Would you please explain in detail the relation between Bhakti and Love?
Bhakti means love of God or as Srila Prabhupada would often translate the word, pure devotional service to God. (The Sanskrit root of the word bhakti is bhaj, which means loving service). Because Krishna is the origin of everything, He is the origin of love also.
There is much more to loving Krishna than just saying, to love God. We attain pure love for Krishna through a gradual process that takes us through progressively higher realms of Bhakti. The three progressive stages are: (1) regulated practice, (2) attachment, and finally (3) pure love. Fortunately, we can begin the process at any point in life or wherever we are in our spiritual journey.
The Bhakti process is systematic and is laid out in detail by the followers of Sri Chaitanya in books such as Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu (presented by Srila Prabhupada as The Nectar of Devotion). These books provide not only instructions but also guideposts by which the student of Bhakti can evaluate his or her progress.
Q. Many people have the idea that bad karma can be reduced or removed through meditation, worship, samskara or sacrifice. How can we really burn all our bad karma?
A. The Vedic scriptures describe that devotional service to the Lord destroys the results of previous sins, in other words, bad karma. The effectiveness of the process depends on its purity. For example, pure chanting of the holy names of the Lord destroys all sinful reactions. But the chanting is usually not pure in the beginning. When one begins the practice of devotional service, it is said to be like unplugging a fan. The fan will still turn for some time. So in the stage of devotional practice, the reactions will continue but as we become more and more purified by devotional service, eventually we become free of all reactions and enjoy the bliss of full spiritual life. And even in the stage of practice, Lord Krishna adjusts the karma so that His aspiring devotees get just what they need to progress steadily toward Him.
Continue reading Burning the Bad Karma
Caranamrita is obtained in the morning while the Lord is being washed before dressing. Scented with perfumes and flowers, the water comes gliding down through His lotus feet and is collected and mixed with yogurt. In this way this caranamrita not only becomes very tastefully flavored, but also has tremendous spiritual value.
As described in Padma Purana, even a person who has never been able to give in charity, who has never been able to perform a great sacrifice, who has never been able to study the Vedas, who has never been able to worship the Lord – or, in other words, even one who has never done any pious activities – will become eligible to enter into the kingdom of God if he simply drinks the caranamrita which is kept in the temple. Continue reading Caranamrita: Water from the Feet of the Lord
What is the Hare Krishna Chant?
A mantra is a spiritual sound vibration that purifies the consciousness and awakens love of God. The chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—is recommended in the Vedic literature as the easiest method for this age to attain spiritual realization. Krishna is the Sanskrit name of God meaning “all attractive”, and Rama is another name for God meaning “reservoir of all pleasure”. Hare refers to the divine energy of the Lord. So the Hare Krishna mantra means, “O all-attractive, all-pleasing Lord, O energy of the Lord, please engage me in Your service”. There are two ways to chant this mantra: group chanting (kirtana) and individual chanting as on beads (japa). No strict rules apply for either method, and anyone can chant at any time.
Devotees of Krishna chant the Hare Krishna mantra:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
because the Vedas refer to it as the maha – mantra or “Great Mantra”. This sixteen-word mantra is especially recommended as the easiest method for self-realization in the present age.
Krishna is a Sanskrit name of God meaning “all attractive”, and Rama is another name meaning “reservoir of pleasure”. The divine energy of God is addressed as Hare. Vedic knowledge teaches that since we are all constitutionally servants of God, the chanting of His names is not an artificial imposition on the mind but is as natural as a child calling for its mother. There are two ways to chant the maha mantra: group chanting (kirtan) and softly saying the mantra to oneself (japa). The latter is done by using a string of 108 wooden prayer beads to enhance concentration. In both methods there are no hard and fast rules, and anyone can chant with good results.
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. Stories abound on the origin of the Ekadasi day. Even more stories are told on the benefits and warnings given for breaking this fast. My question is why we break fast on the Dwadasi at a particular time and what might be the ‘result’ of breaking ones fast after the allotted time has passed, say if you are traveling or something like that or have just simply forgotten to break fast at the appropriate time.
A. In the stage of regulative sadhana bhakti, several do’s and do not’s are prescribed. One such set of rules applies to the Ekadasi Vrata and it is said that to get the full benefit of observing the fast, the fast has to broken within the prescribed time; if not, the benefit of fasting would be minimized.
While it is certainly important for us to follow these rules as meticulously as possible, we have to keep in mind that the rules are not the be-all and end-all. The higher prerogative is the mood of devotion in pleasing the Supreme Lord. We endeavor to follow the rules meticulously to please the Lord. All rules are servants of this one rule.
Q. Could you explain the significance of Tulasi worship?
A. Tulasi devi is a very dear and intimate associate of Sri Krishna. She has the benediction of being able to impart Krishna-bhakti to one who prays to her sincerely. Vaishnavas pray to Tulasi devi to engage them in the loving service of Radha-Krishna.
Q.It is said that spirit is very tiny, invisible to the gross material eye! but for any person willing to do bhakti, he should first understand distinction between body and spirit! For a neophyte how is it possible to know about something(spirit) which is not visible to gross material senses! For the gross materialists won’t this be an easy argument for atheism?
A.The spirit soul can be detected by inference, since there is no change in the material composition of a body at the time of death. So one may inquire from the gross materialist as to what is the cause of consciousness?
However this debate can and will go on forever. Our senses are far from perfect and even with all the material advancements we cannot even solve the mysteries of the material world – trying to reach or even understand Krishna, or even the spirit soul, with our imperfect senses is impossible. The basis of spiritual advancement is to have faith in the scriptures. The ultimate proof of the existence of the soul is that Krishna affirms it in the Bhagavad Gita.
Q. How should one learn to accept happiness and sufferings equally? What does rapid sufferings of an initial beginner in spiritual path indicate? Does God give material benefits to a neophyte or does he give rapid sufferings to test him?
A. In Bhagavad Gita (5.15) Krishna says that, ‘Embodied beings, however are bewildered because of the ignorance which covers their real knowledge.’ Being in a bewildered condition therefore, the embodied soul identifies himself with the circumstantial material body and becomes subjected to the temporary misery and happiness of life. Real knowledge is our understanding of our relationship to Krishna and attempting to re-establish it. With such knowledge one becomes equipoise without any attachment to success or failure.
Regarding your point about ‘rapid sufferings,’ Srila Rupa Goswami mentions in the Nectar of Devotion that ‘bhakti is klesaghni subhada,’ that it provides immediate relief from material distress. Srila Prabhupada gives the analogy of a fan that continues to rotate even after the plug is pulled out. Similarly, one may suffer from past reactions in the early stages of bhakti but gradually this will also cease.
With respect to the third part of your question, Krishna reciprocates according to the desires and advancement of the devotee. He gave unlimited opulence to Sudama and put Queen Kunti into so much distress, both very dear devotees and in both cases the end result was bringing them closer to Him.
Q. Once a person is fortunate enough to hear about Lord Krishna and starts on spiritual path, does God help him to advance rapidly? I find many cases were people wishing to advance on spiritual path are suffering from their inability to control their senses? If one strongly wishes to take to lotus feet of Lord why doesn’t God immediately help him control his senses?
A. In the Bhagavad Gita (10.10) Krishna says, “To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” Krishna is situated in every one’s heart as the Super soul (paramatma). As soon as one takes to Krishna consciousness, Krishna helps him. If he comes forward one step, Krishna comes forward ten steps.
The second part of the question (why doesn’t God immediately help him control his senses) goes back to the issue of free will. If Krishna did everything for us, then where would be our desire, our effort, our love? A genuine desire manifests itself as a sincere effort and Krishna will undoubtedly reciprocate when He sees that sincere effort.