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Thursday, April 17, 2014

The end of desire, peanuts, the process of Vedic learning, self-promotion and Tulsī leaves.


 
Once the Muslim emperor Akhbar asked his Hindu minister Birbal – ‘At what age does a man become free from sex desire? “ Birbal replied: “Never.” Akhbar could not believe this, so Birbal said: “Come with me to the hospital and take your 18-year old granddaughter with you.” In the hospital a 99-year old man lay on his deathbed, his wife by his side. The herald announced:  “Rise! The Emperor has come!”, but the dying man just lay there with closed eyes saying “Pranams Maharaja!” When, however, he smelled the young girl’s perfume, he opened his eyes and when he beheld the girl’s beauty he stared at her with wide open eyes. Birbal said – “You see Maharaja, there is no end to this.” Sādhu Bābā taught us this verse from Śaṅkarācārya -

aṅgaṁ galitaṁ palitaṁ muṇḍaṁ danta vihīna jātaṁ tuṇḍaṁ
vṛddho yāti gṛhitvā daṇḍam tad api na muncatyāśā piṇḍam

“In old age the body deteriorates, the head is covered with grey hair, the mouth becomes toothless, and one clutches a staff to keep straight – yet still one cannot give up material desires.” Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-Gītā (3.39) - jñānino nitya vairina – “lust is the eternal enemy of the wise”. In his commentary to Śrīmad Bhāgavata 3.31.39, Śrīla Jīva Goswāmī writes – pramadāsu svīyāsvapi, one should not only give up one’s attachment to women in general, but even to one’s own wife.”

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Some sādhus are of the opinion that peanuts should not be eaten on Ekādaśī, as it is named mung-phali in Hindi, mung referring to pulse. I phoned my Guru-bhāi Śrī Tapan-kumār Adhikāry, who told me that peanuts can be taken as they are not a śim-viśeṣa, a type of bean. In the Padma Purāṇa narration of the pāpa puruṣa it is mentioned that sin is present only in grains.

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When I used to study bhakti from my superiors I was often amazed how I got answers that were wholly unrelated to my questions, but they were actually upakāra [helpful and useful] – I thought it might have something to do with the abstract mind-frame of Indian people, but now that I am myself a bhakti-teacher my students also tell me they experience the same – I don’t answer their questions as they expect it. So it has nothing to do with western rationalism vs. abstract Indian thought – it is just the way Bhagavān teaches through His media and His messengers.

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Here is a striking verse about blatant self-promoters we so often see in our Vaisnava world -

ghaṭaṁ bhittvā paṭaṁ chittvā kuryād vā gārdhabhaḥ-svanam
yena kenāpy upāyena prasiddhaḥ-puruṣo bhava

“Either by breaking pots or tearing off one’s clothes, or braying like a donkey to get attention, one way or the other, a man wants to be famous.”

A devotee quoted this on Facebook. The source reference is unknown, but it’s a great verse.

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It is often said that it is offensive to chew on Tulsi-leaves, but that is not right. If that were so one should not chew Prasad either!

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