Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Four Reasons To Worship Shri And Vishnu Together

[Lakshmi-Narayana]“People in the material world are very fond of the goddess of fortune, and they want her favor in the form of riches. They should know, however, that the goddess of fortune is inseparable from Lord Vishnu. Materialists should understand that the goddess of fortune should be worshiped along with Lord Vishnu and should not be regarded separately.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.15.3)

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Their murtis are popular and prevalent during Diwali time. The sweet and snack shops keep them in higher stock. The owners understand the nature of the season; people worship for particular things. Respect for traditions. Lord Ganesha removes obstacles from the path to success. Shri Devi, who is also known as Lakshmi, gives wealth and opulence.

There is more to Shri, however. She is a goddess, after all. Though prominently worshiped in the Vedic tradition, there is quite often a key component missing in the worship. She has a husband, who is known by names like Narayana and Vishnu. Shri is the goddess of fortune, and her husband is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. According to the acharyas of the bhakti tradition, the proper way to worship Shri is to have Vishnu there with her. There are many reasons for this.

1. Material opulence is fleeting

The worship of Ganesha and Lakshmi on Diwali is a recurring thing. It’s something like getting a pay check from the office. The deposits into the bank account occur on a regular basis. This is needed because of expenditures. I get money today, and almost immediately it is gone. I have responsibilities for home, family, and travel. There is so much to maintain. Another name for Shri is Chanchala, which means “always moving” or “unsteady.”

A wise person asks, “What is the purpose? Why do I have to keep worshiping? Is what I am asking for making me happy? Shouldn’t happiness be the goal of life?” The opulence that Shri gives lasts only for a short time, as the human existence is itself temporary. When compared to the complete timeline of creation, one birth is a blip on the chart, a dot so small that it is barely perceptible.

2. The gifts from Shri are an extension of herself

Shri is not just some random goddess appointed the role of fortune-giver. She is a distinct personality. She has a spiritual form, and she has a nature. When worshiped with material motivations, she is seen seated on a lotus flower distributing coins out of her hands. When understood properly, she is seen massaging the lotus feet of her beloved husband. Her only desire is to please Vishnu.

[Lakshmi-Narayana]A clearer picture of her nature appears during the pastimes of the incarnations. Both Lakshmi and Narayana descend to earth now and then. The princess of Videha, Sita Devi, is fully dedicated to Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. Sita is fortune herself, yet she does not mind renunciation. She is prepared to follow her husband anywhere.

3. Everything is meant for service to God

These fingers which I am using to type. The voice I use to speak. The eyes I need for seeing. The ears which catch so many sounds. Everything in this world has a specific purpose. The various uses come together in the life known as bhakti, which is devotion. To be fully conscious of God, especially at the time of death, is the perfection of existence.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

If enjoyment of the senses is the desire, then other forms are more suitable. The dog, the monkey, the crow, the cat - these have no way of understanding God. The limitation is set on the type of body. The human form is meant for the higher purpose.

It stands to reason, then, that even material opulence should be used for furthering that goal. The gifts from Shri should help in becoming more devoted to her husband. She is giving the gifts, after all. Wouldn’t she want them to be utilized for the right purpose? Shouldn’t any opulence we get be purposed for making the benefactor happy? We know that the way to please her is to be devoted to her husband, which can be accomplished in any of several different moods.

4. Don’t want to go the way of Ravana

The evil king of Lanka from an ancient time period was actually a devotee of the Supreme Lord at heart. He descended to earth to play the role of adversary, to teach so many valuable lessons. Ravana was wicked by nature, and yet he had so much opulence in Lanka. He even had a fountain of Lakshmi Devi in his kingdom.

Ravana had the special distinction of trying to literally steal Lakshmi. He showed what results when there is greed towards someone that belongs to someone else. Sita and Rama were living in the forest of Dandaka, and Ravana hatched a plan to steal her away in secret.

It worked. He had won, at least for a time. He stole the goddess of fortune, but she wanted nothing to do with him. Ravana’s lust drove him to desperately desire Sita as his chief queen, and she repeatedly refused him. In the end, his sinful act led to doom. The entire city was destroyed. Ravana fell to the ground for good through the arrows released from Rama’s bow.

The historical incident is a lesson of what can happen if the goddess of fortune is worshiped improperly. Shri Hanuman worshiped Sita as a devotee, not wanting anything from her. Today, all his needs are provided for by her. He doesn’t even worship her for such benedictions, but he receives them since his lone desire is to continuously serve Rama in devotion.

In Closing:

Along with diyas in homes to shine,

Lakshmi and Ganesha at Diwali time.

 

For obstacles there to be none,

And for great wealth to come.

 

But wise proper way knowing,

Not for personal comfort going.

 

Instead always happy with Him sees,

In bhakti fortune’s goddess to please.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Do You Ever Get Embarrassed By Having To Be Hypocritical

[Lord Chaitanya and associates]"Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Shri Krishna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land." (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 7.128)

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Friend1: The four regulative principles.

Friend2: Do you know where they come from?

Friend1: Shastra? No gambling. No meat eating. No illicit sex. No intoxication.

Friend2: There are qualities associated with each restriction. Those qualities make up the foundation of religious life, what separates the human beings from the animals.

Friend1: What are those qualities?

Friend2: Honesty, compassion, cleanliness and austerity.

Friend1: Have you ever been to initiation ceremonies, where the people have to recite these principles in front of their guru?

Friend2: I have.

Friend1: You notice how they always tense up and forget one or a few?

[chanting beads]Friend2: I do. They must be so nervous. I remember one time I joked with someone that they better not forget the four. Sure enough, the next day they could only name three. It’s kind of nice, I must say.

Friend1: Why is that?

Friend2: It shows how seriously they take the process. It’s such a big step for them that they get nervous.

Friend1: So here is where I was going with this. Obviously, most people don’t follow these regulations.

Friend2: For sure. Even people initiated into the bhakti tradition have trouble maintaining their vows.

Friend1: And we know the teachers likely went against those regulations at some point in the past, before they became gurus.

Friend2: Right.

Friend1: So let me ask you this. Is there embarrassment in having to be hypocritical?

Friend2: What do you mean? How are they being hypocritical?

Friend1: You’re lecturing people on avoiding certain things. You have indulged in those in the past. How is that not hypocritical? It’s like, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Friend2: I hear you. I never really thought about this before.

Friend1: Well, think about it now.

Friend2: You know that every parent in history has been hypocritical, then?

Friend1: Yeah?

Friend2: Think about it. You tell your kids not to lie, to do their homework on time, to respect their elders. Parents know these things because they were taught by their own parents and elders during youth.

Friend1: Drugs and alcohol; that’s also an issue.

Friend2: Right. If I get drunk all the time, who am I to lecture my children about the dangers of alcohol? Nevertheless, the instruction is still valid. There is no embarrassment because the right path is acknowledged.

Friend1: If the guru is not following these regulations, aren’t they disqualified from teaching?

Friend2: They are trying their best. Obviously, the spiritual master should be of the highest character. People make mistakes. This is addressed in the Bhagavad-gita. The sadhu eventually corrects themselves, so even if they’ve done abominable things there is hope going forward.

“Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.30)

Friend1: Oh right. I remember that verse.

Friend2: Material life is a struggle. Everyone has trouble. If we learn the right path from someone who is at least trying to stay on it themselves, then we should consider that a great fortune.

Friend1: At the same time, I don’t think that verse from the Bhagavad-gita is giving blanket amnesty for intentionally violating the regulative principles.

[Lord Chaitanya and associates]Friend2: You’re absolutely right about that. Sincerity is what counts. Are you really trying? If so, then you should instruct others. As Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, just talk about Krishna and His teachings to the people you meet. On His order you can become a guru.

In Closing:

Since in past intoxicants to take,

Now to children a hypocrite to make?

 

What about with regulations to live,

And advice to aspirants to give?

 

Forgiven when sincerity there,

Of shortcomings Krishna aware.

 

All saints a past, to the future keep an eye,

On Chaitanya’s order to be guru just try.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Five Times Hanuman Used The Siddhis Of Yoga

[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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Find a remote area. A mountain is preferable. Lay down a deerskin rug. Sit in the lotus position. Fix your vision on the tip of the nose. Maybe repeat the sacred syllable “om” over and over. Do this continuously, day after day. The most important restriction during this period of time is abstaining from sex life completely.

“To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kusha-grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should neither be too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogi should then sit on it very firmly and should practice yoga by controlling the mind and the senses, purifying the heart and fixing the mind on one point.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.11-12)

These are some of the conditions necessary for perfection in mystic yoga. The process is described in the Bhagavad-gita, where the warrior Arjuna expresses some interest in giving up his occupation and retreating to the wilderness.

Real yoga of this kind is mysticism. It is meant for detaching the spirit soul from the body. Not literally, but in a way that there is not mental attachment to the different objects of the senses. The fruit is something like an out of body experience.

The fruit of mystic yoga practice is a siddhi. This translates as “perfection” in English. A siddhi is a kind of special ability. The less familiar may mistake siddhis for magic, but the abilities are indeed real. Shri Hanuman several times used siddhis in his service to Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord in an incarnation form made famous in the Ramayana. The unique situation with Hanuman is that he did not have to separately endeavor for these perfections. They came to him easily, and he only used them when they would provide some help in pleasing God.

1. Leaping off a mountain top

Hanuman is in the body of a Vanara, which is something like a monkey. During an ancient time period, he lived in Kishkindha with other Vanaras. They ended up in service to Shri Rama, given orders by their leader Sugriva.

The service involved finding Rama’s missing wife Sita. At one point Hanuman’s search party received some valuable information. They learned that Sita was on an island called Lanka. They knew how to get there, but one obstacle stood between them: a massive ocean.

Jambavan, one of the members of the group, reminded Hanuman of his amazing abilities. Hanuman then used the siddhi of yoga that enlarges the body to whatever size desired. Using a large form, he leapt off a mountain top, hoping to cross the ocean via the aerial route.

2. Dealing with Surasa

There were a few obstacles along the way. One of them was Surasa, who was in the form of a female Rakshasa, or man-eater. She told Hanuman that he was not allowed to pass unless he entered her mouth. She told Hanuman that he was to be her food.

Hanuman was very respectful. He did not want to violate the boons given to her by the celestials, who had actually placed her there to test the ability of Shri Rama’s most dear servant. Hanuman then used his mind, along with his yogic powers. He asked Surasa to become large enough to devour him. In the process, he kept expanding his body. She then kept expanding her size to keep pace. Continuing with the back and forth, when her mouth was extremely large Hanuman used the siddhi of yoga that allowed him to become very small. Then he quickly entered and exited her mouth. Thus respect was maintained and he was able to continue forward to Lanka.

3. Searching through Lanka

[Shri Hanuman]Hanuman once again assumed the large size to fly across the ocean and reach Lanka. After entering, he realized that it was best not to be discovered. After all, Sita was taken away in secret, by the wicked king Ravana. A monkey would be conspicuous to the area. Hanuman then quickly became the size of a cat, using his mystic ability.

4. Escaping and setting fire to Lanka

After meeting Sita, Hanuman fought with some of Ravana’s men. Hanuman ended up bound by ropes through a weapon originally coming from Lord Brahma, the creator. The incident allowed Hanuman to have a meeting with Ravana. The king decided to embarrass the messenger by setting his tail on fire and parading him around the town.

While this was going on, Hanuman quickly transformed into a small size to escape the bonds. He then took on the large size, with his tail still burning. He used Ravana’s insult as a way to destroy the city, giving the wicked king a glimpse of the total destruction set to come his way from the arrows of Rama.

5. Meeting Bhima

Hanuman is an offspring of the wind god, Vayu. Another son to Vayu is Bhima, one of the five Pandava brothers described in the Mahabharata. Bhima one time met Hanuman and was so happy as a result. He asked Hanuman to show the large form that was used to cross the ocean in service of Rama. Hanuman was hesitant to show this form, as he did not consider it to be very important. Whatever is needed to be done to please God, Hanuman will do. He is not proud of his abilities or accomplishments, though he has the most over which to be proud. After a while, being pleased with Bhima, Hanuman relented and expanded his body to show that amazing form.

In Closing:

Finally after pleased he relented,

To brother Bhima’s request consented.

 

That amazing form used in service shown,

To Shri Rama, for Lord’s pleasure alone.

 

When leaping off mountain tall,

When in Surasa’s mouth small.

 

Siddhis of yoga for him no big deal,

To world showing use for them real.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Five Ways Too Much Wealth Can Be Harmful

[Lord Krishna]“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)

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The aspiring yogi gets some good news in the Bhagavad-gita. If they don’t succeed in perfecting the consciousness in the current lifetime, the progress doesn’t get erased. It is not as if they perish like a riven cloud; the analogy used by Arjuna when questioning Shri Krishna.

“O mighty-armed Krishna, does not such a man, being deviated from the path of Transcendence, perish like a riven cloud, with no position in any sphere?” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.38)

The opportunity renews in the next life, with a few possible circumstances at the time of birth. Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, uses the word shrimatam. This references shri, which can mean “beauty” or “opulence.” The idea is that the unsuccessful yogi may take birth in a home that is cultured, where need is not an issue. The old saying, “It’s difficult for an empty sack to stand up straight,” is appropriate here. If you are constantly in need of food, clothing and other essentials, how will you have time to focus on spiritual life?

At the same time, there is duality in the material world. No one condition is absolute in its nature. Fire helps to bring heat and light, but it can destroy as well. Wealth protects against indigence, but it also has an ugly side. Too much of it can be detrimental to reaching the objective of purification of the consciousness.

1. It makes others envious

You finally got it. You had your eye on it for quite a while. You kept a picture of it as your screensaver on the desktop computer at work. It’s your dream car. It’s expensive, so you had to save up for a while. Now you can’t wait to show it off to everyone you know. You’ve taken a picture of yourself standing in front of it.

Lost in the jubilation is the issue of envy. How will others react to your new purchase? Not everyone can afford the same car. There is sure to be jealousy. Not everyone will be as delighted as you. After all, aren’t you subtly telling them that you have something which they don’t?

From shastra there is the story of the Syamantaka jewel. King Satrajit in Dvaraka received this amazing jewel from the sun-god. After proper worship, the jewel produced a huge amount of gold daily. Yet as soon as Satrajit became enamored by it, there came a network of trouble. Jealousy, murder, vengeance - his life was much more peaceful before coming into so much gold.

2. Increased worry

You can’t worry about something that you don’t have. This only makes sense. Before you got the new car, you didn’t really care where you parked. You didn’t care if there was a little ding here and there. The insurance was cheaper, too.

Now there is increased anxiety. You have to park far away to make sure no one strikes the car accidentally. You have to get it washed on a regular basis. You have to guard against theft. These new anxieties are the result of increased opulence.

3. So much time to acquire it

There is the saying, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” The odds of winning the lottery are slim. If you want to become wealthy, you likely have to work long and hard. There is big risk involved as well. So many wealthy people have lost huge fortunes several times. “It takes money to make money.” The amount of time expended to become wealthy could easily be used towards spiritual life instead. The benefit is much greater in the long run.

4. You become a miser

This issue correlates directly with karma. If you have wealth, you should share it with others. You should be charitable. From a karma-only perspective, the inherent promise is that in the future you’ll receive even more than what you give away. Of course the recipients should be worthy. If you give money to people to become even more drunk and unclean in their habits, you haven’t helped anyone.

[Lord Krishna]In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Shri Krishna tells Uddhava that the wealth of misers is a huge source of misery. By being miserly, it makes their present life hellish. And since they are unwilling to part with any of it, they go against shastra and thus get punished with birth in hell in the afterlife.

5. Takes focus away from Shri Krishna, who is the husband of the goddess of fortune

Shri is also a personality. She is the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord. Another one of her names is Lakshmi. The person who dedicates their life to serving God by remaining conscious of Him has nothing to worry about in terms of wealth. Whatever they need is provided by Lakshmi Devi. She gives benedictions to be used in the service of her husband.

The most vivid example in this regard is Hanuman. He lives on very little, but whatever he needs is provided for by Sita Devi. She is the husband of Shri Rama, the incarnation of the Divinity to whom Hanuman is dedicated. There is no need to separately strive for wealth, beauty, fame, honor, prestige, and other such desirable things in a material existence. Bhakti-yoga is all-encompassing, and it is the best utilization of the valuable time in the human form of body.

In Closing:

Finally the human form to find,

Bhakti for it best use of time.

 

Not forever of wealth to think,

Since then to hellish life to sink.

 

Focusing now, miser becoming,

Misery from every corner coming.

 

For devoted soul in purity living,

Everything to them Lakshmi giving.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why Is Hari-Katha Not Boring

[Rama-lila]“Transcendental subject matter is so nice that no one becomes tired of hearing or speaking. Others, who are not devotees, may think, ‘How can people devote so much time simply to talks of God?’ But devotees are never satisfied or satiated in hearing and speaking about the Supreme Personality of Godhead or about His devotees. The more they hear and talk, the more they become enthusiastic to hear.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.13.1 Purport)

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Friend1: I need you to reveal some secrets again.

Friend2: Alright, I admit it. It was me.

Friend1: Huh?

Friend2: I intentionally placed that tape into that kid’s hood in the store so that when he walked out the alarms would go off. It was an innocent prank. I’m not perfect.

Friend1: Wow, that is funny. This was in high school?

Friend2: Maybe a year or two after?

Friend1: You should be embarrassed.

Friend2: I am.

Friend1: I need a secret revealed about bhakti-yoga, devotional service.

Friend2: Okay.

Friend1: I’ve heard it said that Krishna-katha, or discourses about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, can go on and on, that people enjoy them so much.

Friend2: Both the person delivering it and the people hearing it.

Friend1: Right. It’s supposed to be different from the typical college lecture. Sit in a classroom with five hundred students and just zone out.

Friend2: I can only imagine what it is like nowadays. When I was in college cell phones were a few years away from becoming really popular. We didn’t bring laptops to class. Just a notebook to write in. Even then it was difficult to concentrate.

Friend1: Did you ever fall asleep in class?

Friend2: I did not, but I came close a few times. If I was that tired, I would simply skip the class. I know, I’m terrible. Youth is a funny thing.

Friend1: It is. What is so special about Krishna-katha, though? Why is it not boring?

Friend2: Well, your claim is not universally accepted. So many people are not interested in sitting for Krishna-katha. That’s why purification is an important step.

Friend1: How does that happen?

Friend2: There are the four pillars of religious life. This is applicable for human civilization in general; we’re not talking only of Vedic culture. Austerity, cleanliness, compassion and honesty. When you have these four things, the human being begins to separate from the animals.

Friend1: And so you need these four in order to have interest in Krishna-katha?

Friend2: It helps immensely. You can look to so many examples. There is the highway robber, Ratnakara. He came from a good family but fell into bad sorts. He was stealing and killing for a living.

Friend1: That’s not good.

[Valmiki]Friend2: Yeah, and so when he met Narada Muni he wasn’t exactly ready to hear about Rama-katha, which is the same thing but talks dedicated to God’s form and pastimes as Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya.

Friend1: So Ratnakara acquired those four characteristics first?

Friend2: Because of his killing he was lacking compassion. Narada Muni first talked some sense into him. He asked whether the family was approving of this sinful behavior. Were they willing to share in the future consequences?

Friend1: Which was important to ask since Ratnakara was stealing to supposedly support his family.

Friend2: Exactly. When he found out they didn’t approve, he decided to listen to Narada some more. The saint advised him to chant the name of Rama. The sinful behavior had taken its toll, though. The robber couldn’t even pronounce the name, which is holy.

Friend1: Then he asked him to chant it backwards, right?

Friend2: Yes. Narada is very clever. By chanting the name backwards, Ratnakara heard the name Rama anyway. Through chanting for a long time he became completely transformed. He was then initiated by Narada with the name Valmiki.

Friend1: And Valmiki is like the king of Rama-katha.

[Rama-lila]Friend2: You could say that. All you need is the Ramayana that he authored. If you simply read that every day you will become liberated. There is no doubt about it.

Friend1: What is the secret to the lack of boredom, though?

Friend2: Oh, it’s twofold. One is that it is in the nature of the soul to be devoted to God. Devotion can involve both shravanam and kirtanam. So when you hear good things about the person you love the most, you can’t really get tired of it.

Friend1: Makes sense.

Friend2: And for the person chanting [kirtanam], the more you glorify the more things you think of. You use all of your intelligence to find ways to continue to glorify. God is unlimited, after all. The existing katha that is in written form is not complete by any means. The glories continue to expand, and the speakers love to extend the discourse.

In Closing:

Boredom elsewhere mind to send,

When in mundane too much to spend.

 

With katha of Hari not so,

Ever more of Lord to know.

 

Further still to go with glorification,

Helps when starting with purification.

 

Like with highway robber to saint turned,

And world the spotless Ramayana earned.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Is Krishna Ever Too Full To Accept My Offerings

[food offered to Krishna]“Within a very short time, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu ate enough for a hundred people. Then He asked Govinda, ‘Is there anything more left?’” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 10.127)

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Friend1: Going to try to relate two things here.

Friend2: Relate?

Friend1: Sorry, I meant connect. One from ordinary life and the other from spiritual life.

Friend2: Nice.

Friend1: Let’s start with the spiritual. There is the famous verse in the Bhagavad-gita where Shri Krishna says that He accepts offerings made with love and devotion.

Friend2: They don’t have to be elaborate, either. A flower or some water will suffice.

“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)

[food offered to Krishna]Friend1: Devotion, bhakti, is the key. If there is no devotion, He won’t accept the offering.

Friend2: Correct. He is not a beggar. He doesn’t need anything from anyone. One description of God is atmarama. This means “satisfied in the self.”

Friend1: From material life, we know that sometimes we aren’t in the mood to eat.

Friend2: Of course. There is the issue of digestion.

Friend1: Exactly. I remember when I was growing up school was so early in the morning, and I would try to wake up as late as possible.

Friend2: Because you were watching television the night before?

Friend1: Probably. Anyway, between the time of waking up and getting on the bus for school, I wasn’t hungry at all. It’s just something with my stomach. It needs some time to settle after sleeping for so long.

Friend2: That makes sense.

Friend1: Try telling that to my mom. She would get so angry if I didn’t eat anything before leaving. It was a big deal. I would always hope that she didn’t wake up in time. This way I wouldn’t have to deal with an argument.

Friend2: For a parent that’s the first thing to pay attention to. Is the child eating? Who cares if they are not hungry? At such a young age, digestive problems aren’t that harmful. So if you force your child to eat even when they are not hungry, that is considered better than letting them leave the house without food.

Friend1: That is one issue, but what if someone makes an offering to you? Say with the wife. She has spent all this time in the kitchen. She brings you a plate of palatable dishes. You aren’t hungry, though. If you accept, you will have trouble sleeping at night. You have personal experience of the difficulties resulting from overeating.

Friend2: And if you reject the food, it is kind of an insult.

Friend1: It’s going to lead to a major blowout. “You don’t love me? Is it because you ate all that junk before? Who told you to eat that?”

Friend2: That’s funny. Such situations have been occurring ever since there has been marriage.

Friend1: Here is the connection to spiritual life. Is there ever an analogous situation with Shri Krishna?

Friend2: Where Lakshmi Devi or Radharani makes food for Him and He is not hungry?

Friend1: You don’t have to even go that far. What about the devotees who make the offering before the deity? Is Shri Krishna ever too full? I know there is no way of telling, but is it offensive to keep feeding Him? Is there such a thing as offering too much prasadam?

Friend2: Those are really nice questions. It’s always great to have concern for the all-attractive one, to put His feelings ahead of your own. Fortunately, we have evidence to give us a clear understanding.

Friend1: Yeah?

[Jagannatha prasadam]Friend2: For deity worship there is the famous Jagannatha temple in Puri. I think there are something like fifty-six kinds of offerings made daily, spread throughout the day.

Friend1: Wow. That is a lot.

Friend2: He can accept. Jagannatha, which is another form of Krishna, is unlimited. He can consume food just by using His eyes. He returns the remnants to the person who worships. That food becomes prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy.

Friend1: So He never gets full?

Friend2: Even if He did, He would still accept. That is His amazing kindness. There is the story of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu eating the prasadam of one hundred men.

Friend1: Whoa. Seriously?

Friend2: Lord Chaitanya is the preacher incarnation of Shri Krishna. He took the renounced order of life, sannyasa. There are strict rules to be followed, with the foundation being control of the senses. That means minimizing eating.

Friend1: Yeah, makes sense.

Friend2: But you can’t stop devotion. People loved Mahaprabhu so much that they would send Him food to eat. It was prepared with love. So much came and there was no way Mahaprabhu could eat it all. He would instruct His assistant Govinda to simply put the food in storage.

Friend1: This way no one got offended.

Friend2: Exactly. Except people started asking Govinda if Mahaprabhu enjoyed what they prepared for Him. Govinda had to lie and say “yes.” Finally, one day he approached Chaitanya and told Him what was going on. Mahaprabhu then asked for all the food that had piled up. He sat down and ate it all. You’re not supposed to do this as a sannyasi, but God is that merciful. He ate an amount equivalent for one hundred men’s consumption. So there is no reason to worry in this area.

In Closing:

Stockpiled offerings ready to eat,

In enjoyment mood taking seat.

 

To Mahaprabhu with love sent,

Happily into His belly went.

 

Supreme Lord ready to accept,

Anything with love not to reject.

 

In Jagannatha temple regularly coming,

From transcendental glance prasadam becoming.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Three Amazing Things About Shri Rama’s Wife

[Sita-Rama]“O friend. Sita now wishes to give to your wife a pearl necklace, a string of gold and a girdle. O gentle one, please take them.” (Lord Rama speaking to Suyajna, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 32.7)

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hāraṃ ca hemasūtraṃ ca bhāryāyai saumya hāraya |
raśanāṃ cādhunā sītā dātum icchati te sakhe ||

“Happy wife equals happy life.” That is the saying, but it’s easier said than done. For any person, finding true happiness is difficult since desires always change. One day I want to eat pizza for dinner. If I eat the same thing day after day, the enjoyment might fade. Then it’ll take something different to make me happy.

The eternal consort of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is known as the goddess of fortune. She is Lakshmi Devi. Since good fortune tends to come and go, she is also known as Chanchala. Since she is associated with the lotus flower, the symbol of purity, she is also known as Padmini.

When God the person descended to earth as Shri Rama, Lakshmi incarnated as the daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. The father found her as a baby in the ground while ploughing a field. For that unique circumstance she earned the name Sita.

Just as her husband was not an ordinary prince, Sita was not the typical princess. She had the spirit of renunciation since youth. Despite growing up in royalty, Sita showed some amazing qualities in her relationship with Rama.

1. She gives away the couple’s wealth

Rama lived in Ayodhya as the crown prince. He was the heir apparent to the throne held by the father, King Dasharatha. Rama was the eldest and most beloved son. The relationship with God is such that everyone is attracted to Him to some degree. Even the atheists are attracted; they go towards the shadow of the Divine, the illusory energy known as maya.

God the person was in their kingdom, so the people of Ayodhya all considered Rama their own. When He arrived home with a new wife, she was accepted with love and respect. In that ancient time, the kings had amazing wealth through taxes. The first duty of government is to protect life and property. Only when they do this properly do they have a right to collect taxes.

“If a king cannot give protection to citizens from thieves and rogues both in the government service and in public affairs, he has no right to exact taxes from them. In other words, the king or the government that taxes can levy taxes from the citizens only if the king or government is able to give protection to the citizens from thieves and rogues.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.14.17 Purport)

What you possess you can give away. Rama did this once after He was asked to leave the kingdom for fourteen years. The stipulation was not just in duration; He had to live like a renounced ascetic, a wandering one at that. Prior to leaving, Rama called upon various respected people of the priestly class. He gave away the couple’s valuable jewels and ornaments, with Sita urging Him on. She was not protesting. She was just as renounced as her husband, and she loved making people happy by giving in charity.

2. She makes deals with demigods

There is Bhagavan, who is the Supreme Lord. There are also the devatas, who are the demigods. They are godly, possessing the mode of goodness, but they are not quite God Himself. The demigods live on planets that are destined for destruction, but one who reaches the abode of the Supreme Lord never has to return to the land of birth and death.

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

In Vedic culture there is tremendous respect for demigods. If you have not yet figured out that material rewards are temporary and provide fleeting happiness, you can approach a demigod with full faith to get your wishes fulfilled. The wise pass beyond this stage and worship God the person without motive and without interruption. That practice, known as bhakti, is millions of times more fulfilling.

Rama’s wife had an interesting practice while the couple were travelling in the forest. When approaching sacred rivers and pious trees, she would make deals. If they would ensure the successful return of her husband to Ayodhya, then she would return and worship them profusely. Since her husband is God Himself, this deal-making doesn’t fall in the category of demigod worship. Rather, she was helping these elevated souls get an opportunity to share in Rama’s glory.

3. She enjoys giving gifts to brahmanas and their wives

Just as a man might enjoy going to a baseball game or playing sports with his friends, a woman might enjoy going shopping for new clothes or jewelry. There are common tendencies in each gender, after all. With Sita things were a little different. One of her favorite activities was going to the forest and finding ascetics who were dedicated to her husband.

[Sita-Rama]She would ask Rama to go with her so that she could deliver gifts to these ascetics and their wives. Of course they did not worship in order to get these rewards, but Sita has so much affection for anyone who is devoted to her husband. The best example is with Shri Hanuman. Though in the body of a Vanara, or forest-dwelling monkey, Hanuman has all his needs for worship taken care of. Sita provides for him since he is so dear to Rama.

In Closing:

Prior to leaving for forest to live,

Urged husband vast wealth to give.

 

To brahmanas dedicated to Him,

In devotion living free of sin.

 

With trees and rivers deals making,

Rama’s success then worship taking.

 

Amazing qualities in Sita to see,

Of charitable and kind heart is she.