I watch devotees bathing in Ganga
Some rafters row across my vision
Two sadhus walk by swiftly
as your thoughts cross my mind.
I watch devotees bathing in Ganga
Some rafters row across my vision
Two sadhus walk by swiftly
as your thoughts cross my mind.
I’ve loved Hari Hari Bifale bhajan since the time I learned from Yamuna Devi’s biography that this is Prabhupada’s favorite bhajan. But my love for this bhajan is skin-deep. Or, shall I say, my love is unrealized. My love for Hari Hari Bifale is like jnana; knowledge, which goes into the mind, but heart remains bereft of its juice. Krishna pairs jnana and vijnana because jnana alone cannot take us deep enough into the Truth. But when vijnana or realization joins jnana, the truth begins to reveal itself. Vijnana, as I see it with my limited intelligence and experience, demands sacrifice. But before one is able to sacrifice with love, suffering pulls one breath by breath. Krishna, the supreme intelligence personified, knows how and how much to dose one with knowledge, suffering, sacrifice, and realization.
“samsara-bisanale, diba-nisi hiya jwale” is the third line of the second couplet in the Hari Hari Bifale bhajan. It means my heart burns day and night with the worldiness. “Worldiness” carries a different meaning for each of us, from one time to another, according to the level of our transformation. A compassionate saint suffers out of affection by seeing the souls trapped in the world, or due to his separation from God. An old man may suffer because of his disease, loss of his wife, or children. A young woman suffers from loneliness. A married woman suffers because her husband doesn’t seem to be the soul mate she wanted. The kaleidoscope of suffering has countless designs, patterns, and shades. And yet, behind each suffering lurk expectations, desires, hopelessness, insecurity, anger, fear, greed, madness, thanklessness, ingratitude, or different shades of these feelings identified by different names in different cultures and communities.
samsara-bisanale, diba-nisi hiya jwale keeps ringing in my heart like a temple bell. At times, I make efforts to remind myself of the next line “juraite na koinu upay” which means “I have not taken the means to relieve it.” This beautiful bhajan starts like this “O Lord Hari, I have spent my life uselessly. Having obtained a human birth and having not worshiped Radha and Krsna, I have knowingly drunk poison.” I know, both intuitively and experientially, that I’ve wasted away many human births running after various chimeras. I’ve wasted away many human lives by royally ignoring my eternal companions Radha and Krishna. I’ve looked for love in the way a thirsty person looks for water in a desert. I’ve hurt my eternally bruised heart with the coals of falsities and illusions a million times. A thirsty person mistakes mirage in a desert for water. I’ve gone far beyond this, several times, uncountable times. I’ve created dangerous mirages of love in the deep recesses of my heart.
Nothing but the nectar that flows from the divine feet of Radha and Krishna can heal me. In some rare moments this truth goes somewhat deeper than the bottom of my intellect. Most times, the dolphins and sharks of maya make me dance as they like. The lines before “samsara-bisanale, diba-nisi hiya jwale” reveal the antidote and my natural tendency, as I’ve developed in this world, to not take the antidote properly. “The treasure of divine love in Goloka Vrndavana has descended as the congregational chanting of Lord Hari’s holy names. Why did my attraction for that chanting never come about?” The grace of the holy name came to me 4.5 years ago. But, my stubborn mind has been victoriously distracting me during my chanting of the holy name. Krishna and the devotees always knew that this was going to happen. So, they did everything, without intervening in freewill, to help me chant anyway. My determination to chant is their unconditional gift to me.
My titanic-like heart has survived many heart-wrecks. Some I foresaw and feared and some came unexpectedly. I survived because Krishna protected me. He guided me out of them. I’ve not faced wreck of those types in many years; although of other types have been keeping me absorbed. This heart-wreck has given me glimpse of the depth of the meaning of Hari Hari Bifale. “A glimpse of the depth” is an oxymoron. To experience the depth one has to lose themselves in the depth. The spiritual moments are translogical and conflicts can co-exist in these moments.
I’ve been wondering offlately if the wreck I’ve been struggling with these days is a test that Krishna has thrown at me to check my resistance, or is it, as it happens during the process of churning nectar, that first poison comes out. Or, is it my prarabhada. It could be an ingenious combination of all of this, as orchestrated by Krishna. He must be doing this to help me transform. A Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, says, “Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” Not just need to know but need to learn and then transform. Krishna wants to cleanse my heart of all impurities so that I can see Him, love Him, and serve Him. He’s not a cheap deal. The price that I have to pay to experience the bliss of ever-increasing love is nothing less than my self. For me, I’m most precious. So, this is the highest price I can pay to get Him. He’s the highest possible achievement one can have. So the price of dedicating myself to Him is nothing. But He knows my plight. He’ll accept the price with love.
Yesterday was one of the tough days that I have been living through recently. Tears helped only as long as they dropped. Distracting the mind to other things helps me somewhat. Going out, meeting people helps for as long as I’m not back within myself. I’ve been praying, too. The medicine of prayer goes to the root of the disease. But, have I prayed intensely? Yesterday I did. I cried to Krishna. I said to Him what He already knows. I told Him I can’t open up to anyone as I can to Him. I pleaded for His help. samsara-bisanale, diba-nisi hiya jwale kept ringing in my heart like a temple bell. The evening satsang in the association of Krishnanand Prabhu uplifted my spirit. Krishna must have sent Him for my rescue. Inspired by his devotional energy, I prayed again to Radha Krishna before I slept. I closed my eyes and imagined Radha Krishna enjoying on a swing made of flowers. I was watching them prayfully when they were on the swing. The swing picked speed. Their lotus feet came closer to my heart. I cried. I don’t know when but after sometime I fell asleep. I couldn’t see their beautiful glowing faces. I couldn’t smell the flowers, either. Neither could I see the transcendental signs on the feet of their souls. This took place only in my mind. But, someday, I hope that someday, I recite them a poem while they’re swinging on their flower-studded swing in joy. I pray that that day comes sooner than I deserve. This is my helpless prayer to the eternal lords of my soul. Narottama dasa says, “O Lord, please do not push me away from Your reddish lotus feet, for who is my beloved except for You?”
hari hari! bifale janama gonainu
manushya-janama paiya, radha-krishna na bhajiya,
janiya suniya visha khainu
golokera prema-dhana, hari-nama-sankirtana,
rati na janmilo kene tay
samsara-bishanale, diba-nisi hiya jwale,
juraite na koinu upay
Vrajendra-nandana jei, saci-suta hoilo sei,
balarama hoilo nitai
dina-hina jata chilo, hari-name uddharilo,
tara sakshi jagai madhai
ha ha prabhu nanda-suta, vrishabhanu-suta-juta,
koruna karoho ei-baro
narottama-dasa koy, na theliho ranga pay,
toma bine ke ache amara
(1) 0 Lord Hari, I have spent my life uselessly. Having obtained a human birth and having not worshiped
Radha and Krishna, I have knowingly drunk poison.
(2) The treasure of divine love in Goloka Vrindavana has descended as the congregational chanting of Lord
Hari’s holy names. Why did my attraction for that chanting never come about? Day and night my heart burns
from the fire of the poison of worldliness, and I have not taken the means to relieve it.
(3) Lord Krishna, who is the son of the King of Vraja, became the son of Saci (Lord Caitanya), and Balarama
became Nitai. The holy name delivered all those souls who were lowly and wretched. The two sinners Jagai
and Madhai are evidence of this.
(4) 0 Lord Krishna, son of Nanda, accompanied by the daughter of Vrishabhanu, please be merciful to me
now. Narottama dasa says, “O Lord, please do not push me away from Your reddish lotus feet, for who is
my beloved except for You?”
What are the different ways people try to realize the Self?
Some people try to realize the Self by empirical, philosophical speculation, while others by devotional service. (BG 3.3)
What are the stumbling blocks on the path of self realization?
Attachments and aversions are stumbling blocks on the path of self-realization. One must follow the principles that help us regulate these emotions. (BG 3.34)
What should be the consciousness of the person aspiring for self-realization?
Although Krishna is the ultimate creator, He’s not affected by His work; He doesn’t aspire for fruits of actions. Whosoever understands this truth doesn’t become entangled with the reactions of his karmas (BG 4.14).
Krishna is the supreme. He is not bound by activities and their results. A person who realizes the greatness of Krishna becomes attached to Him, and therefore, doesn’t have material expectations. Moreover, such a person realizes that when God doesn’t expect results, how we can have expectations. We are only a small part of His creation.
The liberated souls in the past acted with this understanding. So we have success stories/case studies. Krishna advises us to follow their footsteps. (BG 4.15)
What practices a person aspiring for self-realization should adopt?
What’s that knowledge that facilitates one to become situated in the Self?
The transcendental knowledge about devotional service, about Krishna is the purest knowledge. It situates our awareness in the self. This is the perfection of all types of knowledge. This knowledge is eternal. Moreover, it gives joy and bliss. (BG 9.2)
What are the qualities of a self realized person?
Krishna has stated the traits of liberated souls in the Bhagavad Gita (BG 5.20):
A liberated person doesn’t become excited when he accomplishes something. He doesn’t lament when he loses something precious. This person is self-intelligent. That is, his intelligence is fixed in his original self. He knows who he is, why he shouldn’t be attached to his activities or their results. Nothing can bewilder this person. He knows the science of God! He understands his actual, eternal position, so the temporary pleasure and pain don’t bother him.
If we don’t perform our activities as a sacrifice to lord, they create new karmas and bind us to this material world.
When we offer our prescribed activities to the lord, we become free from the bondage.
One who understands that Krishna, the creator, the king, has no duty to perform, nor he desires any results of his actions, such a person doesn’t become entangled reactions or results of his actions.
Krishna creates universes but remains aloof from it.
One who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.
One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every endeavor is devoid of desire for sense gratiﬁcation. He is said by sages to be a worker for whom the reactions of work have been burned up by the ﬁre of perfect knowledge.
Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisﬁed and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings.
Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries.
As a blazing ﬁre turns ﬁrewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the ﬁre of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities.
One who understands that he is an instrument of karmas, and to be free of them, he who makes Krishna the center of his thinking, feeling, willing, and doing, becomes free from the material bondages, that is, he becomes liberated.
Sometimes I feel compelled to do things that I shouldn’t be doing, why?
The Three Modes of Nature (goodness, passion, and darkness/ignorance) compel us to act according to their unique configuration that covers us (souls). This configuration results from our prarabhada karmas (karmas that we’re born to enjoy or suffer).
We’re souls who are under the influence of false ego. Under this influence we think we are the doers of activities that actually the three modes of nature (goodness, passion, ignorance) carry out. (BG 3.27)
The soul doesn’t act, nor does it induce others to act, therefore, the soul doesn’t create results or fruits of actions either. The modes of nature orchestrate activities and interactions. (BG 5.14)
Is there any underlying emotion that impels me to act in a way I do?
Lust. Lust is born in our hearts when we come in contact with the mode of passion. In the material world, the mode of passion dominates.
The origin of all negative emotions is lust. From lust comes anger, which devours the world through personal conflicts, national fights, international fights, and so on. (BG 3.37)
The three modes of nature engage us in material activities according to their unique design for us. As a result we become attached to these activities. These activities or duties we perform are inferior because we don’t have the knowledge about our original duties. (BG 3.29)
Tell me what’s the connection between desires and the mode of passion?
Desires are the cause of the mode of passion. We work hard to get what we want (thinking, feeling, willing, doing) and during this process we create karmas. These karmas keep us bound to this world. (BG 14.7)
At the highest level, because the conditioned souls wanted to enjoy independently of God, the material universe was created. The creation is characterized by the mode of passion.
What’s is it that makes me experience good and evil?
Living entity enjoys the results of his association with the material nature, which takes place under the influence of the modes of nature. Due to the activities that the modes of nature perform, the living entity experiences the good and evil by transmigrating through various species. (BG 13.22)
Where do the modes of nature originate from?
These modes manifest from Krishna’s material energy. Although Krishna pervades in everything through his ksirodaskhyai (paramatma) form, He, as Krishna, is independent of everything. He is not influenced by the modes of nature. They are subordinate to Him. (BG 7.12)
Why don’t I and the rest of the world know the original cause of the modes of nature?
Because we’re deluded by the modes of nature. (See verse 7.13), our perspective is limited as well as contaminated. The modes act on consciousness as the dirt works on the glass. It stops us from seeing things as they are.
When was material energy created, and when did we, living entities, come into existence?
Because Krishna is beginningless, so is His material energy and living entities. Whatever transformation we see in the material energy and in the living entities is because of the modes of nature. (“The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (BG 2.23)) What Krishna is talking about here is the transformation of the covering of the soul. That is, body, senses, mind, intelligence. (BG 13.20)
What’s the underlying relationship between the material nature and living entity/soul/me?
Nature is the immediate cause of all material causes and their effects. (BG 13.21) Whereas, the living entity or soul is the cause of the sufferings and enjoyments in this world. We desire, contemplate on our desires, work toward accomplishing what we want, experience pain or pleasure in the course (BG 2.62-63). All begins with lust (BG 3.37).
How will my life change if I understand the relationship between material nature, modes, and soul?
One who understands the philosophy of how material nature influences the living entity through the modes of nature gradually becomes observant, detached from activities and their results, and therefore, is liberated. (BG 13.24)
Tell me more how do the three modes of nature work on me?
Goodness, passion, and ignorance. These three modes influence the soul whenever the soul comes in contact with the nature. Our bodily constitution, thinking, feeling , willing, eating, dressing, likes and dislikes everything is influenced by the modes of nature. (BG 14.5)
Which mode is better than the others?
The mode of goodness is purer than the modes of passion and ignorance. Those souls who are more influenced by the goodness mode remain free from sinful activities which are the characteristics of the other two modes. This mode engages the soul in knowledge and causes happiness through the pursuits of goodness, such as philanthropic activities, sattvik religious activities. (BG 14.6)
What can the mode of ignorance or darkness do to me if it dominates my personality?
It lands us into crazy things like drug addictions, suicide, murder, etc.
It seems like the modes are ropes that bind us! Is it so?
Indeed. The modes are ropes that bind us. The mode of goodness binds us to happiness, mode of passion binds us to result-oriented actions, and the mode of ignorance binds us to madness (it covers knowledge). (BG 14.9)
Do modes work through us in the same way, always?
The modes are dynamic. They keep changing their position. Sometimes goodness has an upper hand, while sometimes passion leads, and other times ignorance wins the race. The modes function dynamically. (BG 14.10)
When does the mode of goodness prevail?
One of the ways the mode of goodness can prevail in us is when the nine gates of body (2 eyes, 2 ears, 2 nostrils, mouth, and genitals) function in knowledge, that’s when we don’t use them for sense gratification, the mode of goodness prevails. (BG 14.11)
How do we know that the mode of passion is dominating?
The symptoms of the mode of passion are attachment, expectations of results, too much endeavor, uncontrollable desires, and hankering. (BG 14.12)
What’re the signs of the mode of darkness?
The signs of this mode are madness and illusion. Becoming mad after somebody or something and acting without thinking which leads to disturbance and destruction. (BG 14.13)
What types of inner qualities develop in each mode?
Mode of goodness develops real knowledge, mode of passion, greed, and mode of ignorance foolishness, madness, and illusion. (BG 14.17)
Where do those, who lived their lives in the mode of goodness, go after death?
If the mode of goodness has dominated throughout life, a soul leaves the body in the same mode and attains higher planets such as heaven. (BG 14.14)
Where do those, who lived their lives in the mode of passion or ignorance, go after death?
One who leaves in the mode of passion, he returns to the planet where fruitive activities are performed. Those who die in the mode of ignorance take birth as animals. (BG 14.15)
What do the actions performed in three modes result in?
Actions performed in the mode of goodness bring happiness and contentment. Those performed in the mode of passion bring misery, and those performed in the mode of ignorance result in foolishness (E.g. someone tries to commit suicide, and before dying realizes what a foolish act he has committed.) (BG 14.16)
Which planets do souls attain according to the modes?
Goodness: Higher planets, Passion: Earthly planets, Ignorance: Hellish planets (BG 14.18)
Will we always remain under the influence of the modes of nature and won’t be able to overcome them?
Krishna says His material energy that consists of the three modes of nature is difficult to overcome. Only those who take Krishna’s refuge can cross beyond this energy. Because it’s Krishna’s energy and subordinate to Him, only Krishna can manage it. (BG 7.14)
Prajalpa is a conversation that diminishes our spiritual intelligence. It’s mundane talk that entangles us in material activities. These activities are aimed at, consciously or subconsciously, adulating our mind and senses. In the fourth verse of Sri Manah Siksha, Raghunatha Dasa Goswami compares mundane talks with prostitutes. Just like a prostitute takes away one’s wealth, mundane talks strip us of our spiritual merits. How? Whatever we repeatedly see or hear influences our consciousness. Whatever we hear and see leaves impressions on our subconscious mind. These impressions transform into thoughts and thoughts into actions. And, our reality changes accordingly. We can understand this easily. During chanting or any type of meditation, images and thoughts from the far-off or recent past start crowding our mind. Even a news item, a song, a dress, wins our attention effortlessly during our meditation time (other times, too). These mundane talks are not harmless. In fact, they act like bugs that hold the power to destroy huge crops.
In the verse 6.35 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells our Arjuna that one can control the mind with Vairagya and Abhyaas. Vairagya means staying away from all that which is counterproductive to our spiritual growth. Abhyaas means trying with determination to bring back the mind to the current spiritual activity.
People often advise us to maintain a balance between worldly and spiritual activities. The balanced approach is often misunderstood. It doesn’t mean that we chant the holy name from Monday to Friday and spend the weekend doing prajalpa. Following this regime is like Gaja-Snana (Elephant Bath). Elephants take nice bath. But, as soon as they come out of the water, they roll over in mud and become dirty again. Cleansing one’s heart and mind from Monday to Friday by chanting and then doing prajalpa over the weekend is gaja-snana. We clean ourselves internally and then stuff our consciousness with rubbish again. A balanced approach for a healthy living is to engage our mind, intellect, and senses in activities that give us neverending joy, without attaching the strings of suffering.
It’s early December. The sun is balmy in the afternoons. The cold is tolerable right now. In a couple of weeks fog will start rationing the sun light. The sun will rise every morning, so will I, but I won’t be able to soak in the warmth. Fog will be the barrier. The sun is too powerful to be covered by fog. The truth is, fog doesn’t hide the sun; it prevents us–because of our bodily limitations–from seeing it, feeling it. Maya is like this fog. It can’t hide God, but it prevents us from experiencing Him. Maya is subservient to Krishna, but we, in our conditioned state, are subservient to Maya.
In the influence of Maya, we turn life into a battlefield. Instead of taking refuge in Krishna, we make repetitive attempts to alter Maya for our satiation. Arjuna heard Krishna’s message, comprehended it by asking questions, and acted up on Krishna’s advice. Because Arjuna was willing to make Krishna’s will his own will, He could see the supreme. The fog of Maya couldn’t delude Arjuna. Those of us who follow Arjuna’s footsteps come under Krishna’s protection. Then life becomes a spiritual playground.
Vrindavana is the spiritual playground where those who invest themselves in divine love join Krishna’s party. But we, under the sway of Maya, establish our own laws, and the world becomes Kurukshetra. In Kurukshetra, those who try to impose their will on Krishna, perish, and those who make Krishna’s will their own, they journey to the eternal world of eternal truth, eternal knowledge, and eternal bliss. A systematic, philosophically-sound, and creative learning under an expert master empowers us to experience Vrindvana, where Maya doesn’t cover our vision. In Vrindavana, Krishna gives all His associates ecstatic experiences.
A systematic learning involves three aspects: How we gain knowledge about something, what we practice to realize that knowledge, and finally, what’s the result of our practice. This trio reflects the original paradigm that a soul follows to ignite its dormant divine love. The original paradigm has the three stages of spiritual advancement, namely, sambandha–jñāna, abhidheya, and prayojana. Sambandha-jñāna means establishing one’s original relationship with the Supreme God, first of all, by knowing about Him through scriptures, abhidheya means acting according to that constitutional relationship, and prayojana is the ultimate goal of life, which is to ignite the dormant love for God (premā pum-artho mahān). So, learning anything new in life involves Sambandha (knowledge), Abhideya (practice), and Prayojana (goal/conclusion). For example, in the process of learning how to make pasta, sambadha would involve reading the recipe in a cookbook. Abhideya would involve actually practicing and acquiring skills in the kitchen and making the pasta. Prayojana would be relishing the pasta.
The paradigm of Sambandha, Abhideya, and Prayojana provides a framework for the universal and eternal teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita explains the fundamental truth that out of Īśvara (the Supreme Lord), jīva (the living entity), prakṛti (nature), kāla (eternal time), and karma (activity), it’s our karma (activity) that, if we channel with a regulated consciousness, can open the doors to the highest experience of Vrindavana. This is Sambandha. To sail through the ocean of nescience, four types of skills are available: Karma skills, Jnana skills, yoga skills, and bhakti skills. Learning these skills from an expert master and practicing them is the highest abhideya. And, the prayojana is to realize the supreme. The highest prayojana is Krishna-prem.
A regulated human consciousness is closer to the supreme. When unregulated, our consciousness takes us away from Him. On the sea-saw of reality, we (Jiva) are either in the grip of Maya (prakirti), kala, and karma, or in the bliss of supreme realization and divine love.