The Paintings on the front and back cover, as well as the internal illustrations, were done by Annapurna Devi Dasi. Born in Orebro, Sweden, in the late '50s, Annapurna has shown a tremendous aptitude for, and interest in, the visual arts since childhood. With watercolors and illustrations featured in publications that are distributed worldwide, her primary subject matter is devotional in nature, as she draws from the mystic yoga traditions of ancient India. Inspired by Radha and Krishna as the archetypal female and male forms, her use of color and line evokes the lyrical expression of masters from the Golden Era of illustration, such as Arthur Rackham and Warwick Goble.
Motivated by nature, as well as the spiritual, Annapurna and her daughter Vrinda, are collaborating on a three-volume Indian classic, A Prince in Exile, based on the pastimes of Lord Rama. The first volume was awarded Bronze Winner in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, 2012.
"When you look back on a lifetime and think of what has been given to the world by your presence, your fugitive presence, inevitably you think of your art, whatever it may be, as the gift you have made to the world in acknowledgment of the gift you have been given, which is life itself."
The Science of Krishna consciousness, or bhakti yoga, is considered the highest form of yoga, or linking with the Supreme. Shri Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita (6.47), the essential textbook of yoga, states, yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantar-atmana / sraddhavan bhajate yo mam: "Of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me [the Supreme Person], thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Meóhe is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all." And, we also learned in the Gita (18.55), bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yas casmi tattvatah / tato mam tattvato jnatva visate tad-anantaram: "One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service [bhakti]. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God."
Krishna consciousness is also considered the highest education. When Prahlada Maharaja, a great authority on spiritual matters, was asked by his father what the best subject of study was, he replied, iti pumsarpita visnau bhaktis cen nava-laksana / kriyeta bhagavaty addha tan manye 'dhitam utta-mam: "One who has dedicated his life to the service of Krishna through the nine methods of bhakti should be understood to be the topmost learned per-son." When Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu discussed with Ram1nanda Raya what the most important education was, the answer was given, krsna-bhakti vina vidya nahi ara: "No education is as important as the transcendental devotional service of Krishna."
Now, how can we, ordinary people, progress in such a high practice or in the study of such a high science? This question is askedóand answered óby Karnamrita Das in Give to Live. Karnamrita himself has been a student and practitioner of bhakti yoga for more than four decades, and in his book he shares with us many of his life's experiences, thoughts, and realizations as he has struggled (as we all do) to find his way and move ahead on his path. A great devotional teacher, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, wrote in his poem "Saragrahi Vaishnava":
Man's glory is in common sense
Dictating us the grace,
That man is made to live and love
The beauteous heaven's embrace!
Give to Live, with its practical, common-sense tips, will help us all on our progressive paths. Whether we accept Krishna consciousness fully or not, as long as we want to improve our lives, to become better human beings, we will get encouragement and help from this book.
The title Give to Live is taken from the entry of the same name. The idea of the pieceóand the bookóis that our natural function as souls is to give. We are meant to giveóto other people, to the planet, to humanity, to the universe, to all living entities, and ultimately, to God. In fact, we can properly give to others only when, directly or indirectly, we give to the Supreme. As Karnamrita's teacher, Shrila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, wrote in his introduction to The Nectar of Devotion: The Complete Science of Bhakti-yoga, "The Nectar of Devotion teaches us the science of loving every one of the living entities perfectly by the easy method of loving Krishna. We have failed to create peace and harmony in human society, even by such great attempts as the United Nations, because we do not know the right method. The method is very simple, but one has to understand it with a cool head. The Nectar of Devotion teaches all men how to perform the simple and natural method of loving Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we learn how to love Krishna, then it is very easy to immediately and simultaneously love every living being. It is like pouring water on the root of a tree or supplying food to one's stomach. . . . The Nectar of Devotion will teach us how to turn the one switch that will immediately brighten everything, everywhere' Give to Live is based on this principle.
It has been my cherished privilege and pleasure to have gotten to know and work with Karnamrita Das (and his similarly qualified wife, Archana-siddhi Devi Dasi), over the years. Wherever we have been, he has given freely of himselfóand he does so in this volume too. Reading this book is as good as speaking with him personally. He is as open, friendly, helpful, practical and devotional in this book as he is in life. And he not only practices what he preaches; he shares with us what he has learned and realized through his years of practice and, sometimes, even trial and error. He has progressed steadily, and if we take his association and advice, we will progress steadily as well.
In giving us ultimately Krishna consciousness, Karnamrita is acting as our best benefactor; he is giving us the greatest gift, as confirmed by the greatest lovers of and givers to Krishna, the gopis of Vrindavan, in this prayer to Him:
tava kathamrtam tapta-jivanam
kavibhir iditam kalmasapaham
sravana-mangalam srimad atatam
bhuvi grnanti ye bhuri-da janah
"The nectar of Your words and the descriptions of Your activities are the life and soul of those suffering in this material world. These narrations, transmit-ted by learned sages, eradicate one's sinful reactions and bestow good fortune upon whoever hears them. These narrations are broadcast all over the world and are filled with spiritual power. Certainly those who spread the message of Godhead are most munificent?' [Shrimad Bhagavatam 10.31.9]
And so we approach Karnamrita Das and this book in the mood that Bhakti-vinoda Thakura expressed in his poem "Saragrahi Vaishnava":
Forget the past that sleeps, and ne'er
The future dream at all,
But act in times that are with thee,
And progress thee shall call!
Push on thy onward march, O soul,
Against an evil deed
That stands with soldiersóhate and lustó
A hero be indeed!
O Saragrahi Vaishnava soul,
Thou art an angel fair;
Lead, lead me on to Vrindaban
And spirit's power declare!
In Karnamrita's book we get both common sense and eternal truth. And for that we all are indebted.
"Let the sharp moralist accuse me of being illusioned; I do not mind. Experts in Vedic activities may slander me as being misled, friends and relatives may call me frustrated, my brothers may call me a fool, the wealthy mammonites may point me out as mad, and the learned philosophers may assert that I am much too proud; still my mind does not budge an inch from the determination to serve the lotus feet of Govinda [the cowherder Krishna], though I be unable to do it." [Shrila Madhavendra Puri]
"Let my words express even a tiny particle of a particle of a particle of the luscious beauty of Murari [Krishna], whose artless adolescent figure enraptures me, and whose moon-face is worshiped by the soft melodies of His flute. All glories to [Krishna] the life of my words! The collyrium from the eyes of the young girls of Vraja decorates His charming lotus face, which is languid with love, and an impassioned peacock's feather adorns His head." [Shrila Bilva-mangal Thakur in his Krishna Karnamrita 7, 8]
We encounter many types of written communication with different levels of polish or sophistication. There are books, short stories, articles, newsletters, blogs, letters and emails in roughly descending order of refinement. This is important while considering this book, since it is composed of blogs (with a few exceptions) that I have written for Krishna.com during a period of six-teen months between 2007 and 2008. When I submit an article for Back to Godhead, I have to be very careful, as there is a certain standard of writing which needs to be met in order to be accepted by a panel of reviewers.
Blogging is a different "horse" altogether: even though it is thoughtful or scripturally based, it's a much more spontaneous and free-flowing affair. That is both its charm and its liability. I can't say my blogging is my "emotional ecstasy" as my guru, Shrila Prabhupada, called his writing, though it is as close as I can get. I am only a small devotee, yet I have some attraction to and knowledge of bhakti yoga or Krishna consciousness and I write my inspirations.
I am called to write and communicate what I see as "essential truth," and feel in a sort of "writer's trance" or "flow" state where what I write feels as if it is being given to me. If I waited until it was "perfect" in every respect, it might never see the online light. I ask my readers to forgive my shortcomings as a writer. I will invoke the verse that Prabhupada quoted in the preface to his Shrimad Bhagavatam: "[On the other hand,] that literature which is full with descriptions of the transcendental glories of the name, fame, form and pas-times of the unlimited Supreme Lord is a transcendental creation meant to bring about a revolution in the impious life of a misdirected civilization. Such transcendental literatures, even though irregularly composed, are heard, sung and accepted by purified men who are thoroughly honest?' [Shrimad Bhaga-vatam 1.5.11]
Of course, by that quote I don't mean to imply that this book is on the level of the Shrimad Bhagavatam but to say that I recognize my shortcomings, while praying that something spiritual and useful will come through my writing anyway. There is a great need for many kinds of books, written in various styles for all levels of interest in the subject matter of Krishna, his words, his holy name, and about persons like Lord Chaitanya and his followers who embody His teachings.
We are taught in the great bhakti scripture, Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita about the book Bhagavatam and the person Bhagavatam. The written scripture is the "passive agent" of Divinity and the person Bhagavatam is the "active agent." Both are essential, though the person who exemplifies the scripture and walks among us is more important, because he or she "goes after" us to see if we have understood. Although I am not on the level of a "person Bhagavatam," I am under the guidance and shelter of those who are.
I hope that I am filling a need that hasn't been met by other writings. You will have to be the judge of that. Many devotees of Krishna have complained that there are no books for those with no background in bhakti. I admit that my writing doesn't completely fulfill that purpose (understandable by the average man or women on the street with at least some interest). I will have to write another book for that, yet I have tried to write in a way that I think intelligent and philosophical people will understand. This book contains my experiences and reflections on the path of life and bhakti. These experiences are not just words on a page, or one-dimentionsal, but have a potency which can also give the experience, of opening a new door with a new perspective. If you can taste a drop of the nectar of Krishna, that drop will awaken a spiritual thirst within you for more and deeper experiences.
Whatever Give to Live is for you, for me it is the essence of the life I aspire to lead, based on the universal principle of giving. In a sense I am only hinting at this great secret of giving which you have to personally uncover beyond merely a nice concept. Giving is not just some pious idea, but it is our nature as souls who are part of the supreme Giver, or GodóWho for me is Krishna, the all-attractive, flute-playing cowherdóthe supreme friend and lover of all. The Lord of creation and beyond is by nature a giver by His very existence. He cannot help but give, and therefore, He is also the supreme enjoyer! This is a clue for all of us in how to be fulfilled and happy. Although He is worshiped as the greatest person, it is because He is the source and sustainer of everything that we offer Him homage and praise. We are part of Krishna, and we are His.
At first we worship out of duty, and eventually we love Krishna by the law of our beingóthat is the highest "worship," but is beyond worship in the traditional sense. When we give to the center, the whole creation is nourished. Krishna is the root or the stomach of all existence, and is the proper receptacle to unlimitedly accept our giving nature while also reciprocating to our heart's fulfillment. With Krishna, it is never one-sided!
Krishna will give to us regardless of whether we return His gifts, but if we give Him the one thing He doesn't haveóour loving heartóthen He will give Himself to us. Some day we will realize just what an unbelievable gift Krishna is and that finding Him means to realize our full potential as souls! Bhakti is the dance of divine intimacy or the loving exchange between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. In this exchange of love, the distinction is lost between who is the worshiped, and who is the worshiper. This is exalted mysticism, yet I hope you will explore more about it, and like my-self, will become charmed by such an adoring theology and loving person, Krishna. I only touch on this subject in this book.
Prabhupada said the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so that is more important than whatever I may say here. I am only trying to put my writing into context. My desire is to write in support of these great bhakti scriptures and the devotees who exemplify them. I have found a good reception in my audience at Krishna.com, Dandavats.com, and now on Facebook, so this is a type of validation for my writing, as imperfect as it is. I ask my readers to over-look my faults and be in the mood of a miner, looking for gems amidst tons of mud.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend