An Adventurous Trip to His Homeland

It was an evening of July 2002. A business analyst and I were structuring and cleaning up a product definition document at our office. We were working after standard office hours on the day. It was past 8pm when my cell phone rang. It was Shallu who called to ask me if I would like to visit Vrindavana. “When do you plan to leave” I asked. She said, “We leave in an hour or so.”  By the time I would reach home, it would be 9. I needed time to fresh up. “Why so late?” I asked. “We’ll drive to Vrindavana. We don’t have to travel in public transport.” “We …?” I inquired. “You and I” “I don’t think it’s safe to drive to UP at this hour, or anywhere in India for that matter.” Shallu is an adventuress, and I’m unusually timid about taking plunges. Shallu’s life, so far, has been one adventure after another. For her this was just another drive. One time she drove down to Rishikesh alone. She likes to take risks. She has seen many countries, dealt with a variety of people, managed several businesses.  I hope and pray that someday she risks everything for Krishna’s love.

“What would I tell my parents?” I wondered. I told her what I had thought of telling my parents so they would let me go. I went home and announced my sudden trip to Vrindavana with Shallu and her mom. We started our journey on a Haryana Roadways bus. Shallu called for a friend’s Tata Indica. I was still quite apprehensive about what we were doing. She said, “Why would Krishna let anything happen to us when we’re risking our safety to visit his holy land?” It made sense. Her words assured me enough to remain seated in the car–though I was quite stiff and not comfortable at all. We would have covered  1/3rd of the distance when she asked me if I could change a flat tire just in case we ended up driving over nails that are sometimes thrown across the road. Tubeless tires were designed much later as far as I remember. My fear changed gears, and my heart began to sink at the thought of being stranded on the road. Fear has its own odor. Animals have a knack for sensing fear. They attack when they smell that odor. Shallu sensed my fear by my facial expressions. She asked me to play some music and relax and not spoil the joyride. I don’t recall what we played. But we were getting closer to Vrindavana.

We must have driven halfway when Shallu proposed to have a cup of tea at a dhaba on our side of the road. Shallu expertly parked her friend’s Tata Indica and sounded thrilled about adhrak cutting chai. We found a table and waited for two cups of cutting chai. It would have been a few minutes when we saw a gang of men getting out of a car in the dhaba parking. They were 5 or 6 of them.  As I dreaded, they grabbed a table pretty close to ours. Their body language was making me uncomfortable. I vaguely remember them laughing loud, wanting attention. Shallu looked relax; not worried at all.

I looked at Shallu, fear oozing out of my facial expression. The lines of worries on my forehead and between eyebrows must have become pronounced. She was still bubbly and bold. We were still talking about the gang of men on the next table and power went off. I freaked out! This was the last thing I expected on a pilgrimage (or joyride?) that we started in a casual spirit. What Shallu said shocked me to my bones “when rape is inevitable then might as well.” A waiter lighted a candle on our table. We sipped our tea, paid for it, and left swiftly toward our car.

We would have driven a couple of kilometers when we saw the gang following us in a Santro. Shallu sped up. The gang sped up. We were being chased. I must have prayed to Krishna. I must have emotionally blackmailed Him, too. How could He let us get into this dangerous situation? After a few kilometers, the gang took a U turn and left us alone. What accompanied us on the Mathura road were trucks, one after another.

We reached Vrindavana around 1am. The Parikrama marg was silent and dark. Roads were muddy. She parked the car outside what looked like a guest house. It was right on the main road. I don’t recall its name. I should ask Shallu if she still remembers it. We went inside to ask for a room to stay over. The guesthouse keeper said all rooms were occupied. Shallu felt thrilled. “We could sleep in the car. It has an AC. What’s the problem?” She chuckled. “I can’t sleep in the car!” I was tensed. It was too much for me. First the lone trip in the middle of the night, then the gang at the dhaba, and now the prospect of sleeping on wheels. The guesthouse keeper said there was a kitchen which no one used. We could use it for the night.

Beggers can’t be choosers! We saw the kitchen and agreed. We slept on the floor or on the slabs, I don’t recall. But the cooler made the atmosphere more humid than it was outside. For someone who had moderate sleeping disorders, sleeping in the kitchen with a water cooler was nothing less of a test. I couldn’t sleep even for a minute. Shallu gave me a heads-up about waking up at 4am to attend the morning aarti in gauron ka mandir (ISKCON). She said the aarti was quite amazing. She had attended it many times before.

We woke up in time and ran to the temple to attend the aarti. I remember walking on the veranda that has checkered floor of white and black marbles.  I remember finding a place to sit on steps. A white-bodied priest was reciting Sanskrit verses immaculately and offering aarti to the deities. Thankfully there were not many people, so I could feel the bliss of the place. The entire program took 1.5 hours to complete. I sat on stair steps all along, tears flowing down my eyes. The emotions that had been brewing up rose to my eyes as my heart could no longer hold the grief that I had been carrying for many lives. I cried to my heart’s content. On that morning, during the aarti my connection with Krishna became stronger. I didn’t feel I was visiting the temple for the first time. It felt like home.

We could see the light at 5.30am. I was looking around when my eyes fell upon a wall painting. An aged Indian man was surrounded with firangis (hippies). He must have been their guru, I thought to myself. The more I looked at the painting, the more déjà vu I experienced. I learned that ISKCON had another temple in Kailash Hills, New Delhi. I must go there, I thought to myself. Krishna was gravitating me toward Him. This was not the first time He was doing this to me. This had been going on for lives.

My Moon

Krishna, You’re my Moon, my friend.
How can my Moon be my enemy?
You’re the supreme power.
How can my Moon be weak?
My desire to please You is meek.
My devotion for you is feeble.
No matter what, You’re my Moon.
Please don’t let the moon
in my horoscope ruin me.
Hrishikesha, throw Your glance on it.
Purify it as You purified Kubja.

Knowledge, Practice, and Goal

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, sambandhajñāna, 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), prakti (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.

6.17 Eats, Shoots & Leaves

yukta-ceṣṭasya karmasu
yogo bhavati duḥkha-hā

He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system. – Bhagavad Gita, 6.17

The sun wakes me up every morning. A hot cuppa coffee gets me started. At breakfast I feed my taste buds, between work assignments, I gossip, watch all kinda stuff on the Internet. At night, a few drinks are enough to zone me out. I live life king size! Really? This life sounds like the life of a bonded slave who is forced to serve his senses–if he doesn’t titillate his senses, he’d be absolutely devastated. What’s the purpose of life, dude? Why am I here if I can’t do what I like? Round-the-clock pleasure is the goal of my life.

It’s my mind’s goal to experience pleasure. It’s not My goal. Who am I? Am I my mind? Am I my senses? No! I’m a soul whose happiness lies in Krishna. Krishna means All-Attractive, Absolute Truth, Sat-Chit-Anand.

What is Krishna talking about in this verse? Why does He want me to regulate eating, sleeping, and even recreation and work! Happiness in this world means “absence of pain”. Happiness in the spiritual world means eternal bliss, not an absence of pain. Spiritual world is oblivious to pain. Since we’re not only in this world but also of this world, to begin with, we should learn to mitigate material pains. Krishna suggests that we need to mitigate pain, not avoid it. We can’t run away from pain, but train ourselves to be not affected by it.

How do we experience pain? By exploiting our senses for pleasure, we open our doors to pain. When senses are young and healthy, we make them addicted to pleasure. And, when they give up, we give up! Actually, just senses are not enough, time and circumstances should also be friendly and cooperative. The senses, time, and circumstances do not always work in unison. For some of us, they rarely cooperate.

Krishna says by regulating our activities we set ourselves free from the senses’ slavery. And, a free person is always happy. His happiness doesn’t depend on matter. He realizes that he’s beyond flesh and blood; he’s spirit. Bhakti acharayas bring our attention to something that most of us never ponder over. They remind us that tongue, stomach, and genitals are in one line. Once we control the tongue, it’s easy for us to control the stomach, and then controlling the genitals becomes much easier. How do we control the tongue? By eating only that which Krishna has accepted, and by speaking only of the highest truth. One who eats only prasad and speaks only of Absolute Truth, becomes free from the urges of genitals. He becomes a Goswami; master (Swami) of the senses (Go). A master of the senses is never shaken by the material miseries.

I spent my mid 20s to mid 30s craving for hot and spicy food. I would fill my stomach with fast food and desi snacks like paneer tikka and mushrooms laden with onions and flavored with garlic. I was hungry for genuine love, but I mislaid the desire of my soul as craving for food. Krishna had plans for me. I have been lucky! Just before a day of my resolution to visit the new ISKCON temple in my vicinity, I had gone out and fed myself with some Chinese food, and at the same night I hogged pizzas, too. Food poisoning welcomed me graciously that night. I suffered from its hospitality for the next couple of days. My instant karma of eating food that was unhealthy for my body and mind couldn’t detain me at home. Krishna empowered me with determination to go to the temple no matter what. He made my resolve so strong that I told myself if I didn’t visit the temple on this day, I would never go again. So, I had to go. He spoke to me from within my heart that I had to go. I was amazed at myself. I walked down for 2 kms even though I was completely dehydrated and running a very low blood pressure. Within a few weeks of visiting the temple I understood that it was time for me to say goodbye to the poison I had been eating. In the association of devotees, I started making efforts to eat prasad and give up food that’s in the mode of ignorance and passion. Krishna says He’s the ability in humans. He became my ability.

After traversing on the path to Krishna for one year, Krishna (or maybe my karmas) put me through a test which has only made me stronger. Medical science calls it Irritable Bowel Syndrome. After suffering severely for 5-6 months in 2014, I learned to identify the food that didn’t agree with me. My health has been deteriorating since then. I prayed and prayed. On my last birthday, I suffered so much that for 3 days I couldn’t eat anything. That’s when He helped me through a devotee. This devotee took me to an Ayurvedic doctor who has put me on a diet that I would have NEVER been able to live on if I were not practicing bhakti. Those who know me are amazed that I have been able to live on only 5-6 vegetables all in all and 3 chapattis a day. Many people would feel that I’m suffering. Yes, I am, but the ability that Krishna has bestowed me to control my senses doesn’t let me get affected by this suffering. I feel very light in my body and calm in my mind since my treatment has begun. It’s a blessing in disguise. It’s Krishna mercy.

Krishna throws challenges and empowers us to receive them as prasad. This is one of his infinite ways to teach us self-control. H.H. Radhanath Swami says, “Those who leave everything in God’s hand will eventually see God’s hand in everything.” When the desire to seek the Truth ignites in our hearts, Krishna conspires to help us realize the Truth; to fulfill our desire. Though the road to the Absolute Truth is never easy, it’s so beautiful that we don’t want to take a U-turn. Regulating our senses is a thorny beginning of an ecstatic journey.  “That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” Bhagavad Gita, verse 18.37

5.29 May You Take Refuge in God and Offer Jasmine to Him

bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasāṁ
suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ
jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati

A person in full consciousness of Me, knowing Me to be the ultimate beneficiary of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods, and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attains peace from the pangs of material miseries. – Bhagavad Gita, verse 5.29

Miseries have affinity to our subtle and gross bodies. We can’t attain peace from the pangs of miseries by running away from things, situations, and people that can make us miserable. Everything and everyone is potent enough to harm us if our consciousness operates at the level where it’s either attracted to or repulsed by this creation.

A loving and deep connection with the one who is our genuine well wisher, who shows us the light when we sink in darkness, who protects us from inner dangers and from those outside, and who at the basic level feeds us, shelters us can alone give us peace. Those who have a loving devotional connection with Krishna, who is seated in our hearts as Ksirodakshayi Vishnu, who is known as Paramatma, do not crave for ephemeral relationships, things, securities, and any other attraction of this world. The cynosure of their lives is not this creation but the creator. Their hearts are replete with peace and joy that the bonding with the creator alone can offer. Their souls dance in the glories of this well wisher who plays so many roles in their lives, lives after lives, and in the lives that they finally live in His spiritual world.

Krishna understands us no matter in which language we talk to Him, as long as we’re sincere and have unconditional faith in Him. Sachinandan Swami  says, “At the time of Krishna’s appearance an old woman once turned to the gopis because she was surprised that Krishna could speak with everyone. She said: “How wonderful it is that Krishna, who owns the hearts of all the young girls of Vrajabhumi, can speak the language of Vraja with the gopis, while He speaks with the demigods in Sanskrit, and with the cows and buffalos He even speaks in the language of the animals! Furthermore, He speaks the language of the Kashmir Province (that’s the Himalaya area) and the language of parrots and other birds, as well as other common languages – this Krishna is so expressive!””

We become fully conscious of Him by eating Krishna (pradasam), breathing Krishna (chanting His Holy names and the glories of His pastimes), and doing only that which pleases Krishna. I’m not even a little bit conscious of Him, so it’s very hard for me to write on this verse. Actually, I’m not qualified to write on any of the verses of the Bhagavad Gita, but I take the liberty to do so due to my lower nature. When I remembered Him in dire situations, He helped me and reminded me that He is my ultimate well wisher. But my remembrance of Him has always been for selfish reasons. Those who absorb themselves in His love, call Him a universal lover. This quality makes them extraordinary, rather other worldly. They’re always drowned in His memories through His wonderful pastimes. They’re eternal heroes whose glories spread more and more with time.

I don’t read newspapers or watch news on the TV. I avoided a news for a couple of days, but it flashed on my phone persistently. It ended up in my consciousness like a fruit of karmas that we can’t evade, or a seed of a future karma that we must bear when the time is ripe, in this life or in a future life. Monika Ghurde who was raped and murdered by an ex-security guard in her apartment in Goa was always concerned about her safety. She had fears. One of her friends has written in her tribute to Monika, “What we know is this: that you had been obsessed with your safety. That you moved from a house to an apartment with security guards to feel safe. That you took Kalaripayattu lessons to empower yourself. That you would not honk at boorish men blocking the street because you did not want to endanger yourself. That two days before you were killed, you were examining the tiny window above the door in your apartment to see if a person could get through. You were a woman who was only just beginning to learn to live alone. You wanted to be fearless but you had fears. You were trying to overcome them. You took every precaution. We told you that you could do it. We said, go ahead, you’ve got this.”

In another tribute, another friend revealed, Monika once said she was ready to deal with any situation having learned Kalaripayattu. But controlled environments are different from uncontrolled and unpredictable reality. When the devil of reality pounced on her, as the newspapers inform us, she felt unconscious and the murderer tied her up with her bed.

No friend, no relative, no army, no police, no law can protect us unless we take a shelter at the feet of our eternal and infinitely powerful well wisher, Krishna. To be eternally free from the miseries that we incessantly face in our material existence, we need to move out of this world. Moving out from a house to a gated community is never enough. We can’t change the world, but we can change our selves. The highest form of change is to realize that we don’t belong here. Everyone is in as dangerous situation as we are. No one can help us unless Krishna makes them an instrument of our safety. No achievement can give us joy that can help us survive neverending psychological and physical miseries that we suffer from one moment to another. But if we take refuge in God, the physical and mental harms become impotent. They can’t pull down our consciousness if it has found its home in God.

The woman of scents, who was obsessed with Jasmine, had moved into this apartment only a couple of months before she was murdered. On a photograph of her apartment building on her Instagram she said, “And then serendipitously this happened…. My new and very first home on my own in a building named Jasmine. One of the happiest moment of my life. Feeling blessed …” And, within a few weeks of writing this note, the blessing turned into a curse; as if brutality and death attracted her to this apartment which she transformed into a beautiful home. In one of her notes on Instagram, she said that on Holi day she bagged a huge project and that throughout the year she would play with fragrances. Her dreams were nipped in the bud. Her scents will remain nipped in Jasmine flowers. One of her friends said in her tribute that Monika’s funeral pyre refused to burn as if she didn’t want to go. We get entangled in the dreams that we weave for ourselves. Pleasures, pain, heartbreaks, frustrations, anger,  and other internal enemies attack us from all sides, and we feel paralyzed to be able to do anything for ourselves. Our souls scream for help in the dark labyrinth of our subtle and gross bodies. Sometimes we hush these screams; we don’t want to get late for our date with Maya. And sometimes we scream for help, but nobody hears, because those who we call can hear us only if He empowers them. And the one whom we don’t want to remember keeps calling us from within. We ignore His voice. Monika screamed for help, but no one heard and soon her murderer shut her mouth.

According to the newspapers Monika died between 2.30am to 3.30am. I created her death chart per this time, but intuitively felt that the time the soul left the body was not before 2.45 am. The planetary configuration on this time suggested the turmoil she was in while she was leaving the body. Rahu seated the ascendant, Saturn and debilitated Moon conjunction in the 4th house of mind/heart. I’m far from being an expert in astrology.  But, in the verse 8.6, Krishna says, “Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” “And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (8.5)  She was not thinking of Krishna. Her mind (debilitated Moon) suffered from fear and coldness (Saturn) to say the least. I pray that wherever this soul incarnates in the next life, in whichever body, she comes with a sponge-like heart that is able to absorb the mercy of the Lord, which is available to everyone. Otherwise, it’s going to be several lifetimes of sufferings and revenge for this soul.

May we all seek shelter in Him and not in the shallow securities of this world!

4.13 Follow Your Nature, Keeping God in the Center

cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam

According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable. – Bhagavad Gita, Verse 4.13

“The disgraceful caste system! Cast it away!” decries India. The caste system is a perversion of the Varna system that Krishna Himself created. Is Krishna partial? Why does he divide people and label them as Brahmanas, Kstatriyas, Vaisyas, and Shudras? Krishna says in the verse 4.13 of the Bhagavad Gita, “According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me. And although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the nondoer, being unchangeable.”

The caste system we have today is the perverted version of the Varna system in which expert teachers would carefully identify children’s natural abilities, interests, and skills and train them suitably. We find a reference of Varna system in the late Rigvedic Purusha Sukta RV 10.90.11–12 and in Manusmriti. We’re in Kali Yuga where honesty, integrity, sincerity are fast becoming extinct. Over a period of time, scriptures were misused and so was the Varna system. This system started becoming perverted in the Dvapar yuga. We see a reflection of its deterioration in the incident when Duryodhana taunts Vidura about his birth. Another incident is when Sringi muni’s son curses Parikshit maharaj. His son was not a brahmana but a brahmana bandhu, that is, someone who didn’t have the traits of Brahmana but he was born to a brahamna. A doctor’s son is not born a doctor. Unless he becomes a qualified doctor, he has no right to treat sick people. And, if starts prescribing medicines to patients thinking that he is a doctor, too because he’s born to one, we can imagine what would happen to those patients. This is what’s happening today … If we could bring back the varna system, the world would become a happy place. We’ll regain Rama-Rajya.

Srila Prabhupada’s purport on this verse is quite succinct, just like all others purports he has written for the benefit of humanity. “The Lord is the creator of everything. Everything is born of Him, everything is sustained by Him, and everything, after annihilation, rests in Him. He is therefore the creator of the four divisions of the social order, beginning with the intelligent class of men, technically called brāhmaṇas due to their being situated in the mode of goodness. Next is the administrative class, technically called the kṣatriyas due to their being situated in the mode of passion. The mercantile men, called the vaiśyas, are situated in the mixed modes of passion and ignorance, and the śūdras, or laborer class, are situated in the ignorant mode of material nature.

Krishna is supreme intelligent and our seed-giving father (verse 14.4). He doesn’t discriminate between His children. He accepts us as we are even though we’ve forgotten the Truth; we’re living in a dream state. On the contrary, he helps us grow out of our temporary nature. He offers us blessings and support in the form that we can appreciate. Our nature is blended in the modes of goodness (Sattva), passion (Rajas), and ignorance (Tamas). Krishna says (18.41), “Brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras are distinguished by their qualities of work, O chastiser of the enemy, in accordance with the modes of nature.” Krishna describes characteristics of the four types of people. “Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness-these are the qualities by which the brāhmaṇas work” (18.42). “Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the kṣatriyas (18.43).” “Farming, cattle raising and business are the qualities of work for the vaiśyas, and for the śūdras there is labor and service to others (18.44).”

The four divisions of society don’t cause suffering; it’s our ignorance about them which creates hell on earth. Are all of us identical in our spiritual, mental, and physical makeup? No. Our past karmas determined our present state. Someone who’s spiritually-oriented, studies scriptures, tries sincerely to follow the bonafide teachings is naturally a Brahmana. Those who have solid physical builds and aggressive and fiery nature, and if they fight for the right, they are Ksatriyas. The business-minded are Vaishyas by nature, and those who like to do menial jobs are Shudras by nature. Krishna says we fall into one of these categories according to our nature and skills, and NOT BY BIRTH RIGHT—we don’t come with any. We can live happily if we follow our Varna, that is, our duty according to our nature and skills.

Every country in the world follows this system in a mundane way, but they identify it through different names. Doesn’t America have priests and rabbis, teachers and professors, doesn’t it have warriors, and doesn’t it have business men and sweepers? Even at a mundane level not following our nature causes frustration in individuals and unrest in society. In many countries, youths are forced to join armies for a specific period of time. So many young people run away and go in hiding because of this enforcement. So many people become rebellious because they are forced to do what they are not designed for. It’s not in everyone’s nature to be a warrior. Many creative people become morose when they succumb to the family pressures to take up mainstream careers. By putting pressure on people to do which is against their innate abilities and personality types is like asking them to do someone else’s duty. What does God think about this? Krishna says in the verse 3.35, “It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another’s duties. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous.” Krishna, in the verse 18.47, repeats what He says in the verse 3.35 and emphasizes on following our nature, “It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly, than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Prescribed duties, according to one’s nature, are never affected by sinful reactions.” “By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect.”, says Krishna in the verse 18.45. Krishna tells how we can become perfect, in the verse 18.46, “By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, man can, in the performance of his own duty, attain perfection.”

Krishna is not bound by the modes of nature. The modes come from His external energy which is subservient to Him. He is eternal and unchangeable so the modes can’t affect Him. Brahma says in the first verse of the 5th chapter of Brahma Samhita, “Kṛṣṇa who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes.” If the modes could influence Krishna, He wouldn’t be God. Modes come from Maya, who is Krishna’s illusory energy. “Kṛṣṇa never consorts with His illusory energy. Still her connection is not entirely cut off from the Absolute Truth. When He intends to create the material world the amorous pastime, in which He engages by consorting with His own spiritual [cit] potency Ramā by casting His glance at the deluding energy in the shape of sending His time energy, is an auxiliary activity.” (Brahma Samhita 5.7).

I used to read only transliteration of the Bhagavad Gita published by a well-known press, until sometime in 2012. The readers of this transliterated Gita try to understand the verses according to their conditioning which stems from their random knowledge, material intelligence, belief system, and the influence of the modes of nature. This verse (4.13) used to make me wonder which Varna I belonged to. I had to wait for years to get the right answer. If Srila Prabhupada hadn’t written purports summarizing them from the commentaries of the acharayas in the bhakti Tradition, the world would be bereft of information which is essential to being human and recovering our original identity.

In the new age of misinformation, terms like “follow your nature/heart” are prone to be misunderstood. Following our nature doesn’t mean doing whatever our mind instigates us to do. That we have been doing already and its result is a kaleidoscope of minor and major disasters, inner turmoil and outer havocs. Our original nature is to love the supreme lord and to be enjoyed by Him. What do we get by loving Him? The gift of following our original nature consistently is, eternal love that makes us blissful forever. There are no disappointments when we follow our higher nature. Bhakti acharayas like Srila Rupa Goswami and Srila Prabhupada enlighten us that doing things that appeal to Krishna is the right way to love Him. Don’t we realize this truth even in material relationships? We become happy when we do things that make others happy. How do we know what Krishna likes? We learn this from the genuine spiritual teachers who have been walking the path of devotion themselves. In many verses in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells us what pleases Him. One of them is the verse 9.14, in which Krishna says, “Always chanting My glories, endeavoring with great determination, bowing down before Me, these great souls perpetually worship Me with devotion.” He says “Those who are always thinking of Me, who have dedicated their lives to Me, enlighten each other and feel great satisfaction and joy by always speaking about Me.” (Verse 10.9)


Let’s be determined to follow our nature from moment to moment.


4.10 Love is the Goal, Love is the Means

man-mayā mām upāśritāḥ
bahavo jñāna-tapasā
pūtā mad-bhāvam āgatāḥ

Being freed from attachment, fear and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many, many persons in the past became purified by knowledge of Me – and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me.  Bhagavad Gita 4.10

 This verse points to the middle path, avoiding the two extremes. On one extreme are those who believe that they should enjoy life mindlessly through their senses. On the other are those who detach themselves from whatever this world consists of, be it people or things. While the pleasure-seeking people hanker after short-lived titillating experiences, those on the other extreme become dry, and they confuse the dryness of their hearts with inner peace. In this verse, Krishna says be free of attachment, fear, and anger and channel all the energy toward Him. He says we should become absorbed in Him and take refuge in Him. Why is He pulling us from attachments of this world and then asking us to become attached again, to Him. Is it not like being out of the frying pan and into the fire? Doesn’t it sound like all those rebound relationships we have had in the past (some of us still pass through them)?

As the God of everything, Krishna knows who we are. Krishna knows that we want happiness and love. No, we want happiness from love. He knows that we don’t understand how it works. In the scarcity of love, we stuff our lives with things, positions, money, and dry philosophies. None of it makes us happy forever. In fact, the residual effect of this glutting is indigestion of suffering. Krishna suggests that we become attached to Him. But can He make us happy? Srimad Bhagavatam says, just as by watering the root of a tree, its branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits are nourished, by channeling our love toward Krishna, we give our love to every being because we all are parts and parcels of Krishna. There is nothing more fulfilling than the love we give to Krishna.

Krishna says don’t bother about watering each leaf and branch. The water of love will reach them when we water the root. He says that many beings in the past have been purified by doing what he’s suggesting. A very fine example is of Dhruva; the child who was insulted by his step mother, and refused the throne of his father that he so rightfully deserved. He left for the forest to perform severe austerities. He wanted to please Narayana. He wanted the throne. Narayana appeared before Dhruva. Before He could bestow Dhruva with the pleasure of the throne, Dhruva went into ecstasy. His heart was purified and filled with divine love. He felt fulfilled, and he realized what an inferior goal he had set for himself and how blessed he was to experience the highest truth: divine love. Narayana created a planet for Dhruva and made it immune to annihilation. The universal annihilation can’t do any harm to Dhruvaloka. Krishna wants us to experience the highest happiness. And for that we have to create a clean space in our hearts. Bhakti purifies us. It ignites the dormant love in our heart. Becoming absorbed in Krishna, doing that which pleases Krishna is bhakti. To please Krishna, we don’t renounce the world and worldly things, but we use them in His loving devotional service.

Just a couple of days ago I was chatting with an ex-colleague about his daughter who studies at Rajghat Besant School, Varanasi. Rajghat is not a mainstream school. It teaches human values to children. Its children live simple and meaningful lives. He has dared to give his daughter a lifestyle that only a handful of modern parents can even think of. But higher than the human values is God-centered consciousness. That’s what Krishna teaches us in Bhagavad Gita. God-centered consciousness is replete with human values and compassion because such a consciousness knows that everything belongs to God.

My colleague and I were discussing this point, but from a different perspective. The Rajghat Besant School is managed by Krishnamurti Foundation. Jiddhu Krishnamurti maintained that there was no God. In Lives of Alcyone, C.W. Leadbeater, Krishnamurti’s master, describes the whole Aryan/Manu lineage. Leadbeater has spotlit Krishnamurti as a key soul in Lives of Alcyone. Krishnamurti was a disciple of Buddha in his last life. Krishnamurti, through his lectures and books, may have been preaching those souls who are not ready for God-realization. That’s what Buddha appeared to do: to bring less-evolved souls to a level where they become mind-conscious. But, someone who is already at the level where he can feel God’s hand in everything, a dip in Krishnamurti or Buddhist philosophy is like stepping back, instead of going up on the ladder, with the intention to reach the top. A lack of guidance can do this to us.

I was Googling for something which I couldn’t find, but my search landed me on a page in Osho’s library. On this page, Osho has discussed why Krishnamurti failed. We don’t need Osho to tell us this, who himself failed. But the example he cited caught my attention. A disciple of Krishnamurti would always parrot that there is no God, there is no God. At the age of 80, he had a tryst with death which scared the hell out of him. In the fear of losing the temporary body, he started chanting Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Osho asked him what happened to his philosophy of no God. Don’t say a word, the man said. What if there is God. Let me chant… The man survived. Osho asked him if he still thought that there was no God. The old boy said no no, there is none.

Until we take a refuge in Krishna, we spend lives after lives swinging between pleasure and pain. Our journey begins with gross pleasure and pain, and we experience their subtle variations through the dry philosophies that mollycoddle the mind but kill the soul. When these philosophies and the knowledge of the Vedas can’t bring us the highest truth, we wonder what else there could be. When we find ourselves in dire straits, and we pray helplessly, a messenger of God appears through whom Krishna holds our hands.

It has happened with me. It can happen with you, too.

I met with J.Krishnamurti in British Council Library in New Delhi, in 1996, through a book he had written. It was an instant connection. It was an epiphany, too. Here was someone who could articulate my thoughts and feelings so precisely that I couldn’t do myself. It felt like a past life connection. Krishnamurti had a special place in my heart. But he couldn’t steal my faith in God. He only shook it for some time. His philosophy couldn’t give me what I desired so deeply. I gave up on it and gave it up after many setbacks that I experienced over a span of 22 years.

In 2008, I gave away my beautiful Radha Krishna brass idol to a friend and the glass painting to a colleague. There was one Krishna in brass that I couldn’t part with. I wanted to throw them all away, like the girl in a Small Miracles story who threw away Jesus Christ’s idol from her second or third floor apartment. A priest had gifted this idol to her, and he had inspired this girl to chant the holy name of Jesus for 3 months until she found her soul mate. She chanted religiously. Three months ended. The soul mate didn’t show up. In a fist of fury, she threw the idol of Jesus from her balcony. After a few minutes someone rang her door bell. A man of 30-something was bleeding in his forehead. Jesus found the girl her soul mate.

I lived in disgust of God for a couple of years until He inspired me from within to pray intently and intensely for my highest good. He made me realize that I didn’t know everything. And at this point, Krishna held my hand. Krishna had never left me. He reminded me of Him in ways that appeal to my nature. Once I was thinking about the meaning of Krishnamurti, that He’s Krishna’s reflection or avatar (wrongly speaking). As soon as this thought completed, I saw a car racing ahead of our cab. It had a white Chant Hare Krishna and Be Happy sticker on its rear glass. But I couldn’t understand. Or, I didn’t want to. Krishna didn’t give up on me. Through The Bhagavad Gita As It Is and The Journey Home and through many other synchronicities He brought me home to learn the art of absorbing myself in Krishna.