Friday, March 16, 2018

Three Ways Krishna Is Not Like The Ordinary Raincloud

[Lord Krishna]“The inhabitants of Vrindavana used to say, ‘Krishna is always manifest before us with a complexion like a blackish cloud. He holds His wonderful flute in His lotus hands. He is dressed in yellow silks and bedecked with a peacock feather on His head. When Krishna walks near Govardhan Hill with these personal features, all the inhabitants of the heavenly planets, as well as the inhabitants of this earth, feel transcendental bliss and consider themselves the eternal servants of the Lord.’” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 36)

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An unusual complexion for sure. Who do we know that has this particular color on their body? “Black and blue” typically refers to injuries. Bruises, contusions and the like from playing sports or getting physically attacked. If we saw someone whose entire body was blue, we would think something was seriously wrong. Perhaps there was a lack of oxygen.

Yet this is precisely how the transcendental body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is described. There are further comparisons given to help us better understand. There is the indranila mani, the sapphire. There is the atasi flower. There is the tamala tree, found especially in the sacred land of Vrindavana.

Further complicating matters are the multiple meanings to the Sanskrit word shyama. This is the word most often used for describing the body of God. Even the term “body” is a little misleading, as for God there is no such dichotomy. He doesn’t go through the cycle of birth and death. The avataras descend from the spiritual world, and they remain transcendental to the modes of nature and the miseries associated with material living.

“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)

Shyama can mean greenish, brownish, or the more common translation of dark blue. For the original form of the Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, one common comparison is to the dark raincloud. He is Shyamasundara, meaning beautifully dark. He is also Ghanashyama, which means the dark cloud about to pour down rain.

[Lord Krishna]The comparison is helpful for our understanding, but there are ways that Krishna is not like the ordinary raincloud, as well. He is something unique, for sure.

1. He is not harmful

We can look to the incident of the first Govardhana Puja for evidence. The people of Vrindavana were accustomed to worshiping Indra, the king of heaven. Though a religious practice externally, deep down it was more of a business transaction. Provide sufficient materials and perform the puja in a proper way and there would be something beneficial in return.

Just as in a free market economy transactions don’t take place unless there is a benefit to each side, so with demigod worship there is something in it for everyone involved. Indra’s pride and importance swell through accepting the offerings, and the people get the desired rainfall, which is necessary for growing food.

One year Krishna Himself was in Vrindavana, playing the role of the son of the king, Nanda Maharaja. Still in an outward vision of a small child, Krishna convinced the father to worship Govardhana Hill instead. The preparations were already set for Indra, but everything got shifted for the nearby hill at the last moment.

Interestingly enough, the people still got rainfall. Except this time it was more than they bargained for. What they previously had to perform a puja to get came through Indra’s wrath instead of satisfaction. The king of heaven was so perturbed with the snub that instead of forgiving the incident due to past customer loyalty, he punished the people who were so good to him for so long. He sent to the area the most devastating raincloud, the one typically reserved for the end of the creation.

2. He has intelligence

Once rain starts to fall, that is it. It doesn’t consider the target. If someone has purchased a brand new pair of shoes that will surely get ruined by so much contact with water, the rain doesn’t suddenly alter its course. It doesn’t take a pause to give people time to get out of the way.

3. No duality

The rain is harmful for one person and beneficial for another. That is the way of duality, which is everywhere in a material existence. Fire helps to heat the home during a cold winter’s night, and yet that same fire can burn down the entire establishment if left unchecked. The seasons come and go, and each has benefits and demerits.

[Narayana]Shri Krishna is not like this. There is no duality with His association, even when looking at the form of Narayana, who has four hands. In two hands are items of peace: the lotus flower and the conchshell. In the other two hands are weapons: the sudarshana-chakra and the club. One side is for giving pleasure to the devotees and the other for punishing the miscreants. This falls in line with the stated purpose of the avataras.

“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)

But in fact the effect is the same. The punishment is extremely beneficial to the “bad guys.” They get liberation by being killed directly by Krishna. Liberation is the ultimate purification. The devotees continue in their devotion with Krishna’s association, as there is no limit to the bliss a person feels in sharanagati, or full surrender.

The dark raincloud that is Krishna has intelligence. He applies discrimination to the requests of His worshipers. He is not obligated to say “yes,” nor does He get angry when neglected. If He were to get upset, then the entire world would be in line for punishment, since man has forgotten God for so many lifetimes.

Ghanashyama showers His amazing mercy on everyone who has contact with Him. This is the special benefit of connecting directly with God, as opposed to only understanding the abstract concept of Brahman or the localized expansion of Supersoul.

In Closing:

Unusual bodily hue,

Krishna showing blue.

But comparisons help to understand,

Like cloud with imminent rain at hand.

But different too in ways many,

To devotees harm not causing any.

Intelligence and from duality free,

A most pleasing sight is He.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Weren’t The Asuras Who Visited Vrindavana In Maya

[Krishna throwing bull]“While Krishna was engaged in enjoyment with the boys and girls within the forest of Vrindavana, Kamsa used to send his associates to kill Him, and Krishna would show His prowess by killing them.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 26)

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Friend1: Vrindavana is a special place.

Friend2: Where Vrinda Devi, the goddess of devotion, flourishes.

Friend1: She is the tulasi plant.

Friend2: Yes. If you sit in front of a tulasi plant and chant the maha-mantra, you don’t really require anything else to be successful in life.

Friend1: Saphala will soon become a reality. That is the power of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Friend2: I mean, you can try to ask for material rewards. You can try to think about something else, but the goddess of devotion is so merciful that she helps you to stay on course. Just offering a little water to her does so much.

Friend1: Therefore it’s no surprise that Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, favors Vrindavana so much.

Friend2: He spent His childhood years there. There is unlimited lila with Bhagavan. His pastimes are too many to count, but there is something special about that childhood form wandering around, breaking into the homes of the neighbors, stealing butter, tending to the calves, playing with His friends, enchanting everyone with the sounds emanating from His flute, and saving everyone from danger.

[Krishna stealing butter]Friend1: I’m glad you mentioned that. Let’s delve a little deeper. Why is there danger?

Friend2: Well, in general or just in Vrindavana? Because in general there is danger at every step. No one is ever completely safe.

Friend1: In Vrindavana.

Friend2: The asuras coming from Mathura. King Kamsa has been told that his death will be in the form of the eighth child of his sister, Devaki. Krishna is that child and somehow He has escaped to the neighboring town of Gokula, and from there Vrindavana. Kamsa sends one bad character after another to get rid of his agent of death before it can strike.

Friend1: Do you see the contradiction here?

Friend2: In Kamsa? That he thinks he can nullify the Divine will?

Friend1: Not that. Look at Vrindavana. You just said that bhakti flourishes there. Everyone is in the devotional consciousness, correct?

Friend2: Yes. It is said that the results of pious activities and austerities from previous lives gets you birth in Vrindavana at the time of Krishna’s advent.

Friend1: That all makes sense to me. What I don’t understand is how asuras, the bad guys, could arrive there. Why is there danger when in the shelter of Shri Krishna? Aren’t the asuras forgetful of God and His abilities? Isn’t forgetfulness rampant everywhere else in a material existence, but specifically not in a sacred dhama like Vrindavana?

Friend2: Oh, these are good questions. What do you think the answers are?

Friend1: I’m asking you.

Friend2: You used an important word. Forgetfulness. The asuras, though so wicked that they would try to kill an innocent infant, weren’t forgetful of Krishna. Neither was Kamsa. In fact, they were thinking of Devaki’s son twenty-four hours a day. The witch Putana thought of Krishna while quitting her body, which is considered the most auspicious way to die. Arishtasura, Aghasura, Trinavarta and others met the same fortunate end.

[Krishna throwing bull]Friend1: Is that considered bhakti, though? If devotion flourishes in that sacred place, how can people who are not in the devotional consciousness appear there? How can maya, the illusory energy, take hold?

Friend2: That energy is yogamaya, which Krishna directly supervises. Remember, the residents were in a kind of illusion, too. They didn’t think that Krishna was God. The cowherd boys thought He was their best friend. The gopis thought He was their paramour. The parents thought He was their dependent child. These are different forms of illusion, but since it is yogamaya the effect is positive.

Friend1: The same goes for the asuras, too?

Friend2: A person can only fight with God directly like that if they are a devotee at heart. It is said that such fighting cannot take place in the spiritual world. You won’t find asuras in the Vrindavana in the Vaikuntha realm.

Friend1: Ah, I see. I think I get it now.

Friend2: Remember, it wasn’t just the asuras. Brahma and Indra, two demigods, also became antagonistic against Krishna for a brief period. They were in illusion, too. The idea is that everyone is benefitted appropriately when interacting directly with Bhagavan. As He says in the Bhagavad-gita, He rewards everyone accordingly, to how they surrender to Him.

In Closing:

Asuras to Vrindavana to come,

But having bhakti spirit none.

Still feet set in sacred land,

Though Krishna not to understand.

In reality thinking day and night,

Purposely arranged to display His might.

Rewarded accordingly everyone to interact,

Yogamaya supervising benefits exact.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Why Don’t You Focus More On The Issues Of The Day

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Real religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although fully situated in the mode of goodness, even the great rishis who occupy the topmost planets cannot ascertain the real religious principles, nor can the demigods or the leaders of Siddhaloka, to say nothing of the asuras, ordinary human beings, Vidyadharas and Charanas.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.3.19)

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Friend1: Is it safe to say that what we talk about on a regular basis is bhakti-yoga, the science of self-realization, sanatana-dharma, what have you?

Friend2: If you don’t know by now, that is pretty sad.

Friend1: Just bear with me a moment. We focus on escaping the cycle of birth and death. No more swimming aimlessly in the ocean of samsara, which has suffering throughout. Happiness and distress are like in a dream. It is illusion only. Real living is dharma. It is above the material nature.

Friend2: And once you have that consciousness fixed through to the time of death, you get liberation.

Friend1: Moksha.

Friend2: Beyond that. Something higher. Maintaining individuality, the transfer is to the real body, svarupa. This is identical to the spirit soul for identification purposes, unlike the duality with which we are familiar at the moment.

Friend1: Okay, and to that end we focus on raising consciousness of the Supreme, especially in His personal form. That is why we can say bhakti-yoga is also Krishna consciousness.

Friend2: Yes. Krishna is God the person. The all-attractive one, Bhagavan, who can be described as the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Friend1: We both acknowledge what the discussions focus on. Let’s transition to what is not discussed.

Friend2: Why?

Friend1: To raise my question. We don’t really go into issues of the day. We don’t focus on the different styles of government: communism, capitalism, autocracy, dictatorship and the like. We don’t deal with social issues of the day: gay marriage, feminism, abortion rights, divorce, racism and the like.

Friend2: I mean the list is endless. You can spend your entire life studying history. Not even over thousands of years, but maybe a few decades, like the Revolutionary War that led to the founding of America. There are people who are scholars in the topic of a single historical figure, like Churchill, Franklin, Washington, Napoleon.

[Napoleon]Friend1: Very good. I’m glad you expanded on my original thought. Here’s the thing. What do we tell people as the reason for avoiding these topics? Isn’t it important to discuss the merits and demerits of communism or capitalism? Shouldn’t we talk about the roles people play in marriage and how women should be treated in society?

Friend2: You want me to be more direct, I take it. “Do this.” “Don’t do that.” “This is right.” “That is wrong.”

Friend1: Exactly. Be more assertive. Don’t skirt around the issues. Be direct and to the point.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: So you’re going to do it?

Friend2: No.

Friend1: Why not?

Friend2: It’s simply not possible. Those topics you mentioned are in the realm of duality.

Friend1: They are material? Is that what you are saying? But shouldn’t aspects of material life be adjusted so as to make life more conducive to Krishna consciousness?

Friend2: Now that’s a different argument, but I think the same rule applies. Duality means that the quality of absoluteness is missing. That is to say what is good for one person may not be so for another. With politics, you see so many arguments from every angle of vision. There is some validity to each side. Sometimes one party is right and another is wrong. Sometimes one party has to be punished in order for there to be reform. You can’t come up with these blanket rules for areas which are essentially arts.

Friend1: Whereas we think they are sciences.

Friend2: Political science. That is a field of study at universities, but there can be no such thing. Politicians come along who break all the previously established rules of the science and win office regardless. They can be wildly successful, too.

Friend1: That is true.

Friend2: Then you have to go back and reconfigure the so-called science.

Friend1: Is it the same for every topic, though? What about studying the failures of a spiritual institution whose original purpose was to propagate Krishna consciousness? By discussing such issues doesn’t that make life better for people? Isn’t such an endeavor spiritual?

Friend2: It’s fine to discuss those things if you have some good solutions. My focus is always on bhakti-yoga practice. I can spot duality when I see it. Perhaps I should be hypocritical and state some preference that I deep down know not to be an absolute rule. I can’t be dishonest that way, though.

Friend1: Just some helpful hints would be nice.

Friend2: Listen, there is that famous verse from the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Dharmam tu sakshad bhagavata pranitam. Real religion comes from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That should always be the focus. The material world goes through cycles, such as with the weather. At one time some group is prominent and at another time a specific philosophy gains prominence. Try to stay above. Just because you think someone is wrong about politics or exhibits poor behavior doesn’t mean they are excluded from liberation.

Friend1: Okay, but to be liberated a person has to be intelligent. They have to be conscious of God.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: Right, but your definition of intelligence expands to areas of interest that aren’t very important. Do you really think Krishna polls to see what political party a devotee is from? There is the verse in the Bhagavad-gita where Krishna says that women, shudras and vaishyas are eligible for reaching the supreme destination. By definition these occupations/body-types are inauspicious as compared to others. That is to say those groups generally have a lower potential for intelligence. Everyone is still eligible because it doesn’t matter where they stand on a particular issue or what they know or don’t know about specific details to the temporary situation of the manifest world. All that matters is if they are conscious of God while quitting the body, and that is why the acharyas recommend the chanting of the holy names above anything else: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Each side with story to tell,

So on day’s issues not to dwell.

In world of duality we live,

Permanent fix none to give.

Bhakti-yoga except,

So all others reject.

With Shri Krishna in loving mood,

Whose body like raincloud hued.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Are You Better Off Today Than You Were

[Meeting Shabari]“Have you conquered all the obstacles in the way of your practice of austerities? Has your practice of austerity and penance steadily increased? O lady who possesses asceticism for wealth [tapodhane], have you been able to control your anger and your eating?” (Lord Rama speaking to Shabari, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 74.8)

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Friend1: I know you don’t like talking politics.

Friend2: About government or some religious institution?

Friend1: Either one.

Friend2: That’s true.

Friend1: Trust me, I’m not going too deep here. Just want to bring up something from the past, more about strategy and the like.

Friend2: You know why I don’t like talking about it, right?

Friend1: Because it’s not spiritual?

Friend2: There’s that, but also no one is ever satisfied. Look back in history. One person got elected, maybe overwhelmingly so. A few years later, that person, or at least their political party, is soundly rejected. It’s like a toggling pendulum.

Friend1: There is that established phenomenon where the first midterm election after a new president takes office sees their party get trounced. It’s happened so many times that people expect it now.

Friend2: For sure. Look at these two-term presidents. How many of them leave office holding control of either house of Congress?

Friend1: None. I get your point. Anyway, I was thinking back to a particular line from a Presidential debate that since has been incorporated into practically every campaign.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: It’s from the 1980 campaign. In a televised debate Ronald Reagan, the challenger, asked the people watching at home if they were better off today than they were four years ago. The idea was that if they thought things were going well in the country they should stick with the incumbent, Jimmy Carter. If they weren’t happy, maybe they should try something new.

[Reagan-Carter debate]Friend2: Oh yeah, that is a pretty famous line. So many candidates have used it since. It makes sense. Shows you how simple these campaigns really are. If you’re the challenger, just say everything is going terribly. If you’re the incumbent, point to your successes. Tell people how bad it was when you first took office and that if it weren’t for you the country would be in even worse shape today.

Friend1: Yes. I mean there were some particulars to that election, also. People talked about the “misery index.”

Friend2: Ironically, Jimmy Carter made that term prominent in his run for the office in 1976. It’s combining the unemployment rate and inflation. I forget the number, but Carter said that any person presiding over a certain misery index shouldn’t be reelected, referencing the incumbent Gerald Ford. Sure enough, four years later the misery index under Carter was even worse. Just goes to show you how fragile politics is. You can get burned by your own words later on.

Friend1: Like, “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

Friend2: There you go.

Friend1: So anyway, I would think the question from that debate would transfer well to the realm of spirituality, no?

Friend2: Which question? Material existence carries its own misery index, which is never at a good level.

Friend1: The question about “are you better off.”

Friend2: Oh, I never thought about that. I mean it is a great question for anyone to ask when they are gauging progress. I remember that Shri Rama asked questions along those lines when He met Shabari in the forest.

Friend1: The female ascetic?

Friend2: Yes. She welcomed Him with berries from the forest, and Rama was kind enough to engage her in a conversation. He asked if the faith in her spiritual teachers was growing. He asked if she was less concerned with eating. You could say He asked her if she was better off than she was before.

Friend1: I would think that materially you might be worse off.

[Meeting Shabari]Friend2: For sure. God is known as Hari because He sometimes takes away. If too much material opulence is getting in the way of the purification of consciousness, then the highest authority figure will lighten the burden, so to speak.

Friend1: Are you saying that if I take to chanting the holy names, practicing bhakti-yoga under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, I should be better off in the future?

Friend2: You have to be. If it’s not the case, then you’re doing something wrong. From my personal experience, bhakti is the only thing I’ve tried where my enthusiasm for it has only increased with time. Think about that for a second. I’m not talking about staying engaged or avoiding boredom. Those are difficult enough to achieve. The enthusiasm has gone up. And it continues to increase.

Friend1: Wow. I guess you know that the practice is legitimate, then. What would you say to people who are having trouble? Sometimes they lose their friends and family. Sometimes they feel isolated, since no one around them is into higher pursuits, like achieving liberation for the soul.

Friend2: Again, while the journey may be difficult, progress is certainly made. Anyone who seeks the shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is better off for it. Even a little progress brings results to last for a long time, benefits that time cannot erase.

In Closing:

Success after feverish chase,

But benefits time to erase.

But with Shri Rama not the case,

God of most attractive face.

Enthusiasm way for progress gauging,

Not easy since war against maya waging.

But Supreme Lord there to protect,

Very soon progress to expect.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Three Ways Demigod Worship Can Harm You

[Govardhana Puja]“When Krishna stopped the villagers of Braja (Vrindavana) from worshiping Indra, Indra became angry and therefore inundated Vrindavana with continuous rain. Krishna, however, protected all of the citizens and animals of Vrindavana by lifting Govardhan Hill, which served as an umbrella.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 21)

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You realize that not everything is in your control. As much as you have tried in the past, outside factors certainly played a role. That one stock you purchased on a tip from a friend - who knew that the company would lose a court case the next day, causing the price to plummet? That time you overslept and decided to skip work - who knew that such rain would pour down that the parking lot would flood in the morning, where so many parked cars were ruined?

This next time around, you are going to approach higher authorities. They manage one of the sources of miseries of life. Natural disasters, heat and cold, the weather - these are adhidaivika miseries. Daivika refers to the devas, who are the demigods, celestials, or whatever the preferred term is for beings residing in the higher planetary system.

The demigods live in heaven, and they are authorized to distribute different kinds of rewards. They are benefactors to those who worship properly. Whether one is a believer or not is of no value, as there is sufficient evidence from recorded history to prove the value of the practice. At the same time, there is some danger involved. Things might not end up how you planned.

1. You don’t get what you want

Maybe you didn’t worship properly. Perhaps time ran out. Maybe there was only one slot available for this particular boon, and you missed your chance. Someone else beat you to it. Whatever the reason, the outcome is not desired.

The negative here is that you might think that God doesn’t exist. After all, the higher powers didn’t come through. You could have found failure on your own. It is the easiest thing in the world to fail; that’s why the section in the bookstore on how to fail doesn’t exist.

2. You get what you want

Saphala, success came. You worshiped properly and got what you asked for. Now what? I wanted money, received it, and I’m still miserable. I remain in a fearful condition. I now want something else.

[ice cream cone]Indeed, the senses are known to be difficult to please. It is impossible to become satisfied simply through asking for stuff. Perhaps what I asked for wasn’t really good for me in the long run. Children ask the parents for permission to stay up late and eat ice cream at every meal. The parents are like demigods in that situation, and if they acquiesce without a thought, no one really benefits.

3. You get more than you bargained for

You were a regular customer to this particular demigod. You worshiped in the past, they were pleased, and everyone got what they wanted. This one particular year you’re going in a different direction. You’ve been advised to direct the worship someplace else.

This demigod shouldn’t mind, since you were a loyal customer for so long. Perhaps you will come back in the future. Nothing is ever fixed in the material world; constant change. Yet this deva is so upset that they’ve decided to give you what you used to pray for anyway.

By the way, they will give you more than you ever bargained for. The people of Vrindavana faced this situation a long time ago. They were accustomed to worshiping Indra, the king of heaven, for getting sufficient rainfall. They skipped his puja one year in favor of Govardhana Hill. The change was at the insistence of Shri Krishna, who was the son of the king, Nanda Maharaja.

Indra was so offended that he retaliated with rain, anyway. The people received what they normally asked for, except this time the rainfall was in excess. It threatened to wash everyone away. Not very nice treatment from someone who was a business partner for so long.

There is one kind of worship which doesn’t carry such risks. Not surprisingly, it is approaching the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. In the case of Govardhana Puja, that Supreme Lord was there in the all-attractive form of Krishna. Despite Indra’s wrath, the people were protected. They did not suffer the consequences of worshiping Govardhana Hill, which Krishna declared to be non-different from Him.

Krishna applies discrimination. He actually assesses the requests made of Him. He is not obliged to give anyone anything. The person approaching may view Him as an order supplier, considering the interaction to be like a business transaction.

[Govardhana Puja]Yet Krishna’s association is so purifying that even in the polluted mindset there is benefit. The person who doesn’t get what they want at least spent some time associating with the Supreme Pure. The person who receives what they asked for doesn’t get hurt as a result. Then there are others who get more than what they asked for, namely continued and increased association with the Almighty. This is the greatest benediction a person could ever receive, proving that Krishna is the only benefactor worth approaching.

In Closing:

“This child on my territory encroaching,

Foolishly now Govardhana approaching.

With offerings first intended for me,

My true power let them now see.”

Indra-deva offended in this way,

More than expected when to pray.

Better towards Shri Krishna to go,

Proof the hill-umbrella to show.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Is It Possible For Adharma To Be Bhakti

[Sita-Rama-Lakshmana]“O Rama, You should know that just as fish cannot survive when taken out of water, neither Sita nor I can live without You for even a moment.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 53.31)

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Friend1: Alright, I have a Ramayana question for you.

Friend2: Like what happened at such and such point? Something to trigger your memory?

Friend1: An analysis piece, focusing on a specific incident.

Friend2: Okay, and you want a legitimate review and not some ridiculous mental speculation that you’re using to further another goal?

Friend1: Umm, what?

Friend2: Like where you take the Ramayana, which is a historical work in the Sanskrit language, beautifully composed and presented by Maharishi Valmiki, a liberated soul, and compare it to a game. Though you don’t outwardly deny the validity of the incidents, in reality the same is accomplished.

Friend1: Oh, like where you take things symbolically? You use the incidents to further your own goals.

Friend2: Right. I won’t be a party to that. I get very upset.

Friend1: No, this is a legitimate discussion. It’s about bhakti, or devotion. I think I already know the proper explanation but thought I’d run it by you to make sure.

Friend2: Alright. Which incident are we talking about?

Friend1: Where Shri Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is preparing to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya. It’s for fourteen years, in a sudden turn of events. Moments prior preparations were being made for His installation as king. Dasharatha had decided the time was right to hand control over to the eldest and most beloved son.

Friend2: Yes. This was keeping with both tradition and the father’s favoritism. Though Dasharatha had four equally capable sons, Rama was the closest to him in terms of emotional attachment.

Friend1: Then everything changed. The youngest queen, Kaikeyi, cashed in two favors Dasharatha had previously promised her. She asked that her son Bharata be made king instead. Rama and Rama’s father would have been fine with this. For her second boon, she went one step further.

Friend2: “Leave the kingdom for fourteen years.” This way Bharata wouldn’t have any competition. Man, these incidents are wonderful, even the supposedly bad ones. There is room for endless study and contemplation, and that’s without touching the bogus side of symbolism used by the atheists.

Friend1: Hold on. The place I’m getting to is where the question is. Rama is ready to leave. He has no problem following the orders of the king. Sure, everyone is sad. Even Bharata is going to be once he finds out. Only Kaikeyi is happy.

Friend2: Yes, because Bharata and Shatrughna were visiting someplace else at the time.

[Leaving Kausalya]Friend1: Rama is ready to go and He tells both Sita and Lakshmana to stay at home. It’s not just out of safety. Neither is it only to spare them the hardship of living like a homeless person, following the rules of an ascetic out in the wilderness.

Friend2: Sita is Rama’s wife and Lakshmana is another son to Dasharatha. Lakshmana is Queen Sumitra’s son, but he is the brother closest in terms of association to Rama, though all four brothers love each other equally.

Friend1: I’m glad you mentioned that. There is strong affection going around. Rama essentially says to not use that as an excuse. He advises Sita to remain at home and serve His mother, Queen Kausalya. The mother will be heartbroken at Rama’s departure, but Sita staying there will provide some comfort.

Friend2: Makes sense.

Friend1: Rama tells Lakshmana that help is needed for the father, Dasharatha. By remaining in the kingdom, Lakshmana can oversee things properly, serving Bharata and ensuring that dharma is upheld.

Friend2: Again, no problem there.

Friend1: Listen, I agree with that. These are important duties. They fall in line with dharma, for the respective people. Dharma is religion, religiosity, righteousness, or what have you, and it’s not always the same. The wife has a different dharma than the younger brother or the son of a king.

Friend2: Right. Dharma is an essential characteristic. We assume different roles in a material existence, and dharma is the way to advance. It’s the way to progress in terms of consciousness without having to think too much. Just do what is proper for you. As Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, it is better to follow your own dharma improperly than to take up someone else’s.

“It is far better to discharge one's prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another's duties. Destruction in the course of performing one's own duty is better than engaging in another's duties, for to follow another's path is dangerous.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.35)

Friend1: Okay, that is a wonderful explanation, but here’s the thing. Neither of them listened to Rama. They insisted on accompanying Him to the forest.

Friend2: And that surprises you?

Friend1: Of course not, but Rama gave in. Moreover, they abandoned dharma in favor of sentimental attachment. Is that still bhakti? I understand that we are supposed to be devoted to God, but isn’t that incident setting the precedent for others to abandon work, family and responsibilities in favor of practicing devotional service?

Friend2: I would hope that it is.

Friend1: How can you say that? Isn’t that cruel? How will the world function if everyone abandons their responsibilities?

Friend2: What do you think the sarva dharman parityajya verse from the Bhagavad-gita means?

“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)

Friend1: Krishna told that to Arjuna, and Arjuna didn’t abandon the responsibility of fighting in the war. He proceeded forward.

Friend2: That was following Krishna. It was bhakti.

Friend1: Sita and Lakshmana didn’t follow their responsibilities. They left everything to stay with Rama.

Friend2: To you it’s staying; to them it’s serving. They wouldn’t let Him be alone. Lakshmana says they would be like fish out of water without Rama by their side. In fact, their decision is indicative of the height of consciousness. Even if they were to suffer in hell for thousands of years for leaving the kingdom, they would make the same decision. Their only concern was Rama and His welfare. The devotion is so great that not even Rama could stop them. Think about that for a second.

Friend1: Okay.

[Sita-Rama-Lakshmana]Friend2: It’s the most powerful message in the world. Bhakti has such potency that when practiced on the highest level not even the Supreme Lord can do anything to stop it. Dharma, adharma, right, wrong, heaven, hell, pious, impious - all conditions in duality melt away in the blazing fire of devotional love, serving the lotus feet of the Almighty.

In Closing:

Since concern in blazing fire to melt,

Bad about leaving home not felt.

Since desire only with Rama to stay,

Following Him even to forest’s way.

Despite Him to the contrary advising,

Sita and Lakshmana home now despising.

Since of their most important bereft,

So without hesitation with Him left.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Miscreants To Annihilate

[Vishnu and Hiranyaksha]“Hiranyaksha and his brother, Madhu and the very strong Kaitabha - the one who slayed them, Bhagavan, the ocean of mercy, has descended as an avatara.” (Dohavali, 115)

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hiranyācca bhrātā sahita madhu kai।tabha balavāna |
jehiṃ māre soi avatareu k।rpāsindhu bhagavāna ||

Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, dharma. Correspondingly, the rise of irreligion, adharma. These conditions trigger the periodic appearances, which to the limited vision look like a janma, or birth, but are not really. The form is described as an avatara, or one who descends. This means that the external is not material, despite what common assessment says.

The avatara descends from the spiritual world for these purposes, and then there are two primary functions carried out. Protecting the pious, the sadhus. These are saintly people, who typically don’t keep attention on defense. There shouldn’t be much concern in this area, as there aren’t many possessions. If need be, the sadhu can take residence inside of a remote cave, sit down in front of a tulasi plant, and all day chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

The second function relates to the first. The avatara annihilates the miscreants. The Sanskrit word is dushkritam, those who are interested only in impious work. The miscreants love to harass the saints, and rather than take up weapons and get distracted from their primary business of God consciousness and worship of the Divine, the Supreme Lord Himself takes up the task of defense on their behalf.

He is already everywhere through the expansion known as Supersoul. The material nature works at His direction. While that energy is typically neutral, for the devotees an exception is made. The sadhu comes under the direct supervision of the most intelligent mind. This is because the devotees are considered to be His friends.

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)

How exactly does Bhagavan annihilate the miscreants? Should not the material nature handle the responsibility? The avataras are paired with some of the most powerful miscreants in the world. Again, the purpose is twofold. One is to show just how high a person can climb in material advancement. In one sense, the sky is the limit. People like Hiranyakashipu were so powerful that even the demigods were helpless against him.

The other purpose is to show that no matter how advanced a person becomes materially, in any of the different areas of opulence, they are still no match for Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Goswami Tulsidas mentions four different times Bhagavan took on such miscreants to describe how God again descended as the avatara named Rama.

[Shri Rama]The bad guys have been around just as long as the good guys have. The original good guy is Lord Brahma, who is also known as the creator. Both the suras and asuras trace their lineage back to him. In fact, Brahma is the original father of every species.

“In the beginning of creation, Lord Brahma was attacked by two demons—Madhu and Kaitabha—but Krishna saved him. Therefore Krishna is addressed as madhu-kaitabha-hantri.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.3.13 Purport)

A long time ago Brahma was attacked by two people named Madhu and Kaitabha. Bhagavan was there to protect. The different avataras that offer this protection are of the same identity, that is to say they are the same person. Therefore Bhagavan is also known by such names as Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Narasimha and Varaha.

[Vishnu and Hiranyaksha]The Varaha avatara was in the transcendental form of a boar. He defeated the very powerful demon named Hiranyaksha. The brother of the slain victim later vowed to get revenge on Vishnu. His name was Hiranyakashipu and he was defeated by the avatar named Narasimha, who was a half-man/half-lion.

Tulsidas worships the avatara named Rama, who is in a human-like body. The poet gives the background description so that no one will be confused. Rama is the same person who previously slayed Kaitabha, Madhu, and other powerful characters. After His appearance in Ayodhya, Rama would go on to rid the world of even more bad people.

Today the primary avatara is in the form of the holy name itself. This powerful sound cuts through the miscreant known as illusion. Therefore the saints take shelter of this protection, making sure it is always around by constantly producing the sound and allowing others to hear it as well.

In Closing:

Now avatara of Rama the name,

By whom previously demons slain.

Like Madhu and Kaitabha attacking,

Wicked characters of piety lacking.

Hiranyaksha against Varaha the boar,

Whose brother hoping revenge in store.

For the saintly Bhagavan ready to stand,

Now same with Ravana’s fate in hand.