Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The 10 Defenses

In his book, The Art of Chanting Hare Krishna, Mahanidhi Swami lists "ten actions... to protect one from the tendency to make offenses" that originally appear in Srila Sacidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakur's Harinama Cintamani. I typed them up, in a slightly paraphrased form, when I first read Mahanidhi Swami's book and thought I would reproduce them here as well.
The 10 Defenses

1. Serve those who serve the Lord, don’t criticize them out of envy or false ego.

2. Worship Krishna as the “source of all spiritual and material worlds”, “the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities.” Show respect to demigods like Lord Siva or Ganesh and personalities like Hanuman as exalted devotees of Lord Krishna.

3. Show full respect to the spiritual master in thoughts, words and actions, considering him to be a representative of the Lord. Carry out the orders of the spiritual master with enthusiasm and attention to detail.

4. Honor (and study) the scriptures as the instructions of the Supreme Lord (dharmam tu saksad bhagavat pranitam) with the desire to understand how they are correct (not if they are correct).

5. Have faith that the Holy Name is not a mundane sound vibration, but is in fact transcendental sound, descending from the (pure) spiritual platform.

6. Have faith in the explanations and glorification of the Holy Name given by guru, sadhu and sastra. This knowledge is given by those who have experienced the glories of the Holy Name, and who have “seen the truth.”

7. Root out the desire to commit sins. A sin is an action that is not connected to the Supreme Lord; something done for the gratification of the senses. Acting only for the pleasure of the material body brings you further from practical realization of your factual identity as an eternal spirit soul (separate from the temporary material body).

8. Give up ritualistic pious activities. Transcend feelings of duty and obligation and perform all activities for the pleasure of Krishna.

9. Discuss the glories of the Holy Name with servants of the Lord who will relish hearing about it.

10. Chant attentively, absorbing your full consciousness in the transcendental vibration of the Holy Name.
Mahanidhi Swami also notes that one who cultivates the four qualities of humility, tolerance, pridelessness, and respect for others will be protected from committing the ten offenses.

Mayapur Live

Daily lectures from this year's Mayapur Festival will again be available online as written transcripts or downloadable audiofiles. One kind soul alerted me to this announcement on Bala Gopal's Mrdanga. Here is an excerpt from that post, with links to places where you might be able to find this stuff online:
In a couple of days we will recommence our service of transcribing the daily Srimad Bhagavatam classes given by senior devotees during the 2006 Mayapur Gaura Purnima Festival. Like last year, we will endeavour our best to have the transcripts of the classes uploaded the same day they are given for the spiritual pleasure of the worldwide community of devotees.

In addition to the transcripts, last year we were able to also upload the audio files (around 10 MB each) of the lectures and as long as our Internet connection allows it, will do so again this year. The audio files should be downloadable from the following websites:


and via

We humbly request all receivers of this text to widely broadcast this news, thus enabling the maximum number of devotees to taste the nectar of Srimad Bhagavatam live from Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir.

The transcripts will be e-mailed to members of the Mayapurlive conference.

This conference is public and open to all. PAMHO users can join Mayapurlive by sending a Command (click on Commands/Conferences/Join a conference, etc.), or simply by typing 'join Mayapurlive' while online, or by replying to this message.

All others can request to join the conference by replying to this message or sending an e-mail to mayapurlive@pamho.net

The transcripts should also be posted on the above websites.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Life of Compassion, Dedication, & Love - His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami

About a year ago my pop had a CD/mp3 player installed in my car. Thanks to the generosity of dear-old-Dad I can listen to lectures, bhajans, whatever without having to change the disc for days. For the past week or so I have been listening to "the longest Sunday Feast lecture in the history of Radha-Gopinath temple". It takes up five full-length mp3 files - five-plus hours of Radhanatha Swami glorifying the pastimes of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja.

I had heard many of the stories before, but certainly didn't mind hearing them again. Radhanatha Maharaja's account of Bhakti Tirtha Swami's last days on this planet were particularly sweet - or should I say bittersweet? It made me feel some measure of gratitude for the times I was able to have Maharaja's darshan - NYC Ratha-Yatra 2003, Gita-Nagari Samskara Festival 2004, Maharaja's Maha Vyasa-Puja 2005, and Narasimha Caturdasi of the same year. I can remember specific interactions with Maharaja on each of these occasions that inspired me in spiritual life, infused with his very unique (and potent) bhakti-rasa.

Bhakti Tirtha Swami ki Jaya!

You can listen to the lecture(s) here, or download them from www.radhagopinath.com. I also suggest the feature article in the most recent issue of BTG, and this article from the Princeton Alumni Weekly (where Bhakti Tirtha Swami earned his undergraduate degree in psychology).
Maharaja's godbrother Satyaraja Prabhu is working on a biography as well.


Driving home from work yesterday I got stuck in rush hour traffic, westbound 84. A 15 minute drive stretched to 50-plus! No worries, I had His Holiness Niranjana Swami on the sound system and an unexpected darshan of the Lord of the Universe.

Just as I was coming out of the tunnel that goes under the mess of exits and interchanges in downtown Hartford I noticed a familiar face riding not-quite-ratha-car-bumper-style on a saab in the left lane. It was one of those classic Jagannatha SMILE! stickers that devotees hand out on sankirtan and sometimes in rock-shew parking lots. For the next couple miles I was content not to switch lanes like a crazy-person, jockeying for position in whichever lane seemed to be moving most quickly at any given moment, as Lord Jaganatha's smiling face passed me by and fell behind, passed me by and fell behind.

It reminded me of something I like to think about from time to time...

We all tell stories about "how I came to Krishna consciousness" which usually involve a devotee distributing books, or a first trip to the temple, maybe a Govinda's restaurant. I like to think about the times I came in contact with Krishna even before it seemed like the wheels of spiritual life had really started moving.

In my first few months as a "practicing devotee" I took some small amount of pride in the fact that I had taken the initiative to become a vegetarian before taking up Krishna consciousness - as if this was somehow a sign of spiritual aptitude. Surely, being a vegetarian is no big deal. As Srila Prabhupada points out "even monkeys are vegetarian, and the monkey is the most nonsense animal." Nonetheless, I was puffed-up and then blissfully humbled when I realized it was actually by the mercy of the devotees that I had given up flesh-eating.

When I became determined to give up meat I decided that I would need to be reasonably well informed in order to be successful - and not die from malnutrition. One of the books that I read was a copy of "A Higher Taste" I stole from my sister's bookshelf. She had received it from devotees while on a trip to Washington D.C. in high school.

After this little epiphany another realization soon followed: my sister also had one of those SMILE! stickers. She had put it on the inside of her bookbag and I distinctly remember intently staring at Jagannatha's merciful visage and wishing I had one of those stickers, too.

Jagannatha Swami nayana patha gami bhavatu me!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Nityananda Trayodasi

Today is the appearance day of Lord Nityananda.

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is the most merciful incarnation of Krishna - maha-vadanyaya - but Lord Nityananda is even more merciful than Lod Caitanya. Srila Bhaktivinoda Tahkur describes in his song Sri Nagara Kirtana (The Market Place of the Holy Name) that Lord Nityananda is freely distributing the holy name of Lord in exchange for just a little faith. Lord Nityananda is mercifully delivering the holy name in this way by the order of His Master - Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

If we are eager to receive the mercy of Lord Caitanya we must first attain the mercy of Lord Nityananda. How do we receive the mercy of Nityananda? Srila Prabhupada says this it is possible to receive the favor of Nityananda by preaching to the Jagai's and Madhai's of this age. Furthermore, he assures us that in this age of Kali-yuga, everyone is to be considered on the level of Jagai and Madhai.

In his purport to Manah-siksa, by Srila Narottama dasa Thakura, Srila Prabhupada gives an illuminating explanation of the nature of fact as distinguished from material illusion.

"Why are these human animals acting in this way? Ahankare matta hoiya, nitai-pada pasariya. They have become maddened by a false concept of bodily life, and thus they have forgotten their eternal relationship with Nityananda. Asatyere satya kori mani: such forgetful persons accept the illusory energy as factual. Asatyere refers to that which is not a fact, or, in other words, maya. Maya means that which has no existence but is a temporary illusion only. Persons who have no contact with Nityananda accept this illusory body as factual.

Narottama dasa Thakura then says, nitaiyer koruna habe, braje radha-krsna pabe: "If you actually want to approach the association of Radha-Krsna, you must achieve the mercy of Lord Nityananda first. When He is merciful toward you, then you will be able to approach Radha-Krsna." Dharo nitai-carana du'khani. Narottama dasa advises that one firmly catch the lotus feet of Lord Nityananda.

Then again he says, nitai-carana satya. One should not misunderstand and think that as he has caught hold of maya, similarly the lotus feet of Nityananda may also be something like that maya, or illusion. Therefore Narottama dasa confirms, nitai-carana satya: the lotus feet of Nityananda are not illusion; they are a fact. Tahara sevaka nitya: and one who engages in the transcendental loving service of Nityananda is also transcendental. If one engages in the transcendental loving service of Nityananda in Krsna consciousness, he immediately achieves his transcendental position on the spiritual platform, which is eternal and blissful. Therefore he advises, nitai-pada sada koro asa: always try to catch the lotus feet of Lord Nityananda."

To view video of Nityananda Trayodasi festivities in Sri Vrindavana Dhama, click here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bhaimi Ekadasi & Appearance of Lord Varaha (Tomorrow)

I received a comment last night that has me thinking about book distribution again. It reminded me of a funny story...

Last fall, by Krishna's mercy, I was in Vrindavana for Kartik. I spent most of the month staying at the Bhaktivendanta Ashram at Govardhana. One morning I left for Govardhana parikrama just after mangala arati with a couple devotees - Vedavyasa and Vaisesika Prabhus.

Vaisesika is a couple feet taller than I am, and at least a foot taller than Vedavyasa. He is also very fit, physically and spiritually. While at Govardhana he went on parikrama every day for almost the entire month. Most of the morning Vaedavyasa and I were practically running to keep up with his normal walking pace. After the sun had come up and the air was finally starting to warm up a little bit we were making our way through the market at Dhana Gati, after completing the Govinda Kunda half of the parikrama.

I suppose Vedavyasa and I were a bit giddy, or at least in a lighthearted mood at this point. Vedavyasa Prabhu also has more than a touch of the avadhuta in him. As we sped through the market we passed one Vrajavasi begging alms. As we passed Vedavyasa enthusiastically called out to him, in his unmistakable French-Canadian accent "If you get money, print books!"