A Visit to the Krishna Yoga Center

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1 Mohammad Reza Najaf Tomaraei Theory and Practice of Meditation Instructor Aaron Gasper 12/04/2013 A Visit to the Krishna Yoga Center As a course requirement, I was assigned to visit a place where people practice meditation and write about my experience in there. Hopefully, I got the opportunity of going to the Krishna Yoga Center. It is an Indian temple where devotees of Krishna praise their God, teach their religious books to followers and those interested in learning about Bhagavad Gita, and practice chanting Maha-mantra, a special type of yoga that is distinguished as being the most powerful of all. Throughout the year, they conduct various different festivals and Krishna Yoga Center is located at 965 E 3370 S, Salt Lake City, UT They are open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10:00 A.M till 8:00 PM with the exception of Sundays on which they close at 4:00 PM. allow the public to use part of the building as a place to teach and learn all kinds of yoga. During my visit I was introduced to Hala, an Indian monk who teaches Bhagavad Gita and Bhakti yoga. We entered the temple, one of the building rooms which is specially prepared for worshiping Krishna and achieving peace and relaxation. The room was decorated with couple of different religious statues, with that of Krishna and his pleasure potency, Radha, standing at the center of attention. Hala asked me to relax, we sat down, and my tour began. The following is all he told me about his religion and what they do at the temple, in form of an interview in his own words: 1

2 Note: All of the following stated viewpoints are directly cited from the Krishna Temple staff. This paper serves solely as an interview and doesn t include any of my own opinions. The statue of Krishna (on the left, distinguishable by playing a flute and having peacock feather on his head) and his eternal consult Srimati Radharani (popularly known as Radha, standing at right of Krishna). There are many different types of meditation, and the real purpose of meditation is to achieve some peace and happiness. If at some point of time in your life you are having anxiety and fear, you can get rid of it through meditation and become calm. Silent meditation is a method of putting the soul at rest by means of sitting down and focusing on specific things such as light, breathing, or an object in the nature. 2

3 Another way of meditating, which we follow here, is called Mantra Meditation. The whole purpose behind meditating is to control the mind, because the mind is like a little baby or perhaps a monkey which can jump here and there and cause trouble. So if you control the mind, you will stay more focused which results in being peaceful and happy. There is a saying which states that if your mind is under your control, then it s your best friend; but the mind which is not in your command is your worst enemy. The word Mantra has a special meaning. In the Sanskrit language, man means mind, and tra means to become free. Thus the word mantra could be translated into English as becoming free minded, or in other words free from anxiety, fear, and problems in your life. Also, there are many different types of mantras too. Mantras are not just some ordinary and mundane phrases; they are powerful wordings. People of the ancient time have previously used mantras to perform various intended actions such as making it rain, controlling animals, and even hypnotizing and killing people. You cannot manufacture mantras; they already exist. Mantras are sets of wordings which have been explained in the scriptures. On top of it, special qualifications are mandatory for chanting certain mantras. You need to receive them from a master, who in turn had already learnt it from his master and practiced it to perfection. This is the only way by which the power of mantra will remain strong. If you just get mantras from a bogus person, the least that happens is that it won t work in favor of the chanter. 3

4 In this temple we use a special type of mantras known as Maha-mantra, meaning the greatest and most powerful of the mantras. By chanting this mantra, you will gain the benefit of all of mantras. More importantly, one of the greatest advantages of Maha-mantra is that unlike other mantras, you don t need any sort of qualification and extensive previous practice to chant it. Anyone could chant this mantra anywhere, for as long as they would like to. As I said before, if you are not having specific qualifications required by other mantras, or if you don t pronounce them correctly, you will be at the risk of The Maha-mantra handwritten on a board in the temple room next to the statue of Krishna and Radha. improperly chanting them and thus receiving negative and unwanted results. However, these problems don t exist in case of Maha-mantras. In fact this is the reason why we have decided to chant this mantra here at our temple. Monks of the temple usually carry a bag with themselves, and inside it there is a special set of beads with which monks chant the Maha-mantra. It will approximately take you 10 minutes to finish one round of chanting the Maha-mantra with these 108 beads. However, as a full-time practicing monk, I complete at least 16 rounds every day, which due to continuous practice takes around two hours. In other words, chanting the Maha-mantra 108 times Japa Mala is a set of 108 beads which is used by the monks. Upon entering the temple, I saw Hala walking in the corridor and chanting Maha-mantra with his set of beads. yogalife.fr & bootic.com requires around seven minutes to complete. 4

5 Gaining peace of mind and revealing stress are the well-known benefits of chanting Maha-mantras. However, these benefits are not the reason why we practice chanting this mantra. In fact, the best way to take the most out of chanting Maha-mantras is to develop love for Krishna the God in your heart. This question might come to your mind that most of the religions have a book or main scripture which they follow, but what about Hinduism? Our scripture is a book known as Bhagavad Gita, meaning the sound of God. Bhagavad Gita was originally written in the Sanskrit language, and the book which we use here is an English translation of it. It has the original verses in Sanskrit as well as an English transliteration and translation. There are 700 verses in this book. The book is called Bhagavad Gita as it is, because all the verses have been included and explained word by word and in their original wordings. So this means that the knowledge which was given by Krishna hundreds of decades ago, has Bhagavad Gita is the scripture taught in the temple. Its contents were spoken by Krishna to Arjuna around 5,000 years ago in a battlefield. marshall.edu been preserved as it was and without any change. Indeed it has been kept as it is because of Krishna s mercy. Also, there is no possibility of it being changed even in the future. In the book s introduction it is mentioned that there are 5 things which are explained in this book which are time (Kala), spirit soul (Giva), the Lord (Bhagavan), Karma, and knowledge (Giana). Apart from that, Bhagavad Gita also explains reincarnation which is how the soul transmigrates from one body and the fact that living organisms are not their physical body but 5

6 rather are composed of the spirit soul. As individual souls, we have an eternal relationship with the super soul which is our source. It must be coming from somewhere. That super soul is God. Bhagavad Gita is also called the book of yoga. It explains different types of yoga. The word yoga means to reconnect and reunite yourself back with the source. There are different methods of connecting yourself with the soul such as finding paths of knowledge, action, devotion, and meditation. Since there are many different ways to link yourself to the source, thus there are many different types of yoga existing. Nowadays people think of yoga as the act of exercising, stretching, and bending. This type of yoga is part of a system called Ashtanga yoga, but it doesn t directly connect us with the source. The best method of yoga is called Bhakti yoga, which means devotional service, and ensures a direct link to the super soul. It is the type of yoga which we practice here in the temple. Mantra meditation is a part of Bhakti yoga, because simply by chanting this mantra you will be directly connected to the Lord, and it s powerfulness lies in the fact that it lets you connect without any conditions. The difference between us and the Lord is that God is absolute. There is no difference between the name of Lord and his personality; they are one and the same. For example, let s say if a person whom I know is not here and I start calling out his name. Will that person be here? No. He or she has to be physically present here. Further, if you are thirsty, you can t eliminate your thirst by constantly saying the word water. This is the reason why this world is relative, not absolute. 6

7 Simply by chanting the Maha-mantra, you can connect yourself with the Lord. In this kind of meditation you won t be having the problem of falling asleep, because you are actively controlling your mind. The meditation part of this mantra is that you have to pronounce these words very clearly and listen to yourself saying them. Your mind has to listen to the sound of these vibrations. Although these words may seem very ordinary phrases, but the vibration of the sound caused by these words is spiritual. Lord Krishna himself appeared 5000 years ago and spoke the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, one of his devotees. This communication was taking place in a battlefield. Two armies were about to go in war with each other. When the war was about to start, Arjuna wanted to see who all have gathered on the other side, and thus asked Krishna to sit down in the middle of battlefield to take a look at enemy s army. But once their discussion continued, Arjuna eventually decided not to fight. He simply gave up. Since he was one of the main warriors of his army, if he was out it meant the whole army wouldn t have won the war. Krishna instructs Arjuna on the battlefield of Kuruksettra. salagram.net Arjuna said I don t want to get into this fight. Why should I cause death of many people just for the sake of kingdom and joy? It s a sinful activity to kill people. Then Krishna started explaining to Arjuna that how war is also important in society. Krishna told him that as a king, it s his task to protect his people and civilization, even if it requires killing other people. If you are interested in learning about this long story, feel free to read the Bhagavad Gita. 7

8 This is the statue of Swami Prabhupada, the spiritual master of the Krishna devotees of this temple. Most of the people in India, namely called Hindus a name given to those people who used to live near the river Sindh don t have the same philosophy as us devotees of Krishna. Hindus worship many different Gods. For example, as you can see there is a statue of a demigod called Ganesha placed in this room. Demigods are more powerful than human beings but are still under the supreme personality of Godhead, Krishna. Everything is coming from Krishna, and he is the source of it all, including the universe in which we live in. Demigods help Krishna in maintaining the universe; they are Statue of Ganesha, the demigod responsible for removing daily-life obstacles. the assistants of God. 8

9 There are three main personalities of the demigods which are Brama, Vishnu, and Shiva. Brama is known as the creator of this universe, he is an engineer who has been given power by Krishna to design this material creation, the universe. Vishnu is a maintainer and his task is to keep this universe alive. Complementing the tasks of these two demigods is Shiva, who is the destroyer. Since everything in this world is temporary, Shiva will come at the right time and destroy the whole universe. Under these three demigods, there are many different sub-demigods. For example, Indira is in charge of the weather, Vayu controls the wind, Surya commands the sun, and Chandra manages the moon. Every single thing in this universe is under the control of a demigod. So to speak, there are 33 million demigods existing. Even every single part of our body has a predefined demigod controlling it. We are indeed not independent, and it s easy to understand. The demigods are more powerful than human beings but still they directly work under the control of Krishna. However, the problem that occurs in Hinduism is that people take advantage of these demigods. For example, the task of Ganesha is to remove obstacles. So if you have any issues in your life, you can go and worship him, and offer him your dedications. In return he will remove the problems of your life. However, at the end of the day these benefits are material. Some Hindus go and worship Krishna directly, and although they too demand material benefits, yet still it s better than going to demigods who need to take permission from Krishna in order to grant your request. Krishna is the supreme and he is totally independent, so why shouldn t you go to him directly? Krishna can give you eternal benefits too if you put your efforts for them. It is called Mukti, meaning that you will get out of the cycle of death and birth. Krishna explains how as a 9

10 spirit soul, we constantly change bodies in this world. Right now we are in a human body and once we die, our soul will gain yet another body such as that of plants and animals, any living entity. What body we will move to in our next life depends on our Karma. This process continues for ever and ever as long as we are in this world. If you worship Krishna and practice Bhakti yoga, the lowest achievable thing is that you can put an end to this whole cycle of birth and death. This earth could be considered as an equivalent of hell where people suffer and keep changing bodies. Once you go to the spiritual world, there will be no death and no birth. You won t get old and you won t be infected with disease anymore. It s a place where we can be eternally happy. We have various programs here at the temple. We teach Bhagavad Gita in the evenings. The main event here, which is absolutely free, starts at Saturday evenings which is a service by the people of temple, and is followed by dinner. Other people from other communities are also welcome to join our services. Monks have morning services everyday which is our personal practice. Also, we have a lot of yoga happening here. We have many different yoga teachers who come here to teach various kinds of yoga, and are followed by hundreds of students who are eager to learn about it. In fact we are hosting part of the space here as a medium for those interested in learning about meditation, and since the temple is located in the same building, it could create the opportunity for people interested in devotional yoga to learn from Bhagavad Gita and become devotees of Krishna. Further, we have many festivals going on throughout the year too. They include the festival of colors, the festival of lights, Rama Fest, Lama Fest, and India Fest. We also have the celebration of the birth of Krishna in an event called Krishna Janmashtami. 10

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