Monday, May 22, 2017

Four Things You Can’t Do To The Soul

[Krishna and Arjuna]“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)

Download this episode (right click and save)

From the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the basis for our strong emotions has been wrong all along. We haven’t really seen the individual. We think we know things as they are, and therefore what to be concerned over, but in fact identity is of a different nature.

That identity is spirit soul, which is distinct from matter. Spirit is purusha, which means “person” or “enjoyer.” Matter is prakriti, or “that which is enjoyed.” The spirit soul, atma, is superior to the illusory energy known as maya. The wise don’t lament over something that never had life to begin with.

The soul is amazing, to the point of almost inconceivable. One way to gain a further understanding is to study the things which can’t be done to the soul.

1. Give birth to

The truths relating to the soul are so fundamental to a higher knowledgebase that they form the beginning of Krishna’s all-important presentation given to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago. The warrior was distressed, in doubt over how to proceed. He was fighting to uphold righteousness, but that fight would likely come at the cost of the loss of loved ones on the opposing side.

[Krishna-Arjuna]One of the most important things for Arjuna to understand was that the soul has no birth. We come into this world through the action of life, namely the combination of mother and father. But that birth is simply a travel of the individual soul from one place to another. The parents don’t actually give birth to our existence. Shri Krishna says that there was never a time when He didn’t exist, nor Arjuna, nor any of the people assembled on the battlefield. This birth-less property is true for every individual spirit soul.

2. Kill

The material world is full of duality. Heat is coupled with cold. Light corresponds with darkness. Happiness and sadness. And so birth also has a matching event: death.

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

From the previous truth we can come to the next conclusion on our own. If there is no birth for the soul, then there is no death, either. This was important for Arjuna to understand. He would not be killing anyone, nor could anyone kill him. Not that death wasn’t real; simply the nature of it wasn’t properly understood. Death is merely the event of the spirit soul casting off a certain body in favor of a new one; sort of like changing clothes.

3. Made wet or burned

Light a fire to get heat in the cold. If there is an unwanted fire, douse it with water. If we can’t give birth to the soul or kill it, maybe we can affect it in different ways. Perhaps a person can severely disable the soul through different material mechanisms.

“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.23)

Shri Krishna again reveals the truth of the situation. The soul cannot be burned or made wet. These things occur to the body, which covers the soul. The body is composed of material elements, both gross and subtle. Those elements change in nature based on chemical reactions. The soul has no material chemicals, so there is no possible reaction to affect it.

4. Divide

Alright, so you can’t destroy the soul, but what about dividing it? Cut it up into different pieces and have it scatter. Even those with a little understanding of Vedic teachings can get confused in this area. They speculate that the individual souls are indeed fragments, which are divided at present but can come together later on. That coming together is their definition of liberation, final salvation, nirvana, or whatever the preferred term for the highest achievement in life.

The individual spirit soul is technically an expansion. It is a fragment in comparison to the Supreme Spirit, who is also known as God. Krishna says that He is the source of the material and spiritual worlds. The individual souls are expansions coming from Him. They are not fragments in the sense that they have broken away from something.

“That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.20)

A person in the mode of goodness sees the oneness of the fragments of spirit. The singular spiritual nature, Brahman, is distributed throughout the creation. A wise person sees it is a collective, a reflection of the length, breadth, and scope of the spiritual energy.

Still, the souls themselves are not divided. The soul cannot be cut up. Half of it can’t be shipped off to some area, never to be seen again. The individual always retains their identity, even when they merge into the Brahman energy. Their identity simply remains dormant for a period of time, until the desire for activity requiring individuality returns.

Knowledge of these properties of the soul is important because it empowers the individual to seek a higher mode of life. No need to worry so much over impending death, as the soul will live on. No reason to be so depressed over tragedies in the world, as loss is the attached partner to gain.

If the soul is eternal, it should find an eternal engagement. That is the meaning to sanatana-dharma. Reentry into that engagement begins with knowledge of the soul, and it ends with full love and devotion for the Supreme Soul, who is known as Krishna because of His all-attractiveness.

In Closing:

Of true identity now in the dark,

Properties of the soul point to start.

 

Cut up, burned, made wet cannot do,

Moved, give birth or killed too.

 

Imperishable in its existence,

Through time continuum persistence.

 

Eternal being to work correlation,

Bhakti to reenter that occupation.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Two Kinds Of Relationships With The Guru

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

Download this episode (right click and save)

“God isn’t real. God is just a figment of the imagination. God is everything. I am God and so are you. Religion is the opiate of the masses. It was created as a way of coping with the knowledge of inevitable death. Trust in the savior and everything will be okay. Just be a good person and you’ll go to heaven in the next life.”

With these different theories, how to know who is correct? How to validate something that is beyond comprehension? In the Vedic tradition emphasis is put on the need for a guru. This is the spiritual guide, as guru can also refer to any person who is generally offered respect.

The concept should not be foreign to us. Advancement in practically every area of life comes through the help of some authority figure. Even the geniuses of science and technology needed to be taught how to read and write. They weren’t suddenly enlightened through being struck by lightning. There was an instructional period, and the person offering the instruction was an acknowledged authority figure.

The idea is that the concept of the Almighty is too complex to be learned through the ascending process of knowledge. There is too much information to consume, as the infinite nature of time ensures that no one will ever be able to know everything. In addition to ingesting the information, there is the issue of processing. Man tries his best to notice patterns and then make predictions based on them, but there is always something new arising. That is the nature of progress, after all.

The descending process is the only way to truly know God. The knowledge descends from authority figures, with the current link known as the guru. Nowhere in Vedic literature is it stated that a person should simply meditate and become enlightened within. Meditation is recommended, as it is beneficial in so many ways. But without proper guidance from authority, meditation will not be done properly.

Let’s say that a person acknowledges the need for acceptance of a spiritual master. What exactly is the nature of the relationship? What is important to establish? There are two kinds of relationships after a person has come closer to the guru, with the formal move known as upanayana.

1. Physical proximity

This is not difficult to understand. You are close to the guru. You are constantly by their side. The recommendation from the Bhagavad-gita to approach a knower of the truth is taken literally. The benefit to this relationship is that direct service can be rendered, particularly to the body of the spiritual master.

You can make their life a little easier. You can ask questions directly. You can watch how the guru behaves. If the spiritual guide is an acharya, then they also lead by example. Ideally, there will be an easier time following the instructions since the teacher is right next to you.

[well-water]Physical proximity is not automatically a ticket to enlightenment, however. I can be close to a well and remain thirsty. I can be standing right next to the refrigerator in the kitchen and remain hungry for hours and hours. Just because you are near someone doesn’t mean that you understand them. In fact, you could be the greatest enemy to the guru, remaining close by so that when they pass on you can assume their role of leader of the students.

2. Philosophical proximity

This is where you are in line with the guru’s desires. They ask you to constantly chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. They request that you always remain conscious of Krishna, which is one name for God. They ask that you speak about bhakti, devotion, and the spiritual science wherever you go and to whomever you encounter.

[Krishna's lotus feet]This relationship is more beneficial because it doesn’t necessarily require the physical presence of the guide. Moreover, the goal of the teacher is to get this very alignment. They are not so interested in having someone follow them around. They would rather the world become infused with the bhakti spirit, since that is the solution to all problems. Mankind’s difficulties can be traced back to their forgetfulness of God, who is the best well-wishing friend. Proximity in consciousness with Him, in the link known as yoga, is the aim of the human form of life.

In Closing:

Enlightened never by itself inspired,

Shastra declaring that guru required.

 

Not guaranteed for bhakti affinity,

When serving him in close proximity.

 

Better in philosophy to match,

Acting for God’s attention to catch.

 

Most happy when in this occupation to see,

Knowing that in devotion only happy can be.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bliss Personified

[Sita-Rama]“I trust that Rama, who is accustomed to pleasures and not accustomed to lack of pleasure, is not lamenting now that He has obtained an increase in distress.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.21)

sukhānām ucito nityam asukhānām anūcitaḥ |
duhkham uttaram āsādya kaccit rāmo na sīdati ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

What is God doing? Accepting the fact that He exists, that He is more than just an abstract or a concept to be contemplated, what is it exactly that He is doing? Action leads to reaction, does it not? It is in the very nature of assessing reactions that actions get grouped into different categories. The most basic dividing line is good and bad, also known as pious and impious or right and wrong.

“Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)

You do something and there is a result later on. The “later” might be as soon as one second away or it can be as far into the distance as thirty years. There is also no guarantee that the result will stay forever. Think of the criminal sentenced to prison. There is usually a length of stay attached. Once the allotted time has been served the consequence to the first improper action is no longer seen.

From the spiritual science that is the Vedas we learn several things about God. First, He certainly exists. One way to define Him is to take everything that we know to exist. Having that as part of the analysis, then understand that the collective has an origin. We may not know what that origin is. We may not have been witness to the creation of everything, but we still know that things don’t come from nothing, especially things with amazing intelligence.

The Sanskrit phrase janmad asya yatah says that the Almighty is the source of everything. That is one way to define Him. There is also ananda mayo bhyasat. This means that the Supreme Lord is pleasure itself, ananda.

The simple answer to the first question is “enjoying.” That is what God is doing in the spiritual world. He is the only person who has nothing to do. No counterbalancing force compels Him to work. There is no concern over reaction to action since He is not under the jurisdiction of karma. In fact, karma is something He creates to facilitate the changes in bodies that allows for the variety in experiences in maya, or illusion. This virtual reality of sorts is the choice of the jiva souls who want to enjoy separate from God. They too seek ananda, but devoid of the association of the person who is full of pleasure, Rama.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, the princess of Videha subtly references this property of complete pleasure that exists in the Supreme Lord. She is describing Rama, the incarnation of God, who also happens to be her husband. She says that Rama is accustomed to sukha, which means “happiness” or “pleasure.”

She says that Rama is also not accustomed to the negation of sukha. The Sanskrit word “uchitah” can also mean deserving. Rama deserves only pleasure and happiness. This is what He is accustomed to. That is God’s nature, after all. Distress is a byproduct of lack of control. Distress is coupled with frustration, as no person intentionally seeks out pain. Even if there is self-imposed austerity that is uncomfortable, there is the higher purpose that will involve some kind of pleasure.

In addition to describing the ananda property of God, Sita also keeps attention to Rama’s duty as a leader in society. As Shri Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, what great men do others follow. Krishna is the same ananda-brahma, the spiritual eternal who is always in bliss. Krishna and Rama are the same; just different visual manifestations of the singular Divine Being.

“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)

As Rama is not accustomed to asukha, Sita hopes that He has not fallen into lamentation. A normal person would be justified. Rama has lost Sita and is desperately searching for her. There is strong affection there, to a level that can’t be measured. He does not want any harm befalling her. He wants her to be safe.

For her part, Sita wants her husband to stay above the changes in fortune. Good and bad come and go. It is like the changing of seasons. Just because winter has arrived it doesn’t mean that I should not bathe. Just because it is summer it doesn’t mean that the hot kitchen is an excuse to stop preparing food to eat.

Fortunately, there is no cause for concern. Human beings are not robots; emotions will always exist. The secret is to not let emotions get in the way of carrying out prescribed duties. Rama assigned Himself the role of protector of men, and so even a downturn in fortune wouldn’t take Him off the righteous path. If ever there were a slight vulnerability, Rama has Sita there to get Him back on track.

[Sita-Rama]Indeed, the younger brother Lakshmana behaved similarly right after it was learned that Sita had gone missing. This is another confidential aspect of God’s nature. He allows the devotees to serve Him, up to the point of even offering Him instruction. No other benefactor is so kind, and so it is no wonder the saintliest characters are dedicated to Him in thought, word and deed.

In Closing:

Sita and Lakshmana having His back,

In case ever to veer off track.

 

In spiritual world in enjoyment persisting,

Full ananda in Him existing.

 

So to react when wife missing how,

Hope that not in lamentation now?

 

But Shri Rama to continue on ready,

He who once lifted bow, of hand most steady.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Two Essential Truths About The Soul

[Krishna's lotus feet]“There is no specific date at which the jiva was born. Nor can anyone trace out the history of jivatma's manifestation from the Supreme Lord. Therefore it is beginningless.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.13 Purport)

Download this episode (right click and save)

Who am I? What is my true identity? From where have I come? In the future, where will I go? Not just tomorrow, the next day, or the day after - what about after the inevitable end of life called death?

For many spiritual traditions these questions go too far. The typical response is something like this:

“Don’t overthink it. Just have faith. Put your trust in the savior. We don’t know the answer to these questions, but we do know that the Lord works in mysterious ways.”

The Bhagavad-gita provides answers to the best extent that can be understood. And there is an extent. That is part of the definition of the true identity. The living entities, the people asking, are individual spirit souls. Those souls don’t have a specific size or shape in which they can be found. Sure, the actual size is compared to the tip of the hair divided into ten thousand parts, yet that tip is so powerful that it animates both the large elephant and the tiny ant. It gives intelligence to the rocket scientist and to the horse to do what is necessary to survive. Like the electricity powering both the television and the toaster, spirit soul is capable of amazing things.

That solves the issue of identity, but what about origin? We know that in this life we came from our parents. Life comes from life. Contrary to what the atheistic scientists say, man is no further along in creating life from chemicals than they ever have been. Nor will they ever be able to succeed, as they are not capable of providing the missing chemical to bring back life to a dead body, i.e. they can never be successful at running the most basic experiment to prove their hypothesis.

The spiritual science is something that can be studied for an entire lifetime even, as there is plenty of source material available. The Bhagavad-gita, though comparatively short in length to other scriptural works, has knowledge so profound that after many readings new revelations continue to emerge. Indeed, the truth about the identity of the individual as spirit soul comes from that great song sung by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna.

1. We don’t know when the jiva was born

The individual soul is jivatma. Atma usually means “soul,” but it can also refer to “mind” or “body.” Jivatma is the word used to mark the distinction from Paramatma. Jivatma is individual soul, whereas Paramatma is Supreme Soul. Jivatma is a sample of the spiritual energy, while Paramatma is the source of the spiritual energy. One is the power, while the other is the powerful.

As both are spirit, the shortened jiva is sometimes used interchangeably. There is no known date of birth for the jiva. There is simply no way of knowing. We don’t remember the birth in the present life, but we can get verification from high authorities. We trust their word. We believe them when they give us a date of birth.

In Vedic literature there is a description of the individual soul coming from a region of energy called tatastha. This is the marginal potency, wherein there is a choice in association. Jiva can choose to either be with God the person or go to a land where there is strong forgetfulness of Him.

Even if there is a date in the vast span of time in which that choice was made, the issue of infinity still exists. There is always a beginning to a beginning. Shri Krishna confirms in the Bhagavad-gita that there never was a time that the individual soul did not exist.

“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)

2. We can’t trace out when the jiva manifested from God

The explanation of the birth of the material world is simple. The Supreme Lord, in His spiritual form of Vishnu, lies down to rest. When He exhales, the many universes and their component planets come into existence. When He inhales, everything gets destroyed and comes back into Him. It’s as simple as that.

The species are populated through the work of Lord Brahma, who is also known as the creator. Still, He only crafts the body types, in varieties numbering up to 8,400,000. These are like different sets of clothes. The clothing company manufactures clothes and the retail outlet sells them, but neither generate people to fit into them.

“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.4)

That work is accomplished by the Supreme Lord. He is the seed-giving father, injecting the spiritual energy into the unmanifest material substance, pradhana. That is the explanation for the many living beings, appearing in so many different shapes and sizes. Evolution is real, but it is simply the travel of the individual soul, the jiva, from one body type to another. The body types themselves don’t create other body types.

The jivas are part of the marginal energy that comes from the powerful Bhagavan, which is another name for God. There is no way to trace out when this energy came into existence. We are expansions of God, but when that expansion took place is impossible to discover.

What does this mean? Is the spiritual science beyond comprehension? Should we not ask such questions? Should we follow blindly? The idea is that the jiva can know a lot. To bring doubts to the discussion is always beneficial. Indeed, part of knowing who we are is understanding the limitations to knowledge. If we could know everything then we would be equal to God, which can never happen.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Jivatma and Paramatma are meant to be together, connected in a link called yoga. That is the objective to an existence, and the potential is especially there in the human form. When the link is created, the forgetfulness vanishes, and the choice is made for residence in the spiritual world. We do have a say in that event happening, as it is shaped by consciousness, which is shaped by thoughts, words and deeds from this lifetime.

In Closing:

Jivas from tatastha region to go,

When occurred never can know.

 

Also expansion from Supreme Lord came,

But limitation with knowledge the same.

 

But hopeless spiritual life is not,

Best chance in this human life got.

 

Jiva with Paramatma connect for real,

Then travel to Supreme Abode seal.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Out Of Sight But Not Out Of Mind

[Sita-Rama]“I trust that Raghava has not lost affection for me due to being away from home. O Vanara, I trust that He will release me from these difficulties.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.20)

kaccin na vigata sneho vivāsān mayi rāghavaḥ |
kaccin mām vyasanāt asmān mokṣayiṣyati vānaraḥ ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

Your friend has suffered a terrible breakup. You knew the potential for this when the relationship started. You warned them that the end was sure to be the same as the last time. They didn’t listen, however. They said they had to get out there, that there were plenty of fish in the sea.

Your friend is having a difficult time dealing with the loss. They are beginning to evaluate their position in life. Reaching a certain age and still not married equals “not good.” Others are volunteering advice. The one your friend is hearing most often goes something like this:

“Just move on. I know it’s difficult to forget, but there is the old adage, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ Move on to someone else. Pretty soon this experience will become a distant memory. Actually, focus on that word: distance. You’ll be okay soon enough.”

Likely unbeknownst to either party, embedded in this advice is a description of an aspect of kama. The Sanskrit word has several different English translations. Lust, desire, sex life. The definitions are actually linked since they are all based on one thing: forgetfulness of God.

Kama is material desire, and due to the nature of the material world desire is never fully met. Once satisfied, kama only gets stronger in intensity, like a raging fire. That is why every kind of self-help advice involves some sort of restraint on kama. The successful people are able to control their desires, choosing a higher goal over smaller, animal-like propensities.

“A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires - that enter like rivers into the ocean which is ever being filled but is always still - can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.70)

Still, even that goal is a kind of kama, as once achieved lasting satisfaction is absent. The highest goal, which is of a different nature, is union with the Divine. The connection that results is known as yoga, and when the link is to God the person, in His fullest feature, then the ensuing relationship is known as bhakti.

The above referenced verse from the Ramayana touches on both kama and bhakti. A person driven by material desires quickly forgets when placed in a different setting. The person moving to a new experience here is Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. For some time now He has been separated from His wife, Sita. Neither of them wanted this; such are the ways of the world.

Sita is addressing Hanuman, who is in the body of a Vanara, which is a forest-dweller. In the ancient time period in which these events took place, the Vanaras were monkey-like. Sita wonders if Rama has lost affection, sneha, since being abroad.

That is the nature of kama, after all. The antagonist to this real life play is Ravana. Driven by his senses, he became consumed by lust for Sita, even though he knew she was married and devoted to Rama. Once the desire sprung up, Ravana immediately forgot about the many beautiful queens married to him in Lanka. Indeed, one avenue he chose when attempting to win over Sita was to offer her the position of chief queen. She, of course, was not interested.

Rama is unique among all living entities. He is the chief eternal of all eternals, nityo nityanam. He is the one maintaining all of the living beings. Another reason He is unique is because His affection never wanes. Evidence of this is there in the presence of the Supersoul. Everywhere is the Supreme Lord, and so He witnesses everything. Despite seeing the forgetfulness of the countless living entities occurring since time immemorial, the door to the spiritual world is always open.

“Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes and faces, and He hears everything. In this way the Supersoul exists.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.14)

The relationship between Sita and Rama is actually bhakti. Therefore forgetfulness does not occur on Rama’s side. Neither on Sita’s, since she is the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord; she is always by the side of God, in every incarnation and descent.

“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)

Another promise is that God the person will protect the devotees. He will deliver them from any sinful reaction that may occur. Here Sita was not suffering a sinful reaction but more a horrible experience; getting caught in the middle of someone else’s sins. She wonders whether Rama will rescue her from it.

[Sita-Rama]The answer was in the affirmative, as the future would attest. Since Rama never loses affection, He is the best person to whom to offer that affection in the first place. The same eternal kindness exists in His wife, the goddess of fortune, and His representatives, like Hanuman. The group thus forms a kind of spiritual family that provides constant support to any person wishing to connect with them.

In Closing:

Not alone have to go defending,

Support the spiritual family sending.

 

With Supreme Lord Rama starting,

Never from kindness departing.

 

Goddess of fortune blessing devotees so,

For that couple anywhere Hanuman to go.

 

Even when out of sight not out of mind,

Best group to worship you will find.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

To Try Or To Pray, That Is The Question

[Rama worshiping Shiva]“I trust that the king’s son is praying for the mercy of the demigods. I trust that He is relying on human effort and the favor of Providence.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.19)

kaccit āśāsti devānām prasādam pārthiva ātmajaḥ |
kaccit puruṣa kāram ca daivam ca pratipadyate ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

It’s been the complaint of rational thinkers for a long time. In the eighteenth century one prominent statesman in America once had a harrowing journey on the seas. After his safe arrival on land, remarking on the good fortune others attributed the success to the Divine. This statesman, however, was more inclined to give credit to the lighthouse, which helped the ship successfully reach land.

The same statesman one time made a sizeable donation to a local area, and the people receiving the gift proposed to build a church. The donor remarked that a library would better suit the people. Not that he was an atheist, but the criticism was against the general practice of simply praying for things instead of actually working.

For the theists, the complaint is that people don’t pray enough. They get success through seemingly their own effort, but they forget the necessary cooperation of the higher nature. Earth, water, fire, air and ether exist in so many different forms and combinations, and no single person can possibly control the variety and magnitude. Therefore, who is actually justified in being overly proud of their accomplishments? There is surely luck involved, with the good fortune here sourced in a higher power.

How should the open-minded proceed? Work without thinking of the Almighty? Put everything into your own hands. Or sit back and pray? Send a prayer to get what you want. As there are so many desires in the course of a lifetime, pray regularly.

The above referenced verse from the Ramayana provides some clarity. Not surprisingly, the issue was also discussed in the famous conversation between Arjuna and Krishna on a chariot parked in the sacred land of Kurukshetra. There Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, said that a person who uses the rewards of the demigods, which are the residents of the heavenly region, and doesn’t give respect back is a thief.

“In charge of the various necessities of life, the demigods, being satisfied by the performance of yajna [sacrifice], supply all necessities to man. But he who enjoys these gifts, without offering them to the demigods in return, is certainly a thief.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.12)

Arjuna also wonders about the necessity of action. He is in doubt over how to proceed. A war is about to take place, but is it really worth it? Arjuna has the spirit of renunciation in him. He is not interested in ruling over a kingdom, especially if it comes at the cost of many lives. Krishna explains the secret to action, that sometimes there is inaction in action and action in inaction.

“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.47)

Do the work that is prescribed to you. That is one definition of the Sanskrit word karma. It is not just action and reaction. It is the actions that are supposed to take place, that bring a higher benefit as a consequence. Better to work, but doing so with detachment.

Here Sita Devi is remarking on her husband’s situation. Rama is the same Krishna, God appearing on earth in an incarnation form at an earlier time. He is in the role of a king’s son, parthiva atmaja. The prescribed duties, or karma, match Arjuna’s. There is a big asterisk, however. For God there is no karma. There is no future development of a material body because there is nothing material about the transcendental features of the Supreme Lord. The incarnations follow prescribed duties to set a good example. Shri Krishna even remarked about this.

“O son of Pritha, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I need to obtain anything - and yet I am engaged in work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.22)

Rama’s situation is that He is trying to find Sita, His wife. That is why Shri Hanuman has reached her. He is Rama’s representative. Through him Sita has learned about her husband, from whom she was taken away against her will, in secret by the evil king of Lanka.

Rama is the object of service of the celestials, who are known as devas. This Sanskrit word just means “god”. There are many of them, as they act as administrators of the vast and complex material creation. Still, Sita trusts that her husband is setting the proper example by seeking their mercy.

She hopes that Rama relies on both human effort and Providence. Don’t simply sit around and wait for things to happen. Sure, ultimately everything happens through the will of the Divine, but this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not act. But also don’t think that everything will be achieved without favor from above. Rely on both. Perform prescribed duties, be detached from the outcome, and feel at peace.

An easier way is to work directly for the Supreme Lord. This is known as bhakti, and it is above karma. The benefits aren’t tied to the future development of a material body. As an example, Hanuman’s work was in bhakti. It was not karma since the beneficiary was Rama Himself. Even though Hanuman met God face to face, that was no excuse to simply sit down and do nothing. He still worked. His task was the most difficult, but he proceeded forward for the higher interest.

[Rama worshiping Shiva]The interest is the same for every conditioned living entity, currently stuck in the cycle of birth and death. Be conscious of God, work on a daily basis in some capacity for His benefit. The work doesn’t have to involve crossing a massive ocean and infiltrating a land ruled by man-eating ogres. The effort can be something as simple as chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

For objective following work’s way,

Or sitting down just simply to pray?

 

This question man for centuries pondering,

Read Bhagavad-gita for no more wandering.

 

Prescribed duties with attention do,

Without concern for gain or loss to you.

 

Respect to the higher authorities giving,

Blessed by God when in bhakti living.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

In Stock Today

[Rama hugging Hanuman]“I trust that He is getting friends and also been approached for friendship. I trust that He has auspicious friends and that His friends are giving Him first priority.” (Sita Devi speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.18)

kaccin mitrāṇi labhate mitraiḥ ca api abhigamyate |
kaccit kalyāṇa mitraḥ ca mitraiḥ ca api puraḥ kṛtaḥ ||

Download this episode (right click and save)

It’s that time of year again. The biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world is out with their latest models. You usually get a good chuckle out of this. Everyone gets excited over the news. It’s the same phone, but different. Some new features here and there. A better camera. Longer battery life. A faster processor.

This year is a little different since the phone you currently own is starting to die. You’ve had it for over three years. Proud of yourself for not following the flock and getting a new phone every few years, this time there is some interest about the new features. Therefore you are ready to make the purchase.

[new iPhone]Of course there is one problem. On the day of the release, the phone quickly goes out of stock. The company is not really sure when it will be available again; maybe in a few weeks. You are quite upset. What is the point to hyping a new product if it is not even available?

From the teachers of the bhakti tradition of spirituality, we learn that God is ultimately a person. He is the best one, Purushottama. He is original, adi-purusha. He is without beginning, anadi. He is without end, ananta. He is a distinct individual possessing every fortune imaginable, Bhagavan.

Understanding God as a person is key because of behavior at the individual level. With a person comes the potential for relationships. In bhakti, which is love and devotion, the relationship established with Bhagavan can be of different kinds. It’s sort of like a relation. We interact with different people, and our relationship to them is not the same in every case.

Because of this variety, the same person may be addressed by different names. At work they are “your honor.” At the government office they are “Mr. Such and Such.” In the bedroom they are “darling.” At the dinner table they are “father.” On the football field they are “dude.”

Such relationships can be established with Bhagavan, as well. The different interactions are known as rasas. This Sanskrit word translates to “taste” or “mellow”. It’s bhakti all the same; just the taste varies. Someone can act as parental guardian, vatsalya-rasa. Someone can act as lover, madhurya-rasa. Another person can be an admirer from a distance, shanta-rasa.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, the wife of Shri Rama references sakhya-rasa, which is friendship. Rama is Bhagavan in a special incarnation form appearing in the Treta Yuga of creation and playing the role of pious warrior prince. Sita is God’s eternal consort, the goddess of fortune. Due to the close nature of the relationship, she knows the Supreme Lord very well.

From Sita’s discussion with Rama we see that not only is there potential for relationships, but God Himself makes sure there is plenty of opportunity. What good is knowing the different rasas if there is no way to enjoy them? Here Sita trusts that Rama is making friendships. Hopefully those friends are auspicious, kalyana, and putting Rama as the top priority.

Essentially, she trusts that the friendships are in bhakti and not kama, which is material sense gratification. Rama doesn’t actually need friends. He doesn’t need help from anyone. Still, He is so kind that He creates situations that allow others to help Him. Here a friend is helping to find Sita, who has gone missing from Rama’s side.

Hanuman is one of those people helping Rama. Hanuman works for Sugriva, with whom Rama formed an alliance. Though Hanuman works for someone that Rama is friends with, technically the taste of interaction is in service, dasya-rasa.

[Rama hugging Hanuman]Whatever the actual mellow desired, the key is to establish the relationship. That is the true boon of the human birth. Know that the opportunities will always be there, provided the individual is sincere in wanting a connection. The Divine mercy is never out of stock.

In Closing:

Not even material nature to block,

Divine mercy always in stock.

 

Just a desire initially there,

That of God as person aware.

 

Like with Rama help needing,

Then Vanaras for Sita proceeding.

 

To rescue souls purpose to come,

Playing prince, friend, or even son.