Yoga Monasteries - Spiritual Retreats

Question: What is the concept or idea of a Yoga Monastery? What is the benefit of visiting a Yoga Monastery?

Answer: Yoga Monasteries project a very elevated vision. Our goal is that people have the possibility to purify themselves, they can learn the sacred Vedic scriptures, vegetarian cooking, eat prasadam, and many others of the 64 known arts of Vedic Culture, like flower garlands, the clothes of the deity, flower arrangements, organic agriculture, etc. In other words, one takes care and cultivates everything that the Lord gave us.

The Yoga Monasteries are places of peace, where one can redefine once again what the goal of his life is. Why are you here? What do you want to achieve in this stay on Planet Earth? We are all travelling souls, we came here just for a visit. We have to fulfill many things, we have to learn a lot of things, but we are travellers. The visit is temporarily, and later we have to continue our journey, and we have to take our wealth of consciousness, as well as the burden, or committed mistakes, with us.

In this way, the Yoga Monastery is a place of purification. It is a place to open your heart. It is a place where you can find yourself, and get to know which are your brothers and sisters in this world. A Yoga Monastery is an embassy of the eternal world. Simple living, high thinking; with relations in harmony, where one learns to serve. Spiritual science is being perfected when one learns to serve. Normally, in this material world, everybody is very expert in serving himself, but in a Yoga Monastery one learns to serve Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Lord in the heart of everyone, the creator and maintainer of everyone; He, who makes us brothers and sisters, He, who gave us the chance to purify and get to know ourselves.

That is what our spiritual master tought us. In practice, these are places where one can participate and follow Vedic ideals. There is no need to be in anxiety. One can live a beautiful life, in a spiritual surrounding. Of course, in this world there are lots of duties to fulfill, to make oneself util in human society. But that is often also the cause of agitation and uncertainty in people. Therefore, in a Yoga Monastery one learns to live and to be happy as you are and with that what you have got. You will discover that happiness is something very important and distinct. It is not something you can buy in a supermarket. This security cannot even be found in material wealth, nor in beauty, nor in the health of our body. But it is an internal, superior wellbeing; unreachable by greediness, envy, lust, frevor and other negative impulses that keep us tied to this material world.

In this way, a Yoga Monastery is a school of preparation. Spending a week or a month in a Yoga Monastery, one learns to serve, one learns to give. And that is the most important thing one has to know. And nowadays persons do not know what to do when they have grown old. In that golden age, they can also come to Yoga Monasteries, or they can travel from one Yoga Monastery to another. That too is a very fortunate life. It is called the life of a sannyasi, of a renunciate; who travels and visits persons, knocking on their doors and reminding them of beautiful places, not so far away.

The Yoga Monasteries are places that exist so that people can learn the beauty of their being, the development of their individual consciousness. That is what we are trying; to create this kind of atmosphere in our Yoga Monasteries. And that is a model which can be repeated; hopefully infinitely. Because this world, its beauty, the sounds of nature, the sound of rivers and the waves of the ocean, the wind in the flowers and plants, all we see here, are places to be very close to the Supreme Lord in his universal form. Appreciate it, feel Mother Earth giving her benedictions. That is the way how we can find ourselves. Because in reality our life is exactly for this purpose: to learn about spiritual love.

Vrinda Mission in Mayapur

Question: There were some projects of Vrinda in Mayapur some time ago. What is the mission of Vrinda in Mayapur now?

Answer: Mayapur is the place where Lord Chaitanya appeared. I have a great desire to serve the dham-vasis and all the holy Vaisnavas who live there, with an increased presence of the WVA.

Actually, since the time of the WVA-festivals at Srivas-angam, we felt great joy to participate in the development of Mayapur-dham. At one point the police was called to stop a meeting of the WVA. Because of some dispute of influence over Srivas-angam, the police was ordered to stop the festival, and they where looking for the foreigner who organized the event. I was hiding inside and thinking: "Mahaprabhu, what to do, what to do". But as the confusion increased outside, I decided to face the matter personally. I Asked: "Who is the police officer in charge?" They brought me to a man who was around 45 years of age, and I asked him: "Are you from a hindu-vaisnava family?" He moved his head in approval. Then I said: "This place is called "khol bhanga danga" - the place where the cand khasi stopped the kirtan and broke the mrdanga, 500 years ago. Today many great devotees of Mahaprabhu are going to come here and deliver hari-katha. Do you really want to stop that? What could be the reason? He said: "I got orders to stop this event." I told him: "Just tell your authorities, that you did not meet anybody here. Tomorrow this festival is over and nobody will be here anymore. I beg you, do not disturb the sankirtan-yajna. He smiled and sat down on a chair. After an hour or so, sitting with his 10 police officers, and watching many pilgrims comming to see the exibits and books on the book fare, he called his man and they disappeared with a smile on their face.

Srila BP Puri Maharaja gave me the charge of the samadhi mandir of Bhakti Saudha Asrama Maharaja, right next to the Lion´s Gate at the entry of Mayapur. I was so happy about the trust my siksa guru had put in me, to be able to take care of this place. Unfortunately we lost this place later due to some illegal falsification of documents, done by somebody who was greedy to take money from the foreign devotees. Since I did not receive clear papers, I could not do anything to protect our service there. I saw it was very difficult as a foreigner to deal with the local Bengalis and their ruthlessly defendend interests. Another attempt to safe an old and broken temple in the Hulaghat area failed, because many negative elements in the area preferred to keep this temple for their illicit business. They showed up with many people and threw out the brahmacari I had positioned there, before the restauration had started.

Mayapur is a great adventure. Even though there are many pure devotees with their incredible asrams, there are also other people without any sacred motives. I still pray that one day we may be able to establish a beautiful branch or Vrinda there. Between the Ganges and the Saraswati is a very nice area, where the sweet water dolphins jump continuously. I am waiting for a sign from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that it is time for us to do there some service again. In the meantime we stay with our friends when we go there, like Upendra prabhu of Vamana pukur, in the Gopinatha Gaudiya Matha or the Caitanya Gaudiya Matha.

One of the reasons we need a temple of our own, is that we need a place to have soft and sweets kirtans and bhajans. In most temples they slam the huge kartalas and gongs and ring the bell so loudly, that one can not even hear what song they are singing. The pain in my ear drums order me to depart immediately. And most of my friends and myself just cannot tolerate the incredible amount of hot chillies in almost any preperation. So we need our own kitchen too. And then we want to hear classes in our respective languages. That is very necessary in order to go deep into the meaning of bhajan, hari-katha and parikrama. What can I do? These are some conditionings we drag around.

I shared my feeling about the deafening sounds with some senior vaisnavas, and to my surprise they said to me, that they themselves suffered from it from the beginning. That where Sripa Bhakti Vijnana Bharati Mahraja and Hrsikes Maharaja, who has just started his mission opposite of Caitanya Matha. And how surprised was I to hear, that Srila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura prohibited the use of Chillis in his temples. Well, I hope indian devotees follow him more seriously in other respects. :-)

Anyway, it is good to know that you are not alone. Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu and the Holy Dham of his appearance ki jay!

Also there are other wonderful areas in the dham, such as Godruma. I am not so fond of the site of Navadvip town, because it is too much city atmosphere there. And really the feeling of Mahaprabhu and Nityananda prabhu becomes more intense without any modern distraction. I pray to Lord Gauranga that we will be allowed to serve Him there once again and also that the Holy Land may be kept up in the purest and cleanest way, by all of us.

Our work in the WVA is to create new levels of communication to discover and defend common goals amongst all vaisnava missions. And what better place could be there to rejoice in this new form of cooperation than the place where the Lord of love appeared personally. Anyway, it is very delightful to see new vaisnava missions appear and open their branches somewhere on the nine islands of Navadvip.

If someone has a good idea, how to make some Vrinda center there, feel free to contact me.

Questions to the Spiritual Master

Question: Could you please say how to treat this kind of situation: my mind presents a big problem to me but after chanting the Holy Names, or hearing one of your classes, the problem disappeared or has become much smaller. But then, once again, the problem may grow very quickly and there is my dilemma: is a disciple supposed to bother his spiritual master with solving his mental problems, or should he try to solve them by himself, by chanting and hearing classes? What about asking questions to the spiritual master? When or which questions should be asked and which questions should not be asked?

Answer: Your question is very important. Thank you very much for giving me the chance to speak about this topic.

If we have a question and we can not find a solution, neither through chanting nor through hearing classes than we can ask an older devotee or the spiritual master. I started AskTheSwami.org with the help of Govardhana prabhu in order to always remain available for those who connect to my spiritual family, as well as for others who would like to hear my opinion on any given topic. And questions which are interesting for many people, we publish on the web to share them with others who might have the same question.

Hearing and chanting is the bonafide process of removing our mental difficulties. If there are no more difficulties you must have achieved self realization. That can only be expected after some incredible effort, or due to some incredible mercy. Once Srila Prabhupada said that all his disciples, who are engaged in selfless service, are actually self-realized. So we should always try to remain well-situated in the service of our spiritual master. Then we live a very elevated life. And if we avoid to offend other Vaisnavas we may actually achieve true "nista", firmly dedicated life. Any conversation for the sake of spiritual progress is blessed. I feel myself very fortunate that I can participate very frequently in this type of conversations.

So do not feel worried if questions are bothering you. They give you a good chance to engage in hari-katha. But also be patient. Some things can only be unterstood when mercy descends. For that mercy we should always pray very humbly. And we should be eager to serve, eager to become an instrument of Lord Krishna's love. Then our capacity of hearing will increase incredibly.

Get up Arjuna, and fight!

Question: I would like to know why the enthusiasm gets lost and besides having a lot of service, there is no enthusiasm for doing it, and why, although Gurudeva is there, willing to hear, one cannot speak with him and tell him what one feels about the service, but prefers to keep quiet?

Answer: This question comes from the typical case of a devotee who listens too much to the mind. First we should be thankful. Next we should be compassionate. If you have no enthusiasm to help others, it means that you forget the sweet will of Lord Krishna. He said, that dearest of all to Him is the one, who takes His message to others.

Just look at the example of our acaryas, they all went on with their service, despite a lot of hardship and difficulty. We should rather follow them than listening to our mind. The mind is great if it comes to cheating yourself and producing excuses for not serving and not surrendering. So the problem is common, and it will continue until you give a good kick to your mind with a lot of maha-mantra, reading the transcendental books, hearing lectures or asking for personal guidance from an advanced devotee.

I think you would agree, that there are many people in this world who are much worse off then you. Do you agree? If you say: 'yes', then get out there and do something to help them, rather than to lament like an old women, because her partners for playing bridge did not show up. This life is very serious and it will never get more serious then practising devotional service, because even at the moment of death, only the Holy Name will save you.

Please do not take offence of my strong reply, but sometimes only a strong reply awakens us from our sleeping conditions.

Organic Farming vs Exploitation

Question: In certain regions agriculture is dominated almost exclusively by big companies. Why is it that people do not see the need of organically grown agricultural products? How do you think about it?

Answer: Organic food is grown in a natural way, without chemical fertilizers, without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or any other poison. And, of course, with original, unaltered, unmodified seeds.

Nature provides everything to produce healthy, nutritive fruits, vegetables and grains. There are ways to produce organic fertilizers and there are also natural ways to keep unwanted insects or bugs away from the plants. Eg by planting other plants nearby, that varmints do not like. Plants are perfect as they are. They fulfill a purpose in nature. So there is absolutely no need to do speculative experiments with gene-technic on the seeds, in order to modify the plants. Especially nowadays it should be easy to distribute plenty of vegetables, fruits and cereals to all parts of the world, so that a variety of foodstuff, for a healthy nutrition, can be supplied everywhere.

There are many books and homepages that offer information and education about these topics. The only thing missing is the concern of people due to the promotion of false values in society. One page we would like you to visit is the homepage of the Spoon Revolution: http://www.spoonrevolution.com/index.php

Generally spoken, all ecologic, health and distribution problems arise with the consume of meat. Farmers and corporations produce more and more crops in less time, but only to feed all the livestock. More than 70% of all agricultural products is fed to livestock. A multiple of the amount of water that is needed to produce one kilogram of grains, vegetables or fruits is required to produce one kilogram of meat. So actually there is already more than enough foodstuff harvested from the fields than what is needed to feed all persons on the planet. And besides the fact that killing animals has a lot of negative consequences on people's consciousnesses, their mental welfare and health, it also exploits Mother Nature more than any other source of food. Do not stay blind before these facts! How can we expect to live happily and in harmony with the environment and ourselves, if we ignore the exploitation of animals and Mother Nature? The laws of nature demonstrate that this is simply not possible.

Production to make profit at all costs is certainly based on the lack of knowledge about the laws of nature. You cannot trick nature. There is always a balance. You cannot take out more than there is. Not even with the most special tricks of scientists. Every single corn or fruit or vegetable produced needs a certain amount of water, earth and other components. Mother Nature provides quite a big stock of natural resources, but supernatural modern production methods consume huge amounts of resources, and produce a lot of pollution at the same time. So it will only be a question of time before this system will result in serious consequences; consequences like the lack of water and unfertile land. Especially in regions where forests have been cut down, we can already see that new deserts and wastelands emerge. Predictions show that the excessive waste of ground water will soon lead to drastic changes of vegetation and climate.

Actually we have to start thinking about the real cost of foodstuff and consumer goods. There are many other important things involved. For example if we buy fruits that were imported from other parts of the world, mostly by big companies, the fruits have already taken up a lot of energy, like oil for transportation and administrative work. So those products are a lot more expensive for Mother Nature than locally produced foodstuff. And small farmers and local suppliers have to close because they can no longer compete with the big companies. So in this way the rich become richer and the poor become poorer.

To live in equilibrium with your body and mind, and to satisfy the needs of our soul, we have to appreciate creation, and the gifts we receive from it every day. Blind efforts to make short-sighted profits is not a basis for a peaceful culture, not for now, and not for future generations. Therefore Vrinda started producing naturally grown, organic food with original, unaltered seeds in Yoga Monasteries in various parts of the world. Our Yoga Monasteries have very elevated plans and programms. The goal of Yoga Monasteries is that people can purify themselves, study Vedic scriptures, grow organic food, learn how to cook healthy, vegetarian food, called prasadam, and many more things. The preparation of organic foodstuff, and offering the preparations to the Lord before eating them, positively effects the internal and external well-being of all persons included. And the science of yoga becomes more easily accessible and understandable due to the internal balance.

The customer has the power to support the production of organic food, restrict the production of genetically engineered food and the use of chemical substances simply by buying natural, organically grown foodstuff and not accepting altered food. And preferably buying directly from farmers or local stores. We have to educate and inform ourselves about how to support local communities and the consequences of buying from huge concerns. Especially in rural areas it is also possible to form agricultural communities and grow at least a healthy share of your daily food organically.

As intelligent human beings we must have a higher concept in our lives than just the hunt for the cheapest products; especially when it comes to our daily alimentation. The famous saying 'you are what you eat' is very true. Noone is happy about the bad things that our parents did, and in the same way our children and future generations will not be happy with our irresponsibility towards our environment. The pleasure of human life comes from following ideals in the mode of goodness.

Meditation at the Ganges in Hrsikesh

Question: The Beatles and many other people went to Hrisikesh, a place at the Ganges in India, for learning the science of yoga and meditation. What is so special in this place? Have you been there? And can everyone go there?

Answer: Hrsikesh is the place where the Lord of Rsis, or holy men, is remembered every day. It lies in the Himalayas, in the North of India.

Only in recent years I went there with a small group of devotees. We stayed at the Sand-Seva Asram, and every morning we could just go out of our room and jump into the Ganges. As you can imagine it was cold, clean and pure; the thirsty mans delight. And then we would sit there and chant, as incredible amounts of sacred water rushed by. What a joy to see, while the early morning traffic over Laksma-Yulan foot-bridge started moving. And then we had our class of Srimad Bhagavatam, morning meditation, bhajan, accompanied by holy cows and jumping fishes.

Hrsikesh is a Temple City; some of the yoga ashrams there look more like five star hotels than sacred places of withdrawal from the world. But here and there and everywhere a yogi in his asana is giving his thoughts to Mother Ganga and Lord Siva, who received the Goddess on his head. And we did the beautiful Harinam-sankirtan, which Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave to the hole world.

Winding roads between uncountable asrams, old yogis coming to the door and looking with suprise. Their faces deep and grave. Sometimes somewhat hardened by extensive austerities or prolonged waiting for foreign yoga students. Then all for a sudden, a deep smile flashes from their heart onto their faces. Some lift their arms and wave, 'Come in, lets have a chant together. Let's glorify Lord Hrisikesh in Hrsikesh.' Jay Nitai, jay Gaurahari, jay Prabhupada. What a relief to chant and dance and to produce joy in others. These are precious moments, not to every forget. The lila of the maha-mantra, Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

Where did we go from here? We crossed over the second bridge and met a blind sadhu, a yogi who worships at least ten different Krsna-deities at the same time. Lets read from Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita he said. Obviously overjoyed, the prabhuji does not want to let us go. More chanting, more Hari-katha, but Bhaktiyoga Swami is already waiting for us. In this stronghold of sanskrit scolars, or impersonal meditators, or commercial yogis we feel so lucky to have found some devotional service at the bank of the Ganges. Another class, another kirtan, another day another month, time does not count, so do not count time. As death will simply come do devour you, absorb your life at once in the heart-felt chanting of the Holy Names and time will stop, because Lord Krsna will take you beyond time and space.

Then we see a poster: 'Techno party in Hrsikesh' and I feel seperation from Sri Vrindavana dhama, the land of Srimate Radharani. Mother Ganges was jealous, because Lord Krsna bathed in His childhood pastimes in the Yamuna. Then, pleased by her prayers, the Lord appeared again as Caitanya Mahaprabhu and performed His childhood pastimes in Mayapur. Eternally united since the Triveni, Ganga and Yamuna flow tightly ambraced down, into the ocean, giving all of us life and joy and the transcendental enviroment.

All these holy places should be spotlessly clean and must be protected against the noise and other Kali-yuga contaminations. If you do not push something up, it will certainly go down. All together we can do it. I hope next time I go there, I can take a big group of kirtaniyas and visit all the asrams with a message of love from the environmental comitee of the WVA.

Rules of Devotional Music

Question: Are there rules for devotional music?

Answer: Thank you for your inquery. I started the Harmony School of Conscious Art many years ago.

The purpose of that school is to enthuse artists of all kinds to utilize the language of their art to awaken consciousnesses and to spread the glories of the Holy Name. We take shelter of this part of the Siksastakam, where Sri Caitanya says that there are no hard and fast rules to chant the Holy Names. There are different types of standards. I heard that my parama Gurudeva did not like the music of harmoniums in the temples, but my Gurudeva enchanted many thousands of people with beautiful harmonium bhajanas. He enthused George Harrison and had Yamuna Govinda-prayers played in every temple every day. On the other hand, myself, I cannot tolerate loud bells, wampers or gongs. When they create an incredible amount of decibel, “deafening” sounds, I have to run away immediately. Sometimes one cannot even hear which song they are singing. I asked many older devotees about that circumstance and most of them have the same feelings as I do. When I visit one of my temples, I first send somebody to find all the wampers and gongs and hide them. I tell the devotees not to use them but some devotees, who were previously attached to the heavy metal music still like to play them. So it may be a relative point. I do not think Krsna is deaf. He does not need so much noise to hear what the devotees are singing. One has to judge the rules of music according to place, time and circumstance. We have some straight-edge or heavy metal musicians amongst our devotees. They make this music for Krsna. Most of them are actually very serious devotees and they simply utilize this tool for attracting friends from that scene.

When we talk about ragas, there are so many rules. I do not know much about them.

Nowadays there exists vaisnava music in practicaly all musical styles. Of course in our temple ceremonies we prefer soft and classical styles, but that is not a hard and fast rule. When I was temple president in Sao Paolo, a famous Brasilian musician, Ceatano Veloso, came sometimes to the temple to sing the kirtana in the Sunday feast, in samba rhythm. We want to preserve the classic styles, but there is also space for expanding into new areas of devotional music. Everything can be utilized for Krsna. I am very fond of singing bhajans in any local respective language. That is so helpful for the devotees to understand the real meaning of the message. I have been critisized for introducing this singing, but I checked with senior Gaudiya Vaisnavas and got approval from them, both Srila Sridhara Maharaja and Srila BP Puri Maharaja welcomed it.

Even for myself, the songs which I have been singing for 30 years become close to me when I sing them in the language which a commonly use. I am sure much more can be said about this topic. I can just report to you, that due to the approach of the Harmony School of Conscious Art, in Santiago, the capital of Chile, the devotees have eleven devotional music and art groups. And “Ahimsa all Stars” under the guidance of BV Damodara Maharaja have already won two prices from the city; so there are some very positive results. And Akarma Prabhu's song “I want to live” was choosen by the UNICEF as a song for life. There is a lot of advice coming from our tradition on how to play kartalas and mrdanga and how to dance on sankirtan, but that is a topic which is better to be organized locally and according to the musical capacity of the devotees involved. In general I would say, whatever music we make it should sound as good as possible. Singing of any type which makes people run away is not the best choice. Even in the Caitanya Caritamrta it was pointed out that there were some expert dancers and singers.

About Abortion

Question: When does human life begin? If it begins at conception, then is abortion wrong? If the soul does not enter the baby until it is born, then is abortion still wrong? What or where does the soul go if the baby is terminated? I am asking you these questions as my future-partner and I were discussing children, and he does not want children, and I do, and if I did become pregnant, he wanted me to have a termination. So, its been a very difficult time for me, as I am quite religious, and just wanted to know a little bit more about this issue. I am a vegetarian, and cannot think of eating flesh of any kind, so I cannot even comprehend killing something which is growing within me. But, as a Hindu, I need more answers. I hope you can help me.

Answer: Thank you very much for this question. It is a question that many young couples have to ask themselves and for which most of them do not find a satisfying answer in modern society.

The soul, the spirit, is very small. It enters into the father's sperm and it is injected in the mother's womb. Then the mother's ovum and the father's sperm unite and form a small body. This body only develops because the spirit soul is already there.

There are some very impressive documentaries that demonstrate the process of an abortion. It is a crime against the laws of nature, and the consequences for such actions are very strong. It is said that first men kill animals to eat them, then they kill children in the mother’s womb, and finally they even fight themselves on battlefields.

Family life is something very sacred. The responsibility of family life, of having and caring for a child and teaching it spiritual values, is very important and should be taken serious. Like in every form of community, we can also see that family life will only function nicely if we put God in the center. So I ask you to become exemplary parents who really love their children and give them the most prescious thing of all for their human lives, to show them the path of spiritual life.

The abortion of a child is like loosing the fortune of our life. The decision to kill a child will open many doors for misery. Women that have aborted a child confirm that they cannot forget the little creature that was killed by their decision. Actually we should appreciate being able to receive children in this world. So do not kill your unborn children.

Live itself is very precious, because it is always a gift from God. We must not put sense gratification or material values above the gift of live. If we listen to our heart, we will understand that we should give protection to our children and that we do not have the right to abort children.

Complete Surrender to Sri Krishna

Question: What is it that stops us from fully surrending to Krsna and how can we overcome it?

Answer: Our satisfaction with our proper mediocrity is what stops us from completely surrendering to the Lotos feet of the Lord. We always have to remain students, humble servants of the truth, because the quality of our service to Sri Krishna has no limits. An increase of the quality of our service will also increase the amount of service that there is to do. Our seperated interests, doubts and fears hinder us from full surrender. But Krsna himself promises in the Bhagavad Gita that we do not have to fear, He will protect us and give us everything we need. And Krsna shows us the way to approach Him: accepting a spiritual master, rendering service unto Him and following His instructions. We cannot do it alone, we have to accept the help and guidance of a spiritual master as well as the Vaisnavas. This will give us faith to follow the spiritual path with more sincerity.

Pure devotees are fully dependent on the will and mercy of the Lord. The eight verses of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's Sri Sri Siksastakam contain the essence of surrendering to Krishna; being humble and tolerant, giving respect to others, but not to expect respect from others, not to desire anything else than the engagement in the service of the Lord, chant the Holy Names of the Lord with all the profoundness of your heart, and to make yourself a slave to the will of the Lord.

Full surrender means to surrender with body, mind and words. The Bhagavad Gita tells us that our mind may be our friend, but can also be our enemy. This depends on our control over the mind. If we cannot control our mind, we will be dictated by lust, anger, avarice, illusion etc. But when we conquer our mind and when we are able to control it, one will be able to accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is situated in our heart. There are nine kinds of devotional service that help us to surrender. The first two, and most important ones, are to hear and to talk or sing about the glories of the Lord. The daily engagement in hearing and chanting of the Lord will clean our consciousness.

Srila Prabhupada writes in the book 'The Teachings of Lord Chaitanya' that there are six basic guidelines for surrender.
The first is that one should accept everything that is favorable for the discharge of devotional service, and one should be determined to accept the process. The second is that one should give up everything that is unfavorable to the discharge of devotional service, and that one should be determined to give it all up. Thirdly, one should be convinced that only Krsna can protect him and should have full faith that the Lord will give that protection. An impersonalist thinks that his actual identity is in being one with Krsna, but a devotee does not destroy his identity in this way. He lives with full faith that Krsna will kindly protect him in all respects. Fourthly, a devotee should always accept Krsna as his maintainer. Those who are interested in the fruits of activities generally expect protection from the demigods, but a devotee of Krsna does not look to any demigod for protection. He is fully convinced that Krsna will protect him from all unfavorable circumstances. Fifth, a devotee is always conscious that his desires are not independent; unless Krsna fulfills them, they cannot be fulfilled. Lastly, one should always think of himself as the most fallen among souls so that Krsna will take care of him. Such a surrendered soul should take shelter of a holy place like Vrindavana, Mathura, Dvaraka, Mayapur, etc., and should surrender himself unto the Lord saying, "My Lord, from today I am Yours. You can protect me or kill me as You like."
A pure devotee takes shelter of Krsna in such a way, and Krsna is so grateful that He accepts him and gives him all kinds of protection.

Regaining Trust in Devotees

Question: How can one develop an intimate relationship with devotees after bad experiences? How to develop trust in them?

Answer: You are asking me a very tough question. A burned child shies away from the fire, but you make me remember one important instruction Srila Sridhara Maharaja gave to us, specificially to devotees whose initiating spiritual masters have abandoned their duty.

He said: “Never feel cheated by Krsna.” Consider it your bad karma that you had to go through such a painful situation, and simply pray to be able to learn something. Of course you can also understand that surrender to Krsna is not such an easy thing. You cannot take it for granted that everything works perfectly. But if you asked me 'who is trustworthy?', I would put it in a very few words. He must be a person who is trying to take the service to his spiritual master as his life and soul. He is somebody who will never get unreasonably angry with someone. He is not sectarian. He appreciates all vaisnavas. He has a desinterested nature and impartial judgement and a strong common sense. Those who do not take their relationship with Guru and Krsna very seriously, they will take their relation with you much less very seriously.

What to speak of spiriutal masters. Just to know how to choose one's friends, one should take all this in consideration. If they do something very wonderful and they invite you to participate then you can try it. If you do not choose anything then you have no good association and nothing nice to do. So there is always some risk in life and we are always depending on the grace of Krsna. By His grace we are eating and sleeping and by his guidance He will provide us with good association.

In my own life, after I lost my dear Srila Prabhupada, who gave me two initiations, I met another pure devotee, Srila B.R. Sridhara Dev Goswami Maharaja, who gave sannyasa to me. And after he went back to Krsna and the world surrounding me was submerged in sectarianism, I met another pure Devotee, Srila BP Puri Maharaja. He emphasized to me, that in front of Krsna all devotees are equal and that we should all work together on our common causes.

Srila B.P. Puri Maharaja became my siksa guru and the first president of the world vaisnava association. In my work as a secretary for the world vaisnava association, for the first five years of its existance, I had the mercy to get to know practically every Gaudiya acarya on the planet plus most of their leading disciples. I am very thankful for that experience. The more I know, the more grateful I am to have met Srila Prabhupada. Undoubtedly, there are many wonderful devotees in all missions, but still to meet those who are very advanced and who also have some skill of communication and understanding eastern and western Vaisnavas at the same time, such a person is rare to find.

I hope this information will give you something of value for your own search. I pray that you may be succesful to meet the most beautiful Vaisnavas and thus achieve happiness in your devotional service, because unless you achieve happiness, how will you be able to make others happy? Yogesavara, the master of all mystic powers ki jay.

Mexico, the new Frontier

Question: Mexico is our new frontier in the Vrinda mission. What is the plan or vision for Mexico?

Answer: Mexico is a very wonderful place for spreading Lord Chaitanya's grace. The nature of the people is that they are inclined to be very pious. Just like Srila Prabhupada used to say that the influence of the Latin culture has made the people somewhat pious. And we can see that in Mexico just like in Chile, Ecuador or Colombia. The general attitude towards India and the message of India is very favourable. People are welcoming the devotees and want to know about everything which they are doing and what they have to offer.

Now Mexico is so incredible because there are so many cities. It is such a large country, with every climate you can imagine, really a paradise, just missing Sri Krishna. One Mexican poet said: "Poor Mexicans, so far away from God and so close to the United States of America." So bringing Krishna to Mexico is a great joy. In the middle of the old city we established a very nice center, and we called it Prabhupada's Culture Center, hoping to inspire the same reaction as happened in many places of South America: that the message of Lord Chaitanya will go to every province and to all smaller places of Mexico. In a small scale that has already taken place. Some of our devotees are active in Puebla, some of them are active in Valle de Pravo, some of them are going to Vera Cruz and some others are in Texcoco and Vuanahuatu, Tepostlan. Wherever you go there is such a great chance. We can only imagine how wonderful the message of Lord Chaitanya will be celebrated in this country if more and more centres will start all around.

There are also some devotees in Cancun and Saldillo and I can see that Mexico will be one of the places where very large melas can be held. Because in South America there is something special. We can notice a certain perplexity which is like an inferiority complex and in some way, due to movies and the industry and whatever, the people are always looking to the North and not to the South. Somehow or other, to say it a little bit ironical: For Mexicans the world stops where Guatemala begins, for Guatemalans the world stops where Honduras begins, for Hondurans the world stops where Nicuaragua begins, and all the way down everybody is looking towards the North, towards the Hollywood culture. They are very frustrated and they cannot see how much of a great culture they themselves have. Provided they take up the real path of spirituality within their piousness. A living unity between their ancient tradition as well as some of their positive Christian attitudes, plus Lord Chaitanya's gift of the Holy Name and humility, can bring together a very beautiful synthesis of Latin American God consciousness. And I thinK Mexico, Central America and South America are the best breeding grounds for a new spiritual consciousness which we call Universal Love or All-embracing Love, 100% derived from the teachings of Lord Chaitanya, coinciding with all the sweet feelings of people inclined to the mode of goodness, who want to be helpful and who want to improve things in this world. So I look forward to see Mexico as a place where thousands and thousands of devotees will live.

Samskaras - Purificatory Rituals

Question: What do you think about Samskaras?

Answer: Accoring to Vamana dasa all samskaras are purificatory rituals which are great pretext to get everybody to chant the Holy Name of Sri Krsna. Without the chanting of the Holy Name, no ritual can be successful.

On the other side, I am surprised by your question, because the samskaras accompany a devotees' life from the first day – ceremonies such as First Grain, initiation, marriage etc. They are parts of our life and cannot even be thought away. I received these ceremonies by the grace of my spiriutual master and we are trying to keep them happily alive.

The highest goal of life is to chant the Holy Name purely and to become a pure devotee. All rules and regulations hint in that direction.

Direct Service to Krsna

Question: It is said that it is not good to serve Krsna directly. Can you exlpain me how does a person act who wants to serve Krsna directly?

Answer: To directly serve the Lord is only possible in a pure state of consciousness and by the mercy of Krsna. So trying to serve the Lord directly is not the recommended process to purify our conditioned consciousness. If we try to serve the Lord directly, the Lord may be served or may not be served. The way to assure the service to Krishna is by serving His devotees, the Vaisnavas, His representants in this world.

In a Vaisnava we find the knowledge and love of Krsna because as he is surrendered to Krnsa, all his activities he preforms for Krsna. That's why a devotee, or Vaisnava, is very dear to the Lord. So the best way to become engaged in the service of the Lord is to accept a spiritual master and try to do some service for him. In this way our service will be connected to the disciplic succession (parampara) of Vaisnavas and in this way reach Krsna.

The Lord himself said: The one who renders service directly to me is not my devotee, the one who renders service to my devotee is my devotee. So the idea of serving Krsna directly and independent from others means to ignore the instruction of the Lord and to ignore His devotees. But the devotees of the Lord are very dear to the Him. Krsna is not cheap, we cannot force Krsna to accept our service. If we want to serve Krsna we have to consider His devotees.

To accept a spiritual master as the guide of life and to render service onto him and the devotees is essential in spiritual life, because if we accept the Lord's devotees as greater than ourselves, we will also be able to accept that we are very small and insignificant before the Lord. Therefore we should always keep Krsna and the Vaisnavas dancing on our head.

Obstacles in spiritual life

Question: I was asked to inquire from Acharyas, sannyasis and sadhus about their thoughts regarding the third gender. I consider my "cyber-association" with GALVA (the Gay & Lesbian Vaisnava Association) vital because I can communicate with fellow aspiring devotees in my situation. As with all types of bodily distinctions, these aspiring devotees have various standards of devotional principles and services. Some are very serious and others just enjoy prasadam and to chant. We would like to know what Sadhus, Sastras and Gurus think.

Answer: Lust is the major obstacle in spiritual life and lust can only be dovetailed to Krishna-consciousness by producing nice children in a marriage. If you find strength in the association of people who know how to control their senses, you will make spiritual advancement. If you associate with others who do not abide by the regulative principles, it will not be so conducive for your spiritual advancement.

What else can I say? This is the philosophy as we learned it from our spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada. Those persons whose sexual identity has not developed according to their physical body surely face many difficulties in this material body. Personally I consider this to be a karmic reaction meant to teach us something. How many people wish to have children but due to some reason they can not reproduce. Others really want to get married and can never find a partner. I am not trying to write a law book here of karmic action and reaction, I am just trying to say that being Krishna conscious is much better than being gender conscious, or lets better say becoming absorbed into the particular sexual inclinations other people may have. I think it is better to talk about Krsna and try to conquer lust. Last but not least all we do is grow old and die. That is the real problem you have to face.

When I was a young boy I once met a homosexual men who was 28 year old. He tried to "preach" to me, how normal it was to be homosexual and that he was destined to introduce me so I could be more broad minded. Fortunately I did not think that I needed that broad mindness. Lust is a struggle for everybody who has a material body. Lets search out the association of those who have found joy in the higher taste, in a life without sex, or who are at least faithful to their children.

The real beauty of every living being is beyond the lusty sexual attraction. As you go through life, you will meet so many people with many different problems, but for your spiritual advancement focus on those who understand the value of divine love. As soon as you start talking about sexual preferences of people, you are talking about sex. This is not a very pleasant topic for those who want to understand that they are not this body.

And we are fortunate enough to say that much of this association is available on the internet.

Our Duties in Relationship with the Holy Dhama

Question: What are our duties in relationship with the Holy Dhama, Sri Vrindavan?

Answer: Srila Prabhupada said - I am quoting Hayagriva - That we should clean the Dham, fix the broken temples and establish the glories of deity worship.

When we visit the Holy Dham, we should avoid the offences against the Holy Dham. Plus Srila Sridhara Maharaja said: Vrindavana is a state of consciousness. So we should always try to be in that consciousness and try to make Vrindavana present every where we go. We should also speak about he glories of Vrindavana and chant the Holy Name so we will become qualified to actually serve Vrindavana.

Srila Prabhupada took the glories of Vrindavana all around the world and it is quite reasonable to say that every devotee should send some help, in whatever way he feels inspired. In our mission, Vrinda, we have already established four Vraja-Seva-Asrams, managed schools and printed tons of material for the service of Vrindavana. We also designed a Krsna-lila park for the municipality, cleaned some streets around our asram and when the devotees come from foreign countries, they often bring gifts for the locals. Above all we try to participate in rising ecological awareness, which has been a tough job. I was present in many conversations of different organisations for the service of Vrindavana and we still go on in one way or another, trying to make ourselves useful. Because a little service is better than no service. Our seva-asramas in Vrindavana are generally known as the most beautiful examples of restauration of architectural jewels of Vrindavana. Vrinda-kunja specifically and the Mungir-mandir of Sadhu Maharaja are examples of keeping some beautiful gardens.

Vraja mandala is 64 sq km an there is plenty of service to be done. If you want to help personally, you may contact me and I can advice you some project you may support according to your inclination.