Kirttan with Sudarshan Prabhu & Anukrishna Devi Dasi.
nadiya godrume nityananda mahajana… (song)
avatara sara gora avatara… (song)
hari he doyala mora jaya radha-nath… (song)
janama saphala ta ra… (song)
Learn to be a Lover
(19 January, 2016. Gupta Govardhan)
Question: What do you find inspiring in your life?
Sudarshan Prabhu: Great question! I am going to give you a little biography so you can understand the context of where I come from. I grew up in a spiritual household. I was raised vegetarian and I was familiar until 8 years old with the devotee life, living in temples and then we moved from Los Angeles to the mountains in California up. Way up in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I went to a one room school from kindergarten to 8th grade, we lived way in the woods we did not have electricity for years and we were kind of waiting for the Russians to nuke us, but that never happened. (Laughs.) From there we moved back to Los Angeles by this time I was 14 years old. It took me about one day to realize that I was pretty clueless and not cool, I did not know how to dress, I did not know how talk. Then we lived in LA for a year and then we moved to Chicago where my dad went back to school at University of Chicago. University of Chicago, for those who do not know, is in the south of Chicago which is like a total ghetto. So I went from there to a 90% African American public high school where I acted a different way, changed my haircut, shaved head, part in my hair, big earrings, as a gangster kid. But in that moment I started to realize some things that my parents were telling me. I noticed that the identity I took on was completely superficial, like in one high school I am one way around a certain group of kids and with another group of kids I am acting a different way. But who am I? I am not a basketball player, I am not any of these designations that we might put on ourselves, like the group of people we were in. So that was good because even if you are raised among spiritual people at some point you have to start to desire it for yourself. Getting to the family question like your parents can point you in a direction, but ultimately your life is yours to live and you have to find your own authenticity. Then from there I went to two different other high schools and then to college and after college I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. I then went to India for a while. By the grace of Srila Gurudev some strength of purpose came in my life, but then the rest of your karma sort of sweeps you in. I got a job, I got married and did everything I said I wasn’t gonna do (laughs), I bought a house, a car and all these things.
What inspires me in my life are the teachings of Guru Maharaj. That no matter what your external circumstances are the Lord, His attentive Will, His attentive gaze is upon you. To really believe this and to feel it in your life, that is wonderful. Guru Maharaja said that there should not be a second that passes in our life where we don’t feel we are being bathed in nectarine glance of our Lord, cause it is the Truth. The circumstances that come to us and the people that we meet, and the things that we hear, and we see, and all the situations that we are in in life. We should feel is prasadam of the Lord, it is His grace, and we should remember that in every moment. That within this circumstance is nectar. Wherever I am, whatever I am seeing, the air I breath, the blinking of my eyes, every moment, every second remember our Lord and seeing Him within our circumstance. And not just that, but seeing the sweetness, the benevolence and love of the Lord within the circumstance no matter how difficult it is. Because there is a jewel that is hidden in the darkness of every night that we might experience. We are to feel the dark nights of the soul. We are to feel some dissatisfaction and some desperation even I can say in life. Hidden within that feeling that we all do not want is the jewel of progress. Because progress means elimination and new acceptance. Some parts of us that are egotistical and not who we want to be must drop away in order for the golden self to come out. So as we go through our moments in our life whatever may come to us whatever circumstance we may find us in do not judge it too harshly because there is sweetness and the smiling face of the Lord behind that curtain that we can not see. We are being pulled toward a destination and toward a state of being that we do not understand right now. That is the meaning of transcendental, it means it’s beyond our capacity to imagine it. So do not live this spiritual life of imagination, that is not going to help you. Do not imagine what progress is and then hold your life according to the standard of your own imagined idea. (Laughs.) Let life itself show you what progress is. Deal with your circumstances, deal with the people and the situations in front of you because within that is your progress.
I can say that’s a thesis that is beautifully given by our teachers. I can feel that movement in my life, no matter what you may see in someone’s external circumstance everyone is feeling some lack and some hankering, maybe some pain too like Lord Buddha said “everyone is in pain so be kind.” That feeling is not to be run away from. So many distractions, intoxications, wanting to run physically to a different circumstance, that may come up within us, but my feeling is don’t. See what jewel is hidden in this circumstance that has been arranged for you by God and face it without fear because it is benevolent, it is loving and it is the key to real progress, authentic progress, not imagined progress.
Different circumstance occurred in my life. There was a time where I lost a whole ton of money by just being an idiot. I felt so regretful for that and of course you are sleepless and I started to read these books with a new sense of desire. Because you are desperate, there is something occurring that you don’t want to process right now, like it shouldn’t have happened, it shouldn’t have been this way. Was there a bug in the universal code? Something went wrong, this is not exactly how is should have turned out. But there is no bug in the code, it’s just right and I found my own sadhana of if I am sleepless, lay there and feel it and smile and remember God and do not shirk that circumstance, and if you are sleepless again the next night then lay there smile, embrace it, and feel it, and remember God because you will move forward. I felt this in my life.
So Guru Maharaj said in a beautiful chapter, “live in guardian consciousness”. It is a very profound thing to say. Guardian means, who wants what is good for me more than I want and who knows what is good for me more than I know. Can you believe that God is your guardian? Can that type of faith exist within you? If the answer is yes then there should be no fear, there will be no fear. That’s how we live in fearlessness because no matter what my ego might say, I don’t want this to happen, what is the cause of all our fears? I have predefined a set of circumstances that I do not want to occur, but I know that I am not in control of the entire universe. So what is my fear? That one of the set of circumstances that I predefined as should not happen, might happen. That is the cause of fear, or one of the predefined set of circumstances that I have defined must happen, might not happen. (Laughs.)
So the cause of our fear is that we want to control our environment, we want to control what happens in the world, what happens in our life and we are really afraid to leave it up to God. God is good, God is our guardian so let it happen. There is something greater than ourselves we don’t understand. Teachers are telling us “you have no idea what kind of wealth is inside of you”, you are looking everywhere else, outside of yourself trying to accumulate stuff. That’s what we are doing, we have all these things and we think, “Is this going to make me happy?” Hold on I need some more of that. But no I am still not happy. Outside we are always looking and trying to arrange all these things in our world that at some point it’s so close, we think it’s going to make me happy real soon, but I really need this thing. As soon as it is, if this thing could just here it would be all better then it’s finally here and then immediately what happen to your mind? That thing (laughs) it is almost like a mania. That is why you heard some of the realized sadhus they are saying: you guys are like madman. Are we all mad? Yeah sort of, a little bit. We are looking outside our real self, the spirit, the particle of consciousness and manipulating trinkets like pieces of glass and rock. And then you go to Venice beach and you see some guy walking down on the sand picking up pieces of glass and you think: wow that guy is crazy, what is he doing? But what are we doing? We are thinking, “My stuff is really important and valuable,” but that guy is crazy. That is what we are doing, we are seeking our wealth, we are seeking our happiness in temporary objects and giving ourselves the illusion of consuming them and controlling them and acquiring them. Then we know it doesn’t make us happy, because immediately what is the next thing? It’s like you’ve got the 500,000 dollars house and now you want the million dollars house. Then you’ve the million dollars house and now you want an island or whatever it is. People are endlessly consuming things trying to satisfy the emptiness in our heart. Our teachers are telling us “look within yourself, you don’t understand what type of joy and nectar is right underneath you,” and you’re running out in all these different places trying to find, acquire things and people and call them your own, but how do we find what is that wealth within ourselves? That is the good news, go through what you are going through. That’s the amazing thing, see your life in the right way, let progress happen, let things go, move forward, smile, be fearless, have faith. Know what real progress is, not like a book idea of progress. Guru Maharaja said: spiritual life is to be experienced ultimately, it is not to be talked about. At the end of the day blah-blah-blah, everybody can talk all day. At some point you have to do it, feeling it and experience it and then when you talk to someone else about it then you are talking about something. You haven’t memorized it, it has to be practical, real, authentic, felt earnestly and sincerely with no falsehood.
There is no necessity of having an intellectual argument about whether or not God exists or whether or not the soul exist and all these kinds of things because it is empty in a certain way. Nobody is seeking intellectual satisfaction. It is like talking about an apple, apples taste sour and slightly sweet, someone might say: no it is astringent. It is like talking about what something is without you both knowing what it is. Just eat the apple and then you will know what it tastes like, there is no argument about it, and that is what we have to do. We have to feel this, live it, experienced it. Feel movement in your life, feel that a piece of your false self is dropping away. Feel some motion, feel like I am a different person than I was five months ago and it was good and I am glad that happened. So that is the inspiration in my life. [Laughs.]
In a Longfellow poem, an unbelievably beautiful poem, called Psalm Of Life, life is real, life is earnest and the grave is not its goal, dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul. We are soul, we are not dealing with dust, we are living unit and we are moving toward this impossible goal connecting with the source of everything. That is what we put in front of us as our goal of life. It is an ambitious amazing idea and it has to be lived honestly and fully, move into it, fear nothing, fear no circumstances. Yea, as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for my Lord is with me. And it is the Truth, we have to feel these things in our life and authentically experience the moments of our life.
Take the Name Hare Krishna. Hare means the energy of the Lord, ultimately everything. The energy of the Lord and Krishna the possessor of the energy Shakti and Shakti-man. We have to see this, this is not one part of creation stuck up here somewhere in this geographic area called the material world and it’s separated from the rest of reality. Where’s the material world live? Here. It’s in us, we are the material world, we are the ones that are valuing temporary things and not seeing them as the Lord, as the Lord’s energy. We are the ones trying to acquire and consume everything around us, we are the ones flipping out when the things that we attempt to acquire, control and consume don’t jump into our possession (laughs) or don’t stay in our possession, or leave our possession. So we are in the material world and what Krishna consciousness means is to live in the spiritual world. Is it a geographical location? Like you leave your body, go to Saturn, turn left after something, and go for 58 billion light years until you get to the edge of the universe and it’s just going to pop out. It is not geographical. It’s planes of consciousness, planes of experience. We have to live in spirit, we have to live in consciousness, Krishna consciousness and always remember Krishna under any circumstance.
One time Gurudeva said something so beautiful. He said, “All of the don’t do’s in religion they mean one thing, don’t forget Krishna.” “All of the do do’s in every religion, they mean remember Krishna.” So Mahaprabhu said, “There are two rules. Always remember Krishna and don’t forget Krishna.” Now how do you do that? That means you have to see Krishna in your circumstance, in the moments in your life, don’t waste that opportunity to remember God, they are real. Guru Maharaja said: when you see the world properly, whether the blade of grass blows this way or that way in the wind, it will be filled with infinite meaning and purpose: oṁ pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idaṁ pūrṇāt pūrṇam udachyate… the beginning of the samskara. It means a drop of the Infinite, a drop of the fullness, purna, means full. A drop of the fullness contains the fullness. Weather the blade goes like this or like that it is filled with meaning, taste, experience and beauty like it is happening at every second. It is the Truth. We have to build that sadhana, build that capacity to see the Lord, to remember the Lord and to offer ourselves in each of the moments of our lives with happiness and no fear.
Priyanana Devi Dasi: So the gen that there is in the obstacles becomes revealed when you live them through?
Sudarshan Prabhu: That song that we sing:
emona durmati, saṁsāra bhitore,
poḍiyā āchinu āmi
tava nija-jana, kono mahājane,
pāṭhāiyā dile tumi
doyā kori’ more, patita dekhiyā,
kohilo āmāre giyā
ohe dīna-jon, śuno bhālo kathā
ullasita ho’be hiyā
Means listen to this good news; the good news is that your environment is friendly to you. (Laughs.) It may be difficult to believe, it may be impossible to believe, but it is the Truth. That is the good news. Guru Maharaja said: when we are seeing things properly, we will see that even obstacles, even disturbances have come to help us. We are surrounded by friends. Even if we sees something difficult or hard, that is friendly to us. Truly, it’s not like some kind of hyperbole, it is the Truth. Your surroundings are friendly to you. Within those surroundings is a jewel of realization, a jewel of progress, a jewel of Reality, and we have to see that. Guru Maharaja said: Vrindavana means friends, when you can see your friends everywhere then you are living in Vrindavana. That is the deep Truth. We have to actually see that even in difficult circumstances. We live in an ashram and I lived in an ashram for quite a number of year. Few years in India and also in California and what happens when you live in a communal setting? Sometimes it’s a little hard, I don’t know if it happens here? (Laughs.) We are encouraged to see that my Lord has put this person here to teach me something even in a midst of a personal disagreement, even in a midst of something like maybe you just don’t like the way that person breaths or something. (Laughs.) Whatever it is we have to see, even if you don’t understand it or don’t rationally understand how there is progress in this situation, but know that there is, somehow this situation has come to exactly progress you. Perfectly, exactly as you should progress by the divine dispenser of goodness. So it may be difficult but it is exactly what you need, not almost, but exactly what you need for each person individually. That is the miracle.
And within that circumstance lies Reality, the taste of progressive life. Guru Maharaja wrote an entire book on this idea: Prapanna-jivanamrita, Positive and Progressive Immortality. Amrita means nectar, that is how it is often is translated, amrita means nectar, the taste of existence. What is interesting is that mrita means death and amrita means deathless, ‘a’ means the opposite. Death is translated like nectar. Ok I am a soul, I do not die, I live forever, forever is a long time. What do you do forever? How do you live forever? How do you posture your consciousness to interact with Infinity and with eternality? That is the question these sages are pondering and giving us their gift. Guru Maharaja gave us His gift: Prapanna-jivanamritam. How to live eternally in a positive and progressive way. Positive means, there is a tendency towards detachment, like mukti, like man this world sucks, I gotta get out of here man! You know, there is that detachment mentality. It is like I can not handle this, I have to get out of here. That is actually not proper mood that is called mukti that means detachment, I am out of here, I have to stop feeling this that is my primary purpose. Then there is the opposite of mukti, which is on the other side of the coin, which is exploitation, which means, yeah this is mine and I am going to taste this, yes, and then what happens? He gets some reaction because he tries to eat the whole world, then some reactions come in the form of karma and he is like, oh my God it sucks. Like I have to leave, this is bad. (Laughs.) It is like the two diseases of consciousness, bhukti and mukti. And bhakti is in the middle, dedication. I am going to give up myself. That is love, that is sacrifice, that is devotion.
Guru Maharaja says: do you want to live forever? You want to sit here and shoot from one side to the other of bhukti and mukti? It is like bipolar disorder. Or do you orient yourself properly to meet the Infinite, to meet eternal life, and that means learn how to be a lover. A lover means—Goswami Maharaj was saying last night—a sacrificing unit. Be happy to give of yourself. Within that comes infinite progressive taste in life, fear nothing, play your part and feel the relationship with the infinite Lord that you have start to progress, start to become real and let that circumstance, whatever may come to us in life, let that descend to us and let us happily play our part to whatever comes. Start to interact with the great waves of existence and start to see it properly.
Guru Maharaja’s translation of the Mahaprabhu’s sloka,
ānandāmbudhi-vardhanaṁ prati-padaṁ pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ…
Guru Maharaja’s translation of this very beautiful word. He said within every wave, within every point of the wave of Reality, not only this plane of perception we have that is created by us by our senses. If you think about it, our senses are simply perceiving a small number of the waves of energy that compose Reality. Like we see a little band of light and we hear a tiny band of sound waves and we feel this and we think how hard it is, is this actually hard? No, this is just energy, but we have a certain sense of touch in a certain way we interact with it then it feels hard. We are experiencing a portion of the giant wave of Reality and within that experience; there is a connection to God. That is an amazing thing. If we perceive it properly, pūrṇāmṛtāsvādanaṁ, Guru Maharaj would say: you will see that every point in the wave of Reality contains a new type of Infinite Joy. I don’t know what that means but it sounds really amazing. There is a new infinity of joyous experience being created at every point, fresh, new, real experience, that’s the news. When we orient ourself properly there is always fresh existence coming to us that we can happily love, it means give ourself to it. Be happy to sacrifice that, Guru Maharaja said: we have signed up to be lovers of Beauty, and the news that Mahaprabhu came to give is that Beauty is the cause, Beauty is Reality, Beauty is the Effect. Learn to see Beauty, learn to love Beauty and do that within the moments in your life. That is what we are doing. (Laughs.) Other thoughts, questions?
Captured by Jahnavi Devi Dasi