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Wishing You a Merry Krishnas
by Niscala dasi
Posted December 24, 2010

It struck me the other day the astonishing similarity between the words Christmas and Krishna- Prabhupada once pointed out the similarity between the words Christ and Krishna, but when “mas” is added, and the “i” is shortened, the similarity becomes much stronger- one could even say to someone “krsnas tu bhagavan swayam” and they might respond “What was that about Christmas?”

We all know the magic and enchantment that the word “Christmas” had over us when we were young, as we knew that from this word, everything of our hearts’ desire would be manifest, and as we chanted the word, we would long for Christmas to come. It is not all that different when we chant the name of Krishna- from Him alone, all the gifts in the world are given. Like the personality of Christmas, Santa Claus, there is the personality of Krishna, who through mystic potency or magic, makes gifts for all the children of the world (such as rain, sunshine, fresh air, potent seed grains, our bodies and knowledge), via the help of His people who work on His behalf, the demigods and other devotees who are known as “desire trees”.

As we grew up, we learnt that gifts did not happen by magic alone, one had to work for them. It was a shock when we found out that Santa did not actually come personally to our homes, via the fireplace, but that we had to create the magic of Christmas ourselves through hard work and the spirit of giving, of generosity and good will. Of course, Santa still exists as Saint Nicholaus, but he has stepped aside for the little elves and selves of this world to do his work for him- he just “started the ball rolling”. Similarly, Krishna does not want to be the sole gift-giver and beneficiary of the living entities. He wants the elves and selves of this world to do that work, and thereby develop the mood of being desire-trees- working for the good of others. Sometimes He sends difficulties such as earthquakes, not just to reduce the karma of the world, but to evoke a spirit of compassion, of solidarity and brotherhood between living beings, to shock them out of complacency, security, self-centeredness, greed and other soul-killing qualities. Hearts open up, in times of disaster, much as they open up at Christmastime, but one is all magic, and the other, at best bitter-sweet. The difference is, that one spirit of giving is causeless, and the other causative. When generosity and well-wishing is there all the time, regardless of extremity of material causes, then it is simply joyful.

Another aspect and reason for Christmas cheer is that when we give at Christmastime, we do not present ourselves as the giver- it comes from Santa. This ego-less expression of generosity is exactly in the spirit of devotees, who never give credit to themselves as the reservoirs of knowledge which liberates, but all credit to the spiritual master, or God. Actually, it is a fact that we cannot give anything, be it spiritual knowledge or material gifts- everything comes from Krishna- but He has given us the ingredients for both types of gift making- and our intelligence. Through intelligence we can combine material elements, and spiritual concepts and vibrations, to help others. While material gifts bring only temporary joy, the spiritual gift is permanent and can help one at the most crucial and desperate points in one’s life- it can free the soul from all anxiety. Still, as Rupa Goswami pointed out, even the giving of ordinary gifts is a loving exchange between us, which fosters a vaisnava spirit. When we use our intelligence only for the good of others, and at the same time take no credit for ourselves, - we create Krishna’s magic- Christmas magic.

Children chant “Christmas” while devotees chant “Krishna” and preceding both is a word relating to the pleasure potency, “Hare”, or the word describing her- “Merry”. One word relates to He from whom all gifts become manifest, and one relates to the joyful part of His nature, personified in Radharani. Thus when devotees chant, they are open to all gifts as well as the joy of gift-giving. As the Lord does not want to be seen as the gift-giver- but wants all credit to go to the devotees, so the devotees do not want to be seen as gift-givers but that all credit should go to the Lord. It is a transcendental reciprocation, that is only spoilt when we actually do take credit for ourselves. We experienced thus, this loss of enchantment, when we started to believe that Santa did not exist, and that we had to give presents ourselves, that there was no magic, only an illusion of it. This so-called realization took the joy out of Christmas, which then became a begrudged social duty to perform, or at best, an appreciation of family and friends. While that is better than nothing, as devotees we have the full realization of Christmas enchantment, for we know as a philosophical or realized truth, that everything does actually emanate from the all-good Personality of Godhead- nothing comes from nothing. We know that we can at best be His instruments, and thus make generous and non-begrudging, wholly joyful gifts of charity that continue on long after we have departed the scene, passing on all credit to the Lord’s causeless mercy and the recipients’ causeless good fortune.

There are many other similarities between our traditions- the Christmas tree, like the desire tree, fulfills all one’s desires. It is self-effulgent, like the trees and other objects in the spiritual world. The gifts given are not immediately recognized as such, but need to be picked up and unwrapped. Similarly, the original Santa gives us many presentations which seem at first burdensome, such as needing to care for someone, or being required to go out on Harinama, but in due course, the joyful nature of selfless service becomes revealed as something that we were hankering for, but did not recognize where under the tree it was situated. Even the most distressful experience can become a source of great enlightenment in retrospect- nothing is as it seems. But trusting that the Lord is our well-wisher, we have all the enthusiasm of children under the tree at Christmastime, not knowing what will be unwrapped, but knowing that it will be good.

The Vision of Srila Prabhupada
by bhakta Sevak
Posted June 6, 2006

I believe if there is something great out there, it would always stand out & be recognized by anyone despite the culture one may follow. I know a lady who is a close family friend she is a evangelistic healer in a church & she even receives many people to her home coming for healing sessions, people who are sick , possessed by ghosts, you could think of her as a psychic or a spiritual faith healer. On many occasions, whenever I used to meet her, she used to try to explain & preach & convince to convert me to become a Christian by various philosophic gospel message of Jesus Christ.

On this one particular occasion, I happened to have the hardcover edition of Bhagavad-Gita & as we sat down I explained to her about the appearance of Lord Krishna & his various pastimes on how he conquered various demons. She asked me about ISKCON & the devotees who surrender to serve the temple on how they dress themselves in dhotis & shave their heads, as I was explaining her about Srila Prabhupada being the founder of the Society. I showed her the back cover of the book displaying a picture of Srila Prabhupada , she looked at the picture very closely & then looked at me & said she had a vision of him & said the exact words "god sent this man , he was sent by god" & "his health was struggling as he had a weak heart" , the incident of Srila Prabhupada on the Jala Data and how he suffered the stroke recalled to my mind .

From this meeting I gathered the Father of Jesus Christ she believed in sent Srila Prabhupada. It didn't matter to me weather I was a Christian or not weather I was saved or Initiated or not. I discovered Srila Prabhupada in my life & I have firm faith & his endeavor to spread the massage of chanting the Hare Krishna Maha mantra & that is the Instruction of Sri Chaitanya Maha prabhu.

So to all my fellow brothers & sisters weather you are a Hindu or not , let's not waste time blaming or pointing fingers about who has the authority to initiate or not. Just try to encourage everyone as you can to chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra

Of Pride, God and Asteroids
by Niscala dasi
Posted September 10, 2011

I recently came across a comment on the internet: “I’m an atheist, and proud of it”. I have heard of such statements before, relating to pride in what one believes, not just in atheism. I wonder what there is to be “proud of” in a belief, and is anything really worth being proud of?

If anything, pride is justified when it is related to reducing suffering in the world. But there is truth in the secular aphorism “pride goes before a fall” and if one becomes proud- of even good action- then it can lead to a sense of superiority, which can lead to a patronizing “better-than-thou” attitude towards those whom one is helping.

On the other hand, taking some pride in what one does, can lead to more enthusiastic endeavor. How this happens is that pride, as we all know, is related to ego, which is our sense of identity. When one finds it, one finds oneself- with knowing self, comes knowing one’s purpose- just as knowing what a toaster is, implies knowing its purpose. From identification with purpose, comes loss of apathy and any sense of meaninglessness to one’s life, which brings on natural enthusiasm and joy.

(to put the above in logical sequence: “over-inflated sense of ego equals excessive pride” Therefore “normal ego means normal-sized pride”. “Ego equals sense of identity” “Sense of identity includes sense of purpose”… Therefore “normal pride includes sense of purpose”)

This equation of pride with sense of purpose, indicates that it should be based on something good about oneself that is expressed in action, not an inherent quality. One should be proud of one’s actions or endeavors, not for that which has been given by Fate or God- for that would be as ludicrous as a baby being proud of her bottle, or her crib. Thus to be good, one needs to be a force for good, by helping to reduce suffering.

Even then, such pride should not go unchecked, but with accompanying awareness of one’s severe limitations in the area of practical action. For it is a fact that we are very small compared to the universe, or even nature on this planet, Who is feeding countless living entities daily, and providing them with homes and families. So, a tiny sense of pride in one’s endeavor for making the world a better place, is healthy. One can hold it in check by realizing that we are utterly dependent on other beings to do any good in this world.

It is a fact that we need so many farmers, educators, doctors, transporters, organizers and so on, the list is almost endless, even to get food on our table, what to speak of bringing about the end of repeated crises in third world countries, or whatever grand plan we have. A sense of gratitude can not only hold pride in check- but is completely based on realism.

Ultimately, we are all helpless before Fate, who could send a mighty asteroid, smashing into our planet, ending every possibility of endeavor for good, in a flash. Therefore some people petition Fate, whom they call God, for protection, which atheists scoff at, but is it so far-fetched that Fate is more than impersonal forces? My body is governed by impersonal forces of nature, yet there is also a will- which I identify with. “I’ decide to get up and go to the next room. I direct those impersonal forces, to achieve my purpose. If we put a microscopic observer inside my body, it would appear that it is working only according to impersonal forces, without any direction.

It may be argued that my body is extremely complex- and the universe is not? Actually, all matter is like the universe- mostly consisting of space. My body is like the universe, in that it is mostly a vacuum, with nothing in it, for even in solid rock, the space between atoms is enormous, compared to their size. How they exert influence upon other atoms is through impersonal forces. That is completely consistent with them also being guided by my will. If there are laws of nature, it may be argued that Someone designed those laws, and it appears they have a purpose, for if they were even slightly different, the possibility of life evolving would be nil. It may also be argued that laws cannot be broken but they can be manipulated by a will, or are we to deny the existence of lawyers?

If this universe of my body and the movement of its atoms, is governed both by impersonal forces and my personal will, then why cannot it be the same with God- and this universe is His body? Only from our perspective is my body different from the universe- actually it is like a tiny version of it. My body is made of energy condensed into matter, which we call atoms, separated by relatively vast amounts of space, and with each of these atoms exerting impersonal forces upon each other. In the bigger universe, planets do the same. The only difference is in size and the type of impersonal forces involved.

Recently Steven Hawking announced he is coming close to prove that the universe was formed only through impersonal forces- I believe he will. And it will do absolutely nothing to disprove the existence of God or that He did not provide the will behind the way that those impersonal forces interacted, to form the end product of life, intelligent enough to ponder His existence….

The Need for Diversity
by Urvashi Patel
Posted June 8, 2006

In response to Agni Elen Moe's letter (Wrong To Portray Manor School As Just a Hindu Establishment) and the previous article from Mahavidya ACBSP (Racism In ISKCON) I would like to make the following points.

It is undoubtedly a worrying trend in the UK and elsewhere to jump on the Hindu bandwagon. Yes, the movement has reached stability by this move. However, this trend has also negative ramifications. There have been numerous articles of concern about the Hindufication of ISKCON. Raising such concerns I can already hear shouts of racism coming from those who have established their comfortable management positions and salaries with the help of the Hindu money. But it is not racism to express concerns about ISKCON being overly influenced by the Hindu community. If anything is racism then it is picking out the 'white kids' in order to paint a fitting picture of a Hindu school for the media. It is dishonest and hurtful to the children as we have heard. Of course it is all justifiable in the name of 'preaching', isn't it?

However, this is not why I am writing this article. The worrying trend is rather that due to the vast financial input of the Hindu community ISKCON's core values are watered down and are in danger of getting lost altogether. In not more than one generation much will have disappeared. Money obliges, especially if it is coming repeatedly from the same source. Influence is being bought and vision is being changed. Srila Prabhupada wanted the help of the Indian community no doubt but he didn't want the preaching to the Westerners stagnate or directed entirely towards the Hindus.

Let me give an example to show what I mean. It is obvious that book distribution has massively declined in the past so many years. There is no immediate economic need any more to distribute books as the temples are secure because of donations from the Hindu community. Naturally book distribution is in the decline.

Hardly any new devotees are being made either. Those serving at the temples are mostly imported from Eastern Europe or from India. We don't even have to sincerely look after or care for devotees any more because we are rich enough to 'buy' and 'import' any devotee we want. It has regrettably left temples with much of an impersonal atmosphere.

Visiting Bhaktivedanta Manor you are forgiven to think you are coming to a 'Hindu Mandir' as perhaps 95 percent or more are Hindus who attend the programs. Any Westerner will definitely feel out of place. I have been told there was once a thriving devotee community of hundred or more Westerners living around the Manor. They have almost all moved away because there was no need for them anymore.

The Hinduization in the UK has also implications for the wider preaching. Due to historic reasons all temples in the UK are managed by one centralized charity. This is in direct contradiction to Srila Prabhupada's instructions on management. Everybody knows those instructions. There is no need to repeat them here and I am sure most would even agree. There have been moves towards de-centralization in the UK but more than five years have passed without any tangible result. One can only assume there is no real will for it anymore.

This has far reaching implications for the overall preaching. A rigid central management is trying to control almost every aspect of development throughout the country thus stifling the preaching due to fear of loosing control. Only one vision is being pushed, the 'Hindu Paradigm'. After all one needs good press more than anything else, especially if one shakes hands with ministers, rich Hindu industrialists and even the Prime Minister who himself needs the Hindu votes. Political influence is being bought. But there is a high price to it. The preaching to the indigenous people of the UK has more or less stopped. One can only wonder why Srila Prabhupada came to the West. To liberate the two percent of Hindus in the UK? Their Krishna consciousness is just under their skin. But what chance do the 98 percent of Westerners stand if the outreach towards them has trickled to almost zero? How will they get liberated or receive Lord Nityananda's mercy?

In short, the 'Hindu paradigm' is so strong and all encompassing that any other preaching endeavour is made almost impossible by default. Bhaktivedanta Manor, the UK's headquarter, is the heart and powerhouse of the Hindu preaching. It is leading the centralized management in the UK. This is a worrying trend I feel.

What we need more than anything else in order to bring Srila Prabhupada's preaching, vision and outreach back is de-centralisation and diversity. Why should we be afraid of it? Why not give it a chance? Our philosophy is after all 'Unity in Diversity' and NOT 'Unity through Centralisation and Control'. I feel the Hare Krishna movement in the UK would rise to new heights if the 'Hindu paradigm' was not the ONLY possible preaching and outreach route. I know from my own experience and community that Hindus do actually respect and support ISKCON for preaching to the Westerners. We know they need it most. We also know why Srila Prabhupada left India and took on great austerities to preach to the mlecchas and yavanas. Let's therefore make a concerted effort to bring Srila Prabhupada's legacy back before it is too late.

No Racism In ISKCON
by Radha Mohan das, ISKCON UK Communications Secretary
Posted May 18, 2006

The incident described in the article "Racism In ISKCON?" concerning the photographer from The Independent newspaper and the temple school is not a typical example of conduct at Bhaktivedanta Manor.

During the visit, the newspaper photographer was very sensitive and respectful. However, we were more concerned with the way one of our staff members had communicated with some children. We had an investigation and corrected the situation and apologised to the related individuals.

The school at Bhaktivedanta Manor is well known for the excellent and holistic education that it provides. Each child's education is subsidised by the Manor, which contributes over £50,000 ($90,000) annually in facilities, resources and finance. Thus, in effect our children receive a private education for next to nothing in fees.

The newspaper simply desired photos that would reflect what the future Hindu school in Harrow may look like. That was what their feature was about. Considering the school is likely to be more than 95% British Hindu children of an Indian ethnic background, that was what the newspaper wanted to capture. (Harrow has the highest Indian Hindu population in Britain thus entitling the area to the government-funded school in the first place). Therefore, although the newspaper took pictures of all the children, they used the ones most useful to their needs. In the same way if they had wanted to run a feature on children of a European origin that have taken up Krishna Consciousness (which has happened on various occasions), the photos selected would have been specifically focused on that subject.

Perhaps when prejudice persons on either side of these matters hear of such indifference they become agitated and interpret the matter in a negative and fault finding way.

As a result of receiving our guest from the Independant (who could technically could have gone to any temple), Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON got some excellent publicity in full colour in one of our country's most popular national newspapers. It's just a shame that some people related to ISKCON continually contribute to bad publicity with their redundant criticism.