Changed Outlook

I got a copy of BTG May 2013 issue. I was quite amazed to read the article “Ghosts Demystified.” It describes ghosts as disembodied entities, and their existence is logically proved. The tale of transformation “She Won, I Lost” is also quite encouraging. This changed my outlook towards ISKCON. – Ashish Kumar Chand

Untimely Death

Please tell me why it happened to us so early. My father was just 55. He did good to others. He always helped the needy and loved everybody. But the question arises: why did he die so soon? He wasn’t in his nineties. He was just 55. Here, I am answerless. I really am not able to think if God really exists or it’s just our (mis)understanding. My father was never dishonest, never betrayed anyone, maintained his servants as his own children, loved his own family, helped the needy, never did any wrong to anyone not even by chance, kept purity in his mind and business, prayed regularly, and loved God with all sincerity. He really was a super hero. God helps those who love Him but why did God not help my father to overcome death? I don’t want to disappoint God as He is the only one who can now take care of my loving father. I and my family too loved God a lot but at this point of time, I don’t know what to say. – Shruti Gaba

Our reply: It is indeed sad news that your father is no longer in your midst. The descriptions of your father clearly point out that he was a kind-hearted, gentlemanly person who had faith in God. The absence of such a person is heart-breaking indeed.

We don’t clearly know why he left so early but we know for sure that wherever he is, his activities here will be taken into account and a suitable chance will be given to him to progress further. By the law of karma (mentioned in your letter), we can deduce that if he has sown good actions, he will definitely reap good results. To understand God’s own plan is no ordinary task. Even the greatest of philosophers are puzzled trying to understand His plan. What we can do instead is to accept and co-operate with His plan. One must have faith that God’s plan for everyone is the best possible.

We can pray to Sri Sri Radha-Krishna that wherever your father is, let him receive Their Lordships’ mercy and may he come closer to Them.

Some Advice

I finished reading the May 2013 issue of BTG in a single sitting. Every BTG issue leaves me craving for more. However, although I am an ISKCON life patron for approximately 20 years I could never become a regular with visiting the temple or chanting of Hare Krishna mantra. I am wayward at times in my food habits also, but on each visit to the temple, whenever it may be, I feel as if I have come to my own home. Could you please guide me? – Shyam Sunder Sharma

Our reply: We thank you for remaining steadfast in your connection with ISKCON all these years. It is the natural constitutional position of all of us to serve Lord Krishna lovingly and thus whenever we come in touch with Krishna, we immediately feel like coming home.

Demands from occupation, family, society will never wane. We need to understand that spiritual life is not about giving up certain engagements but is more about replacing activities in connection with the body with those in connection with spirit. Which activities can be termed as spiritual activities? We need wisdom to answer this question. This will come by associating with the sincere devotees of Krishna who will guide us wisely. Once you know what is important then you will prioritize it.

One simple activity that you may practice is the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, the simplest and most effective way to advance spiritually in current times. This chanting will empower you with the necessary purity and strength to not only come close to Krishna but also to stay close to Him. When everything else is unavailable, the Hare Krishna mantra is always there with us to feel the presence of the Lord in the form of His holy names. Thus, this chanting is stressed especially for modern times.

How Humble?

In response to the several significant points made in “Struggling to be Humble?” (BTG May ’13), I would like to pose the following query :

Taking a humble position goes hand in hand with tolerating, especially when one is at the receiving end of injustice and unfair dealings. It also goes hand in hand with being focused on the bigger picture – why Krishna has arranged any given negative experience for a devotee.

However, I have observed time and again that devotees adopt a humble position and decide to tolerate humiliation and insult but are unable to sustain this position because in reality they are not at this level. Then, trouble follows – the internal wound festers and goes undetected and unaddressed and eventually they leave ISKCON.

In such cases, is it not better for the said individuals to speak out against injustice, seek help from seniors and thus protect themselves, their service and service attitude and most importantly, their connection with ISKCON, rather than take a humble position which they cannot sustain? As one esteemed speaker said, “It is often better to be successful at a lower level than to fail at a higher level.“ Looking forward to a clarification.

Reply by Mahatma Dasa (author): Practice without realization can be unhealthy for some devotees. If the result of practice without sufficient realization is that one goes away from Krishna consciousness, then, of course, such practice is not Krishna conscious.

We often say one must be real about where one stands in Krishna consciousness and act according. But one can also error on the side of being too “real” thinking oneself so fallen that one will never be Krishna conscious. But wherever one stands on the continuum of practice versus realization, one should understand the goal, and aspire to achieve it, even if presently the goal seems impossible to attain. As it is said, a man is judged by his ideals. So we must never lose sight of our goals, no matter how difficult they are to achieve. Where one stands is not as important as where one is looking to go.

Unfamiliar Word

I would like to share my personal experience when I encountered an unfamiliar word. In BTG March 2013 issue, in the article “Caste system: Can we cast it away?” I came across a word fetishist. Curious to know its meaning in the given context, I searched on the internet. But the results I got had a sexual connotation to it and it disturbed me a lot the whole day. My kind request to the authors is to use simpler words in their articles or better, give the meaning of these kinds of words which we don’t come across in our day-today life. – Vinay

Reply by Gautam Saha (author): According to the Oxford dictionary, one of the meanings of the word fetishist is “a thing evoking irrational devotion or respect.” Another is “an object worshipped by primitive people.” A word is used to denote its closest meaning. The reader is expected to expand his word power rather than taking umbrage or being touchy. The reader should see the whole picture rather than pinpoint an apparent misword.

Replies to the other letters were written by Nanda Dulal Dasa.