Saturday, October 3, 2009


Sita Rama "Those women that although having always tended by their husbands, do not regard them during the times of adversity are in this world reckoned as unchaste." (Kausalya speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 39)

Chastity is considered a very important trait in a woman, even more so than in a man. If a woman is unfaithful to her husband, she receives greater scorn and ridicule from society than a husband would for being just as unfaithful. It is no doubt a double standard, but it is a fact that the adulterous activities of men don’t have the same stigma attached to them.

In America, most fifth grade students are introduced to literature through reading classic novels, with one of them being The Scarlet Letter. The basic plot of the novel is of a woman who gives birth to a child through an adulterous relationship. She wears a scarlet cloth on her gown in the shape of an uppercase letter A, standing for adultery. In this way, she is publicly ridiculed for her unchaste act. This was quite customary during the Puritan period, as adultery was never taken lightly, for it even led to punishment by death for some. The Vedas also have a very strict definition of adultery. Up until recent times, if an unmarried woman spent a night at another man’s house, she was considered unfit for marriage. In the past, the concept of boyfriend/girlfriend didn’t exist, and if a man did have a female lover who wasn’t his wife, that woman would be considered a prostitute.

The Scarlet Letter Adultery is never looked upon favorably in any religion. The Ten Commandments list adultery as one of the prohibited acts for man. The reasoning for this is pretty straightforward. Truthfulness and honesty are considered virtues. If someone is honest towards us, we know that we can trust them. Trust and fidelity form the basis of contracts and agreements, which allow for economies to function smoothly. Trust brings security, which leads to peace of mind, which leads to happiness. Marriages and friendships are relationships where trust is of utmost importance. If you can’t trust your friends, then who can you trust? The same principle holds true with our spouse. The husband or wife is our most intimate friend, someone we spend our nights with, the person we wake up next to in the morning. If we can’t trust them, then we might as well be sleeping with an enemy. People that trust each other and honor that trust at all times, they will have unbreakable bonds, whereas others will not.

When Lord Rama, the incarnation of God in the Treta Yuga, came to earth as the son of the pious king Dashratha, He was married to a beautiful and virtuous princess named Sita. An incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, Sita Devi was completely devoted in thoughts, words, and deeds to Rama. Twelve years into a marriage which they were enjoying very much, the Lord was ordered to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya and live as a recluse wandering the forest for fourteen years. Sita Devi insisted on accompanying Him, and right before leaving, Rama’s mother Kausalya gave Sita some words of advice. The above referenced statement was a portion of her words of wisdom directed at her daughter-in-law.

The husband, Lord Rama, had hit upon hard times, so Kausalya wanted to remind Sita to stand by Him now more than ever before. Her basic point was that the chastity of a woman isn’t only determined by faithfulness relating to acts of physical love, but also by faithfulness of mind and spirit. As the saying goes, “A friend in need is a friend indeed”, the wife is the better half of the husband. In times of adversity, the husband relies on the support of the wife to get through the rough patches. For this reason, the shastras, or scriptures, declare that a wife should always support her husband no matter what, and by acting in this manner, she becomes free from all sins. Sins can be negated in one of two ways. If one acts according to one’s dharma, or duty, then all sins are nullified. The other way is to devote all of one’s activities towards pleasing God.

Lord Rama was God Himself, so by supporting her husband, Sita was transcending sin in both of the above mentioned ways. God is our original friend, someone with whom we’ve had an eternal relationship. We have come to forget about this relationship due to our contact with material nature. Becoming embodied in this world, we are forced to live by the governing qualities of goodness, passion, and ignorance. Instead of faithfully serving our Supreme Master, we have become accustomed to serving our senses, which are always pulling us in every which direction. This sort of behavior is the very definition of infidelity. God is by definition our master, and we are born to be His servants. Those honoring this relationship will bask in spiritual bliss for all of eternity, whereas others will be forced to repeat the cycle of birth and death.

Hanuman is Rama's faithful servant By chasing after material wealth and prosperity, we have become unfaithful to God. Playing the lottery, slot machines at casinos, and high stakes poker are all ways that we seek to get rich quickly. However, those who have attained wealth are still not happy, for people are always hankering after things they want, and lamenting over the things they don’t have. That is the nature of desire. We cannot become free of desires, but instead, we can shift the focus. We don’t need to artificially renounce things, for if we keep Krishna at the center of our lives, we can be engaged in all sorts of activities and still be faithful to the Lord. The great kshatriya warrior and cousin of Lord Krishna, Arjuna, fought valiantly in a war that saw millions of casualties, yet he incurred no sin since He was acting in accordance with his prescribed duties.

Sita Devi was always there for Lord Rama, no matter what the situation. She would later be kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Rama easily could have let that go, choosing to find another wife, but He instead decided to march to Ravana’s kingdom and rescue His wife. If we are faithful to God, then He will always be there for us, either in person or in spirit, through the good times and the bad.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Flourishing Society

Lord Rama "There can never be a kingdom where Rama is not the monarch. That forest where Rama will reside will flourish into a monarchy." (Sage Vashishta, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 37)

In the modern age, the most popular style of government is the democracy. People hail a system where leaders are elected directly by the population through free and fair elections. Countries such as India, the United States, and many others have all adopted this style of government, or something very similar to it.

Most people are very proud to live in democratic countries. This style of government doesn’t come easy, for in India, the great Mahatma Gandhi went to great lengths with his nonviolence movement to secure the democratic style of government. Similarly in America, the colonials started a rebellion against the British monarchy, which led to the Revolutionary War. Even recent wars have dealt primarily with the issue of democracy. Democracy is generally viewed favorably since it facilitates the natural yearning of the human spirit to be free.

The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, say that the best form of government is that which has God at its center. The Shrimad Bhagavatam advises that one shouldn’t accept the role of a leader unless they can make their dependents Krishna, or God conscious.

“One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother or a worshipable demigod.” (Rishabhadeva, Shrimad Bhagavatam 5.5.18)

In this regard, any form of government that neglects service to God, or worse, rejects the notion of a Supreme Controller, that form of government will be doomed to failure.

Mahatma Gandhi Democracy may seem very appealing, but it has serious drawbacks. Since leaders are elected by popular vote, it is very easy for a spiritually ignorant person, a shudra, to be elected to high positions. If the people are led by shudras, then they will naturally inherit the qualities of ignorance. In essence, the blind will be leading the blind. This very situation exists today throughout the world. World leaders are completely focused on the gross material body, viewing sense gratification as the highest aim in life. This then leads them to focus all their policies around this principle. As a result, taxes become very high, with wealth being forcibly taken from one group explicitly for the purpose of giving it to another. This system of legalized theft and coercion leaves everyone unhappy. The victims of higher taxation naturally have reason to be angry, and the recipients of the redistributed wealth are no better off since they are living as dependents. Even in countries where there is great economic prosperity, the citizens are still always on edge, thinking that their comfortable life may disappear at any moment. In kingdoms and dictatorships, the situation is just as bad. Again, shudras run the government, this time forcibly imposing their will upon everyone. The citizens live in constant fear of the iron fist of government.

When Lord Krishna incarnated on earth as Lord Rama, He agreed to spend fourteen years in the forest as an exile from His kingdom of Ayodhya, which was ruled by His father Maharaja Dashratha. Rama was given the order to leave by Dashratha, which then led to an uproar amongst the citizens. The events took place during the Treta Yuga, when society in general, was very pious. They all recognized Rama to be someone very special, so they were greatly distraught upon hearing of His plight. Vashishta, Dashratha’s royal priest, declared that there would not be a kingdom if Rama were to leave. He declared that wherever Rama would go, that’s where the kingdom would be.

Vashishta is a very famous sage, so when He speaks, people should listen. Rama was God Himself, so naturally there will always be peace and prosperity wherever He goes. This notion held true as Rama traveled the forest with His wife Sita and younger brother Lakshmana. The trio travelled throughout India in their fourteen years in the forest, visiting hermitages of great sages. One sage after another declared that their penances and austerities had borne fruit since they were able to have darshana of the Lord. A pious brahmana or sage has their mind always fixed on God’s lotus feet. They devote their lives to performing tapasya, or voluntary austerities aimed at making spiritual advancement. For the great sages living in the forest, their service to the Lord didn’t go in vain, as they got to receive Rama personally as their guest in their homes. Forest life is meant for the wild beasts and other animals. Civilized people live in kingdoms or in areas with organized governments. Yet since Rama was in the forest, the real kingdom was with Him.

Rama giving His sandals to Bharata The lesson we should take away is that a particular style of government isn’t so important. Whether we live in a democracy or a monarchy, the key is to always be thinking of God, chanting His glories, reading books about Him, and offering Him our prayers. If a leader can follow this path, then his citizens will always be happy. Rama means “one who gives pleasure” and the Lord did just that wherever He went during His time on earth. Vashishta wasn’t able to convince the Lord to change His mind about living in the forest. The great sage and the rest of the citizens of Ayodhya would have to deal with separation from the Lord for fourteen years. Luckily for them, Rama’s younger Bharata ruled the kingdom during that time with great reverence for Rama. So even in God’s absence, the people were always thinking of God, dedicating their lives to serving Him, and for this reason the kingdom remained intact. Though the Lord isn’t physically present before us today, He has kindly appeared in the form of His holy name. There is actually no difference between God and His name, so if we always chant it in a loving manner, we can have direct association with Him.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Hand of Fate

Krishna threatening to attack Bhishma “The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.32)

Horoscopes have fascinated people since time immemorial. A horoscope is a forecast of events yet to happen, conclusions based on the positioning of planets and stars at any given moment. Horoscopes are provided by those claiming to be well versed in astrology. Astrologers give different readings based on when a person was born. The popularity of horoscopes makes astrology a very lucrative business, thus nowadays newspapers, blogs, and even psychic specialists also provide these readings.

Regardless of one’s intelligence or knowledge of spiritual matters, everyone innately has an understanding that we living entities are not the controllers of our destiny. We spend every day trying to forget this fact, thinking that we are the doers and are responsible for our actions. We thus feel entitled to enjoy the fruits of our labor. However, from time to time many of us become enchanted with the concept of fate; the idea that there is a higher power controlling our events and determining what happens to us. Most everyone has some desire to look into the future and horoscopes are one way of satisfying these desires.

Objectively speaking, we should all be happy just living our lives and letting the events play out. Nevertheless, pure material sense enjoyment always leaves us wanting more, so we become bewildered as to what our purpose in life is. What we are really lacking is spiritual enjoyment, and psychic readings and personalized horoscopes give us hope that maybe there is a higher power that has the answers to all of our questions.

The Vedas are the ancient scriptures of India that were originally passed down through oral tradition and later put into written form. Veda means “knowledge” and the Vedas contain perfect knowledge about God and the soul. Though generally associated as a religious doctrine, the Vedas also contain knowledge on all relevant material subjects, ranging from music to astrology. The science of astrology originated from the Vedas. All the planets and stars are created by God and their positioning and alignment portend different events in the future. When reading Vedic literature, one will often find references to good and bad omens which are based on the positioning of the stars at any given time.

Palmistry Along with astronomy and astrology, the Vedas also gave us the ancient art of palmistry. Palmistry is another discipline practiced for millions of years that aims to tell the future of a person based on the lines and bumps contained on the palms of the hands. Palm readings are considered perfect when done by those well acquainted with the art.

Lord Krishna, considered the Supreme Personality of Godhead by the Vedas, expanded Himself into a human form as Lord Rama many thousands of years ago in the town of Ayodhya in India. Playing the role of the perfect prince who strictly abided by the laws of dharma, Lord Rama was loved and adored by all in the kingdom. Maharaja Dashratha, Rama’s father and king of Ayodhya, decided he would install his son as his heir. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, Rama was instead ordered to live in the forest for fourteen years, allowing His younger brother Bharata to ascend the throne. Lord Rama, being the ultimate renunciate, had no problem with this order, but He was worried what His wife would think.

“I have heard this (that I shall live in the forest) from the brahmanas versed in palmistry, and I have all along been anxious.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

Sita Devi, the Goddess of Fortune incarnated in human form, was married to Rama at the time, and she was completely devoted to Him. Upon hearing the news, Sita desperately wanted to accompany her husband to the forest. Subsisting on fruits and roots and living amongst the wild animals, forest life was considered suitable for only the best of yogis. Sita had been accustomed to the life of a princess from her very birth and thus Rama wanted to shield her from the dangers of forest life. Sita was very resilient though, and she put forth a series of arguments to Rama in favor of her going. One point she made was that while she was growing up in her father’s kingdom, palm readers had foretold that she would and should one day live in the forest.

Sita Devi Sita was raised in the kingdom of Maharaja Janaka, a very famous and pious king, well respected throughout the world, who ruled over Mithila. According to Vedic culture, a king’s primary duty is to provide protection to all of society, but especially to the brahmanas, the priestly class of society. Brahmanas aren’t typically involved in fruitive activity, thus they live off the charity of others. In exchange for that charity, they teach the other members of society about the Vedas and they perform sacrifices and other penances in order to help society at large. In the Vedic times, it was customary for a king to maintain many brahmanas in his court, serving as a group he could rely on for counsel. Also in the Vedic culture, it is typical for brahmanas to perform astrological and palm readings for children when they are young. It is a sign of etiquette and a way of giving the parents a peek into the child’s future. When Lord Krishna took birth on earth five thousand years ago, He spent His infant years in the town of Vrindavana, living with His foster parents, Nanda Maharaja and Yashoda. In Vedic culture, newborns aren’t named until a brahmana has come to see the child to study its past and future. For Lord Krishna, the famous sage Garga Muni performed these tasks. By reading the child, He was immediately able to tell about Lord Krishna’s previous lives, which were in fact His different incarnations, and he was able to foretell the events of Lord Krishna’s adult life.

Based on Sita Devi’s statements, we can understand that life in Janaka’s kingdom was no different, and that brahmanas performed such readings for his most precious daughter. Sita, being God’s original wife, didn’t take birth in the usual way from a mother and father. She instead was born from Bhumi Devi, Goddess Earth, and was found by Janaka one day while he was ploughing a field. Immediately enchanted by the young child, Janaka raised her as his very own and she was his prized possession. So it is not surprising that he would have an expert palm reader attempt to tell her future. Unlike today’s watered down version of astrology filled with charlatans and cheaters, the palmistry readings of the brahmanas during Vedic times were perfect. Since the Vedas represent perfect knowledge and the highest authority, any conclusions based off its teachings are by nature perfect.

Sita Devi made sure to mention this fact to Lord Rama. The Lord, being the origin of the Vedas, knew very well just how accurate Sita’s palm reading must have been, thus confirming the fact that her fate was already set. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna took on the role of a spiritual master to His cousin Arjuna, who was hesitant to fight for fear of killing cousins and other relatives. The Lord explained to Arjuna that fate had already decided that all those family members would die in battle, and that Arjuna shouldn’t be affected by things that have already happened.

Lord Rama In a similar fashion, Sita was trying to convey to Rama that fate had already decided that she would live in the forest, and that it would not be be proper for the Lord to go against such fate. This represents one of the central teachings of Vedic philosophy. Because we have a minute amount of independence in this material world, we falsely think that we are the doers. This however, is not the fact.

“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bg 3.27)

Knowing this fact is one thing, but practically applying it is another. Being armed with such knowledge, we should refrain from being overjoyed at our good fortune. At the same time, we shouldn’t overly lament at our bad fortune. Our future may be bright or bleak, but our mind should always be steady and focused on serving God. This can be achieved by taking up the process of bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Sita Devi, by pretending to remind Lord Rama of these principles through her conversation with Him, was reminding us that she is God’s perfect devotee, and a role model for us all.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

High Class Respect

Rama Lakshmana and Sita in exile "No brahmana will dwell in your dominion; such is the ungracious deed you are going to do.” (Sumantra speaking to Kaikeyi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 35)

In the classical Vedic system of varnashrama dharma, society is to be divided into the four varnas of brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas, and shudras. The brahmanas are the priestly class of men, thus they occupy the top post in this system. Since they dedicate their lives to studying about God and serving Him, they are held in the highest esteem. Their functions include officiating sacrifices, studying the Vedas, and preaching the glories of the Lord to the rest of society.

Since we are all born with different qualities due to our past karma, not all of us can have the same level of intelligence and piety. Some people will be more pious than others, just as some people are stronger than others. Through the varnashrama system, it isn’t required that everyone become brahmanas, for only a small portion of society need be in the mode of goodness. Material life is governed by three gunas or qualities (goodness, passion, and ignorance). Brahmanas live in the mode of goodness, and this is why they are given so much respect. Just as a university professor can teach classes of up to five hundred students, a single brahmana can properly instruct many people on all aspects of life. For this reason, society only needs to have a few bona fide brahmanas occupying high positions in order for there to be peace and prosperity. In the ancient Vedic times, the government was run by kshatriyas, or the warrior class of men. Since kshatriyas generally live in the mode of passion, they relied on the advice and consent of brahmanas in their governance. Every king kept at least one royal priest who was consulted on all matters. The brahmanas were so highly respected that the kings would always follow their advice without question. Through this system, the rest of society functioned properly, as everyone was well acquainted with dharma, or religiosity.

Lord Rama When God incarnated on earth in the form of Lord Rama, He appeared as the son of the great King Dashratha of Ayodhya. Rama was the eldest son, so He was next in line to be king; however He was passed over in favor of His younger half-brother Bharata. Dashratha’s youngest wife, Kaikeyi, who was also Bharata’s mother, insisted that her son be the new king and that Rama be forced to live in the forest for fourteen years. Dashratha had been aided by Kaikeyi on a previous occasion, which prompted him to offer her any two boons of her choosing. Kaikeyi waited for an opportune moment to cash these favors in, which the king was then forced to oblige. The kshatriya code of conduct states that a king must always adhere to his word, otherwise chaos will ensue in society. It is quite common for politicians to lie today, but kshatriya kings refrained from such behavior, for they didn’t want the rest of society to take up dishonesty as a way of life.

Rama was the most beloved of all people in Ayodhya. Everyone wanted Him to be the new king. When they heard of the exile punishment, they become very angry. Sumantra, the charioteer of the royal family, in the above referenced quote chastised Kaikeyi for her wicked ways. He warned her that no brahmana would want to live in a kingdom which forsakes Rama, or God. This was meant to instill fear in her, for a kingdom lacking brahmanas was surely destined to fail. Rama was God Himself, so naturally the brahmanas wouldn’t be happy seeing Him treated in such a way. They dedicate their whole lives to serving Him. Most of us are involved in fruitive activity, seeking after wealth, fame, a beautiful wife, and a happy family life. Brahmanas forsake all of those things in favor of humbly offering their obeissances day and night to the Supreme Lord Krishna. They would rather leave than stay in a place where God isn’t respected.

In today’s society, true bona fide brahmanas are very hard to find. As predicted by Markandeya Rishi in the Mahabharata, this age of Kali has caused society to become topsy-turvy. The shudras, those who are untrained in any Vedic discipline, function as the leaders of society, whereas the priestly class of men is shunned. Things are so backwards now that the religious leaders have lowered themselves from their exalted position. They are now reduced to paying homage to those in society who lack even the basic fundamental understanding of the Vedas and God.

A recent example was seen with Notre Dame University and U.S. President Barrack Obama. Notre Dame is a Catholic university, famous for its high ethical standards. Yet they recently presented President Obama with an honorary doctorate degree. Now these sorts of things happen quite often these days. Colleges invite well-known celebrities to their campuses to give speeches, and they honor them with honorary degrees. This case was noteworthy since President Obama is strongly pro-choice, meaning he supports a person’s right to choose to kill an unborn child in the womb. The Vedas prescribe that all innocent life should be protected, not only those of humans. Go-raksha, or cow protection, is the principle duty of the vaishyas, the third varna. Vaishyas are the equivalent of today’s capitalists, so we can see that even the lower classes are given great responsibilities which they must uphold. Cow protection is a must, to say nothing of unborn children.

Obama at Notre Dame Notre Dame University, supposedly a religious institution, had no problem honoring a person who held views so contrary to the basic doctrine of all religions and human decency. It must be noted that President Obama is definitely not the only politician to hold the pro-choice view on abortion. Even amongst those politicians who are staunchly against abortion, a majority of them still turn a blind eye to the horrific practice of sending innocent cows to the slaughterhouse by the millions each year.

Most of today’s political leaders aren’t very God conscious. That lack of respect for God has trickled down to the rest of society as well. For this reason, in this age there is only one dharma for everyone to follow and that is the chanting of the holy name of God: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Our leaders may not be teaching us about God, but if we constantly chant His name, we can be in direct contact with Him. Krishna is the original name of God, meaning “all-attractive”. Anyone, be they a Christian, Jew, Hindu, or Muslim, can chant His name and derive the same spiritual benefit. There is no difference between God and His name, so if we all practice saying His name on a regular basis, we can again create an atmosphere where He is respected. Such a situation will make everyone happy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Making It Work

Shiva and Parvati with son Ganesha “The relationship between husband and wife is firmly established when the wife is faithful and the husband sincere. Then even if the wife, being weaker, is unable to execute devotional service with her husband, if she is chaste and sincere she shares half of her husband's activities.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.19.18 Purport)

Along with releasing countless books each year, many famous marriage counselors appear on various television talk shows offering their services on how to fix problems in relationships. Each “expert” has their own specific theory on how to make a marriage work, but herein Prabhupada provides the definitive guide for all married couples to follow. Any advice or conclusion that deviates from these principles will inevitably lead to unhappiness and failure in a marriage.

The modern day definition of marriage is quite skewed from its original purpose. In most of the world today, men and women are free to intermingle. Even in the most traditional of countries such as India, many men and women are taking to dating before getting married. Indian marriages aren’t always of the arranged variety anymore. The concept of boyfriend and girlfriend is steadily engrained in the Western culture. Young children, even as young as twelve and thirteen years old, take to dating. As they get older and their relationships mature, it is usually the women who want to get married and have a secure lifestyle, while the men dread the idea of being tied down. Eventually, the institution of marriage is entered into as a mere formality, more of a legal definition than anything else. Many couples today even cohabitate for many years before getting married as a way of safeguarding any potential problems that might arise later on. Since these relationships are all based on the need for companionship and the satisfaction of sex desires, they tend to deteriorate after marriage. As the saying goes “Familiarity breeds contempt”, so the lifelong commitment of staying true to one person who you see day in and day out, leads people to have disagreements. These disagreements lead to anger, resentment and even hatred. The situation gets so bad that many relationships dissolve through the divorce process. In essence, the marriage ends up being nothing more than a piece of paper issued by the government.

Marriage of Sita and Rama The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, give us a completely different definition of the marriage system. We are all spirit souls at our core, but we have somehow or other been placed in this material world, forced to repeatedly accept new bodies after giving up our current ones. This is all due to karma, or our desires. The strongest desire in the material world is for kama, or sense gratification, and more specifically, sex desire. God is very kind and fair, and if we desire to have sex, he facilitates that desire by allowing us to take birth in the material world. Since sex desire is so strong, He put in place a system whereby man can control it. This system is known as marriage. As soon as a boy reaches the age of puberty, if he has a desire for family life, he is to be married immediately with a suitable girl. In this way, sex life is allowed, but in a regulated manner, only with one’s wife. There is no chasing after the love of your life, or wooing women that you fall in love with it. Marriages are arranged by parents, who compare the qualities of their children, their ancestral backgrounds, and their astrological charts.

If sex desire is curbed, people can focus clearly on the real mission of life, service to Krishna, or God. If one is sincere in their service, then after this life, they no longer have to take birth in this material world.

“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.6)

The husband and wife should perform this service together if possible, by rising early in the morning and performing puja of the deity, and chanting the Lord’s name. By preparing nice foodstuffs to be offered to the Lord, and partaking of the prasadam, husbands and wives can become completely purified, and free of all sins. However, it is not always possible for both husband and wife to be purely God conscious. Not to worry though, as the Vedas declare that the husband and wife share equally in each other’s spiritual merits. So it is only required that one person be purely Krishna conscious. It is then the duty of the other person to make sure that this service is performed peacefully and regularly. In this way, the spiritual success of both parties is guaranteed.

Goswami Tulsidas There are two notable examples in this regard. Goswami Tulsidas, the great saint and poet, was married and very attached to his wife in his younger days. She once left home to visit her parents without telling Tulsidas. He couldn’t bear the separation so he travelled through a storm just to see her. She couldn’t believe the extraordinary steps he took, so she chastised him for not having the same devotion to Lord Rama. From that point on, he took to the renounced order of life, known as sannyasa. The world was better off for it since Tulsidas went on to author such classics as the Ramacharitamanasa and Hanuman Chalisa.

His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada had similar problems in his married life. His wife angered him so much that he also left home and took to sannyasa. It was only after retiring from family life that Prabhupada was really able to focus all his efforts on spreading Krishna conscious all over the world, especially in the Western speaking countries. He eventually founded the modern day Hare Krishna movement and also went on to author many books. In both these situations, we see that the wives weren’t perfectly Krishna conscious, yet they achieved the highest result in life since their husbands were pure souls.

To have a successful marriage today, one need only follow the examples set forth in Vedas. Lord Rama and His wife Sita had the perfect marriage, as did Savitri and Satyavana, and also Lord Shiva and Parvati. The Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, and Ramayana detail examples of great marriages that we can all learn from. Above anything else, the best relationship one can have is with Krishna. Regardless of one’s position in life, whether in a marriage, living with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even living alone, following the system of devotional service is the only means of achieving true happiness. If one can have a pure loving relationship with Krishna, then all other relationships will be benefitted.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Sita Rama “Besides, I heard before, O you of great intelligence, in my paternal house from the brahmanas, that I should live in the forest.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

The United States of America is governed by its founding document, the Constitution, which calls for three branches of government: the legislative, executive and judicial. The legislature consists of representatives elected by the people in the various states through popular vote elections. The President is elected through the Electoral College system, which is based on the popular votes accumulated in each state. Members of the judiciary are nominated by the President and approved by the Senate, the upper house of the legislature. Congressmen and presidents sometimes overstep their bounds and go against the directives of the Constitution, and thus the responsibility falls on the judiciary, headed by the Supreme Court, to keep the other two branches in check and to ensure that the principles set forth in the Constitution are not violated.

Naturally in any free society, citizens are allowed to redress grievances against the government through the court system. Starting with local courts, cases make their way through the legal system, sometimes ascending all the way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court only deals with cases where the constitutionality of laws is in question. These cases are argued by the best lawyers in the country in front of the nine justices that make up the court. Aside from referencing the actual text of the laws in question, it has become a common practice for jurists to cite previous case law to buttress their position. For example, the Supreme Court decided in the 1970s to sanction the practice of abortion through a decision in the famous Roe v. Wade case. The text of the Constitution makes no direct reference to the issue of abortion, so lawyers and judges on lower courts often use the Roe v. Wade decision to substantiate their position. There is even a widely accepted practice, known as the stare decisis principle, whereby lower courts are obligated to abide by the precedent set by higher courts pertaining to similar cases.

Supreme Court The idea behind such principles is that the rulings of a court, especially those of the Supreme Court, are the “law of the land”, meaning they are the final word on an issue and everyone is thus obligated to abide by such dictums. Supreme Court justices are perceived to be the most learned legal scholars, thus their opinions are treated with the utmost respect. Previous rulings of the courts are rarely overturned due to this principle. The best lawyers are those that can cite greater amounts of case law in their favor than their opponents. Precedent represents authority, authority equates to respect, and respect leads to victory in an argument.

Sita Devi was the incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune and husband of Lord Narayana. She was married to Lord Rama, who was God Himself incarnated on earth to play the role of a pious prince. Lord Rama was so much loved and adored by the people in His kingdom of Ayodhya that the presiding king, Dashratha, who was Rama’s father, had decided to install the Lord as his successor. Unfortunately, when the time for the installation came, Dashratha was forced to change course due to a promise he had made to his youngest wife Kaikeyi. Instead of becoming the new king, the Lord was ordered to live in exile for fourteen years, roaming the forest as a recluse subsisting only on fruits and roots. Lord Rama was dedicated to protecting the good name of His father, so He naturally accepted such a punishment without any qualms. He was worried how His wife Sita would handle the news, so He gently explained to her what happened, and He begged her to remain in the kingdom for the duration of the exile period. Sita Devi, being the perfect devotee and original energy of God, flat out rejected such a request, and she in turn put forth a series of arguments designed to persuade the Lord to allow her to accompany Him.

Sita RamaJust as a good constitutional lawyer would cite extensive case evidence, Sita cited the precedent set by the brahmanas of her father’s kingdom. Sita was raised in the kingdom of Maharaja Janaka of Mithila, one the most pious and respected kings in the history of the world. As any other good king during Vedic times, Janaka kept a group of brahmanas in his court, whom he would go to for advice on any and all matters pertaining to the kingdom. Sita was raised as the prized princess of Mithila, thus she was afforded all the luxuries and privileges associated with royal life. As evidenced by her pious nature and vast knowledge of the rules of propriety, she had listened very attentively to the instructions given by the brahmans in Janaka’s court throughout her upbringing. As part of her speech to Rama, she mentioned that the brahmanas had hinted that she was meant for living in the forest. Forest life is very austere and is considered suitable for only wild animals, beasts, and men who have all of their senses under control. Civilized material life means sense gratification, but material amenities are very hard to come by in the woods. Even today, a common recreational activity is the camping trip, where people are forced to “rough it” in the outdoors. Even many thousands of years ago when technology wasn’t so advanced, forest life was still considered very rough compared to city life. Yet the brahmanas knew how perfect Sita was in all respects, and it was for this reason that they hinted that she would have no trouble surviving in the forest.

Sita made reference to the statement of the brahamanas as a means of substantiating her position. Brahmanas are considered the most respected members of society because they belong to the priestly class, meaning they are completely dedicated to God. In the traditional Vedic system, brahmanas weren’t involved in fruitive work, but were instead focused completely on spiritual activities. Since they generally didn’t earn any type of salary, they lived off the charity supplied by the other members of society. Living a very austere life, their senses were completely under control, and they served as the teachers to the rest of society. Brahmanas were the principal authority, and Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has boldly declared His love and respect for them.

Durvasa Muni There are many historical examples of the Lord showing His love for the brahmanas, and one of them is related in the Mahabharata. When Lord Krishna appeared on this earth some five thousand years ago, His principle wife was Rukmini Devi. Rukmini was also an expansion of Goddess Lakshmi, so in essence she was the same Sita Devi, but just in a different form. While living together in householder life, the great sage Durvasa Muni came to visit them. According to the Vedic injunctions, a grihashi, or one in the householder stage of life, is required to be extremely hospitable to his guests, even if they be an enemy. In fact, the primary duties of a householder are to feed God by offering Him food, and then to feed the prasadam to guests. Only after all the guests have eaten are householders allowed to take any food, and that only whatever is left over. Durvasa wanted to test just how hospitable Lord Krishna and Rukmini Devi were, and thus he proceeded to be the most demanding of guests. Durvasa broke many precious objects in the house, made unreasonable demands for food, and even made Krishna smear food all over His body. Both the husband and wife gladly obliged all his requests, and for this, Durvasa was most pleased and gave them both great benedictions.

Through her arguments, Sita Devi proved to be the most expert of lawyers. She knew that God treats everyone neutrally in general, but that He makes special exceptions for His devotees. Pure brahmanas are Krishna’s greatest devotees, thus Sita knew that He was dedicated to their welfare. The brahmanas are known for speaking the truth. If Lord Rama had prevented Sita from coming with Him to the forest, then the word of the brahmanas in Janaka’s court would have proved to be false. God is the most famous and celebrated person in history, but He also takes special care to enhance the fame and prestige of His devotees. The words of the brahmanas would prove true, Sita would accompany the Lord to the forest, and thus precedent was maintained.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dussehra 2009

Battle against Ravana “‘Listen’, said Vibhishana, ‘O omniscient sovereign of all creation animate and inanimate, protector of the suppliant, delight of the gods and sages! In the depth of Ravana’s navel there lies a pool of nectar, by virtue of which, my Lord, his life is preserved.’” (Vibhishana speaking to Lord Rama, Ramacharitamansa)

Dussehra is the anniversary celebration of Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana. God personally comes to earth from time to time in order to deliver the pious and punish the miscreants.

As Rama, the Lord incarnated as a pious prince, the son of the king of Ayodhya. Exiled to the forest at the order of His father, Rama suffered an even greater calamity with the kidnapping of his wife Sita by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Along with His army of Vanaras, headed by Hanuman, the Lord and His brother Lakshmana marched to Ravana’s city of Lanka to rescue Sita. After days of fighting, Ravana was finally defeated and killed by Rama’s arrows. This auspicious occasion, marking the triumph and victory of God, has been celebrated ever since.

Due to the effects of the Kali Yuga, many people have abstracted the significance of Dussehra. It is celebrated almost as a secular holiday, with people taking it to be a victory of good over evil. Ravana was undoubtedly bad, and Rama certainly was good, but the Lord’s victory signifies something even greater. God is generally neutral towards all living entities as He declares in the Bhagavad-gita:

“No one is envied by Me, neither am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all; yet whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me; and I am a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita 9.29)

He makes an exception for His devotees. If someone harms them or gets in the way of their service to God, the Lord sends one of His bona representatives to alleviate the situation. In special circumstances, the Lord personally comes Himself to fix things.

“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.” (Bg. 4.8)

This was the case many thousands of years ago when the Rakshasa demon Ravana was busy amassing power and harassing the great sages of the world. Below is an excerpt from the Ramacharitamanasa, detailing the events of the final battle between Rama and Ravana. The fighting was going on for a while, with Ravana being steadily barraged by Rama’s arrows. Yet somehow Ravana still remained alive, with his arms continuously growing back even after being repeatedly cut off:

“Meanwhile, Ravana awoke from his swoon at midnight and began to rage and fume against his charioteer. ‘Fool, to have brought me away from the battlefield! Curses, curses on you, you vile dullard!’ The charioteer clasped Ravana’s feet and endeavored to soothe his anger. At daybreak Ravana mounted his car and sallied forth again.

When they heard of Ravana’s approach, the monkey ranks were wildly agitated. Rooting up mountains and trees wherever they could find them, the mighty warriors rushed to the fray, gnashing their teeth. The fierce monkeys and formidable bears rushed on with mountains in their hands, which they hurled forth with the utmost fury.

Hanuman hurling a rock The demons, who were unable to resist the onslaught, took to their heels. Having thus humbled the enemy ranks into the dust, the valiant monkeys then closed around Ravana, and buffeting him on every side and tearing his body with their claws, utterly discomfited him.

When he saw the overwhelming might of the monkeys, Ravana took thought and becoming invisible in the twinkling of an eye shed abroad a magic illusion. As he let loose his illusive power, terrible beings came into view: goblins, ghosts and ghouls with bows and arrows in their hands; witches, grasping swords in one hand and human skulls in the other, from which they drank draughts of fresh blood, danced and sang their many songs. They uttered horrible cries of ‘Seize and kill!’ which re-echoed all around. With their mouths wide open, they rushed on to devour the monkeys, who then took to flight.

But wherever they turned in their flight, they saw a blazing fire. When the monkeys and the bears were thus at a loss, Ravana began pouring on them a shower of sand. Having thus broken the spirit of the monkeys on all sides, Ravana of the ten heads roared again, and all the stalwarts, including Lakshmana and Sugriva, lost consciousness. The warriors, most valiant in arms, wrung their hands, crying ‘Alas, O Rama! O Raghunatha, alas!’ Having thus crushed the might of all, Ravana wrought another illusion.

He made appear a host of Hanumans, who rushed forward with rocks in their hands and girt Rama with their encircling thousands. With uplifted tails and gnashing teeth they shouted, ‘Kill him! Seize him! Don’t let him go!’ Their tails looking beautiful massed on every side, and the Lord of Kosala stood in their midst.

In the midst of those tails the beauteous, dark-hued body of the King of Kosala shone forth as resplendent as a lofty tamala tree girt with a magnificent ring of multitudinous rainbows. When they looked on the Lord, the gods experienced mingled feelings of joy and sorrow and raised the cries of ‘Victory! Victory! Victory!’ Then Raghubira’s wrath swelled, and with a single shaft he instantly dispelled the delusion.

The delusion having vanished, the monkeys and the bears in exultant joy returned to the fray with trees and rocks in their hands. Rama shot forth a volley of arrows, which once more cut off Ravana’s arms and heads to the ground. If hundreds of Sheshas and Sharadas, Vedas and bards were to hymn through countless eons the story of Rama’s battle with Ravana, yet would they never come to the end of it.

The dull-witted Tulsidas has told something of the wonders of their exploits, much as a fly mounts up into heaven in accordance with the capacity it possesses. Though his heads and arms were struck off again and again, the valiant lord of Lanka did not die. It was simply a pastime for the Lord, but gods, adepts and sages were distracted at the sight of his suffering. No sooner were the heads severed than a fresh crop sprang up anew like covetousness, which increases with every gain. For all his toll the enemy would not die. Then Rama looked towards Vibhishana.

Rama and Lakshmana fighting Ravana O Uma (This story is being told by Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati, who is also known as Uma), the Lord whose will causes the death of Death himself, tested the devotion of his servant. ‘Listen’, said Vibhishana, ‘O omniscient sovereign of all creation animate and inanimate, protector of the suppliant, delight of the gods and sages! In the depth of Ravana’s navel there lies a pool of nectar, by virtue of which, my Lord, his life is preserved.’ On hearing such words uttered by Vibhishana, the gracious Raghunatha was pleased and grasped his fierce arrows.

Many evil omens then began to manifest themselves. Numbers of donkeys, jackals and dogs set up a howling; birds screamed and portended universal calamity, and comets were seen in every quarter of the sky. Fierce flames broke out in all the ten quarters, and though there was no new moon, a solar eclipse occurred. Mandodari’s (Ravana’s wife) heart beat wildly and idols shed tears from their eyes. Idols wept, thunderbolts fell from heaven, furious winds blew, the earth reeled, clouds dropped blood and hair and dust; who could recount all the inauspicious omens? At the sight of these countless portents, the gods in heaven cried in dismay and shouted, ‘Victory! Victory!’ Sensing that the gods were overcome by fear, the gracious Raghunatha set an arrow to his bow.

Drawing the bow-string to his ear, Raghunatha shot forth thirty-one shafts, which sped forth like the serpents of doom. One arrow sucked up the depths of the navel, while the rest wrathfully smote his ten heads and twenty arms and carried them away with them. The headless, armless trunk still danced upon the plains. The earth sank down as the trunk rushed wildly on, til the Lord struck it with his arrows and split it in two. Even as he lay gasping his life away, he thundered aloud with a fierce yell, ‘Where is Rama that I may challenge him and slay him in combat?’

The earth shook as the Ten-headed tumbled; the ocean, the rivers, the elephants of the quarters, and the mountains stood agitated. Stretching out the two halves of his body, Ravana dropped to the ground, crushing beneath them a host of bears and monkeys.

After laying the arms and heads before Mandodari, the darts returned to Rama, lord of the universe, and all found their way back into the quiver. The gods saw it and beat their celestial drums.

The spirit entered the Lord’s mouth; Shiva and Brahma rejoiced to see the sight. The whole universe resounded with cries of triumph: ‘Victory to Raghubira, mighty of arm!’ Throngs of gods and sages showered down blossoms, crying, ‘Victory to the All-merciful! Victory, victory to Mukunda!’” (Ramacharitamanasa, as translated by R.C. Prasad)