Saturday, July 25, 2009


Radha Krishna “Krishna is the cause of all causes. He is the primal cause, and He is the very form of eternal being, knowledge and bliss.” (Brahma-samhita)

Whether we are in school or working hard at our jobs, we all look forward to vacations. Vacations provide us relief from the daily grind, a way to break free from the monotony of everyday life. We just can’t wait to have some time off, where we aren’t pressured to meet deadlines or required to be at a certain place at a specific time.

When we were growing up as children attending school, the Christmas and summer breaks were the two longest vacation periods in American schools anyway. Going to school is something most kids don’t like to do, so getting to stay home, wake up later, and watch television all day brings great joy to students. Even His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the modern day Hare Krishna movement, had a dislike for school when he was a child.

“I never wanted to go to school. And my father was very kind. ‘So all right. Why you are not going to school?’ I would say, ‘I will go tomorrow.’ ‘All right.’ But my mother was very careful. Perhaps if my mother would not have been little strict, I would not have gotten any education. My father was very lenient. So she used to force me. One man would take me to school. Actually, children do not want to go to school. They want to play. Against the will of the children, he has to go to school. Then there is examination, not only going to school." (Shrila Prabhupada, Lecture, 740621.BG.GER)

Adults working full-time have fewer vacation periods, so they usually try to make better use of their time off than children do. Getaways to exotic destinations, site seeing, or visiting theme parks are some of the more popular vacation ideas. Disneyworld is the probably the world’s most famous vacation resort getaway.

“Walt Disney World Resort is the most visited and largest recreational resort in the world, containing four theme parks; two water parks; twenty-three themed hotels; and numerous shopping, dining, entertainment and recreation venues. Owned and operated by the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts segment of The Walt Disney Company, it is located southwest of Orlando, Florida. The property is often abbreviated Walt Disney World, Disney World or WDW, and is often referred to by locals as simply Disney.” (Wikipedia)

Kids especially love going there so they can see all their favor Disney characters along with riding roller coasters such as the one on Space Mountain. Adults even enjoy Disneyworld for all the sites and attractions that it offers. Planning such trips gives us something to look forward to. The opportunity to explore new places and break free from the daily routine gives us excitement. Looking forward to things is an essential part of maintaining a healthy mindset.  Staying at fancy hotels, fine dining, and relaxing on a beach are very nice activities, but wouldn’t it be better to always be on vacation? Instead of looking for ways to break out of our daily routines, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to change our daily routine to include fun activities? This may seem impossible to us, but according to the Vedic teachings, this is exactly what results from practicing devotional service.

We may not be aware of it, but we are all serving something or someone, for this is what we are born to do. We serve our family, friends, countrymen, and even our own senses. It is the natural position of the spirit soul to serve, and it is the natural position of God to be served. By practicing bhakti yoga, or devotional service, we gradually elevate ourselves to where we are in complete God consciousness. When we are always thinking about God and lovingly serving Him, then in our minds, we are always on vacation. Serving our senses may provide us temporary happiness, but service to God brings about everlasting bliss. Lord Krishna is described as having an eternally blissful body, saccidananda vigraha. He is always in bliss because His knowledge is perfect. If we dedicate our time to serving Him, then we can come in contact with that knowledge. If God is eternally blissful, then naturally anyone who comes into contact with Him will also be full of bliss and happiness.

Chanting God’s names, reading books about Him, and offering Him food are extremely fun activities. God is very nice and He takes care of us when we come to Him. Krishna’s abode is completely spiritual, and when we serve Him, we become guests in His spiritual home. He is the most hospitable host, so if we visit Him once, we will never want to leave.

Krishna Loka Theme Park Sometimes when we are on vacation, we overindulge ourselves in eating, drinking, and sleeping. Some people often joke that they need a vacation from their vacation. Unlike material activities, one never gets tired of devotional service. The expansive Vedic literature provides us the opportunity to always read stories about Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. These stories are timeless and through them, we always associate with God. So let us commence the process of devotional service and we’ll be guaranteed a spot in the greatest vacation resort, the spiritual planet of Krishnaloka.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Enough is Enough

Hanuman worshiping Sita Rama “After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)

Drug and alcohol addiction is a major problem in America and throughout the world. People become so dependent on their preferred form of intoxication that it consumes their lives. Addiction affects people from all walks of life, from the rich and the poor to the young and the old.

Curing these addictions is not an easy task. Bad habits form over a long period of time, making them very difficult to break. Depression, family pressures, and other personal problems lead people to become addicted to drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Drug rehabilitation centers have proved to be the most effective means for curing people’s dependencies. These centers provide in depth counseling and treatment to those in need, all in a comfortable yet serious environment. Celebrities such as radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and James Hetfield, lead singer of the heavy metal band Metallica, have attended these rehab centers and described how they changed their lives. The treatment providers really dig deep into the patient’s psyche to find the real reason why they are addicted to drugs. The pressures of celebrity and fame are removed and the patients are in an environment where they can be truly open about their problems. For both Limbaugh and Hetfield, the diagnosed problem revolved around the pressures of celebrity and pleasing friends and family. They both felt immense pressure to live up to their celebrity image in their personal life. Unable to please family and friends, they grew resentful and took to intoxication as a means of curing their pain.

James Hetfield The key to curing any addiction is to stop denying the problem and to completely surrender. One must admit that he has a problem before any progress can be made. Friends and family can try to intervene, but even their best efforts will bear no fruit unless and until the person is willing to come to terms with their problem. Only then can they begin the healing process.

In a similar fashion, we are all entangled in this material world, repeatedly going through the cycle of birth and death based on our karma.

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

The Vedas tell us that this human form of life is unique in that it affords us the opportunity to understand God. Having a relationship with God and learning to love Him is our only permanent way out of this material world. There are 8,400,000 different varieties of species, each having their own level of intelligence. The animals are concerned primarily with eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Where will my food come from? Where will I sleep? Who will I have sex with? After these three problems have been solved, then the animal must protect what it has. We human beings are supposed to be smarter than the animals, thus we shouldn’t try to imitate them. Instead of worrying about which restaurant to eat at, what kind of mattress to buy next, or which girl to chase after, we should be concerned with why we are here and what happens to us after we die. Now granted, eating and sleeping are required for our sustenance, but they shouldn’t be our primary concern. If we live a simple lifestyle then we will have more time to contemplate the real problems of life, they being birth, old age, disease and death.

Our main stumbling block is that most of us aren’t aware that we have a problem. The material world has that effect on us. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has created an illusory energy in this material world, which is known as maya. Maya makes us falsely think that we are all gods and that we are responsible for everything that we do and everything that happens to us. We are responsible to a small degree, because we have a minute amount of independence in controlling how our senses interact with nature. However, the results of our work are determined by karma and other people’s karma. We are not the doer.

“Eat, drink and be merry” is how the saying goes. The Declaration of Independence of the United States contains the following words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Now this is definitely true. God has surely granted us life, liberty, and the right to pursue happiness. The question that remains is how one should actually go about becoming happy. Material life means constantly hankering and lamenting. We keep making adjustments in the hopes that we will have peace of mind. Even if we are materially well off and living comfortably, that comfort will be gone at the time of death. According to the Vedic teachings, we will be forced to take another body after death, but our previously accumulated wealth doesn’t come with us.

True spiritual understanding only comes when we realize the existence of this repetitious cycle. We know for a fact that our ancestors have died and some of our relatives have even died during our lifetime. Witnessing this, we still try to pretend that we will live forever. Death is guaranteed, so we should be inquisitive to find out what happens to the soul after it leaves this body. Luckily for us, Lord Krishna, God Himself, has explained all of this in the Bhagavad-gita. If we take the time to read this wonderful book and make a sincere effort in trying to understand it, then we will surely be cured of our material disease and thus achieve everlasting happiness.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Transcending Sin

Goddess Durga praying to Narayana “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)

Lord Jesus Christ is the founder of the modern day Christian religion. As the son of God, he was a dedicated preacher of God consciousness at a time when religion was on the decline. He challenged the established practices of society and begged people to put all their faith and trust in God. A preacher of the Vaishnava mold, he was so fearless in his efforts that he even willingly accepted crucifixion and forgave those who caused his death.

Christians commonly believe that Jesus died for their sins. This is definitely true, for a bona fide preacher spreading the message of God voluntarily accepts all the risks associated with such service. A preacher has no fear of even going to hell as long as God is satisfied with the work being done. However, just because Jesus died for our sins, does it mean that we should continue to willfully commit sins? America and much of the world has descended into a sinner’s paradise. Innocent cows are slaughtered by the millions each year, babies are being aborted in the womb, gambling is becoming more and more acceptable, and intoxication is so common that there is even a growing movement to increase the number of legalized drugs. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are legal activities, though regulated, but apparently those forms of intoxication aren’t enough. There is now a growing movement to legalize marijuana sale and use. Many are already smoking it illegally under the radar of the government.

So sinful life is very common today and leaders of the major religions don’t seem to be doing much to curb it. In Christianity, the proposed solution is to have those identified as “sinners” attend confessional meeting with priests. “Forgiven me father, for I have sinned” is how these sessions are generally started. Now this is a very nice system, for we should all beg forgiveness for our sins. Thinking of God in that way, we can purify ourselves. However, we see that many people don’t even bother attending confessionals, and if they do, they go right back to sinning after the session. Thus the system hasn’t proved to be very effective. Simple forgiveness is not enough. We should mold our lives in such a way so as to stop such sinful activity.

If confessionals don’t work, then what else can be done? How do we solve the problem? The Vedas tell us that there are four primary components to sinful life: meat eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex. The regulative principles of devotional service state that one should refrain from these activities. Vedic literature also discusses various sins and means for atonement at great length. For example, if a brahmana, one who belongs to the priestly class of men, should happen to drink alcohol, it is recommended that he should force himself to drink burning hot alcohol as a means of punishment and atonement. There are many similar processes of atonement ranging from standing neck deep in cold water to fasting for days at a time, each of these relating to specific sins. These processes may represent a more potent form of sin eradication, but they still aren’t one hundred percent effective.

Lord Krishna appeared on this earth as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago. Born as the eldest son of the great king of Ayodhya, Dashratha, Rama was the heir apparent to the throne. The king had decided to hand over the kingdom to Rama, but on the day set for the installation, Dashratha was forced to change his mind due to a promise he had made to his youngest wife, Kaikeyi. Instead of being the new king, Lord Rama was ordered to live in the forest as a recluse for fourteen years. After such time had passed, He would then be allowed to return to the kingdom. Upon being given this directive, the Lord went to His palace to gather His things and inform His wife, Sita Devi, of the news. Rama told Sita to remain in the kingdom and faithfully serve the elders and the new king-to-be, Rama’s younger brother Bharata. Sita heard Rama’s request, and she immediately rejected it. She begged the Lord to take her with Him to the forest. As part of her plea, Sita confidently asserted that she was completely sinless and that the Lord should never forsake such a person.

“Do you confidently take me with you, Oh great hero. Just as the water left after drinking, you should renounce your impatience and indignation. There exists no sin in me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

Sita Rama Sita Devi was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Lord Narayana, or God. Raised in the kingdom of Maharaja Janaka, she was completely pure at heart and well versed in all the rules of propriety. However, it was not for this reason that she was sinless. Her greatest attribute was that she was completely devoted to Lord Rama, who was God Himself. From Sita’s example, we can see how one can actually transcend sinful life. Sin can never touch one who is completely devoted to God and who lovingly serves Him. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna’s final instruction to Arjuna was that he should surrender unto Him, become His devotee, and thus become free from all sinful reactions.

Sita knew all the rituals and rites pertaining to the Vedas, and she strictly followed them. However, her devotion to her husband superseded all of that. Lord Rama gave her all these reasons why she should remain at home, but Sita rejected all of them since she was completely Krishna conscious. Lord Rama eventually relented and allowed Sita to accompany Him in exile. The Lord is actually with all of us through His expansion as the Supersoul or Paramatma. Keeping our minds always fixed upon Him and connecting with the Supersoul, we will realize that God is our constant companion.

“Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.8)

From Sita Devi’s example, we learn the one and only foolproof method of transcending sin. If we take to the process of devotional service by lovingly chanting the Lord’s name, hearing stories about Him, and offering Him prayers, then we will become truly sinless and God will always be with us.

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.

Our Blog Is Now On Kindle

Our daily articles are now available for the Kindle, the wireless reading device from  Visit the Kindle Store for more details. 

Krishna's Mercy on Kindle

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The King of Kings

Lord Rama “The material defects of mistakes, illusions, cheating and sensory inefficiency do not exist in the words of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila 7.107)

Comment: What kind of God is Lord Rama if He betrayed His wife Sita by sending her to live in Valmiki’s ashrama?

Response: Lord Rama, the incarnation of God in the Treta Yuga, did indeed renounce His wife towards the end of His time on earth. The couple had ruled over Ayodhya as king and queen for many many years prior to Sita Devi being sent to live in the hermitage of Maharishi Valmiki, Rama’s great devotee and official biographer. Actions speak louder than words, and this act of the Rama’s may seem to be wrong on the surface, but we should understand that the Lord is incapable of committing mistakes.

When examining the Lord’s life and pastimes, we shouldn’t cherry pick certain incidents, while ignoring others. Rama was on earth for a long time and performed many heroic deeds, so we should study all His pastimes before we have the nerve to pass judgment. Beginning from the time prior to His advent and continuing through His last days on earth, the Lord was completely dedicating to serving the needs of His devotees. In fact, Lord Vishnu decided to come to earth in human form only at the behest of the demigods who were terrified of the Rakshasa demon Ravana. God is great and completely self-satisfied, so He has no need to do anything, but in order to please His votaries, He comes to earth from time to time to give them protection and reinstitute the principles of dharma or religiosity. Born in the line of pious kings known as the Ikshvakus, Rama was intent on maintaining the prestigious family traditions. His father was the very well respected Maharaja Dashratha of Ayodhya. Dashratha was often addressed as the “Lord of Earth”, for his fame and prowess was known throughout. In order to maintain the good name of His father, Lord Rama agreed to live in exile from the kingdom for a period of fourteen years. Dashratha had previously promised his youngest wife Kaikeyi any two boons of her choosing, so he couldn’t renege when Kaikeyi asked for Rama to be banished. The Lord was the eldest son of the king, and next in line for the throne. He easily could have thrown a hissy-fit, refusing to accept His father’s words, but He didn’t. He voluntarily accepted a renounced order of life simply to honor the good name of His father and His ancestors.

Lord Rama’s wife Sita, the most chaste and beautiful woman to ever have lived, insisted on accompanying the Lord for the duration of the exile period. Rama wanted very much to protect His wife from the dangers lurking in the woods, but she was up to the challenge, not wanting to live without her husband. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana also insisted on following Him, for he was ever attached to his elder brother. In this way, Rama allowed both of them to accompany Him simply to satisfy them and not Himself. Later on, after Sita was kidnapped by Ravana, the Lord enlisted the help of the Vanara king Sugriva. Sugriva had lost his kingdom due to a dispute with his brother Vali. Lord Rama helped Sugriva regain his throne by killing Vali while the two brothers were engaged in battle. For a kshatriya, one belonging to the warrior caste, such an action was against the proper code of conduct. An enemy shouldn’t be attacked while engaged in battle with another. Yet Rama was more than willing to break this rule so that His dependent, Sugriva, could prosper. Once again, the Lord was acting in the interest of His devotees and not Himself.

After successfully defeating Ravana and reclaiming His wife, Lord Rama lived happily as the king of Ayodhya for thousands of years alongside Sita. However, one day one of the citizens had a gripe with Rama over the fact that He took Sita back after she had lived in the house of another, that being Ravana. According to the rules of propriety, such an act was prohibited. Upon hearing this, the Lord decided to send Sita to live with Valmiki Muni in the forest. This was in no way a slight on Sita, for she was a perfect devotee and wife. Ravana was never able to touch her, for she proved her purity through a fire ordeal. However, the Lord wanted to protect the good name of His father and His ancestors, so that is why He chose the course that He did. Rama wanted to set a good example for His fellow citizens. Unlike politicians of today who feel they are above the law, kings of the past wanted to be very pious. If they set a good example, then the rest of the citizens would follow and society would be peaceful.

The true fact of the matter is that devotees can never be separated from God. As long as one constantly has the Lord on their mind, thinking about Him, praying to Him, and singing His glories, then they are always with the Lord.

“…he who is situated in knowledge of Me I consider verily to dwell in Me. Being engaged in My transcendental service, he attains Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.18)

Krishna leaving Vrindavana When Lord Krishna personally came to earth some five thousand years ago, He also had to leave His closest consort, Shrimati Radharani. Though He grew up in Vrindavana with all the other cowherd boys and girls, His duties later in life forced Him to go to Mathura and subsequently to Dvaraka, where He played the role of a king. Radharani was forced to live in separation from the Lord, but we should understand that the two are always together. God and His immediate expansions Radha, Sita, Lakshmi, etc. are always with Him and that is why they are referred to as eternal consorts. Even Lord Chaitanya renounced His wife at a very young age to take to the sannyasa order of life so that He could preach the original Hare Krishna movement throughout India. Though renounced by her husband, Vishnupriya had her mind always fixed on the lotus feet of Shri Krishna Chaitanya and in this way they were never truly separated.

Atheists and other asuras love to find fault with Lord Krishna, Rama, and other forms of God, for they themselves are reprobates by nature and view God as a threat to their sinful way of life. Though Krishna and His devotees don’t bother them at all, these atheists still take any opportunity they can get to try to tear down the established principles and traditions of dharma as enjoined in the shashtras. These demons have always been around, for in the past they took the forms of Ravana, Shishupala, Kamsa, etc. It’s up to the devotees of the Lord to stand up to these demons of today by cutting their words with our sharp logic and reason. We don’t need any fancy weaponry, for our devotion and love for God is enough to defeat this enemy. Lakshmana dedicated his whole life to serving and protecting his brother, and we should follow in His footsteps. Lord Rama is our king forever and ever, and we will always love Him and His wife Sita.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Most Romantic

Rama Darbar“If do you repair today to the forest impregnable, I shall go before you, oh Raghava, treading upon the thorns and prickly grass.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

We are all familiar with the typical storyline of romance films. A guy meets a girl and they both take a liking to each other, but there is something keeping them from being together. Sometimes the woman isn’t sure if the man is right for her and she wants more evidence that he really loves her. Sensing this, the man will go out of his way to be more romantic. Buying flowers, writing love letters, and hatching elaborate schemes are all part of the guy’s plan to win the girl over her. He woos her in hopes of sweeping her off her feet and eventually living happily ever after.

These movies typically end happily with the guy and the girl overcoming whatever obstacles were in their way. These stories usually stop here, and we don’t get to see what happens to the couple once they enter married life. As evidenced by the high divorce rate in America, real life relationships often dissolve due to disagreements and the loss of affection. The man has already chased after the girl and caught her, so he no longer feels obligated to be romantic and spontaneous. The woman misses this romantic side of her husband, and gradually starts to feel unappreciated. Feeling this way, the woman starts to wonder whether or not her husband still loves her. No one likes to love somebody and not be loved back, so this situation leads to bitterness. Bitterness leads to disagreements, which lead to full blown arguments, which can eventually lead to divorce.

Lord Rama was a special incarnation of Lord Krishna that appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago in the city of Ayodhya. He played the role of a pious prince, completely dedicated to the welfare of His dependents and well-wishers. When God comes to earth, He brings along His closest associates to help Him in the execution of His mission. Lord Rama was married to Sita Devi, the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. In the spiritual world, Lakshmi is the eternal consort of Narayana, or God, serving to His every need. More than just a wife, she is a perfect devotee who brings good fortune and wealth to all those who please her. Her intimate association with God brings her the most pleasure, thus Lord Narayana is the most fortunate and the wealthiest. As Sita Devi, Lakshmi mimicked the role she plays in the spiritual world, dedicating her life to the welfare and good fortune of her husband.

As the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha, Rama was next in line for the throne. When He reached the appropriate age, all preparations were made by Dashratha for his son’s installation. However, on the day set for Rama’s installation, the plans were suddenly changed, with Rama’s younger brother Bharata chosen to ascend the throne instead. In conjunction with this directive, the Lord was ordered to leave the kingdom and not return for fourteen years. Rama agreed to these two orders from His father, for He had no attachment to the throne nor to the worldly pleasures afforded Him in the kingdom.

After being given the order to spend fourteen years living as a homeless recluse in the forest by His father, Rama went to His beautiful and faithful wife Sita to break the bad news to her. Though having already been married for twelve years, the couple was still in love, and Rama wanted to protect her. He instructed Sita to remain in the kingdom during the exile period and not to worry about Him. He gave her a great dissertation on the duties of a wife and the dangers of forest life. Sita was raised as the most beloved daughter of King Janaka of Mithila, so she was always accustomed to living the life of a princess. Forest life was meant for the very toughest of men, those who had their senses under control, and who had no attachments to worldly comforts. Lord Rama, being God Himself, was the ultimate renunciate, so living in the forest would be no problem for Him. Yet Sita was a woman, and being of the fairer sex, she held a privileged status in society. We often hear the term “women and children first” when referring to who should be initially tended to in times of trouble. Rama’s exile to the forest was an emergency situation in their marriage, so the Lord wanted to protect His wife first.

Sita Rama Lakshmana in forestSita Devi, on the other hand, wanted no such protection. She wanted to follow the Lord to the forest, for Rama was her very life and soul. She countered His arguments on propriety with her own. In pleading with her husband, she told Him that she would walk ahead of Him in the forest and protect Him. This isn’t very surprising coming from Sita, since she was a great devotee of the Lord. Most of us initially approach God for some personal benefit.

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

On a higher level, when one becomes a devotee, he or she no longer asks things from God, but instead offers things to Him. Sita was a delicate woman not used to the hardships of forest life, but she showed that she was as tough and renounced as the greatest of yogis. Having been married for so many years, her love for Rama hadn’t dwindled a bit. It was she who was offering romantic gestures in the most difficult of times. Even later in life when she would be abandoned by Rama, she never stopped thinking of Him and loving Him. This illustrates the power of devotional service. Devotees of the God never stop loving Him and are always thinking of new ways to show their love. By always keeping their minds fixed on the lotus feet of the Lord, they are always with God and He is always with them.  Being forever engaged in Krishna’s service, one truly does live happily ever after.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Inconceivable

Krishna lifting Govardhan Hill “Just like Krishna is lifting the hill, then what is the difficulty for God to lift a hill if He is all-powerful? But as soon as they read it, that Krishna is lifting hill, they will take it as mythology. So when God shows that "I am God," that is mythology, and they imagine God. That is rascaldom. When God comes and shows His godly power, they take it as myth, mythology. And they imagine God according to your definition. Is that sanity?” (Shrila Prabhupada)

Comment: The scriptures shouldn’t be interpreted literally but should be looked at more for their inner meaning and symbolism.

Response: The Vedas, Mahabharata, and Puranas are all retellings of historical events that took place on this planet and others. Not only past events are covered, but even events that have yet to occur are discussed in detail in these wonderful books, such as the Bhavishya and Kalki Puranas. Since these books contain direct quotations from conversations between great personalities, demigods, and even God Himself, they must be taken literally. We shouldn’t try to imagine the true meaning behind someone’s quote, or even think that these events didn’t take place.

Conversations are conversations. When we talk with our friends in person, on the phone, or through email, they are exchanges of ideas and comments. Very simply put, what we say is what we say. We may go back and not like some of the things we have said, but it doesn’t mean that we didn’t say them. In the same way, the Vedic literatures have conversations between God and His associates, and also conversations between spiritual masters and their disciples. These conversations were specifically chronicled in written form for the benefit of current and future generations of man. The science of self-realization described in the original Vedas and the Vedanta-sutras can appear to be very complicated to many, for it has various aphorisms and postulates that neophytes will have trouble understanding. For this reason, the Puranas, Ramayana, and other great works contain those same teachings but told in the form of stories and conversations.

There are many instances described in the Vedic texts that may seem extraordinary to us. Lord Rama killing 14,000 Rakshasa demons all by Himself, Lord Krishna as a small child lifting a hill with just one finger, Gandhari giving birth to 100 sons…all these seem extraordinary to the common man, for we can’t fathom someone doing these things. God is great. This is the belief of people of all faiths. Yet the Vedas go one step further by trying to describe just how great He is. Of course, God’s greatness is inconceivable. His is described as paramam or Supreme because He possesses six opulences in full and simultaneously. We don’t know any single person who is the wealthiest, most beautiful, most famous, the strongest, the most knowledgeable, and the greatest renunciate at the same time. Yet Krishna possesses all of these attributes, and for this reason He is God. Just because we don’t know anyone capable of performing these great feats, we shouldn’t think that these incidents are merely fabrications of someone’s mind. These sages who composed the Vedic literature were all perfect souls. Having surrendered everything for the service of Krishna, they were given the divine vision to see all these things happen and then be able to write about them. The great Maharishi Valmiki described the events of the Ramayana before they even occurred.

Scene of Bhagavad-gita If we think that these incidents are just mythology, then we lose our ability to understand God. In actuality, we can never truly understand God for His is beyond our comprehension. However, through faithfully studying the scriptures under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, we can start to understand Him to some extent. The Lord and His spiritual master must be approached in a humble manner. We all at some point in our life have prayed to God for something. “Please God give me this, give me that, make sure my family is healthy, etc.” The understanding that God is great is something inside of us, part of our core. If we challenge Him, or start thinking that His scriptures are mere mythology, then we are cheating God. We may cheat our friends, coworkers, or enemies and be able to get away with it, but cheating God never pays. He knows and sees all, so if we cheat Him, we are only cheating ourselves. The Bhagavad-gita is probably the most famous Vedic literature, detailing the conversation that took place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra between Lord Krishna and Arjuna some five thousand years ago. There are many high scholars and philosophers who have commented on the Bhagavad-gita, all with the purpose of advancing their own opinions. Many of them have postulated that the events of the Gita actually never happened and that we should study it simply for its symbolism. The ultimate conclusion of the Gita is that people should surrender unto Krishna or God and become His devotee. The flowery language that precedes that is all meaningless unless one comes to the proper conclusion as stated by the Lord Himself. Those who extract any other meaning from the Gita are only cheating God. He has given us such a nice book for us to learn from, so we shouldn’t dishonor Him by making false conclusions.

The Vedic literature should be heard from devotees, otherwise we become prone to believing some of these false theories put forward by mental speculators and pseudo-yogis. Shukadevi Goswami, Vyasadeva, Narada Muni, etc. are all great devotees who presented these works in a mood of devotion. The various quotes and teachings found in the Vedas should also be understood in the proper context. One can pull out quotes to buttress their positions, but these statements should be understood with the full context presented at the same time. For example, there are many conversations in the Vedas where women are criticized for having various shortcomings. However, these faults don’t exist in people who are great devotees, be they men or women. The material world is full of dualities, so any mundane argument will naturally have a counterargument. There may be different teachings presented due to time and circumstance and the ability of the people at the time to grasp Vedic wisdom, but the end goal is always the same. The purpose of the Vedas is to present everything in relation to Krishna, who is the Supreme Absolute Truth. Since He is completely spiritual, mundane dualities don’t exist when discussing topics relating to Him.

It is natural that occasionally certain statements in the Vedas will rub us the wrong away. However, just because we might not agree with them at the time, doesn’t mean that the Vedas are at fault. When we were younger, our parents prohibited us from taking part in many activities. These rules and regulations angered us very much and we thought our parents were in the wrong for imposing such restrictions. However, as we got older, we not only realized that our parents were correct, but we started imposing the same rules on our children. In the same way, the Vedas represent perfect knowledge. The rules and regulations prescribed are those coming down from God Himself, so they cannot be faulty. We may disagree with them, but that is our problem, not God’s. If Krishna or one of His associates say something, we must accept it as fact.

Shrila Prabhupada The great founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, summarized all of the Vedic teachings in his numerous books and recorded lectures. One simply needs to consult his teachings in order to gain a firm grasp on the Vedic tenets. Since he was a pure devotee, his explanations and commentaries are perfect. We may not agree with everything in the beginning, but if we continue reading and stay connected with Prabhupada, then we will become perfect devotees.