Monday, May 24, 2010

A Cool Customer

Lord Krishna “O best among men [Arjuna], the person who is not disturbed by happiness and distress and is steady in both is certainly eligible for liberation.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.15)

Detachment allows us to take even the worst news in stride. It is natural to feel anger or sadness based on the events that occur in our lives. Sometimes people will be hesitant to tell us something, for they know it will cause us great grief. Those who are cool and collected can handle any turn of events without a problem. This is because they possess detachment, and they understand the temporary nature of things. Of all the cool customers, no one is more detached than God. Part of being Bhagavan means You possess the quality of renunciation to the fullest degree. The Lord put this feature on full display during His time on earth as Lord Rama.

Lord Chaitanya God is in need of nothing. There is a famous verse in the Shrimad Bhagavatam that describes the Lord as being atmarama. Lord Chaitanya provided a multitude of purports to this one verse, but the most commonly accepted meaning of atmarama is one who is self-satisfied. Atma can refer to the soul, body, or mind, but most of the time it refers to the soul. Rama means one who gives pleasure, so atmarama means one who derives pleasure from the soul. The soul is often referred to as the self because it forms the basis of our identity. Our arms, hands, and legs are only temporary coverings. We see that even if a person loses a limb in an accident, their identity remains intact. Therefore we can conclude that our identity surely can’t be taken from any of our body parts. In fact, the famous king, Rishabhadeva, stated that any person who associates with their own body, which is made up of blood, puss, and stool, must be considered to have the intelligence of an animal, and more specifically that of an ass.

God is the supreme soul, Paramatma. Everything in this world is created by Him. Though the living entities, jivatmas, never take birth nor do they die, they also are part and parcel of God, representing one of His separated expansions. Since the Lord creates everything, He is not in need of anything, especially self-aggrandizement or material fortunes. Due to His kind nature and pleasing smile, the Lord is loved and adored by everyone in the spiritual world. On the supreme planet of Goloka Vrindavana, Lord Krishna, the original form of God, is happily engaged with His gopas and gopis all day long. If one were to watch television cartoon shows on the weekends, they would see a simple life depicted where the main characters spend all their day playing, not worrying about any big issues. Life in Vrindavana is similar to this, because everyone is in constant association with Krishna. Some are playing with Him in the field, some are having lunch with Him, and others are enjoying with Him in the mood of romantic love.

Lord Krishna's pastimes To rescue the fallen souls, the Lord appears on earth from time to time. This doesn’t mean that He leaves the spiritual world, but rather He expands Himself as an avatara. An avatara is one who descends, thus the term refers to God since He descends from the spiritual world to help His devotees. When God comes to earth, He doesn’t broadcast His divinity to everyone. This may seem strange at first. “He’s God after all. Why wouldn’t He just identify Himself?” This can be explained by studying the concept of free will. We living entities are part and parcel of God, but we still have a minute amount of independence. We don’t have control over how events will pan out, but we do have the freedom to choose how our senses will interact with nature. There are three energies at work in this world: the inferior, superior, and the marginal. By acting in the interests of the senses, we associate with the inferior energy. By acting in God’s interests, we come in contact with the superior energy. Since the choice is ours, the living entities technically belong to the marginal energy.

The Lord comes to rescue those who want to associate with the superior [spiritual] energy, but have trouble doing so because of the condition of society at the time. The Lord also doesn’t disclose His identity because He doesn’t want to force anyone to love Him. The Vedas tell us that the meaning of life is to know, understand, and love God. This pure love for God, known as Krishna-prema, enables one to return to the spiritual world after death. The act of sexual assault certainly can’t be classified as love since the woman is forced into sexual activity. In a similar manner, if God forced us to serve and love Him, our feelings towards Him couldn’t be classified as prema.

Krishna avataras So how do we tell who are the bona fide incarnations? The authoritative scriptures, such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas, give a detailed list of every major incarnation that has ever appeared or will appear in the future. Even the Lord Buddha avatara was predicted in the Shrimad Bhagavatam almost five thousand years ago. Lord Chaitanya, Krishna’s most recent incarnation, never openly declared Himself to be God. Many people realized His divinity and would openly praise Him, but the Lord would always cover His ears, for He wanted to be known as a devotee of Radha-Krishna and nothing else. On rare occasions and in private, Lord Chaitanya would disclose His true identity as a combined incarnation of Radha-Krishna, but such displays were reserved for His confidential devotees. There are many people who claim to be God, but we can use Lord Chaitanya’s example and the statements of scriptures to decipher for ourselves.

One of Krishna’s most famous incarnations was Lord Rama, who appeared on earth during the Treta Yuga, or the second time period of creation. One of the more notable incidents in Rama’s life was His banishment to the forest for fourteen years. Born as the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha, Rama lived the regal life. He had every material opulence available at His fingertips. He would wake up every day to the sound of mrdangas playing and well-wishers chanting His name. When He was exiled to the forest, He had to give up everything. Essentially, He went from being a prince to a pauper.

“When Rama arrived before His father in preparation for the installation ceremony, Kaikeyi quickly addressed my husband with these words, ‘O Raghava, just hear what Your father previously proclaimed. This kingdom shall be seamlessly given to Bharata. And You shall undoubtedly have to remain in the forest for fourteen years. Therefore, O Kakutstha, You should proceed to the forest and save Your father from untruthfulness.’ Thereupon Rama fearlessly replied to Kaikeyi by saying 'So be it'. Thus my husband, with unflinching determination, complied with her wishes.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.13-16)

Lord Rama In the above referenced statement, Sita Devi, Lord Rama’s wife, is describing the events that led to the exile. She is speaking to the Rakshasa demon, Ravana, who had approached her in the guise of a mendicant. Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana were residing in the forest of Janasthana. At Sita’s request, Rama and Lakshmana went to chase after a deer which was actually a Rakshasa in disguise. Ravana, in the guise of a brahmana, approached Sita and propositioned her. Sita then identified herself and described the glories of her husband, Rama.

The idea for Rama’s exile actually came from Dasharatha’s youngest wife Kaikeyi. She wanted her son, Bharata, to be the king and thought that things would be easier with Rama out of the way. In her telling of the story, we see that Sita put special emphasis on the fact that Rama fearlessly replied to Kaikeyi that He would have no problem renouncing the kingdom and going to the forest. Kaikeyi was expecting a disagreement to arise, for Dasharatha himself was heartbroken over the idea of Rama’s exile. But as mentioned before, God is atmarama, so He is not attached to the post of king or any other material opulence.

So how do we acquire the same level of renunciation? How do we become atmarama? Well, there are many ways to achieve this goal, but the easiest method for this age is the constant chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The secret is to develop detachment through attachment. If we first rekindle our natural love for God, it will be much easier to remain unaffected by the ups and downs of everyday life. Lord Rama remained steady and calm because had a job to do, namely that of protecting the sages living in the forest and destroying the Rakshasa demons, headed by Ravana. In a similar manner, if we remain steady on the path of devotional service, we will be performing the highest form of yoga. Yoga means linking of our consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness. The Supreme Consciousness is God, and through Him we can achieve anything.