Saturday, February 24, 2018

Jiya Jana

[Rama and Hanuman]“Tulsi says that Shri Rama loves His devotee more than His own life. King Rama becomes so much indebted, and the devotee becomes so rich, like Hanuman.” (Dohavali, 111)

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tulasī rāmahu teṃ adhika rāma bhagata jiya' jāna |
riniyā rājā rāma bhe dhanika bhae hanumāna ||

I have an important task to complete. Since I am not so naïve, it is understood that some outside help is required. This revealing truth is presented in the Bhagavad-gita, as well, where Shri Krishna explains that the individual is not the doer. They make the choice for action, but the modes of nature, gunas, must cooperate. Without those gunas results would only be potential within the mind, like unfulfilled dreams.

“When you see that there is nothing beyond these modes of nature in all activities and that the Supreme Lord is transcendental to all these modes, then you can know My spiritual nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.19)

Without even approaching the higher topics presented in Vedic literature, which is like a blossoming tree full of branches representing different areas of knowledge, from everyday experience it is seen that acting alone usually is not enough to get the job done. If I’m driving for a long distance, at the very least I need others on the road to adhere to the rules. I put trust in the auto-mechanics to do a good enough job to keep the car running. I need the food I purchased from the supermarket to be fresh and packed with the proper nutrients.

In this hypothetical situation I look for someone who is trustworthy and dependable. There are several people who are capable, but they might not show up. They may put in half a day’s worth of work and then split the scene. I have to get the job done, so uncertainty is not an option.

The person I choose ends up helping me immensely. It’s like they’ve given their entire life to the task. They don’t have to. It’s just me, after all. In this world everyone is out for themselves. Svartha, or self-interest, is the primary concern. Who can blame them? For some reason this person is different. It’s like they would give up everything to see me happy.

This begins to explain to a small degree what the Supreme Lord is like in the interaction with His devotees. He is Bhagavan, for starters. This means that He has every fortune imaginable. He is not poor in the least. He is the winner in any measuring contest of riches and abilities.

He is also atmarama, which means “self-satisfied.” That is to say the association of others is not required to keep Him pleased. He can hang out by Himself for hours, days and years, if needed. He does not require going out to a nightclub in order to find companionship.

As Goswami Tulsidas remarks in his Dohavali, the bhagata, the devotee, earns a very high stature through their association with Rama. It is like the tables turn. They become rich, while Rama, who is a king on earth, becomes indebted to them.

The only way this makes sense is if the loving nature of the Supreme Lord is understood. In fact, that is the purpose of this couplet from the poet, to help us understand the unlimited mercy flowing from the lotus feet of Bhagavan.

Tulsidas gives the example of Hanuman, who today is worshiped and adored by millions of people. Within the Vedic tradition he is perhaps the most popular and the most appreciated. His stature is due to only one thing: devotion to Rama. Hanuman gave everything to please the Supreme Lord during Rama’s time on earth as an avatara, or incarnation.

[Rama and Hanuman]Because of that service Rama became indebted, to the point that He feels like He can never repay. Hanuman, for his part, is ready to continue in service. There is no break. There is no false pride. He knows the wealth that he has, and he both safeguards it and shows others how to attain it. He is a symbol of sacrifice, and through the bliss of surrender in devotion that he experiences he shows others the way.

In Closing:

Keep always the Lord in mind,

Who to level unbelievable kind.

Though on earth known as king,

Entrusted to Hanuman the ring.

To safely bring to Sita the wife,

He sacrificing effort and life.

To level that Rama feeling in debt,

Devotee higher stature to get.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Four Kinds Of Food We Know Krishna Is Happy To Accept

[Krishna holding fruit]“While Krishna was going to the fruit vendor very hastily, most of the grains He was holding fell. Nonetheless, the fruit vendor filled Krishna's hands with fruits, and her fruit basket was immediately filled with jewels and gold.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.11.11)

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Go a significant amount of time without eating meat and suddenly the mere smell of it cooking will become extremely unpleasant, reaching the point of intolerable. Go without consuming onions and garlic for a few months and suddenly you’ll be able to detect the slightest trace of it within food. It won’t be a welcome arrival, either.

Man is known to have different tastes, as there are different gunas to each individual. Man is more in the mode of goodness than the animals, but there is no guarantee that every person has the exact same constitutional makeup to the body. This accounts for the differences in eye color, hair type, height, intelligence, and so forth.

A commonly cited verse from the Bhagavad-gita reveals that God accepts offerings of food and water made with love and devotion. This naturally implies that God is a person, not merely an abstract concept or a figure of mythology. He also applies discrimination. He doesn’t accept just any water or fruit. He looks to see how the offering is made; what is the mindset of the person serving, upasana.

“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)

As man is known to have variety in tastes, how to tell for sure that God really accepts these offerings? Does He not have specific tastes Himself? Water is mentioned, but what about milk? What about other drinks, that have water as a main ingredient? Does Shri Krishna have specific preferences with respect to cuisine?

1. Banana peels

Shri Krishna one time visited the home of Vidura. This was one of the brothers in a ruling family. The previous king was Pandu, but he left his body at a young age. Protocol was for his sons to take over the kingdom. There were five sons in total, and they were known as the Pandavas.

Going against dharma, it was the sons of the brother Dhritarashtra who took over instead. They were known as the Kauravas. Vidura was the other brother to Pandu, and he was a well-wisher to the Pandavas, who were known for their commitment to righteousness.

Krishna favored the Pandavas, as well. Good people tend to align. They stay together, as bad association can only bring you down. To have Krishna on your side is to be favored against even the strongest opposition. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, after all.

Krishna one time visited Vidura. There are variations of the story. In some versions it is Vidura’s wife in the kitchen preparing the offering for the most welcome guest. In others Vidura himself is in the kitchen. The outcome is the same. The person wants to give Krishna bananas to eat, but they are in so much bliss that they end up putting the banana peels on the plate.

[banana]Krishna gets banana peels instead of bananas. Surprisingly, He still eats them. Krishna does not complain. He is in the home of a devotee, so why shouldn’t He accept whatever they bring to Him with love and devotion?

2. Leftover grain

One time the Pandavas were living in the forest. They had enough food to eat because of a special pot. The way it worked was that once the wife, Draupadi, took her meal, the pot stopped producing food. This led to a potentially devastating situation when one time the family was visited by Durvasa Muni, who is known for his quick temper.

Krishna arrived on the scene to save the day. He asked if there was anything left in the pot. A single morsel of grain was there and so Krishna ate it. From His satisfaction, Durvasa and his group were no longer hungry. They left the area without taking any food. That small amount was enough to satisfy the Supreme Lord, as it came from people He favored.

3. Chipped rice

While ruling over the majestic city of Dvaraka, Shri Krishna was one time visited by His childhood friend name Sudama. This person was quite poor, but he still brought an offering with him, as was etiquette. The offering was meager to say the least: chipped rice.

Sudama was welcomed so nicely by Krishna and His wife, Rukmini Devi, that he felt too ashamed to present the offering. Krishna found it anyway and decided to have some. He proclaimed that it was the best rice that He had ever tasted. On his way home, Sudama found that his previously meager dwelling had been transformed into a palace. An offering that he was reluctant to give was accepted wholeheartedly by the person who has everything and more already.

4. Fruit from a basket

During Krishna’s time on earth some five thousand years ago the years of youth were spent in the farm community of Vrindavana. As today small children are known to be eager to get the mail from the mailbox on a given day, imitating the adults, Krishna was one time ready to exchange grain for fruits from a vendor who visited the home.

[Krishna holding fruit]The problem was that most of the grains fell out of His tiny, lotus-like hands by the time He reached the vendor-lady. She had great devotion in her heart, so she didn’t think she was being shortchanged. She filled Krishna’s hands with fruit regardless. That offering pleased Him so much that she looked later and saw that her basket was filled with valuable jewels instead. This was not necessary, as the smile from Krishna’s face was enough to bring tremendous bliss, but Krishna never leaves His devotees empty-handed.

In Closing:

Accepted when heart in devotion set,

But for Krishna what exactly to get?

So that taste to His liking known,

Evidence visit to Vidura shown.

How even the peels of banana to eat,

Sudama’s rice after welcoming seat.

Or the fruits from the vendor in hand,

Lord’s merciful nature to understand.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Five Things Possibly Forgotten While In The Bliss Of Sharanagati

[Krishna's lotus feet]“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.59)

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Again and again; taste what was already experienced. There were many past lives, quite possibly in a variety of species. Sense gratification, of one kind or another, was available. There was ample time to enjoy. Though the time ran out, another life awaited; such is the nature of the transmigration of the soul.

“One can never be happy by advancing materially. This is also stated in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (7.5.30): adanta-gobhir vishatam tamisram punah-punash-charvita-charvananam. Through the uncontrolled senses, one may advance one's hellish condition. He may continue to chew the chewed; that is, repeatedly accept birth and death.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya, 13.142 Purport)

Prahlada Maharaja refers to such enjoyment as chewing the chewed. That which was already tasted is brought closer again, with the hope to squeeze some enjoyment out of it; whatever remains. The taste has already been removed; there is little to nothing left. The human being is meant for something much better; something which will not cease to deliver enjoyment.

That something is bhakti-yoga, devotional service. It is connecting with the Almighty, who is attractive in every way. In any direction, the direct interaction brings an amazing taste. The sweetness increases the more surrender there is. Full devotion, completely giving oneself to the Almighty and His desires, is known as sharanagati.

While this state surpasses jnana and vairagya, knowledge and renunciation, there can be some forgetfulness. Awareness may not be at the highest level, but any deficiencies actually become auspicious indications.

1. Where I am

In my case, the connection to God is through the sweet sound vibration of the names that represent Him. Through the help of my guru, the spiritual master, I have learned to chant the holy names on a regular basis. At first it was a chore, a pressing responsibility that was always on the back of my mind; something I couldn’t wait to get out of the way.

Through maturation that same process became a way of life. Now I can’t live without it. No amount of money will change my mind. I can’t be bribed into going back to chewing the chewed, as the taste from the holy names never diminishes: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

Sometimes I forget where I am. I don’t know which country I am in or where I was previously. It’s like I’m being transported to another world, a place free of anxieties, Vaikuntha.

2. What type of body I am in

Age doesn’t properly identify me. It’s really only a measurement, the amount of time that has elapsed since I first exited the womb. Sure, we normally pay a lot of attention to this measurement, but when in the bliss of devotion I feel like a youth again. I have the same enthusiasm. Gone is the cynicism that life is measureable and that there is nothing left to look forward to.

Rather, every day is welcomed. It brings a new chance to serve the all-attractive one, Shri Krishna. Sure, I know that He is pleased with my service. I know that a little sincerity is all that matters. But that is not enough for me. I want to live up to the example of my guru. I want to please the past saints who have blazed the path, having accepted so many difficulties so I wouldn’t have to. My body may be in the process of breaking down, but that is of no concern to me.

3. What year it is

Looking at old pictures, the feelings of nostalgia are strong. If only we could go back to that simpler time. If only life weren’t as complicated today. If only there were such a thing as a time machine to make things easier.

While practicing bhakti-yoga it is easy to forget the year. Again, this is simply a measurement of time. It has no lasting impact on the spirit soul, who is beginning-less and endless. The soul is as sanatana as the dharma belonging to it. That is one of the reasons for the term sanatana-dharma, which is the real definition of what commonly goes by the name “religion.”

4. Who I am related to

My brothers and sisters are no longer limited to the family by birth; I feel related to everyone now. We are all struggling in this world, with the six senses that include the mind. No one is spared. From the highest to the lowest, there is the inevitable end known as death, which takes away the body and gives a new one in the subsequent birth.

“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)

Since Krishna is within everyone’s heart as the Supersoul, I am related to everyone. We are all part of the same kingdom, but we have forgotten our family link. The tendency is to care strongly about the family with which we live, but there is every chance of getting a new family in the next life. Should such priority be given to seemingly random connections?

[Prahlada teaching his classmates]Bhakti-yoga has taught me about the concept of a higher family, and so now I wish well for every single person. The same Prahlada Maharaja even gave up the designations of friends and enemies. The father in that case was the worst enemy, a violent one at that, but Prahlada did not change his outlook.

5. What time it is

This is the best indication of the positive effect of a particular activity. Am I forgetting time? Or am I constantly looking at the clock, wanting to see when the activity will be over? In sharanagati, it is like time stops.

[Krishna's lotus feet]Indeed, that is the situation in the spiritual world. Time exists, but it lacks the negative influence we typically associate with it. This timelessness is amazing, and it is available only to those who connect with the person who is time itself. His favor is the only one worth seeking.

In Closing:

Since pleasure of Krishna seeking,

No more at time peeking.

Or cognizant of right now the year,

Or changes to body in future near.

Since now enjoying bliss of surrender,

No more chewing the chewed pretender.

Same for every person is meant,

To elevate spiritual master is sent.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Three Reminders That Relieve Pressure In Bhakti

[Lord Krishna]“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)

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“That person speaks so well. They aren’t nervous in front of a crowd. They remain seated, but it looks like they have more energy than a marathon runner. They can stay in that same position, with a fully illuminated face, for upwards of four hours. They recite verses from memory, periodically break into devotional songs, and use the appropriate context, all while weaving through the greatest stories man has ever known.

That person cooks so well. I have never tasted food like theirs. Of course, there is the special potency derived from the offering itself. The food is transcendental, as we say. It is karma-free. Offered in front of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, prasadam is not like an ordinary meal. It has a purifying effect, and surely this person has pleased God so much with their efforts.

This person is fearless. They go up to total strangers and speak with them about the science of self-realization, the meaning of life, what their interests are, and where they think they are going. For every response received, they are able to turn to a relevant verse in the Bhagavad-gita, the song of God. They prove within minutes that religion doesn’t have to be based on faith alone or inheritance from family tradition. Bring every doubt to the table. Ask every question that comes to mind. More than just religion, dharma should be an active, engaged pursuit, for only then will there be confidence in following the path.

These people are so amazing, and juxtapose them with me. What am I doing? I feel like I am totally useless. I have trouble in simply keeping the routine of chanting the holy names a certain number of rounds on a set of japa beads every day: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I will never reach the level of these other people. Perhaps there is no hope for me.”

[prasadam offering]While it is certainly natural to think this way, that others are doing so much better, that they are further along in the boat-ride to cross over the ocean of birth and death, a few reminders help to relieve the pressure in devotional service.

1. We are not God

Seems like a silly thing to pay attention to, but in some groups the very opposite is taught.

“Meditate on the formless Absolute Truth. Remind yourself that you are Him. Keep thinking in this way and one day you will merge. Eventually, liberation will come.”

Surely there is similarity, to the point of near identicalness. Newborn children are compared to their parents. “Oh, look at that nose. It’s just like the father’s. Oh, look at that smile. A total replica of the mother.”

The Supreme Lord is the original father, the total spiritual energy. The living entities are amshas, or fragments. Those fragments will be identical to the original in so many ways, as drops of water from the ocean have the same constitutional makeup.

At the same time there is great difference. An obvious indication is the pursuit itself. God never has to become God. If we are supposed to become Him, it means that we are deficient. In truth, we are God-like, and He is the real thing.

We get ability from Him, so there is no reason to overly lament lack of success in a particular area. Some are blessed with speaking ability. Others are great leaders. Some can do manual labor for hours without getting tired. Each person has their specific set of qualities, and whatever has been handed down through the higher forces is sufficient for completing the task of connecting again with the Almighty.

2. We will never be God

No amount of effort will make us the origin of all things. There is no way that we will ever get perfect knowledge. One aspect to that knowledge would have to be realization of past, present and future. The living entity is spirit soul, separate from the temporary and destructible body. The body is always changing, visible especially in this lifetime. No sane person can deny that.

The Bhagavad-gita reveals that the same changes take place after death. This means that we have lived before. Transmigration of the soul is the simplest explanation for what is otherwise known as reincarnation.

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

If we lived before, where? How many past lives? What about before reincarnation started? Were we in the light of Brahman, the total spiritual energy of nothingness, or were we with God Himself? Man will never know. No amount of meditation or exercise can allow the limited mind to understand the concept of infinite time. Only God has perfect knowledge, and we will never become Him.

3. We don’t have to be

Neither do we have to become God to attain liberation. Arjuna continued on in the war after hearing the Bhagavad-gita. He heard directly from the mouth of the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna, and so liberation was guaranteed. Still, there was work performed. Arjuna did not merge into Krishna’s body.

Even when such an amazing transfer takes place, the devoted soul enters a realm where they keep a transcendental body, one that is not subject to birth and death. In that svarupa they are able to serve God with love and devotion, without any worry over time.

[Lord Krishna]Shri Krishna looks for sincerity. Ability is due to Him, after all, so it is more important how ability is used. The person sweeping the temple is just as important to Him as the travelling preacher, delivering lectures to audiences averaging in the thousands.

In Closing:

Important even temple’s sweeper,

Liberated soon, like travelling preacher.

Who in front of thousands speaking,

Highest energy in lengthy discussion keeping.

Use whatever ability from high to receive,

Reminder pressure in bhakti to relieve.

Never God nor ever to become,

By sincerity only His favor won.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Three Ways The Sadhu Cuts With Their Speech

[Krishna's lotus feet]“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)

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Sadhu, shastra and guru. These three run on parallel lines, helping the sincere seeker of the truth to stay on the path to success. If one of the three should happen to veer off course, to state a different goal than the others, then there is something wrong; their authenticity should be questioned.

Sadhu in this case usually translates to saintly person. Shastra is scripture, the works of authority descending from past generations, originating at the origin of all things. Guru is the singular saintly person, a teacher specifically dedicated to the task of helping the devotee.

A sadhu in common conversation often refers to a renounced mendicant, a person taking on a specific kind of dress, begging for a living, not accumulating possessions. There is an underlying, higher purpose. To earn a living they could get a job and become a family man. They could follow the way of everyone else, but they have chosen a different path.

There is variety even in spiritual life, and so not all saintly people behave exactly the same. Each one of us has a different set of gunas, or qualities. Some are born leaders, while others are better at handling problems in the background, using logic and reasoning. Some are better communicators, and some are better at dealing with relationships and disagreements.

In this regard not all sadhus are quiet. Some of them speak, and it is for this reason that one of the other definitions of the word is “one who cuts.” The sadhu does so with their speech, and for a specific purpose.

1. Speaking strongly

The saintly person may be known to speak strongly. The attention of the audience is required, after all. If a public speaker steps up to the microphone and is extremely shy and quiet, what will the people in attendance really learn? They are there to hear.

The sadhu in this case is not timid. They will be bold in their speech. Others need to be corrected; otherwise why even think about spiritual life? If everything is going well through chewing the chewed, looking for sense gratification in areas where there was already a little tasted, then why waste the time of someone who is on a different path and is teaching others how to find true happiness?

2. Getting to the point

No beating around the bush. No sugarcoating the message, though that is often the advisable way. It is said that if a person is speaking the truth, they should do so in a palatable way. The position of Secretary of State in the executive branch of the government exists for this very reason. Work with foreign nations, get them to do what is in your best interest, but don’t make them upset for no reason.

[Shrila Prabhupada]The sadhu is not worried about the reception. If the entire world were against the message of Divine love, it would not make a difference at the personal level. The sadhu likely heard previously from another saintly person who spoke strongly. Perhaps it was that cutting speech that turned their life around.

3. Telling others about their true identity

We are spirit soul. Each and every one of us. The idea of equality that is deeply flawed in the present implementation extends from the highest species down to the lowest. The original living entity, Lord Brahma, is the creator. From his craftsmanship, using the three modes of nature as his ingredients, result the amazing variety of species, up to 8,400,000 in number.

Consider this. Brahma is as much a spirit soul on the inside as is the tiny ant. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that the wise person sees the spiritual equality in a host of species. They understand that the cow and the dog are the same on the inside. The infant child is no different than the wise sage of adult age.

No one besides the saintly person will speak in such a way. Others may come close or find an incomplete version of this amazing truth. From this fact extends another truth: sense gratification is not worth it.

Who else will give this valuable information? Others say to chase your dream, pursue your passions. The sadhu says that passion will get you nowhere. It brings you back to the same point; all you have done is passed the time. The animal community is eating food without a problem. They don’t go to college. They don’t pray. Why are you so concerned, then?

The sadhu stays aligned with shastra and guru in stressing the importance of spiritual life, which become an urgent priority in the human form of body, where it can be practiced. Not only does such a life align with the true identity, that of spirit, but it brings all happiness. It brings real peace, which every person is seeking.

[Krishna's lotus feet]The sadhu says that in this age of Kali, known for the increase in quarrel and hypocrisy, dedicating the full day to the spiritual activities practiced in previous ages is not possible. Knowing the circumstances, the Supreme Lord made a most merciful concession. Anyone who chants His names in this age will get the same benefit received from the rigorous spiritual life of ages past. The sadhu both knows and believes this, and that is why they chant the holy names themselves and encourage others to do the same: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Whether as child in young age,

Or adult with wisdom of sage.

Same spirit soul inside,

Difference only on outside.

Abandon material rewards’ chase,

Immediately future karma erase.

Sadhu in this way strongly speaking,

Highest benefit for entire world seeking.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Glory Even Rama Wonders About

[Sugriva and Vali]“Tulsi says that with Rama’s merciful glance even someone who has no strength can become very powerful. With the enmity between Sugriva and Vali, who can tell what Hanuman did?” (Dohavali, 110)

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tulasī rāma sudī।thi teṃ nibala hota balavāna |
baira bāli sugrīva keṃ kahā kiyo hanumāna ||

The Ramayana story is well-known to those growing up in Vedic culture. The basis is the pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. He is both nirguna and saguna, but these are both from the perspective of the eyes of the conditioned soul. In the nirguna feature He is practically impossible to be identified.

“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5)

The saguna form is further evidence of God’s kripa, or mercy. That feature has identifiable attributes. You can look and point and say, “That is God.” Of course, there is an error in the statement, as the Almighty is omnipresent. He is always around, everywhere. He is within the heart of every living being as the expansion known as Supersoul.

The Ramayana is about the life and pastimes of the saguna form known as Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. His appearance is foretold, and every feature to His transcendental body indicates uniqueness, greatness, things not ordinarily found.

Then there are His amazing deeds, which are too many to count. The Vedas are said to be endless since they continue to sing the glories of the Supreme Lord.

If taken only for the story value, there is still great significance. The triumph of good over evil is always heartwarming. Even thieves, liars and cheaters expect some kind of good behavior from others. The thief expects that the property they steal will not be stolen from them later. The liars don’t like it when they are cheated by others. In the short term, to meet their own interests, they break from good behavior, but they still benefit from others following the righteous path.

In the aftermath of Rama’s victory, He has a discussion with the celebrated and powerful sage known as Agastya. Bhagavan is never alone. His close associates are always with Him, and they are ready to do amazing things. In Rama’s case there was the servant Shri Hanuman, who was unique both because of his deeds and his form. Hanuman met Rama in the forest of Kishkindha, where the monkey-king Sugriva was living in exile on Mount Rishyamukha. Hanuman, also in a monkey body, was Sugriva’s chief minister.

Later on, after many great struggles were successfully overcome, Rama wondered why Hanuman had not done more to help the situation prior to their meeting. Sugriva was in exile because his brother Vali pushed him out of the kingdom. Vali was superior in strength. There was no resolving this dispute through peaceful means.

As the great minister he is, Hanuman arranged for a friendship between Rama and Sugriva. That ultimately led to Vali’s demise and Sugriva’s reclaiming the kingdom. The weaker person became more powerful, and it was due solely to Rama’s assistance, as the Supreme Lord shot Vali in the back while the two brothers were engaged in combat.

[Sugriva and Vali]Goswami Tulsidas references this incident in his Dohavali. He asks what Hanuman did in that struggle. The meaning can be twofold. One is that Hanuman certainly brought Rama into the picture. He brought Sugriva the much-needed help, and so he should be celebrated.

The other meaning is that without Rama’s merciful glance, sudithi, the situation couldn’t be resolved. Ample evidence would arrive later on that Hanuman had amazing strength, enough to have won back the kingdom for Sugriva. But Hanuman did not intervene. He did not insert himself into the conflict.

Hanuman is so amazing that even Rama and His wife Sita take great pleasure in hearing his glories. The explanation is that Hanuman did not know about his amazing abilities until he met Rama. Prior to that he considered himself to be just a minister, not strong enough to fight an entire army singlehandedly for the benefit of Sugriva.

[Shri Hanuman]The idea is that the strength in man descends from the strongest person, Shri Rama. With His help even the weakest person can become very strong. His help is for practicing devotional service, which automatically reduces the influence of evil elements. Thus the increase in strength that is due to Rama’s mercy is beneficial for everyone involved. It is even seen that a person who had no prior willingness to work hard at anything, no focus and no direction, can suddenly chant the holy names in total bliss, with faith, attention and love, performing the best welfare activity, aided completely by their sincerity and the subsequent merciful glance of Bhagavan: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Shri Rama to Agastya to ask,

That why not for Hanuman the task.

When previously conflicting brothers,

And help not arriving from others.

Not until Supreme Lord Himself came,

That Sugriva the kingdom to reclaim.

Reason that only in God’s grace lies,

Power for own strength to realize.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Not Forgetting From Where He Came

[Sita-Rama]“When I was without Rama, I used to go from door to door begging for bits and pieces of food. Now that Rama is my helper, says Tulsi, kings worship my feet.” (Dohavali, 109)

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ghara ghara mā'ge ।tūka puni bhūpati pūje pāya |
je tulasī taba rāma binu te aba rāma sahāya ||

Forgetfulness is more common. It is but one aspect to the formidable force known as maya. This is the illusory energy pervading the material existence. In fact, the presence of maya, at least in its impact, is one of the determining factors between living spiritually and materially. Forgetfulness of the Almighty is the stated cause for the descent to the land of birth and death, the wheel of suffering that is reincarnation.

Who can remember what they ate for breakfast a week ago? Who remembers every good deed done in their favor? Who holds on to the memory of the great transgression that impacted others in a negative way, especially when now everyone only considers you to be a good person? Who remembers the terrible mistake made in that most important time, when everyone was counting on you?

It is especially easier to forget unwanted memories when the fortunes have turned. When there is elevation to a higher stature, why would a person want to go back and revisit the trouble, fear, and uncertainty of life in the past?

Goswami Tulsidas rose to the highest stature there can be, but he did not forget the past. In this verse from the Dohavali, the celebrated poet remembers how he used to beg from door to door. This was for bits and pieces of food and clothing. He wasn’t rich by any means. There was no government office responsible for his necessities. There was no safety net to fall back on.

[Goswami Tulsidas]Rejection was certainly a possibility. It is not that every person is kind and compassionate. Imagine the blow to one’s ego caused by constant rejection. Others are enjoying in their homes, while you have nothing. Who wouldn’t be a little envious?

The situation changed so dramatically for the poet that kings started to worship his feet. How did this happen? Was there reason to be overly proud? Was it something Tulsidas did? Did he start a profitable business? Was there a sudden revelation within the mind, providing so much wisdom to share with others?

The poet himself remembers the difference. He says that during the time of begging he was without Shri Rama. Since Rama became more a part of his life, there was protection offered. Rama is referred to here as sahaya, which means “helper.” It was through the Lord’s grace that the situation turned.

Moreover, that help wasn’t simply to remove poverty. It wasn’t for increasing fame. There are countless people helped by the Supreme Lord who are not famous. They may be known only to a few people, but they are protected all the same.

The help here was for fulfilling the desires of the poet, who wanted the glories of Shri Rama and His servants like Hanuman distributed and popularized throughout society. That wish was granted. The devotee is never left in complete poverty, since the goddess of fortune is there to provide whatever is needed. The wife of Shri Rama, Sita Devi, takes care of them.

[Sita-Rama]In truth, Rama was always helping Tulsidas, but the poet is too humble to state the fact. He considers that he was forgetful of the Supreme Lord in the past, resulting in the condition of having to beg. When he was singing the glories of Rama through the amazing work known as the Ramacharitamanasa, people appreciated him so much that even kings, described here as bhupati, came to worship his feet.

Even the person in the highest position in material life has something to learn from the saint in the bhakti tradition. Money and power are not everything. Without Rama’s help, maya will take hold, and through the instrument of time everything accumulated eventually vanishes. The lone exception is the favor of the Supreme Lord, who stays with the individual from life to life.

In Closing:

Ever since glories of Rama to sing,

Worshiping his feet even the kings.

Not like past from door to door,

For Tulsidas to beg no more.

Still the difference recalling,

How now the Lord helper calling.

High or tall, famous or barely known,

Bhaktas Shri Rama calling His own.