The podcast boom has accelerated in the first half of 2020, perhaps partly due to the appetite for more streaming content while people stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. ISKCON devotees have also embraced the medium, and recently a new podcast, 5 Minute Meditations, has emerged as a digestible weekly slice of Bhagavad-gita philosophy, practically applicable to everyday life.
Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor.fm and Youtube, the podcast is hosted by ISKCON Dallas congregational director Nityananda Chandra Das, and is intended to be accessible by the general public as well as ISKCON devotees.
The podcast was launched on March 26th, instigated by the fact that due to COVID-19, Nityananda Chandra could no longer give his regular short Bhagavad-gita talks at the BKS Iyengar Yoga Studio of Dallas.
For about a decade, teachers at the Studio would ask Chandra to recite a verse from the Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and speak on it for four minutes at the end of their classes as they guided students through the shavasana relaxation pose.
“Those who attended very much appreciated it,” he says. “If I missed out on a class, they’d say, ‘We really miss your Bhagavad-gita meditation.’”
As well as students from the BKS Iyengar Yoga Studio, 5 Minute Meditations is also popular with those who attended ISKCON Dallas’ program the Darshan Room, which reaches out to the local population and which also had to halt gatherings due to COVID-19.
In each weekly five-minute episode, Nityananda Chandra speaks on a verse from the Bhagavad-gita or Srimad-Bhagavatam, or a story from the Puranas or Mahabharata. He also incorporates personal anecdotes to make his philosophical points more relatable.
“According to the commentary of Srila Sanatana Goswami’s Brihad-Bhagavatmrita, verse 110 of the second volume, first chapter, ‘Of all forms of evidence for establishing the truth, experience from one’s own life is the strongest,’” Chandra quotes.
The most recent four episodes of the podcast are especially personal, as they were recorded while Nityananda Chandra’s 10-year-old son Ramananda was in hospital with a kidney infection, and Chandra was trying to garner whatever spiritual lessons he could from the challenging experience.
In a “Hospital Realizations” episode entitled, “Spiritual Bypassing vs Recognizing Opportunities,” the host talked about the difference between spiritual bypassing – the practice of ignoring issues, tragedies or problems on the plea of spirituality – and finding opportunities for spiritual growth within the tragedy without ignoring its seriousness.
In another installment of “Hospital Realizations,” Nityananda Chandra discussed the qualities that blossom when one makes spiritual progress.
Quoting Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.21, he described these qualities as as one who is “tolerant, compassionate, a friend of all and enemy of none,” and who “abides by the scriptures.”
Nityananda Chandra several years ago with his son Ramananda, who is now 10 years old
Chandra told the story of ISKCON Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada as an example of one who embodied these qualities, describing how Prabhupada came to America penniless, aboard a cargo ship, and endured stormy seas and two heart attacks in order to help others by disseminating knowledge of the personal aspect of God and the difference between the soul and the body.
Nityananda Chandra also described how the qualities of a devotee were beginning to blossom in his own young son; and how the soul feels happiness when he or she is able to help others, regardless of whatever pain one may be going through oneself.
“In the hospital for about nine days, our son was in great pain,” he recalled. “He was suffering with a kidney infection and was very sick. The doctors would ask him, ‘How are you?’ And he would say, ‘I’m not doing good. But that’s okay, I’m not this body. I am a spirit soul. Do you know that you are not this body?’ He was saying this to every single doctor he met; he would always talk to them about the soul, or Krishna. And he was very popular in the hospital.”
In other episodes Nityananda Chandra talks about empathy, how Krishna takes care of His devotees, preparing for death, and many other subjects, drawing from both personal experience and the scriptures throughout.
So far, the response has been very positive, with listeners sending comments on how much they enjoy the podcast.
Whether or not 5 Minute Meditations finds a large audience, Nityananda Chandra enjoys discovering ways to present practical Krishna conscious philosophy to the general public, and revels in how much he himself learns from the process of teaching others.
“In the tenth canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, Visvanath Chakravarti Thakur says, ‘Of the three people who are involved in spiritual discussion – the person who is speaking, the person who is actively enquiring, and the person who is just sitting in the audience,” Chandra explains with a grin, “The person who is speaking gets the most benefit.”
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Listen to 5 Minute Meditations here: anchor.fm/5minute
On Apple Podcasts: podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/5-mi…ns/id1505149624
And on Spotify: open.spotify.com/show/3Weu1Deq45k8ErbSz8Q0y2