My boyfriend says he'll never become a vegetarian. What sort of karmic influence can that have on me? Should I continue trying to influence him spiritually?

It would be best if you could say less and do more in your efforts to influence your friend regarding your spiritual values--less dogma and more personal change for the better. Change speaks louder than dogma. It is not wrong to be friends with anyone. Krsna is everyone's friend. You should befriend others in general and inspire them by your example. They cannot hurt you but you may be able to help them by Krsna's grace. At the same time you should avoid associating with those who are opposed to your spiritual values.

Re: the law of karma. If you do not know the actual cause of your suffering, how can that suffering help you?

While it is true that we may not be aware of our past that appears as our present suffering, human life gives us the opportunity to become aware of the dynamics of this karmic reality. Scripture speaks to human society. If in human life we choose to ignore scripture, we suffer as a consequence of pursuing ignorance over knowledge. Even without the help of scripture, it should be apparent to any thoughtful person that there are consequences to our actions.

Either this truth is not absolute, or not all of the consequences of our actions are immediately experienced or visible. Scripture confirms the latter. What is the value of suffering without knowing why one is suffering? In answer one can ask what value there is in saying one does not know why he is suffering after ignoring the one (scripture) who explains the reason to him.

The law of karma does not directly involve God. He is not responsible for its response to our thoughts and actions. A moral God has not superimposed the law of karma on the world. Material nature exists for the jiva souls and they in turn give life to material nature. The moral nature of the law of karma, its determination of good and bad expressed as punishment and reward, is stern, honest, and austere. It is not particularly merciful or compassionate. Nature will respond to any thought or action we indulge in by creating circumstances that balance them out. Nature facilitates the fruition of all of the jiva souls' tendencies (samskaras), allowing them to work out their destiny.

This is simply the nature of the world, one activated by ourselves since time immemorial. Human life is meant for self-realization and God-realization. If someone demonstrates that he is not interested in this, nature facilitates that which he is interested in appropriately. This often involves providing a body other than a human one that is better suited for the pursuit of his interest. We can learn about this from scripture. Now you know, so you cannot plead ignorance in the future.

Hindus may submit questions for the swami to editor@swami.org. Non-Hindus with questions on Hindu basics or etiquette (such as "What do I wear to a Hindu wedding?") are invited to submit them to columnists@staff.beliefnet.com.

Sometimes while chanting I have a spontaneous image of Krsna and Radha in my heart. Is there a role for the imaginative faculties while chanting?

My Guru Maharaja was once told by one of his disciples that while chanting he experienced a blue light surrounding him. Prabhupada replied, "Keep chanting and it will go away." One of the things that characterizes the Gaudiya Saraswat sampradaya is its tendency to downplay the imagination and instead to stress revelation. So in general we should guard against our imagination.

As much as we are possessed of an enjoying spirit, as opposed to one of selfless service, we run the risk of projecting that enjoying spirit into our thoughts about Krsna lila. We do not want to imagine Krsna as an object of our enjoyment. We should try to serve Krsna selflessly and chant his name sincerely and prayerfully. In time, Krsna Nama will reveal himself to us in a form that corresponds to our eternal relationship with him.

As this revelation begins to awaken, we should cultivate it. All of this develops after one's heart is cleansed by the grace of Krsna Nama. We should not force anything other than forcing our minds to hear Krsna Nama attentively. We should try to fix the mind on the Holy Name.

Krsna's form (rupa), his qualities (guna), and his pastimes (lila) are all within his name. Other than revelation, a mental impression of Krsna will no doubt surface during our chanting from time to time, and although we should not put too much stock in it, given the above understanding it may be helpful.

What is the nature of God's kingdom?

The kingdom of God is constituted of nondual consciousness (advaya jnana tattva), yet knowledge there is suppressed by the overwhelming influence of love and beauty. In Goloka, all souls are one in will with Sri Krsna, and all the movement there (lila) is thus the ecstasy of Krsna expressing itself through them in unlimited variety. In this way unity and difference coexist without one compromising the other. In that plane, all the walking is dance, and all the talking is song. Just imagine then what the dance and song there must be like! The environment--the land, the trees, the cows--are all capable of fulfilling any wish, but the residents there do not want anything, and this is the real opulence of that plane.

In a land of cintamani, the philosopher's stone, fully satisfied people crave one thing alone, not fortune nor freedom, no care for fame, but a taste for the two syllables that make up his name.

Animate and inanimate, all lost in his will, what is it that enables them to move yet be still? Love eternal, love divine, love of Krsna so sublime, the truth that is beauty in a realm beyond time.

Who knows that place at once knows all, yet he at the same time knows not at all, for truth is beauty but beauty calls, and calling, beauty bewilders us all. (from Aesthetic Vedanta)

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