Sunday, December 9, 2012

What Do Hare Krishnas Believe? Part 4: The Nature of God (3)

If you think about it – which is truly the more limiting definition of God? The idea that He cannot or does not have any spiritual body or form, just because we (His tiny parts and parcels covered with limited mundane impressions) can't conceive of how such an idea as God's having a form could be compatible with His being transcendental to the concrete objects of this mundane realm or being possessed of unlimited extension? Or the idea that He is endowed with unlimited spiritual multi-forms, capable of appearing anywhere and everywhere all over Existence in any shape or size at all times simultaneously, and interacting with His devotees according to whichever mood/flavor of service to Him they are enriched with? Which is the more positive concept? I ask you! Which is the more free, unlimited, glorious, powerful, and compatible with the idea of His being omnipotent?

The former idea means that He would be unable to have something that we do have – and value. Most of us value our bodies and the opportunities for enjoyment they afford us. The opportunities to look deep into the eyes of a loved one, hug a friend, smile, lend our hands to a worthy cause – we'd be missing out on a lot of satisfying interaction if we were just composed of some eternal and all-pervading white light. (Yes, we'd be missing out on a lot of suffering too, but imagine if the relishable activities could be had without the suffering.) There's a reason parents put their kids in “time out” when they misbehave: having to sit still is torturous. Our very nature is to be active; we relish and yearn for positive and productive engagement. In fact, we Vaisnavas consider the radical impersonalists' desire to annihilate their own individuality and merge into the “white light” of the Brahman effulgence to be a symptom of deep unhappiness. Unless one found one's relationships and other experiences as an individual person deeply frustrating, why would one ever want to commit “spiritual suicide” by annihilating that individuality?

And why should the master ever be poorer than the servants, or unable to have something good that they enjoy, in any category? No, no. He can never be deprived of anything worth having! On the contrary, His standard of enjoyment should be (and is) better than ours, since His enjoyment takes place on the transcendental spiritual platform and is composed of the exchange of nothing but pure love with His eternal devotees, whereas ours, as long as we remain conditioned, takes place in this temporary material world which is full of unlimited miseries, and is stained by ugly, selfish varieties of sickness like lust, anger and greed.

Impersonalists are right to understand that the contamination of mundane qualities cannot touch the Supreme Lord. However, since they fail to clearly understand the nature of the spiritual world and the full range of positive alternatives that are available there (in the shape of flawless, eternally happy spiritual forms, relationships and variety), they end up concluding that the spiritual world must be more or less just like this one with all the concrete, gross physical stuff removed. Since they have no knowledge of any place full of forms and variety other than the one we live in now, and since their experience with this world includes a lot of painful, disgusting crap, the two concepts unfortunately have become associated in their minds and hence they throw the baby out with the bathwater and decide that the spiritual realm must be a place of pure, abstract reality and formlessness. (For example, they might proclaim such truths as that “God is love”, but since “love” in this world is an abstract idea rather than a person, they might conclude that the same applies to God – not realizing that when you're on the spiritual plane, abstract and subtle concepts appear as visible and tangible persons and conscious objects.) This means that, whether they realize it or not, impersonalists' ideas of what the spiritual plane must be like are based on, and limited by, their experiences of living in this world. The funny part is that that's exactly what they accuse us personalists of!

I can totally see where they're coming from when they say that, because at first glance, it does appear as if personalists are the more childlike ones, claiming that the spiritual world is just more of the same stuff like what we see around us in this world, and they (impersonalists) are the ones who can look beyond and envision something different. But if you really get to know the Vaisnava tradition and explore it in depth, you'll see that we acknowledge the truth of the impersonalists' claims, then say “But there's more – go deeper!” We're aware of various layers and levels of truth within spiritual reality, which impersonalists cannot fathom until they become more childlike, humble and open-minded about what God might be, and what He might be capable of. We haven't invented or dreamed up these deeper spiritual truths; to propagate a work of imagination as the truth would be a despicable form of cheating. On the contrary, we take our information from trustworthy persons who have seen with their own eyes the truth of the descriptions in scriptures like the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Brahma-samhita. Humanity can't attain truly perfect knowledge in any way except through humbly receiving it from God Himself or from those pure souls who are in constant touch with Him.

Positive and definite force or presence is always more powerful than vague conceptions or negative lack thereof. The positive always wins out in the end. And the Vedic understanding of God is the most positive one ever. There is nothing vague or negative about Him. Aspects that are inconceivable to us, yes, there certainly may be – how could we expect otherwise? Our brains are pretty darn tiny within the endless entirety of Existence, and since the totality of Everything is contained within Him, He has to be a Personality in whom all kinds of opposites are resolved! But vague, illogical, or negative – no. Endless varieties of scriptures describe His personal qualities in minute detail and analyze them scientifically with examples to help us understand. The Vedic theological version holds up under deep and thorough scrutiny. And since we are His own parts and parcels, He naturally wishes for us nothing other than perfect health and happiness, so we experience His activities as greatly merciful. He'll conquer the world with His love, because our very nature is drawn to His sweetness, power, beauty, mercy and kindness, His unlimited pastimes and glorious qualities. 

To be continued... 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What Do Hare Krishnas Believe? Part 3: The Nature of God (2)

The most immediate objection to Hare Krishnas' theological personalism from those influenced by impersonalism comes from their impression that when we say “God has a body,” we have to mean a material body like yours or mine. Some impersonalists or semi-impersonalists might verbally object; others might react with benign patronization of us – wishing us well on our path, no matter how weird or silly it might seem to them. Some might even respond (externally or internally) with “WHAT? HOW BLASPHEMOUS! GET OUT OF HERE! How dare you speak of the Supreme Almighty God in such a way?! How can anyone be so ignorant??” And this reaction of theirs would be absolutely appropriate, if anyone did say such a stupid thing as that God has a material body.  

But there are big differences between our bodies and God's. Ours are perceivable by our present material senses; His isn't – unless, that is, He chooses to make Himself visible and tangible to us, which He seldom wants to do except for those devotees who are 100% pure in heart, with no faults whatever. Ours are full of ignorance where His is full of all knowledge. Ours can give us pain whereas His is full of nothing but bliss. Ours are temporary – able to be killed, and certain to die in the end – whereas His is invincible and eternal.

When these points have been clarified, the next objection is “Well, how can anyone believe that the Unlimited has some kind of body – even a spiritual one? Doesn't a body necessarily impose limits on His extension – doesn't a form automatically make Him measurable and therefore finite?”

The answer is that this type of thinking, too, is based on our material conditioning (i.e., our having lived in this material world for so long and being accustomed to the way stuff works here). Here in this world, with material forms all around us, the idea that “form means something limited” is very correct, logical and reasonable. However, things work differently on the spiritual plane, and God's (Krsna's) body is pure spirit. The Vedic scriptures describe many wonderful things that He's able to do with His spiritual body, which would be completely impossible with a material body. For one thing, He can separate endless “portions” out of Himself (living personalities who are endowed with different percentages of His nature and qualities), or even multiply Himself into many equally powerful forms / copies of Himself, and yet His original form remains full and complete. A material form, if something is removed from it or if it's divided into many, becomes diminished – as Srila Prabhupada says, in the material world, 1 - 1 = 0; but the spiritual realm is the absolute plane, where 1 - 1 = 1. So this is one way of explaining how God's / Krsna's form can be unlimited: you can take from Him endlessly yet He remains as full and complete as before.

Then there are the many accounts of how Krsna's devotees failed in attempts to accurately measure His body, and found out instead that He was truly infinite, although He appeared before their eyes in what looked like a measurable form. Mother Yasoda (the foremost devotee who eternally serves Him in the mood of a mother) saw the entire universe within His mouth, including herself holding Him on her lap, which conjures up images of infinity. (Was there another, smaller universe in the mouth of that small form of the Lord that she saw inside His mouth? And were she and her divine son, and the universe they were enacting their pastimes in, also within the mouth of some unimaginably gigantic form of the Lord??? And so on and so forth.) Another time, Mother Yasoda kept trying and trying to tie Krsna up with ropes as a way of putting Him in “time out” for being naughty, but no matter how many long ropes she tied together, when she attempted to encircle His waist with them, they always came up two inches too short. How could any number of ropes be successful in encircling the unlimited Lord – even if He had taken the form of a small boy in order to give pleasure to His beloved Mother Yasoda? And I have heard a couple different versions of pastimes in which the Lord is put on one side of a balance scale, but no matter how many heavy material goods are piled on the other side, He can't be lifted off the ground; not until something else of incalculable spiritual value is placed on the other side can He finally be lifted. So in spite of having a form that looks like ours in many ways, and looks like it could be measurable, the fact is that the Absolute Lord and Sum Total of All can never actually be measured.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Do Hare Krishnas Believe? Part 2: The Nature of God (1)

All the theological beliefs in the world can be divided into two camps: the personalist, i.e. those that describe God as the Supreme Person (our loving Father, etc.), and the impersonalist, i.e. those that describe the ultimate Absolute Truth as formless, faceless, and impersonal.  Throughout the history of the world, it is the former who has introduced Himself to us over and over again through revelation, and it is the latter concept that has over and over again been arrived at through human intellect, reasoning and philosophy.  The idea that the Supreme Infinite Absolute Truth could be a Person with feelings, eager to awaken a relationship with us, and even more radical -- that He could have a transcendental BODY, is difficult for the rational human intellect to grasp.  Such an idea is generally dismissed, to one degree or another, by humans with a strong aptitude for rational thinking as being due to the anthropomorphic imagination of the simple, childlike masses.  Each time God has revealed Himself to mankind as a personal God, after the first blush of excitement and devotional service to Him that springs up, it's only been a matter of time before philosophers begin questioning the revealed tradition that describes Him in personal terms, saying it couldn't possibly be meant literally, and editing it (or at least footnoting and explaining it) to their own satisfaction, which basically changes that religious tradition's concept of Him to a far more impersonal one.  Time after time, this scenario has played out.  I'm afraid that the majority of faithful in the world are very much influenced by these skeptical, rationalist, human-generated, impersonal ideas about God.

The problem is that the farther you go down that road, the harder it is to feel any love for God, which is the whole thing that makes religion worthwhile.  Being saved is not the most important idea -- which some people have noticed, as evidenced by the sort of fun, flippant comments they'll make sometimes about how boring Heaven sounds and how they might almost prefer Hell if there's better company down there.  Wanting to be saved from Hell is a very negative reason to want to go to Heaven.  The positive reason -- what we're REALLY looking for -- is what we in the Vaisnava tradition call rasa, or "juice": anything that makes life sweet, interesting, delightful and worthwhile.  A lovable God whom you're actually inspired to spend your time serving is what makes religion fulfilling!  And the fewer glorious, exciting, wonderful qualities you're able to attribute to Him and praise Him for, the fewer stories you're able to tell of personal dealings He had with you or others you respect and care about (ways that He offered His protection and/or the possibility of sweet relationships with Him), the more He tends to fade into the background, becoming simply something you believe in (e.g., an eternal force underlying, permeating and sustaining the world) rather than someone you can actively serve in loving relationship.  It begins to make less difference whether you believe in Him/It or not, and you get closer to out-and-out atheism.

Hare Krishnas acknowledge that God does have an impersonal aspect, which it is possible for intelligent human beings (like Socrates and others) to realize the truth of through their own powers of reasoning, even without having met or heard from any representative of God.  However, the human intellect is not able to penetrate any farther than that on its own into understanding God; and there is so much more to know about Him, which we can only understand through His merciful revelations.  We are infinitesimal, and He is infinite: how could we possibly expect to be able to understand everything about the unlimited Lord with our small, limited minds?  So although both conceptions of God are correct, the personal aspect (called Bhagavan) is the deepest and most complete realization of Him; that transcendental form of the Lord is the energetic source of the impersonal Brahman energy, just as the sun is the source of the sunlight.  Therefore, we Hare Krishnas are situated in the personalist camp.

Whenever we recite the standard prayers to Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acarya of our movement, part of the praise we offer him therein is that he came to deliver the Western countries from impersonalism and voidism.  Oh, yes -- belief in God the Person, our eternal loving Friend, Sri Krsna, whose body is imperishable, transcendental, spiritual, and full of bliss and knowledge, who is the reservoir of all beauty and pleasure and power -- is central indeed to everything we are and everything we do.

As I alluded to above, both in the East and in the West, personalists encounter plenty of condescension from impersonalists, who patronize our "anthropomorphism" and consider the idea of a God with a personal form to be childish, suitable only for simple-minded beginners.  However, considering that God loves the humble, simple and childlike devotee and has said "Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven", I really wonder how those who consider themselves Christian, at least, can hold that against us!

Now, let's see whose view actually makes more sense.

To be continued...

Monday, October 15, 2012

What Do Hare Krishnas Believe? Part 1: Energies

There are many ways I could introduce the ABCs of the Hare Krishnas' understanding of reality.  Here is one approach.  There is SO much more to tell; I didn't even get into the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra here, what it is and why we do it, which is so basic to our identity!  I'll have to get to that in a future blog post.  Also, sorry that I didn't include any scriptural citations to back up the points I made here.  Maybe I'll be able to find those and add them in sometime later -- although I'm not going to promise that!  :)

1. God (Krsna) is the eternally-existing fountainhead or source of everything that be. Everything emanates from him, just like sunlight from the sun.

2. As the sunlight is the energy of the sun, so everything emanating from Krsna is technically called His energy.

3. Krsna's energies, though unlimited in variety, can be divided into three main categories: interior, marginal, and exterior. His interior and marginal energies are both composed of living spiritual beings, who all have three properties, namely eternal existence (sat); consciousness, awareness, or knowledge (cit); and bliss (ananda). His external energy, on the other hand, takes the shape of various material elements, some of which are termed "subtle" and some "gross," but all of which are simply inert matter until activated by the Lord and the living spiritual entities. The subtlest (most difficult to detect) of all material elements is the false ego that makes those of us who are covered by it identify with our temporary material bodies and feel like we're independent islands, unconnected to God, who in reality is the very source of our existence and our eternally loyal, patient, and caring best friend and parent. The next-subtlest material element is the rational intellect, which analyzes information in search of understanding or assesses options in search of the best course of action. The third is the subjective mind or emotional psyche, which is in charge of deciding what we do and don't like/enjoy/appreciate (we Hare Krishnas call it the mind). Then there are the gross elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. I like how Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu, in "The Nature of the Self: A Gaudiya Vaisnava Understanding", "translated" these traditional terms into ones more intelligible to modern scientific minds by proposing that earth = solids, water = liquids, air = gases, fire = radiant energy and ether = space.

4. What is the difference between the interior and marginal energies of Krsna, which are both made up of living spirit? His interior energy is His eternally great saktis or powers, who can never become covered by the material elements or influenced by the illusory world-view caused by such a covering, whereas the marginal energy is made up of multitudes of infinitesimally tiny spiritual sparks (jivas), who are capable of becoming so covered. Those of us who live here in the realm of matter belong to this category of covered jivas.

5. Each and every one of the innumerable jivas in existence has a unique and eternally individual spiritual personality, and a similarly individual innate relationship with God that is based on his or her unique nature.

6. The best purpose for which we can use our human life is to uncover and reawaken our memory of this special relationship that we are supposed to be enjoying with God, because forgetting about it and looking elsewhere for happiness is the source of all the futility and suffering that is to be found within this world.

Why is that so? What are the processes by which this emancipating and fulfilling self-realization can be attained? And how did we come to be covered in the first place? Why are we here in the material world -- and why does it often seem to be such a nasty place? Why doesn't God make it perfect here? Who is God -- what is He like? Where, how and with whom does He live? What are the different kinds of relationships we can have with Him? These are just a few of the questions I'd like to address in future blog posts. Stay tuned! I'm trying to make sure I post something here at least once a month. :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Looking for God

In Mumbai, India, on February 24th, 1971, Srila Prabhupada (His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness [ISKCON], the group I've belonged to since birth) was giving a lecture on the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 20.137-146.
Prabhupada: So in Koran there is God consciousness, in Bible there is God consciousness, in Vedas God consciousness. Now you have to utilize it, develop it. The aim and objective is already there. But in the Vedic literature they are very explicitly presented. That is the difference. The Christians, they agree, “God is great.” We also agree, “God is great.” But how God is great, that is explained in the Vedic literature. There is no difference of opinion if one is actually religious. God created this world, God is the supreme father, God is great. This is accepted by everyone, either Hindu or Muslim or Christian. There is no doubt about it. But in the Vedic literature you'll understand how God is great, how He is acting as father. That's all. Even God's name is there, God's address is there. Do you agree to this point? Yes, that is the difference. Any other scriptures, if you ask what is the name of God, what is His address, what He is doing, they cannot give you. But we can give. We do not give; God Himself gives, Krsna. Krsna says, “My address is like this.” What is that? Yad gatva na nivartante tad dhama paramam mama [Bhagavad-gita 15.6]. That is address. Paras tasmat tu bhavo 'nyo 'vyakto 'vyaktat sanatanah [Bhagavad-gita 8.20]. God is giving address. We have to note down. And His name is Krsna. You'll find Vyasadeva is writing sri bhagavan uvaca, “the Supreme Personality of Godhead speaking, or Krsna.” And in the sastras [scriptures] there is list of incarnation of God. And Vyasadeva concludes: ete camsa kalah pumsah krsnas tu bhagavan svayam: [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.28] “All the list, comprehending list, they are either part or part of the part of God. But the name Krsna,” krsnas tu bhagavan svayam, “He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Similarly, in the Brahma-samhita it is said,
isvarah paramah krsnah
anadir adir govindah
[Brahma-samhita 5.1]
Sarva-karana-karanam. And Krsna also says, mattah parataram kincid asti, kincid asti dhananjaya. “There is no more.”
Srila Prabhupada said this same sort of thing many times, and this was the initial inspiration behind my blog's title: What is God's address? If you want to know, come and ask here, because we Gaudiya Vaisnavas can tell you. Through the authority of God-given scriptures and many pure devotees of the Lord who've spoken with Him face to face, we have so much information about where He lives, what His name is, what are the names of His family members and best friends, and what He likes to do all day. What is He doing up there all the time with His loved ones in His eternal realm? Just come and find out!
However, I also had other thoughts in mind in relation to my blog's title. My son has a “First Little Golden Book” called My Little Book of Prayers, which I dearly love. One of the prayers in it goes like this:
Where is God?
In the sun, the moon, the sky,
On the mountains, wild and high,
In the thunder, in the rain,
In the vale, the wood, the plain,
In the little birds that sing,
God is seen in everything.
I think this is something that all religions teach. Mine certainly concurs. So that is another answer to the question “Where is God to be found?” “Everywhere! In every part of His creation, great and glorious or small and precious. All of it is perfect, all bears His mark and points to Him.” The Franciscans are big on this point. In her article Franciscan Symbolism, Sister M. Michaeline, O.S.F. says of St. Francis: “He paid deference and courtesy to every creature because every creature to him was a monstrance bearing the God of all truth, goodness and beauty.” To further illustrate this idea, she quotes the wonderful, eloquent, true and enlightening words of Maurice Zundel from his work The Splendour of the Liturgy, because she says these words do best at explaining St. Francis's attitude toward creatures:
The very notion of them (creatures) takes us beyond their present realization towards the boundless Ocean of Being, and what is most perfect in the created order, includes in its own value its value as a symbol. In fact since every being possesses its peculiar excellence, it is essentially a revelation of God.
It is in this way that the Infinite is in creatures. It is thus that everything becomes worthy of veneration, and the world puts on grandeur.
Another answer to the question of where to find God also involves finding Him within this world, but rather than taking notice of the more general (albeit nonetheless wondrous) way in which He is present everywhere, this approach looks for special places where He is particularly to be found. In the Karttika-Mahatyma of Padma Purana is a famous verse wherein the Lord proclaims, naham vasami vaikunthe yoginam hrdaye na ca (or yoginam hrdayesu va) / mad-bhakta yatra gayanti tatra tisthami narada. It means, “O Narada, I don't live in Vaikuntha nor in the hearts of the yogis, but wherever My devotees are singing, there I reside.” The Lord's devotees sing ecstatic kirtana out of their overflowing love for Him, and this attracts Him so much that He prefers to live there over anywhere else. So another question I'm asking with my blog's title is – where is God especially to be found within this world? Which people in each faith tradition are successfully doing His will, living according to His heart, and displaying His love to the world? Who is pleasing Him and living in His grace? If I wanted to find God, where could I look for Him? With whom and in what? What can I do in order to find Him (and how can I serve Him & please Him)? Which things remind me of Him? Where in this world is He to be found? Where is He?

From a lecture given by Srila Prabhupada on Srimati Radharani's Appearance Day, in London, on September 18, 1969:
The Gosvamis... they’re searching after. He radhe vraja-devike ca lalite he nanda-suno kutah/ sri-govardhana-kalpa-padapa-tale kalindi-vane kutah: “Are you there under the Govardhana Hill or on the banks of the Yamuna?” Kalindi-vane kutah. Ghosantav iti sarvato vraja-pure khedair maha-vihvalau. Their business was crying like this, “Where are You? Where are You, Radharani? Where are you, Lalita, Visakha, the associates of Radharani? Where are You, Krsna? Are You near Govardhana Hill or on the bank of the Yamuna?” Ghosantav iti sarvato vraja-pure. So throughout the whole tract of Vrndavana they were crying and searching after Them, khedair maha-vihvalau, as if madmen. Khedair maha-vihvalau. Vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau.

So we have to follow the footprints of the Gosvamis, how to search out Krsna and Radharani, in Vrndavana or within our hearts. That is the process of Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s bhajana: feeling of separation, vipralambha, vipralambha-seva. 
The Lord is the answer to our deepest longings. He is Love, as is well-known. Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est (Where charity and love are, God is there). What else are we looking for? So in looking for Him, and all the traces, hints and flavors of Him and His sweetness and kindness that I can find anywhere, in practice this blog of mine will also become a collection of what we ISKCON members call “nectar.” Please feel free to dive in! :D

Srila Prabhupada lecture quotes copyright © The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International,
My Little Book of Prayers copyright © 1982 by Western Publishing Company, Inc.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mangalacarana / Invocation

In the Gaudiya Vaisnava (Hare Krishna) line to which I belong, the following are standard prayers that we may recite before entering into any speaking or writing endeavor.  The purposes of these prayers are to offer our deep thanks and ecstatic praise to the saints and sages who have gone before us as well as to the Lord Himself in His various forms, and to request mercy upon us from all these wonderful persons.

For me, these prayers are nothing short of amazing in their lyrical beauty and depth of feeling, and they seem more and more so the more progress I make in understanding and appreciating them instead of taking them for granted.  I encourage anyone else who feels interested in them to get a copy of the Songs of the Vaisnava Acaryas book if you don't have it already, and study these Sanskrit verses along with their word-for-word meanings (which I'm leaving out of this post for the sake of brevity, but which helped me so much in learning to understand the gorgeous Sanskrit and what it means).  There is a pronunciation guide at the back of the book.  Even from amongst the standard prayers of invocation, what I've included here is just a sample.  There are so many more beautiful verses available there to dive into!  And what to speak of the songs throughout the rest of the book!  To me, the songbook is delicious, addictive, irresistible.  When no other obligation is pressing on me too painfully I can spend happy hours reading it, singing the variegated words of love and wisdom, and floating in nectar.  :)

If anyone unfamiliar with this book is interested in obtaining a copy, your local ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple may well carry it, and someone at the temple would also very likely be able to teach you the melodies for the songs.  If it sounds intriguing to you to see how an ancient form of worship from Vedic India is carried out faithfully in the modern day, and to taste a little of our famous sanctified food (prasadam), your nearest Hare Krishna temple may be worth a visit.  Otherwise, the book is at the present time available from a few different online stores; just do a search for the title. 

For those of you who, like me, love to see the diacritical marks on the Sanskrit so that you can be sure of pronouncing it correctly, I'm sorry.  I've left them out due to fear that the Sanskrit words might morph into something unreadable for anyone who would be viewing them in a different font. 

* * *

om ajnana-timirandhasya jnananjana-salakaya
caksur unmilitam yena tasmai sri-gurave namah

  "I offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, who has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance, with the torchlight of knowledge."

sri-caitanya-mano-'bhistam sthapitam yena bhu-tale
svayam rupah kada mahyam dadati sva-padantikam

"When will Srila Rupa Gosvami Prabhupada, who has established within this material world the mission to fulfill the desire of Lord Caitanya, give me shelter under his lotus feet?"

vande 'ham sri-guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalam sri-gurun vaisnavams ca
sri-rupam sagrajatam saha-gana-raghunathanvitam tam sa jivam
sadvaitam savadhutam parijana-sahitam krsna-caitanya-devam
sri-radha-krsna-padan saha-gana-lalita-sri-visakhanvitams ca

"I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master and of all the other preceptors on the path of devotional service.  I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaisnavas and unto the six Gosvamis, including Srila Rupa Gosvami, Srila Sanatana Gosvami, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, Jiva Gosvami, and their associates.  I offer my respectful obeisances unto Advaita Acarya Prabhu, Sri Nityananda Prabhu, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and all His devotees, headed by Srivasa Thakura.  I then offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of Lord Krsna, Srimati Radharani, and all the gopis, headed by Lalita and Visakha."

namah om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale
srimate bhaktivedanta-svamin iti namine

"I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krsna on this earth, having taken shelter at His lotus feet."

namas te sarasvate deve gaura-vani-pracarine

"Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Sarasvati Gosvami.  You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Caitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism."

namah om visnu-padaya krsna-presthaya bhu-tale
srimate bhaktisiddhanta-sarasvatiti namine

"I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, who is very dear to Lord Krsna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet."

 vancha-kalpatarubhyas ca krpa-sindhubhya eva ca
patitanam pavanebhyo vaisnavebhyo namo namah

 "I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaisnava devotees of the Lord.  They are just like desire trees who can fulfill the desires of everyone, and they are full of compassion for the fallen conditioned souls."

namo maha-vadanyaya krsna-prema-pradaya te
krsnaya krsna-caitanya-namne gaura-tvise namah

"O most munificent incarnation!  You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krsna.  We offer our respectful obeisances unto You."

he krsna karuna-sindho
dina-bandho jagat-pate
gopesa gopika-kanta
radha-kanta namo 'stu te

"O my dear Krsna, ocean of mercy, You are the friend of the distressed and the source of creation.  You are the master of the cowherdmen and the lover of the gopis, especially Radharani.  I offer my respectful obeisances unto You."

jayatam suratau pangor mama manda-mater gati
mat-sarvasva-padambhojau radha-madana-mohanau

"Glory to the all-merciful Radha and Madana-mohana!  I am lame and ill advised, yet They are my directors, and Their lotus feet are everything to me."

presthalibhih sevyamanau smarami

"In a temple of jewels in Vrndavana, underneath a desire tree, Sri Sri Radha-Govinda, served by Their most confidential associates, sit upon an effulgent throne.  I offer my most humble obeisances unto Them."

sriman rasa-rasarambhi vamsi-vata-tata-sthitah
karsan venu-svanair gopir gopinathah sriye 'stu nah

"Sri Srila Gopinatha, who originated the transcendental mellow of the rasa dance, stands on the shore in Vamsivata and attracts the attention of the cowherd damsels with the sound of His celebrated flute.  May they all confer upon us their benediction."

tapta-kancana-gaurangi radhe vrndavanesvari
vrsabhanu-sute devi pranamami hari-priye
"I offer my respects to Radharani, whose bodily complexion is like molten gold and who is the Queen of Vrndavana.  You are the daughter of King Vrsabhanu, and You are very dear to Lord Krsna."

* * *

Excerpted from "Songs of the Vaishnava Acharyas" by the
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International,

The copyright information that I found at (which also provided permission to reproduce less than 5% of the book if accompanied by the above phrase) stated that the book is "Copyright © 1972-2006 Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, 3764 Watseka Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90034, USA. All rights reserved."