Swami Nikhilanand, a senior disciple of Jagadguru Shree Kripalu Ji Maharaj and preacher of JKP Radha Madhav Dham, will present an enlightening kirtan and lecture series called "Great Saints of India" at Hindu Center of Flushing, April 28th - May 5th 2013.
Dates: Sun. April 28th - Sun, May 5th Times: Both Sundays, 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Monday - Saturday, 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Venue: Hindu Center of Flushing
45-52 Kissena Blvd,
Flushing, New York 11355 Phone: 718-358-6726
In this series, Shree Swami Nikhilanand Ji explains the philosophy of God realization and becoming a Saint according to the teachings of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj. He shares the life history of a few important Saints from the history of India and explains what we can learn from them to help us find God in this life. Some important Saints we'll learn about are: Bhak Dhruv, Bhakt Prahlad, Bhakt Sudama as well as the philosophy of how a Saint actually helps the souls. Swamiji has previously given this series at Radha Madhav Dham and at Hindu centers and temples around the country. Search 'Swami Nikhilanand Saints of India' on youtube to watch! Sample below:
(Vyasar Ganesan was born in Derry, New Hampshire, and raised in Austin. His mother is from near Delhi, and his father comes from southern India. He currently is an arts graduate of Allegheny College, having just finished a senior project in creative nonfiction. Vyasar is a blogger for Radha Madhav Dham, the main US ashram of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj.)
This past Sunday, Siddheshvari Deviji spoke beautifully at Radha Madhav Dham, on a clear, sunny Texas day, with the sun in the sky and lights in the hearts of the devotees. The topic of her lecture was on how "householders" can be as devotional as any sanyasi. Didiji's style of speech is very well-practiced, providing enriching spiritual context alongside entertaining and topical subjects. I'm happy to hear that she'll be staying at the mandir for another few weeks, too.
Her lesson, though, reminded me of another misconception that is very popular about devotion, and one not exclusive to non-Hindus. In every faith, it is stressed that God and religion come before everything else, without exception, without compromise. If we aren't thinking of Bhagwan at any given moment, we're wasting valuable time. Whatever devotional wealth we may have accrued over the course of our soul's existence can be squandered on a whim. Nothing is scarier than being made aware of how exactly little time one has to try and find God in their lifetime.
At the same time, though, we all have obligations. The scheduling of family reunions can run into dates set aside for prayer intensives or lecture series, and cause a great deal of tension. Productivity in the office can drop dramatically when employees are more focused on beloved God than filing papers. To put it roughly, the more time we spend on devotional or spiritual activities, the less we spend in the world.
Whether or not this is a good or a bad thing is purely a matter of perspective. From our fallen, worldly state, it feels like we aren't getting anything done. The bills need paying, the pipes need fixing, there are obligations and demands coming from all angles. We don't have time to sit in prayer and think about God for more than a half-second. But what Didiji's speech reminded me of is that there is another perspective that sees the time we spend searching for God in a wholly positive light. In our hearts and souls, Bhagwan sits, accounting our deeds and watching where we go in our lives. Our devotional actions are the ones that matter the most to Him, and in the end, they have to be the only ones that matter to us, too, if we're sincere in our hopes of finding Him.
Vyasar Ganesan was born in Derry, New Hampshire, and raised in Austin. His mother is from near Delhi, and his father comes from southern India. He currently is an arts graduate of Allegheny College, having just finished a senior project in creative nonfiction. Vyasar is a blogger for Radha Madhav Dham, the main US ashram of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj.
5/14/12 Chicago, IL 8:21 PM
As of last Saturday, I have become a college graduate. I have been granted a Bachelor of Arts degree from an institution of higher learning. In America, most people think of this as a benchmark of success, an achievement of academia in a mundane world. Sitting in the Chicago airport, waiting for a flight home, I am thinking about Lord Ram.
Exiled from Ayodhya at the tender age of eighteen, Ram had no choice but to wander and settle in the jungle for what must have seemed, at its outset, an unknowable span of time. Maharshi Valmiki paints such an intense portrait of His figure in exile, Ram's image is not hard to call to mind. The crown prince, supreme God, sent away from comfort and friends at the peak of his adolescence, making a premature pilgrimage in the wilderness. Ram was someone brought up to rule a kingdom, and was undeniably worthy of the throne at the height of his education. To have come so far and accomplished so much, only to be sent into exile, be attacked by demons, and suffer the perils of the unknown, must have seemed a far fall from grace to some.
But the lesson is not so simple as that. The paths that we follow are not always necessitated by any evil will, nor any past actions come back to deliver their sentence. Sometimes God puts us on unexpected journeys to help us grow. Krishn and Balram went to Mathura and freed His parents from Kans. Vaman covered the three worlds with three strides and brought a proud king to his knees. Our scriptures are full of adventures, journeys, wild rides into the unknown to broaden spiritual understanding and increase devotional wealth. The very name of our religion, Sanatan Dharm, is a message about following the eternal path.
So, to go back to Lord Ram. He and Lakchman had many adventures trying to rescue Sita. After meeting many devotional personalities, building a bridge to Lanka with the help of an army of monkeys, and killing Ravan and his hundreds of millions of demons, Ram returned to Ayodhya at the end of his exile and was crowned king. His younger brother, who sat on the throne in Ram's honor, gladly stepped down to the older, and now more-experienced, king. The great leela of the Ramayan takes place from Ram Bhagwan's birth to ascension, and teaches us a great many things about proper conduct, honor and how to live devotionally. But most importantly, it teaches us to walk the eternal path, to honor God and to understand that our lives are being guided by Him for our betterment.
This past Mother's Day, Radha Madhav Dham gave up their stage to one of India's renowned bansuri (bamboo flute) players: Surmani Rajendra Teredesai. Also performing were renowned tabla player Gourisankar, as well as Manasi Joshi-Singh who accompanied on tanpura. After prasad lunch, the community of Austin and satsangis alike were invited to convene in the Shree Raseshwari Radha Rani Temple to experience a special kind of meditation from the same instrument Krishn plays to call His beloved Gopis.
On any day, one can come to Shree Raseshwari Radha Rani Temple and hear its superb acoustics and appreciate its felicitous setting for musical performances from the humble offerings of the harmonium and dholak players who perform during the satsang services. And those are just the technical aspects. Lest we forget, Shree Raseshwari Radha Rani Temple is imbued with the Divinity of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj himself. From deep down in its soil, in which the foundation was laid, from the embryo of its design, the vision of its structure, throughout its construction, to every last minute detail, this temple carries this Divine uniqueness. So when, on this past Mother's Day, renowned Indian musicians came to play their "captivating, melodious, and soulful" music here, perhaps what could be overlooked was how such a thing of greatness differentiates itself from the infinite greatness of God. That is why it was so important to report that after the concert, Rajendra Teredesai made it plain to us that during his performance here, he felt so inspired that he "could have played all night." He expressed how he felt "grateful to play in such a beautiful and Divine atmosphere," and wishes to "return soon and perform for the devotees at Radha Madhav Dham." And he added that "it felt like I am praying in Vrindaban; I feel free to humbly offer my prayer to Lord Krishn in the form of my music," and in so doing, preserve the purity of my music playing here."
The setting in the Radha Madhav Dham Temple hall was a superb environment for such an intimate concert presentation. Decorated in Mother's Day pink with colorful, painted-silver balloons floating about the stage, the players came dressed in orange and yellow. The music filled the hall creating such a relaxing atmosphere that one could close their eyes and feel the devotional vibrations raining throughout the Raseshwari Radha Rani Temple.
Sunday afternoon, when Rajendra Teredesai sat down to play his bansuri, the audience began to understand just what Rajendraji describes in his performance as a "Divine Conversation." After the concert, Rajendraji graciously allowed us to talk with him candidly about it. He described that when he plays how he loses himself and allows the vibrations from the flute to be a conduit to his offering to Krishn. He says, "He (Krishn) takes over and supplies me with the energy to perform all night long sometimes."
Many dedicated, spiritual people have reported to him that after his performances throughout India and abroad that they experience true roop dhyan of Krishn's form. Rajendraji said that it is to his Guru's credit (the legendary Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia) that he is able to share this 'divine conversation' with his audience, because "that is what it is all about." He said, "For me, music is not entertainment, absolutely it is a religion for me, it is dharma."
Also noteworthy is that Rajendra Teredesai comes from a long lineage of musical teachers that establishes him as true musical master and artist in the Indian tradition, where Guru transmits his knowledge to his disciples, who then become masters themselves and pass on their knowledge as well. Rajendra Teredesai described his ganda bandh ceremony, where this bond between disciple and Guru is solidified with this specific ritual.
In the second part of the concert, the two artists, Rajendra Teredesai and Gourisankar, began to have their own conversation (popularly known as 'jugal bandhi'), that at first began as a simple and playful repertoire between them as each responded to the other's musical phrases. Then it evolved as the phrases became more and more complex and lively. Rajendraji always led it by playing a short phrase on his flute to set up Gourisankar to recreate the same phrase on his tabla. And though the two instruments are of completely different musical classification - the flute a wind instrument and the tabla a percussion instrument - the two masters went on to thrill the audience with a type of frolicsome, improvisational game likened to a teasing of a cat and mouse. At one point, Gourisankar had to concede to Rajendra Teredesai; unable to respond to his bansuri's unique phrases that were beyond the tabla's capability. He could only raise his tabla as a form of surrender. The crowd cheered and the musicians continued.
One concert attendee commented: "It was amazing how the two musicians played so synchronously. It was like they spoke the same musical language, each intuitively reading the other." The two players had indeed never even met each other before this concert. So it was an amazing example of the improvisational characteristics infused in the Indian music tradition.
Rajendra Teredesai performed for Radha Madhav Dham as a charitable donation, but for whoever is interested, Rajendra Teredesai is currently producing a set of five CDs, one of which is available for purchase from his website and/or amazon.com. It is titled "Divine Dimensions."
On the last Saturday of April, in the heart of the Hill Country, an auspicious event happened: Mela at Radha Madhav Dham. Thousands of people enjoyed the festive atmosphere with all the rich, exotic cultural aspects of India.
Just past noon cars started rolling in from FM1826 onto Barsana Road, greeted by purple and white blossoming crape myrtles, to the parking area on large grassy meadows. As the passengers came strolling in, they first encountered the tall, white marble shikhar of the Raseshwari Radha Rani temple. And to their left, on the grass in front of the temple, camels sitting with their coquettish, contented smiles, waited for the children to come ride upon their humps. Attracted by the colorful Indian bazaar, they enjoyed shopping amongst its many wares and hard-bargaining vendors, then it was on to the snow cone stand, the face-painting booth, the Indian sweets seller, the Vedic astrologer, the palmist, the reflexologist and the "May I Help You" booth. Now they'd arrived at the game area. Of the many games, none were video games or anything avidly afforded with special effects - just the kind of simple games requiring a little bit of skill and a dash of imagination that takes you back to another time when fun was not so complicated. Behind these games stood the vaunted cricket batting cage, which required significant skill. The pitching machine lobbed wind-aided, 85-mile-an-hour, bouncing, knuckle-curve balls that even the greatest batsman of all time, Sir Donald Bradman, would have been lucky to hit! Nearby, more kids formed a continuous line to enter the colorful, inflated, bouncy castle.
All of which was enough to make everyone hungry and thirsty on such a sunny day. So, it was on to the dining halls where all the great 'Tastes of India' were offered. It didn't take long for the dining and picnic areas to fill up with people sitting down to enjoy cuisine with names like sambar and masala dosa. There were samosas with honeyed, sweet and sour chutney sauces poured over them, as well as bhel puri, pani puri, idli, and dahi vada. Enticing aromas made mouths water in anticipation, but people discovered the thirst-quenching delights of an ice cold mango lassi, soothing rose milk drinks, and rejuvenating, tangy cups of Indian style sweet chai. Ahhhh.
As folks considered a visit to the main temple hall to experience some cultural and religious traditions of India, the pathway presented an odyssey of diversions, where kids strong-armed their parents to pause and watch Bonzo Crunch. As one volunteer reported, "He had the children literally howling with laughter, like a pied piper he was." But Bonzo Crunch wasn't the only circus act that was a hit that day. Darren Petersen's juggling and comedy entertained the crowds all day long as well.
Inside the temple's main hall, visitors observed a monk in orange robes, full beard and twinkling eyes, who was introduced as Swami Nikhilanand. He fielded many questions from both westerners and Indians. Questions like, "What is karm?" or "How do the Sanskrit scriptures view cosmology?" or "What does it mean to be an 'old soul'?" Canadian-born Swami Nikhilanand, who has extensively studied the philosophy of the prime Sanskrit scriptures (Vedas, Gita, Bhagwatam, Darshan Shastras) explained that many Sanskrit words from the Hindu scriptures have found their way into the American vernacular, but that some of their meanings and pronunciation were altered in the process. Words like karm, pandit and mantra, and concepts like the soul and reincarnation, which have become so commonly used and accepted in the West, actually originated from Hinduism and Sanskrit scriptures.
Later in the afternoon, traditional India dances were performed to a nearly full house. Dancers from the greater Austin area included Hema Raja and her dancers, Shaili Mehta, Tripi Shrinivaan and her friends from Circle C. Vijaya Vavilikolanu, who teaches at Radha Madhav Dham, and Aparaupa Chatterjee, with her Odissi dance troupe, came down from College Station. Also warmly welcomed were Sahiti Dulipala, who just moved here from Buffalo, N.Y., and used a silver plate in a Kuchipudi style that amazed the audience.
Radha Madhav Dham's Mela is and has always been an open house, a day that Radha Madhav Dham especially sets aside to invite neighbors and the public to come and experience the sights, sounds and tastes of traditional Indian culture, and to take in the spiritual atmosphere of an authentic Hindu ashram. The meaning of "Mela" is "the gathering of people," or, more plainly, an Indian fair. And throughout India there are many, many Melas held for various purposes. But here at Radha Madhav Dham, there is a special purpose beyond just providing an annual open house.
Radha Madhav Dham Managing Member, Dr. Chirag Patel, explained simply: "At Radha Madhav Dham, we have inherited a great spiritual legacy, and it is our intention to share that spiritual wealth with everyone who wishes to come." He continued, "Our Mela provides an opportunity for those who have never experienced Indian culture, with its rich spiritual traditions, to taste it firsthand in a fun-filled manner. And what better platform than to taste it here at the largest Hindu Temple in the United States?"
What was perhaps the biggest highlight at this year's Mela, actually occurred long before the event. Weeks of preparation and organizing were carried out by an unprecedented amount of volunteers who came from all over the United States. They weren't here to relax or vacation, as they could have and probably deserved. Instead of going to a nice beach somewhere in the tropics, they used their vacation time to come to Radha Madhav Dham to work, sometimes late into the night, on preparations for the Mela. Power washing, sweeping, polishing, decorating, trucking in loads of groceries, setting up the tables for games and booths, preparing the stage, and the construction of tents for the bazaar. There were volunteers who called more volunteers; there were rooms to clean and extra meals to prepare. Signing on sponsors was perhaps the easiest task because they were delighted to be called and happy to participate. Strong shoulders and healthy backs, as well as those not so strong, were all clear-eyed, full-hearted and grateful to be so fortunate to be a part of Radha Madhav Dham's Mela.
One devotee observed, "Everything was a hit! Every aspect of the Mela went smoothly, and it was because of the volunteers and their devoted enthusiasm. That's what made the difference. That's what made everyone so happy." And that's what thousands of Mela visitors felt that day - happy.
Gita Chapter 2, Part 2 - by Swami Nikhilanand, disciple of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj and sanyasi teacher at JKP Radha Madhav Dham
In the beginning of the second chapter, Bhagwan Shree Krishn explains to Arjun from a sankhya point of view why he should not hesitate to fight the war. From this, we learned that our true identity is the soul, and the soul is eternal and indestructible.
Shree Krishn Explains the Law of Karm to Convince Arjun to Fight the War
Next He explains that, considering the law of karm (action and consequence), from that point of view too, Arjun should fight the war. As previously discussed (see Chapter 1, Part 8), it was clearly Arjun's duty to fight the war. So Shree Krishn tells him that if he does his duty, then he can't lose: if he fights the war and is killed, then he will be rewarded with entry to swarg; and if he fights the war and wins, then he will enjoy the sovereignty of the earth (chapter 2, verse 37). According to the law of karm, he will be rewarded whether he wins or loses the actual war, because he chose to do the right thing.
But if, choosing not to fight, he shirks his duty, he will incur sin which will bring suffering upon him in the next life. In addition, people will see him as a coward because they will assume that he left the battlefield out of fear. He would lose the respect of the other warriors. Thus, ruining his good name and bringing infamy upon himself, he would spoil his happiness in this life; and by incurring the sin of ignoring his duty, he would also spoil his happiness in the next life. Shree Krishn thus explained in simple, straightforward logic why Arjun should fight the war.
However, Arjun was not satisfied with worldly happiness. He had already told Shree Krishn that he did not desire the pleasures of kingship, nor did he desire to be victorious for his own personal glory (chapter 1, verse 32). This meant that the prospect of enjoying more happiness of this world was not an incentive for Arjun to fight the war.
The Futility of Worldly Happiness
In fact, Shree Krishn Himself had already explained the futility of worldly happiness earlier in chapter 2. He told Arjun that the world is full of pairs of opposites, like heat and cold, and pleasure and pain. This situation is such that within each pair of opposites the two keep alternating, which means no situation is ever stable or permanent. In other words, cold doesn't last forever - it eventually gives way to heat; and heat doesn't last forever - it eventually gives way to cold. Pleasure doesn't last forever - it eventually gives way to pain; and pain doesn't last forever - it eventually gives way once again to pleasure (chapter 2, verse 14). All situations are temporary, which means that worldly happiness is always fleeting. Thus, Shree Krishn advised Arjun to remain equanimous both in situations that bring pleasure and in those that cause pain.
He further exposed the nature of worldly happiness when He stated that what is fact cannot cease to exist, and if something does not exist, then it cannot become fact (chapter 2, verse 16). It means that truth is permanent, unchanging, and everlasting. If something is a fact, then it cannot cease being a fact. Accordingly, if the happiness of this world existed as a fact, then it could not stop being a fact. It would exist as a permanent state.
But it doesn't. It exists only as a fleeting experience in our mind, not as a substantial and real thing. We cannot enjoy anything in this world unceasingly. The longer we go on enjoying it, the more the enjoyment fades, until it finishes altogether. If the happiness was real, then where did it go? Why did it vanish? A fact cannot stop being a fact. If there was true happiness in tasty food, then we should be able to go on eating the same food continuously forever and the amount of enjoyment should always remain constant. If there was real happiness in beauty, then we should be able to go on staring at the same beautiful thing forever and never get bored of it; but it never happens that way, we get bored and want a change. Then where did the happiness go?
The truth is that there never was any happiness in those worldly things: not in the tasty food, not in the beauty, not in anything of this world. We experience happiness in the association of those things in proportion to our desire for them. The hungrier we are, the better food tastes, and the more pleasure we receive in eating it. The thirstier we are, the more we enjoy water. The longer we have been separated from the object of beauty, the greater our desire for it has grown, and the greater the pleasure we receive upon meeting with it.
But as we go on eating, our desire for food wanes, and the happiness we experience in eating decreases accordingly. As we go on drinking, our thirst is quenched, and our pleasure in drinking the water also disappears. The longer we go on looking at a beautiful thing, whether it is a person, or a painting, or any natural scene, the more accustomed to that thing we become, and the less desire we have to keep looking at it. Eventually, we become bored, and we want to look at something else. Eventually, we become full from eating or drinking, and we want to stop.
When we reach such a threshold, if we were forced to continue, then the very thing that initially gave us pleasure, would now start giving us displeasure. If we were forced to keep on staring at the same beautiful face or painting for hours on end, we would get fed up and not want to look at it anymore. If there was real happiness in these things, then how could we receive pain from the very same things?
If there was real happiness in any object or person of this world, then everyone would be able to get the same amount of enjoyment out of the same person or thing. Everyone would love chocolate and hate onions. But there is no consistency: some people love onions and hate chocolate. Everyone would feel the same happiness in seeing your son as you do. But they don't; you receive the happiness from your son, because you are attached to him. Your neighbor is not attached to him, so he is neutral towards him. He gets happiness from his son, not your son. Thus, we see that the so-called happiness is received based on the attachment of the mind, not based on the existence of happiness in that person or thing.
Our own experience of this world proves that it does not contain real happiness. We receive a temporary excitement when meeting with the object of our desire or attachment, but that fleeting feeling lives only in our mind, and is the creation of our mind. It has no real existence.
The next question is: if there is no real happiness in this world, then is there only pain? We will see what the philosophy of the Gita has to say about this in the next article.
Shree Krishn explains that, considering the law of karm, from that point of view too, Arjun should fight the war. As previously discussed, it was clearly Arjun's duty to fight the war. So Shree Krishn tells him that if he does his duty, then he can't lose. Because according to the law of karm, he will be rewarded, whether he wins or loses the actual war. However, Arjun was not satisfied with worldly happiness. He had already told Shree Krishn that he did not desire the pleasures of kingship, nor did he desire to be victorious for his own personal glory. This meant that the prospect of enjoying more happiness of this world was not an incentive for Arjun to fight the war.
Note: The entire Bhagavad Gita series by Swami Nikhilanand will continue, once or twice a week, for more than a year and will be an incredible study aid in learning the deepest aspects of Bhagavad Gita from one of the most profound and prolific speakers of Bhagavad Gita in the English speaking world today.
Vyasar was born in Derry, New Hampshire, and raised in Austin. His mother is from near Delhi, and his father comes from southern India. He currently is a senior at Allegheny College, working on a senior project in creative nonfiction. Vyasar is a blogger for Radha Madhav Dham, the main US ashram of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj.
There are a lot of people in the world who believe that Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. They see it as a religion with many gods, from Ganesh to Vayu, representing the elements of the natural world. Such a hierarchy to them is confusing and illogical, with infinite gods operating on infinite levels to control every aspect of human life. There are even practicing Hindus and learned scholars who, believing themselves to have a good understanding of Hinduism, promulgate this confused notion.
First of all, a guiding principle of Sanatan Dharm is Eko Devah: One God. This means there is only one Divine, omnipotent, omnipresent, everlasting, ever-loving Being Who is unlimited in all aspects and functions. Bhagwan (God) is above all things material, beyond the veil of maya that separates the souls from God. (For the sake of this post, I will use the capital 'G' to discuss Divine God.) However, Divine God does appear to souls in different Divine forms (such as Ram and Krishn), and we can love Him in whatever form we like. But every form of Divine God is internally one and the same.
Celestial gods, on the other hand, are like the 'employees' of God's mayic (material) power. These gods, like Vayu, Kamdev, Indra and Agni, reside in swarg exhibiting the same petty behavior as the souls on Earth. They are not spirits or forces of unconquerable might. They are limited beings like us.
Regardless of where this notion of polytheism came from, it has unfortunately become very popular. I've talked to people on three continents who've asked me how many gods I worship. Some who ask are genuinely curious, others are mocking, and plenty just don't know. But inside I know, and I think we all know that the quantity of God's Divine forms isn't what matters. What matters is that They are the forms of one God, and how we experience and cultivate our relationship with our chosen form of God is what shapes our faith.
Radha Madhav Dham and Radha Madhav Society invite you to join us for our Memorial Day retreat at Radha Madhav Dham in Austin, Texas from May 26 - 28, 2012, under the guidance of Sushree Siddheshvari Devi, a pracharak and senior disciple of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj. Enhance your knowledge of scriptures and improve your devotion to God through interesting and thought-provoking talks, Q&A sessions, guided roop dhyan, nagar sankeertan, beautiful bhajans, youth sessions and picnics, all in the serene and devotional atmosphere of Radha Madhav Dham.
There is no registration fee to attend this retreat but you must register yourself.
Step 3. Visiting www.JKP.org and www.RadhaMadhavDham.org to learn more about the teachings and national and international activities of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj and JKP Radha Madhav Dham or to purchase books and DVDs by Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj and JKP Radha Madhav Dham.