Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Keeping The Darkness Away: Diwali & Govardhana

Diwali, the Festival of Lights is a fitting time for the Hindu New Year.  One of the main stories behind this day is the return of Rama to Ayodhya. Rama and the monkey forces had defeated Ravana and his Raksasa hordes. Ravana had superior weapons and superior forces. The monkeys had only crude weapons – trees, rocks and clubs – but they won nevertheless. By the grace of Lord Rama, the monkeys were unstoppable. Having faith in Rama, we also have to be unstoppable in our efforts to serve Rama and glorify Him.

Several weeks later after the victory, Rama, Sita, Laksman and Hanuman boarded a flower airplane which took them back to Ayodhya. The citizens there waited in great anticipation. The city was bedecked with candles shining from every home. After so many long years the people were eager to see their Lord once again. His return would mark a new era for them - RamRaj. And we also must light the candles. Not only in our homes, but in our hearts. To renew our faith in the Lord and, at this time of year, welcome Him back into our lives.  But why every year? Indeed, we must welcome Him every day and every moment.

The day after Diwali is Govardhana Lila, and so, the devotees delight in worshiping Sri Rama and Sri Krishna back to back. They are one and the same. Krishna, as a child, growing up in Vrindaban, was very mischievous. One day,  Krishna’s father Nanda and the residents there were getting ready to worship King Indra who brought the much needed rain to the land. But in the middle of getting ready for one event, Krishna asked them to make another type of sacrifice – to worship Govardhana Hill instead. Krishna sometimes does that to us. You know what I’m talking about.

There’s a saying attributed to John Lennon: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” We’ve all experienced this in one way or other. Earlier this month my wife and I were a little concerned since Hurricane Sandy was supposed to brush by us (we had heard about the disruption in New York and New Jersey – and I pray for everyone in that area)  And so Sandy came, leaving us without electricity for only four hours.  What a relief! That wasn’t so bad (especially since at the beginning of the summer we had no power for eight days).

My wife and I thought that now we could get on with our lives. But even though the power went back on, our house remained without water for four days. For four days we had to fetch water to bathe and clean and cook. Normally, we get water from our own well. Now we were worried that the pump in the well stopped working, or worse yet, that the well caved in (which happened to us before). But Krishna was merciful. It was only a bad pressure tank in the basement, which our plumber fixed in several hours. 

Krishna often calls upon us to make some sacrifice. We’re expecting to do one thing, but something happens and we’re forced to do something else. So we could do it begrudgingly and curse our circumstances. Or we could find the strength to say “Thank you Krishna for giving me this opportunity to surrender to Your will.”

These holy-days can give us clues on how to live everyday.

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

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Chasing Red Herrings

Last installment of Getting By In The Kaliyuga

Balancing the budget is a red herring. Politicians make it sound like it’s the most important thing in the world, but at this point and time, it’s not. Five years ago the economy  took a nose dive. When Bush left office, we were in  a free fall. First, you have to stabilize the economy.  When that’s done then you can think about balancing the budget. This takes years to unravel. Romney even said recently that, if he gets elected, he needs eight to ten years to turn things around (but blames Obama for not getting things done in four years).

What happened to the budget to begin with? What happened to the jobs?  Who made out big time when the economy went down? Did you? Is the debt your fault?   Should you and your children be penalized for the debt?  Follow the money trail. Look the events of the last thirty years. The people that are responsible for all this don’t want us to look at the past. And did you ever see those Senate hearings   where the senators are all indignant and huffing and puffing, and the Wall Street guys are cowering at the table in front of the bench. People swallow this stuff up.  But it’s a charade because nothing ever comes of it. Nothing ever changes.

If the bankers make a profit, they get to keep it for themselves and in turn keep the politicians who helped them in office. And if the bankers screw up then  they get the politicians to convince us that we   all need help clean up the mess they created.  This is capitalism and socialism at its finest.

Prabhupada explains in Light of the Bhagavat (in the purport of text 44) that politicians "want to flourish in the guise of servants of the people...(that they) want to exploit the administrative power for their own self-interest...although professing democracy, they want to be kings.... they compete for votes by bad propaganda."  This sums up the mentality and modus operandi  of many politicians. Nowadays politicians and bankers throw out so many misleading “facts” and “figures” to confuse people. They even hire so-called “research firms” to come up with the conclusions they want you to see. Someone said that you’re entitled to you own opinions but your not entitled to your own facts.  So the problem is if you don’t (or can’t because of the misleading information) study and learn from past mistakes then you’re  condemned to repeat them. You might remember Laural and Hardy – “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.”  They never learn.

Of course, we have to learn how to maneuver through this material world, which often seems like a battlefield.  Sometimes, the battle is raging around us, and sometimes even within us. We have to try our best to do the right thing, without attachment to results, and in his books  Srila Prabhupada has provided an excellent basis, both materially and spiritually.  He has shown us that ultimately real happiness  is not about cultivation of mundane facts and figures. It’s not about who’s in the White House.  It’s not about attaining  satisfaction through the temporary connection we have to this body of ours.   It is about understanding our  own eternal nature as spirit souls and our loving relationship with the Supreme Soul of souls, the Lord Within The Heart.  It’s understanding the journey we're on in this life,  a journey of self discovery. Be true to yourself. Stay focused on the real goal. Don’t go chasing after red herrings.

"One who has renounced the fruits of his actions, whose doubts are destroyed by transcendental knowledge, and who is situated firmly in the self, is not bound by works, O conqueror of riches."  Bhagavad Gita 4:41