Hare Krishna Yoga, Karma, Reincarnation

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Gauranga Potatoes

A world famous Hare Krishna dish much loved and favourite of many. Slices of potato in an irresistibly rich, creamy and tasty sauce with a magnificent Golden colour named after Gauranga Mahaprabhu.






















8 medium sized potatos peeled, sliced 
1 table spoon olive oil
1 teaspoon jeera (cumin)
1/2 teaspoon hing (asafetida powder)
1 chunk ginger, minced
1 green chilli, chopped (de seeded - optional)
1 teaspoon haldi (turmeric)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 
1/2 teaspoon paprika
600ml Single Cream
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon salt to taste
Handful of cheese, grated
1 generous handful of Love

Directions:
Boil the potato slices in lightly salted water for about 8 minutes till cooked but firm. Careful not to over-cook or you will have Gauranga Mash potato! Preheat oven.

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat and when hot, add jeera, ginger and then green chilli. Saute quickly and add hing followed by haldi and black pepper and stir briefly.

Add the single cream, salt and water. Stir into a smooth and even golden sauce and remove from the heat.

Off the heat, add the potatoes to a baking tray or casserole dish and pour mixture over potatoes and gently combine. Top with a layer of cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Place in the top portion of preheated oven.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve hot.

Variations:
For a less Indian taste, instead of ginger, chilli and Jeera, use fresh herbs such as parsley or thyme.
Alternative to single cream, use sour cream.
Cheese is optional
Try other vegetables, eg. Cauliflower. Peas and carrots.
For Ekadashi fasting, don’t add hing

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Golden Avatar


Kali yug, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy is drowning in irreligion and atheistic lifestyles. And so in this age, Krishna was predicted to decent as the Golden Avatar (incarnation) - Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and establish the Yuga Dharma of Harinaam Sankirtan - Congregational devotional chanting (prescribed method of liberation according to the current age).  Today is Gaura-Purnima which marks the advent of Sri Chaitanya's descent to Earth, in the town of Mayapur, West Bengal - India in 1946. 



Who is The Golden Avatar? 
Sri Chaitanya is a direct avatar of Sri Krishna Bhagavan in the mood of His greatest devotee and consort, Srimati Radharani. Sri Chaitanya started the Nama Sankirtan movement and gave the world the divine and powerful Hare Krishna Maha Mantra that one must chant to become self realised and to attain the lotus feet of Sri Krishna. This is the easiest way to reach Krishna in this age of Kali! 

The Holy Names of the Lord are:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

His Appearance. 
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared in 1486 in Navadvipa, Mayapur in West Bengal to Jagannatha Misra and Sacidevi. He was named Vishvambhara (support of the universe) and nicknamed Nimai, as He had been born under a neem tree. His appearance was accompanied by widespread chanting of 'Hari Hari' and as a child, the only way His parents could get Him to stop crying was by chanting the holy names of the Lord. Therefore, from the beginning, He induced people to chant the names of God. His birth chart was so auspicious that the child was declared as the Supreme Lord, Narayana Himself. It was predicted that He would have extraordinary qualities and would deliver the people of the world with even atheists worshipping him at his feet. 


Gaura Purnima is the festival which celebrates Sri Chaitanya’s appearance. It means "Golden Full Moon". His devotees spend this festival fasting and chanting the holy names. At moonrise a sumptuous vegetarian feast is offered to the Lord and then enjoyed by all.


The Golden Avatar 
In different ages there are different methods for self-realisation such as meditation, temple worship and various yoga practices to control the body and mind. We are currently in Kali-yuga, which is considered the worst age out of the four, (Satya, Treta, Dwarpa and Kali) as the people of Kali-yug are prone to quarrels, hypocrisy and have a lack of God consciousness. However the all-auspicious appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu makes this age more beneficial than the others by His grace and causeless mercy. The prescribed method of liberation has been made easier by simply chanting the Hare Krishna Mahamantra! And so Kali-yuga is also called the golden age of Sri Chaitanya.


How do we know he is an Avatar?
There is multiple evidence in authoritative scriptures of Sri Chaitanya’s appearance. Here are some examples. 
Prediction of His actual time of incarnation is stated In the Kurma-Purana:
The Supreme Person will appear in the first part of the age of Kali. He will appear in the home of a Brahmana, to save the embodied conditioned souls burning in the troubles of Kali-Yuga. 

In the Padma-Purana, it is written:
The Supreme Personality, Janardana, who is the object of the yogis' meditation, who saves the devotees from various sufferings, and who is the master of all yogic practices, who is always full of divine transcendental ecstasy and bliss, will advent in His own divine form of Sri Chaitanya.

What does he look like?
Avatars of Sri Krishna Bhagavan must:
1. Comply with predictions in authoritative scriptures
2. Display 32 auspicious markings on the body and feet
3. Have long arms that past the knees.

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is 7 ft tall and also known as Sri Gauranga because he has the complexion of molten gold. He has auspicious markings on His body and His feet and his slender arms extend down to His knees which are further evidence that He is an avatar of the Supreme Lord.


Why did he come to the material world?
As stated in the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna appears in the material world for two reasons which are:
1. Annihilate the miscreants.
2. Deliver the pious people. 
In the form of Sri Chaitanya He shows his mercy by delivering His devotees and annihilating the demons in everyone’s hearts by chanting the Holy names of the Lord. 

He propagated the Harinam Sankirtan movement which is the congregational street chanting of: 
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, 
Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. 




Previously chanting was done quietly and individually. Sri Chaitanya mahaprabhu along with his associates encouraged loud public chanting and graceful dancing with instruments. The intention was for all the devotees, atheists and even the  animals and all living entities, to hear and benefit from the transcendental sound vibrations of the Hare Krishna Mahamantra.

Another reason for Sri Chaitanyas appearance is part of the divine Lila or story of Sri Radha Krishna's pastimes  Sri Krishna wanted to feel first hand the devotion which Radharani feels for Krishna and so He came as a devotee in the mood of Radharani expressing Krishna Prem. In this way Krishna can understand Her devotional love for Him. 


What are his names?
A few of his most popular names that you will hear are:
  • Chaitanya – Consciousness
  • Mahaprabhu – Great Lord
  • Gauranga - One with Golden Limbs (named by his father Jagannath Misra)
  • Sacinandana - Son of Saci Devi
  • Nimai – born under neem tree (named by His mother Saci Devi)
  • Visvambhara one who maintains the entire universe (named by his maternal grandfather Nilambara Cakravarti, after reading his birth chart)
  • Gaurahari - Golden Lord (named affectionately by the ladies of Navadwip)
“In the age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Krishna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krishna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons, and confidential companions.” [Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5.32]

Who are his associates?
Sri Chaitanya has four main associates and all five are known as Pancha Tattva (the Five Truths)


From left to right we have :
  • Advaita Acharya who is a combined incarnation of Sri Vishnu and Shiva
  • Nityananda Prabhu who is an incarnation of Balaram (Krishna's brother)
  • Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who is Krishna
  • Gadadhara Pandit who is an incarnation of Krishna's internal energy
  • Srivasa Pandit who is Krishna's pure devotee, Narada Muni
"I bow down to Lord Krishna, who appears as a devotee (Lord Chaitanya), as His personal expansion (Sri Nityananda), His incarnation (Sri Advaita), His devotee (Sri Srivasa), and His energy (Sri Gadadhara), and who is the source of strength for the devotees." [Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi 1.14]

  
What were his teachings?
Because He is Krishna Himself, His teachings are identical with those in Bhagavad-gita. His only written work is His Shikshastaka, or “Eight Instructions” and If understood properly, they can elevate a person from the mundane plane of materialism to the highest form of devotion, bhakti. Sri Chaitanya taught that Bhakti, or devotional service to Krishna, is both the most effective spiritual practice and the ultimate goal of all spiritual practices.

Sri Chaitanya’s teachings cover three main topics:
  • Knowledge of the soul’s relationship with Krishna
  • The method of awakening that relationship
  • The awakened state of that relationship (pure love of God)






















Sri Chaitanya also contributed a great deal to theology by teaching that God is simultaneously identical to and different from His energies meaning that the spirit soul is the same as God in quality but different in magnitude.


Notes:
Avatar - Incarnation
Yuga - Age, Era
Dharma - Religious practice
Yuga Dharma - Prescribed method of liberation according to the current age
Harinaam Sankirtan - Congregational devotional chanting
Sri - A title of respect or reverence, can be used interchangeably with the English word Lord. eg. Lord Krishna, Sri Krishna.
Hari - Name of Sri Vishnu/Krishna. You will often hear Hare Krishna devotees saying "Haribol!" meaning "say the Lords name!". Haribol/Hare Krishna/Gauranga can also be used as a greeting, replacing hello and goodbye. 
Appearance - When talking about avatars/swamis/gurus/saints we say 'appearance' rather than birth/born as birth is related to material bodies. These personalities are either God themselves or empowered by God and so are on a spiritual platform and are not ordinary human beings. Birthday becomes, Appearance day. 
Gaura Purnima - Although Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared on a Purnima (full moon) night, on the day of his appearance there was a  lunar eclipse (considered inauspicious) and everyone, even the most impious and atheists who had never chanted the name of Krishna, found themselves going to the river Ganga and chanting “HARI! HARI!” as if compelled by some imperceptible force.


Saturday, 23 March 2013

Bhakti Yoga - The link to God

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Now hear, O son of Pṛthā, how by practising yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt. (BG 7.1)

Love is the highest form of happiness and love of God is the ultimate Goal in life. So how do we develop that love for God? When you are attracted to someone, you naturally want to get to know them, spend time with them, find out what makes them happy, and do things for that person that will make him or her happy. So when we love someone we naturally aspire to serve them. In the same way, when there is attraction to Krishna, one can get to know him and develop a relationship via the process of Bhakti Yoga.

Devotional service is the heart of Bhakti yoga. Bhakti meaning devotion or love comes in hand with service, as service is the activity intended to please the beloved.



9 Stages of Bhakti Yoga


1. Faith (sraddha)
The first step, one begins with an interest in spiritual life with the faith that spiritual activity is superior to material life. 

2. Association with devotees (sadhu-sanga)
One then associates with persons advanced in Bhakti.

3. Performance of devotional service (bhajana-kriya)
Under the instruction of an elevated spiritual master one begins to practice devotional service.

4. Decreasing of unwanted attachments (Anartha nivrtti)
By executing devotional service one becomes free of all material attachments. 

5. Steadiness (nistha)
With regulated practice one attains unshakeable faith and steadiness. 

6. Taste (ruci)
And one acquires an insatiable thirst for hearing about and serving the Supreme Person, Sri Krishna.

7. Attachment (asakti)
Attachment to Krishna develops 

8. Love (bhava)
Gradually emotions for God intensify to the point of spiritual ecstasy.

9. Pure love for Krishna (prema)
Finally one awakens pure love for Krishna, which enables one to see Him face to face, to speak with Him, and to live and enjoy with Him eternally. Supreme perfectional stage of bhakti. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Yoga

Yoga (Sanskrit योग yō-gə, “union or link [with the Divine]”)


Srila Prabhupada says: The culmination of all kinds of yoga practices lies in bhakti yoga. All other yogas are but means to come to the point of bhakti in bhakti-yoga. Yoga actually means bhakti-yoga; all other yogas are progressions toward the destination of bhakti-yoga. From the beginning of karma-yoga to the end of bhakti-yoga is a long way to self-realization. Karma-yoga, without fruitive results, is the beginning of this path. When karma-yoga increases in knowledge and renunciation, the stage is called jñāna-yoga. When jñāna-yoga increases in meditation on the Supersoul by different physical processes, and the mind is on Him, it is called aṣṭāńga-yoga. And when one surpasses the aṣṭāńga-yoga and comes to the point of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Kṛṣṇa, it is called bhakti yoga, the culmination. Factually, bhakti-yoga is the ultimate goal, but to analyse bhakti-yoga minutely one has to understand these other yogas. The yogī who is progressive is therefore on the true path of eternal good fortune. One who sticks to a particular point and does not make further progress is called by that particular name: karma-yogī, jñāna-yogī or dhyāna-yogī, rāja-yogī, haṭha-yogī, etc. If one is fortunate enough to come to the point of bhakti-yoga, it is to be understood that he has surpassed all other yogas. Therefore, to become Kṛṣṇa conscious is the highest stage of yoga, just as, when we speak of Himālayan, we refer to the world's highest mountains, of which the highest peak, Mount Everest, is considered to be the culmination.

In the west Yoga is popularised and most famous for its health benefits, both for the body as a form of exercise and the mind as a form of stress relief, relaxation and well being. However these benefits are just positive side effects for the real purpose of yoga. Yoga benefits the body, mind and most importantly the Soul. 



Yoga means, to link with or unite with God. However many impersonal schools of philosophy (practitioners that believe god is not a person) interpret this as merging the individual self to the supreme and becoming God. However, the soul does not lose its unique identity and never loses its individuality. By linking with God, the soul remembers its constitutional position and original relationship with the Supreme Lord Krishna.

When an individual has a desire to take a step towards Krishna, Krishna reciprocates accordingly and so corresponding to ones desires, ability and understanding, Krishna has devised many different approaches that one may take to Yoga. Therefore there are different yoga systems that an individual can follow, all with the eventual result to become detached from Material concepts. 

The Bhagavad Gita dedicates chapters on the various processes of Yoga in which Krishna explains various yoga practices in a progressive system like the rungs of a ladder with the ultimate goal of Krishna at the very top of the ladder. Krishna encourages us to follow the instruction to the level of one's ability.


4 Paths of Yoga


Karma-yoga

Union through selfless action. 

Karma means action and so Karma yoga is a duty based path aiming towards perfection in worldly actions. It is ideal for those attached to material activities and is a good stepping stone between material and spiritual life as selfless actions increases piety and encourages spiritual progression. By sacrificing the fruits of ones deeds to God, one is relieved from the results of selfish activities. An example of this would be to dedicate your exam paper to Krishna. You study and work to your best ability however you offer mindfully the results of the examination to Krishna. 

Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme. (BG.3.19)

Jnana-yoga

Union through spiritual knowledge

Jnana yoga is the process by which ones attains wisdom in the field of spiritual science. The process also encourages the minimisation of worldly pleasures and activities by introspective study and contemplation, the opposite of Karma yoga. The study explores the nature of the self and setting aside the false identity of ego and the illusion of the material world. 





Ashtanga-yoga (Raja-Yoga). 

Union through Meditation and physical exercise. 

Astanga yoga, (8 limbed yoga system), also known as Raja (Royal) Yoga is a comprehensive process divided into eight disciplines, beginning with physical exercises and finishing with meditation on God within the heart (supersoul). Many modern practices of yoga like Hatha yoga and Kundalini yoga are related to the 8 disciplines with practises to help control the body and mind. The physical effects of yoga exercises and meditation help to purify the mind and body and prevent and alleviate diseases, much like a physical and mental detox. Hatha yoga (union through life force) concentrates on breathing & sitting exercises. Kundalini yoga is also similar, identifying and aligning the chakras or the life force within. Dhyan Yoga (Union through concentration) is the 7th stage within Ashtanga yoga and involves the practice of meditation and concentration. 

Ashtanga yoga is better suited to yogis from previous ages and is very difficult for modern day practitioners due to the strict and severe practice required to gain liberation via these methods. Practitioners that have mastered the discipline can acquire siddhis or mystic powers. India is full of such Yogis performing their mystic powers and attracting (cheating) followers that call them God. However these are mere side effects of yoga and are nothing to be amorous about as they bewilder and divert the disciple from the real focus and highest perfection of Love of God. 

To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kusa-grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should neither be too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogi should then sit on it very firmly and should practice yoga by controlling the mind and the senses, purifying the heart and fixing the mind on one point. (BG. 6.11-12)


Bhakti-yoga. 

Union through love and devotion. 

At present we are separated from Krishna, however Yoga is the path to 'join' and reunite with Krishna. It is not necessary to navigate through all the yoga types as bhakti can be picked up if you have the desire to serve the Lord. With jnana and dhyan the result is only the impersonal Brahma jyoti or parmatma (which will be explained in future posts), as there is no direct service to the personality of God head Sri Krishna Bhagavan. The path of devotion is stated in the Bhagavad Gita as the top most yoga. It may seem simple but as the practitioner advances they will see all of the other yogas within their practise. Bhakti or devotion is based on knowledge to go beyond material enjoyment and impersonal liberation and aim at pure, selfless service to a personal God.


And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. (BG.47)