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What is Gyan (knowledge)?

  A decade ago, when I started studying the scriptures from my gurus, I met quite a few devotees who asked me to read their gurus’ books if I wanted to receive the right devotional knowledge. Their suggestions left me wondering how one could get gyan (knowledge) just by reading books. Was it so easy to read a devotional book, just as one would pick up a novel, and become a knowledgeable devotee? It is one thing to faithfully read the works of one’s guru or spiritual master, but it’s quite....

The Compassionate Name of Radharani

  In 2011, I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, giving a lecture in a temple I was invited to speak at. Before starting the lecture, in my usual manner, I greeted the audience with, “Radhe Radhe,” only to find that no one greeted me back. I found myself in a very strange situation, wondering why this was the case when they were all followers of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. After I delivered the lecture, my disciples came to me and said, “Maharaj, there is a rule that the temple followers should not....

The Path of Love or the Path of Fear?

  People call me a spiritual master, the one who is learned and has a grip on the scriptures and understands the essence of the Lord’s words. For me, the scriptures are important but I feel without bhajan all scriptures are ineffective and dry until or unless you attain sacred love (prem) for the Lord. Scriptures can give basic knowledge but realisation can only come from the performance of bhajan.     What is this bhajan?     The Gopal Tapini Upanishad states that bhajan is ras (nectar) and....

Which God Should One follow?

  Devotees often wonder why I am so liberal when I belong to the Gaudiya Sampraday, but not all of the lineage’s devotees and acharyas are fanatical. As an acharya, my first priority is to make people spiritual and then make them capable of choosing their own path. I don’t like to put pressure on anyone to choose a particular god, or one that I am fond of. From recent personal experience, I have noticed that everyone is actively engaged in talking about various gods but very few actually focus....

Etiquette of Devotee Association

    गप्पें मत मारो   गप्पें न मार भाई सत्संग बीच आके ॥ हरि की कथा है ज्योति, जग की कथा है तोथी । बन्द कर दे तेरी पोथी, जप राम राम जाके ॥ हीरा बिके जँवाहरा, मत बेच वहाँ तूँ चारा । भक्तों को लागे खारा, क्यों हँसता दिल दुखा के ॥ सत्संग बीच आना, गप शप नहीं लगाना । चुपके से उठके जाना, सन्तों को ना खिजा के ॥ जेहि हरि कथा न भावे, वो अपनें घर को जावे । यों अचलराम गावे, चरणों में सिर झुका के ॥      Guppe Mat Maaro   Guppe na maar bhai satsang beech aake Hari ki katha hai jyoti jag ki katha hai tothi....
Feb 28

Always Longing for Krishn

    A guru will always instruct us to purify our hearts by chanting. The scriptures say that the moment we chant the Holy Name, all the results of actions from our previous lives, which bind us to this material world, are destroyed.   य एतद् देवदेवस्य विष्णो: कर्माणि जन्म च । कीर्तयेच्छ्रद्धया मर्त्य: सर्वपापै: प्रमुच्यते ॥   ya etad deva-devasya viṣṇoḥ karmāṇi janma ca । kīrtayec chraddhayā martyaḥ sarva-pāpaiḥ pramucyate ॥   “One who chants the glories of Shri Krishn and his lilas is freed....

How to Live in Vrindavan

       Many devotees long to live in Vrindavan, but without the association of the rasiks – saints who have a relationship of loving service for Radha and Krishn, and for whom Radha and Krishn are everything – we cannot understand what Vrindavan really is. Without their grace, we cannot know the significance of Braj dust, which is eternally decorated with Radha and Krishn’s footprints, or the nature of pure love for them, which we are trying to attain.   Reading books about devotion is good,....

Make Katha Your Companion

    Shukdev Muni has said that those who love Krishn always bathe in the nectar of his sweetness. Drinking that nectar, they are nourished and blissfully spellbound by its taste. Nothing else gives them joy or delight.   Devotees who face any kind of obstacles listen to the stories of Krishn’s lilas and meditate upon them. No matter what happens, they never lose their attachment to katha.   Similarly, there are times when we encounter difficulties in our lives, or when we feel we are not....

You Matter to Me

The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley once said, "Familiar acts are beautiful through love.” In India, we have two approaches to worshipping God. The first involves repeating worship patterns that have been passed down to us from our forefathers. In this type of worship, we make our offerings systematically. Love or emotion does not have much place in this type of worship. Ultimately, our attention becomes more focussed on the actions themselves than on the object of our worship.   In contrast, the....
Mar 11

Nourishing the Soul

      Searching for happiness in this world is like trying to find water in the desert. Krishn has created this world and called it dukhalayam, meaning the place of sorrow. So if the creator has given it this name, why are we trying to find happiness here?   Yes, Krishn is the creator, controller and destroyer, but he never says that he is our personal manager. All other creatures in this world are surviving within their means, without asking him for anything more, so why do we, as humans,....
Oct 31

The Magnificence of Kartik Month

    दामोदरं प्रपद्येऽहं श्रीराधारमणं प्रभुं । प्रभावाद् यस्य तत्प्रेष्ठः कार्तिकः सेवितो भवेत् ॥   dāmodaraṁ prapadye'haṁ śrīrādhāramaṇaṁ prabhuṁ । prabhāvād yasya tat-preṣṭhaḥ kārtikaḥ sevito bhavet ॥   “I bow to Shri Radharaman, who is also known as Damodar. By his grace alone, we can properly observe his beloved month of Kartik.” (Hari Bhakti Vilas, 16.1)   Kartik is a special time when we can please Shri Krishn easily. During this month, devotees take a vow or vrat to follow certain....
Mar 14

Working for the Betterment of Mankind

On the path of devotion, we have spiritual role models who can teach us the way to eternal Vrindavan. We connect with them on a deep level because of the example they have set, and we wish to follow in their footsteps; but instead, we often gather bits and pieces from various books, and from things we have heard people say, to form the basis of our spiritual knowledge.   If we are serious spiritual aspirants, we will make the effort to truly learn from our role models; to follow their teachings....
Mar 22

Cleaning Our Mental Hard Drive

When I was a child, I used to play video games on my computer, and at the time, hard disks didn’t have a lot of memory. After finishing a game, I always wanted to keep it and try to install a new game as well. But this used to slow my computer down; so, I used to erase the old game instead. Letting go of that old game allowed me to load the new game without any hassle. And thereafter, I could happily play the new game on my computer.   Similarly, in this life, every person collects memories,....
Mar 25

The Concept of Love

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi   Society has changed our understanding of the concept of love. In a so-called “loving” relationship between two people, the greatest thing that either partner can offer is their body, which means that the physical aspect plays a huge part. The connection starts with attraction and transforms into a physical union. This is not the nature of pure love. Every....
Mar 28

Cleaning the Dirt Within the Heart

When an old fountain is neglected, the stale water grows algae and starts to attract mosquitoes. But if the fountain is maintained, the water will be clean, plants and flowers will flourish around it and the honeybees will enjoy their nectar. The birds will come and take a bath in the water and sing melodiously. In the same way, if we start to chant God’s Name, the layers of dirt in our hearts will be washed away and love will start to flow from us.   In his Shikshashtakam, the God of Love,....
Mar 31

The Way to Eternal Vrindavan

Our teachers on the path of bhakti – the yoga (योग) of devotion – have made it clear that in order to reach eternal Vrindavan, we need to have an intense greed for sacred love (prem): in other words, exclusive and pure love for Krishn. Let me illustrate this through a story.   Once, an Arab man brought a shipload of horses from Iran to the great South Indian city of Vijay Nagar. The horses were of the finest quality, and the king’s men bought many. However, a local horse-trader named Raman....

Learning to Love is Practicing Religion

There is a saying, “He who loves knows God.” Most of us cannot connect this with daily life because it sounds very abstract. If you are asking yourself, “What do personal relationships have to do with the divine?” I would reply that we need to discover the bond between all others and ourselves and through this process, we find our connection with God. It’s not about getting to know God first and then, by some miracle or grace, we come to love all living beings.   When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the....
May 19

A Perfect Devotee

There are lovers who have the means to make everything “perfect” for the one they love. They will try to impress their beloved in ways only wealthy people can afford. But those who are not so wealthy accept their reality. Instead of trying to perfect their situation and become rich so they can buy their beloved expensive gifts, they perfect their love to win their beloved’s heart. Some teachers of bhakti place a lot of emphasis on how you should work on yourself and become a perfect devotee....

The Nature of Love

Once there was a debate on the topic of love. A scholar from Benares said, “Everything we see in this world is love. You, me, your clothes, this chair, the dust, everything is love, which is complete in itself. Once you understand this fact, you become happy. This love gives you all the happiness you need, therefore you have no desire to seek it from other people or things.” His proposed theory attracted the listening audience, as they turned to each other and nodded. The judge of the debate....
Jul 15

Love Your Enemies

“Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and do good to those who hate you.” (The Holy Bible, Matthew, 5.44)   If we are serious on this path of devotion, we must focus on loving those who hate us and detach ourselves from our pride, which feels injured by the actions of others. This detachment will bring a positive change in our lives. There is a sweet story that illustrates why this practice is necessary.    Once, a school teacher had a very important lesson to teach her class. She said....
Sep 25

The Right Mood of Worship

If you want to make someone happy, the first rule is to serve that person according to how they want to be served. When we want to make Krishn happy, the same rule applies to us too. We need to do what he likes and this is known as tat-sukh-sukhitva: "I will be happy if you are happy.”   We often see people serving Shri Krishn according to their own feelings, but this is not the right mood of worship, because we need to establish our relationship with him first. For example, in recent years,....
Sep 25

We Are the Creators of our Jealousy

देषः परोदयेऽसूयानसौभागगुणािदिभः । ततेषारनादराकेपा दोषारोपो गुणेष्अिप । अपवृितिसरोवीका भुवोभरङुरतादयः ॥   dveṣaḥ parodaye'sūyānya-saubhāgyaguṇādibhiḥ । tatrerṣyānādarākṣepā doṣāropo guṇeṣv api । apavṛttis tiro-vīkṣā bhruvor bhaṅguratādayaḥ ॥   “When you feel hatred after seeing someone else’s good fortune, that is called asuya or jealousy. This feeling is accompanied by disrespect, nastiness, insulting the other person, finding faults in them, speaking badly about them, giving them mean looks....

The Importance of Worship

 As a young boy in Vrindavan, I used to play cricket, a sport that has a huge fan base, which is comparable to followers of popular faiths in India. In my neighbourhood, I was known for consistently hitting long shots (similar to home-runs in baseball) and when my friends praised me, it made me feel like I was a good cricketer. I was competitive during matches but in contrast, my role model in the sport, Rahul David, was calm and mellow. He was known as “The Wall”, the one who was unshakable....

Practising Bhakti in Family Life

​ It is important for Vaishnavs to understand how to balance a life of devotion and how to fulfil their social and family responsibility without disappointing anyone; including Thakurji. The Shrimad Bhagwatam (7.14.5) says:   यावदथरमुपासीनो देहेगेहेच पिणत: । विरक्तो रकवतत नृलोके नरतांनसेत् ॥   yāvad-artham-upāsīno dehe gehe ca paṇḍitaḥ । virakto raktavat-tatra nṛ-loke naratāṁ nyaset ॥   This means that an intelligent person should serve their family and their body only as much as necessary. In....
Dec 31

Dedicated to Him Alone

  तिसनननता तिदरोिधषूदासीनता च ॥   tasminn–ananyatā tadvirodhiṣūdāsīnatā ca ॥   “Restraint (nirodh) means to be completely dedicated to him alone, and to have no interest in things that oppose him.” (Narad Bhakti Sutra, 9)   One who serves the Lord is taken care of by him. As we try to give up all social and religious actions that are opposed to devotion, the mind needs to make adjustments. This sutra states that we need to be totally absorbed in the Lord with exclusive focus (ananyata), and in....
Jan 14

The Essence of Devotion

यत् प्राप्य न किञ्चिद् वाञ्छति न शोचति न द्वेष्टि न रमते नोत्साही भवति ॥   yat prāpya na kiñcid vāñchati na śocati na dveṣṭi na ramate notsāhī bhavati ॥   "After attaining devotion, a devotee does not desire anything. He does not grieve or hate, nor does he delight in anything material, and he does not want to do anything else." (Narad Bhakti Sutra, 5)   In the modern age, people do not understand the real essence of devotion. We tend to consider everything from the perspective of worldly....

The Various Moods of Love

नासेव तिसंस्ततुखसुिखतम् ॥   nāstyeva tasmiṁs tat-sukhasukhitvam ॥   In lust, one does not feel happy in the Lord's happiness.   A devotee who experiences pure love feels the need to selflessly serve his Beloved. Impure or desirous love cannot enjoy the real happiness of serving, because the nature of this love seeks selfsatisfaction. This difference is the essence of Sage Narad’s message in the above sutra.   There are various moods in love. We can adore the Lord as our master and become his....
Mar 14

True Renunciation

In the Bhagwad Gita (18.11), Krishn states, “Anyone whose soul is in a body cannot stop acting completely. But he who renounces the attachment to the results of his actions is truly renounced.”   It is impossible for anyone to completely stop acting, and the end of action alone is not renunciation. Actual renunciation takes place when the ego and desires for reward are given up. This means to give up acting with selfish motivations. It does not mean we should become lazy or stop thinking. When....