Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blanket For The Soul

Lakshmi Narasimha “…He is as radiant as the autumn moon. His left side is embraced by mother Lakshmidevi, and His form is the shelter of all opulences, both material and spiritual.” (Sri Nrsimha-kavaca-stotram)

The summer season is nice but pretty soon winter will return, bringing along its many pains and discomforts. One of the good things about winter is that it affords us the opportunity to really appreciate sleep, for we tend to sleep longer each night during the winter as opposed to the other seasons. Since we are so cold at night, our blankets provide us the comfort and warmth that we need to fall asleep fast.

It is such an enjoyable feeling to wrap ourselves in our blanket and fall asleep, knowing that we are fully protected from the cold. Since we tend to sleep longer in the winter, waking up is harder to do in the mornings because it means removing ourselves from the protection provided by our blanket. When we sleep, our mind is transferred from our gross material body to our subtle body, represented by the dreaming state. When we dream, we imagine that we really are in different surroundings and we completely forget that we actually are lying in our beds asleep.

“…this body will change. Tatha dehantara-praptih. And we have to change that body after death according to my mental condition because we have got two bodies, the subtle body and the gross body. This gross body is finished; it is no more working. Just like at night the gross body does not work. We are thinking, ‘I am sleeping.’ Sleeping means the body is so much tired, it is no more working. But your another body, which is made of mind, intelligence, and ego—subtle body—that is working. Everyone has got this experience. The subtle body takes you to another place or another condition.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Lecture, 750615SB.HON)

Along with our nice mattress and pillows, our blankets are what allow us to comfortably enter into this sleeping state, for without it the effects of the bitter cold would be augmented. The warmth of the blanket is so nice that many of us try to artificially create a cold atmosphere even in the summer through the use of air conditioners and mechanical fans, in order that they may enjoy the benefits of our blanket.

Similar to the winter, this material world is constantly providing a chill to the living entities. According to the Vedas, we are not this body, but we are actually spirit souls, aham brahmasmi. Our natural constitutional position is that of bliss and knowledge, but due to our contact with material nature, we are forced to suffer the fourfold miseries of birth, death, old age, and disease. We are always trying to adjust our material condition so that we can try to feel some sort of happiness, making plan after plan, but our efforts eventually fail. No material plan can give us true peace of mind, thus we are left to suffer. The only way for us to get out of this misery is to elevate our consciousness to a platform where we are always thinking about God.

Just as the blanket provides us protection while we sleep, the Vedas provide us protection from the ignorance brought upon by maya, God’s illusory energy that pervades the material world. The Vedas are the ancient scriptures of India originating from God Himself, passed down from time immemorial through the parampara system.

“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)

Since they contain perfect knowledge, the Vedas are the best form of protection for the soul. In the Puranas, there are many different kavachas listed, each specific to a particular form of God or one of His associates. A kavacha is a shield given in the form of a mantra. One who recites a specific kavacha with faith and reverence will enjoy the protection that it affords. One of the more famous kavachas is the “Sri Nrsimha-kavaca-stotram”.  Found in the Brahmanda Puranana, it is recited daily by many Vaishnavas.

“I shall now recite the Narasimha-kavacha, formerly spoken by Prahlada Maharaja. It is most pious, vanquishes all kinds of impediments, and provides one all protection.”

Prahlada being crowned king Lord Narasimha Deva is the half-man half-lion incarnation of Krishna that specifically came to earth to give protection to His five year old devotee Prahlada, who was being harassed by his atheistic father Hiranyakashipu. Lord Narasimha Deva removes all fears from His devotees who sincerely seek out His protection.

In this age, the easiest way to receive God’s protection is to constantly chant His holy names,

“Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”

This method may seem simplistic, but it is very effective. There is no difference between God and His name. By chanting, we are directly connecting with God, and we are asking Him to allow us to love Him. In this way, we are transporting our souls from the material world to the spiritual world.

Appreciating the benefits of our blanket requires us to be in a position where we really need it. This position is naturally provided to us by Mother Nature in the form of winter. In a similar fashion, for us to truly appreciate chanting the names of God, we must be in a position of discomfort and frustration. Luckily for us, this situation is also naturally provided to us in this current age of Kali. According to the Vedas, the time period we are currently in is known as the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Observing society, we can see that the Vedas are correct on this point. So chanting is very effective in this age, as stated by Lord Chaitanya, and it is the best way to connect with God. Doing so will give us the ultimate comfort…that of going back home, back to Godhead.