Thai Buddhists Explore Their Vedic Link|
by Kurmaksetra dasa
Posted May 3, 2012
Several prominent Buddhist groups in Thailand (some of them strict vegetarians) invited Dr Sahadeva dasa for a series of countrywide programs and visit to their communities. They hosted a series of TV shows with him. His talks covered a wide range of topics –from Lord Buddha and promulgation of Buddhism to fate of modern civilization, ancient solutions to modern problems, absolute morality and ethics, comparative theology etc.
Some of these Buddhist groups are politically very influential and strict vegetarians. They have created exemplary self-sufficient communities, producing their own food and leading a chemical and plastic free life. One of the communities lives in boat houses, grows its food on barges and even have a floating supermarket selling the community wares. There were few mantra concerts, both in private homes and in public places.
Thailand is a tropical paradise and culture is very similar to that of India. Centuries ago, Buddhism went there and the country became officially Buddhist. Thai Monarchy still wields power and everything there appears to be colourful, exotic and full of life. Religion plays an active role in people’s lives and in the morning, groups of monks can be seen wandering everywhere, begging alms. Sanskrit words are very common and there is this huge diorama, right at the Bangkok airport, depicting the Srimad Bhagavatam story of churning of ocean by demons and demigods.
Many Buddhist leaders were surprised to know that Lord Buddha is an incarnation of Vishnu and that He is mentioned in many of our prayers. Some of them wanted to study Srimad Bhagavatam to further augment their understanding of Buddhism. Vegetarianism is growing rapidly and every town and city now has vegetarian and vegan restaurants.
More photos of the visit can be seen at his pages here:
Kurmaksetra dasa (MVS)
"We should tax our brains as to what is the best way to present Krsna consciousness to a particular people at a particular time and place." (letter, 13 November 1970) These words of Srila Prabhupada remind us that reaching out to a suffering world is high on his priority list. His call to spread Krsna consciousness is legendary. We risk no heresy by asking the obvious; in fact, preachers should be the first to ask: why doesn't our presentation resonate with more people? And what can we do about it?
Problem. Identifying a problem is always the first step toward solving it. So I'll begin with a blunt fact: the Krsna consciousness movement (at least in the West) has little impact on the public. The vast majority of people, if they know we exist at all, ignore us as they would any insignificant oddity. To most people, Krsna consciousness is irrelevant or ludicrous.
There, I've said it. Call me a troublemaker, but I wish to God I were wrong. Unfortunately, it's the math. Self-help, Buddhism, meditation, yoga, alternative health and many other movements create genuine public demand. Even atheism now enjoys a robust market. But the numbers (those little things that don't lie) prove that comparatively few people care about Krsna consciousness.
This is not to demean devotees and their many well-earned successes; I point no fingers. I make only an artless plea that we take the issue seriously. The public's lack of response is an elephant in our room, and we all need to admit and discuss it. The facts are telling us something. We are in possession of life's ultimate success formula, yet we have trouble giving it away for free. Is it really so brash to suggest that something might be amiss?
This invisibility isn't because we haven't preached enough; in fact, as we try harder, others skate past us to popularity. We distribute millions upon millions of books and magazines. Every day thousands of devotees, public exhibitions, media outlets, temples, preaching centers and other venues around the globe freely exhibit Krsna consciousness for all to see. And it's been going on for over forty years. The worst problem isn't that we haven't preached enough; it has something to do with how we preach. Please consider a conspicuous but embarrassing possibility: Maybe it's a matter of simple miscommunication. Maybe we make Krsna consciousness unnecessarily hard to understand. Maybe we need to make more sense to people.
When stated rationally, basic Krsna consciousness philosophy is overwhelmingly sensible and convincing; it towers above other ideas with transparent, self-evident validity; yet after forty-five years of our trying to present this open-and-shut case, people have no idea what it is. Is it possible we bottleneck Krsna consciousness by not presenting it in a way that our audience can understand and appreciate? If not poor communication, then what is it that prevents the exchange of such plain and obvious facts?
It's easy to blame the audience. Too often we skirt our need for better lifesaving skills by blaming the poor drowning victims. Yes, the public is conditioned, distracted and smug, but don't we need to be introspective too? Maybe we're also in denial. Maybe we're also in need of a paradigm shift. Have we said all that can be said of Krsna consciousness? Have we exhausted the explanatory power of the infinite? Or is Krsna consciousness bigger than that? Is the infinite truth an endless repertoire of explanatory potential that can impress people in ways we haven't begun to explore or even imagine?
Suggestion. I think we'd all agree that the more an idea makes sense to people the easier it is for them to accept. Unfortunately, few people see a connection between such sensible statements and Krsna consciousness.
The test of an effective statement is that it leaves people convinced they've heard a truism. It checkmates opposing ideas. Undeniably good sense is powerful; it turns lights on, and if our words don't consistently do this, we need to rethink them. Srila Prabhupada even compared Krsna consciousness to the crystal clarity of simple mathematics: "Two plus two equals four; this is science.... The science of Krsna consciousness is not speculation. It is exactly science.... One should try to understand God scientifically." (lecture, 10 February 1975 [also see SSR5, lecture, 17 April 1972, etc.])
Basic math is absolute; it's not a belief or matter of opinion but an indisputable science with verifiable, universally accepted answers. Such axioms leave no room for guesswork. They are inarguably true, and anyone who hears such an obvious fact has little choice but to agree or look foolish. Prabhupada saw Krsna consciousness as similarly conclusive, and he urged that we present it as such.
Sooner or later, every person will want to know one overriding thing about Krsna consciousness: is it true or not? This inescapable question demands inescapable answers. The easy-sell of the 1960s and '70s is gone; if we expect people to embrace a foreign doctrine full of myth-like stories and unfamiliar words and ideas, we'd better offer some pretty good reasons. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Good evidence, good reasons, good explanations are a big part of today's landscape. Throughout a 24-hour news cycle — Internet, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, books and so on — pundits are everywhere touting evidence. In the marketplace of ideas, credible information is king; it's how serious people make up their minds. No one wants to look foolish, embracing something they can't defend. Even a child wants good reasons. How many times does a three-year-old ask, "Why?"
Most people know that irrationality causes problems. When they shop for consumer goods, they try to be rational; when they balance their chequebooks, they try to be rational; when they drive their cars, they try to be rational. People value facts and realistic demonstration. "I'll believe it when I see it." "If it feels good, do it." People have faith in the world around them, in experience, in materialism, in the physical sciences, all because of one thing: evidence. Every serious exchange of ideas aspires to some kind of confirmation. Verification, good reasons and sensible explanations are a universal language, at least for those who think. A claim can have many good qualities, but if it sounds irrational, few will listen.
In the midst of this paradigm we sit on the motherlode. The rationality factor of Krsna consciousness is off the chart; it has no comparison. No one can coherently argue with absolute facts (if they are well explained).
These are only thumbnail samples, but they represent a corpus of inescapable truths — Krsna philosophy — and if it is explained rationally, all arguments evaporate. Such a conclusive analysis of reality, a flawless body of necessary facts, actually exists; but, even more amazing, people have no idea it exists. How could they? These axiomatic truths sit in our hands, and we haven't spelled them out well enough for others to notice. The most sensible, believable and convincing parts of Krsna consciousness sit camouflaged in a fog of unfamiliar ideas that few people will ever wade through.
The solution is simple: Extract, clarify and showcase these ironclad truisms in the forefront of our presentation as the face of Krsna consciousness.
Facts that people find hard to deny are a powerful incentive. Only such conclusive facts will explode people's fears that Krsna consciousness is foreign and fanatical. Only such facts will give Krsna consciousness credibility. People tend towards what is believable. Unless we rationally demonstrate that Krsna consciousness is the leader in this field of believability, they will always lump it in as just another creed in the queue. And who can blame them if they see nothing to distinguish it?
What really distinguishes Krsna consciousness? Many ideologies have their sincerity, their buildings, their culture, their stories, their saints, their processes, and even their kirtans. But only Krsna consciousness has demonstrably accurate explanations for the most important questions of life. By any standard, Krsna consciousness offers the world's most coherent and convincing analysis of the facts. It's a preaching slam-dunk. Yet with all our writers, orators and media-savvy talent, we haven't singled out and illustrated these axioms so people will recognize them. Isn't this a colossal oversight?
A short essay can't address every concern, but here are a couple you might have.
Question: If good explanations make Krsna consciousness so self-evident, why don't more people agree with every word in Srila Prabhupada's books?
Response: Lawbooks benefit anyone, but most readers won't grasp the details of legalese at first. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada's books benefit anyone (even those who touch them), but like all lawbooks, they are also reference books designed to be best understood through long-term study and discussion. If readers have doubts, that's where we come in; we encourage them to read by walking them through the hard parts. This is why we answer questions, why we give classes, why we write, why we speak up at all. Naturally, Srila Prabhupada expected us to defuse people's doubts by drawing lines of reasoning from his pregnant words.
The more convincingly we do this, the more we show the explanatory potency of Srila Prabhupada's books, thus encouraging people to purchase and study them. His writings form the most valid body of information on the planet, but if this isn't immediately clear to the untrained eye, we must do our part. Without adulterating, we should mine his words for their countless insights and explain them as he would have wanted — as cogently and conclusively as possible.
Question: Rationality isn't the only feature of Krsna consciousness; many traits distinguish it. Shouldn't we present Krsna consciousness in many ways?
Response: Of course. Krsna consciousness will always offer a variety of presentations. Nevertheless, very few people will seriously embrace Krsna consciousness without being convinced of its validity.
Despite our sincerity and our chanting, prasadam, history, art, culture, camaraderie, and so on, most people will note that other ideologies have their unique features too. They won't see how these things set Krsna consciousness apart. Despite everything we offer, we won't make much impression if we don't make much sense. If people find no level-headed, sensible foundation on which they feel safe exploring Krsna consciousness, most will ignore it as just another odd belief system. At best they will tolerate us with a polite smile (or chuckle).
Our idealism can blind us to how enigmatic Krsna consciousness looks to others. The general public disdains what they see as foolish or farfetched. Anything that resembles cultish following and naïve acceptance turns them off. We are sitting ducks for these stereotypes, unless we pre-emptively diffuse them. Fortunately, all these complaints melt away once a person sees that Krsna consciousness is by far the most rational, clear-headed analysis of life. Krsna consciousness is extraordinary in many ways, but to reach large numbers of people we must show that it is extraordinary in the most important way of all: it is extraordinarily true.
Conclusion. We are blessed with a soaring advantage: the most sensible, coherent ideas in all existence. Why don't we spotlight this sleeping giant? Where is our introductory material focusing on the unprecedented rationality of Krsna consciousness? Obviously, we've left a monstrous hole in our preaching!
This essay prays that devotees will pool their writing, speaking and other resources in a gallery of mass-distributed, introductory common sense that the world cannot deny. Let the public finally see Krsna consciousness for what it is: inescapable facts making sense of life with one-of-a-kind accuracy and clarity, a wall of eye-opening explanatory power too persuasive to ignore.
(Please contact brijbooks -at- gmail.com for more discussion. Please also consider submitting a copy of your reply to Chakra for possible publication.)
Sharing Krsna consciousness with the inmates is always enlivening, but, as in like any other preaching, it is even more ecstatic when the recipient is particularly receptive and appreciative. Bhakta Richard is such an ideal candidate and he is reaping the benefit of his sincere practice of bhakti-yoga. Please take the time to enter his world and you will see how Prabhupada and Krsna are reciprocating with his desire to please and serve Them.
Dear Bhakti-lata, Hare Krsna!
Hope all is going well for you. I’m still here in segregation but I’m safe and that’s what’s important. [My present] cellie is a very negative person but at least he’s not a bully. Practicing KC has gotten me to a point that I don’t even hate those bullies back, ya know? A mosquito got in my cell the other day and I wouldn’t kill it (my cellie did though). I don’t even want to hurt my enemies so I know Krsna has effected profound changes to my spirit. As you can probably tell, I’ve been regularly chanting again. It makes such a difference to my well-being that I have to wonder why I’ve neglected it. I say the Panca-tattva mantra as you instructed and I find that enhances the rounds.
A few weeks ago, I was having a dream that a KC devotee was at my cell door. I knew they were from India because I could see their brown skin. I could see their saffron cloth and I could see a garland around their neck. I got off my bunk, ready to embrace them. The door opened by itself and there in front of me was Prabhupada! I immediately dropped to my knees and placed my head to his lotus feet. He raised me up, embraced me and that was the end of my dream. I feel like Prabhupada came to me in my dream to reassure me and strengthen me. It was the most wonderful dream and now, every time I gaze at Prabhupada’s photo on my altar, I feel even more closely connected to him. Like my atma resonates with my Paramatma like a tuning fork you know? Jaya! And now I have the 3 greatest literary treasures with me permanently- my CC and SB in story forms and my Bhagavad-gita. I read and study each of them every day. They fortify me against this newest negative energy I have to share a cell with. But I’m learning! Prajalpa is kept to a bare minimum, I give him prasadam and he sees my KC pictures all over the cell. And even though I chant quietly, I know he hears me so I can only hope it will gradually helps him. The most annoying thing is he’s always using Lord Jesus Christ’s and God’s names in vain and it hurts my spirit each time he does and yet he claims he’s a Catholic and believes in Them. Yeah, OK.
I’m rediscovering the wonders of the SB all over again! One of my most favorite quotes so far (I’m on Canto 6, at King Citraketu) is when Narada told Dhruva when he was a boy, “If you feel dishonored, you should not be disturbed. You should understand that the material dualities are simply a feature of the illusory energy of the Lord. Whatever may befall us is the result of our past actions, and thus should be accepted as the mercy of the Lord.” Do you have any idea how much comfort that sastras gives me? I wish everyone could understand that, mataji.
I think one of the most amazing things KC has done for me so far is how it’s teaching me humility. When I look back at the person I used to be, I feel shame. So I can see the power of the maha-mantra to purify. Those syllables are so infused with such transcendental power that it has the ability to cure all spiritual maladies! Of course I know I don’t have to tell you this mataji- you’ve been trying to tell me this for the last 3 years or so. It’s just that I’m beginning to experience another wave of realizations on a deeper stratum than before. Like how you tell me about the BG never getting old- and how certain purports I’ve read and reread jump out at me as if Lord Krsna was speaking them into my ear: “Param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan”- Jaya! “I now fully understand that you are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth, and that You are the refuge of everything.” It was-I think- the 9th or 10th time I’ve read chapter 11, text 54 and that just floored me, made my eyes well up with tears- like I found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow- more than that- like I discovered the most sacred, precious secret in the universe. Needless to say I’ve memorized this- and Sanskrit seems to be getting easier for me to pronounce and understand. It’s beginning to really sink in that in order to be a true Vaisnava, one must learn to be absolutely humble- and it was that lack of humility that ultimately led to me getting beat up. So it’s by the MERCY of Lord Krsna that I’m in the hole for now and it was the MERCY of Lord Nrsimha that I wasn’t hurt bad and it’s the MERCY of Lord Caitanya that my chanting is bringing me these realizations.
Ya know mataji- my new cellie is a really miserable guy- and it’s as if he doesn’t even realize it- every other word that comes out of his mouth is a complaint or something negative and it does absolutely no good to try and help him because he’s the type that knows everything and I can’t teach him anything. He’s cynical, vulgar, angry, self-righteous, prideful, and in denial. And you know I used to be just like that- it’s weird. At least he’s not violent- physically. I’ll give him that- but he’s got plenty of violent thoughts. A lot of guys are like that. At least I can say that knowing Lord Krsna has given me an inner peace I didn’t have before and studying sastras teaches me the way to live this life so I can be happy- I get that. I still have such a long way to go but I feel like I’m moving again in the right direction and that’s extremely good. Being in the hole for now is good for me and it’s the Lord’s mercy. I’m learning more and more and moving toward the mode of goodness more than when I was out on the yard. One thing this latest experience has been teaching me- is to KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT. I’m really, really working on this mataji. Sometimes thoughts go through my head that are in the deepest mode of ignorance and material attachment and I just pray to Krsna, “Lord get these thoughts outta my head!” And then, if all fails, I silently repeat with my breath, “Om namo Vishnave namah; om namo narayanaya; om namo bhagavate vasudevaya” and eventually the power of those mantras help me to gain control of my mind and quiet or redirect my thoughts. I’m beginning to learn the amazing power of Vedic mantras- the transcendental energy of those syllables are magical, alchemical. It’s like they have transformative powers. No wonder in the earlier, purer yugas, the simple utterance of these mantras had the ability to transform matter. I’m beginning to understand this more and more- so that as I reread the SB, the pieces of the puzzle fit together- jaya! Just like the celestial airships! Is it possible, mataji, that all these UFOs- or at least some of them- are actually demigods coming to check up on us in their celestial airships? How about that Brahmastra weapon? That sure sounded like a nuclear bomb.
What I’m discovering about the SB is that it’s giving me an expanded understanding of reality. Then, as I read about Lord Caitanya in the CC, I notice how divine nature manifests. Lord Caitanaya like Lord Jesus healed lepers, became the servant of His own devotees, brought the dead back to life, and performed miracle after miracle. I like how He pushed Lord Jagannatha’s Ratha-yatra cart with His head and how each group of devotees thought He was dancing, doing kirtan with them exclusively.
Being in the hole again has really helped me to “re-immerse” myself back into full-time KC: chanting, taking care of my altar, offering water & fruit, praying, and reading (hearing) about Krsna, meditating on Lord Vishnu, memorizing sastras- It’s blissful, mataji- and I offer obeisances to you for the care and support you’ve fostered me with. I pray Lord Caitanya richly blesses you with Krsna prema and that all is transcendental bliss for you and your family. May Krsna give blessings which are pavitram uttamam!
I look forward to the nectar of your next letter soon.
your servant, Bhakta Rich
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ISKCON Prison Ministry
Crows, Swans and Preaching|
by Satyahit das
Posted November 23, 2011
"Become yourselves Krishna conscious and spread Krishna consciousness". This is a quote from the introduction of H.H. Mukunda Swami's book, Miracle on Second Avenue. The introduction to this book is written by Shyamasundara prabhu, and he says that Srila Prabhupada was always saying this to them in the early days of Krishna consciousness in America. "Become yourself" is an interesting way to say that in this way we should all spread Krishna consciousness. It is like saying that whoever you are, whatever you are, take up Krishna consciousness and spread it to the best of your abilities.
I have just recently watched and listened to the one-hour-and-27-minute Vimeo video (found on Dandavats.com; enter "ps" if prompted for a password), showing Radhanath Swami speaking in the House of Commons in London, England. It seemed that a third of the members in the audience are of Indian descent — ironic if you remember that previously India was ruled by Britain.
Radhanath Swami begins his talk by closing his eyes and reciting four prayers in Sanskrit: "Om ajnana timirandasya jnananjana-salakaya, caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah"; "Nama om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhutale srimate bhaktivedanta swamin iti namine"; "Sri krishna chaitanya, prabhu nityananda, sri advaita, gadhadhar, srivas adi gaur bhakta vrinda." So he has begun by saying that his spiritual master A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada has mercifully awoken him from the darkest state of ignorance. Then he said that Srila Prabhupada is his spiritual master, and that Srila Saraswati Maharaj is his spiritual master's spiritual master, and that he has defeated impersonalism. Finally, he announces glorification of Sri Krsna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Adwaita, Gadhadhar, Srivas and all the assembled Vaisnava devotees of the Lord.
In this way, eyes closed, Radhanath Swami began by announcing who is his spiritual master and his spiritual master, and then glorifying the Panca Tattva and all devotees of the Supreme Lord. He has introduced that God is the Supreme Person and that His name is Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and then he offers the Names of His associates. He has written a book about his life's journey since 19 years of age towards Krsna consciousness,which is pictured largely behind him, In this way he is being very personal with his audience.
They, for the most part, love it, and him. He is one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples who has made it to the parllament of Great Britain to present an introductory talk on Krsna consciousness. He spoke for about one hour, and then the audience asked questions for about a half hour. How nice, and how proud of his disciple must Srila Prabhupada be.
Srila Prabhupada has said that a swanlike person sees the good in people, whereas the crowlike person always sees the bad. They have little love for God, and thus have little or no love for God's parcels, the spirit souls.
Under the pen name of "Hasya Mukhi dd," someone has taken it upon herself to ridicule Radhanath Swami and others in her recent offering. This article of ridicule towards a variety of sannyasis, all having in common the same spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, has sort of lumped them all together in the same pot of ridicule. Radhanath Swami's picture is shown with a quote from him saying, "If we want to attain the sea of our aspiration, we must persevere in our goal and never be discouraged by the inevitable obstacles which come in our path. All impediments are like rocks in the river of life. We should flow with them and never give up. With the Lord's mercy, there is always a way."
Did he say something wrong there? Did he say it was from scripture? No, but the author has decided to ridicule the saying, and the person who said it, as if he were pretending to present scriptural reference. I think we have found a crowlike person who likes to make fun of swamis who do their best in spreading Krsna consciousness. She has lumped in many persons who are all different in their spiritual outlooks and preaching abilities. The International Society for Krsna Consciousness used to publish and distribute a little pamphlet called Don't Lump Us In. In those days some so-called religious cults had given non-mainstream religious societies a very poor name, so we were counteracting this bad news.
Now we have Radhanath Swami speaking in the Parliament Building in England, which is a most positive sign for the spreading of Krsna consciousness, thereby pleasing to Srila Prabhupada. Also pictured behind Radhanath Swami during his talk was a picture of him smiling with U.S. President Barack Obama. How awesome if devotees could meet with, in a positive way, all the world's presidents of every country. Radhanath Swami was not directly trying to make bhaktas of the Members of Parliament, but he was making friends with them as a Hare Krsna devotee. He gave some of them a copy of his book, and they gave him a book of the most notable and inspiring speeches delivered recently in parliament, so in this way I saw that Radhanath Swami's talk will also be recorded as an esteemed event at parliament. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada. All Glories to all the devotees of the Lord. All Glories to those who see the best in everyone and wish them all well.
As we drove to perform our duties for Krishna lunch, feeding a thousand persons firsts and seconds of prasadam from 11:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. at the University of Florida for a $4 donation — all you can eat of a full-course hot meal replete with salad and wonderful dressing, and loved by many — we passed a destitute-looking man on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign saying that he was a vet and that he needed help. We stopped our vehicle, Bhima, for a moment from the traffic. Chaitanya dasi made friends with the man and brought a warm smile to his lonely, distraught face. Personally, I had seen only a bum, whereas Chaitanya prabhu made and helped a friend by her warm greeting. There's the difference between the crow- and swanlike persons. Unfortunately, the crowlike persons have fostered the very bad habit of faultfinding, which is so common, whereas the swanlike persons have fostered seeing the goodness in others.
Westminster, England's city council has proposed a law that would criminalise people who distribute free food. It would also criminalise people who are homeless if they are caught sleeping on the street. Such a law would certainly affect Food For Life, which is based in the Soho Street temple, and Food For All, which is based at Matchless Gifts in Kingscross.
Protestors have vowed that they will clog up the courts if Westminster council proceeds with its proposed ban on rough sleeping and soup runs in parts of the borough. Hundreds of protestors turned out recently for a street protest to oppose the ban, which the local authority wants to introduce through a new bylaw. Protestors included volunteers, church representatives, homelessness charities and rough sleepers.
Alastair Murray, deputy director with the homelessness charity Housing Justice, said the new law would "effectively criminalize compassion."
"I would be quite happy to be arrested for buying someone a cup of tea," he said. "There will be a long queue of people being arrested for buying a cup of tea. If that is what Westminster wants, then bring it on."
Jennie Matthias, lead vocalist from the former all-female rock band the Belle Stars and currently with the Matchless Gifts band (which brought you such hits as "You Are Soul"), appeared in all the media publications of the event. You can see video of the event at http://matchlessgifts.org.uk.