Sunday, December 4, 2016

How Do You Know That Bhakti Is Better Than Regular Yoga

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasachin, can be but an instrument in the fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33)

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Friend1: You realize that many spiritual teachers don’t put a lot of importance in bhakti.

Friend2: I do.

Friend1: They say it’s more a means than an end.

Friend2: A mechanism. Something like putting on training wheels while learning to ride a bike. Focus on some Divine form, a physical manifestation of Brahman. Worship it with devotion. When you become Brahman-realized, then abandon that worship.

Friend1: It seems weird to me. You’re basically tricking yourself. Follow a lie in order to reach the truth.

Friend2: Yup. Well, they’re starting out with a lie themselves, that God is impersonal. That’s why they are able to give the crazy advice. They are shameless, like the thief.

Friend1: Those are some pretty harsh words. Is that your response, then? Do you have a better counterargument?

Friend2: Are you a reporter or something? Next thing you’ll be asking me to talk about this and talk about that.

Friend1: I hate when interviewers do that!

Friend2: It’s a sign of laziness for sure. They can’t come up with a real question, so instead they give orders, commanding the interviewee as if they were a dog.

Friend1: They’re basically saying, “Hey, write my story for me. I have a deadline to meet and right now I’ve got nothing.”

Friend2: The best refutation comes from Krishna Himself.

Friend1: Something He said?

Friend2: Obviously, there is that. He never mentions in the Bhagavad-gita that worship of Him is some temporary stop on the way towards the promise land. He never says to Arjuna, “Hey, I am not real. I am a temporary manifestation of a higher concept appearing before you in order to teach the highest wisdom.” He doesn’t say, “Worship to the point that one day you’ll become just like me, the Supreme Lord.”

Friend1: [laughing] That’s true.

Friend2: If Arjuna and Krishna were the same, there would be no point to the Bhagavad-gita. There would be no point to the guru-disciple relationship if every guru was actually God Himself. Then you’d have competing versions of God. You’d have God susceptible to illusion, which immediately disqualifies Him from being the topmost person.

Friend1: But yoga is everything. Link with the Divine. Meditate. Knock out distractions. Bhakti is just one way to do it. Jnana is more important, since it is true knowledge. Devotees are less intelligent; that’s why they are stuck worshiping an idol in the temple.

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: Well first off, it’s not an idol. An idol is born from mental speculation; the deity is from the authority of parampara, which Krishna starts. Anyway, look at how Krishna behaves with the devotees.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: He puts them in positions to shine. Case in point Arjuna. The Supreme Lord, Bhagavan, even says to him at one point to act as an instrument. The Divine will is already set. Arjuna should act according to Krishna’s orders to get credit for that result arriving.

Friend1: The Supreme Lord basically elevates the devotee.

Friend2: Exactly. Arjuna is not famous today for being a yogi in jnana. He did not retreat to the forest. He taught through acting in devotion. The same goes for Hanuman. He is so famous today for his actions. These people are self-realized souls. They are never in maya, or illusion.

Friend1: Okay, I get they have a high stature. I understand that Krishna put them in positions to shine. How does that show bhakti is the superior form of yoga, though?

Friend2: It proves that there is activity in liberation. All other forms are actually temporary stops. Once there is perfect realization in jnana-yoga, there must be activity afterwards. Otherwise the person falls back into illusion, seeking a higher taste.

Friend1: I see.

[Krishna and Arjuna]Friend2: Everyone is eligible to practice bhakti-yoga, and to succeed at it. The same can’t be said of any other kind of yoga. You are out of luck if you lack intelligence, flexibility, the ability to work, self-control, and so forth. In bhakti even a monkey can become liberated. They can please the Supreme Lord with actions. He reciprocates by letting them shine gloriously for the world to see, to help others understand what a precious gem devotion really is.

In Closing:

Different when to others teachers to go,

How bhakti superior with confidence to know?

 

Krishna’s word alone to take,

How all other dharmas to forsake.

 

From actions also to learn,

How for Arjuna fame to earn.

 

Even after liberation activity coming,

Best when devoted to Lord becoming.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Five People Given A Chance To Shine By Krishna

[Bhishma quitting his body]“Suta Gosvami said: Thus Bhishmadeva merged himself in the Supersoul, Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with his mind, speech, sight and actions, and thus he became silent, and his breathing stopped.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.9.43)

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The Supreme Lord can accomplish any task. His actions are easy. He doesn’t have to work hard. The concept carrying the most complexity is the entire universe, with its amazing variety, its timely and predictable operation, and its vast population of creatures. That creation comes into being through the exhaling of Lord Vishnu. His breathing is while lying down in rest on the serpent bed known as Ananta Deva.

“If I narrate about Rama, her dear husband whose actions are effortless, she will not be frightened, as her mind will be absorbed in thoughts of her husband.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.41)

Shri Hanuman attests to the fact. He describes Shri Rama to be of effortless actions. Rama is the same Vishnu, part of the Vishnu-tattva category of Divine Beings. The Supreme is one, but He is kind enough to expand Himself into different personal forms to accommodate variety in devotional sentiments.

Though His actions are effortless and thus any work for Him easy to accomplish, God puts people into positions to succeed and earn fame. They act as His instruments. The Divine will is already set; these important personalities act in ways to welcome destiny, to share in the resplendent glory of the Supreme Lord.

1. Prahlada

Hiranyakashipu was a terror. He asked to become very powerful, and through demigod worship you can get pretty much anything available in the material world. There are opulences such as strength, wealth, fame, and beauty. A person can get any or all of these things in great quantity through pleasing devas, gods who are specifically empowered to grant benedictions.

Of course the wise know that such power is not that important. If it exists, it should be used in service to God. Hiranyakashipu was an asura; the best of them in fact. He used his abilities to trample on the security of the innocent. He became the most feared man in the world.

Vishnu easily could have taken care of the terrorizing king. He had previously done so with Hiranyakashipu’s brother Hiranyaksha. That was one of the reasons Hiranyakashipu so despised Vishnu and any trace of worship of Him.

Hiranyakashipu’s destiny was already sealed, and the five year old son Prahlada acted as the instrument. The boy tolerated the persecutions of his father, which were irrational. The boy wasn’t bothering anyone. He had no power to compel anyone to do anything. After surviving so many deadly attacks, Prahlada’s devotion invited Vishnu Himself to appear on the scene as Narasimhadeva, who literally tore Hiranyakashipu apart.

2. Hanuman

Vishnu descended to earth as Rama, who was a capable and chivalrous prince. Rama lost His wife Sita Devi to Ravana through a nefarious plot. Since He is antaryami, or the all-pervading and all-knowing witness, Rama easily could have located and rescued her.

He gave Hanuman the opportunity to act as the instrument of destiny. Hanuman bravely searched through Lanka until he found Sita. He played a significant role in Rama’s army that eventually marched to Lanka and returned triumphantly, with Ravana dead and Sita rescued. Hanuman was chosen because of his great devotion. He too is extremely powerful. He is capable of defeating anyone, yet he refrained from destroying Ravana so that Rama would get the chance later on.

3. Arjuna

The leading fighter for the Pandava side in a great war, Arjuna was hesitant to participate. He was something like a conscientious objector. He knew the cause was right. He understood the other side was wrong. Still, he preferred giving up to seeing people on the other side perish. He did not want to be a party towards violence against friends and family.

“Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasachin, can be but an instrument in the fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33)

Vishnu as Krishna informed Arjuna that destiny was already set. The Kauravas were going to lose. There was even the vision of the universal form, showing the opposing side rushing into Krishna’s mouths. Arjuna should stand up and fight and act as Krishna’s instrument. Then he would get the glory. Indeed, Arjuna received that and more. He is today also known as the best disciple whose insightful questions gave rise to the singing of the Bhagavad-gita, the timeless wisdom of the Vedas that continues to rescue bewildered souls to this day.

4. Bhima

Jarasandha attacked Krishna in Mathura a total of seventeen times. The guy had no shame. Though embarrassingly defeated each time, he continued to come back for more. At the final attempt there were two options for Krishna. Either kill the king once and for all or flee to somewhere else. He chose the latter option. Since He fled from the battlefield, Krishna earned the name Ranchor.

Jarasandha’s destiny was set, and the instrument this time was Bhima. He is another of the five Pandava brothers. Bhima is particularly known for his strength. Being the son of the wind-god, that quality is only natural. Since he is a voracious eater, he is also known as Vrikodara.

Bhima defeated Jarasandha in a wrestling match. They fought for days, and victory did not come until Krishna gave Bhima some advice on how to end things. Bhima is a devotee, and so it is not surprising that the Supreme Lord would put him in a position to earn tremendous glory.

5. Bhishma

Arjuna represented the Pandavas. One of the people he was concerned about fighting against was Bhishma, who was on the side of the Kauravas. Bhishma was the grandfather to both sides. He was like the oldest living ancestor, respected by everyone.

[Bhishma quitting his body]Bhishma was such a great soul that he had the boon of being able to choose the time of his exit from the world. This meant that after he was showered with arrows on the battlefield, he did not yet give up his life. While lying down ready to depart, he gave valuable instructions to Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers. When quitting his body he thought of Krishna in His form of Vishnu, and thus attained liberation. The Supreme Lord gave Bhishma this wonderful opportunity to show his true character, which may have been in doubt due to his siding with the Kauravas.

In Closing:

Supreme Lord anything can do,

But seeks glory for devotees too.

 

Like Prahlada his father against,

Alive through persecutions sent.

 

Hanuman search for Sita tried,

On his love for Rama relied.

 

Bhima the shameless Jarasandha killed,

Bhishma teaching with body of arrows filled.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Why Is Krishna Interested In Glorifying His Devotees

[Krishna and Arjuna]“Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasachin, can be but an instrument in the fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33)

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Friend1: Arjuna has many names.

Friend2: Which Arjuna? You know it’s a kind of tree, also.

Friend1: I did know that. I’m talking about Partha, the son of Kunti Devi. One of the five Pandava brothers.

Friend2: Oh, yes. He certainly does. You just referenced one of them. He is the son of Queen Kunti. Dhananjaya. He is the conqueror of wealth. Gudakesha. He conquered sleep.

Friend1: Showing off again? I was thinking about Savyasachin. What does that mean?

Friend2: It’s someone who is expert at shooting arrows on the battlefield. That is the definition provided by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Friend1: Oh, nice! That totally makes sense now.

Friend2: What does?

Friend1: Well, that is the name Krishna used to address Arjuna in the verse where He talks about acting as an instrument.

Friend2: Where Arjuna is to simply do the work of the Divine, fulfill destiny?

Friend1: Yeah, exactly. The destiny is that the kings on the opposing side will lose, whether Arjuna fights or not. If he fights, he will be acting as Krishna’s instrument. Savyasachin is the perfect name to use, since Arjuna is so expert at shooting arrows.

Friend2: There you go. There are no accidents with Krishna, the Supreme Lord.

Friend1: Oh, so before I forget what I wanted to ask. That is the verse I was thinking of. It obviously shows how Krishna likes to bring glory to His devotees.

Friend2: Right. He can do the work Himself. He can accomplish anything without effort, in fact. He creates the universes through exhaling as Vishnu. Everything is a piece of cake for Him. He allows the devotees to shine because He wants to bring them glory.

Friend1: Thank you for saying that. Glory. That is the issue.

Friend2: Why?

Friend1: Isn’t that material? Yasha in Sanskrit is fame. The desire to be famous is one of the byproducts of illusion, or maya.

Friend2: Correct.

Friend1: So why is Krishna interested in bringing something material to the devotee? Moreover, fame is the result of outside opinion. If others, who are in illusion themselves, think highly of the devotee, why is that important? Shouldn’t devotion be pure? Shouldn’t it be free of material influence?

Friend2: Man, these are good questions. I have an answer, but I have to say, you are really on the ball today.

Friend1: Not sure if you are being sarcastic, but I’ll accept the compliment.

Friend2: You have to think of the result of Krishna’s desire.

Friend1: What do you mean?

Friend2: If the devotee becomes famous for their devotion, what is the effect on society?

Friend1: Oh. Hmm. I guess they have a good example to follow.

[Krishna and Arjuna]Friend2: There you go. If there were no people like Arjuna, Prahlada, Hanuman, and Bhima, then it would be more difficult to take up bhakti-yoga, devotional service. You need famous examples to help you. You need to know that bhakti-yoga is not simply a theoretical exercise, reserved for a faculty lounge discussion.

Friend1: I see. Famous devotees means accessible examples of perfection in devotion.

Friend2: Exactly. The Supreme Lord knows that He won’t always have the best reputation. That is a given. Look at how people view their bosses. The teachers are generally disliked in school.

Friend1: That’s true.

Friend2: But God takes care of His devotees. He goes the extra mile to increase their fame, to make sure they have a good reputation. This is because more progress can be made going through the devotee than approaching God directly. The representative is thus very powerful, and if they have some fame it helps to bring attention. In fact, their presence alone can bring perfection. Just remember someone like Arjuna on a daily basis and you will soon be free from illusion. His expert marksmanship will slash away your doubts about the meaning of life, the future destination of the soul, and the personal nature of the Divine.

In Closing:

Since part of material world to be,

Why to bring fame does He?

 

To devotees Arjuna and Bhima like,

So powerful, vanquishing foes in sight.

 

There for others to see,

For confident in bhakti to be.

 

Supreme not always with reputation the best,

Representative equipped to help others the rest.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Five Ways The Pure Devotee Stays Constantly Engaged In Devotional Service

[Chaitanya washing Gundicha temple]“A pure devotee is constantly engaged - sometimes he chants, sometimes he hears or reads books about Krishna, or sometimes he cooks prasadam or goes to the marketplace to purchase something for Krishna, or sometimes he washes the temple or the dishes - whatever he does, he does not let a single moment pass without devoting his activities to Krishna. Such action is in full samadhi.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 12.2 Purport)

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Samadhi. That is the fruit of meditational yoga. Not merely contorting your body in certain ways and breathing in and out in a controlled manner to gain some physical advantage, real yoga is linking the consciousness. The union of the individual soul, jiva, with the Divine, Paramatma. The individual spark of Brahman regaining its true identity, no longer susceptible to the influence of illusion, maya.

What happens after that? Also, is samadhi only achieved through the mechanical way? Is it possible to link to the Divine perfectly while maintaining a job? If a person is working, studying, playing, or simply sitting quietly in a chair, does it mean that their trance has broken? The activities of a pure devotee, one who no longer has desires for even liberation, show that samadhi can be maintained through a host of activities.

1. Chanting

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” This is the maha-mantra. The sequence of words gets its strength from the potency of the names contained within. Those names are so powerful that even if chanted offensively, there is some benefit. There is a shadow of the true potency, something like feeling heat even when not in the direct sunlight.

Still, the full mantra, made especially prominent in this age through the efforts of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, is the best way to practice yoga amidst distractions. Not some derivative of this mantra put into a music video as part of a movie with the focus on enjoying the senses, the full mantra repeated with attention on the sound vibration itself can bring a person to samadhi.

The pure devotee chants these names and feels tremendous bliss. They have attachment to the all-attractive one, Krishna, the source of transcendental pleasure, Rama, and the pleasure potency of God, Hare. The mantra can be chanted softly or out loud. It can be heard while in solitude or with others. The effect is determined by the concentration of the hearer, their purity of heart and not the external conditions.

2. Hearing about Krishna or reading books about Him

These ways to stay connected to the Divine, to remain in samadhi, are not simply made up. They come down from the authority that is parampara. A five-year old boy, no less, described nine different ways to practice the yoga known as bhakti.

Shravanam is hearing. A pure devotee stays in samadhi by hearing about God. He is a person, with transcendental attributes. As a person, God has lila, or pastimes. Hearing about Krishna’s activities is just as good as sitting quietly and meditating. Hearing is a process where the mind is actively engaged. It is more powerful than watching. Reading is simply another way to hear, as through decoding the written word sound is created within the mind.

3. Cooking prasadam

This is more active service. You can chant while sitting down, and the same goes for hearing. Cooking involves standing up, moving around, building, observing, keeping track of time. It can be an art form. The Supreme Lord can accept offerings of food. He describes how simple the process is in the Bhagavad-gita.

“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)

The key is consciousness. If a person is cooking simply to test their culinary ability, the activity is not bhakti. It will not bring samadhi. If the same activity is dovetailed with service to Krishna, then it is on an equal level with meditation, hearing, chanting, and so forth.

4. Washing the temple

[Chaitanya washing Gundicha temple]Bhakti-yoga is so powerful that it elevates the servant to such a high status. This is the Supreme Lord’s mercy. He makes no distinction between the person of tremendous deeds and the one of ordinary. If both are working in love for Him, they are equal. In that respect, washing the temple, the house of worship, is a way to stay in samadhi. Just clean the area so that it looks nice, so that others will feel the Divine atmosphere when entering. Doing so pleases Krishna so much. The example was set by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who once famously washed the Gundicha temple in Puri.

5. Going to purchase items for Krishna

The items to offer may not all grow on trees in the backyard. There might be some travel involved. The pure devotee can have a job. They can be married and have children. No one is disqualified from loving God, whereas the mechanical process has strict requirements. You have to find an isolated place, maintain fixed concentration, and completely refrain from sex life.

“One should hold one's body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.13-14)

The pure devotee doesn’t want anything except the ability to serve Krishna. They may not realize it but simply the attempt to please Krishna guarantees their perfection. In all other types of transcendental practice, there is a hint of personal desire. Once that vanishes, then there is bhakti, which is the perfection of all desires.

In Closing:

When to perfection after getting yoga chance,

Samadhi highest stage, transcendental trance.

 

To be alone in remote cave not required,

In many ways through service inspired.

 

Like chanting holy names with attention clear,

Or reading books, highest wisdom to hear.

 

Washing the temple with love and care,

At all times of God’s glories aware.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Is The Most Precious Gift

[Narasimha and Prahlada]“O my Lord, best of the givers of benediction, if You at all want to bestow a desirable benediction upon me, then I pray from Your Lordship that within the core of my heart there be no material desires.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.10.7)

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Friend1: What is the most important gift?

Friend2: To me?

Friend1: Of all gifts. Let’s play the game that I am a genie.

Friend2: I always knew there was something wrong with you!

Friend1: Very funny.

Friend2: And why do I only get one wish? What kind of genie are you?

Friend1: Are you finished?

Friend2: I didn’t even rub a lamp. You just appear from out of nowhere?

Friend1: You’re getting one wish. Anything you want. What are you going to ask for?

Friend2: The purpose of this is to criticize me somehow, I’m guessing.

Friend1: We’re trying to figure out the most important thing in life. The most precious gift.

[gift]Friend2: I hope you realize that it’s relative. Every person is in a different situation. The time continuum operates, and so there are different snapshots of the body-spirit combination.

Friend1: There you go again with one of your lectures. You can’t pick one thing that would be important to everyone?

Friend2: If it’s a child that is lonely because their father has to travel, they would wish for the association of their father. That would be the most important thing to them. A person struggling in school would ask for knowledge. A couple trying to conceive would ask for a child.

Friend1: Like King Dasharatha.

Friend2: There you go. He was advanced in years and still childless. More specifically, he was without a son. A brahmana helped him to perform a yajna, and from the remnants partaken by the three queens, four beautiful and divine sons came soon thereafter.

Friend1: I think you have accidentally stumbled upon the answer.

Friend2: What’s that?

Friend1: Dasharatha got God’s association. The first son was Rama, an avatara of the Divine. That must be the most precious gift.

Friend2: Not everyone is going to get His association in that way. Moreover, it was temporary for Dasharatha. Rama did not stay in this world forever. The king was so heartbroken at the thought of fourteen years of separation, that he quit his body.

Friend1: That is a good point. We know of many people who have seen God, interacted with Him, done amazing things for Him. And yet the association ended at some point. What gives?

Friend2: The answer to your question is remembrance of the Supreme Lord. More specifically, continued remembrance in service. There is nothing more valuable. It is the most precious gift.

Friend1: Thank you.

[Narasimha and Prahlada]Friend2: We can take it on the authority of Prahlada Maharaja. He suffered so much for his devotion. The father turned into an aggressor. Practically, there were no friends in the kingdom. God arrived as Narasimhadeva to protect the boy. He asked Prahlada to take any boon of his choosing. Prahlada asked to simply continue in bhakti, to remember the Lord, by remaining free from material desires. He didn’t want to be rewarded materially for having been such a good devotee. The same applies for Hanuman, who asked to remain in this world for as long as Rama’s glories continue to be told. These wise souls knew what they were doing. They knew the most valuable gift and they made sure to get it.

In Closing:

A genie from lamp suddenly to see,

Kindly asking to take wishes three.

 

But what if only getting one,

Which gift most valuable to be won?

 

From Prahlada Maharaja learn,

Who favor of Supreme Lord to earn.

 

Asked only of material desires to be free,

From clear consciousness God always to see.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Five Ways That Hanuman Is Like One Of Rama’s Arrows

[Shri Hanuman]“Then, like a naracha arrow released from a bowstring, he flew quickly towards the garden of trees, which was surrounded by mango trees and had hundreds of creepers intertwined.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 14.4)

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atha āmra vaṇa samcannām latā śata samāvṛtām |
jyā mukta iva nārācaḥ pupluve vṛkṣa vāṭikām ||

The Supreme Lord is all-attractive. As attractiveness can only belong to something tangible, from that feature we can deduce that He is a person; He is known as Bhagavan. As a person He descends to this world from time to time. He protects the pious and annihilates the miscreants. He upholds righteousness and curbs the harmful rise of irreligion.

“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)

His descent as Shri Rama is considered an avatara, but the attractiveness is there all the same. Though He upholds law and order by engaging bad guys in conflict, every aspect to His transcendental form is beautiful. One aspect is the bow and arrow, the preferred means of fighting during the time period. The arrows released from Rama’s bow are special, and in many ways His dedicated servant Shri Hanuman is like one of those arrows.

1. Empowered by the holy name

As Rama is God He doesn’t need any outside help. One of the descriptions for God the Vedas provide is atmarama. Atma means “the self” and rama means “pleased.” The Almighty is satisfied in Himself; He doesn’t require intervention from other parties to accomplish anything.

Playing the role of a human being, He displays the importance of accepting a spiritual guide. The bona fide guru in the varnashrama system of societal management can actually give instruction to people of all occupations. Rama appeared in a royal family, so He was a kshatriya, or warrior, by occupation.

“Rama showed His tremendous knowledge of fighting by killing the demon Tataka. The muni then gave to Him knowledge of secret mantras to be used in fighting.” (Janaki Mangala, 36)

[Rama and Lakshmana shooting Tataka]Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were under the tutelage of Vishvamitra for a while. This was during their youth. When Rama pleased the guru one time, the guide obliged by giving the brothers confidential mantras to help in fighting. Basically, by repeating these sound vibrations the power of the arrows would increase to the point that they would be like modern day nuclear weapons.

Shri Hanuman is similarly empowered. He doesn’t need a full mantra; the name of Rama is sufficient. It is a holy name, non-different from the person it represents. This is one of the secrets of the Sanskrit language. Sound is significant. Sound is powerful. The sound of the holy name is the most powerful. Hanuman, through devotion to that sound, is able to do amazing things.

2. Courses swiftly through the air

[Shri Hanuman]The arrow is a weapon, after all. It is released from the bow, which means that it does its work after being separated from its origin. Naturally, it should fly swiftly through the air, lest the target have enough time to move out of the way and avoid contact. In the same way, Shri Hanuman swiftly courses through the air in service to Rama. His most famous flight was over the vast ocean separating land and the island of Lanka. He leapt from a mountaintop, and his resulting air travel was rapid.

3. Carries out Rama’s work and reaches its intended target

The arrow is an inanimate object, but it is a servant nonetheless. The material elements used in its construction become spiritualized through connection with Rama and His interests. Service to Shri Rama is known as bhakti-yoga, and it is actually the original occupation of all living things.

The arrow is a weapon but it is so auspicious because of the effect it has in service. Rama’s work is to rid the world of the evil influence of the Rakshasas. The arrow helps in that regard. Hanuman is just like one of those arrows, as he helps Rama so much. He also reached the intended target. Hanuman’s famous journey to Lanka is one example. No other servant was capable of making that long and difficult journey.

4. Returns to Rama

The arrows shot by Rama are known to return to His quiver. They come back home and are ready to fly again when needed. They eagerly accept the mission assigned to them. Hanuman is the same way. After flying to Lanka and finding Rama’s wife Sita, he returned to home base with the good news. He is not afraid to accept the assignment, and he is not attached to the glory that comes from success. He is the most dedicated servant, and he is always eager to go out and do the Lord’s work.

5. Destroys apparitions

The Rakshasas during Rama’s time were expert in illusion. Fully under the sway of maya themselves, they were not against using black magic to fulfill their desires. Something like wearing civilian clothes while attacking soldiers, the Rakshasas would mask their shapes prior to attack. They would then pounce on innocent sages residing in the forest.

When in a military-style conflict with identified combatants, one of their trusted tricks was to show an illusion, something like an apparition. The image would be depressing, like the leader of the opposition being killed. The purpose was obvious: to dispirit the opposition. When this would happen on the battlefield, Rama would shoot one of His arrows and the apparition would immediately vanish.

Hanuman is like one of those arrows; he helps to dispel the illusions created by the atheists. The enemies of Shri Rama and bhakti-yoga say things like there is no God, there is no afterlife, the Vedas are allegorical. They say that the famous figures described in the Vedas, such as Hanuman and Rama, are fictitious.

The arrow-like servant of Rama helps to destroy that illusion, which is intended to depress the pious and steer their attention elsewhere. Hanuman dispels the fake image through his presence, which he has asked to keep in this world for as long as Rama’s glories continue to be sung. His authority, his word, his presence, and his character are the best proof of the existence of God.

In Closing:

From attacks the pious to defend,

Toward enemies arrows to send.

 

From incarnation Shri Rama coming,

His servant Hanuman like arrow becoming.

 

Like swiftly through air to Lanka when,

Returning back mission accomplished then.

 

Destroying illusions of Rakshasas fake,

Proof of God from his example to take.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Five Hallmarks Of A True Saint

[Gosvamis writing]“Prahlada Maharaja continued: My dear father, please give up your demoniac mentality. Do not discriminate in your heart between enemies and friends; make your mind equipoised toward everyone. Except for the uncontrolled and misguided mind, there is no enemy within this world. When one sees everyone on the platform of equality, one then comes to the position of worshiping the Lord perfectly.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.9)

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The Rakshasas from the time of the Ramayana had special abilities. One of them is the kama-rupa siddhi. Take any form you choose. Become invisible when you want. It’s a neat trick to pull every now and then, but the Rakshasas were of bad character, too. They used the ability to change shape at will to attack innocent people, kill them, and then eat their flesh.

Rakshasas are a cannibalistic, human-like species. Another ability they had during the time of Ravana’s reign in Lanka was displaying ghastly images. Something like apparitions, the man-eaters would show an illusory image to break someone’s will. Of course the person seeing it wouldn’t know that it was fake.

These abilities shown today would be categorized as miracles. After all, who can change their shape so quickly? Who can appear and disappear from sight at will? Yet from the Rakshasa example we see that such abilities alone do not make a person saintly. The supposed miracles are merely manipulations of the material energy. To find a true saint, there are certain characteristics to look for.

1. Kindness

This shouldn’t be necessary to say, but you can’t be a saint unless you like people. This is pretty easy to understand. A miser hoards their wealth and will not part with even a penny unless there is some personal interest to be furthered. The angry person is always upset at having their desires unfulfilled. Whoever gets in the way is thus an enemy.

A true saint likes people. They see that everyone is struggling through the same material existence. One person may be rich, another may be poor, but they are the same on the inside. Just the externals are a little different.

2. Compassion extended to everyone

The leader of the Rakshasas in Lanka during that ancient time had some affection, as well. It was not that he was angry and vindictive to everyone. He cared for his brothers and sisters. Even the most brutal dictator of modern times has some affection.

A true saint extends compassion to everyone. They don’t have enemies in the true sense. Prahlada Maharaja says that the only enemy in this world is the uncontrolled mind. A saintly character himself, Prahlada did not consider his aggressive and demoniac father to be an enemy. The father tried to kill the boy many times, simply because of devotion practiced to God. Prahlada did not take offense, as his mind was controlled.

3. Understanding the spiritual equality of all beings

There are no friends and enemies in this world; just other living beings going through the same cycle of birth and death, repeated until there is perfection in consciousness. The true saint doesn’t even have enemies in the animal kingdom. A snake is dangerous to be around. So is a tiger. The wise person will not behave carelessly, but they still don’t hold anything against animals, who are simply acting according to their nature.

“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)

There is spiritual equality. The tiger, the cow, the dog, the infant, and the adult human being are all the same on the inside. They are spirit soul, part and parcel of the total spiritual energy known as Brahman. The saint is thus compassionate towards all-creatures. They don’t protect one group of animals and cut the throats of another group simply because the flesh tastes good.

4. Giving to people an eternal engagement to bring happiness

You see a hungry person. You give them food. You see a poor person. You offer them money. You see a sick person. You bring them to a hospital and arrange for medical treatment. These are signs of compassion, a loving heart.

The true saint goes beyond basic good deeds and brings to the individual a way to find happiness. That way is an eternal engagement, something that never has to be given up. Even after death, the engagement continues. There is a steady source of nectar always flowing, transcending birth and death.

Of course there is only one eternal engagement. It is known as sanatana-dharma in Sanskrit. The English word “religion” is a good equivalent, but still not completely accurate. It is in the soul’s nature to serve, and the only service that can go on forever is towards the Almighty, the origin of everything, the one without a birth. The saint can bring this engagement to others since they practice it themselves. Their compassion towards all creatures is an extension of that service.

5. Ensures that their association remains going forward

This one looks rather difficult to accomplish. Though the true saint is a messenger of the Supreme Lord, always engaged in devotional service, they appear and disappear. After all, even God Himself doesn’t stay in the manifest form before the eyes forever. He appears whenever there is a decline in religion and a rise in irreligion.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion - at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

The saint is so beneficial to me. They teach me how to stay connected with God the person. In this age they show me the way through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I rely on their association. I feel like I can’t live without them.

[Gosvamis writing]The true saint is so kind that they ensure their association stays going forward. They find a way. They may author so many books, with philosophy so rich and profound that simply reading a page keeps the mind properly occupied for an entire day. They may record many lectures given through their extensive travelling. The sound can then be repeated either electronically or through consulting the written word. Even if all they have left is a few instructions, through consistent practice in bhakti-yoga, those instructions never leave us; they have a life of their own. The saint is the embodiment of compassion and sacrifice, and there is no way to pay them back for what they offer the world.

In Closing:

Not just from a miracle to show,

Better ways for true saint to know.

 

To everyone compassionate and kind,

Knowing that only enemy the uncontrolled mind.

 

A spirit soul even the cow treating,

With loving heart every being greeting.

 

Giving eternal, blissful life to stay,

To maintain their association finding a way.