Thursday, 7 August 2014

Austin kids preparing for Krishna Janmashtami 2014

Biggest Krishna Janmashtami 2014 in America at Radha Madhav Dham Austin
Biggest Krishna Janmashtami 2014 in America at Radha Madhav Dham Austin

Venue: Radha Madhav Dham Austin Texas USA
Date: August 16th 2014
Time: 5pm - Midnight

One of the innovative and creative features of the Krishna Janmashtami 2014 at Radha Madhav Dham is the Krishna Janmashtami 2014 Kids Costume Contest. Krishna Janmashtami 2014 kids can dress up in any character from Lord Krishna’s descension period of 125 years -

…from Baby Krishna’s period in Braj where he did so many loving pastimes
…from the period when Krishna went to Mathura to free his parents from King Kans
…or, from the time when Krishna ruled as the King of Dwarika during the period of Mahabharat

Krishna Janmashtami 2014 kids in Austin are invited to be as creative as they like… be Radha, Krishna, be a Gopi, or dress up as a cow, flute, peacock feather. The idea for the contest came from the aim to get kids in Austin into the spirit of Krishna Janmashtami 2014 and give them devotional memories of this special day. All participating kids will win prizes; but there will also be special prizes for the contest winners. Another exciting feature of the Krishna Janmashtami 2014 celebration in Austin is that kids will “meet” Saints & Gods from Krishna Avatar who will relay inspiring stories of Krishna.

Queens New York's first ever Krishna Janmashtami 2014 Block Party

Krishna Janmashtami 2014 at New York Hindu Temple, Radha Govind Dham in Queens
Krishna Janmashtami 2014 at New York Hindu Temple, Radha Govind Dham in Queens

Vrindavan Times News: Block parties have been popular phenomenon for large events in New York city, but for the first time on August 17th 2014, the entire Hillside Avenue Block in Glen Oaks, Queens, will be reserved for one of the largest Krishna Janmashatami New York celebrations in 2014.

The massive event of Krishna’s Birthday in New York is being organized by New York Hindu Temple,Radha Govind Dham New York.

Some of the attractions include Live Bhajans, Food, Dandiya Dances, Best-Dressed Krishna Contest and Pravachan by Swami Nikhilanand.

One of the unique features of the New York Krishna Janmashtami 2014 in Glen Oaks, Queens, which is proving most popular is the best-dressed Krishna contest where the New York public is invited to dress as Shree Krishna and receive an award for being the best! To enter Best-Dressed Krishna Contest: Call Santosh Gera at (718) 807-1101.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Sleep and the path of bhakti

Is there a point where even sleep can be transcended?

For ordinary people like us, sleep is a necessity. As long as we have a physical body, there are certain things that we must provide it: adequate nutrition, adequate sleep, protection from the elements, etc. Although there have certainly been great yogis and tapasvis who were able to greatly reduce their reliance on such things, this is not part of the path of bhakti. The path of bhakti requires us to moderate our use of food and sleep in order to maintain a healthy existence. Then we focus on attaching our mind to God through practicing daily devotion. We do not try to or hope to develop siddhis or to transcend the physical elements.

Sleep is necessary for our bodies, but it should be used in moderation. Sleeping too much is not good for maintaining a devotional state of mind, because it promotes the tamas quality of the mind. Sleep just enough to meet the requirements of the body. The reason that we are so attached to the pleasure of lying in bed and sleeping is because of that tamas gun of our mind. The more we give into it, the more it grows. The more we control it, the more it subsides. As our heart purifies through the practice of bhakti, so does our attachment to sleep begin to reduce. But even a God realized Saint who is beyond the three gunas of maya still sleeps for some time every night.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mind, soul and our true identity

Mind, soul and our true identity by Swami Nikhilanand of Radha Madhav Dham

Question: I was reading in the Bhagavad Gita that we are not really the doers of our actions. These are the verses I was reading:
The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature. BG 3:27
The place of action [the body], the performer, the various senses, the many different kinds of endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul — these are the five factors of action. BG 18:14
Whatever right or wrong action a man performs by body, mind or speech is caused by these five factors. BG 18:15
Therefore one who thinks himself the only doer, not considering the five factors, is certainly not very intelligent and cannot see things as they are. BG 18:16
If this is the case, which it certainly must be if Krishn says it is, then who are we behind all of that? If we are not the actual doer then who are we? What is our individual identity once we break free from maya? Do we even have an individual identity? Does each jiva have individual characteristics in the spiritual world that define us the way that we do here in the material world?

I know that in essence we are all jivas (souls) but we also have individuality in this world as defined by our personalities and other characteristics that define us materially. I also understand that those characteristics are worldly and temporary. Are we, then, as individual souls, any different from each other once we reach the point of shedding the body or in reality are we all the same/equal in the spiritual sense?

Answer: Our true identity is the Divine soul. The soul, being infinitesimal, has no form (is nirakar), so it is impersonal. Along with the soul, we eternally have a material mind and senses which are part of our personality. The same mind and senses have been with us since eternity and go with the soul when we change bodies (die). The soul has a personal identity when it has a mind. When the soul gets liberation, the material mind and senses are dissolved back into the mayic energy and only the pure soul merges into formless God. In this state, the soul still exists. The soul can never cease to exist. However, the soul no longer has a personal identity, because it has no mind or body or senses. But soul retains its impersonal identity as an individual soul merged within God. This is the situation when a soul receives mokch or mukti and merges into impersonal God (nirakar brahm).

When a soul attains the personal form of God (sakar brahm), then that soul receives a Divine mind, senses and body, and thus retains his personal identity. He enters into the abode of the form of God which he attained. The individual traits of that soul's (Divine) personality are unique to him because they are determined by how he loved Krishn during his devotional period, what his relationship is with Krishn, what kind of desires he had from Krishn while doing devotion, how he likes to interact with Krishn, etc. So the Saints in Krishn's Divine abode are all very individual in their behavior, personality, love for Krishn, etc. In the Divine world, there are tall Saints, short Saints, young Saints, old Saints, skinny Saints, hefty Saints, quiet Saints, loud Saints, playful Saints, serious Saints, bashful Saints, bold Saints, etc. In other words, you are still you, even after God realization. Your personality remains, but you have become Divine.

Regarding the soul being the doer (karta) of actions, or being a non-doer (akarta), we find both kinds of references in our scriptures. Soul on its own cannot think or know or experience or do anything. Soul with a mind can think, know, experience and act. Technically, it is the mind that thinks, knows, experiences and performs actions, but it only does so because the soul is giving life to it. Since the mind cannot do anything unless the Divine soul is giving life to it, so from that point of view, the soul could be said to be the doer. But since it is actually the mind with which we think, and soul cannot think without a mind, so the mind is said to be the doer. The mind is made of maya, and the soul is Divine. Since the mind is made of maya (as are the senses and body), so it means the mind is made of sattva, raj and tam (the 3 qualities of maya). Each person thinks and performs actions according to the quality which predominates in his mind at that time. When sattva predominates, then a person's thoughts and actions will be good. When tam predominates, then a person's thoughts and actions will be bad. When raj predominates, then a person's actions will be selfish, but neither good nor bad. According to a person's quality of mind, so will be the quality of his thoughts and actions, thus the mind is said to be the doer. The soul is beyond sattva, raj and tam because the soul is not mayic. Thus, the soul cannot be sattvic or rajas or tamas, but our mind is. So, the soul cannot be said to be the doer of any sattvic or rajas or tamas action. It is the mind which is the doer. For all of these reasons, our scriptures say that mind is karta and soul is akarta.

However, if we understand the situation more deeply, we see that the mind is not our true self and cannot do anything without the energy it receives from the soul. It is a very subtle matter, and the analogies I am about to give you do not exactly capture the truth of the matter, but they point us in the right direction. First of all, understand that the soul and mind are completely together, like if you pour water (the mind) into milk (the soul), then you cannot visually see any separation between the two. They apparently are one. Like this, the mind is adhyasth (established) in the soul. Secondly, understand that the potential for all thought and action resides only in the soul. The mind is a lifeless energy since it is part of maya. So mind has no life, and it cannot think or do anything on its own. The potential for thought and action lies within the soul, just like the potential to see lies within the mind and the subtle sense of sight (with which you see the dreams). However, just as you cannot see unless your physical eyeball is in place, you cannot think unless you have a mind. The eye is just a physical thing and the real sense of sight is subtle and lies within the mind, yet without the lens of the eye in place, the potential to see cannot be realized. Similarly, the mind is just a lifeless mayic energy, yet without the mind in place, the potential to think which lies within the soul cannot be realized. Another analogy is that of the engine of a car, which produces potential kinetic energy. The firing of the pistons turns the drive shaft which has the potential to move the car forward. However, unless the drive shaft is connected to the axle of the car, the wheels will not move forward. Similarly, the soul provides the energy for all of our activities, but without the mind, that potential energy cannot be put into action. Thus, from this point of view, soul is said to be karta (the doer).

Now that I have laid out these basic points, let me address the specific verses which you mentioned.

The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature. BG 3:27

The meaning of these verses is very abstract is a part of the Sankhya philosophy. It is a very dry and intellectual philosophy which in gist tells us that we are not the mind, we are the soul. If you know that much, it is enough. Nonetheless, I will elaborate a little on these verses to clarify things and eliminate any confusion. When Shree Krishn says that you are not the doer - the 3 gunas of maya (sattva, raj, tam) are the doers - it doesn't mean that you are not responsible for your actions. You are. It means that your mind, which is made of sattva, raj and tam, is the doer. But you are not the mind. You are not a mayic being. You are the Divine soul. Depending on the quality of your mind, you will perform actions accordingly, but the soul is beyond sattva, raj, tam. So the soul cannot be said to be the doer of any sattvic or rajas or tamas action. But the person who is deluded by the effect of maya, who is not beyond ego, believes that he is his mind and he is his body. So he performs all of his actions with attachment in the world. The main point is that you are not mayic, so don't be attached to the mayic world. You are Divine and you belong to God, so love Him. The one who believes himself to be the mind and body believes that he is enjoying the pleasures of the world and suffering the pains of the world. In fact, it is just the interplay of the mayic gunas. Your mayic mind and senses indulge in the mayic objects and then experience pleasure or pain. But none of this has anything to do with the soul. The soul is Divine and desires only God. Therefore, live in the world without attachment, moving through your life and fulfilling your duties with your attachment in God. Then you will not perform any binding actions, because the binding quality of an action is due to the worldly attachment. That means that while performing all of the actions, you will not be performing any actions, because you are doing them without any attachment. This is the "non-action action" of the Gita, which is also called karm yog.

The place of action [the body], the performer, the various senses, the many different kinds of endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul — these are the five factors of action. BG 18:14

Whatever right or wrong action a man performs by body, mind or speech is caused by these five factors. BG 18:15

Therefore one who thinks himself the only doer, not considering the five factors, is certainly not very intelligent and cannot see things as they are. BG 18:16

In this sequence of verses from the 18th chapter, Shree Krishn elaborates on what factors are involved in performing an action. As I explained above, soul alone cannot perform any action. Here Shree Krishn mentions five factors: body, senses, mind, cheshta (effort) and daiv, which means destiny (in this case, the destiny being referred to is our sanskars, which affect the state of our mind and influence our moods and desires). All are involved in carrying out any action. Krishn also mentions that not only what we do physically counts as karm, but also what we say and what we think. Then He says that if someone believes that the soul alone can perform actions, then they are mistaken. The soul plus the mind, senses, body, etc. performs the actions. In the 17th verse He tells Arjun again that if he performs his actions without attachment, then those actions are non-actions (they will not bind him).

I will conclude by mentioning that to correctly understand any spiritual philosophy, it is imperative to learn it from a God realized Saint. This is why I strongly recommend all people to read the books and listen to the speeches of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj in order to understand the teachings of any scripture, including the Gita. By reading these scriptures directly, we multiply our confusion, not our understanding. Only a true Saint can distill the knowledge of the Gita and other scriptures into a form which is understandable to ordinary souls like us. His book "Prem Ras Siddhant - The Philosophy of Divine Love" and his speeches "Brahm Jeev Maya Tattva Gyan" and "Main Kaun Mera Kaun" are treasures of knowledge which clear all a devotee's confusions and give him correct spiritual knowledge. These are available (or will be available soon) from the JKP bookstore.

The soul is ansh of God, part of jeev shakti, anu chit, ansh of sat chit anand, thus desires sat chit and anand.

Monday, 21 November 2011

How to become a devotee of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj

How to become a devotee of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj
What you need to know about Shree Maharajji is that if you have accepted him in your heart, then he has already accepted you. There does not have to be a formal recognition of that. Shree Maharajji does not do formal initiation, nor is there any need to verbally state that you have accepted him as your Guru. If you have surrendered to him internally, then he is already Gracing you. You should focus on applying his teachings in your life. Practice bhakti exactly according to his instructions. Listen carefully to his speeches and you will hear many other instructions for your daily living. Apply these in your life and you will find yourself coming closer to Radha Krishn and to Shree Maharajji. The more you follow his instructions (which you hear in his speeches and read in his books), the more you will please him.

Although meeting him is not a requirement, it is certainly an amazing opportunity for a soul to meet a real Saint in person. It is a natural desire to want to meet him and speak to him and if you keep following his teachings, then maybe one day you have the good fortune to get his darshan. If you keep listening to his speeches and applying his teachings, a day will come when you will feel that it is very important to meet him and you will go and meet him. I hope that day comes soon for you.

Swami Nikhilanand, JKP Radha Madhav Dham. © 2011. All rights reserved.

Another question on "Radhey Shyam" and "Hare Ram Hare Krishn" maha mantra

Chanting Hare Ram Hare Krishn Maha Mantra and Radhey Shyam Mantra

Question: I have a question about chanting the holy names of God. Over the last couple of years I have been chanting the Hare Krishn maha mantra daily. I do about one round in the morning and then as a means to try and remember Krishn, I chant it quietly to myself throughout the day whenever I can remember. Last night I heard in a lecture that I was listening to, that Maharajji instructed one of his disciples to chant the name "Radhey Radhey" instead of what he was used to chanting which was chanting "Ram Ram". Also, tonight I just read on the JKP website a letter written by Maharajji about how to do devotion. In it he says,
"All the time in your heart you must remember the name ‘Radhey Shyam’ or ‘Radhey Radhey."
My question to you is, should I do the same and chant "Radhey Radhey" instead of the maha mantra or does it not make a difference?

Also, what does Radhey Shyam mean? Is Shyam a name of Krishn, like Govinda?

Swami Nikhilanand speaking on chanting of Hare Ram Hare Krishn Maha Mantra and Radhey Shyam Mantra

Answer: Practically speaking, you can chant anything that helps you remember Radha and Krishn. There is no strict rule about what name to chant. In JKP, we do devotion to Radha Krishn, and we desire to attain Their Divine love. They are the most loving form of God. It is a natural phenomenon that you are likely to think about the one whose name you are saying. When you chant the name "Radhey", you are likely to remember Radhey, so you will attain Radhey. When you chant the name Ram, you are likely to remember Ram, so you will attain Ram. Thus, you should chant the name of the form of God you wish to attain.  

Regarding the Hare Ram maha mantra, it contains the names of Krishn, Ram and Vishnu and can be used for devotion to any one of Them. In JKP, we do many chantings with the different names of Radha and Krishn, and we also chant the Hare Ram mantra. When I am quietly remembering God's name throughout the day, sometimes I like to chant the Hare Ram mantra too. But most of the time I say either 'Radhey Shyam' or 'Radhey Radhey'. The reason is that it is simpler and also, it can be done with the breath which helps. You can say "Radhey" on the inhalation and "Shyam" on the exhalation (silently in your heart). Or you can say 'Ra' on the inhalation and 'dhey' on the exhalation. Both work very well. The effect is very deep and immediate. This is something which Shree Kripaluji Maharaj emphasizes a lot. He says it is important to do this throughout the day as much as you can. This helps to maintain a remembrance of Radha and Krishn so that your devotion continues throughout the day, even when you are working.

Shyam is a name of Krishn, just like Govind. Shyam means the one who is dark complexioned. Shyama is a name of Radha, which means the one who is with Shyam or belongs to Shyam.

Of course, along with remembering any name of God, it is most important to do roop dhyan. The power of the name for the most part remains dormant unless we also visualize the form of God whose name we are taking. You can see the form of Radha Krishn in whole or in part. You can visualize any part of Their body, and you can even have an interaction with Them. Feel that They are close to you, even if your imagination of the visual form is weak. And feel that They are yours and you belong to Them.

Swami Nikhilanand, JKP Radha Madhav Dham. © 2011. All rights reserved.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Hare Ram maha mantra

Hare Ram Maha Mantra, Hare Krishna Mantra

When doing devotion, should I chant Radha's name, or the maha mantra? Which is better?

As far as what name or mantra to remember, that is a personal choice for you. Every name of God contains His unlimited power.  One cannot be said to be more powerful than any other. The same goes for any mantra: the power in the mantra comes from God's name which is in the mantra. So any name of God is a powerful mantra. But of course the name or mantra must be taken with faith (that God is in His name) and along with roop dhyan (remembrance of the form of Radha Krishn, or whatever form of God you are worshiping).  In the satsang of Shree Kripaluji Maharaj, we chant many names of Radha and Krishn, and we also chant the maha mantra. It is totally up to your personal preference. Just remember to do roop dhyan while you are chanting, and you are on the right track. Roop dhyan is the term Maharajji uses to describe thinking of the form of Radha Krishn, which also includes thinking of Their abode, leelas, qualities of Their personality, etc.

Swami Nikhilanand, JKP Radha Madhav Dham. © 2011. All rights reserved.

Hindu customs and etiquette

Swami Nikhilanand of Radha Madhav Dham writes about Hindu customs and etiquette

The etiquette that we follow in Hinduism is to develop and maintain humbleness before God and towards others. There are some main points to keep in mind regarding proper etiquette:

- We take our shoes off before entering a temple or a person's residence.
- We don't point the soles of the feet at another person or at any image of God (by extending the legs out flat).
- We touch the feet of our elders, teachers, and especially our Guru as a sign of respect.
- We don't touch another person with our feet.
- We do not touch any book (religious or otherwise) with the feet; we do not set any book directly on the floor.
- Anytime we give or receive anything it is either with the right hand or with both hands together, but never with the left hand.
- We greet another person with folded hands and bowed head (rather than by shaking hands), and by saying a name of God, like 'Radhey Radhey' or 'Jay Shree Krishn' or 'Ram Ram' (rather than saying 'Hi' or 'Hello').

Observing such formalities helps us develop feelings of humbleness and respect for God and for other people.

Swami Nikhilanand, JKP Radha Madhav Dham. © 2011. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

What is the meaning of the various Hindu festivals?

Krishn Janmashtmi at Radha Madhav Dham

Hindu festivals are so many that they would be impossible to count, but almost all of them commemorate some leela or Divine historical event. For instance, Holi is the day that Krishn protected His devotee Prahlad from being killed in a fire. Shivratri marks the day Shiv and Parvati had Their marriage ceremony. Ram Navmi marks the appearance day of Bhagwan Ram. Janmashtmi marks Shree Krishn's appearance day. Diwali marks the day that Ram returned home to the city of Ayodhya after spending 14 years in the jungle. Everyone decorated the whole city with lights to welcome Him home. The true meaning of any Hindu holiday/festival is to remember that the aim of life is to find God. We are supposed to remember this all the time, but the various festivals help us to re-focus our energy in this direction.

Swami Nikhilanand, JKP Radha Madhav Dham. © 2011. All rights reserved.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Choosing a particular tradition, Guru & aspect of God

I'm unsure about how to choose a particular denomination in Hinduism. How would someone new to Hinduism pick a particular tradition, Guru, aspect of God, etc.? What influenced you to decide to worship Radha Krishn and to follow Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj?

Choosing a particular tradition, Guru & aspect of God by Swami Nikhilanand of Radha Madhav Dham

The term we use in Hinduism for denomination is 'sampradaya', which means a lineage or tradition within Hinduism which was established by the followers of a particular Saint after he left the earth planet. The truth is that the original Master doesn't start the sampradaya. All Saints essentially teach the same thing: to surrender to God to receive His Grace and through His Grace attain Divine Bliss. This is the essence of Hinduism and the essence of the teachings of all true Saints in history. Internally all Saints are one; and essentially, their teachings are the same. However, the details of their explanations of the Hindu scriptures may appear to differ, but only on the surface. It is difficult (or impossible) for a material mind to reconcile these apparent differences, yet, essentially, all Saints taught the same thing: to surrender to God. A Saint may teach his followers a particular way of worshiping God which differs from what another Saint taught. But the reason for worshiping is the same: to become surrendered. So you see, the essence is the same, but the details differ. A Saint teaches the form of devotion which will be most helpful to those people at that time. Once he leaves, then people continue to follow his teachings, but what often happens is that they rigidly follow the outer formalities and forget that the real goal is to become surrendered. Thus, a sampradaya is born and is followed for many generations. Often the followers of different sampradayas bicker and criticize each other. They debate over the differences in the philosophical descriptions of their original Masters and argue about which form of worship is right. This is all a waste of time. Sampradayas are formed and eventually disappear. But the original teachings of Hinduism in the Vedas, Upnishads, Gita, Bhagwatam and other scriptures are eternal. And the original and eternal path to God (bhakti or surrender) is above differences in physical formalities of worship and above any sampradaya.

Thus, you do not need to choose a sampradaya. However, you do need to choose a goal. Hinduism teaches that the search for happiness can be directed either towards maya (the material world), or towards God. Those who direct their search towards maya find disappointment because there is no lasting happiness in the world. Those who direct their search towards God find perfect happiness. But even those who direct their search towards God need to be more specific in what their ultimate goal is. Why?

Because God has 3 main aspects, called bhagwan (loving God), parmatma (almighty God), and brahm (formless God). These are 3 aspects of one single God. The way to attain any of Them is the same: bhakti. Devotion to formless God is called gyan yog. Devotion to the personal form of God (either loving or almighty) is called bhakti yog. In all cases, complete surrender to God to receive His Grace is required. Those who ultimately attain formless God are freed from all kinds of suffering forever, but then merge into formless God and remain in a state of Divine peace which is unknown to them because they have no body, mind or senses with which to experience. Those who attain almighty God (Whose main forms are Vishnu, Shiv and Durga, and Whose many affiliated forms include Ganesh, Lakchmi, Parvati, Saraswati, Kartikeya, Kali, Gauri, Amba, and others) receive a Divine body, mind and senses and go to the the Divine abode of their worshiped form of God forever. There they experience unlimited Divine Bliss (included in this is the release from all sorrows forever). Those who attain loving God receive that, and more. What is more? They not only get to see God in His Divine abode (like those who attain almighty God) but they get to have close personal interaction with Him. The form of loving God is Radha Krishn, Whose more reserved form is Sita Ram.

A Saint represents the particular form of God which he has attained, and teaches devotion to that particular form of God. This is why different Saints taught devotion to different forms of God. It is a choice we need to make: which form of God do we wish to attain? This choice is made based on what Divine experience we wish to attain. Since we need the help of a Saint to follow the path to God, choose a Saint who is teaching devotion to that particular form of God you wish to attain.

So you see that you are not required to choose any particular sampradaya; but rather you choose to follow the guidance of a particular living Saint based on what your ultimate goal is.

I chose to follow devotion to Radha Krishn because They are the most loving form of God Who award the most intimate relation to the souls who surrender to Them. And I chose to follow Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj because he teaches devotion to Radha Krishn and clarified what the goal is for me, as well as teaching a simple and practical style of devotion.

Swami Nikhilanand, JKP Radha Madhav Dham. © 2011. All rights reserved.