Editor's Message

Dear Readers,

Many donate in the month of January so that they start the New Year with the positive sentiments of charity and compassion. Keeping this in mind, in this edition of our magazine, our theme is 'The Role of Charity.'  In the first article, we will find out in how many ways we can donate.  Further, from Maharajji's lecture, we will understand the importance of charity.  We will also share with you news and updates of Swamiji's India tour.   In addition to this, we will explore the medicinal benefits of Avocado. Finally, don't miss our BM contributions and bhog recipe.

Best Wishes,
Editor's Desk
In This Issue
जोरि जोरि धरे क्यों धना, तन भी न साथी अपना 

jori jori dhare kyuṅ dhanā,
tana bhī na sāthī apanā
Why are you making so much effort to accumulate wealth? Even the body (for whose pleasure you are accumulating it) will not stay with you for long.    
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Giving Unconditionally Leads to Greater Wealth
Bhakti is derived from the Sanskrit word 'bhaj' meaning to serve. We happily serve the ones we love. Everyday, we make sacrifices for our children or parents. As parents, even when we are sick, we get up and go to work or cook food to make sure that no one goes hungry. As adults, we stay up all night to take care of our children or parents even when we are tired and wish for nothing more than to sleep.

However, in worldly love, there is an implied and subtle selfishness in our actions. We usually expect something in return even if it is something small, such as the recipient of our affections acknowledge and appreciate our actions, or love us back.

jatae kachun nij swarth hoi, tapar mamta kare saab koi
sur nar muni saab ki yahae riti, swarth lagae kar he saab priti (Ramcharit Manas)

meaning, we are inherently attached to those people or things where our self-interest is fulfilled. When this self-interest is not fulfilled we get angry. This constant give-and-take is defined in the scriptures as kamana (lust), not love.

Yet, there is no resulting peace or happiness from worldly love. There is always another demand or unfulfilled request. In addition, the result of this materialistic love is always unhappiness and bondage i.e. continuous rotation amongst the 8.4 million species of life.

On the other hand, in the spiritual realm, we learn that the real meaning of true love is to give, give, and give without asking or hoping for anything in return. In other words, we learn to give unconditionally. This is the nishkam bhakti that the rasik saints talk about. When practiced sincerely and consistently, it eventually leads us out of the vicious circle of material bondage and all the way to Golok, the abode of Shree Krishna. Gaurang Mahaprabhu said:

jīvera svaroop haya kṛiṣhṇera nitya dās

In other words, everybody is a servant of Shree Krishna because everybody is hankering for bliss. As Shree Krishna is the ultimate Supreme Bliss, everybody is his servant. And the duty of a servant is to give, to do unconditionally as the master directs.

In order to give unconditionally, we can give in three ways: donate our wealth (dhan), volunteer our time (tana), or perform acts of sacrifice and giving in the mind (mana). Donating our wealth is usually the easiest and hence the first step on this path. According to the scriptures, we should donate 10% of our earnings in service to the Lord. This concept is explained by many religions and is not exclusive to Hinduism. When we donate because of our love for God and Guru without expecting anything in return, it helps to purify the mind and moves us forward on this path. Shree Maharajji emphasized this concept by providing stories of great Indian emperors such as Harishchandra, Bali, etc., who donated everything they had in service of God and Guru. When we donate in such a manner, even Golok (Shree Krishna's abode) becomes attainable.
Importance of Charity
An excerpt from Shree Maharajji's speech about the Importance of Charity.

Seva is of two kinds - physical and spiritual. One is to serve the world, the other is related to serving God. And everyone has to serve. Some serve their material relatives - mother, father, brother, wife, kids. And some serve those related to God. But everybody has to serve. So related to this topic, once all the three children of Brahma went to him - celestial gods, man, and the demons. And they said to Brahma, "Please teach us something." Brahma looked at each of them and said, "da, da, da" and left. That was the lecture - da, da, da. Now the celestial gods called for a meeting, "Father said 'da' but what does it mean?" And the humans were also discussing and debating the meaning of 'da.' Everyone decided it would be best to ask Father himself. When asked, he said - firm control, charity/donation, kindness/compassion. To the celestial gods he said, "firmly control your senses." Swarg offers many material pleasures so all the celestial gods have become indulgent and have forgotten God. And he told the humans, "Look, you came to this world nude as babies, and when you leave, you will not even have this gross body. So whatever you have received here, believe it to be God's, not yours. So, donate, donate. Donate." And then he told the demons that for your self-happiness, you behave in violent ways, killing others. Be kind or compassionate. Have mercy. Otherwise you will keep rotating in these 8.4 million species of life. So for us, Father Brahma's instruction is to donate, to give in charity.

Donation is of four kinds. If you donate to a tamasic person, the result will be hell. "What?! First we donate and then we get punished by going to hell too?" Yes! You donated to the wrong person and he misused the money. So you are also considered a participant in the crime. And if you donate to a rajasi person, you will receive a rajasic result. If you donate to a sattvic person, you will go to swarg (heaven). These three are perishable. And if you donate to God, he will grace you, you will receive God's gifts, meaning, you will receive the bliss of God, you will get his abode. It was based on the strength of this donation that people like Harishchandra became great saints and attained Golok (abode of Shree Krishna). All because of donation!

So the donation made to God is the true charity. Only because of that will we attain our goal. That's why to whatever extent possible, donate only to God. Even if we donate only $1, it should not be in the wrong basket. Donation should not be made to advance oneself or for one's own importance. These days this happens a lot. In temples you might have seen, people's names are engraved on the walls - father's father's father's name. Will these people go to Vaikunth? If you donate and tell about it, then you will not receive the reward for it. Indra, the king of heaven, made the great saints and sages be the bearers of his palki and he would torture them. So they thought he must be taught a lesson.  So the sages and saints outsmarted him. They said, "King Indra, how did you become Indra?" He replied, "I performed this type of yajña, donated this kind of money, I built this kind of ashrams, I did..." In this way, he told them about all the good he had done. That's it, he fell. He came to earth as a dog, the king of heaven!

So the donation must be kept secret and we must not be proud that others should know we donated. Even when we give a beggar $10, we look around. Here, take. God resides in him too. The same God who resides within you, also resides within him. One day you were also like this. We have spent endless lifetimes and we have lived in different states and forms. What is today will also remain, don't ever think like this. This world keeps changing. Look, this gross body itself undergoes so much change! It might as well be Bill Gates. But when we are young - now here, comes old age. Now speak up Mr Gates! Now I walk with a cane. Look, this body gave its answer, now bear the consequences. The money will not come in handy. Everyone has to bear the consequences. What to do?

So this is why we must donate at the correct place. Number two, while donating we should not have thoughts or sentiments of reciprocation. And publicity-our name should be publicised-this sentiment should not be there. To whatever extent possible, keep your donation a secret so then it means the donation will purify the heart. And then the grace of God will follow. And then after we die, we will receive the bliss of God. That's why we should think long and hard before donating. And we must donate. If you don't do it in a straight-forward manner, you'll have to do it backwards or in a convoluted way. Have to leave this body? Yes! So go. "So all this, everything we have built?" So go, go on, all this you made - leave it here. "Well, I worked hard and built this house." Yes, yes, that's ok. But you are aware that this world belongs to God? "Yes." So then to build on top of the land that belongs to someone else, this is wrong! But you did it, that's fine. You cannot take it with you. When you were getting it built, did you do any wrongs? "No, I did." So then you have to bear the consequences of that separately. And leave the building here. This is God's law.

So we people have to be very alert. Many mistakes are made by us, sins committed. Due to the pride or ego, we give hardships to the poor and needy. We tend to disrespect one, hurt another. So be knowledgeable while living in this world. See God in everyone and with kindness and compassion-what we call empathy/humanity-follow that. By doing this kind of charity, after we die, we will attain God and then in the next life, if there is something missing in this life, we can work on it and attain God-realization.

Swamiji's New Year Message for 2017

  "Life is not a destination to stagnate towards, but a journey   on which to joyously progress ever forward."
Click here to view the entire message

News & Updates

A grand five days celebration from Jan 10th to 14th, 2017 was held at Prem Mandir, Vrindavan on the occasion of 60th anniversary of Jagadguruttam Divas.  January 14th, 1957 was the day when the title of Jagadguruttam (Supreme amongst all the Jagadgurus) was bestowed upon our beloved Shree Maharajji by the Kashi Vidvat Parishat .

Thousands of devotees attended the sadhana program which went on throughout the day and took part in the sankirtan, parikrama, prayers, and aarti. Cultural programs were also organised in the evening:  a mesmerizing "Qawali" in dedication to Shree Maharajji, a beautifully choreographed dance of Shree Radha Krishna's leelas as written by Shree Maharajji, plays showcasing importance of the Guru, and last but not the least, a beautiful peacock dance by devotees left everyone spellbound.
Swamiji conducted seven-day lecture series on 'Ram Katha Rahasya' in Vapi, Gujarat. He also visited Baroda, Patan, Palanpur, Anand, and Indore.

A seven-day lecture series by Swamiji on the topic 'Shrimad Bhagavat Mahapuran' is currently going on in the recently constructed Radha Govind Dham, Cuttack.  The program will conclude on Jan 24th, 2017.
Click here for more photos.
For Swamiji's upcoming program, please click here
Swamiji's India Tour, 2017  
Jan 18th to 24th
Cuttack, Odisha  
Feb 3rd and 4th  
Vikas Puri, Delhi 
Feb 5th and 6th 
I P Ext., Delhi
Feb 7th  
Ashok Vihar, Delhi  
Feb 8th to 14th  
Patel Nagar, Delhi   
Feb 17th to 26th  
Feb 27th  
Kathmandu, Nepal 
Feb 28th to March 3rd 
Birgunj, Nepal  
For details, click here
Wellness for Life
Health Benefits of Avocado  
Fooled by its green look and subtle savory taste? Though you may have thought of avocados as a vegetable, it is in fact a fruit, that too a single-seeded berry! Avocados are considered a super fruit because they are nutrient dense, containing over 25 essential nutrients, including fiber, good fats such as omega 3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin A, E & C to name a few. This super food was once considered as not so healthy food because of its fat content. A medium sized avocado contains 30 grams of fat. Here are 10 health benefits of avocados:

1. Nurture a healthy heart
Avocados are a good source of vitamin E, monounsaturated fat and glutathione, which all help in protecting your heart. Homocysteine is a kind of an amino acid, which when elevated is linked to cardiovascular disease. Avocados have vitamin B6 and folic acid, which help control homocysteine levels.

2. Reduce cholesterol levels
Avocado is rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as omega 3 fatty acids. These types of fats help control triglycerides levels, lower cholesterol and control diabetes. Avocados contain beta-sitosterol, which is a plant sterol similar in structure to cholesterol. Beta-sitosterol takes the place of dietary cholesterol in the intestines, therefore inhibiting absorption of the cholesterol in our food. This in turn, helps to lower blood cholesterol levels. A study was done on patients with slightly elevated cholesterol levels, who added avocados to their diet for 7 days had a:
17% decrease in total blood cholesterol
22% decrease in LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides
11% increase in HDL (good cholesterol)

3. Control blood pressure
The potassium in avocados help control blood pressure levels. One medium avocado contains roughly 700mg of potassium.

Click here to read the entire article. 
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Christmas Celebration 
The enthusiastic Bal-Mukund team at NC made this Christmas special by decorating the trees with beautiful ornaments made by the children themselves.
Click here for more photos.

Diwali Celebration
Bal-Mukund Frisco center celebrated Diwali with so much joy and enthusiasm. In this session the Bal-Mukunds from various groups (group 1,2 and 3) gathered in the main theater room for the various celebration activities.

The celebrations started off with the Keertan Mandali chuldren reciting the Hunuman Chalisa with meaning.

Then each group came forward and recited a couple of sholkas that they learnt over the past couple of months, ranging from Vakratunda Mahakaya, Ya Devi, etc.

This was followed by a presentation on Diwali festival, which always gets their attention. They understood how Diwali is celebrated in both north and south part of India and its significance.

Next up was a Game called - Diwali Bowl similar to Fish Bowl. We had 3 bowls separated by their respective groups with chits on various topics ranging from Diwali, sholka, yoga, My Best Friend Krishna, etc. Each kid came in the front of the class and chose a chit and then performed or answered based on the question that they saw of the chit that they selected. It was a fun activity!!

Then came the 'Arrow on Ravan' game where we had a customized arrow for each Bal-Mukund with their name on it. Thanks to Vasanthi didi for creating the Ravan cut out with his 10 heads. The children were blind folded and asked to stick their own arrow on Ravan. This was an amazing activity that they loved guiding or even misguiding their fellow Bal-Mukunds :).

Lastly, the children and the parents enjoyed their favorite snack of samosas and chips. We also had some to-go bags of snacks.

We would like to thank all the parent volunteers that assisted us!!  
Click here for more photos. 

Bhog Recipe

Lemon Pickle 
  • 6 Lemons
  • 1/4 cup Red chilly powder-if you don't want your pickle spicy, use paprika powder
  • 3 tsp Salt   
  • 1 tsp Turmeric powder
  • A  pinch of Asafoetida
  • 1 tbs Oil
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 lemon juice

Now roast & grind:
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds  optional
  • 1 tsp Cumin seed
  • Combine the lemons with 4 cups of water in a pressure cooker and pressure cook for 5 whistles till the lemon skins are soft and give way under the pressure of your thumb.
  • Drain and keep aside to cool.
  • Place the lemons in a large mixing bowl. Cut them into quarters inside the bowl, to retain all the juices. Add the lemon juice and mix well.
  • Add the salt and turmeric powder to the lemons and leave aside for 10 minutes.
  • Gradually, add the sugar (2 to 3 tablespoons at a time) while stirring continuously so that all the sugar gets dissolved. The entire process will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Add the chilli powder and asefotidia  mix well.
  • Add the oil 1 spoon and fenugreek and Cumin seed powder
  • Mix well
  • Store in a sterilised glass bottle and leave aside for one day. Next day, the pickle is ready to eat.
  • Store refrigerated for upto 3 months.
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