Monday, August 29, 2016

Five Names The Husband Of Parvati Is Known By

[Lord Shiva]“Or, lifting him up and carrying him across the ocean, I will offer him to Rama, like an animal offered to Lord Shiva, the lord of animals.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.50)

athavā enam samutkṣipya upari upari sāgaram ||
rāmāya upahariṣyāmi paśum paśu pater iva |

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Parvati is the chaste daughter of the mountain king, Himavan. In her previous life, she was Sati, whose very name means “chaste.” In that life she was married to the destroyer, the deity in charge of annihilating the universe at the appropriate time. He is known for his simple life of meditation and prayer, always focusing on the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord Rama. Parvati’s husband goes by many names, which speak to his different attributes.

1. Shiva

This is likely the name Parvati’s husband is best known by. Shiva means “auspicious.” He is the spiritual master, or guru, for all kinds of people. From Vedic philosophy we learn that the living beings of this world are a combination of purusha and prakriti. Purusha means “person” or “enjoyer” and for the living beings it refers to the spirit within. Prakriti is “matter” or “that which is enjoyed.”

Prakriti consists of different combinations of the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. These are like different ingredients. Indeed, based on how these ingredients are mixed, the living being assumes a certain varna. This Sanskrit word typically equates to an occupation, but the root meaning is “color.” Some people are nice. Some aren’t. Some are intelligent, while others are more animalistic.

Though specifically in charge of the mode of ignorance, Lord Shiva is auspicious for everyone. For the animal-like people he helps bring elevation to a higher mode. For those in the mode of passion, he gives boons very quickly. For those in the mode of goodness, he gives the proper example of devotion to Vishnu, who is the personal God. Vishnu is another form of Rama.

2. Ashutosha

This word means “easily pleased.” It doesn’t take much to get Shiva’s favor. Just offering a little water and some leaves to his linga, or statue representation, brings results very quickly. Shiva does not make character judgments. Whoever worships him properly usually gets their desires fulfilled very quickly.

There is a reason he behaves as Ashutosha. He doesn’t like to have his meditation broken. He understands that material rewards aren’t so important, so he doesn’t spend a lot of time deliberating over what should be given. He would rather continue his chanting of the holy names of Rama.

3. Mahadeva

There is the Supreme Lord Rama, who is also known through His non-different forms of Vishnu, Krishna, Narasimha and others. Then there are devas, or gods, who act as deputies. They are something like cabinet officers in the Executive Branch of government. They have their different departments that they are in charge of.

Brahma and Shiva are the highest deputies, in charge of passion and ignorance respectively. Still, Shiva has a more special place. He is known as Mahadeva, or the great god. He is like a deva, but more. He is almost like Vishnu. He is non-different from the Supreme Lord in the sense that he can deliver spiritual wisdom, acting as guru. He has his own realm that does not get destroyed at the time of the cosmic destruction.

4. Pashupati

Lord Shiva is known by this name for several reasons. The root definition is “lord of the animals.” The animal society extends to the human beings, who have more potential in intelligence. Pashupati is the pati, or lord, of the entire population of creatures. There was also a weapon of a similar name that Shiva once gave to the bow-warrior Arjuna.

“Lord Shiva tested Arjuna's strength by picking a quarrel with him over a hunted boar. He confronted Arjuna in the false dress of a hunter, and Arjuna covered him with arrows until Lord Shiva was satisfied with Arjuna's fighting. He offered Arjuna the Pāshupati weapon and blessed him.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.1.38 Purport)

[Lord Shiva]In ancient times there was also animal sacrifice offered to Lord Shiva. This was referenced one time by Shri Hanuman. A direct servant of Rama, Hanuman was in Lanka looking for Rama’s wife Sita. She had been taken away by the wicked king of Lanka, Ravana. Hanuman several times became depressed due to lack of success in the mission. As a kind of pep talk to himself, to keep going in the search, he once mentioned that if Sita wasn’t found he would at least bring Ravana back to Rama. He made the comparison to offering an animal to the lord of animals, Pashupati.

5. Bhutanatha

The Vedas cap the list of different species at 8,400,000. Within that number there are specific species that correspond with the mode of ignorance. As Shiva is the presiding deity of this particular mode, he is associated with these creatures. They are something like ghosts and goblins.

The Sanskrit word bhuta also means “that which exists.” Shiva is Bhutanatha because he is the protector of all living creatures. This name again shows the dual-sided nature to the great god. Those who really know Shiva understand that he is always meditating on Rama, making him the best of the Vaishnavas.

In Closing:

As best of the Vaishnavas is known,

Devotion to Rama his desire lone.

 

Bhutanatha, in charge of ignorance mode,

Mahadeva, god meditating in mountain abode.

 

Pashupati, animals sometimes to him sent,

Ashutosha, not much in discerning spent.

 

Shiva since auspicious to all,

Chaste Parvati his wife to call.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Five Reasons To Be Confident In Devotional Service

[Lord Vishnu with Dhruva]“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.10)

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Lord Brahma is so exalted. He lives for millions and millions of years. At the beginning of time, there was no one else. He emerged from the lotus-stem coming from the naval of Lord Vishnu, who is thus also known as Padmanabha. Vishnu is the father to Brahma, and also the mother in a sense. There is Lakshmi Devi, who is the wife of Vishnu.

Brahma creates through the potency invested in him by Vishnu. He must be someone very special. At the end of Brahma’s night, there is a partial dissolution of the creation. At the end of Brahma’s life, one hundred of his years, there is complete devastation. Brahma is the founder of a sampradaya of devotion to Vishnu. He is a spiritual master, which means that he has to be a pure devotee.

And yet Brahma falls into illusion sometimes. He did so when Vishnu was on earth as Shri Krishna, playing with the cows and cowherd boys in the fields of Vrindavana. He had an incident with his own daughter. Lord Shiva, who is superior to even Brahma, at times looked like he was in illusion. What hope is there for us mere mortals, then? We are not celestials who live for a long time with heightened enjoyment. How can we be confident that devotional service, bhakti-yoga, will pay off in the end?

1. The Pandavas survived attacks against them.

These five brothers had done nothing wrong. They lost their father Pandu. They lived with their mother, Kunti Devi. They should have inherited the kingdom from Pandu, but it instead went to the Kauravas, who were sons to Pandu’s brother Dhritarashtra. Even that wasn’t a big deal. The problem was that the leader of the Kauravas, Duryodhana, tried so many times to kill the Pandavas.

The one thing the five brothers had going for them was devotion to Krishna. He was their lone support. That was all they needed. They survived the attacks, and with Krishna’s help in guiding the physical chariot of Arjuna and also the chariot of his mind, manoratha, the Pandavas eventually regained their kingdom.

2. Arjuna succeeded

Either retreat to the forest, giving up your kingdom, or fight on the side of righteousness. The latter will cost the lives of people who are dear to you. Has anyone in history faced a bigger dilemma than Arjuna? He didn’t know what to do, so He put the matter to Krishna. The Supreme Lord acted as Arjuna’s charioteer, but when the questions came He transitioned into the role of guru. He is the adi-guru, after all. He is the original spiritual master. He advised Arjuna in such a way that future generations would learn the lessons as well. Arjuna succeeded in his devotion since he was a surrendered soul.

3. Hanuman succeeded

Everyone was counting on Hanuman, but especially Shri Rama. Rama is another descent of Vishnu to the material world, an avatara. Hanuman’s task was to find Sita Devi, Rama’s missing wife. There was a large army of monkeys sent by Sugriva to search for her, but ultimately success rested in the hands of Hanuman. He faced amazing obstacles, both physical and mental. He persevered due to the love he has for Rama.

4. Dhruva succeeded

[Lord Vishnu and Dhruva]Dhruva Maharaja felt insulted that his own father would not place him on his lap. The step-mother basically told the boy that he was a second-class citizen in the home. Dhruva then went to the forest to meditate. He wanted vengeance, but in meeting Lord Vishnu face to face, his desires changed. Dhruva succeeded even though he had material desires at the outset. This is why those who are akama, moksha-kama or even sarva-kama should worship God the person. Approaching Him directly has a purifying effect, giving success in what matters most.

5. Krishna says to not fear

The conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita is the instruction to Arjuna to abandon all varieties of religion and simply surrender unto Krishna. There is no reason to fear, since Krishna will protect against all sinful reaction, should there be any.

“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)

Even if a person tries their best to be nonviolent and kind, there is always a trace of sin. The only way to be free from the material effects of karma, which lead to rebirth, is to be surrendered to Krishna. He protects the surrendered souls. Those who want to go to Him get help from within. He gives the understanding by which the devotees can find Him.

In Closing:

Shiva angry, Brahma after daughter chased,

How us mortals to prevent efforts erased?

 

How in devotional service to succeed,

When illusion of steady assault to proceed?

 

Examples from Pandavas and Arjuna see,

And Dhruva, even of material desires was he.

 

Hanuman, for Rama to ends of earth going,

Lord from within knowledge lamp glowing.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Do You Think You Are Better Than Me

[Lord Krishna]“It is clearly declared here by the Supreme Lord that in devotional service there is no distinction between the lower or higher classes of people. In the material conception of life, there are such divisions, but for a person engaged in transcendental devotional service to the Lord, there are not. Everyone is eligible for the supreme destination.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32 Purport)

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Friend1: I read something interesting today.

Friend2: What’s that?

Friend1: Relating to the characteristics of Kali-yuga.

Friend2: The age of quarrel and hypocrisy.

Friend1: Yeah, those things are always interesting, especially considering that the words were spoken so long ago.

Friend2: Before the age even began. It’s a prediction. The Sanskrit word is bhavishya.

Friend1: You become accustomed to your surroundings, which means that your idea of normal doesn’t necessarily mean “right.”

Friend2: If I grow up in a family of thieves, I will naturally think that stealing is the way to live. This helps to explain how meat eating became so widespread.

Friend1: How so?

Friend2: Meat eating was always there, but it was regulated. One of the pillars of religion is tapasya, which is penance or austerity. In the human form you will be happier with less. More specifically, if you control the sense urges, which keep rushing in like a river flowing towards an ocean, then you’ll be better off.

Friend1: If you control your desire to eat, it will benefit you later on?

Friend2: Exactly. Eating and sex. Those two things must be controlled. Anyway, over time classes of people ignored shastra, or scripture. As you go through the generations, pretty soon righteousness turns into sin, and vice versa. It explains how in Kali-yuga, the present age, there is hardly any real religion to be found.

Friend1: Thanks for bringing me back to the purpose of the discussion. One of the characteristics I read was that the shudra, which is the fourth class man, will challenge the brahmana, the first class man.

Friend2: Right. “Why should there be classes? Everyone is equal.” This is the stated objective of communism.

Friend1: It can’t really happen, though. Someone has to be in government. This means that anyone who wants to escape the squalor of the equally distributed misery of socialism and communism strives to go into government.

Friend2: They will then be exempt from the strict laws enforced upon everyone else.

Friend1: The shudra challenges the brahmana by referencing Brahman, the impersonal aspect of the Supreme. They will say, “Do you know Brahman? That is the meaning to a brahmana, after all. If you did know Brahman, you wouldn’t create distinctions. You would know that I am equal to you.”

Friend2: That logic does make sense. That is the definition of a brahmana, after all.

Friend1: I thought the same thing. Why is that description there, then? In Kali-yuga everything is supposed to be the opposite.

Friend2: There is the verse in the Bhagavad-gita where Krishna describes the state of mind of the humble sage.

“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)

From transcendental knowledge they are able to see the various species as being equal. The dog, the cow, the enlightened person - they are all the same spiritually.

Friend1: Right. They are Brahman, which is like a fragment of the spiritual energy.

Friend2: An expanded fragment. Brahman comes from Krishna, who is Parabrahman. He can expand infinitely and still remain who He is. That is why He was able to show the universal form to Arjuna on the battlefield but still not lose anything.

Friend1: Okay. The brahmana sees equally. Why, then, should there be different classes?

Friend2: The material nature is a reality, after all. There are so many ways to explain this. I know you’re a big baseball fan. Think of the different positions on a team. There is the pitcher. There is the first baseman. They are both playing baseball. In that sense they are equal.

Friend1: Right.

Friend2: Would you ever put the first baseman in to pitch? If you’re looking for a big hit late in the game, would you pinch-hit using the pitcher?

Friend1: Most likely not for either situation.

Friend2: Why?

Friend1: The pitcher’s expertise is in throwing the ball. They may be a decent hitter, but not compared to the first baseman. The same for the other way around. The first baseman’s focus is on fielding their position and hitting for power, not necessarily varying their pitches to get a batter to swing and miss.

Friend2: Another example is the human being and the tiger. We know that the tiger is a spirit soul, Brahman at the core. Does this mean that we will go up to a tiger and start speaking about the federal budget deficit? Will we sit down and have lunch with the tiger?

Friend1: No, because the tiger will have us for lunch.

Friend2: But it’s a spirit soul. Are you saying that you are better than the tiger?

Friend1: Not better; just in a different material body.

[Lord Krishna]Friend2: So it’s the same with the four varnas. People have different gunas, or material qualities. There is no way around this. It’s the reality of life. Not everyone is fit to lead. Not everyone is cut out for business. Not everyone can be a spiritual leader. You need laborers, as well. Everyone should work together to reach the ultimate goal of remembrance of God at the time of death. In Kali-yuga, through misunderstanding the purpose of the four varnas, there is dispute over classes. The person with the qualities of a lower class man thinks they should be just as respected as the high class man. Knowledge descending from authority in the spiritual science clears up the confusion.

In Closing:

As brahmana with equal vision to see,

So how thinking you’re better than me?

 

Distinctions and divisions always there,

Like tiger that it’s an animal not aware.

 

Though spirit soul not as human to treat,

Otherwise me for lunch soon to eat.

 

Different designations, should work together all,

To stay conscious of God, Krishna to recall.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Five Ways To Know That Krishna Is The Wealthiest Person In The World

[Krishna-Rukmini]“When Narada arrived in Dvaraka, he saw that the gardens and parks were full of various flowers of different colors and orchards that were overloaded with a variety of fruits. Beautiful birds were chirping, and peacocks were delightfully crowing. There were tanks and ponds full of blue and red lotus flowers, and some of these sites were filled with varieties of lilies. The lakes were full of nice swans and cranes whose voices resounded everywhere. In the city there were as many as 900,000 great palaces built of first-class marble with gates and doors made of silver.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 14)

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The Sanskrit word Bhagavan says that the Almighty has identifiable features. Identification is relevant for every person that is not God. The Supreme Lord knows who He is. He does not need to prove Himself. He is both formless and with form, nirguna and saguna. Again, this is based on the perspective of the observer. Bhagavan is; He is the essence of an existence. He is the life of everything that lives.

“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.9)

The sage Parashara describes that there are six components to Bhagavan. These are opulences, possessed simultaneously and to the fullest extent. One of them is aishvarya, which can be translated as “wealth.” God is the wealthiest person in the world. Since He is also the most attractive, another of His names is Krishna.

The latest list of “wealthiest people in the world” published by a popular magazine has supporting evidence. Financial statements, income tax returns, and the deeds to various properties act as proof. How about with Krishna? Are there ways to know that He is the wealthiest?

1. He is the original creator

The Vedas concur with the concept of property rights. It’s not that everything belongs to everyone. The distinction is that the property is on temporary lease. There is an original creator, and He actually has jurisdiction over everything. It makes sense, since without His intervention nothing would come to be.

The Big Bang Theory is one attempt to explain the creation. The theory is a product of mental speculation, and the truth from the parampara of the Vedic tradition explains something similar. In the beginning, as we understand it, based on the present timeline of events, there is nothing but pradhana. This is matter in its unmanifest form. Pradhana transforms into the three modes of material nature through the injection of purusha, which is spirit. Purusha and prakriti, this combination is what makes life. Without purusha, prakriti could not do anything.

“The five great elements are a gross representation of the subtle false ego. They are a representation in the material conception. Consciousness is represented by intelligence, of which the unmanifested stage is the three modes of material nature. The unmanifested three modes of material nature is called pradhana.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.6-7 Purport)

Shri Krishna is the adi purusha; He is the original spiritual injection. Since He instigates the pradhana to manifest into the variety of creatures and objects we see in the material world, it means that He has claim on everything. This automatically makes Him the wealthiest person.

2. He destroys everything through Lord Shiva

You recently purchased a machine that throws tennis balls at regular intervals. It is small and actually intended to help children practice their swing. You enjoyed the machine, but now it no longer functions. You’ve also moved on to a better machine. There is a way to fix the old one, but it involves some work. You don’t want to go through the effort.

You’ve decided to simply throw it away. You can only do this since you own it. By placing it in the trash, you are not harming anyone else. You are not interfering with another person’s right to live. The concept of property rights gave you the authority to decide the fate of the machine.

In a similar manner, since Krishna owns the entire creation, He has every right to destroy. Creation, maintenance and destruction occur in cycles. There is a massive dissolution at the end of the night of Brahma, who is the person put in charge of creating by Krishna. Brahma can be thought of as the first person; the ultimate ancestor to the species. At the end of the life of Brahma, there is an even bigger dissolution.

The destruction takes place through the work of Lord Shiva. He is empowered by Krishna. Since Shiva plays this role, he is also known as the destroyer. Krishna can destroy everything through Shiva because of the ultimate claim to everything that is material.

3. The opulence of Dvaraka

Krishna descended to earth in person, in His original spiritual form, some five thousand years ago. The foolish mistook Him for an ordinary human being. They did not understand His higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.

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

[Krishna-Rukmini]They saw tremendous ability and opulence and still didn’t come to the right conclusion. Krishna’s aishvarya was no longer a secret after moving to the city of Dvaraka. The name of the city means “a place of gates.” It was under the water to give protection from rival kings. Krishna doesn’t need this protection, but it reassured the citizens. The city was built by the architect of the demigods, Vishvakarma. He performs the work of the entire world, and this city was amazing. Krishna lived there with more than sixteen thousand wives. With each wife He had his own palace, and He expanded Himself so as to not leave any of the queens alone.

4. He is the husband of the goddess of fortune

Lakshmipati. Madhava. Radhanatha. There are many names for God that reference His relationship to the goddess of fortune. She is His eternal consort, if you will, since the word “wife” doesn’t suffice to accurately describe the relationship. The goddess of fortune is a pure devotee, always with God in association. She is fortune personified, and since she is under the protection of her husband, she is not independent. Shri Krishna is in charge of wealth and fortune, which He distributes through the blessings of His eternal consort.

5. He distributes wealth to others, such as with Sudama

If you own it, you can destroy it. If you own it, you can also distribute it. The special mercy with worshiping Krishna is that He may not always give you what you want. Even if you pray sincerely, with purity in your heart, for something specific, He will first assess the reward and the effect it will have on your future wellbeing. This is similar to how good parents behave when the child begs for a toy or some experience. The parent utilizes discretion. This behavior is a sign of love.

One time a poor brahmana visited Krishna in Dvaraka. He went to the palace where the Lord resided with His chief queen, Rukmini Devi. Named Sudama, this brahmana was a friend of Krishna from a long time back, when the two were living in the house of the guru. Of course Krishna remembered His friend and welcomed him hospitably during the visit. Sudama came with some chipped rice as an offering, but was too embarrassed to disclose it. Krishna discovered the rice and immediately took some to eat.

Being pleased with the offering, through Rukmini’s blessings Krishna changed the poverty-stricken condition of Sudama. The brahmana returned home to see that his life had been transformed into opulence. The Supreme Lord can do this for anyone since He has the most wealth to distribute. He helped Sudama since He knew that the brahmana had no chance of falling into maya, or illusion, as a result. Sometimes He takes away wealth, giving meaning to His other name of Hari.

In Closing:

At wealthiest person’s list top,

Since most aishvarya He’s got.

 

Proof since everything first to own,

And through benediction to Sudama shown.

 

Goddess of fortune with Him to stay,

All opulence through her way.

 

So much wealth that eyes can’t even see,

Through devotion most pleased is He.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Vyasa Puja 2016

[Prabhupada books]“Anarthas, unwanted things, come down from one bodily life to another. To get out of this entanglement, one has to take to the devotional service of Lord Vasudeva, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The word guru is significant in this connection. The word guru may be translated as ‘heavy,’ or ‘the supreme.’ In other words, the guru is the spiritual master.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.29.36-37 Purport)

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One of the meanings to the Sanskrit word guru is “heavy.” The respected personality carries weight. They have gravitas, which was a word used quite often during the 2000 Presidential election in the United States. The pick for running mate for one of the candidates was described as bringing gravitas. The meaning is essentially the same; they brought respect, gravity.

A guru can be the mother or father or the spiritual guide. On the occasion of Vyasa Puja we pay honor to the guru who gives the second birth. In Vedic culture the brahmana is known as dvija, which means “twice-born.” The second birth is possible only for the human being. It occurs through agreeing to enter training under the guidance of a spiritual master. There is the formal entrance known as diksha, but the second birth happens for real when the instructions of the guru are accepted and carried out.

One of the ways the spiritual master brings gravitas is through instilling confidence. Not all people are the same. Since the root cause of birth in the material world is intentional forgetfulness of God, it makes sense that the majority of the people would be interested in activities of a certain nature. But deep down, past the thick knot of nescience covering up the spotless soul, there is a desire to be spiritual. That desire is more pronounced in some, which means that not everyone will be interested in the common activities of the material world.

[Shrila Prabhupada]The acharya is the guru who leads by example. One of the most famous acharyas of recent times is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Making the sacrifice for prachara, or popularizing, the sankirtana movement, Prabhupada showed the proper example for so many. Bringing his gravitas, he instilled confidence in those not wishing to follow the general path in material life, which would be the path of least resistance. The guru let me know that it was okay if I wasn’t interested in certain things.

1. Going out to clubs

What else are you going to do on a Saturday night? If you want to “have a life,” you go out with your peers to a place that is very loud, serves alcohol, and is dimly lit. Never mind that you don’t like it there. Never mind that you would rather engage the mind, contemplating the higher subject matters.

The guru gives me the confidence to follow my instincts and say “no” to this activity. He describes the setting as the mode of ignorance. The human being is meant for elevation to the mode of goodness. In that mode there is a desire to see things as they are, to understand the fundamental aspect of life, spirit. That spirit is separate from matter, and seeing the difference is not easy.

2. Chasing after women

I never understood why people broke up. If you’re together, why not stay that way? If you liked someone previously, why does that preference change at any point? Why go into another relationship that is destined to end up in the same place?

The guru gives me confidence to accept this inner belief. He explains that sense gratification in this connection is illicit. Better to get married at a young age and control desires. Kama, or lust, is the great devouring enemy of this world. The guru quotes the Bhagavad-gita in this regard, which has the highest authority figure as the speaker, the original guru, Shri Krishna.

“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

3. Focusing entirely on money

Land a good job after college, but don’t stay there too long. Every three years or so, move to some other place. That is the way to get ahead. Buy your first home, but then make sure to get something better later on. If you start a business, keep an eye on its growth. If you have one store, make sure to expand.

I have little interest in acquiring more and more money, and the guru gives me the confidence to follow this belief. There is duality in the material world, so no single behavior is completely bad or completely good. Money can be used in the service of the Supreme Lord. That service is known as bhakti-yoga. Still, the unending chase for wealth is also kama. It turns a person into a miser as well, which is a hellish existence, both now and in the future.

“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)

4. Worrying about accumulating stuff

Before I came in contact with the spiritual master, I thought that collecting was the way to go. Purchase every movie ever made. Have the nicest suits to wear to work. Stock up on everything so that you never run out. What else was I going to do in life?

The guru instills in me the spirit of renunciation, vairagya. Simple living and high thinking. What’s interesting is that I don’t have to specifically try for renunciation. It comes automatically as a result of following the lead of the guru. He stresses chanting in devotion more than anything else. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

5. Putting down books about Shri Krishna and His avataras

When I first came across books like the Ramayana and Mahabharata I couldn’t put them down. How was it possible that there were these lengthy works featuring the direct words of the Supreme Lord and His incarnations? Why did no one tell me about this? Shouldn’t these books be promoted the most?

I loved reading them, but I found out that not everyone shared my enthusiasm. In fact, they took it as almost an affront. “What, you think you’re more religious than me? I’m familiar with what is in those books. There is no reason to read them in depth or to spend so much time thinking about them. Don’t be a fanatic.”

[Prabhupada books]The guru gives me confidence to go with my desire. He teaches that such attachment is extremely beneficial. All in all, he shows the right way to live. Even though I am full of faults and material desires, at least I have a shining example to follow. Had he not made the sacrifice of leaving the comforts of Vrindavana-dhama to spread the message of Divine Love to the rest of the world, I shudder to think where I would be today. I certainly would be missing the opportunity to celebrate the wonderful occasion of Vyasa Puja, which is the worship of the guru who represents Vyasadeva, the compiler of Vedic literature.

In Closing:

Heavy with authority guru is known,

Acharya one who best example shown.

 

On Vyasa Puja Prabhupada celebrating,

Power of bhakti to world demonstrating.

 

To follow my instincts confidence gave,

From life in mode of ignorance to save.

 

Staying renounced beneficial to do,

No problem in reading Vedic books too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Krishna Janmashtami 2016

[Lord Krishna]“Krishna saw all the trees, overloaded with fruits and fresh twigs, coming down to touch the ground as if welcoming Him by touching His lotus feet. He was very pleased by the behavior of the trees, fruits and flowers, and He began to smile realizing their desires.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 15)

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Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has declared that just as the Supreme Lord, the all-attractive one, Shri Krishna, is worshipable, so is His land. By extension, this means that the occasion of Janmashtami gives a chance for glorification and remembrance of not only the son of Yashoda, but also the land which He most prefers.

That land is known as Vrindavana, and it is sacred for many reasons. It is the place of Krishna’s childhood lila; His adorable pastimes that involved His closest friends. The friendship extended beyond the human species. All of the living entities in Vrindavana during His time were liberated souls. They appreciated Krishna in different moods. While Vrindavana, both the original and the replica version in the material world, is special for the devotees because it is conducive to the practice of Krishna consciousness, it is also preferred by Krishna Himself. There are many reasons for this.

1. It has a pleasant atmosphere

Vrindavana in the spiritual world and during Krishna’s time on earth is not full of skyscraper buildings. It does not have shops at every corner. It is a rural area, with pristine forests, ever blossoming with life. This pleasant atmosphere is very pleasing to Shri Hari. In that sacred land, the foster son of Yashoda and Nanda accepts the role of cowherd. At a young age, He gets the responsibility of taking care of the calves. The residents are so pure of heart that they take care of cows from start to finish. There is never a thought to kill or eat these wonderful animals.

[Krishna with cows]The atmosphere is ideal for Krishna to carry out His childhood occupation. He brings His friends along with Him when leaving for the fields. In Vrindavana, every day is a “nice day.” The weather is always perfect, even though there is still the variety of seasons.

2. It has clear water lakes

Krishna and His preferred home of Vrindavana reveal that there is more to the relationship with the Divine than just awe and reverence. Being God-fearing or God-appreciating is a significant first step, especially considering the general tendency in the material world towards atheism. The more one advances materially, the more they forget their true identity and the instrumental factor in making the laws of nature work.

[Krishna and gopis in lake]If a person asks the question, “What is Krishna doing in the spiritual world,” the answer is always the same. “Enjoying.” How does He enjoy? In a variety of ways. One of them involves playing in the lakes. These have clear water, and they are beautiful in every way. Krishna enters those lakes and has fun with the gopis, the cowherd women of the town. They love Krishna without even thinking about it, and their lone desire is to enjoy with Him. In the spiritual world, desires are always granted, since they only have to do with bhakti, or devotion.

3. It has chirping birds

As Krishna and His brother Balarama roam the land, there is always a pleasant sound. Krishna wears a beautiful flower garland, to which bees are attracted. In addition to the buzzing sound around Him, Krishna hears the chirping of birds from the trees. The birds are always talking about what Krishna did. They speak to each other in their own language. The parrots even sometimes argue as to who is more glorious, Krishna or His eternal consort, Shrimati Radharani. Radha is Vrindavaneshvari, or the queen of Vrindavana. She is most dear to Krishna.

4. It has sweet flavored breezes

In the material world, a windy day can be a nuisance. If I have work to do outside, the wind gets in the way. If I’m playing a sport, the wind can totally alter my game plan. Strong winds can take down trees and buildings. If there is an unpleasant odor somewhere, the wind carries that foul smell to distant places.

In Vrindavana the breezes are sweet in flavor, adding to Shri Hari’s enjoyment. There are so many beautiful flowers around, and Krishna doesn’t have to go up to one to notice their presence. The wind offers service to Him by bringing the sweet smell directly to Him.

5. The trees pay obeisance to Him

Trees are beneficial from their offering of oxygen alone. Vedic culture tells us more about trees by introducing the concept of sinful and pious. Sinful trees are those that don’t bear any fruit. Pious trees give fruit and thereby extend life. In Vrindavana the trees are fruit-bearing. It makes sense since even trees are living entities. Sin is an immediate disqualification for residence in the spiritual world. To have devotion to Krishna is the very definition of piety, and so in the sacred land the trees are always yielding delicious fruits for Krishna’s satisfaction.

[Lord Krishna]The branches on these trees bend down to offer obeisance to Krishna. There are fruits on these branches as well, which appears to give an external cause for the contorted shape. But actually, even the trees want to offer some service. Their obeisances make Krishna very happy, as does everyone in Vrindavana. On the occasion of Janmashtami we remember that sacred land and how dear it is to the most beloved Lord of the life breath of Radha, her prana-natha.

In Closing:

Even trees knowing service how,

Branches with fruit to Krishna bow.

 

Winds carrying aromas sweet,

Lord and gopis in clear water to meet.

 

Soles traversing the soft ground,

Everywhere heard birds’ chirping sound.

 

Vrindavana most pleasing place to be,

Known by His happiness just see.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why Do They Break My Meditation

[Lord Krishna]“The Mundaka Upanishad confirms that the Supreme Lord, in whom everything is resting, can be realized only by those who engage constantly in thinking of Him. This constant thinking of Krishna is smaranam, one of the methods of devotional service. It is only by devotional service to Krishna that one can understand his position and get rid of this material body.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 10.12-13 Purport)

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Friend1: Vishnoh-smaranam.

Friend2: Remembering Vishnu.

Friend1: Why not Krishna?

Friend2: Same thing.

Friend1: Rama?

Friend2: Yup.

Friend1: Why is the word Vishnu mentioned, then?

Friend2: I can only speculate, but the words were spoken by Prahlada Maharaja.

Friend1: I know.

[Lord Vishnu]Friend2: They were directed at the father, Hiranyakashipu. The father was known to have enmity with God in His form of Vishnu.

Friend1: The Lord had killed his brother, right?

Friend2: Yeah. Hiranyaksha. Hiranyakashipu thus held a grudge. There was no ill-will from Vishnu’s side. He does not stay angry with anyone.

Friend1: Right.

Friend2: So perhaps Prahlada mentioned Vishnu to really get at the father, to strike at the heart of his atheism.

Friend1: You could say smaranam is like dhyana. Remembering Vishnu is like meditating on Him.

Friend2: For sure.

Friend1: Here is my issue. Have you ever been to bhakti-yoga programs where the people dance during kirtana?

Friend2: Of course.

Friend1: Do you dance, too?

Friend2: Not really. It’s not my thing. Sometimes people will force you into it.

Friend1: There you go! That’s the problem I have. Here we are reading about Prahlada Maharaja and the need to meditate and remember Vishnu.

Friend2: Prahlada’s whole strength was from that remembrance. He did not have the opportunity for kirtana, in the standard sense. Actually, whenever he spoke about Vishnu and bhakti-yoga, that was kirtana also, but you know what I mean.

Friend1: So take someone like Prahlada and transport them to the modern day. Imagine they are somewhere meditating on Vishnu, their beloved Supreme Lord. Then another person comes and tries to force him into dancing to kirtana. To me, that’s not cool. I get that you like to dance, but it doesn’t mean you should force other people. You shouldn’t break their meditation.

Friend2: That’s simply the way of the world today. It’s the reason sankirtana is recommended. Arjuna wanted to retreat to a remote area and practice renunciation. This was prior to the Bharata war, and Krishna dissuaded him. Meditation was difficult to do five thousand years ago, and today even more so.

Friend1: You’re veering off subject. It’s not about meditation being difficult. Those who know the benefits of vishnoh-smaranam, who likely recommend it to others, are the same ones thwarting that very remembrance.

[Prahlada Maharaja]Friend2: Listen, it’s done innocently. They don’t know any better. You’re right. You shouldn’t break someone’s meditation. Still, you should be tolerant, especially of those who are on the righteous path. Prahlada tolerated his atheist father, who tried to kill him in so many ways. That was a special circumstance, as the five-year old boy had no other recourse. He did not have the physical strength to fight back. The only defense he had was remembrance of Vishnu. Similarly, if you really want to meditate, God will give you ample opportunity. For the dancing thing, if you can make someone else happy, if you can encourage their devotional efforts in the manner they prefer, then why not?

In Closing:

My arm in kirtana program to take,

Unhappy that my meditation to break.

 

Prahlada the one to father recommended,

Vishnu Himself that dhyana defended.

 

Why for others then to get in the way?

Let them in their happiness stay.

 

Tolerate like Prahlada their innocence should,

That on the path towards perfection understood.