Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I Shall Return From Out Of The Fire

[Krishna swallowing forest fire]“Seeing His devotees so disturbed, Shri Krishna, the infinite Lord of the universe and possessor of infinite power, then swallowed the terrible forest fire.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.17.25)

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Earth, water, fire, air and ether. These are the five gross elements of the material world. Coming in different proportions and combinations, they cover the otherwise spotless spirit soul. That soul is jivatma, which means it is localized and given independence with respect to association. It can turn towards the Divine light or fall into the well of darkness.

“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego-altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)

The subtle elements combine with the gross elements to create the temporary body for the jivatma. The exact combination of gross elements influences attributes like intelligence, height, strength, and beauty. The various attributes tied to an individual, of any species, are based on the makeup of the material elements. Some species have more air than others. Thus they are able to fly. Some have properties allowing them to live in the water. In some species there is more fire.

Despite the covering, the elements are material and have nothing to do with the spirit soul. While conditioned, the jivatma may not be able to transcend the elements, but for a different kind of spirit there is actually no dichotomy. His body and soul are identical. There are no material elements with Him. The distinction applies only for the jivatmas.

He is thus known as Paramatma. He is one soul, though appearing inside of every living being. He is in my heart right now, alongside the soul which identifies me. Indeed, whenever the word “me” is there, soul is automatically implied. Paramatma is inside of you as well. Though He appears divided, He is one.

Material elements like air and water do not affect Paramatma. This is easy to accept in theory, but more difficult to believe in concept. To help there is the incarnation, the manifest version of Paramatma. Since it is an individual with identifiable features, the name for this aspect of the Divine is Bhagavan.

[Lord Krishna]We have a story from the life of Bhagavan Krishna that proves He is above the material elements. Though He looked like a young and beautiful boy to His friends, parents and relatives, Krishna always retained His position as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

One time in Vrindavana a forest fire threatened to kill many people. It was the middle of the night, and the fire took everyone by surprise. There was no time to think. There was no means of escape. Full surrender to Krishna was the only option. The very concept of sharanagati was materializing before everyone. They asked Krishna to save them.

The Supreme Lord, whose body is never made up of material elements, easily devoured the entire forest fire. The material element in great abundance that could apply lethal force went into the mouth of Krishna without issue. Having just been inside the ring of fire, He and His devotees emerged unscathed.

[Krishna swallowing forest fire]In the same way, the constant flow of desires is a kind of raging fire. You buy one stock, watch its price, and wait to sell at the appropriate time. If you make a profit, you’re looking to make even more with the next investment. If you lose money, you’re desperate to find a way to regain what you lost. This kind of cycle repeats, month after month, year after year. It continues into the next lifetime, even, for the consciousness at the time of death determines the circumstances of the next birth.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

Krishna saved the residents of Vrindavana from the blazing fire, and for those about to be consumed by the fire of kama, or material desire, full reliance on Him will give protection as well. Bhakti is the answer to every problem. The principle looks simplistic on the surface, but implementation is difficult. The best way to start and stay on the path to spiritual freedom is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Imminent death presumed,

Since fire coming to consume.

 

No escape, no other option to try,

Only on Shri Krishna to rely.

 

Soon after the danger without,

As flames easily into His mouth.

 

If by fire of kama now burning,

Rescue when to bhakti turning.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Five Of The Best Examples Given By The Vedas

[Yashoda chasing Krishna]“Mother Yashoda chased Him to all corners, trying to capture the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is never approached even by the meditations of great yogis. In other words, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, who is never caught by the yogis and speculators, was playing just like a little child for a great devotee like mother Yashoda.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 9)

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Theory is nice. You can conceptualize things. You get an idea of what is possible, in every direction. After all, the human being is in the dark when first emerging from the womb. It can barely do anything. Walking, talking, eating, moving, reasoning - these happen by experience.

Theory is based on principles, and those principles come from both descending authoritative word and personal experience. If no one tells me about the seasons, if I am paying enough attention after a few years I will figure out that it is cold in January and warm in July. The same information could have been accepted from someone else, an authority figure.

The Vedas are the knowledge that comes from authority in a descending chain. Consulting the Vedas is the way to save significant time, for there is a race to the finish as soon as birth occurs. Death is guaranteed; nothing can be done to prevent it once birth takes place.

“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

Before that unknown time arrives, becoming enlightened is beneficial. Then you can make the best use of the human form of body, which the Vedas declare to be the most auspicious. Thankfully, the Vedas provide more than just theoretical information. Mixed in with the philosophy are sterling examples of the best of everything.

1. Son

Birth happens through the efforts of the parents. A child doesn’t magically appear. Pregnancy is not like catching a cold. Once the child is born, how should it behave? What is the ideal way? Should the parents eventually be ignored? Should the child remain forever dependent?

The Vedas say that the aim of the human life is to become God conscious. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam there is the teaching that one should not become a person of authority, responsible for another, unless they are able to deliver their dependents from the cycle of birth and death.

From this we can deduce that it is the job of the parents to make their children God conscious. The children hopefully will do the same. The Sanskrit word for son is putra. The root meaning to this word is “one who delivers from hell.” The idea is that if the father is really sinful, by the son making offerings in an authorized, religious way after the father has passed on, the father will be saved from suffering for those sins. It is a kind of reward after-the-fact for having raised a pious son.

The Vedas give many examples of great sons. Shri Krishna acted as the perfect son to mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja in Vrindavana. This was a special circumstance, where God Himself played the role of putra. This meant that the parents automatically were fully God conscious, just through their parental affection.

Krishna was not always well-behaved. Sometimes He would steal butter from the homes of the neighbors. This wasn’t like going into the fridge, as Vrindavana was a rural community dependent on cow protection. The mothers in the neighboring homes would keep stocks of butter in different rooms. Krishna and His friends would hatch elaborate schemes to break and enter and enjoy the supply. Through adorable pastimes such as these, not only were the parents of Krishna benefitted, but so were the parents of other children in the community.

2. Mother

The father should be God conscious, and so should the mother. Yashoda had so much affection for Krishna that she never stopped thinking of Him. She worked the entire day, helping the family at home. While working, she would compose songs about her amazing child and His activities.

[Yashoda chasing Krishna]Yet she wasn’t one to spoil Krishna, either. One time He broke a pot of butter in anger, and so Yashoda chased after Him. After Krishna was caught Yashoda tied Him to a mortar as punishment. From that motherly affection Krishna earned the named Damodara.

3. Guru

The aim of the human birth is to become God conscious, but how will that happen unless there is instruction? We can’t learn to speak, read and write properly unless someone teaches us. In the same way, there is the spiritual master, or guru, who carries information of spirit. The formal acceptance of training from the guru is known as the second birth. The first is from the parents. The second is more important, as it signals the departure from the animal way of life.

Who is the best guru? Is there a way to tell, objectively? The Vedas provide many examples. One is Narada Muni. An obvious candidate for a sterling guru would be one who teaches many people. What better way to reach people than by travelling? Narada is fortunate in that he is compelled to go from place to place, not staying anywhere for more than three days. This is the result of a curse he received from Daksha, one of the progenitors of man.

Narada’s disciples are like the best of the best in terms of Vedic scholars, writers and teachers. Originally, the Vedas are one, known as the Veda. They are divided and expanded upon in literature by a person named Vyasadeva. For this he is also known as Veda Vyasa. Vyasadeva’s guru is Narada.

There is also the famous Ramayana, which describes the life and pastimes of Shri Rama, an incarnation of God appearing on earth. The author of the Ramayana is Valmiki. His guru is also Narada. Sometimes even the bad guys are manipulated in the right direction by Narada, to fulfill the Divine destiny. This happened with the king of Mathura, Kamsa. In every way Narada’s association is auspicious.

4. Wife

One of Narada’s unofficial disciples is Parvati, the daughter of the mountain king. In her previous life she was Sati, whose name means “chaste.” A daughter to Daksha, Sati one time could not bear an insult her father directed at Shiva, her husband. She was so upset that she voluntarily entered fire and ended her life. In the subsequent birth she was known as Parvati, and it was her destiny to marry Shiva.

Parvati’s parents learned of this when Narada happened to visit their home. He revealed the future of the beloved daughter. The parents were a little upset at first, but Parvati took the words to heart. She left for the forest to practice amazing austerities, essentially qualifying herself to be married to Shiva.

From Parvati, we get an example of the best kind of wife. She is forever devoted to her husband, who always speaks to her about the glories of Rama. She is like his disciple, and the two live very happily together. Parvati also works, managing the fort-like material creation; a role for which she is known as Durga. But she never acts independently. Everything she does is for the benefit of her husband and the person her husband worships constantly.

5. Materialist

The Vedas also give examples of the best of the worst. Today there is the common caricature of the wealthy businessman. All they care about is money. Having one large home is not enough. They have to have multiple properties. The private jet has gold throughout. Only the most beautiful woman will suffice for a wife. If her beauty starts to fade, divorce her and find another, younger woman as a replacement.

We have some examples from the modern day, but the Vedas give the best examples in Hiranyakashipu and Ravana. They were from different time periods, but the underlying mentality was the same. They were both consumed with material power and enjoying the senses. They viewed God the person as the greatest enemy. Indeed, both were originally devotees from the spiritual world who descended to the land of birth and death to play the role of villain perfectly.

From their example we see that there is practically no limit to material opulence. At the same time, there is also limitless anxiety. Neither man was ever at peace. Hiranyakashipu was so scared by his five year old son, who happened to be a devotee of Vishnu. Ravana lost everything by chasing after a married woman.

These examples help the bewildered mind get an idea of what is possible in life. Just as important as whom to emulate is whom to avoid. Be more like Parvati and Yashoda and less like Ravana. Respect a guru like Narada and avoid the counsel of the evil, who can never liberate anyone.

In Closing:

More than just in theory exercise,

Vedas examples of best provide.

 

Son, father and mother,

Even materialists like no other.

 

Parvati most ideal wife,

To Shiva dedicating her life.

 

Human birth for liberation meant,

For that saints like Narada sent.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Three Reasons Jatayu’s Effort Did Not Go In Vain

[Jatayu fighting Ravana]“Being thus informed, the grandson of King Vena immediately began to follow Indra, who was fleeing through the sky in great haste. He was very angry with him, and he chased him just as the king of the vultures chased Ravana.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.19.16)

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From the Vedas we find the best of everything. Son, father, brother, writer, spiritual guide - whatever the commonly known category there is an example set, a story told of the shreshtha, the best. This applies even to bad characters. From the Ramayana we hear of Ravana. The ten-headed one had a terrifying scream, and more significantly a fighting prowess that could not be matched. There was an exception with the Vanara named Vali, but then Ravana decided to make friends after assessing the strength on the opposition.

Ravana was not only the most powerful materialist and king wielding tremendous influence throughout the world, he was also the worst kind of person. Though boasting of his victories over many rival kings, Ravana did not have the courage to take on Shri Rama, who was merely a prince living in the austere setting of the forest of Dandaka. Ravana wanted Rama’s wife Sita for himself, so he devised a plan of trickery to accomplish his task.

He seemed to get away with it, taking Sita while no one was looking. There was some initial opposition, though. It came from an unlikely source. The best of the vultures, Jatayu, was friendly with Rama’s father, King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Jatayu put up a fight to stop Ravana, but success didn’t come. Ravana escaped and Jatayu eventually died from the wounds inflicted. Yet just because there was defeat doesn’t mean that the valiant effort went in vain.

1. Sita’s ornaments fell to the ground

Ravana took Sita away in a special aerial car named Pushpaka. This previously belonged to Kuvera, a demigod who was living in Lanka. Kuvera was Ravana’s half-brother, and Ravana showed him no affection. Kuvera fled Lanka in fear of Ravana and left the aerial car behind.

Sita did not go quietly with Ravana, who had first assumed a false guise to trick her into being friendly. Sita’s husband Rama was diverted from the hermitage through Ravana’s associate named Maricha, who came in the false form of a deer. Lakshmana later left after Sita lashed out at him for not helping his brother.

From the Shrimad Bhagavatam we learn that this practice of pretending to be in the renounced order of life goes back a long way. There is an incident involving Indra, the king of heaven. Jealous of the hundredth sacrifice of King Prithu, Indra disguised himself and came to earth. He stole the horse that was intended for the sacrifice, and when caught and facing punishment, he assumed the false guise of a mendicant religious man.

[Jatayu fighting Ravana]Ravana mimicked that tactic in his plan to take Sita. As he was flying away in the aerial car, there was the struggle with Jatayu. The vulture eventually took all of Ravana’s focus. After his victory, Ravana sped off in the aerial car with Sita. Since he was in such a hurry, he did not notice Sita’s ornaments that were dropped in the area where the Vanaras lived. These ornaments would prove vital in the future. They would help in the formation of the alliance between Rama and Sugriva, the king of the Vanaras. Those ornaments would also help Hanuman in his search for Sita.

2. He saw Rama at the time of death

In searching for Sita, Rama and Lakshmana later came across Jatayu. This was just at the moment that the vulture was passing from this world, to the next life. As is described in the Bhagavad-gita, whatever state of being one remembers at the time of death, that state they will attain without fail [8.6].

Consciousness is the key to the state of being, and the consciousness at the time of death is the most important. Jatayu got the wonderful benediction of seeing God’s beautiful face while ready to depart for the next life. As a result, he was granted liberation, or release from the cycle of birth and death. If Jatayu had not fought valiantly against Ravana, this benediction may not have been received.

3. The effort became synonymous with a heroic chase

As mentioned previously, King Indra one time stole the sacrificial horse of King Prithu. The king’s son then chased after Indra to get it back. The Bhagavatam actually makes reference to Jatayu in one of the verses describing the chase. It is said that the son of King Prithu chased after Indra in the same way that Jatayu chased after Ravana. From this we learn that Jatayu’s effort has been immortalized. He gives proof to the promise that no effort in devotional service goes to waste. The Supreme Lord is appreciative of any work done in His honor, whether large or small.

In Closing:

Not required order tall,

Appreciated effort even small.

 

Jatayu not able to overcome,

Ravana away with Sita to run.

 

Still not a wasted effort being,

Rama’s face at death’s time seeing.

 

Synonymous with heroic chase became,

Prithu’s son after Indra in way the same.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Who Is Actually Lost

[Narada with the four Kumaras]“You have made me lose my sons once, and now you have again done the same inauspicious thing. Therefore you are a rascal who does not know how to behave toward others. You may travel all over the universe, but I curse you to have no residence anywhere.” (Daksha speaking to Narada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.5.43)

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Friend1: It always amazes me.

Friend2: What does?

Friend1: Someone in their twenties, giving up everything, job and family, to go live in a temple.

Friend2: To practice bhakti-yoga?

Friend1: Yes. They feel the need to do it full-time, following all of the regulative principles. Getting up early in the morning. Attending mangala-arati. Chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Going out and distributing literature, if that’s a viable option. Doing sankirtana in public. These people are fearless.

Friend2: They really are. They are my heroes. They remind me of the Vanaras from the Ramayana.

Friend1: [smiling] They’re like monkeys? In what way?

Friend2: Not monkeys, but dedicated servants. The Vanaras weren’t necessarily fully pure in their practices. They lived in the forest, after all. But when it came time to help the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Rama, they were in one hundred percent. There were no reservations. They were enthusiastic. They were fully surrendered.

[Vanaras building bridge]Friend1: Yeah, the situation is pretty analogous, then. But you know, there is the other viewpoint as well.

Friend2: What’s that?

Friend1: Where people can’t understand the level of commitment. They can’t fathom someone so young voluntarily choosing a life that is not about money, power, or sensual enjoyment.

Friend2: You can’t blame them for not understanding. The lifestyle is completely different. The perplexity has been there since the beginning of time. Narada Muni instructed the sons of Daksha, one of the progenitors of man, to give up family life and focus on spiritual life instead. As a result Daksha was so mad at Narada that he cursed him.

Friend1: Right. And that’s why Narada is a travelling saint, now. He can’t stay in one place for too long.

[Narada with the four Kumaras]Friend2: Really turned into a blessing, but I’m just saying that the same conflict has been happening in families ever since. Gives a greater appreciation for the Vedas and the wisdom they contain.

Friend1: Yeah. The information is so powerful that it will make you turn away from everything you thought life should be about.

Friend2: If you follow politics, you see that every issue boils down to money and enjoying life. The economy, health care, helping the poor - the focus is on avoiding destitution. And here you have people voluntarily choosing poverty after becoming more knowledgeable. It’s understandable that outside observers would be dumbfounded.

Friend1: Keeping with that vein of thought, there is the idea that the youth following bhakti-yoga are lost. They couldn’t figure out what to do in life, where to go, so they stumbled into this strange way of living.

Friend2: I always get a chuckle from hearing that. The people sitting in their ivory tower, judging others about being lost, are themselves bewildered.

Friend1: Right. Look at the celebrities that end up going crazy because of the fame and power. There is the saying, “It’s lonely at the top.”

Friend2: You don’t have to go even that far. Isn’t an extramarital affair a sign of being lost? Isn’t getting intoxicated on a regular basis like waving the white flag of surrender? What about people who volunteer to jump out of planes? They are so lost that land has lost its charm.

Friend1: It’s like the discussion that His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada had about who is actually crazy.

Friend2: Exactly. The person who knows that life ends in death and is still not inquisitive about the future or how to shape it - they are not crazy; no. But the person who finds unending bliss in staying connected with God the person - they are considered lost? It’s just the opposite in fact. Reincarnation is compared to a wheel of suffering for a reason. A person on the samsara-chakra finds no way off. They chew the chewed, as Prahlada Maharaja says. After spinning for so long, a fortunate person meets a representative of God like Narada, and from that meeting their life begins to turn around. They go from constant fear and despair to renewed optimism and happiness, day after day, life after life.

In Closing:

Giving picture of actually who is lost,

Plane jumping, intoxication at any cost.

 

Though of impending death to know,

Never to solution or cause to go.

 

Those joining from early age,

Choosing wisdom, path of the sage.

 

Not crazy or lost at all,

When God the best friend to call.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Five Symbolic Aspects Of The Bhagavad-gita

[Hanuman flag on chariot]“The emblem of Hanuman on the flag of Arjuna is another sign of victory because Hanuman cooperated with Lord Rama in the battle between Rama and Ravana, and Lord Rama emerged victorious. Now both Rama and Hanuman were present on the chariot of Arjuna to help him. Lord Krishna is Rama Himself, and wherever Lord Rama is, His eternal servitor Hanuman and His eternal consort Sita, the goddess of fortune, are present.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 1.20 Purport)

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Authority is what allows knowledge to proceed. Imagine you are a first grade school teacher. You are ready to provide instruction on things like simple addition and the alphabet. One problem. No one in the class will listen. They challenge everything you say. They don’t respect you. They refuse to acknowledge authority. How, then, will they learn?

In Vedic culture there is something called parampara. It is translated as “disciplic succession,” which is consulting the highest wisdom through a chain of authority. The first link in that chain is the Supreme Himself, the birth-less and deathless one. Of course the information has to be accepted on faith at first, but not blindly. Apply your intelligence. Share your doubts. Continue to progress on the path, and eventually you’ll become just as enlightened as your teacher, ready to spread the same knowledge to others.

One of the dangers of bypassing parampara is misinterpretation. Take the Bhagavad-gita for example. It is a sacred text nestled inside of a larger, also revered text known as the Mahabharata. The Bhagavad-gita is essentially a conversation. Parampara says that the conversation actually took place, that the work is like a transcript of a historical event.

If this vital fact is not accepted, then there is little value derived from reading the work. One of the resulting misinterpretations is that the Bhagavad-gita should be viewed in a symbolic way only. The truth is that the Supreme Lord is such an expert artist that even in His pastimes on this earth He gives plenty of symbolic meaning, which can be found in His conversation with Arjuna as well.

1. Jivatma and Paramatma

The living entities in this world are struggling. There are the six senses, which include the mind. The soul within is atma. Since that soul can be associated with maya, or illusion, it is known as jivatma. For crossing the ocean of birth and death, jivatma needs the help of the higher soul, Paramatma.

“This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.14)

The symbolic representation of both the struggle and the rescue is found in the Bhagavad-gita in the form of the two main speakers. Arjuna represents jivatma, as he is in distress and not sure of what to do. Krishna is Paramatma Himself, the Supersoul pervading every space in existence. He is also within the heart, but His same identity is distributed everywhere, whereas jivatma is limited to the local space.

2. Disciple and guru

Parampara continues through the relationship of disciple and guru. The jivatma gets help from Paramatma within, but there first has to be help in learning how to consult Paramatma. The same Divine is represented on the outside through the guru, or spiritual master.

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

While acting as guru Himself, Krishna gave the advice that a person should seek someone who has seen the truth. The truth-seer can then impart wisdom to the disciple, provided the disciple is humble and inquisitive.

In the situation of the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna is the symbol of the disciple and Krishna the guru. Arjuna had the most significant doubts a person can have. They were about the very reason for living. Why should we act a certain way if death is certain? Why should we enjoy at the cost of others? What happens if we don’t achieve perfection in consciousness in this lifetime? As the bona fide guru, Krishna was there to answer each question properly and to the satisfaction of the disciple.

3. The flag of Hanuman

The setting is a battlefield. Arjuna is about to begin hostilities in one of the greatest wars of all time. Kurukshetra is about to see millions of deaths. Arjuna is the greatest bow-warrior in the world. He is in essence a servant of God, as after raising his doubts he proceeds only at the direction of Krishna Himself.

[Hanuman flag on chariot]Arjuna’s chariot is decorated with the flag of Hanuman. This is the symbol of another great servant of God. Shri Hanuman previously battled fearlessly to help Shri Rama, an incarnation of Krishna who appeared on earth many years prior. One devotee, Arjuna, was seeking the help of a previously successful devotee, Hanuman. Of course the flag was more than just a symbol, as Hanuman had told Arjuna’s brother Bhima that he would appear on the chariot in the form of the flag and add in the shouts of the victorious side.

4. Maya and Brahman

Take every individual soul. When viewed as a collective, they are Brahman. This is the spiritual energy. Each spark of Brahman is the same in quality. Though originally part of the spiritual energy, jivatma is susceptible to maya, or illusion.

On that chariot Brahman is represented by Arjuna, and he is temporarily in maya. He wants to avoid the conflict for the sake of loved ones fighting for the other side. He posits the idea that by quitting, they will live happily. He will be the bigger person, by giving up and retreating to the forest.

Arjuna returns to the Brahman-realized state after consulting Krishna, who is also symbolic of Parabrahman. Arjuna becomes brahma-bhuta and more by following bhakti, full devotion to God.

5. Surrender and protection

By following bhakti there is full protection. The key is surrender. Abandon every system known to man that helps to bring a temporarily favorable condition. Just believe in God the person, proceed forward, and don’t fear.

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)

The idea is nice in theory, but the Bhagavad-gita gives both a factual and symbolic representation of it. Arjuna represents full surrender in bhakti, and Krishna’s guidance on the chariot is the protection. So many souls have since followed Arjuna’s path and received the highest benefit as a result. Indeed, simply having attachment for that sacred conversation, with the proper identification of both speakers, releases a person from the cycle of birth and death.

In Closing:

Though from many a misinterpretation,

Symbolic also that sacred conversation.

 

Guru and the disciple with doubt,

Jiva and Paramatma illusion without.

 

Flag of Hanuman on chariot flying,

Arjuna also in service trying.

 

Abandon and protection indeed to come,

From Krishna’s grace that victory won.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Sentiment Is Better Than Yours

[Lord Krishna]“Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation. The ultimate goal is Krishna, because the philosophers who are also sincerely searching after the Absolute Truth come in the end to Krishna consciousness. This is also stated in the Bhagavad-gita. The whole process is to understand the real position of the self in relation to the Superself.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.3 Purport)

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Friend1: Do you ever get tired of explaining Krishna consciousness?

Friend2: Why? Do you?

Friend1: I understand that explaining is kirtanam, which is chanting. Chanting and discussing, empowered by authority, are the same thing. I know that.

Friend2: Right. Kirtanam is not just chanting congregationally. It can surely be, enjoying the maha-mantra with a group: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. But it doesn’t have to be limited to that. Explaining should be blissful, since you are describing the all-attractive one.

Friend1: Whose glories are endless. Yes, I know. Ananta Shesha Naga, with his unlimited hoods, has been glorifying God since before anyone can remember. He has yet to finish. The creator Lord Brahma, and the destroyer, Lord Shiva, also glorify in an inadequate way. What, then, to speak of a lowly person like me?

Friend2: There you go. This is not a criticism of them. It’s to show that there is always more to say. Moreover, that inconceivability in God, achintya, and the immeasurability of His features, Adhokshaja, are a real blessing.

Friend1: Let me get more specific. What I am tired of is trying to defend the philosophy to people who have none.

Friend2: What do you mean?

Friend1: The philosophy is pretty straightforward. We are spirit souls. We are not matter. The body is matter. The soul goes through the cycle of birth and death, also known as reincarnation. The human form is ideally the last stop in the spiritual evolution of the individual. The human form is the best for understanding God, which is the ultimate purpose of an existence.

Friend2: The basics.

Friend1: Yeah. I shouldn’t have to defend anything. No other spiritual tradition has information like this. The only arguments against are sentimental.

Friend2: Dogmatic insistence. Yeah, nothing you can do with that. If they think we’re all condemned to hell if we don’t accept such and such as the savior, then there’s no point in proceeding with the discussion.

Friend1: Okay, so I think what I am asking is why is there a need for discussion.

Friend2: Not sure what you mean.

Friend1: Why do I have to engage these people at all? So many of them come back with an argument that essentially means, “My sentiment is better than yours.”

[Shrila Prabhupada]Friend2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada brilliantly states that religion without philosophy is just sentiment. And philosophy without religion is mental speculation. You need both religion and philosophy in order to reach perfection.

Friend1: Right, but even on the sentiment platform Krishna consciousness is superior. He is the all-attractive one, after all. I’ve only been in churches a few times, and let me tell you the atmosphere doesn’t compare to a Vishnu temple. It’s no contest.

Friend2: How so?

Friend1: In the church it feels like you are going to a place to be punished. Stand in line and say you’re sorry or else. At the Vishnu temple, one where there isn’t harassment from the corrupt priests for money, the atmosphere is very loving. Be attracted to God and His transcendental form. Stay always with Him. Realize that evidence of His attractiveness is everywhere. That’s why I say even when playing on the sentiment field, the other competitors lose bigly.

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: I understand what you are saying, but it’s not about winning or losing. You spread the glories of bhakti-yoga since it is the best way to live. Practically the entire world is in darkness. They speculate about the origin of life. They give nature, an impersonal force, the top standing. Even the religious live off of mass killing of innocent animals. There is no proper understanding anywhere. You are fortunate to have come across the spotless teachings of the Vedas. You have an opportunity to bring the same happiness to others. Most will reject you, but imagine if a few don’t. What will be the effect? If Narada, Vyasadeva, Valmiki, and so many other saints didn’t work for the welfare of mankind and future generations just imagine where we would be today.

In Closing:

Light only this way to shine,

Superior is sentiment of mine.

 

Arguments over religion this way indeed,

Useless with philosophy to proceed.

 

In Vedas discussing body, spirit and more,

And how from human life rebirth no more.

 

But still worthwhile to explain,

Since potential for highest gain.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Shouldn’t I Try To Learn Something From Every Religion

[Shrimad Bhagavatam]“My dear Lord, please pacify your anger completely and hear patiently whatever I submit before you. Please turn your kind attention to this. I may be very poor, but a learned man takes the essence of knowledge from all places, just as a bumblebee collects honey from each and every flower.” (Mother earth speaking to Maharaja Prithu, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.18.2)

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Friend1: What would your advice be to someone who is interested in learning about the bhakti culture or God in general?

Friend2: Those are two very different things.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: Bhakti is a way of life. The objectives are clearly defined, as are the different ways to practice. God, meanwhile, is open for interpretation.

Friend1: Well, that’s what I’m asking. Say they want to know God for sure, beyond doubts.

Friend2: “Now hear, O son of Pritha [Arjuna], how by practicing yoga in full consciousness of Me, with mind attached to Me, you can know Me in full, free from doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.1)

[Bhagavad-gita As It Is]Friend1: There you go. Quoting from the Bhagavad-gita means that you would recommend reading that book.

Friend2: Oh, for sure. A version with a proper commentary.

Friend1: Isn’t that up for interpretation?

Friend2: That’s the problem. The conversation has a specific context. The acknowledged teacher had a specific relationship to the acknowledged disciple. That sacred talk descends to us for a reason. We should respect it by at least properly identifying both individuals.

Friend1: And you’re saying that there are versions of the Bhagavad-gita that don’t do that?

Friend2: Absolutely. The commentator will say to understand the work symbolically only. Another person will say that Arjuna and Krishna did not exist. Another will opine that Krishna is not actually God Himself, though the verses say otherwise.

Friend1: Okay, so to learn about God a person should read Bhagavad-gita, as it is. Anything else?

Friend2: The Shrimad Bhagavatam.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: Bhagavad-gita is God talking, giving the basic overview of spiritual life. The work is complete in its presentation of knowledge, but the Bhagavatam gives more details about God. It describes who He is, how He creates, what the living entities go through, and most importantly, how He enjoys.

[Shrimad Bhagavatam]Friend1: Is that it, then? Don’t need to read anything else? What about the Ramayana?

Friend2: Sure, you could read that. The Mahabharata. The many Puranas. Anything that is authentic Vedic literature.

Friend1: Alright, but what about books from the other faiths of the world? Shouldn’t a person read the Bible, both Testaments, the Koran, and things like that?

Friend2: A person can, if they want, but it’s not necessary.

Friend1: Doesn’t a wise person take knowledge from everywhere? For example, if I’m learning about economic theory, I would want to read every side. I will want to study Keynes as much as I study Hayek. That way I am aware of every point of view. From there I can make an informed decision.

Friend2: Well, it’s definitely a good idea to be familiar with every angle of vision. There is even a verse in the Bhagavatam that says this.

Friend1: Oh? I didn’t know that.

Friend2: It’s when mother earth, in the form of a cow, is speaking to Maharaja Prithu. She says that the wise person takes knowledge from many different sources, like the bumblebee collecting honey from different flowers.

Friend1: Okay, so doesn’t that support my argument?

Friend2: It would, except the Bhagavatam already covers every point of view. So does Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.

Friend1: I’m not sure what you mean.

Friend2: The human being can have so many different desires. There are as many dharmas to fulfill those desires. Dharma in this context is a kind of religion. It’s a set of procedures for reaching your objective.

Friend1: What are some of the desires?

Friend2: Life in the heavenly region. Increased wealth while on earth. A long duration of life. These are some of the more positive ones, at least according to our understanding. Then there are negative desires as well. World domination. Harm to other people. Victory in competition, which automatically means defeat for someone else.

Friend1: And there are dharmas for each of these things?

Friend2: Sure. And you will find them described in Vedic literature, which is compared to a blossoming desire tree. The reason I mentioned the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam is because these works make you aware of the many different desires. They also present the best option, which is bhakti-yoga. The simple way to categorize all other desires is to know karma, jnana and yoga. Karma is fruitive activity, aimed at enjoyment for the material body. Jnana is knowledge, with the goal of eventually quitting the body and merging into the attribute-less light of Brahman. Yoga is mysticism, with the goal of achieving a siddhi, or perfection.

Friend1: I see. And bhakti is different?

Friend2: It is love and devotion dedicated specifically to God the person. You see how complicated this can get. To make the decision for bhakti is not easy, especially if you are not aware of who God is. That’s why the bhakti shastras are so important. Serving Krishna is like watering the root of the plant. Everything else gets nourished in the process. If you know Krishna, you will essentially have complete knowledge.

In Closing:

Vedas great I can tell,

But why not study others as well?

 

Like to this and that religion going,

For other points of view knowing.

 

Actually just from in reading’s seat,

Bhagavatam with knowledge complete.

 

Every desire human mind with can live,

Bhakti best solution each time to give.