Saturday, June 20, 2009

Krishna is For Everyone

Lord Krishna  Question: “How can you (Krishna’s Mercy) support a military that commits violence in order to protect a society which revolves around materialism?”


God and His teachings are for everyone. One shouldn’t make distinctions as to who is allowed to receive His message and who isn’t. We living entities are all His children and are all equally entitled to have an opportunity to serve Him.

Judging the actions of military servicemen on the material platform is a mistake. The concept of good and bad actually doesn’t exist in the spiritual realm. In actuality, any and all fruitive activity is on the same level since it has karma associated with it. Karma refers to any activity performed which has a material consequence attached to it, be it good or bad. Whether one is engaged in pious or impious works, as long as they are acting on the material plane, there really is no good or bad.

Now this doesn’t mean that we should all behave impiously. Material nature is composed of three gunas or qualities, known as goodness, passion, and ignorance. All karmic activity can be classified into one of these three categories. However, above these three modes is pure goodness, which is completely spiritual in nature. Pure goodness, known as suddha sattva, is characterized by any activity done for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna. Bhakti yoga, or devotional service, is the only good activity since it involves service to God, thus making it completely immune to the reactions of karma. This is the aim of human life, to become devotees of Krishna. One who is devoted to God and thinks of Him at the time of death, is completely absolved of all their sins and thus never returns to this material world. Krishna is by nature impartial to all living entities. He makes an exception however, for His devotees as stated in the Bhagavad-gita:

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Bg. 9.29)

The brahmanas are considered the highest class in society because they have dedicated their lives to serving God. It is the duty of the brahmanas and all devotees of Krishna to spread the message of the Lord to everyone regardless of cast, color, or creed. One’s standing in society or one’s occupation should be of no concern, since it is one’s character which determines whether or not they are fit to serve Krishna. We need only look to Vedic literature to see examples of this principle in practice.

The Bhagavad-gita, the most famous spiritual scripture in the Vedic tradition, was spoken by Lord Krishna, God Himself, to His cousin and dear friend Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Arjuna was a kshatriya by trade, meaning he was a military man whose duty it was to administer justice. The Bharata War involved a dispute between two sets of cousin brothers, the Pandavas and Kauravas, over who had the right to rule over a kingdom. Arjuna, the leading warrior on the side of the Pandava brothers, was feeling weak hearted just prior to the war’s commencement, not wanting to commit violence against family members in order to win the material comforts of a kingdom. It was Krishna who convinced him otherwise, informing him that it was the duty of a kshatriya to fight and defend his territory. Krishna did not think to Himself, “Oh this man is involved in violence simply for sense gratification, thus I must not instruct Him on the proper rules of conduct.” On the contrary, the Lord judged Arjuna based on his qualities. Arjuna was a great devotee of God and very pure hearted, and it was for this reason that the Lord viewed him as a worthy recipient of the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita.

 Arjuna bringing water for a dying BhishmaAs the war proceeded, Arjuna would end up mortally wounding the opposing army’s greatest warrior, Bhishma. Bhishma was the grandfather of both the Pandavas and Kauravas, and thus was respected by everyone. While lying on the battlefield about to die, he fixed his mind on Lord Krishna. The Lord, being all-sensing, knew this was happening, so He instructed Yudhishthira, Arjuna’s older brother, to go to Bhishma and take instruction from him on spiritual matters. On the surface, this appears very surprising. Lord Krishna served as Arjuna’s charioteer, thus He somewhat played a role in Bhishma’s defeat. As previously mentioned, the concept of good guys and bad guys didn’t apply in this situation, since Bhishma was a great devotee, who was performing His duty by fighting nobly for his side. His pure devotion to Krishna and firm grasp of Vedic teachings endeared him to the Lord. It was for this reason that though defeated in battle, Bhishma gained everlasting fame by instructing Yudhisthira on dharma and devotion to Krishna just prior to quitting his body.

Another famous example of the Lord’s mercy can be found in the Ramayana. Krishna appeared on earth as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago for the purpose of killing the evil rakshasa demon Ravana. Ravana had propitiated various demigods and was using the boons received from them to wreak havoc throughout the world and disrupt the sacrifices of the great sages. As part of his dastardly deeds, he even kidnapped Lord Rama’s wife, Sita, while the couple were serving an exile period in the forest. This gave Lord Rama the excuse he needed to march to Ravana’s kingdom and take him on in battle. Just prior to embarking for Lanka, the island where Ravana had set up his kingdom, Lord Rama’s army was Vibhishana coming to Lord Ramavisited by Vibhishana, Ravana’s younger brother. By birth both Ravana and Vibhishana were rakshasas, a race of demons evil by nature, who feast on the flesh of others, and who involve themselves in the art of black magic. Vibhishana, however, was a devotee of Lord Rama and he tried his hardest to persuade Ravana to return Sita to the Lord. After Ravana refused to listen to him, Vibhishana decided he would surrender himself unto Lord Rama and ask to join His side. When Vibhishana arrived at their camp, all the members of Rama’s army were very suspicious. They were hesitant to accept Vibhishana due to his being a rakshasa, but Lord Rama overlooked that fact. Since Rama knew him to be a great devotee, the Lord accepted him wholeheartedly, welcoming him to their side. After Lord Rama defeated and killed Ravana, He installed Vibhishana as the new king of Lanka. Thus his devotion to the Lord paid off.

When Krishna appeared on earth as Lord Chaitanya some five hundred years ago in India, His immediate expansion, Baladeva, also appeared with Him in the form of Nityananda Prabhu. Lord Chaitanya inaugurated the sankirtana movement in India, travelling throughout the country chanting the holy names of God to everyone He would meet. Nityananda Prabhu was part of His group, and one day while preaching in the street, He was attacked by two drunkard brothers named Jagai and Madhai. Madhai wanted no part in hearing about the glories of Lord Nityananda Prabhu saving Jagai and Madhai from Lord Chaitanya Krishna, so he threw a pot at Nityananda’s head, causing Him to start bleeding. Lord Chaitanya became very angry upon hearing of this incident and wanted to take out His wrath on the two brothers, but it was Nityananda Prabhu who immediately stepped in and forgave them. Taken aback by Nityananda’s kindness and mercy, the two brothers immediately changed their ways and became disciples of Lord Chaitanya.

As we can see, God is very merciful. His name, fame, and glories should be distributed to everyone. Most in society today are involved primarily in acts of sense gratification, thinking only of the demands of the body. In the United States, the military is an all-volunteer group of men and women. Deployed servicemen put their lives on the line every day in order to protect the livelihoods of their fellow citizens. Through such service, they transcend the natural attachment that people have to their own bodies and their way of life. This selflessness is a very good quality to have, since understanding that we are not this body is the first step in spiritual realization. In the Vedic tradition, the Sanskrit term aham brahmasmi, meaning “I am Brahman” or “I am a spirit soul who is part and parcel of God.”, is the first lesson taught to aspiring transcendentalists.  Our bodies are temporary, but our souls are not. The soul is eternal and never dies.

“This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same. It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.” (Lord Krishna speaking to Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita 2.24-25)

Since the brave men and women serving in the military have already risen above bodily designations, they are ideal candidates for receiving spiritual instruction. In the classic system of varnashrama dharma (the four divisions of society and time periods in one’s life recommended by the Vedas), the kshatriyas were in charge of the government and the brahmanas served as their chief advisors. This system desperately needs to be reintroduced in society, since brave warriors versed in the science of bhakti yoga would make ideal government leaders. If the government is filled with God conscious people, then the rest of society will soon follow. Hopefully through Krishna’s mercy, this ideal system can one day become a reality.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Curing the Fever

Reincarnation When we are struck with a raging fever, it seems that all hope is lost. Our body’s temperature rapidly increases and it seems that there is pain everywhere. We feel chills throughout our body and it is difficult to even get up out of bed. That’s where medicine comes in. A simple over-the-counter pain killer comes to our rescue. Shortly after taking a few pills, our body produces a burst of perspiration and our fever breaks. The fever is gone and we are no longer in discomfort.

In a similar manner, we living entities have been entwined in the raging fever known as material nature since time immemorial. We persevere through good times and bad, extreme heat and cold, happiness and distress, and victory and defeat, for these are the dualities of material nature. We are constantly looking for ways to alleviate our current pains and displeasures. At the same time, we make plans to hopefully avoid suffering these same ailments in the future. Hankering after the things we want, we lament when we don’t get them. Whatever adjustments we make, material nature always manages to foil our plans and through our karma, we are forced to accept one body after another in a perpetual cycle of birth and death known as reincarnation.

The Vedas tell us that the only permanent cure to this fever is to become God conscious. One whose mind is fixed on serving the Supreme Lord no longer is bothered by the desires of the senses. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says:

“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Bg, 18.54)

To become transcendentally situated requires practice. The best and easiest way to practice transcendental realization is to repeatedly chant God’s names in a loving way, in what is known as mantra meditation. In our everyday affairs, if we want to stay focused on a task and not let our minds be diverted, we create a mantra that we constantly recite to remind ourselves of the task at hand. In a similar manner, successfully achieving spiritual realization also requires a mantra that must be repeated. Lucky for us, the Vedas supply us with thousands of them, with the most effective one being the Maha-mantra:

"Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Ram Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare."

In this age, it is advisable to follow the prescriptions of the most respected spiritual doctor, Lord Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who advised everyone, irrespective of race, creed, gender, religion, or nationality, to constantly chant this Maha-mantra. Through chanting we come into direct contact with God, and we lose our material desires. The main symptom of a fever is the unnatural increase of the body’s internal temperature. The symptom of the fever of material nature is our constant hankering and lamenting. Just as medicine returns our body to its normal temperature, the chanting of the holy names of God returns the spirit soul to the transcendental platform, which is its natural position.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Feeding the Hungry

Krishna and friends having lunch In America today the hungry are fed through generous contributions made from citizens to various charitable institutions. The government also offers a food stamp program for the poor which is funded through taxes collected from the general population. While these programs may seem nice, they are not ideal.

The Vedas tell us that it is the responsibility of people in the grihashta ashrama to offer food in charity to others. A person’s life is divided into four stages or ashramas, they being brahmacharya (celibate student life), grihastha (householder or family life), vanaprastha (retired family life) and sannyasa (the renounced order of life). Of all these stages, only those in the grihastha ashrama are supposed to give in charity, and people in the other three stages are the recipients of said donations.

According to the Mahabharata, the primary duties of a householder are to feed the gods and to feed guests. Householders engage in fruitive activity earning money, so it is recommended for them to use the fruits of their labor toward offering food to Krishna, or God. They are also required to host as many guests as possible. Shrila Prabhupada says that prior to eating, a householder is supposed to go out in the street and ask if anybody is hungry. The needy then come over and the householder serves them.

In today’s age of Kali, we are all very suspect of each other. Married people often don’t like to invite guests over because it is a burden to them. They think, “Well, so and so never invite us over to their house, so why should we call them over to ours?” This kind of tit-for-tat mentality is not prescribed by the scriptures. In Sanskrit, such people are referred to as kripanahs, or misers. The Ebenezer Scrooge character from the classic Charles Dickens short story “A Christmas Carol” is a famous example of a miser.  Mr. Scrooge was a very unhappy and stingy businessman who paid his workers low wages and never gave money to charity. Through the miracle of Christmas and visits by three ghosts, he eventually changed his ways, but his last name is synonymous today with miserliness.

The Vedas advise everyone, especially the grihasthis, to avoid miserly behavior. A householder earns tremendous spiritual merit by hosting guests and feeding them sumptuously. A guest is to be received very warmly, offered a nice place to sit, and given sumptuous foodstuff to partake of. Householders are not supposed to eat until after the guest has finished eating. In this way, married couples purify themselves by eating the remnants of the offered food.

It is actually considered a great sin for a householder to receive a guest improperly. A famous example of this can be found in the Mahabharata. The five Pandava brothers, cousins to Lord Krishna, were serving an exile period in the forest when they were visited by Durvasa Muni, a great Brahmana who had brought a large group of fellow sages with Him. The Pandavas and their wife Drapaudi had just finished their midday meal, so there was no food available to serve their exalted guests. Fearing the wrath of the Brahmanas, Draupadi prayed to Krishna to alleviate the situation, and the Lord obliged. While the sages were bathing in a nearby river, Lord Krishna appeared at the scene and took a morsel of food that happened to still be in the serving bowl used by the Pandavas. The Lord then declared that His hunger was satisfied and miraculously the hunger of all the sages was satisfied at the same time. The sages returned from their bath and declared that they were pleased with the hospitality they received from Drapaudi, relieving her of any sin she might have incurred.

Though the ideal householder life may be difficult to implement in this age, the best thing a family can do is to become devotees of Lord Krishna and offer all their food to Him prior to eating. This prasadam should also be distributed to as many friends, family, and neighbors as possible. Through this system, there is no need for government programs or food donation charities. In this way, the householders can perform the highest service to their fellow man and satisfy society’s real hunger, the hunger for spiritual life.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Red Tape

U.S. Capital Building It seems that if you want to get anything done in today’s world, you’re forced to encounter endless bureaucracy and red-tape. Take owning a car for example. After putting in hours of practice and passing a road test to obtain a driver’s license, buying a car is another ordeal in and of itself. Aside from the actual purchase, there is insurance, registration, titles and taxes to pay for. Then once you own the car, you must re-register it at given intervals and have it inspected annually.

Whether it’s buying a car, starting a business, hiring an employee, or even travelling to foreign countries, it seems that regulation is at an all time high. There is even bureaucracy involved with obtaining contact lenses now. The government restricts people from purchasing contact lenses who haven’t had an eye exam in the past year, even if they currently wear contacts.  The need for regulation and red-tape arises from the belief that everyone is a cheater. Not just the government, but most people in society have a natural inclination to be suspicious of others. We immediately assume everyone is a suspect and is trying to cheat us, so we enact laws that try to protect ourselves from them.

The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, give us a hint as to why we are like this. They tell us that human beings possess four primary defects. We have imperfect senses, we have a tendency to be illusioned, we have a propensity to commit mistakes, and we have a tendency to cheat. Since we cheat and commit mistakes ourselves, we naturally assume that others are the same way.

Another reason we are more suspicious nowadays is because of the rise of the mode of passion, known as tamo guna. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna describes the tamo guna this way:

“The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and, on account of this, one is bound to material, fruitive activities.” (Bg, 14.7)

In this advanced technological age, there is ample opportunity for sense gratification. Once we satisfy one desire, another one invariably arises leaving us never truly satisfied. This constant craving for sense gratification leads us to lose our judgment. When we constantly crave something, we naturally don’t want others to have it, and thus we become suspicious of others, thinking that they are honing in on our territory. Waiting in line at a restaurant or retail store, we become suspicious of other people, thinking that they will try to cut is in line. This all stems from the increased mode of passion. Lord Krishna also says:

“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. As fire is covered by smoke, as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the womb, similarly, the living entity is covered by different degrees of this lust.” (Bg, 3.37-38)

The remedy for all this is very simple. We simply have to change our desires from the material to the spiritual. Our material senses can never be satisfied. It is not until we try to satisfy our spiritual senses that we will actually be happy. In this age, Lord Chaitanya instructed us that the best way of satisfying our spiritual senses to always chant:

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

When we chant the holy name of God, we forget our insatiable material desires and we gradually cleanse ourselves. Constantly placing the mind at the lotus feet of Lord Krishna, and reading about His wonderful pastimes, and picturing His beautiful face, we achieve liberation in this very life. As liberated souls, we view everyone equally, for we are all part and parcel of Lord Krishna. The tendency to cheat and be suspicious of others will be gone and we can all live peacefully.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Flag of Devotion

Arjuna and Krishna preparing for battle “The emblem of Hanuman on the flag of Arjuna is another sign of victory because Hanuman cooperated with Lord Rama in the battle between Rama and Ravana, and Lord Rama emerged victorious. Now both Rama and Hanuman were present on the chariot of Arjuna to help him. Lord Krishna is Rama Himself, and wherever Lord Rama is, His eternal servitor Hanuman and His eternal consort Sita, the goddess of fortune, are present. Therefore, Arjuna had no cause to fear any enemies whatsoever.” (Shrila Prabhupada, BG 1.20 Purport)

We find that in our material endeavors, we often invoke the name or memory of someone as a way of bringing good luck. Athletes often carry good luck charms given to them by legendary figures in their sport. They also remember the accomplishments of previous great athletes prior to having to perform. Politicians will often invoke the names of great leaders from the past when making an important speech.

These are all ways that we try to ensure success in our ventures. When entering a new field or starting a new task, it is best to consult those who have previously been able to triumph. The successful have the necessary experience and wisdom to help us achieve victory since they have gone through similar challenges. In the same way, in order to be successful in spiritual life, we must consult great devotees of the past.

To the normal person, Arjuna’s task prior to the start of the Kurukshetra War seemed to be that of a warrior trying to achieve victory for his side. In actuality, since he was following the direct orders of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his task was actually that of performing devotional service to God. Because of this, Arjuna’s chariot was decorated with a flag bearing the emblem of Lord Hanuman.

Hanuman In Lord Krishna’s previous incarnation as Lord Rama, there was a great demon named Ravana who had kidnapped Lord Rama’s wife, Sita. Hanuman, a Vanara (human-like monkey) and great devotee of Lord Rama, carried out the orders of the Lord and helped defeat Ravana and rescue Sita. Since Arjuna was also involved in a similar task of performing devotional service to the Lord, he made sure to invoke the memory of Krishna’s great devotee, Hanuman. In our normal everyday affairs, we tend to forget things that we do, services that we provide for people, and the things that others have done for us. God, on the other hand, never forgets service performed for Him. Hanuman was a pure devotee and helped the Lord, and Krishna never forgot it. He made sure that Hanuman would always be famous as a great devotee. He made sure the name of Hanuman would be synonymous with victory in devotional service.

So the lesson is that we should always remember the great devotees of the Lord and ask them for their mercy in helping us serve Krishna. Arjuna already had God acting as his charioteer, so he had no cause for concern. However, simply by remembering Hanuman, his success was guaranteed. This is God’s promise to us. By always remembering Krishna's great devotees and following the example they set forth, we will never meet defeat in our devotional service to the Lord.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Latest Feedback from Soldiers 2009-06-15


Here is some recent feedback from soldiers serving overseas who received our care packages (names withheld to protect identity of soldiers)

Dear Krishna’s Mercy,

I want to personally thank you for the package you sent
me. It was a very unexpected treat. I will tell you that I am not too
familiar with the Hindu religion, but I read the front and back covers
and I am very interested now. I will definitely read the books now to
find out more. And the cookies, the cookies are phenomenal. I realize
that it is a very special gift and I thank you very much.

Soldier In Afghanistan

Dear Krishna’s Mercy,
Thank you for the book you have sent me. It has sparked much interest in its teachings and has eased my mind greatly. I am glad to say that though some misfortune of events all is well with my group. These are hard times indeed, but hard times come and go and that is why we always look toward the future. We all appreciate your support it is what keeps us going. Thank you and God bless.

Soldier in Iraq