Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fire and Wind

Radha Krishna “I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, who resides in His own realm, Goloka, with Radha, who resembles His own spiritual figure and who embodies the ecstatic potency [hladini]. Their companions are Her confidantes, who embody extensions of Her bodily form and who are imbued and permeated with ever-blissful spiritual rasa.” (Brahma-samhita, 5.37)

When two lovers meet, the energy they share is tremendous. With their inhibitions removed, two people who are completely in love give off a glaring effulgence. Their relationship is considered electric. Love in the material world has various potencies, but it is most powerful when both parties are completely surrendered unto one another. In the same regard, the purified form of love that exists in the spiritual world between God and His devotee represents the highest form of energy.

Radha Krishna - pure love Material love is thought of to be the end-goal in life by many of us. Pop culture echoes this sentiment. No matter the genre, most movies tend to have a romantic element to them. A boy and a girl meet, and there is some chemistry and attraction in the initial stages. Inevitably, something gets in the way of their being together. In Bollywood movies, this barrier usually involves some sort of arranged marriage or resistance from the parents. In Western style movies, there are ex-boyfriends and girlfriends that get in the way. In the end, the man and woman eventually unite, beating all the odds. Movies are written in this way because this storyline speaks to most people. Who wouldn’t want to meet the person of their dreams and live happily ever after? Seeing pure love in action is a very heartwarming thing. Many people cry at weddings because they are so touched seeing the pure love exchanged between the bride and groom. True love means completely surrendering yourself to someone else. Material life involves hankering and lamenting over our own personal affairs. Love is nice because it lets us serve someone else, which is something that makes us happy. When two people completely surrender themselves to each other, it is a beautiful thing.

Material love isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but like everything else in the material world, it is temporary. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, declare that this world is ultimately a place full of miseries. This is true because no matter how happy we may be, our life is destined to end. Everyone has a date of birth, the day they came into this world out of the womb of their mother. What we tend to forget is that we also have a date of death. That date is not known to us, but it is guaranteed to come. So even if we enjoy pure romantic love with our husband or wife, those loving feelings are destined to end.

“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 death merely represents a changing of bodies. The soul never takes birth and never dies. It is eternal, unborn, and untainted. The spirit soul, when associating with material nature, repeatedly appears in new bodies, life after life, in a perpetual cycle. Having a loving relationship with another person certainly is nice, but it doesn’t free us of this cycle. The only path to liberation is through bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Yoga means the union of the soul with God and bhakti means love or devotion. Love is certainly the purpose for our existence, but not of the variety we are familiar with.

Lord Krishna The Vedanta-sutras have an aphorism that states that everything in this material world is but a reflection of things that exist in the spiritual world, janmady asya-yatah. “The Absolute Truth must be the source of everything.” What we know as romantic love is actually just a reflection of the purified form of love that exists in the spiritual world. There, however, love is only exchanged between God and His devotees. It is not always of the conjugal variety either. There are many different rasas, or transcendental mellows.

“Being freed from attachment, fear and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many, many persons in the past became purified by knowledge of Me-and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me. All of them-as they surrender unto Me-I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.10-11)

Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and in the spiritual world He assumes various forms. Just as we see that people have different desires, the liberated spirit souls have different desires relating to how they choose to associate with Krishna. Some prefer to serve Him in a reverential manner, others want to be His friend, and there are some who enjoy conjugal love with Him. God is so kind that He rewards the pure devotees in the manner that pleases them most.

Practicing bhakti yoga while in the material world allows us to gradually change our desires from material love to spiritual love. At the time of death, if our consciousness is purified enough, we get liberation from the cycle of birth and death. We then go immediately to Krishna’s spiritual planets and associate with Him. Thus the true meaning of life is to become Krishna, or God, conscious.

Radha Krishna - love in the spiritual world Love in the spiritual world represents the most potent form of energy. This is because the spirit souls are actually meant to serve as God’s energy. God is the predominator and we are the predominated. This is the natural order. This isn’t meant to be a bad thing either, for the spirit soul is happiest when it is lovingly engaged in service to the Lord. The spirit souls who come to the material world actually live in defiance of this natural order. Coming to the material world means we try to pretend to be God. However, there is no amount of work or meditation we can perform that will put us on par with Krishna; it simply cannot happen. There is a class of transcendentalists that believe that everyone is God and that they just don’t know it yet. Through renunciation and deep study of Vedanta, anyone can turn into God. This is certainly a bogus philosophy, for if we are God, how did we end up in such a precarious condition? God is the supreme controller, and thus can never be subject to the forces of maya which govern the material world.

Krishna and Balarama God is the energetic and the devotees are His energy. Lord Krishna is considered the original form of God based on the authorized statements of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, and Brahma-samhita. Just as there is an original form of God, there is an original form of His energy, represented by Shrimati Radharani. More than just God’s wife or girlfriend, Radha is the perfection of devotion to God. Though God is one, He takes many expansions depending on time and circumstance. Lord Krishna expands into Lord Vishnu, who then appears on earth in various incarnations such as Rama, Narasimha, Varaha, etc. Radha also expands herself into multitudes of goddesses of fortune.

When Radha and Krishna are together, God and His energy, there is pure spiritual bliss. When the energy and the energetic meet, the resulting potency cannot be compared to anything in this world. Lord Krishna also has other expansions which are similar to Him power, but who serve as His devotees. Lord Balarama, or Baladeva, is one such expansion. He also then takes many forms including Lord Ananta and Nityananda Prabhu.

During the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, both Krishna and Balarama appeared on earth in the forms of two handsome and pious princes named Rama and Lakshmana. Born as the sons of the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dashratha, the two were the most powerful and skilled kshatriya warriors. As part of His pastimes, Lord Rama roamed the forest for fourteen years with His wife, Sita Devi, and Lakshmana. On one occasion, the group was attacked in the forest of Janasthana by 14,000 Rakshasa demons. At the time, there was one particular Rakshasa who had ascended to power and his name was Ravana. Rakshasas are demons by nature and thus they are enemies of the saintly class of people, the devotees of God. At the behest of Ravana, these 14,000 Rakshasas went to Janasthana to kill Rama and His family members. Rama told Lakshmana to take Sita away and guard her while He dealt with the attack. To the chagrin of Ravana, Rama single-handedly killed all 14,000 Rakshasas, including the leader of their army, Khara.

“Rama's younger brother, Lakshmana, has reddish eyes and a voice that resounds like a kettledrum. His strength matches that of Rama's, and his face shines like a full moon. Just as wind gives aid to a raging fire, Lakshmana has joined forces with his brother. It is that best of kings, Shriman Rama, who has brought down the Rakshasas fighting in Janasthana.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.16-17)

Rama and Lakshmana fighting a Rakshasa Akampana, a great Rakshasa fighter in his own right, somehow managed to escape the attack and return to Ravana to tell him what happened. After hearing what transpired, Ravana was astonished and demanded Akampana to give him more details. In the above referenced statement, Akampana is describing Lakshmana’s prowess. Essentially he is telling Ravana, “Not only did one person, Rama, kill all 14,000 Rakshasas, but this Rama has a brother who is equal to Him in strength and celerity.“ The comparison made between fire and wind is an appropriate one. If there is a small fire started in a forest, the presence of wind only makes the fire increase in strength. This makes it even harder to put out.

Rama, together with Lakshmana, was absolutely unbeatable in battle. More than just the cooperation between two brothers or two warriors, Rama and Lakshmana together represented the union of God and His energy. Lakshmana was a pure devotee from birth, for he would not even eat meals or sleep without Rama. Only Rama was required to roam the forest for fourteen years, but both Lakshmana and Sita insisted on accompanying Him. Sita Devi was an incarnation of the goddess of fortune, thus she was a personification of God’s hladini-shakti, or pleasure potency. Lakshmana was also a pure devotee and since he was a brother, his mood of devotion was slightly different than Sita’s.

When Rama and Lakshmana are together, the energy they create is quite awesome. To atheists like Akampana and Ravana, this energy is quite scary, for it represents the fire of destruction. Ravana was trying to rule the world, and he thought himself to be stronger than God. Lakshmana is fierce and ruthless when it comes to dealing with Rama’s enemies. By nature, he is kind, compassionate, and sweet, just like Rama. But when it comes to defending God, he holds nothing back.

"O Lakshmana, do you together with Me rule this earth. You are My second self; and this good fortune has taken possession of you as well. Do you, O Sumitra's son, enjoy every desirable thing and the privileges pertaining to royalty. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone." (Lord Rama, VR. Ayodhya Kanda, 4.43-44)

Rama and Lakshmana eating together As an expansion of God and a pure devotee in his own right, Lakshmana is an object of worship. His constant devotion and attention to Rama represents real love. On many occasions, Rama openly declared that He performed all His activities for the benefit of Lakshmana and His other brothers. Such pure love is certainly a thing of beauty.

Friday, March 12, 2010

God is Great

Lord Rama “His name is Rama and He is the most effulgent and powerful (mahatejah). He is the foremost of all wielders of the bow, and possesses divine qualities and weapons. He adheres to the highest level of conduct (paramdharma) on the battlefield.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.15)

God is the greatest and the most energetic. The living entities, jiva-tattva, can achieve perfection in life by realizing that they represent God’s energy and that He is the only controller. Hearing that God is great is one thing, but actually realizing this fact is another. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, make a distinction between theoretical knowledge, jnana, and practical knowledge, vijnana. In order to help us truly understand God’s greatness and strength, the Vedas provide various descriptions of the Lord. These descriptions are necessary because people tend to understand concepts more clearly when comparisons are used.

Lord Krishna avataras Of course God is great. Most people naturally understand this. God’s greatness is actually inconceivable to us and for many, this fact leads them away from spiritual life. “God is too powerful for me to comprehend, so why should I try?” The Vedas tell us that this human form of life is meant for understanding God and then using that knowledge to serve Him. Perfection in life comes when one rekindles their lost relationship with the Lord. To reach this end, the Vedic literatures give us descriptions of the Lord’s names, forms, and pastimes. Obviously God’s powers can never be truly comprehended by the human brain, but through study and devotion, we can gain a slight understanding. Just a tinkling of knowledge about God is enough to arouse loving feelings towards Him.

Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, directly expands Himself into Lord Vishnu, or Narayana. Narayana then expands Himself into various incarnations which appear on earth. Through the activities performed by the many different incarnations, the Lord receives a variety of names. In fact, devotees often recite the thousand names of Lord Vishnu (Shri Vishnu-sahasra-nama-stotram) as a means of prayer. One thousand names seem like a lot, but as stated before, God’s glories are actually limitless. These names serve as a foundation for understanding the true nature of the Lord. For example, one of Krishna’s names is Keshava, meaning the killer of the Keshi demon. This name refers to a specific pastime of the Lord. Another name is Achyuta, meaning one who is infallible. Parameshvara means the supreme controller or supreme ishvara, and Rama means one who gives pleasure. When reading the epic Mahabharata, one will often find that Lord Krishna is directly referred to many different names. The Pandava brothers and other associates purposefully addressed Krishna with different names depending on time and circumstance. The name Krishna itself means one who is all-attractive. These names and activities of the Lord exist to help the devotees understand and remember Him.

Lord Krishna Even though He has one thousand different names, the complete list of Lord Krishna’s powers can never be properly enumerated. It is similar to how the Constitution of the United States works. The Founding Fathers envisioned a government of the style of a democratic republic with limited powers. For this reason, the Constitution specifically enumerates the activities that Congress can engage in. Fearing an oppressive government, the Founding Fathers included the Bill of Rights as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. It is a common misconception that the Bill of Rights enumerates the rights that people have. In actuality, the Bill of Rights put limits on the activities of Congress. The first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law” abridging or infringing on various rights of the people.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” (Tenth amendment to the Constitution)

As venerable a document as the Constitution was, the Founders still realized that the rights of man could never be completely enumerated. For this reason, they declared that any right or power not specifically mentioned in the Constitution would automatically be granted to the people. This essentially meant that if an activity wasn’t specifically mentioned in the Constitution, then the Congress had no right to regulate it, meaning freedom belonged to the people.

This same principle holds true with the Vedas and Lord Krishna. Through the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, and other Vedic texts, we get a short list of the qualities, names, forms, and pastimes of the Lord, but this list is by no means complete. By default, God automatically possesses any power not specifically mentioned in the Vedas. This fact is easily forgotten by people living on this earth. To remind us of His greatness, the Lord personally appears here from time to time.

This was the case during the Treta Yuga when Lord Krishna incarnated as a kshatriya warrior named Rama. In the above referenced statement, the Rakshasa demon Akampana is explaining to Ravana how Rama had just killed 14,000 Rakshasas all by Himself in the forest of Janasthana. At the time, Rama was roaming the forests of India with His wife, Sita Devi, and His younger brother, Lakshmana. Rakshasas are a race of demons who are usually atheistic. Ravana was their leader and was so powerful that no one could defeat him in battle.

Sita Rama Ravana was the king of the island of Lanka, and thus he had an army of Rakshasas at his disposal. He sent 14,000 of them, headed by Khara, to Janasthana to kill Rama. Lord Rama, being God Himself, easily killed all of them all by Himself. He sent Sita away from the battlefield and instructed Lakshmana to protect her while the fighting was going on. All the Rakshasas were killed, but somehow Akampana managed to escape and limp his way back to Lanka. Upon seeing him, Ravana wanted to know what had happened. Hearing that 14,000 Rakshasas were killed by Rama, Ravana wanted to know more about Him. He asked Akampana if Rama was assisted by the demigods, for he couldn’t believe that one man was capable of this.

“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)

Lord Rama Ravana’s attitude represents the ignorance of the atheistic class. In the Vedic tradition, there has been a long history of demigod worship. Demigods, also referred to as devataas or devas, number in the thousands. They serve as Lord Krishna’s chief associates. The material world equates to a temporary place full of miseries. The spiritual world is a place full of knowledge and bliss, and this material world is just the opposite. Governed by the illusory energy known as maya, this world causes us to live in ignorance and become bound to the materialistic way of life. God Himself can never associate with maya, thus He lets the demigods manage the material affairs. They are in charge of all aspects of life, including weather, food, money, health, good and bad fortune, etc.

People generally worship the Gods for material rewards. For example, young girls and boys pray to Lord Shiva and his wife, Parvati, to reward them with a nice spouse when they grow older. Others pray to Lord Ganesha to remove their obstacles in life. This type of worship certainly isn’t bad, but the rewards received are temporary. Lord Vishnu, or God Himself, can never be worshiped in this manner. One can ask Him for material things, but He will only provide what is good for His devotees. The demigods are just the opposite. They are required to grant benedictions to anyone who pleases them, regardless of the worshiper’s intentions. This was the case with Ravana. He prayed to Lord Brahma and Shiva to grant him many material benedictions. He received ten heads and a fighting prowess that made him feared throughout the world. Ravana’s biggest mistake was that he thought the demigods were the limit to celestial power. Thinking that he had outsmarted them by receiving benedictions from them, Ravana believed he was God and that no one could ever defeat him.

Rama proved Ravana to be wrong in the worst possible way. When he heard of Rama’s extraordinary feat of killing 14,000 Rakshasas, Ravana thought that Rama must have had some help. For devotees, Rama’s feat was certainly great, but not surprising at all. God’s powers are limitless. Lord Rama is a direct incarnation of Vishnu, meaning He is just as good as God Himself. Rama was the kindest, sweetest, and most compassionate person. At the same time, as a fighter, He was the most skilled. God is simultaneously the most peaceful and the most violent. His violence is directed towards the miscreants such as Ravana and His peaceful nature is bestowed upon His adherents, the devotees. The choice is ours as to which side of God we wish to associate with.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Breaking Free

Radha Krishna “Serving Krishna with purified senses is called Krishna consciousness. That is the way of bringing the senses under full control. What is more, that is the highest perfection of yoga practice.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.26 Purport)

Obstacles will inevitably come in our way of achieving our hopes and dreams. Sometimes these stumbling blocks come about through the forces of nature, and other times through the actions of other living entities. Most often, however, these obstacles are brought on by our own minds. One of the most difficult things to control, the mind can be drawn off course by even the slightest agitation.

Hanuman reading about God The material world consists of five gross elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether, and also three subtle elements: mind, intelligence, and false ego. The mind is so important because it is the catalyst for the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge is our way of out of this material world. According to the Vedas, living entities are spirit souls at their core, but they have somehow or other been forced to become conditioned while dwelling in bodies made up of the aforementioned material elements. The secret to breaking out of this conditioned state lies in the mind, which ultimately drives our consciousness. According to Lord Krishna, God Himself, a person’s consciousness at the time of death determines the type of body they will receive in the next life.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Bhagavad-gita, 8.5)

The key is to adapt our consciousness in such a way that we can be guaranteed of thinking about God at the time of death. It is a popular belief that when one is about to die, their life flashes before their eyes, with all the major events relived. This idea originated with the Vedas, the original scripture for all of mankind, handed down from God Himself at the beginning of time. Consciousness is the definition of existence. We get whatever we want. God is very nice to us in that way. After many many births, one finally comes to the platform of understanding the constitutional position of the soul and its relationship with God. Having this theoretical knowledge is not enough though. One must act in such a way as to create a permanent change of consciousness; otherwise that knowledge goes to waste. The secret is to use that knowledge to direct all of our actions.

“One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification. He is said by sages to be a worker whose fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 4.19)

Lord Krishna The mind is the captain of this ship known as the body. If properly controlled, it can lead us to the path back home, back to Godhead. Wanting to go back to Krishna’s realm and actually getting there are two different things, for the mind is very difficult to control.

“For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong, O Krishna, and to subdue it is, it seems to me, more difficult than controlling the wind.” (Arjuna, Bg. 6.34)

Desire is the root cause behind the restlessness of the mind. Every living entity desires. Even the greatest renunciates have desires, namely those of negating all activity. They hope to merge into the impersonal effulgence known as Brahman. Desire is fine by itself, but problems arise due to the fact that desires never go away, even when satisfied. We may want something today, but tomorrow that desire can completely change. For example, many of us in our youth prayed to God to give us certain things, either toys, or success in some venture. We invariably prayed to the Lord, “Oh God, please give me this. I don’t ask for much. If You come through for me this one time, I promise that I will never ask You for anything ever again.” That promise never actually holds true. God may or may not give us what we want, but that doesn’t stop us from desiring. God’s illusory energy known as maya, also plays an important role. Maya fools us into thinking that we’ll be happy chasing after sense gratification. With all these forces constantly acting, it becomes very difficult to control the mind and keep it on the right track.

Starting a new task is the most difficult of all the steps necessary for achieving success. Once we start our plan, maya goes to work, attacking our aforementioned vulnerabilities relating to desires. Many of us fail at fighting off maya. For this reason, the majority of us aren’t self-starters. We get discouraged very easily, so much so that we give up on trying again. Thinking positively is a very difficult thing to do, thus we require motivation and inspiration from others. People that write self-help books, or books about thinking positively, make millions of dollars. Everybody is looking for someone to guide them and give them the much needed boost of positive energy.

Lakshmana What if we don’t have that person in our life to motivate us? How are we to succeed at keeping the mind steady and not giving way to lamentation? The answer is that we must follow the example of the great devotees of the past. Lakshmana was one such devotee. An incarnation of Ananta Shesha Naga, Lakshmana was born as one of the four sons of Maharaja Dashratha, the famous king who ruled over Ayodhya many thousands of years ago. Coinciding with the appearance of Krishna’s incarnation of Lord Rama, Lakshmana played the role of a great kshatriya warrior, trained in the military arts by the best of brahmanas, Vashishta and Vishvamitra. His greatest attribute, however, was his devotion to his elder brother Rama.

“I will thwart the influence of destiny by my bravery and prowess, similar to how an excited elephant, secreting from its temple, breaks free of its shackles and runs with violent force.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 23.20)

In the above mentioned statement, Lakshmana is trying to convince Rama to ignore Dashratha’s order requiring Him to spend fourteen years in the forest as an exile. Since he loved Rama so much, Lakshmana couldn’t bear to see his brother put into so much difficulty; all for no reason. Rama was supposed to be installed as the new king, but Dashratha was forced to honor the requests of his youngest wife, Kaikeyi. Lakshmana not only wanted Rama to ascend the throne, but he was willing to personally fight anyone who would disagree with such a decision.

Radha Krishna - perfection of devotion Lakshmana’s suggestion wouldn’t be taken to heart since Rama was dedicated to the welfare and good name of Dashratha. He had other purposes to serve by living in the forest for fourteen years. Nevertheless, Lakshmana’s bold display of love for God should be a lesson to us all. The key to being successful in spiritual life is to have the same steadiness of mind that Lakshmana had. Maya will always attack us, but we should be assertive and confident in our service. There is no reason to lament over failure because if we are sincere in our love for God, our success is guaranteed. Lakshmana was successful in his execution of devotional service, so much so that Rama was forced to bring him along to the forest. Lakshmana’s success came from his complete confidence and faith in Rama. Just as our desires are always leading us all in sorts of directions, if we make our ultimate desire the satisfaction of God, we are guaranteed to always act in knowledge. Thus we can break free of our self-imposed limitations and ultimately go back to God’s kingdom after this life.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Full Time Occupation

Hanuman - a great devotee “Those who are beloved of all and work for the good of all, to whom joy and sorrow, praise and abuse are alike…it is in their mind, O Rama, that You should dwell.” (Maharishi Valmiki speaking to Lord Rama, Ramacharitamanasa, Ayodhya Kand, 129.2)

Since time immemorial governments have had to tackle the crime problem. Certain areas of a city, state, or country always seem to have a higher crime rate than others. Simply increasing the police presence in these areas is the easiest and most often implemented solution, yet we see that this often doesn’t solve the problem, for people go right back to committing crimes once the police are gone. It is the widely accepted belief that the root cause of much of this crime is the fact that the people in such areas have no permanent occupation. Left to roam the streets, they have no better way to spend their time than to commit crimes against their fellow man.

BasketballTo this end, governments in recent times have tried various solutions to try to eradicate this problem. In the United States, President Bill Clinton’s famous crime bill in 1994 featured an allotment of funds dedicated towards Midnight Basketball programs. At the time, many of the high crime areas in the country were heavily populated by minorities, especially African Americans. The proponents of Midnight Basketball believed that because of the demographic makeup, people in these areas would welcome a program that would allow them to play basketball instead of remaining on the streets. The belief was that if people remained in a gymnasium during the wee hours of the morning, the time that most violent crimes occurred, they would be less likely to take to drugs, guns, and murder.

There have been many other programs implemented similar to Midnight Basketball. Andre Agassi, the famous tennis player, started a charter school in his hometown of Las Vegas. Most of the attending students are African American and come from high-crime neighborhoods. Many of the students openly admit that if it weren’t for Agassi’s school, they would probably be on the streets selling drugs or getting into other nefarious activities. Federal and state governments have also instituted many after-school programs targeting the same crime ridden areas. The idea is that the more time young children spend in a peaceful environment where they are actively engaged in positive activities, the less likely they are to take to crime.

Lord Krishna and cow These programs are certainly well intentioned, and they also provide valuable insight into how one can achieve perfection in life. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that the human form of life is especially conducive to spiritual understanding. Animals, plants, aquatics, etc. are all life forms, meaning there is a spirit soul that resides inside them. Many religious leaders proclaim that animals don’t have souls, but such thinking is not rooted in any fact. Animals eat, sleep, mate, and defend just as we humans do. When death occurs, the animal’s body becomes useless and begins to rot in the same way that a human body does. So what is the distinguishing characteristic of a human being? Intelligence. A human being is capable of reaching the conclusion that man is mortal.

Knowing that we are going to die is one thing, but understanding why is another. The Vedas tell us that the material world was created to act as a sort of playing field for the jiva soul. God and His personal expansions are referred to as vishnu-tattva, and the living entities are jiva-tattva. Vishnu-tattva is completely pure and never comes into contact with maya, or nature. Jivas are also completely pure constitutionally, but they are prone to come into contact with nature due to their desire to imitate God. Since we voluntarily choose to come to this world, we have to live by the rules which are governed by karma. All the work we perform has positive and negative consequences attached, and thus we are forced to repeatedly accept new bodies after death. Sometimes we may appear in the body of a human being, and sometimes in the body of an animal; it all depends on karma.

Vishnuduttas saving Ajamila Human life is considered a blessing from nature because the human being can take the necessary actions to break free of the laws of karma. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, states that anyone who wishes to come back to His spiritual abode can easily do so, provided that they think of Him at the time of death. When we die, our consciousness is measured by God and His various agents. Then, based on this consciousness and the work we performed during our lifetime, our next body is created. If our mind is fixed on Lord Krishna’s lotus feet at the the time of death, the Lord sends His agents, the Vishnuduttas, to personally escort us back to the spiritual world. The spiritual planets of Vaikunthaloka and Krishnaloka are free of miseries and one who goes there never returns to the miserable place known as the material world. In the spiritual sky, karma doesn’t exist.

So perfection in life is achieved when we can think of God at the time of death. How do we guarantee that this happens? The key is to practice thinking of God all the time during one’s current lifetime. This discipline is known as bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Engaging all of our time in God’s service provides the ultimate shield from the dangers of the material world. This is where the after-school and Midnight Basketball programs fall short. Shifting one’s focus from crime to playing games or studying is certainly a noble activity, but it still falls under the jurisdiction of karma. While committing crimes has negative karma associated with it and staying in school may have positive karma associated with it, in the end, both activities keep a person tied to the cycle of birth and death.

Goswami Tulsidas One should engage in activities that will free them from the bondage of this material world. Bhakti yoga can actually refer to any activity as long as it is associated with God, but the most effective process of devotional service for this age is chanting. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada advised everyone to chant the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, at least sixteen rounds a day on set of japa beads. Sixteen rounds means reciting this mantra 1,728 per day. Naturally one may ask the question, “I have to repeat this mantra over 1,000 times a day? That will take forever.”

This is precisely the point. In the beginning stages, chanting sixteen rounds can take upwards of three to four hours. As one’s tongue becomes accustomed to the pronunciations, and as offenses are slowly removed, this chanting can take less time, but the idea behind it is still the same; think of God as much as you can. By repeating His name out loud, one purifies the tongue and the ears. All knowledge, especially that pertaining to God, is best received through the ears. The hearing process is the most effective when it comes to learning. By chanting out loud, we get to hear God’s name over and over again. The scriptures tell us that there is no difference between the Lord and His name. One who chants regularly will quickly realize this fact.

“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness—these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.42)

One may ask the question, “Sure, chanting seems nice. But how does this solve the crime problem?” Devotional service actually solves all of our problems in life. By regularly chanting, one becomes a pure devotee of the Lord, and devotees automatically inherit all good qualities. In the Vedic system, the brahmanas are considered the highest class since they engage all their time in religious activities. Vaishnavas, devotees of Lord Vishnu or Krishna, are the purest form of brahmanas since they engage all their time in loving service to the Lord. God is the supreme pure, and anyone who associates with Him also becomes pure. This means that devotees are naturally non-violent, kind, peaceful, and law-abiding citizens.

Hanuman offering his obeissancesWe all need a full-time engagement, something to occupy our time. The great Vaishnava saints all recommend that we make devotional service our full-time engagement. One can be working, studying, or even sleeping and still be thinking about God. Chanting the holy name costs nothing and it is very easy to distribute to others. More than anything, chanting brings lasting benefits, the greatest of which is liberation from this temporary world full of miseries.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Radha Krishna “That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.37)

Lord KrishnaNothing brings more joy to parents than seeing their children happy. Once a person becomes a mother or father, their attention and focus shift completely to the lives of their children. In the early years, children simply want to play all the time. If they could, they would play the entire day. Parents also love seeing their children engage in fun activities, for it brings joy to their hearts. However, we see that the elders often invoke rules and restrictions on the activities of their dependents. On the surface, it appears that the parents want to limit the amount of fun their children have, but in actuality, these rules are meant to increase the enjoyment a child feels.

As soon as a child is born, the discovery process begins. Infants love to look around and take in the new world they have been placed into. They quickly discover activities which they find enjoyable. When visiting the homes of parents with young children, it is very common to find a playroom full of toys and other such things. The child is usually quite happy in this room. While the children play, the parents get a much needed break and are able to take care of other household responsibilities. If the child could, it would play the entire day, but we see that is not the case. Good parents, mothers in particular, institute rules and regulations that the children must follow. They must wake up at a certain time, eat at certain time, and go to sleep much earlier than the parents do. These rules and regulations represent real love, for the parents’ aim is to increase the child’s enjoyment of life.

Mother Yashoda binding Krishna A typical example of this can be seen with the use of mittens, especially those worn by infants. A newborn really has no level of intelligence. In that sense, it is no different than an animal. Through time and discovery, the child matures and starts to understand things better, but in the beginning stages, it is up to the parents to keep the child safe and happy. Fingernails can grow quite long on infants since it is difficult for the parents to cut them off due to the tininess of the child’s fingers. As a result, an infant will often scratch itself when feeling discomfort. This then leads to cuts and scrapes, which in turn leads to crying. Crafty mothers have found a nice workaround for this; mittens. Cover the child’s hands with mittens and there will be no way for them to scratch themselves. Obviously this causes some discomfort to the infant because now its fingers are shackled throughout the day. But in the end, this restriction actually increases the enjoyment of the child, for it no longer has to deal with cuts on its face or other parts of the body.

When children get older, they love to go out and play with their friends. When Lord Krishna personally appeared on earth around five thousand years ago, He enjoyed many such childhood pastimes in Vrindavana. Growing up under the care of His foster parents, Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yashoda, Krishna would go out and play with the other cowherd boys of Vrindavana every day. They did all the typical things you would expect children to do. They ran around, wrestled with each other, and even went on picnics. Mother Yashoda would have to call Krishna and His brother, Balarama, to come home to eat every day. If not for her attention, the children would have stayed out all night simply playing.

Krishna and Balarama playing with a cow Mothers of today have similar issues to contend with. Vrindavana is in India, which generally has a tropical climate throughout the year. In America, the winters are much harsher, especially in the northeastern section of the country. The child’s desire to play doesn’t depend on the weather however, so even in the winter, children love to go out and play with their friends. When there is snow on the ground, it can be even more fun. American style football is a lot of fun to play when it’s snowing. Kids can also build snowmen or get into snowball fights. In fact, the only people who really enjoy snow are the children since it means playtime and time off from school.

During the winter, mothers have to redouble their efforts. Before their child runs out the door and into the harsh cold, a good mother makes sure that the child is properly dressed. Gloves, a hat, and a scarf are a must, otherwise the child is not let out of the house. This is done to prevent the child from getting sick while playing out in the cold. These regulations are imposed to increase the child’s enjoyment.

Lord Krishna In a similar manner, we spirit souls are meant to be eternally blissful and happy. That is our true nature, for we are expansions of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Technically known as jiva-tattva, the living entities are meant to associate with Krishna all the time in a loving way, similar to how the cowherd boys of Vrindavana always played with the Lord. Unlike with child’s play, we’re never meant to grow out of our loving propensity towards Krishna. But if we look around us, we see that instead of being happy, most people are quite miserable and fearful.

What happens is that as soon as the spirit soul enters the material world, it assumes a body composed of material qualities. In the conditioned state, the living entity becomes bewildered by maya, God’s illusory energy. Maya has many tricks up her sleeve, but her most potent power is her ability to trick the living entity into thinking that it will be happy engaging in all activities except those relating to Krishna, or God. Hence we see that most people are either engaged in fruitive activity, karma, or in mental speculation where they try to negate material attributes.

The living entities are distracted most by the four pillars of sinful life. Intoxication is very seductive for it tells a person that they will be happy by escaping the senses. This escape is false however, and once a person returns to sobriety, there are many harsh side effects. Gambling has a similar allure. It keeps one’s mind agitated. “Just gamble some more, maybe you’ll win. Once you win, you’ll be happy.” But we see that this is rarely the case. Even those who amass large amounts of wealth are still unhappy, thus they take to acts of philanthropy and charity. Meat eating is very damaging to our karma. Unnecessarily killing innocent animals simply to satisfy the tongue represents unintelligent activity. Karma is only fair, so if we cause unneeded harm to others, we are sure to have the same thing happen to us. Meat eating also keeps us away from eating Krishna prasadam, vegetarian food which is considered holy since it has first been offered to God. Illicit sex is the mother of sinful life. Sex represents the highest material pleasure and also the cause of the greatest distress. Illicit sex provides temporary pleasure but can lead to many problems such as divorce, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and emotional heartbreak.

Shrila Prabhupada The spiritual master, or guru, is there to keep us away from the allurements of maya. Similar to how a parent keeps an infant from scratching itself, the guru guards the living entity from the dangers of sinful life. The pure devotees of Krishna advise abstention from the four pillars of sinful life. For most people in the Western World, these restrictions seem extreme. “No drinking? No meat eating? No gambling? What am I supposed to do with my time? I want to have fun.” These restrictions aren’t meant to be punishments. Rather, the guru wants everyone to be happy all the time. They want people to find real happiness, not something false or temporary. Real happiness is that which lasts beyond this lifetime, something that keeps the soul content.

Along with the abstention from sinful life, Vaishnava spiritual masters recommend that one chant the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, at least sixteen rounds a day on a set of japa beads. One round consists of 108 recitations of the mantra, so sixteen rounds means over 1700 recitations of this sacred mantra every day. Again, on the surface this may seem like a punishment. “So I have to sit there and chant this much every day? That sounds boring. I thought life was meant to be fun.” This chanting recommendation is actually more important than the restrictions on sinful activity. The maha-mantra addresses God and His energy in a loving way. At first, recitation of this mantra may seem like a burden, but it actually brings about tremendous bliss. At worst, we get to think about God for an hour or so a day. Chanting by itself is enough to reward liberation, but the other regulative principles are required to keep a person from falling back into conditional life.

Dancing with Krishna Real happiness comes when we reach the stage of bhakti, or pure loving devotion for Krishna. Bhakti yoga, or devotional service, is the eternal occupation of the soul. Through the influence of maya, we have forgotten this fact. The guru and his instructions help us reconnect with our lost occupation. The soul is eagerly awaiting release, for it wants to run outside and play with Krishna. The guru wants us to get the most out of our enjoyment, so he tells us to make sure to follow the regulative principles first. If we please the spiritual master, then we please Krishna, and we can enjoy the limitless opportunities for enjoyment that devotional service affords.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Human Effort

Lord Krishna “The Blessed Lord said: Son of Pritha, a transcendentalist engaged in auspicious activities does not meet with destruction either in this world or in the spiritual world; one who does good, My friend, is never overcome by evil.” (Bhagavad-gita, 6.40)

Success in any venture requires steadiness of mind and perseverance. Obstacles will always come along the way, but those who are dedicated remain undeterred nonetheless.

Lord Krishna sleeping Things don’t always go as planned. We are always making plans for our happiness, thinking that by making certain adjustments we will be happy. These plans almost always never work out since the mind is so fickle that it constantly requires change in order to be happy. It is quite common for young children to have high hopes and dreams. These dreams aren’t of the sleeping variety, but rather, they are hopes for bigger and better things, and are especially related to what the children want to do when they grow up. In school, teachers will often ask their students what career they’d like to have as an adult. The answers are wide ranging; some want to be a fireman or a policeman, while others want to be an astronaut.

Having a dream is one thing, but actually achieving that dream is another. This material world created by God is governed the modes of nature: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Along with these modes, there is an illusory energy called maya which throws obstacles in our way and thwarts our success. This is by design since God didn’t want us to remain in this material world. He wanted to put something in place that would get in the way of our material hopes and aspirations. Nevertheless, we still see that there are people who actually succeed in realizing their dreams for material success.

The Great Depression Today, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is listened to by almost 22 million people each week on over six hundred radio stations across America. Though talk radio is very popular now, when he started his national show more than twenty years ago, AM radio itself was considered a dying format. Rush knew he wanted to be on the radio back at the age of sixteen, but no one really took his dream seriously. His parents had suffered through the tough times of the Great Depression, so they wanted their son to go to college and have a steady job. Having no interest in college, Rush eventually dropped out. He actually became the first person in his family not to graduate from college. Rush took a chance by going into radio, and his attempt was met with great failure in the beginning. Fired from seven different radio jobs, Rush was even told by one manager that he didn’t have what it took to make it in the business. Depressed and dejected, Limbaugh took a job with the Kansas City Royals baseball team, doing public relations. Making very little money and not liking his job, Rush took one more shot at radio with a station in Sacramento, California. This was his big break as his show took off and eventually went national when he moved to New York in 1988.

Limbaugh, like many other great successful people, had a dream and never gave up on it. All the obstacles that came his way certainly discouraged him and brought him down, but he never quit. Such perseverance is rare since most of us can easily become dejected and give up. And what happens when we finally quit striving to achieve our “dreams”? Are we any better off for it? Usually we’re not, for all our past effort has gone to waste. Luckily for us, this principle doesn’t hold true when applied to devotional service to God.

Lord Krishna Around five thousand years ago, God Himself, Lord Krishna, spoke the Bhagavad-gita to His disciple and dear friend Arjuna, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The Gita contains the essence of the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of the Vedas. There are many great aphorisms and truths expounded in the Gita, including facts about the soul and its eternal nature. Krishna’s primary teaching to Arjuna was that he should strive to act with knowledge, meaning he should perform his duty as a kshatriya warrior without holding any attachment to the results. Good and bad things come and go, but the aim of human life is to perform yoga. This should not be confused with the vernacular definition of yoga, which relates to various breathing exercises and gymnastics poses. Yoga means achieving union of the soul with God. The spirit soul represents our identity, and it is part and parcel of God. Yet the spirit soul is different in quantity from the Supersoul, which is God’s expansion that exists in every living entity. Thus the purpose of human life is to connect our soul with the Supersoul.

There are various types of yoga described in the Vedas, including hatha, jnana, and bhakti. Devotional service, or bhakti yoga, is the highest discipline since it involves dovetailing all of one’s activities with God’s service in a loving manner. Lord Krishna gave vivid descriptions of the qualities of a devotee and how one can go about becoming one. Arjuna found the whole yoga process to be a little overwhelming. He was worried about what would happen to those people who didn’t succeed in yoga during their lifetime:

“Arjuna said: What is the destination of the man of faith who does not persevere, who in the beginning takes to the process of self-realization but who later desists due to worldly-mindedness and thus does not attain perfection in mysticism?” (Bhagavad-gita, 6.37)

Lord Krishna then happily replied that a faithful transcendentalist does not suffer any loss for his efforts. Devotional service never goes to waste. We get to continue from where we left off in our next life by either taking birth in a pious family or a family of devotees. Knowing this, we have no excuse not to take up the process.

Rama and Lakshmana This attitude of perseverance was taken up by Lakshmana, Lord Rama’s younger brother. Rama was Krishna’s incarnation who appeared many thousands of years ago in Ayodhya. Born as the eldest son of King Dashratha, Rama was ordered to spend fourteen years in the forest as an exile. Lakshmana was greatly angered by this. He was unwilling to accept Rama’s argument that this was all due to destiny. He wanted to take on destiny by forcefully installing Rama as the new king.

“That person, who is capable of fighting off the forces destiny by human effort (purushakarena), does feel regret even if he completely fails in achieving his purpose. Today, people will see the power of destiny and the power of man. Today, it will clearly manifest which one is stronger. That destiny which has thwarted Your installation as king, I will crush today with my own prowess. The public will certainly see this.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 23.17-19)

This act of defiance wasn’t necessary since Rama had a higher purpose to serve by going to the forest, namely protecting the brahmanas and killing the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Nevertheless, Lakshmana’s actions are well worth noting. It should be our guide to follow when performing our devotional service. Destiny, maya, or other material forces will inevitably get in our way. That is no excuse, however, as we should be strong and try our best to overcome them. As the Lord stated to Arjuna, there is no loss on our part . Lakshmana’s loving service was rewarded, as Lord Rama would allow Him to accompany Him on His journey. God will be equally as kind to us if we dedicate ourselves to serving Him.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Slayer of Demons

Lord Rama “O ranger of the night, I have come, at the command of the king, to kill those who perpetrate horribly sinful acts and also those who wish harm to the people of the world.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.10)

This passage not only describes the purpose of government, but also one of the reasons for Lord Rama’s advent. The Vedas tell us that God descends to earth from time to time in a variety of forms. His avataras are completely spiritual, but they assume the guise of a normal living entity. More than anything else, the Lord comes to protect the pious class of men, those who are great devotees.

Lord Krishna's universal form The innocent need protection and it is the job of a king to provide it. A kingdom, or any government for that matter, is God’s representative on earth, for the Lord is the original protector of man. In the beginning, there was nothing except God. Actually the concept of time and space only exist in the material world. The human brain is not capable of understanding anything beyond time and space. That is the nature of God and all things relating to Him, for He is not limited to anything. Since all things directly relating to God are completely spiritual, they are not subject to the defects of the material world. In the spiritual world, there is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He then directly expands Himself into many other forms, all of which also reside in the spiritual world. The material creation exists as a way for spirit souls to enjoy their senses, falsely believing themselves to be equal to God. The first created living entity was Lord Brahma. Taking birth from Lord Vishnu’s navel, Brahma is often referred to as the self-born. He is the original progenitor of man, for every living entity can trace their lineage back to him.

“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)

Lord Brahma Lord Brahma didn’t limit himself to creating just human beings. Being the creator, he gave birth to all forms of life on earth. For life to exist in the material creation, the sun was required. Scientists consider the sun to be a star or other type of astral body, but the Vedas tell us that the sun is a living entity just like all of us. The material world consists of three gunas or qualities: goodness, passion, and ignorance. These qualities are then mixed together in varying proportions which then lead to 8,400,000 varieties of species. One living entity may possess 98% goodness, while another may have 50% goodness, 25% passion, and 25% ignorance, etc. Along with material qualities come the material elements, both gross and subtle. The subtle elements are mind, intelligence, and false ego and the gross elements are earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These elements represent the complete set, for all living entities contain these elements to varying degrees. Life doesn’t just exist on earth. Rather, life can exist anywhere in the infinite cosmos that is the universe. The sun is also a living entity with its own residents, but we don’t have the eyes to see this.

The sun god is considered a demigod, or an elevated living entity with special powers. Vivasvan has a body made almost completely of fire. His power is so strong that he provides heat and light to millions of living entities on this earth. Mankind has made great technological advancements in recent times, allowing it to create its own sources of energy, heat, and light. However, the resources required to fuel these appliances and machines are limited. That is why we always see debates over whether or not people should be allowed to drill for more oil in various parts of the world. Oil, or petroleum, is a naturally occurring substance which, when refined, fuels much of the advanced technology of today. As great as oil may be, it still pales in comparison to the power of the sun. The sun has been burning since the beginning of time and no one can understand the source of its energy.

According to the genealogy of man which is contained in the Vedas, Vivasvan’s son was Manu, the first man on earth. The word “man” derives from Manu. Manu then had a son named Ikshvaku, who served as the first king. Veda means knowledge, and the Vedas themselves represent perfect knowledge about all things spiritual and material. The Vedas are also known as the shrutis, meaning “that which is heard.” In the beginning, Vedic knowledge was passed down exclusively through an oral tradition. Manu, being the first man, decided to codify many of the Vedic tenets, especially those pertaining to the functions of government. His son Ikshvaku would be the first king on earth, so Manu knew he would need guidelines on how to rule his kingdom. The Manu-Smriti, or Laws of Manu, describes in great detail how a king should perform his duties. Everything from the proper tax rates to diplomatic strategies are covered in the Manu-Smriti. Smriti means written instruction, or “that which is remembered”. The injunctions of the Manu-Smriti have provided guidance for man since the beginning of creation.

Dashratha's sacrifice which brought him four sons Ikshvaku set the standard for good government. He was so pious that all his descendents became known as the Ikshvakus. Taking birth in this line was considered very special, for every king would have to live up to Ikshvaku’s example. Thus it is not surprising to see that Lord Rama, God Himself, took birth in this famous line. During the Treta Yuga, a king by the name of Dashratha was ruling over Ayodhya. He had no son to whom he could pass down the kingdom to, thus he was advised to perform a great sacrifice. As a result, he was blessed with four sons, the eldest of which was Rama. God’s appearance was no accident. At the time, Rakshasa demons were ascending to power and wreaking havoc throughout the world. Their leader, Ravana, was especially powerful, for he had been granted several boons by the demigods. Only a human being could kill him. Obviously no ordinary human had the fighting prowess to defeat Ravana, so God Himself decided to appear in the guise of a human.

Government really only exists to provide protection to the innocent. Not everyone is a good or nice person. The material qualities determine a person’s nature, and people in the mode of ignorance are generally unaware of any moral codes. We see examples of this anywhere. Modern day terrorists have no problems blowing up bombs aboard airplanes or in public places. Even if innocent women and children are killed, they don’t feel the slightest remorse. This activity is completely in the mode of ignorance because it is done in defiance or in ignorance of the laws of karma. Government exists to protect the innocent from such people.

In the above referenced statement, Lord Rama is telling the Rakshasa demon Khara that He has appeared specifically to dole out punishment to the sinful. And what was Khara’s sin? He and his fellow Rakshasas were preying on the innocent, the sages living in the forest of Dandaka. Rakshasas are human-like living entities who are sinful by nature. Their primary activities involve intoxication and meat eating. Not just ordinary meat eating either, for they have problem eating human flesh. In fact, these Rakshasas would terrorize the saints living in the forest, kill them, and then eat their flesh. For committing such heinous crimes, the Lord personally came to hand out punishment.

Lord Rama What was the punishment that Rama handed out? Death, which is the most painful experience for an atheist or enemy of the saints of the world. The Vedas represent true knowledge, and thus their first instruction is that we are not our bodies, aham brahmasmi. “I am a spirit soul, or Brahman. My identity comes from the atma (soul), and not from my material body which is nothing more than a dress that gets discarded at the time of death.” Atheists and Rakshasas especially, either don’t understand or don’t believe in these truths. They take the body, along with its possessions and attributes, to be the beginning and end of everything. They know nothing beyond the current life. Hence, when death comes, it is very painful for them, for it means they are forced to relinquish all that they have worked so hard for.

Lord Rama, just like the other pious men living in the forest at the time, was just minding His own business and not bothering anyone. Ravana’s sister, Shurpanakha, came to His cottage and started harassing Sita, Rama’s wife. Lakshmana, Rama’s brother, then disfigured Shurpanakha, causing her return home crying to Ravana. The demon then sent Khara and 14,000 other Rakshasas to attack Rama. Little did they know that the Lord would defeat all of them in one fell swoop.

Lakshmana disfiguring Shurpanakha No feat is impossible for God. For the devotees, He is always standing guard, ready to protect them. In today’s world, we see that demons and other enemies of God have a strong presence. Many of them even serve as government leaders. Thus no one is really protected. For this age, God incarnates in the form of His holy name. Those who regularly chantHare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, in a sincere and devoted manner will certainly be guaranteed of God’s protection. The Lord appears on earth to provide protection, so when He incarnates in the form of His name, He has the same potency to defend us.