Thursday, December 14, 2017

Is It Possible For Someone To Die For My Sins

[Krishna's lotus feet]“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)

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Friend1: Krishna consciousness is for everyone, right?

Friend2: Of course.

Friend1: It’s not limited to people of a certain region. It’s not one of many kinds of religion.

Friend2: I wouldn’t call it a religion. It’s dharma, which is the essence of the individual, who is spirit. Religion is more like faith, something to be accepted, given up, not looked at in depth, what have you.

Friend1: Real religion should be beyond faith.

Friend2: I’ll give you an example. The 1986 Mets.

Friend1: The baseball team?

Friend2: Yes. That was the first year I followed any kind of professional sports. I was very young. In that year I learned what a season is, a playoff series, elimination, waiting until the next season, the championship and everything.

Friend1: That was some exciting playoffs, maybe the most drama ever, in both leagues. You picked some year to get into it.

[1986 World Series]Friend2: I know. I remember the games to this day. Anyway, I was a huge Mets fan. I knew the entire lineup, even how they stood in the batter’s box. I remember the games, the situations, where I was during that amazing comeback in game 6 of the World Series.

Friend1: Okay.

Friend2: Anyway, a few years later I became a Yankee fan. I mean that’s like being a traitor, right?

Friend1: Yeah, you’re supposed to stick with your team.

Friend2: I have no explanation for you. I was a kid, so there is little recollection as to what happened. Biggest fan in 86, all the way to the end, then I kind of went over to another team. That is sort of how religion can go. You accept it for whatever reason, most likely inheriting from your parents. You can stay loyal to it, but you can always switch allegiance. You might refer to it as “my religion,” which is a flawed concept when discussing God.

Friend1: Because God, if He does exist, is for everyone. He can’t be the exclusive property of one kind of people.

Friend2: Bingo. That’s how you know Krishna consciousness is legitimate. It is for everyone. There is a philosophy behind it. Don’t just accept blindly. Sure, there is faith required in the beginning, but also bring every doubt to the table. Don’t leave any question unanswered.

Friend1: Speaking of questions, you know there are debates sometimes with people of opposing viewpoints. One of them says that such and such died for “their” sins. He is the anointed savior. How does that concept hold up?

Friend2: What concept? That someone can be the savior? There are many such people. They come and go through the ages. They are agents of the Almighty, ready to deliver people, teaching in a manner suited to the time and circumstance.

Friend1: No, I want to know about dying for my sins. Is it possible for someone to do that?

Friend2: Well, think of it this way. Let’s say that you did something really bad. It’s a crime that will put you behind bars for a few years. When the police come to arrest you, suddenly I step in. I confess. “I did it, officer. Please arrest me.” You don’t protest. I’m the one who ends up going to jail. Not you.

Friend1: That’s an awfully nice thing to do for me.

Friend2: It’s an example of accepting someone else’s sins, which are nothing more than negative consequences to actions. There is something called debt forgiveness. It is removing the negative reaction to the action of borrowing money that can’t be paid back. Sin and someone else taking the reactions are not very difficult concepts to understand.

Friend1: So then it is possible?

Friend2: Of course. But let me ask you this. Once I’ve served my time, does this mean that you can commit crimes again?

Friend1: I have the freedom to, but there is no guarantee that you or someone else will take the fall for me again.

Friend2: Exactly! Someone can die for your sins, even, but that doesn’t wipe the slate clean forever into the future.

Friend1: Okay, but what if I believe in this savior? Doesn’t that solve the problem?

[Krishna's lotus feet]Friend2: What does “believe” mean? You sign a piece of paper? You show allegiance to an institution? That’s why it’s called Krishna consciousness. Change the mentality. In the Bhagavad-gita there is a similar promise made. Not that Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, will do all the work and sacrifice for Arjuna. The idea is that the devotee will carry forward, and any negative consequences will be handled by Krishna. There is no reason to fear. It is not that Krishna does everything and we can continue behaving however we want, killing innocent animals, stealing, getting intoxicated, and the like. The idea is absolutely ridiculous, and it’s only accepted by people who have given little to no thought on the matter.

In Closing:

For my sins the savior came,

Died so fate not for us the same.

Do whatever but just accept,

From some thought idea reject.

Perhaps once getting reprieve.

But repeat then punishment receive.

Similar promise in Gita Krishna making,

For consciousness, still with proper action taking.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Three Reasons Lakshmana Is Called Ramanuja

[Rama and Lakshmana eating]“That best among men would not go to sleep without Him, nor would he eat without Him, even if the food brought was very palatable.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Bala Kand, 18.30)

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It goes in cycles. Man is in trouble. This is society in general, not just a single person. The cause is always the same: forgetfulness of God. The original person, the creator, Lord Brahma received instruction from within the heart. He thus became the first spiritual master, ready to start a chain of disciplic succession.

As can be expected, along the way some people don’t follow. They create their own rules and regulations, driven by the mode of passion. Dharma and adharma trade places. A simple example is the thief. For them the nighttime and acting in secret are auspicious. Honesty and respect for private property are sinful.

As is explained in the Bhagavad-gita, when the original knowledge is lost the Supreme Lord Himself reinstates the teachings, suited for time and circumstance. He picks a powerful, pious and fearless individual to start the succession again, knowing that they won’t let Him down.

“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.2)

[Ramanuja]In other cases He sends an empowered representative. One such person was Ramanujacharya, who helped to widely distribute and popularize the concept of duality in worship. Monism is where the individual identifies completely with the Self, which is the full collection of the spiritual energy. Dualism, or dvaita, is where the worship occurs between two separate entities, namely the individual and God, or the Divinity.

The name of that acharya is not accidental or random. Ramanuja was fearless, a staunch protector of the personal God, and also considered an incarnation of Lakshmana, whose deeds and character are well-known through the Ramayana poem. Lakshmana and two other people are known as Ramanuja, and with good reason.

1. Younger brother of Rama

This is the literal meaning. Rama is the eldest in the family, the first son to King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. This is from many thousands of years ago based on the present timeline of creation. Since Rama is an avatara of Vishnu, or God the person, the appearances and disappearances occur in cycles.

“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)

Dasharatha desperately wanted a son, an heir to the throne. He was blessed with four of them, born through the three queens. The name Ramanuja can address Bharata, Lakshmana or Shatrughna.

2. Devoted

The term anuja implies a follower. After birth, the brothers sort of broke out into pairs. They loved Rama the same; He was their leader. But in association Rama and Lakshmana stayed together, as did Bharata and Shatrughna.

Lakshmana is worthy of the name Ramanuja because he is so devoted. It is said that he wouldn’t eat or sleep unless Rama had done so. This is such a sign of respect. In Vedic culture the wives are taught to eat after their husbands. This is a kind of sacrifice, a way to show love in service.

[Rama and Lakshmana eating]Shri Rama is greatly pleased by Lakshmana’s show of loyalty. One time there was the bad news of Rama being forced out of the kingdom. Family infighting and jealousy led to the unfortunate order. Lakshmana refused to accept the idea. He was ready to overthrow the father and put Rama on the throne. If anyone objected, Lakshmana was ready to fight them singlehandedly.

3. Dedicated follower

The elder brother sets the example and the younger ones follow. Rama appreciated Lakshmana’s sentiment, but followed through on the plan of the parents. He left the kingdom, as was the request of Queen Kaikeyi. Lakshmana refused to stay at home. He was married, but not seeing Rama for fourteen years would be more devastating.

He left the comforts of the royal palace in favor of the brushes, wild beasts, and unfixed residence of life in the forest. He did this so that Rama would not be alone. Lakshmana always looks out for the elder brother’s interests, and for this reason He is the inspiration to the spiritual master, who follows in the footsteps by courageously defending against bogus theories that deny the existence and influence of the Almighty.

In Closing:

Lakshmana as Ramanuja known,

Befitting through service shown.

Without Rama first not to eat,

Happily to side taking seat.

Loyal, to forest with Him to go,

So that never brother pain to know.

Fierce defender, the guru inspiring,

Who fighting the atheists never tiring.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Mamata For Rama

[Shri Rama]“Tulsi says that those who have an intimate attachment to Shri Rama also look upon everyone with an equal vision. Without attachment, anger, distress, or bad qualities, the devotee crosses over the ocean of birth and death.” (Dohavali, 94)

tulasī mamatā rāma soṃ samatā saba saṃsāra |
rāga na rosa na dosa dukha dāsa bhae bhava pāra ||

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The Sanskrit word mamata means a strong level of attachment. It is often referenced in relationship to children. Mamata also refers to “mine,” the feeling of possession.

“These are my children. I love them so much. They are the world to me. If I had to rank the people most important in my life, they would be at the top of the list. Sadly, others don’t compare.”

In material life such a mentality certainly exists, but it is not entirely beneficial. After all, others have their own children. Others have their own interests. When the possessive-mentalities clash, how to reconcile? This is one of the causes for violence, conflict, wars, and the like. It is an animalistic tendency, as well.

The human being has more intelligence, or at least the potential for it. What I consider to be mine wasn’t there before. This land was here prior to my birth. It will remain after the present lifetime is finished. These human beings are related to me as family, but in a previous life there were other family members. In the future there will be new attachments.

The wise person views everyone equally. They understand that every living being is family, in a sense. That is because everything living is spirit soul at the core. I can relate to you and you can relate to me. This is because we are both fragments of spirit at present covered by certain material elements. We were spirit before birth and we will remain so after death.

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

Since everyone is equal at the core, there is no reason for strong attachment, raga. Neither is the opposite needed, rosha. This is anger. I get happiness in attachment and anger at separation. There is duhkha, distress, and dosha, bad qualities. Better to be free of these things. Then it is easy to cross the ocean of birth and death.

[Shri Rama]Goswami Tulsidas says that the person who has mamata for Shri Rama automatically develops the aforementioned qualities. It is a contradiction of sorts. On one side there is a strong sense of possession, where Rama is viewed as “mine and only mine.” On the other side there is detachment, keeping a cool head, and viewing everyone equally.

Such contradictions cannot be explained by logic, and they exist in the relationship with the Supreme. After all, He is Himself contradictory. He doesn’t have eyes, but He can see everything. He doesn’t have feet, but He moves faster than the wind. He is without a physical body, but the complexion is bluish. He has no name, but He can be called through sounds like Krishna and Rama.

[Deities worshiped]With the combination of devotion to Rama and detachment from the dualities of the material world, crossing the ocean of birth and death is easy. The world is compared to an ocean of suffering, samsara. It is difficult to escape because there is dreaded time lurking in the corner. As you mature, the body starts to diminish in ability. With death the slate gets wiped clean, sort of like moving back to the starting line after almost finishing.

With mamata for Shri Rama the progress doesn’t get erased. Anger is difficult to abandon. Bad qualities are not easy to shake off. If there isn’t perfection in a single lifetime, it is an opportunity not taken advantage of fully, but there is no loss. The same can’t be said of advancement of material life. Taking everything together, attachment to God the person makes even more sense.

In Closing:

Why with anger forever to live?

Mistakes of enemies forgive.

Not good either attachment strong,

Pain when for something to long.

For Rama keep possession sense,

Your bhakti with bow and arrow defense.

In that effort no fear of loss,

And ocean of birth and death to cross.

Monday, December 11, 2017

When Friends Turn To Snakes

[Rama's lotus feet]“Tulsi says that one who has love for Rama should be friendly towards friends, renounce enmity with enemies, and be easy-going, simple in nature, quiet, and equally disposed towards all.“ (Dohavali, 93)

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hita soṃ hita, rati rāma soṃ, ripu soṃ baira bihāu |
udāsīna saba soṃ sarala tulasī sahaja subhāu ||

Fink. Dirt-bag. Jerk. Snake. Someone you called a friend for so long has turned on you. It happened suddenly. You weren’t expecting it. They prioritized a physical object over your association. They told you, “No offense,” as if that means anything. A person tells you that they respect the country and everyone that lives in it, yet they refer to a certain segment of people as racists, without knowing each individual personally. They refuse to honor the flag of the nation in which they live, but when they go overseas they immediately stand up during a similar ceremony.

The changing of the tides is not limited to the oceans. There are ups and downs in a material existence. A friend can become a foe and vice versa. One second there is happiness and the next tremendous sadness. The beginning and end are themselves polar opposite situations: birth and death. The saint Tulsidas says that a person who has love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead remains steady throughout.

He gives specifics on how that disposition manifests. The cause is the most important. There is rati, which means love. This is distinguished from kama, which is lust. We say we love someone that is a paramour, but that affection is known to shift. Otherwise, things like divorce and breakups wouldn’t exist.

[Rama's lotus feet]Genuine rati can only be extended to the Supreme Lord, who in this case is referred to as Rama. This is the manifestation of choice, the ishta-deva, of Tulsidas. It is not that Rama is just a Hindu god. He is the singular Deity manifesting in a specific way, appearing on earth in consideration of time and circumstance. His transcendental features are described in Vedic texts like the Ramayana and Puranas.

Rati for Rama means devotional service. Every good quality emerges as a result; a separate endeavor is not required. In case there is some confusion, some doubt as to what the qualities should be, Tulsidas lists a few.

A devotee of Rama should be friendly towards friends. This only makes sense. They have done some good for me. They have favored me for some reason, and I should respond in kind. Shri Rama Himself behaved this way towards friends like Sugriva and Vibhishana.

A devotee of Rama should renounce enmity towards enemies. Again, Rama is the ideal example. The vile Ravana, the king of Lanka, stole Rama’s wife Sita in secret and tortured her for many months. When Rama won her back, killing Ravana in a fair fight, there was no lasting enmity. Rama did not obsess over the incident afterwards. He even directed Ravana’s brother Vibhishana to perform the funeral rites for the vanquished king.

A devotee of Rama should be easy-going, simple in nature and quiet. Easy-going means that when things aren’t favorable for you, there is no deviation from the path of devotion. Simple in nature means that there are no complicated requirements for living. Rock stars are well-known for making extraordinary requests in the backstage riders they give to venues hosting concerts. Devotees don’t need much, as they are satisfied in simply chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Quiet here does not mean complete silence. A devotee does not speak nonsense. They do not talk simply for the sake of talking. When they speak, it is about Rama, or God. It is about devotional service, the science of self-realization, and the need for breaking free of the cycle of birth and death. Indeed, if Tulsidas were completely silent such instruction from the Dohavali would never have been produced.

[Prahlada Maharaja]One person who meets the qualifications given above is Prahlada Maharaja. His disposition was tested to the extreme. The father, Hiranyakashipu, turned into a violent adversary. The father did not like the devotion to God seen in the child. He decided Prahlada needed to be killed. A snake-like person himself, Hiranyakashipu fed Prahlada to snakes, but there was no effect. Prahlada survived, and eventually Rama appeared on the scene in the amazing form of Narasimhadeva, tearing the king apart from the waist. Despite the atrocities committed, Prahlada did not hold a grudge. This was due to his rati.

In Closing:

Friendly to be towards a friend,

Since in past help to lend.

Their sins only to denounce,

Enmity with enemies to renounce.

Like with Prahlada Maharaja seeing,

Changed not when father like snake being.

Who with different attempts tried to kill,

Steady in mind, son’s heart with rati filled.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Four Things That Will Happen If You Stop Believing In God

[Shri Krishna]“Without pious activities, if a man is in a distressed condition he becomes an agnostic, communist or something like that. Because he does not firmly believe in God, he thinks that he can adjust his distressed condition by totally disbelieving in Him.” (The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 3)

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“I put everything into it. There was full faith, the real kind. I had no other hope. Every other tweak, adjustment, or attempt had no impact. The end was nearing. I turned to prayer. I prayed more intensely than I ever have before.

The result? Nothing. The person succumbed to the illness. They are gone. A tragic death, too. So young. So good. They never sinned in their life; at least from what was known. Everybody loved this person. They leave behind a wonderful, but grieving family.

Maybe God isn’t real. Maybe the way to go is to not believe in Him. Then the results might change. I might get what I want. There won’t be as much heartbreak. It’s not as sad when there is no hope to begin with.”

This hypothetical sequence of events is not uncommon. Without a proper understanding of the spiritual science, the idea of God and belief in Him is relegated to the category of faith. Faith is known to change, almost in the fashion of supporting sports teams and players. One day I have so much faith in my favorite team, but they suddenly decide to not honor the flag of the nation in which they live. I have no choice but to change my allegiance, to move elsewhere.

If I look to God only for stuff, for fulfilling desires, I might similarly be offended when things don’t go my way. From such a turn the results can go in several directions.

1. Find failure

What I wanted didn’t come to be. Without God in the picture, I think the next time will be different. Yet there is every chance of finding failure again. Just look to any atheist. See if they succeed one hundred percent of the time. Even the wealthiest person gets stuck in traffic. They miss flights, stub a toe, get indigestion, and get an earful from their spouse.

2. Find success

No more religion, no more problems. That is the expectation. There is every chance of finding success. For evidence, observing the human population is not even required. Look at the animal community. There are stray dogs in some countries. They get enough food to eat. Their duration of life may not be long. The quality of that living is unacceptable to us, but nature is still there to help them.

The tiger gets sufficient food. So do the trees, some of which stand tall for thousands of years. Where is the prayer? Where is the influence of the Divine? Where is the preacher threatening eternal damnation for disbelieving?

3. Receive happiness and sadness

Success and failure are the outcomes, and happiness and sadness are the connected emotions. I’m happy when something goes my way and sad when it doesn’t. Without following religion I will indeed experience both of these emotions, toggling like a pendulum.

“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that happiness and sadness come on their own. They are due to sense perception only, and the timing of their arrival is like the seasons. No matter how much we try, winter will come this year. It will bring cold temperatures. No more playing tennis outside. No more enjoying time in the park. There will be a quick rush to get inside. The car will need to be sufficiently warmed before driving.

[Winter]The same with the summer. I will need an air conditioner, if I don’t want to suffer. I will have to pack up and store the winter coats. The sweaters will do me no good. Different clothing for a different period of time.

4. Miss the valuable opportunity of interacting with Him, made possible in the human birth

As happiness and sadness arrive in either circumstance, there is something more to religion. There is a reason the human birth is valuable. The added stresses and anxieties are due to intelligence, knowledge of imminent death that is lacking in the other species. The human being can rationalize, can make inquiries, and most importantly, can change their outlook.

Belief in God hopefully leads to service to Him. This is a change in desire, from personal to the greatest Personality. The shift is from kama to bhakti. Kama keeps a person vulnerable to defeat, no matter how much the Supreme Lord is called to the situation. Bhakti means always lovingly serving, and maintaining that renewed spirit.

One example is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. In bhakti this mantra is repeated as a prayer for the opportunity to continue to serve God the person, who is all-attractive and thus known as Krishna. The energy of God, Hare, helps in the situation.

“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40)

[Shri Krishna]There is no loss in this endeavor. It can be started at the latest point in life, moments prior to quitting the body, and still produce a mature fruit. Kama can be indulged for an entire lifetime and still leave a person wanting, with one fear after another. From the bhakti path the benefits are clear, and the more one serves the more they feel the Divine mercy in every aspect of the life experience.

In Closing:

What influence my prayers they had?

Since left feeling lonely and sad.

Maybe now from religion away to turn,

To try out alone, my way to earn.

Success and failure then surely to find,

But missing chance for peace of mind.

Since this life made for with God connecting,

Who work of His devotees protecting.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Four Reasons Hanuman Is A Wonderful Sight To Behold

[Shri Hanuman]“At night, on the sun having set, Maruti [Hanuman] contracted his body. Becoming the size of a cat, he was a wonderful sight to behold.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.49)

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Certain things are just amazing to see. A glacier along the horizon while on a boat in Antarctica. The array of colors from the sunset along the ocean. The sun being eclipsed. The view of the clouds while travelling on an airplane. The birth of a child; that suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a brand new life enters this world.

Though difficult to see with conditioned eyes, with the help of shastra and the spiritual master it is possible to realize how one notable historical personality is one of the greatest sights to behold. The reason is always the same: the link to the Divine in a mood of love and devotion.

1. He is a monkey, after all

The person is Shri Hanuman, and he is in an interesting form. The Sanskrit words to describe him are many. Vanara. Kapi. Hari. These reference monkeys, and in particular dwellers of the forest from an ancient time period. In that form one is able to walk, talk, rationalize, reason, deliberate, along with feel excitement and enthusiasm.

These features help in describing, but what actually defines Hanuman is devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the incarnation of Rama. Hanuman is best known as Rama’s trusted servant, a pure devotee who takes any and all risks in service.

2. He can shrink to the size of a cat

Greatness goes in both directions. It is not that only increasing objects and stature is remarkable. In Hanuman’s case he was a sight to behold when he once shrunk his size to that of a cat. The shift was possible due to expert ability in what is known as mystic yoga. The various abilities are referred to as siddhis, which are perfections. A siddhi is something like getting the highest belt designation in martial arts. One distinction is that there can be many siddhis possessed simultaneously.

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman reduced his form in order to better search through Lanka. This particular mission to please Rama involved searching for the Lord’s missing wife, Sita Devi. Hanuman could have torn through the entire city of Lanka with a giant stature, but a smaller size was better suited for this particular phase of the mission.

3. He can expand to the size of a mountain

Indeed, Hanuman had just used a large size to reach Lanka, which was far in the distance from the shore. Expanding his body to mountain-like proportions, Hanuman leaped over the ocean to reach the place where he had to search. Many years later he again showed this wonderful form to the brother Bhima, after repeatedly being requested to do so.

4. He sacrifices everything for Sita and Rama

Large, small, angry, sad, happy, battle-tested - Hanuman goes through so many different situations, all for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord and His wife. Love is an amazing thing to see. It is the reason people in attendance at a wedding shed tears during the ceremony.

[Hanuman's heart]Even a quick look at Hanuman’s deeds described in books like the Ramayana make him very endearing. The more one practices bhakti-yoga the more appreciation they have. In pictures where Shri Rama is worshiped alongside His closest family members, Hanuman is included. The great devotee is usually seen kneeling in front, in a smaller form. Again, Hanuman does this intentionally, for though he deserves the most honor he never seeks it, nor does he want any taken away from the people he loves the most.

In Closing:

As Ramayana events to unfold,

One particular sight to behold.

Hanuman to size of cat shrinking,

At thought of danger not blinking.

Can expand size too, in other direction,

For Rama, never on personal reflection.

Though worthy of honor best of them all,

With couple keeping stature small.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Three Practices Similar To Bhakti That Lack The Same Effect

[Prasadam offering]“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

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To the outsider something is off. Strange outfits. Non-traditional haircuts. Weird sounds. Sure, they are of Sanskrit origin, but who speaks that ancient language today? Waking up so early in the morning, a restrictive diet, and talking only of one topic. And all for what, pleasing someone that can’t be seen?

Perhaps the secret is in the activities themselves. Try similar things, without the God component, and maybe the same effect will be there.

As man has free will, the potential exists to try anything in a material existence. Proper bhakti-yoga practices are effective precisely because of authority. Guidelines and procedures passed down through the generations, making slight adjustments for time and circumstance, bring everything auspicious and favorable. Similar practices not based on authority don’t yield the same result.

1. Chanting any word, such as “water”

Heavy emphasis is there on the chanting of the holy names. It is said that the name of God the person is non-different from Him. Say the word “Krishna” and you will get Krishna. Say the word “Hare” and you will get the energy of Krishna.

It is seen that the devotees can chant the maha-mantra repeatedly: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. There is repetition up to the thousandth factor on a daily basis through japa meditation, and then there is endless singing in kirtana.

The same attempt made with an ordinary word does not yield the same result. Saying “water” will not produce “water.” Nor is it likely that someone can repeat the word over and over, day after day, year after year. The transcendental taste is lacking. Moreover, there is no authority to support the activity.

2. Meditating on just any tree

[Tulasi plant]Another practice in bhakti-yoga is worshiping the tulasi plant. This living being is considered a devi, or goddess. Though the plant can be in abundance, such as in the land of Vrindavana, the identity is singular. Worship of Tulasi is so powerful that the process alone can bring purification. Many celebrated saints of the past would chant the maha-mantra in front of a Tulasi plant; they did not necessarily engage in formal worship in a public dwelling designated for such a purpose.

3. Offering food to just any statue

The guidelines for this process come from the Bhagavad-gita. If there is going to be worship of God, then surely He must be a person. Worship of an abstract is not possible; the same result won’t be there. The Supreme Lord has spiritual attributes belonging to a spiritual form.

He says that if a person offers something simple like water, fruit or flowers, He will accept. There must be devotion, bhakti. The deity is there to help in the process, as in the conditioned state we have a difficult time finding God. Though He is everywhere, we don’t yet have the eyes to notice His presence.

The same process directed to any statue or object will not yield the same benefit. The comparison often made by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is to the mailbox. If you drop a letter in just any box, there is no guarantee that the intended destination will be reached. The mailbox is authorized by higher powers for picking up and delivering such letters and packages.

[Prasadam offering]The deity is authorized to accept worship and grant the highest benedictions in life, to make it successful, saphala. In pure devotion the only desire is to continue in service, which is granted through placement in the ideal conditions going forward. Whether in heaven or hell, the devotee following authority always sees their beloved Lord, smiling and granting His endless mercy.

In Closing:

Watching bhakti with skeptical eye,

Maybe similar practices to try.

But the devotional component lacking,

Failure since not through authority tracking.

Like word “water” over and over repeat,

Or in front of any tree taking seat.

Food offered to just any statue resist,

To Krishna relationship must exist.