Monday, September 5, 2011

The feminine aspect of the divine

Today is Radhashtami - the appearance day of Srimati Radharani, the divine consort of Lord Sri Krishna. I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss the gender of God :)

I know lot of people think God is formless. But thats not the point of this blog. The scriptures describe the Supreme Lord in many places, and all of them talk about His beautiful three fold bending form - a 16 year old boy, dark as a monsoon cloud, with lotus like eyes, nose like a sesame flower and lips as red as the bimba fruit.
Even if people accept this form of God, they sometimes protest - why male? Why is God not female? Why the bias?

And here people miss the point. The original Supreme Person is the source of all energy. And that Supreme Energy is Srimati Radharani. She is the divine mother, the embodiment of all virtues. Energetic and energy together comprise the divine. One is incomplete without the other. The Supreme person Krishna, expands into Vishnu, Rama and other masculine forms, while Srimati Radharani exapands into Laxmi, Seeta and other feminine forms.
 God an His energy can be compared to the sun and sunshine. The moment there is sun, there will be sunshine - Similarly, the sun is incomplete without the sunshine. Both exist together. Thus, Krishna and Radha exist together, eternally and are worshipped together
 The relationship between Radha and Krishna is that of inconceivable identity in difference. They are, in essence, a single entity—God—who manifests as two distinct individuals for the sake of interpersonal exchange.

Krishna Consciousness is a celebration of this relationship. In fact, when we chant

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

we mention:
8 times the name of Sri Radhe, Hare, the energy of the Lord
4 times the name of Sri Krishna, the Supremely attractive one and
4 times the name  of Sri Rama, the source of all pleasure

Thus through these 16 syllables we pray to God (Sri Krishna and Srimati Radharani) - the source of all energy, all attractive, and the source of all pleasure - to engage us in their service and revive our own loving relationship with them.

"May that Srimati Radhika--whose bodily complexion steals the pride of a golden lotus flower tinged with kunkuma, whose bodily fragrance overshadows the fame of a fragrant lotus sprinkled with saffron powder, and who fulfills all the desires of the prince of Vraja, Sri Krishna--always bestow upon me the service of Her lotus feet."
-Radhikashtakam verse 1

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Indradyumna Swami - my inspiration

I recently rediscovered one of the treasures of ISKCON - Indradyumna Maharaj's 'Diary of a travelling monk'. Indradyumna Maharaj, is one of the leaders of the Krishna Conscious movement. He has been spreading the word of God in remote corners of the globe -  Kazakhistan, Poland, Checkoslovakia, in the amazon forests and numerous other such exotic places. His diaries have been around since 1995 - but I never quite got around to reading them.
Recently, they published the Indian edition of his diaries - 2 books - 5 diaries each - chronicling Maharaj's experiences from 1995 - 2010. These books aren't very big - Maharaj writes approximately 15-20 entries every year. I finally managed to lay my hands on a copy and got around to reading them.
I am so grateful to Maharaj that he has given us a glimpse into his mind and heart, through those diaries. On the mundane level, the diary reads like an exotic adventure. He talks about conducting harinam sankirtan on war - torn streets, car rides at midnight in a city under curfew,  discussing God consciousness with soldiers and prisoners and giving lectures in mosques and churches. Every page is a spiritual joyride, describing a new experience in the life of a travelling missionary.
Many of these entries made me feel grateful that I live in a country like India, where the government, the climate and the people are such that the situation is very favorable for me to practice my Krishna Consciousness. The freedom of religion and spirituality I have is indeed a blessing. The whole diary inspires me to become more sincere in my spiritual practices.
But more than that, the diaries reveal the consciousness of an individual who has given his life completely in the service of God. Maharaj shows us a glimpse of his vast knowledge of  vedic literature and text. But the book is not at all scholarly - in fact the language is very simple, straightforward and humble. Maharaj always gives credit for all his successes to his spiritual master - Srila Prabhupada. The diary also contains a lot of appreciation of his disciples, other ISKCON leaders and other devotees he meets during his travel. It shows his mood, - Srila Prabhupada had instructed him, "Be bold. Preach everywhere" - the diary is a glimpse of his untiring efforts to follow that instruction and the total happiness that he derives in doing the same. The diaries are testimony to the fact that Krishna Consciousness is such an active, thrilling, joyous and enlivening process - a process that is universal and can bring eternal happiness to anyone who simply takes up chanting
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare Hare

Thank-you Indradyumna Maharaj, for your wonderful diaries. You are my hero :)
The entire diaries are freely available on travelingmonk/diaries
As and when he writes a new entry - he publishes it online - 2011 has been equally wonderful :)