Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Flute and the Holy Name

" The vibration of His flute is just like a bird that creates a nest within the ears of the gopis, and always remains prominent there, not allowing any other sound to enter their ears. Indeed the gopis cannot hear anything else , nor are they able to concentrate on anything else, not even to give a suitable reply. Such are the effects of Lord Krsna's flute."
~ Lord Caitanya to Sanatana Goswami

The vibration of Krsna's flute is always prominent in the ears of the gopis. Naturally they cannot hear anything else. Constant remembrance of the holy sound of Krsna's flute keeps them enlightened and enlivened, and they do not allow any other sound to enter their ears.

Since their attention is fixed on Krsna's flute, they cannot divert their minds on any other subject. The vibration of Krsna's flute is represented by the Hare Krsna maha-mantra.

A serious devotee of the Lord who chants and hears this transcendental vibration becomes so accustomed to it that he cannot divert his attention to any subject matter not related to Krsna's blissful characteristics and paraphenalia.

~ Purport to CC Madhya Lila, 21.144

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Magical Flute

Whenever I hear great artists like Hariprasad Chaurasia or Kudamaloor Janardanan play the flute, I am captivated by the rich timbre of its sound and the lilting sweetness of the ragas played. And my mind is always swept to the same thought.... If a mere mortal can create such an exquisite sound, what must it sound like when, to His sweet lips, Krsna places His bamboo flute?? It made me think of a poem I recently came across, in a book entitled "White whispers: Selected poems of Salabega", Salabega being a 17th century Oriyan poet and Vaisnava. Despite being born to a Muslim father, he was utterly and completely devoted to Lord Jaganath, who is none other than Krsna Himself. His poem is titled, 'Who Plays on the Magical Flute?' That is what is must be like when Krsna plays His flute...magical!
Who is it on the magical flute

from beneath the kadamba tree?

Blowing it, He stole away

my heart's glittering gold.

Listening to its mellowed song

rocks melt away, withered twigs

merrily dance with new foliage.

And listening to it my eyes do away with sleep.

Listening to its sorcerous songs

the mild Yamuna goes wild,

and her multicoloured trouts

wince on the bank's unkind bosom.

Will there be no meeting

of my Lord with His hearts priceless gem?

Thus prays Salabega,

the down-trodden, the lowborn.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy Hopeful New Year!

Happy New Year!
As 2009 turned into 2010 last year, my life had been irreversibly altered. I held a tiny 12 day old baby in my arms. All the time and energy I devoted to myself turned into energy I devoted, almost completely, to her.
And now, as 2010 turned into 2011, I have a little toddler - energetic and untiring in her endeavours to learn everything she can as she explores the world in she lives. Combine that with being in school, trying to complete my BCom degree, and be a devotee...well, I've felt myself spread a little thin.
Most of my time and energy is devoted to my daughter - and that is a service I am so, so happy to have; the chance to bring up a little Vaisnavi and teach her everything I can about Krsna, and being a vaisnava (although, as it happens, she is the one who teaches me a whole lot of things on that topic!)
But my spiritual life has taken a back seat and for the longest time I have felt disconnected from Krsna. I know that it comes with the territory of being a new mom - but it's disheartening nonetheless.

And so as 2010 neared it's end, I read the wonderful resolutions of friends around the world on Facebook - resolutions designed to increase their devotion, to live more Krsna-conscious lives and to give Krsna to as many people as they could - I admired, and admittedly, envied them. Where was my resolution that would bring me closer to Krsna? I didn't even feel motivated to make a resoultion! Instead, I felt...hopeless. When you feel disconnected and unmotivated for long enough, well, you tend to give up a little - you start to feel like maybe Krsna is beyond your reach and may have actually forgotten about you.
I've felt so scattered over the past year - moving from Canada to South Africa, spending some time in New York, back to SA and finally returning to Canada a few weeks ago; combine that with caring for a baby, spending as much time as I can with my family and studying for exams and the result: My relationship with Krsna had begun to feel a little superficial and habitual.

And then this morning, I came across this wonderful e-mail written by HH Sacinandana Swami. It is truly a message of hope:

With More Strength than a Million Suns ....
A New Year's Message of Hope

Night is falling quickly this winter evening, and it is snowing again. I am sitting in our little Gaura Bhavan Ashram, on the shore of Lake Wannensee, and thinking about each of you whom I met during the past year. I want to send you a message of hope - realistic hope.

Throughout my pilgrimage to Vrindavan, India, a sweet realization entered my awareness again and again. That is, Krishna is unlimitedly merciful. We simply need to be willing to accept His mercy and turn to Him.

The problem is, though, that often His mercy is not easy for us to recognize, and that's especially true when we're overburdened by challenging life situations or plain, old doubts. I learned something about doubt on this trip to India, because while sitting under a tree at Govinda-kunda I met one practitioner of bhakti who expressed his doubt to me. He said, "I have been practicing bhakti-yoga now for more than ten years, but I cannot even control my agitated and self-centered mind what to speak of develop love for Krishna. There seems to be obstacles on my path as tall as the Himalayan Mountains, and both the darkness of material consciousness and the general atmosphere of Kali-yuga are overwhelming. On some days I feel hopeless."

Fortunately, I was well equipped to answer his doubt since just that morning I found a message of hope in the eighteenth chapter (text 56) of the Bhagavad-gita. There Krishna says, "Under My protection My devotee reaches
My eternal abode."

Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to this verse: "To a devotee who is engaged in Krishna consciousness, the Lord is very, very kind. In spite of all difficulties, he is eventually placed in the transcendental abode, or Krishnaloka."

And two verses later, Krishna emphatically declares: "If you become conscious of Me, you will pass over all obstacles of conditioned life by My grace."

Please note: It is not by our own strength that we can conquer the darkness
that surrounds us but by the strength of Krishna, which is more powerful than the power of one million suns.

Coming to the Turning Point

Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami expresses the same point in this famous verse from the Chaitanya-charitamrita, (Madhya-lila 22.33): "One is immediately freed from the clutches of maya if he seriously and sincerely says, 'My dear Lord Krishna, although I have forgotten You for so many long years in the material world, today I am surrendering unto You. I am Your sincere and serious servant. Please engage me in Your service.'"

So it seems the only requirement for being accepted and protected by Krishna is that one comes to the turning point and sincerely surrenders to Krishna,
renouncing all other shelters.

Someone who has found Krishna's shelter is not inconvenienced by adverse circumstances. The Sanskrit word ashraya, or shelter, comes from the root
word sri, which means "to be brilliant and dazzling." For a devotee who surrenders to Krishna's direction the cloud of anxiety enveloping an unsurrendered soul lifts, and he begins to shine with Krishna conscious
happiness. Krishna has personally fortified and empowered such a devotee
with His own spiritual energy - more brilliant than the sun. Srila Prabhupada writes: "The foolish cannot understand this great freedom from

Another feature in the life of a devotee who has given himself into
Krishna's hands is that he is not so easily exhausted. When I visited Srila
Prabhupada in 1974 in his room in Germany, he gave me several personal
instructions, one of which was to become a water-carrier. I used to wonder
exactly what he meant by that until one day I came upon an old well in
Serbia and watched how it served many people. I remembered my spiritual
master's instruction and then wrote this small poem:

Never Exhausted

An old well gave water to all -
the young, the old, the happy, the sad -
every day without hesitation or delay.

When I first came to him thirsty, I was amazed:
Did giving water again and again
not exhaust him?
So I decided to ask.
"No problem," he said, "I am only the well,
not the spring, which supplies me
as long as the connection is there."

Let's live like the well -
live in the higher connection.
You will be happy to pass on
what the source gives you,
never to be exhausted.

Why am I writing this? Simply to encourage you. There is good reason to be hopeful. Krishna is very, very kind to and supportive of His devotees. He waits patiently for them to turn to Him, and then He responds immediately. Often He Himself takes the first step toward them. "He is so kind, so very
kind," as Srila Prabhupada used to say.

We have only to accept that Krishna's kindness follows His own mind and not
always our expectations. This means He gives us exactly what we need at any
given time.

So now my question these days is, How can I live in relationship with Him? As I ponder this question I look out at the winter night. The stars blink in the distance. Is the Lord as far away as those stars or is He closer? How can I connect with Him?

During the last year I learned some things that help me make that connection. I'd like to share them with you:

1. Become aware that Krishna is the goal of your life.
2. Offer as many acts as you can in His service. Activate your relationship with Him and ask for guidance how to further activate it from those who have
an active relationship with Him, like Srila Prabhupada and your other
spiritual masters.
3. Train your mind to connect with Krishna through devotional thoughts. Convince your intelligence of the truth of Krishna consciousness.
4. Take full and unreserved shelter in the processes of bhakti - the hearing and chanting and reading the scriptures under the guidance of great
5. Most importantly, pray, pray, pray. Bring your spiritual heart into your prayer.
Pray like the bird who sits in the nest waiting fervently for its mother to bring it food.
Pray like the thirsty calf who tugs at the rope binding it to a stake so it can run forward to its mother's udder.
Pray like the morose wife who yearns for her husband when he is away from home.

You will soon find that Krishna is only a prayer away. He is not like the stars in the winter sky, which are distant, cold, and unapproachable. When you reach Him in devotion, Krishna will respond to you in ways beyond your boldest imagination. Yes, the Lord is only a prayer away!

On the eve of 2011, I didn't have a single resolution - now I have five.
On the eve of 2011, I was hopeless - now I am hopeful.
Here's to a year of surrender, deepened awareness of Krsna's mercy and most of all, prayer.

Happy 2011!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Full blossom...

"As a flower in the bud gradually fructifies and yields it's desired aroma and beauty, so when a living entity comes to the platform of Krsna consciousness, the beauty of his real form comes into full blossom. That is the ultimate beauty and the ultimate fulfillment of desires."

S.B 10.13.51 purport

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mamma Mia!!

Nobody told me how hard being a new mother would be.
Actually they did. They all did. I just didn't believe them.
After all, how hard could it be to take care of a little person? All they need is to eat, sleep and have their diapers changed - usually in that order.
But did you know that in the beginning they eat every two hours?
And did you know that sometimes putting them to sleep would take both a longer amount of time than they actually slept for, as well as a great deal of creativity (rocking? no. Bouncing? No. Singing? No. Rocking, bouncing and singing? Yes. *cue sigh of relief*) and leave you in need of a nap - but before your head actually hits the pillow for said nap, the little person is awake and ready to go again?
I did not know this. I do now.

I think I looked a little wild-eyed, a little crazy in the beginning. Yes, I definitely did. Sadly Vaishali did not come with a users manual. Of course there are plenty of baby books (not to mention aunts, grandmothers, friends, neighbours, strangers) to give you advice, but what I needed was a manual tailor-made to fit Vaishali's personality. You know, something that went along the lines of:

This model of baby will wake up every day, without fail, at 5 a.m and require 2 hours of non-stop playing activity. Do not bother trying to change this habit. Or praying that it will change. It won't. Ever.

But now, my little girl is 6 months old, and the crazy, sleep-deprived days are getting better. I no longer check on her every five minutes, just to make sure she's breathing (I've stretched it to about 15 minutes, and yes, I'm proud of that achievement, thank you very much.)

Of course, each new stage comes with new challenges. The nature of my questions have changed. It's no longer "Is she getting enough milk", but "Is she ready for grains?" I no longer panic when she cries (which is hardly ever - which is of course something I used to panic about too. You know, "Shouldn't she cry more than this?" I'd fret. "I think she's just a happy baby," my husband or mother would comment, a tad dryly.)
And sometimes, in my sleep-deprived, hormonal, overly-worried state I would feel bad for my little baby. Didn't she deserve a mother who actually knew what they were doing? Who knew what each different cry meant, who knew how to calm and soothe her and take care of her from the very moment she entered this world?

For a new mother, there's nothing better than talking to or hearing about other new mum's and their experiences. It's comforting to know that your neurotic state of mind is not unique, that you are not the only one who feels overwhelmed at times, or at a loss over what to do.
I recently read a book, and in it a first-time mother, a few years after the birth of her son, stated, " You can never be one hundred percent prepared for motherhood, because it is motherhood itself that prepares you."

How completely, and utterly true.

I assumed that the role of mother was one I would take on naturally, gracefully. It wasn't. I may have carried Vaishali for 9 months, but I only really met her after she was born, and only got to know her in the weeks and months that followed. And it was difficult, not having any experience. But as the days passed, that experience came - I grew stronger and more sure of myself and my ability to take care of my child.
And now, Vaishali and I know each other pretty well. Each day, as she discovers more and more about herself, the world she lives in, and the people who love her, we discover more about her. Between her father and I, we know how to make her smile. We know that lots of kisses from her papa will irritate her, unless its first thing in the morning and she's just woken up. We know that after she's had her pureed squash or sweet potatoes, she likes to babble with the spoon in her mouth. We know that she likes it when we firmly press her arms and legs - it calms her down. We know that we can get her to give us big, open-mouthed, spitty kisses by saying, "Kisses!!"

It has been a life-altering experience, becoming a mother. But I guess, that's what babies do! They take us on a journey that changes us from self-centered and selfish, to become more giving, more open and more loving individuals.

What a blessing babies are!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers Day!!

Vaishali Sundari

Happy Mothers Day! I don't think there should be only one out of 365 days in honor of a person who gives so selflessly, who works so tirelessly, who loves so unconditionally.

Since giving birth to our daughter Vaishali Sundari 4 and a half months ago, I have a new appreciation and understanding of what my own mother has felt for me since before I was born, and for what she has done since.

And now, as a new mother, I am tired, sleep-deprived and slightly neurotic, but I am also overjoyed and honored (and a little scared, truth be told) that Krsna has given me my own little Vaisnavi to raise.

My mother...

Who fed me from her gentle breast,
And hush'd me in her arms to rest,
And on my cheek sweet kisses prest?
My Mother.

When sleep forsook my open eye,
Who was it sung sweet hushaby,
And rock'd me that I should not cry?
My Mother.

Who sat and watch'd my infant head,
When sleeping on my cradle bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed?
My Mother.

When pain and sickness made me cry,
Who gaz'd upon my heavy eye,
And wept, for fear that I should die?
My Mother.

Who drest my doll in clothes so gay,
And taught me pretty how to play,
And minded all I had to say?
My Mother.

Who ran to help me when I fell,
And would some pretty story tell,
Or kiss the place to make it well?
My Mother.

Who taught my infant lips to pray,
And love God's holy book and day,
And walk in wisdom's pleasant way?
My Mother.

And can I ever cease to be
Affectionate and kind to thee,
Who wast so very kind to me,
My Mother.

Ah! no, the thought I cannot bear;
And if God please my life to spare,
I hope I shall reward thy care,
My Mother.

When thou art feeble, old, and gray,
My healthy arm shall be thy stay,
And I will soothe thy pains away,
My Mother.

And when I see thee hang thy head,
'Twill be my turn to watch thy bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed,
My Mother.

For could our Father in the skies
Look down with pleased or loving eyes,
If ever I could dare despise
My Mother.
- Ann Taylor

Monday, March 22, 2010


Behind a bank of Syama-coloured storm clouds, resting above the ocean from the night before, the sun rises, painting the clouds and sky above fiery hues of orange, pink and purple.
Krsna, what an artist You are!

(21 March 2010, North Coast, Durban, South Africa)