Q. Srimad Bhagavatam is filled with the pastimes of the devotees who were put in great tribulations and they maintained their faith in trials and tribulations. When neophytes are told to tolerate their problems like these great souls have tolerated. Often times mind immediately say it’s OK for them (Prahlad, Pandavas) to tolerate because they were so great because they are mahabhagavats but as far as I am concerned I am very weak. Because of weak mind it tells us you are so weak and make you hopeless and say you can’t do like Prahlad and we feel despondent and real shelter which is there in the story is not really obtained when we need that most.
A. It is your sincerity that will give you the correct understanding. If you are insincere you will think that this great person can do it but I am not so great so why should I try? But if you are sincere you will understand that these great persons they didn’t have to do it, they are doing it only to teach us how to do it? There is no reason for Prahlad to suffer. But the Lord put him in that situation to teach us how to remember Krishna even in the greatest sufferings. We can not imitate these great souls. That is correct. Continue reading Tolerance limits
Q. Some devotees insist that, while taking prasadam only those who have not eaten can serve; they say that those who have just eaten are unclean. How can one be unclean while taking in prasadam? One added point is that if we were to be taking prasadam in a house where we would like to have all of the family members honor prasadam simultaneously, it would not be possible to do so if we insisted on the above rule.
A. The general principle is that after eating, one must at least wash one’s mouth, hands and feet, before touching other things, especially kitchen utensils which are used in Krishna’s service (like serving utensils). Although prasadam is transcendental and purifying, while eating our hands touch our mouth (either directly or with a spoon or fork), which is not clean. The minimum Vedic standard of cleanliness we should follow after eating is that we must cleanse our hands and mouth thoroughly. Prior to worship of an installed Deity in the Temple, one must fully bathe and put on a clean set of clothes after eating.
Q. If prasadam is spiritual why does it decay like normal food does in a
day or so.
A. Prasadam is spiritualized by virtue of its contact with the Supreme Lord. Prabhupada gives the example of iron rod and fire. The iron rod kept in fire acts like fire, but is not fire itself. Prasadam is spiritual in that it has been accepted by Krishna and thus it has a spiritualizing effect on those who partake of it. Nevertheless, it is still made of material elements and appears to our mundane vision as undergoing material transformations. The same applies to the deity forms of the Lord (archa-vigraha), the body of a pure devotee, the holy dhama (place of pilgrimage) and the sacred scriptures.
An advanced devotee, however would be able to see the actual spiritual nature of each of these items and would never consider them according to their material appearance just as Raghunatha dasa Gosvami was accepting old and spoiled remnants of Jagannath maha prasadam as delightful mercy of Lord Jagannath.
Q. When you are reincarnated is it always the same gender?
A. Not necessarily. In fact it is said that if one is too attached to the opposite sex, they will be attain a body of the opposite gender in their next life!
Q. How can you know for sure that there really is life after death, instead of the other belief that we are just mechanistic organisms that live and then die and then are nothing?
A. There are different processes of acquiring knowledge, such as by direct perception, by experiment, by logic and example, by hypothesizing etc. But none of these methods bring us to the point of conclusive knowledge, especially about something that lies beyond our sense perception; all these processes are subject to defects. The best way of acquiring knowledge is therefore to hear from qualified authorities. We accept the Vedas as authority on all subjects, because they are not man-made but given by the Supreme Lord, the creator Himself. It would be a big mistake to think that Vedic knowledge is nothing but a set of blind beliefs or that it is fictitious; the Vedas are very scientific and reasonable. From Vedic evidence, such as Bhagavad-gita, we can get very clear and scientific understanding of our true nature as spiritual entities beyond the combination of material ingredients, in the shape of the material bodies which we presently occupy.
Q. What is Astrology? I have heard it said that when one is born in this world his horoscope is fixed depending on the time and place of birth. People born at auspicious time will have all the good of nine Grahas, which determines ones life, i.e., what he will become, how long he will survive, rich/poor etc.
Was Duryodhana born as wicked man and Yudhisthira born as good man? Is this all based on their past karma?
Ans: The material circumstances of a person, their future, their general disposition etc., are all predestined according to one’s guna and karma. When the soul takes birth in this world, the event takes place according to their karma, during a corresponding arrangement of constellations. Astrology is a branch of Vedic science that, among other things, gives detailed techniques of how to use this information (stellar arrangement at the time of birth) to predict one’s future.
While one may have particular tendencies or conditioning of modes of nature from birth, it is also to be understood that the association one is in, has a great influence on their character traits.
Q. Some people claim that what is to happen in this life is already determined by God (i.e. fate). Their idea is that we do not have much control on our life. We are under the illusion of Maya. Others think that only because of our intelligence and our carefully executed efforts, we achieve desirable ends. My question is, do our efforts really matter?
A. Yes, we create our own destiny but the scope for doing so is quite restricted or limited. We have our desires and free will but they are supervised by the Supreme, according to natural laws. Thus, our freedom to ‘create our destiny’ is VERY restricted! We really have not so much control, ultimately. With unrestricted freedom, we can choose if we are going to act according to God’s laws or not. That is within our control. But ultimately Krishna is the supreme controller and actual doer.
Q. How can I do my duties if everything is predestined? I want to do them and I want to follow the teachings of Bhagavan Shri Krishna, but circumstances prevailing at certain times sometimes push me to take any optional decision which ultimately proves to be disastrous.
A. It is the mode of passion that forces us to take up a course of action that opposes our deepest convictions. Therefore, we must carefully cultivate a live centered in goodness. Bhagavad-gita teaches us so clearly what will help us remain centered in a life of goodness. However, because we have entangled ourselves so much in this material condition, it is very perplexing how to make the right decisions, even if we learn about the Lord’s teachings. Therefore, it is essential that we need to take guidance from advanced devotees, ultimately taking shelter of a bona fide guru, who can help us progressively align ourselves with the Lord’s instructions and not commit blunders, which will only entangle us further
Q. After we are born in this world with certain predetermined benefits (like being rich, wise etc), one has to lead an ongoing good life. At this juncture what is the role of God? Is He going to change my fate in my present life, or does He have no control at all, once fate is determined by my past actions? Why I should pray to God?
A. Please refer to the last few answers. Depending on our action, we get appropriate rewards (or punishments), but we must always remember that there is a Supreme Person Who awards the results. And that person is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is independent and is not bound to give us the results. He can relieve us altogether of the reactions to our past deeds. He is not bound by any laws because He is the lawmaker. He can choose to give a different result or He can absolve us of all past reactions completely. Therefore, we are dependent on His mercy.
Q. What is fate? Why is a person is born in a particular place to a particular parents, some rich, some poor, some beautiful, some wise etc.? Is this because of past karma?
A. Yes. As the saying goes, ‘As we sow, so shall we reap.’