Two Natures Of Krishna – Quotations

Krishna dancing on a lotus, c.1825. Gouache on watermarked paper.
Tiruchchirappalli. Tamil Nadu

 

Life guidance from the Bhagavad Gita. Translated with commentary by Ravi Ravindra

 

 

The Bhagavad Gita, part of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, was composed more than two thousand years ago. In the text, the Hindu god Lord Krishna advises the prince Arjuna about his duty as a warrior and responsible spiritual being. In Professor Ravindra’s new translation and commentary, the Bhagavad Gita is considered as a universal guide to navigating the battle of life.

 

 

Many Are Called but Few Are Chosen

 

 

The Blessed One said: Hear, O Pārtha, how by practicing yoga with your mind fixed on Me, and with Me as the base and the refuge, you will know Me completely and without doubt. I will speak to you, without omission, of the essential sacred knowledge [jnāna] and of comprehensive discernment [vijnāna], knowing which nothing else remains to be known. (7.1–2)

Among thousands of human beings scarcely one strives after perfection, and among those who strive and attain perfection, scarcely one knows Me in the full truth of My being. (7.3)

Krishna urges Arjuna to practice yoga, fixing his mind more and more on the essential nature of Krishna, and he promises Arjuna that he will teach him jñāna (sacred knowledge) and discriminative discernment (vijñāna), knowing which nothing else remains to be known. At the same time, he is quite clear that out of thousands of human beings only a few will strive for perfection, and out of those who come to a perfection of character, very few will know Krishna’s real nature. As we look around at the general human situation and see what largely occupies humanity, any notion of striving for spiritual perfection seems very far away and quite rare. This is not new; even at the time of the Buddha or of Christ, or at the time of Krishna’s human incarnation and before, very few people seem to have had an interest in searching for the Real. Like the author, the readers also need to ask themselves periodically about the quality of their search for the Truth.

Furthermore, any serious contact with the Real is not only a matter of human effort, however strenuous. Grace of the devas is also needed. Even among those few who strive, still fewer seem to be chosen to attain Truth. It is the same everywhere and at all times “for many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)

 

Holy Fools For Christ – Children of Light

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If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool… ( 1 Correnthins )

Few taunts are sharper than those that call into question someone’s sanity. “He’s crazy. He’s a fool. He’s an idiot. He’s a loon…”

Yet there are saints, most notably in the Russian Orthodox Church, whose acts of witness to the Gospel fly in the face of what most of us regard as sanity. The Russian Church has a special word for such saints, iurodivii, meaning fools for the sake of Christ, people in whom Christ wears the disguise of madness.

While there is much variety among them, the iurodivii are in every case ascetic Christians living well outside the borders of conventional social behaviour, including conventional religious behaviour. They are people who in most parts of the developed world would be locked away in insane asylums or simply ignored until the elements silenced them, after which they would be thrown into unmarked graves.

While this type of saint is chiefly associated with Eastern Christianity, the Western Church is not without its holy fools.

St. Francis of Assisi

StFrancisPerhaps Francis of Assisi is chief among them. Think of him stripping off his clothes and standing naked in the main square of Assisi, or preaching to birds, or taming a murderous wolf, or in the midst of the Crusades walking unarmed across the Egyptian desert into the Sultan’s camp. What at first may seem like charming scenes become, when placed on the rough surface of actual life, mad moments indeed.

Perhaps even Thomas Aquinas, the most rational of saints, would be regarded an insane by many in the modern world because of his devotion to a way of life that was completely senseless apart from the Gospel. Every saint is troubling. Every saint reveals some of our fears and makes us question our fear-driven choices.

St. Basil the Blessed

ashemysticreadingThe most famous of Russia’s holy fools was a Muscovite, St. Basil the Blessed, after whom the cathedral on Red Square takes its’ name. In an ancient icon housed in that church, Basil is clothed only in his beard and loin cloth. In the background is the Saviour Tower and the churches packed within the Kremlin walls. Basil’s hands are raised in prayer toward a small image of Jesus revealed in an opening in the sky. The holy fool has a meek quality but a single-minded, intelligent face.

It is hard to find the actual man beneath the thicket of tales and legends that grew up around his memory, but according to tradition Basil was clairvoyant from an early age. Thus, while a cobbler’s apprentice, he both laughed and wept when a certain merchant ordered a pair of boots, for Basil saw that the man would be wearing a coffin before his new boots were ready. We can imagine that the merchant was not amused at the boy’s behaviour.

Soon after – perhaps having been fired by the cobbler – Basil became a vagrant. Dressing as if for the Garden of Eden, Basil’s survival of many ruthless Russian winters must be reckoned among the miracles associated with his life.

A naked man wandering the streets – it isn’t surprising that he became famous in the capital city. Especially for the wealthy, he was not a comfort either to eye or ear. In the eyes of some, he was a trouble-maker. There are tales of him destroying the merchandise of dishonest tradesmen at the market on Red Square. At times he hurled stones at the houses of the wealthy – yet, as if revering icons, he sometimes kissed the stones on the outside of houses in which evil had been committed, as if to say that no matter what happens within these walls, there is still hope of conversion.

Basil was one of the few who dared warn Czar Ivan the Terrible that his violent deeds were dooming him to hell. According to one story, in the midst of Lent, when Russians keep a rigorous vegetarian fast, Basil presented the Czar with a slab of raw beef, telling him that there was no reason in his case not to eat meat. Why abstain from meat when you murder men? Ivan, whose irritated glance was a death sentence to others, is said to have lived in dread of Basil and would allow no harm to be done to him and occasionally even sent gifts to the naked prophet of the streets, but Basil kept none of those for himself. Most that he received he gave to beggars, though in one surprising case, a gift of gold from the Czar was passed on to a merchant. ( Others imagined the man was well off, but Basil discerned the man had been ruined and was actually starving but was too proud to beg. ) In another case Basil poured vodka – another royal gift – on the street. He wanted, he said, to put out the fires of sin.

Basil was so revered by Moscovites that when he died, his thin body was buried not in a pauper’s grave on the city’s edge, but next to the newly erected Cathedral of the Protection of the Mother God, built in honour of Russia’s great victory over the Tartars in 1552.

Czar Theodore

1470806469_98df344a5a_fhdr99Another fool of Christ was the heir to Ivan the Terrible’s imperial throne, Czar Theodore. Regarded by Western diplomats of the time as a weakling and idiot, Theodore was adored by the Russian people. Brought up in an environment of brutality, reviled by his father, regarded with scorn by courtiers, he became a man of simplicity, prayer, and quiet devotion to his wife. Much of his time was spent in church. It is said that throughout his fourteen years as Czar he never lost his playfulness or love of beauty.

He sometimes woke the people of Moscow in the hours before dawn by sounding the great bells of the Kremlin, a summons to prayer. “He was small of stature,” according to a contemporary account, “and bore the masks of fasting. He was humble, given to the things of the soul, constant in prayer, liberal in alms. He did not care for the things of this world, only the salvation of the soul.”

“This simpleton,” writes the historian Nicholas Zernov, “Robed in gorgeous vestments, was determined that bloodshed, cruelty and oppression must be stopped, and it was stopped as long as he occupied the throne of his ancestors.”

St. Xenia

XeniaIn June, 1988, I was present for the canonisation of the Holy Trinity – St. Sergious Lavra north of Moscow of someone very like Basil and Theodore: St. Xenia of St. Petersburg.

Early in her long life, Xenia had been married to an army colonel who drank himself to death and who may have been an abusive, violent husband. Soon after his funeral, she began giving away the family fortune to the poor, a simple act of obedience to Christ’s teachings: “If you would be perfect, go sell what you have and give it to the poor… and come follow me.” In order to prevent Xenia from impoverishing herself, relatives sought to have her declared insane. However the doctor who examined her concluded Xenia was the sanest person he had ever met.

Having given away her wealth, for some years Xenia disappeared, becoming one of Russia’s many pilgrims walking from shrine to shrine while reciting the Jesus prayer. ( Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. )

Somewhere along the way during those hidden years, she became a Fool for Christ. When Xenia finally returned to St. Petersburg, she was wearing the ruins of her late husband’s military uniform and would answer only to his name, not her own. One can only guess her motives. In taking upon herself his name and clothing, she may have been attempting to do penance for his sins. Her home became the Smolensk cemetery on the city’s edge where she slept exposed to the elements year-round and where finally she was buried.

Xenia became known for her clairvoyant gift of telling people what to expect and what they should do, though what she said often made sense only in the light of later events. She never begged. Money was given to her but she kept only an occasional kopek for herself; everything else was passed on to others.

When she died, aged seventy-one, at the end of the eighteenth century, her grave became a place of pilgrimage and remained so even through the Soviet period.

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Blessed Prasad – Sathya Sai Memories

“There is an appointed time for everything.
And there is a time for every event under heaven –
A time to give birth, and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.”

– Ecclesiastes, 3:1-2

Swami giving His blessed Prasad

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Swami…

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A very long time ago while living in UK I wrote “Prasad the Guru’s Grace“. I remember at the time I wrote it, there were still blessed sweets in my filing cabinet. I kept the extra sweets there in a hidden place.  From time to time, I’d look at them  remembing the  previous visit to Sai and the moments of joy, when the  sweets were thrown. I’d always done well with blessed sweets, often coming away with handfuls… Those years were some of the best in my life. I doubt  if ever I will forget them.  Although prasad is a gift from the guru, life itself is  prasad if we look around us and count our blessings.


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Blessed Prasad

Many times during Swami’s Darshan, I’ve received blessed Prasad. Excited devotees would buy an assortment of delicious sweets, place them on a shiny silver platter and carefully decorate the offering with an abundance of colourful flowers. Often, by the side of the sweets, lay packets of tiny golden lockets, letters and deity statuettes all lovingly arranged for Sai’s attention.

Usually, the determined devotees would wait for days for a suitable seating position where Swami could bless the platters. This would mean re-arranging the sweets, and improving on their floral skills, until finally, each platter resembled a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

Often, the devotee’s efforts received Swami’s blessings. He would walk along until he reached a superbly decorated platter, stop, look and bless the sweet offering. While doing so, he would take large handfuls of the delicious selection and throw them over the seated devotees. With loud aahs! and whoops of joy, and small gestures of gratitude, the sweets would be accepted and passed around to others, or sometimes kept for loved-ones and friends.

I remember many wonderful moments with Swami as he blessed sweets. Frequently, he would throw them high into the air and one would land on my head, chin, or nose. His favourite target seemed to be my headband. Once, a sweet lodged itself between the folds of my shawl, and not until I stood to leave, did it fall on to the floor where I could retrieve it. But mostly, sweets would simply land in my lap or even beneath my cushion; how they found their way there, I’ll never know. But always, I felt elated when a blessed sweet came my way. I would keep my precious catch until a quiet moment, then eat it, slowly savouring the delicate flavour.

On one occasion in 1992, when seated in the front line at Prasanthi Nilayam, Swami came along and playfully tossed sweets to those seated all around, but missed me altogether. It had been one of those days when I had felt less than happy with myself and therefore, undeserving of a blessed sweet. Mentally, I expressed to Swami that I didn’t deserve one.

Immediately, he turned and tossed, with determined accuracy, a large toffee. The missile landed with a loud thud on my head, shattering the silent moment. This of course, left me startled, because he had read my thoughts!


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Summer, 1995

During my summer visit last year, Swami blessed my sweet platter for the last time. I remember the occasion well, for he had playfully thrown the sweets back at me! I had not been successful on my first attempt, for a very bewildered Swami had been offered three platters, all at the same time. He had chosen just one.

On another afternoon, I’d taken my sweets to darshan and again had been unlucky. Fortunately, on my third attempt, I was lucky enough to be seated near the verandah passage. I patiently waited through the hot afternoon until after Bhajans when he would walk back to the Poornachandra Hall.

When bhajans were over, Swami came from the temple and began his stroll along the aisle, where I anxiously sat hoping for his attention. He spotted my platter and indicated for me to hold it up high. I immediately did so, and he, playfully picked up just a few of the assortment and threw them back at me! I looked up to express my thanks, and caught him smiling from ear to ear. I noticed the luminescence of his dark eyes, and felt the immense heat radiating from him by his nearness (a characteristic not often discussed by Sai writers or devotees).

As he continued his walk down the aisle, I felt such deep gratitude, I wanted to share the blessed sweets with everyone.

As I began to joyously distribute the sweets, a lady sitting behind quietly refused the offering. I couldn’t believe it! She had been sitting there for hours, but now didn’t want a blessed sweet. I began to recalled a similar situation a week earlier, when I too, had refused one.

On that particular occasion Swami had not thrown sweets, only blessed them. The lucky recipient had offered sweets to those sitting nearby. Somehow, one had been offered to me, but I refused. I don’t know why, perhaps because he had not thrown it directly to me.

Now sitting there with my blessed platter, and painfully feeling the rejection of my offering I instantly regretted not accepting the blessed sweet from the previous week: for it is in the giving and receiving, we truly show our appreciation of one another.

Blessed sweets are PRASAD a gift from the Guru; a gift that has the power to change our lives. When a master gives food to his devotees, he is in fact, giving of his energy. If we take Prasad with this understanding, it can gladden our lives and bring us closer to him.

Blessed Prasad takes away all sorrows, all miseries, and it calms down the heart completely


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Here is a small story about the power of Prasad:

Once a young man came to the ashram of a master, because he was suffering from despair. It really didn’t matter what he did, the despair continued to plague his life. Eventually he prayed for it to be taken away, but nothing happened and the despair and suffering it brought now intensified.

A woman devotee tried to comfort the lad, and having received some blessed food, she broke it into pieces and gave some to him.

He ate a small piece of the food slowly and deliberately, when he had finished, he found to his amazement the despair had disappeared. He felt completely well.

No matter how we receive Prasad, or what form it takes, be it sweets directly given to us by the Guru, or blessed food shared with us by others, it is always full of Divine Energy. Having accepted such blessings, we accept the Guru’s grace. The secret is to appreciate it.

A week after Swami blessed my sweet platter in 1995, he stopped blessing sweets altogether – a delightful sharing of joy, now truly missed.

I am writing this piece to thank Sri Sai Baba for the many beautiful occasions, when he threw playfully, lovingly and sometimes tenderly, his beloved Prasad. I will miss those shiny silver platters full of sweets – dreadfully.


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On my way to Heathrow airport in Novemeber 2012, to catch the plane to Bangalore. I stopped to take photos in an English garden centre.. I love to to take photos of the small animal sanctuary there, particularly in winter time. I took about twenty photos.  I had no idea until much later when  I showed this photo to a friend in Puttaparthi, of  the remarkable  “Sai image”  in this photo.. My friend said, “Do you see Swami there?” I answered, I had not noticed. She pointed to the trees, “there,” she said.. Do you see Swami in the trees?