

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 Lordship, although you are otherwise unconquerable by anyone within the three worlds. (Lord Brahma’s Prayers to Lord Krishna, Srimad-bhagavatam 10.14.3)

Today I’ve posted a painting Brahma Honors Krishna and an excerpt from its commentary from the book Intimate Worlds: Indian Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection. The commentary, by art historian John Seyller, briefly tells the Brahma-vimohan lila (the pastime of the bewilderment of Brahma). Some nice details about the painting’s design are included. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Hari Sankirtan

From A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns
& the European Image of India 1760-1824

Sankirtan-detail

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 the practice of congregational singing of the holy names of God, especially in public, as a practice and expression of bhakti. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Dhanurdhara Swami

Windows to the Material World

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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, a sense of liberation. Even though I use the computer almost exclusively for my writing and correspondence, it felt as if some shackle of illusion had been lifted. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Sri Krsna-Lila-Stava

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. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

An Etching of the Khol

From A Portrait of the Hindus: Balthazar Solvyns
& the European Image of India 1760-1824


Khol detailAs 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 the description by the artist, Balthazar Solvyns, and below that, an excerpt from Robert Hardgrave’s commentary, (I’ve not included the footnotes). One observation of my own: it appears that the musician is wearing, around his right ear, a small pushpa-mala (flower garland). CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

A Portrait of the Hindus

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 I will be posting some images from the book along with excerpts from the commentary. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

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 an apparent irony in the term sadhu-bhushana, (sadhu-ornaments). The stereotypical image of a sadhu is that of an ochre-clad, long bearded, Hindu ascetic who sheds all ornaments save for a string of beads and a mark of sacred clay. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

Paryaya Observed in Udupi

paryaya

Last Friday, (January, 18), marked the observance of Paryaya in the temple town of Udupi in south India. Over 700 years ago Shri Madhvacharya, the chief proponent of the Tattvavada or Dwaita school of Vedanta and one of the important philosophers of the bhakti movement, established the Ashta-Mathas (eight monasteries) of Udupi. The heads of these mathas, each of which can trace their lineage back to one of a group of eight original heads appointed by Shri Madhvacharya himself, rotate the responsibility of the care of the Sri Krishna Temple. The formal ceremony marking the “changing of the guard” is called Paryaya. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Matthew Dasti

More Thoughts on Ritual

Ramanuja TwotoneI 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 seems to degenerate into a kind of mere cultural language; a way people who identify with this or that meta-narrative tend to act in certain circumstances. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

From Kulashekhara’s Mukunda-Mala-Stotra

Kulashekhara

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 whose writings served as inspiration for the acharyas of the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Matthew Dasti

Meditation as Sacrifice

Translations from the Svetasvatara Upanisad and the Bhagavad-gita

Med as sac
CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

NAMARUPA #7

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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. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Michael Bühler-Rose

Morning Rituals: Waking

A Brief Description of a Ritual of Waking
Within the Bhakti Tradition

Bhumi 5

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. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Matthew Dasti

“A Person is Made of Desire”

A Translation of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5-6 (Madhyandina Recension)
CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Joshua Greene

Unhappily Ever After

Now in Bookstores: The Post-Apocalypse World

apocalypse books

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 experiments gone horribly awry. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

Kaustubha das

A Madman’s Discourse on the Workings of the Mind

bharat-deerSometimes 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. CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE »

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