Kirtan as an expression of bhakti

Kirtan, or any chants that praise God, are reserved for the expression of one’s bhakti. By chanting the maha-mantra, which is the great mantra for deliverance, composed of God’s names, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, we are trying to connect with the Lord internally, within the heart. In this sacred space of transcendental sound, we try to become present within the moment, to hear attentively, to sincerely call out, asking for service as well as purification. We try our best to sing for the pleasure of Krishna alone, thinking of the Lord, and in this way we beg for His mercy. Kirtan is all about re-establishing our relationship with the Lord. Good kirtan happens by the mercy of the Holy Name alone. We can only try our best to sincerely call out to the Lord (like a child calling out his mother) and it is up to Him as to whether He will appear to us or remain hidden.

"When Śrīla Prabhupāda led kīrtana, he opened sound windows to the spiritual world." Yamuna devi dasi

Kirtan as the eternal spiritual practice

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur has emphasized that the eternal spiritual practice will manifest itself through the medium of kirtan or through the congregational chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord. In his books he writes how kirtan is the future “church” of the world and he describes how kirtan will invite all classes of men, without distinction, to the highest cultivation of spirit; namely the expression of pure love or prema towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It does not matter which country, culture or society we come from because the expression of love that comes from the heart speaks a universal language, understandable to everyone. To understand God, we no longer have to become yogis or yoginis, priests or nuns, detaching from the world in some secluded place. In fact, to understand God, we are simply required to chant the maha mantra with our heart and the best way to do this is through the medium of kirtan.

Kirtan Course

The kirtan course organized by Bhaktivedanta College is inviting you to explore this sacred place of transcendental sound. You will be given the opportunity to learn about the philosophy, history, mood and purpose of kirtan. As well as this, you will learn techniques for playing various instruments, all for the pleasure of the Lord. Lastly, the most important aspect of the course is that you will be provided with a safe and sacred space for meditation in order to explore the bhakti that already lies hidden within your heart.

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Formula for solving injustice

The Vedic wisdom of the ‘Sri Isopanisad’ offers a spiritual solution for solving all of the problems of injustice and poverty within today’s world. It contains a formula for world peace. We see in today’s society that 85.6% of global wealth is situated in the hands of 8.6% of people; which just goes to show the prevalence of poverty and injustice within today’s world. This figure shows how world governments are failing to find suitable solutions to solve these issues, in order to address this problem head on. The Sri Isopanisad reveals that this phenomenal world is in fact complete in itself and that it’s source is the Complete Whole (Isvara or God). This Complete Whole is perfect and self-sufficient.

The Universe is but a combination of Material elements, arranged in such a way to produce everything necessary for the maintenance of the Universe. However, due to our ignorance of the complete arrangement in nature for our maintenance, we make extraneous efforts to utilize the resources of nature for creating a life of sense-enjoyment. The Sri Isopanisad outlines that our sense of how something is lacking in this world is illusory. If we but have the eyes to see the hand of God, we will come to understand that there is no scarcity in this world whatsoever.

The Sri Isopanisad reveals that the phenomenal world is in fact complete in itself and that it's source is the Complete Whole which is perfect and self-sufficient.

Personal Responsibility

The ‘Sri Isopanisad’ emphasizes that human life is a life of responsibility because everything in this world belongs to God. A person should accept only things that are set aside by nature as his quota. This is the law of nature. We can see how various other species of life are following this law by taking only what they need. Human greed should be approached and controlled through the wisdom of the Vedas. The Vedas give us a deep and proper understanding of how to act in this world. Spiritual knowledge empowers individuals and within this wisdom, there is a peace formula from which the whole world can benefit.

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tad vijnanartham sa gurum evabiggacet
“To understand transcendental knowledge, one must certainly approach a guru.” (Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.12.)

Teachers surround us everywhere, starting from the very day that we are born. Our first teachers are our parents, who prepare us for how to live in this world. As soon as we try to learn something from someone, that person automatically becomes our teacher. This principle is the same within spiritual life. Both guidance and shelter are essential in order to succeed in our spiritual life. Alone, we simply cannot go all that far! There is a saying that, no man is an island. We need others, we need their help, as well as their blessings and mercy.

Both guidance and shelter are essential in order to succeed in
our spiritual life

Supporting a child’s growth

Srila Prabhupada, the founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, used to say that although a little child has the propensity for walking, the child needs help in the beginning stages. Similarly, Bhakti is situated within the heart of each living entity but at the present moment, our heart is covered with so many material coverings such as lust, anger, etc. Therefore, we need help from someone, a guru, who has overcome these coverings. Somebody who sees and understands us on the level of the soul and who can lovingly guide us towards Krishna.

We need help from a guru who has overcome material coverings and can lovingly guide us towards Krishna

The choice for a lifetime

Lord Krishna Himself recommends in the Bhagavad-gita: “Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.” (BG 4.34). In order to understand spiritual knowledge, we need a guru. The Acaryayan purusho veda states that “One who has a spiritual preceptor can know things as they are”(Chandogya Upanishad 6.14.2.).

 
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The word guru means “one who is heavy with knowledge” or “one who cannot be moved by lighter argument” and “one who is great inwardly and whose inner greatness is revealed in his outer conduct”. To recognise such a guru requires guidance and knowledge. Accepting a guru is the most important choice of our lives because the vows we take are vows for life. The ISKCON Disciple Course provides devotees with the proper guidance and knowledge, facilitating serious introspection on one’s life choices. Ultimately, leading devotees towards a happy and prosperous spiritual life.

As the entire world goes through challenging times it becomes even more important that we keep our Krishna consciousness strong by reading regularly in the Bhagavatam, by chanting with more focus and attention and by associating through hearing the many wonderful seminars and lectures that are given online.

Hence, HH Sacinandana Swami has decided to offer support, nourishment, and guidance with a specially designed course to which he cordially invites everyone – the Living Name online course.

It is a 7-week in-depth online course where you will learn to chant with full absorption and thus deepen your relationship with the Holy Name. In these 90-minutes sessions, Maharaja will share new insights, present tools that help your japa and kirtan practice, as well as answer relevant questions.

WHEN: every Sunday, 3-4.30pm CET starting April 19th
WHERE: FB LIVE www.facebook.com/Sacinandana.Swami/
DATES: April 19, April 26, May 3, May 10, May 17, May 24, May 31

You can participate either LIVE or watch the uploaded videos later.

‘HARE KRISHNA!, The Mantra, The Movement and the Swami who started it all’

After great success, when the film watched online 180 thousand viewers on six continents during Easter weekend, there is another opportunity to watch the movie online for free!

Hare Krishna! is a documentary on the life of Srila Prabhupada–the 70-year-old Indian Swami who arrived in America without support or money in the turbulent 1960s. It explores how he ignited a worldwide revolution of spiritual consciousness, known as the Hare Krishna Movement.

You are invited to see Prabhupada’s emotionally moving and uplifting story which has given inspiration and hope to many.

The movie will be available on YouTube and Vimeo with subtitles in 19 languages.

YouTube: youtu.be/zMfsz9hJz18 Vimeo: vimeo.com/284017187

The movie will be available from * 17.4. (12 pm EST-USA) to 24.4. (12 pm EST-USA) *

Author: Anupama Devi Dasi, teacher of Bhagavad-gita (Chapters 13-18) at Bhaktivedanta College

Knowledge means to understand oneself in Krishna Consciousness

The middle 6 chapters of the Bhagavad-gita, and especially the 12th chapter, appear as the crescendo of Krishna’s glorification of Bhakti. Therefore, one may question: “Why are the last six chapters known as the Yoga of Knowledge?”
An answer is to be found in the 13th Chapter wherein Srila Prabhupada writes: “Knowledge and development of knowledge mean to understand oneself in Krishna Consciousness.” And throughout the entire Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna is progressively understanding himself in Krishna Consciousness.

Develop knowledge and understanding

The 15th chapter’s amazing analogy of the banyan tree gives us an insight into the process of developing knowledge and understanding. First of all, Krishna asks Arjuna to become a spiritual dendrologist: “One who knows this tree is the knower of the Vedas (veda-vit)”. Then, he is instructed to, like a lumberjack, cut down the tree with the axe of detachment sharpened by knowledge and discrimination.
Arjuna’s next role is that of a seeker: “Thereafter, one must seek that place from which, having gone, one never returns.” Finally Arjuna is advised to surrender: “…and there surrender to that Supreme Personality of Godhead from whom everything began and from whom everything has extended since time immemorial.”

 
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 Preparing to act according to Krishna’s instructions

To further facilitate Arjuna’s search, in chapters 13 to 18 Krishna unfolds new depths and breadths of transcendental knowledge. After attentively hearing these, Arjuna utters his final statement of surrender by declaring, “My illusion is now gone. I have regained my memory by Your mercy. I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according to Your instructions.”

Author: Ananda Vrndavan dasi, teacher of Madhurya Kadambini course at Bhaktivedanta College
The first series on Madhurya Kadambini course

  

  

Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura describes in his Madhurya Kadambini the progressive stages of devotion in terms of the visible symptoms of developing love. He makes it clear that bhakti is not something one can acquire from a source outside oneself; rather it is latent in all living entities, and the devotional process simply awakens it. While developing pure devotion, love is gradually awakened, so the emphasis is not so much on cleansing lust, which is the most prominent symptom of conditioned life, but on developing attachment for Krishna.

Pure bhakti gradually weakens the influence of the modes of nature, dissipates the false ego, the false sense of identity directed toward the body and things related to it, “I” and “mine” respectively, and awakens the soul to its original state as a loving servant of Krishna. Because the devotees take up the process of bhakti-yoga in order to attain love for Krishna, this study of the way love manifests itself at different stages is of great value to them. It shows an authorized way by which devotees can measure the degree of their spiritual advancement, which is their own attachment to Krishna.

 
The knowledge about the process through which a practitioner goes, from sraddha to prema, helps us to:

  1. realistically recognize where we are at,
  2. most important – recognize what we need to do to advance further based on our present position,
  3. recognize the position of other spiritualists,
  4. learn how to properly relate to different devotees.

 

As we learn to recognize who is more senior to or advanced than us, then we are able to take their association in the right way. In the case of those more or less at the same level of advancement as us, this knowledge will enable us to cultivate friendly relationships. And with those who are junior to us, we will understand that they will not be able to help me, but I can try to help them instead.

Madhurya Kadambini course is delivered online and onsite at Bhaktivedanta College. You are welcome to join us onsite just after Radhadesh Mellows festival, from 29.1.-2.2.2020. Feel free to contact us for accommodation options.

 

Author: Janne Kontala, PhD (Jayananda das)
Introduction to Yoga Philosophy online course at Bhaktivedanta College

Yoga helps us to use our freedom in the best

Yoga helps us to use our freedom in the best way so that our freedom can grow. Freedom to choose is there, but it should not be misunderstood. Yoga does not advocate unlimited freedom; we are constrained in our choices by our karma and destiny, which we have created by our past choices. We can exercise our will to choose in the present context, and depending on the choices we make now, we can increase or decrease our future freedom. Yoga is meant to totally set us free from the bondage of material nature.

Exercise our freedom guided by the teachings of yoga

For a yogi, this is essentially the same as becoming free from the bondage of the mind. But we need to exercise our freedom guided by the teachings of yoga and experienced practitioners. That will save us a lot of time, compared to if we were to reinvent the wheel through trial and error. But if we choose otherwise, and let our mind run its course rather than following the teachings of yoga, then our consciousness will be molded and affected by things external to itself.

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The self can rejoice in its own nature, fully satisfied

In advanced meditational practice, it will at one point be useful to psychologically contemplate the self as a passive witness, as opposed to being an active participant in worldly events. That will help the yogi detach from the last attachments that bind the pure consciousness to the mind’s activities. In that last step, the yogi moves from the state of contemplating one object to an objectless state of samadhi. Even this last step, however, involves a conscious choice made by the self, but paradoxically, it is easier to take that step by thinking oneself a passive observer, as opposed to an active meditator. After that final step has been taken, the self can rejoice in its own nature, fully satisfied and feeling no lack of any kind.

Author: Ananda Vrndavan dasi, teacher of Madhurya Kadambini course at Bhaktivedanta College
The first series on Madhurya Kadambini course

Nine stages of pure devotion to Krsna

Rupa Gosvami delineates nine stages of pure devotion to Krsna, in which spiritual emotions first awaken and then gradually intensify to the point of unalloyed love:

  1. Persons develop pure faith (sraddha)
  2. Associate with pure devotees (sadhu-sanga)
  3. Perform unsteady devotional service to Krsna (bhajana-kriya)
  4. Under the guidance of a bona-fide spiritual master, they give up their unwanted habits (anartha-nivritti)
  5. Firm faith awakens, by which devotional service fixes itself in the devotees’ character (nistha)
  6. A strong taste for devotional service appears (ruci)
  7. Attachment (asakti)
  8. Ecstatic emotion (bhava)
  9. Pure love of God (prema).

 
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As we can see, spiritual life is actually a very precise, progressive and coherent type of science. With the knowledge of the symptoms of these different stages, we are being enabled to honestly detect where we are now and where we are going next in our spiritual life, which is essential for our further proper development. If we do not understand at what level we are at presently, we might assume that we are at another level and that we should do certain things that in reality might not be relevant or fit for us. People would tend to think that they are more advanced rather that they are less advanced.

 

‘Attending Krishna’s Image’ is an invaluable resource for pujaris and for all who want to explore the ancient sacred tradition of serving Krishna in His merciful murti form. Our founder-acarya, Srila Prabhupada, was deeply concerned that our worship of Sri Vigraha does not deteriorate into galagraha or a sense of burden. This book can not only prevent that from happening but also further inspire worshippers on whichever level of practice and realization they may be.

VIDEO: Krishna Kshetra Swami about the book


Attending Krishna’s Image

Subtitle: Caitanya Vaisnava Murti-seva as Devotional Truth

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