Srila Govinda Maharaj Vyasa Puja 2009 Ireland

It was the Grand 81st Appearance Day Celebration of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math’s Sevaite President Acharyya, Om Vishnupad Paramahamsa Parivrajakacharyya Sri Srimad Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj on the 4th of December and on the 6th in Leitrim, we had a celebration to mark the day.

We had a great day in Ananda and Vraja’s beautiful home in lovely Leitrim, with fantastic foodstuffs prepared by Vraja Didi. Many thanks to them for their kindness and hospitality.

It was also the disappearance festival of the founder of the Sri Chaitanya Math and worldwide Sri Gaudiya Maths, Bhagavan Sri Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupad.

Spark of Life

I found this excellent video on a Hare Krishna Video file sharing website. It is a little dated but deals with the big questions (‘Who are we?’, “What is life really?’ “Why is Ryan Tubridy so popular?”) in a very accessible way. Tired of talking about ‘The Apprentice’ or ‘Americas got talent’? Try this subject matter out on your work colleagues and see how it works out. Quicker than you can say ‘You’re Fired!’ they will start to look at you in a totally different way – and probably start not returning your calls. I say ‘That’s ok, I never liked you anyway!’, so hey lets struggle with the big questions around the water cooler.

Consciousness searches for Ecstasy: Excerpt from a talk by Sripad Bhakti Sudhir Goswami Maharaj

So I turned to my colleague at work and asked him what he did last night. “Oh watched Eastenders, it was really good, then had a couple of beers and went to bed”, was the response. “What did you do last night?” he asked. I paused thinking of how I considered the evolution of consciousness and how it may be subjective, that I sometimes experience life as a sea of existential emptiness and that I ultimately considered this emptiness as a sign that the heart truly yearns for happiness through beauty and love – beyond the superficial demands of the ego for position and wealth – which is of course ultimately unsatisfying – and questioned how I may move beyond this existential wasteland and shifting sands that we call modern life, and ultimately satisfy my inner most hearts yearning for a taste of this Ecstasy.

So pausing for a second I looked at him and said, “Yeah, a couple of beers and a repeat of Sex and the City did it for me”.

But seriously folks. I consider myself very fortunate to have heard Sripad Bhakti Sudhir Goswami Maharaj talk several times about higher things. I found these videos on You Tube and consider them a treasure.

If reading the work of G.K. Chesterton, C.S Lewis , Thomas Merton or Mary Midgely means anything to you and you want more, you will relish this. For a taste of a true philosophical and theological rock experience. Have a look at this.

This talk is one of seven video files. They are all available on You Tube.

Also the full audio file is available from London Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math website

Evolution vs Religion Debate

On the subject of evolution, the science vs religion debate is a deeply
polarized one. However, there was not always this schism between the two. Unfortunately today the more man grapples with trying to understand even a fraction of the cosmos he seems to get no further from the rather basic ‘Is there a God or not?’ debate. A more saner debate may be “This universe is amazing and we seem not really to be able to understand it but lets keep our hearts and minds open” – discuss.

Examining something very complicated and still coming away with the conclusion that we cannot understand it does not mean it has no creator. Rather it is better to realise we have limited capacity to understand things that are by their nature, much bigger than us with our empiric methodologies.

Maybe we do not have the appropriate devices to see God, as we are not looking through the eyes of faith, but merely a blunt microscope?

Why then do we still then expect to see Maha-Vishnu at the heart of the atom – using only these crude instruments?

I guess, the theory of evolution is half right but this is where it is dangerous. As Mary Midgley pointed out in her excellent book ‘Evolution as a Religion’ where she calls the theory “an inert piece of theoretical science”, the elevation of this theory into the domain of canonical fact has obscured some of the real issues.

Personally I believe in God, and I also believe in evolution. in the sense that life does, in a general sense, progress and move forward. However when we talk of evolution – we are talking about the evolution of what?

Is it mere atoms or dead matter?

There is no place for the eternal soul in this scientific evolutionary equation but the soul is what is actually missing from this equation. As an aside many scientists seem to want to push God out of the equation and fill that gap with themselves.

This is modern scientific atheism. Everything that is created in this world has a designer or architect. Cars, computers, operating systems and planes don’t make themselves. It is therefore sensible to abstract this knowledge out by saying that this observed logic can also apply to our universe and everything in it. Even more so when science shows us just how complex, elegant and astounding our world is. It is therefore more reasonable to say we don’t understand the architect, rather than there is no architect.

As a final note. I also don’t believe that the architect left us abandoned in this world with no clue of who he is or how to get back to him. But each buys in the market in accordance to what he can afford. We must therefore with faith move from baby infants before higher things can be understood. The state of our world is surely a plain indication of just what class mankind is currently in.

This post was sent to the Pat Kenny show during March 2008 in response to a discussion on this topic.

[Please note that I generally view doing this kind of thing as the premature onset of middle age.]

Self Help vs Spirituality

I heard a radio show today which was discussing the trend towards new religions and belief systems. Ireland has been a Catholic country for many years but unfortunately our theological worldview has been anything but “Catholic”. We have traditionally been very intolerant of other faiths and we don’t even have to stretch that far to see that even those of the same faith (Judeo-Christian) but on a different branch (ie. Protestant) do not get on like a house on fire (well we do, but each side would like to see the opposing side in that house).

Was this as a result of the Church and it’s divine monopoly (and I don’t mean angels playing board games)?

Now that this power base is fading in Ireland and people realize that they can think for themselves (yea!!) they are bolting from the gates of the Catholic Church. But into the arms of what?

I personally think the Roman Catholic church was less interested in the souls of its flock and more interested in what is in their wallets. This is seen to be true, as historically, the wealthy would buy their place in heaven through “favors” (lots of cash) and continue to behave in an appalling and decadent fashion, safe in the knowledge that’s it OK to do what you want as it’s been squared with the man upstairs.

This also ties in with the ideology of forgiveness. This is the do-what-you-like, for as long as you say you are sorry, it’s cool. But is it really? Can God not see through this charade? By definition being all knowing and all powerful, I doubt that it is beyond his ability to detect a few scams going on in his name. And I wouldn’t say he’s cool with it either.

Most other non-western religions operate on different lines. In the East you find more the “as-you-sow-so-shall-you-reap” philosophy. It’s called Karma, and you can’t cheat it. So take responsibility for yourself.

This process is said to happen over an eternity of going up and down, and some souls endevour to be released from this wheel altogether. The idea being we learn along the way, so it’s not just blind retribution.

Its kinda funny using a western image to understand an eastern theological point but then maybe truth is universal after all? In the west people don’t really believe that (or pay lip service to it). They may say “as-you-sow-so-shall-you-reap” but as long as I say I’m sorry (or give tons of cash to Rome) I’m cool. Oh, and the difference is that all of this is to happen in one life.. if you go the fluffy end of the lolly pop and mess up, you are doomed, along with the heathen pagans. While the lucky few are to get a rapturous welcome in heaven where they can nip round for a quick Big Mac as soon as they get there.

Yeah right.

Ok,so where does the self help book fit into all of this? Is it a new quasi religion in itself? This is the religion of me, me, me.It’s probably disingenuous to call it a religion in the first place and if this kind of thing works for you then fine, but if religion is about service to the divine then the self help book is only a device to help you help yourself.

In the Bhagavad Gita is states that the four principles of religion are Austerity, Cleanliness, Truthfulness and Compassion. If you find these at the core of your religious belief system then maybe you won’t go far wrong, and yes, this compassion extends to animals.

Jesus did say “Thou Shalt not kill” and I don’t think he would fancy Big Mac’s being sold outside the pearly gates.

So where does that leave us? Can people discrimate between what is real and what is not? Can they tell a rope from a snake? Do they see spirituality as only a balm for a headache?

There is certainly an inner revolution going on and in any journey into the unknown, I would suggest guidance is needed. There are a lot of snake oil merchants who will tell you what you want to hear and line their pockets in the meantime. The more incomprehensible the snake oil the better.

Anyway, so not to end on a downer, I feel this exploration is a good thing. There are things that are difficult to understand and bigger than us. That’s not to say that I don’t think we should try but I feel we should get some basic core stuff sorted out.

And we have a lot to work out.

Let’s be excellent to each other and more tolerant, let’s wonder at our human diversity and then we may begin have some appreciation of the divine.