Saturday, April 3, 2010

Unending Bliss

Lord Krishna's pastimes “The pastimes and activities of the Lord are not material; they are beyond the material conception. But the conditioned soul can benefit by hearing such uncommon activities. Hearing is an opportunity to associate with the Lord; to hear His activities is to evolve to the transcendental nature—simply by hearing.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 7)

Vedic literature is especially meant for the devotees. The Mahabharata, Puranas, and Ramayana are especially intended to give people direct contact with the Lord. This is the meaning of life after all, to love God and return to His spiritual abode in the afterlife. However, one can’t relish or understand the true meaning behind the verses found in these great books without first becoming a devotee, or bhakta. Therefore the Vedas, and the great acharyas who follow their teachings, recommend adherence to many rules. By performing austerities, or tapasya, and following the various regulations, we actually get to increase our enjoyment with God.

Lors Krishn and Lord Brahma The Vedas are the original religious system passed down by God Himself. The universe isn’t created just once, but rather goes through cycles of birth and death just like the living entities. In most creations, Krishna Himself first imparts Vedic knowledge to Lord Brahma, the first created living entity. Vedic wisdom is best acquired through the hearing process, hence the Vedas themselves are known as the shrutis, meaning that which is heard. As time goes on however, written word is required in order for people to remember and reference Vedic teachings. The written form of the Vedas is referred to as the smritis. The smritis contain an endless set of rules and regulations to follow. They guide people on how many hours they should sleep, what time they should wake up, how much they should eat during the day, when they should eat, how they should behave towards others, etc. The epic Mahabharata touches on many of these issues in the conversations they reference between various sages and their disciples.

Shrila Prabhupada For this age of Kali, Krishna Himself came to earth in the form of a brahmana to propagate God consciousness. As Lord Chaitanya, God simplified all the rules of the Vedas by recommending that people simply engage in the congregational chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Along with this chanting routine, people are advised to refrain from the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex. Yet even these rules were only basic guidelines. At Lord Chaitanya’s direction, Sanatana Goswami wrote a detailed code of conduct for devotees. This book, known as the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, touches on all aspects of devotional service. It mentions the different offenses that one should avoid while chanting, how to perform deity worship, mantras for specific rituals, and so forth. Sanatana Goswami wasn’t the only one to write about devotional service, for Lord Chaitanya single-handedly started a disciplic succession of great writers. Shrila Rupa Goswami, Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are giants of the Vaishnava literary world and they are all disciples in Lord Chaitanya’s line.

All the prescribed Vedic rules and regulations seem to take away from the fun of life. In fact, this is one of the many reasons why people shy away from spirituality and religion. Even those who are religiously inclined can easily get overwhelmed by the mountain of rules and regulations. “I just want to love and serve God. Shouldn’t that be enough? Shouldn’t religion be fun?” This is a common sentiment. Many of us just want to enjoy spiritual life with God. We understand the inherently flawed nature of material life. Constant hankering and lamenting can get old very quickly. Even if we achieve all our “dreams”, life doesn’t stop there. We still have to get up every day and perform activity. Desires never go away. Success and failure are certain to come, but there has to be a higher purpose to things. For these reasons, we take to religious life.

Krishna and Balarama The Vedas and the great acharyas agree with these conclusions. In fact, the rules and regulations are specifically meant to benefit potential devotees. It is only through adherence to some form of austerity, or tapasya, that we can really begin to enjoy spiritual life. Hearing about Krishna’s pastimes is a great example of this principle. The tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam goes into great detail about Krishna’s early life and especially His pastimes in Vrindavana. The stories and pastimes contained within this book represent pure bliss. Though only a set of Sanskrit words put together into poetry form, the subject matter is completely spiritual and untainted by the miseries of the material world.

One will notice that there aren’t very many lectures or commentaries written about Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavana. This is because the Lord’s activities are performed for the benefit of the devotees, hence they need no explanation. One of Krishna’s favorite pastimes as a child was stealing butter. He grew up in a cowherd family as the foster son of Nanda Maharaja and Mother Yashoda. Milk, butter, yogurt, and ghee were in full supply in Nanda’s house and also in the homes of the neighbors. Krishna and His brother Balarama would regularly raid the butter supplies of the neighbors, and then feed the butter to the monkeys of the village.

Radha and Krishna Krishna also enacted many wonderful pastimes with His cowherd girlfriends, the gopis. Shrimati Radharani is Krishna’s eternal pleasure potency expansion, so the Lord is especially fond of her. Radharani also grew up in Vrindavana, and part of her duties as a gopi involved travelling to the nearby town of Mathura to sell yogurt. Krishna would often intercept the path of the gopis and eat their yogurt. Many times, He would sneakily lick the cream off the top of the yogurt pots, thereby making the yogurt unsellable. The gopis tried taking alternative routes to get to the city, but Krishna would always find them and intercept their path.

The Lord enacted these and many other wonderful pastimes such as playing on His flute. This Krishna-lila brings pure bliss to the devotees. These stories don’t require commentary or lectures because the pastimes themselves are enough to grant liberation. Hearing about the pastimes of Krishna or His various incarnations is as good as directly associating with the Lord. This is the magic of God. After all, the meaning of life is to know, understand, and love God, so simply by hearing these wonderful stories, we can fulfill our life’s mission.

So if these stories are so wonderful, why do we need rules and regulations? The answer is that these pastimes can only be relished by devotees. In fact, we see that many non-devotees and miscreants open up the Shrimad Bhagavatam and immediately jump the tenth canto. They read about Krishna’s various pastimes with the gopis and they take the Lord to be an ordinary lusty human being like themselves. This is also another display of the Lord’s illusory powers. The words of the Bhagavatam don’t change. Yet two different classes of people can read the same words and get two completely different meanings out of them. Words are certainly words, but the shlokas relating to Krishna’s pastimes can only truly be understood by devotees.

Lord Krishna's pastimes For this reason, the various rules and regulations were put into place. They are intended to elevate people to platform of devotional service. If we simply jump to Krishna’s pastimes without knowing who He is or why the creation exists, then we will never truly benefit from such historical accounts. The lesson is that we should follow the instructions of the great Vaishnava acharyas. They worked very hard and suffered through many hardships in order to help future generations develop love for God. If we humbly submit ourselves at their lotus feet and follow their instructions, we too can enjoy the unending bliss that comes from direct association with Krishna.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Make Lemonade

Lakshmana “These hands of mine aren't meant to simply enhance my beauty, the bow is not meant simply to be a decoration, the sword is not meant for tying around my waist, and the arrows aren't meant to remain standing immobile. These four things are all meant for killing my enemies.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 23.30)

There is a famous saying which recommends that “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. “ This principle can apply to spiritual activities as well and here Lakshmana is teaching us how to go about doing that. It is very easy to rebuke material objects as being part of maya, or God’s illusory energy, but it takes a little intelligence to see that normal everyday things that appear to be material, can actually be used for religious purposes.

Shankara Started by the great saint Shankara, the Mayavada philosophy is quite popular in India as a school of thought relating to religion. The Vedas are the original scriptures of the world emanating out of India. They collectively include many great works such as the Puranas, Mahabharata, and Ramayana. One of the more popular Vedic texts is the Vedanta-sutras, a collection of aphorisms compiled by Vyasadeva, God’s literary incarnation. Shankaracharya purposefully misinterpreted the Vedanta-sutra to be a doctrine espousing the belief that God is impersonal. If we believe that God is one, an entity separate from us, then we view Him as being personal. This feature of God is known as Bhagavan, meaning He has all opulences. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, can also be realized in two other subordinate features of Paramatma (Supersoul), and impersonal Brahman. The Mayavadi philosophers mistakenly believe that Brahman is the only aspect of God. They take the Vedanta-sutra as their ultimate authority, not realizing that the author himself wrote his own commentary on the Vedanta-sutra known as the Shrimad Bhagavatam, wherein he declares God to be personal, with His original form being that of Lord Krishna.

Since Mayavadis take God to be an impersonal energy, they believe that the aim of life is to somehow merge into this energy and become one with Brahman. They declare that the various forms of Godhead, including all the demigods, are all just different manifestations of the impersonal Brahman.

“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.11)

Lord Krishna and His pastimes Along these lines, they take everything in the material world to be maya, or illusory. Since they believe everything to be false, their prescribed method for achieving transcendental realization is the rejection of everything material, i.e. complete renouncement. Everyone must become a sannyasi and study Vedanta philosophy. They think people engaged in bhakti yoga, or devotional service, are wasting their time associating with maya.

The Bhagavata-dharma school thinks differently. Dharma can be defined as religion, but a more precise definition equates dharma with an occupational duty. Religious beliefs may change based on a person’s sentiments, but duty and occupation don’t. In fact, the Vedas never mention anything about religion. Spiritual life is referred to as sanatana-dharma, meaning the eternal occupation of man. Service to God is not something to be practiced only in this material world, but in the spiritual world as well. Bhagavata-dharma means religion in devotion, or just straight devotional service. This is the system of religion instituted by God Himself. There are many types of religious and spiritual disciplines referred to as yoga, but devotional service is the highest discipline because it involves loving God purely, without any personal motives. Followers of this school don’t take everything to be false. Birth, old age, disease and death are real, as are pains and pleasures. Though they are real, they are also temporary. As soon as one takes birth, their death is guaranteed. It may come in one day or in one hundred years, but death will surely come. At that point, the soul remains intact but is given a new body according to one’s karma.

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

Bhishma thinking of Krishna at the time of deathDevotees understand that everything is temporary, so instead of simple rejection, they make the best use of a bad bargain. Lord Krishna declares that anyone who thinks of Him at the time of death no longer has to suffer through the cycle of birth and death resulting from karma.

“Whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)

Understanding and firmly believing in this fact, devotees try to utilize everything in this world as a means towards achieving that end, i.e. thinking of God at the end of life. If we practice thinking of God right now, then it is more than likely that we will think of Him at the time of death.

Lakshmana was the younger brother of Lord Rama, who was one of Krishna’s primary incarnations appearing on earth during the Treta Yuga. Just prior to His would-be installation as the king of Ayodhya, Rama was ordered to leave the kingdom and not return for fourteen years. This order was given by Rama and Lakshmana’s father, King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Rama had no problem with the decision, but Lakshmana was quite upset. The above referenced quote was part of a series of statements Lakshmana directed towards Rama in hopes of persuading Him to remain in the kingdom. Lakshmana was willing to even mount a coup, installing Rama on the throne by force. He was the perfect devotee, so such sentiments weren’t surprising. He renounced all other relationships that he had in favor of serving Rama.

Lakshmana Lakshmana declared that his hands weren’t there just for decorating his own body. Both he and Rama were born in a kshatriya dynasty, meaning they were warriors by trade. In those times, the governments were religious monarchies run by pious warriors well acquainted with the principles of dharma. The Vedas actually declare that this system of government is ideal, where trained military men would run the government and take advice from the priestly class of men, the brahmanas. Lakshmana here is stating that his hands don’t exist simply to satisfy his own senses or enhance his beauty, but rather, they are there to serve God. The same went for his bow, arrows, and sword. He was a military man whose duty it was to provide protection to others. He made the best use of his trade by incorporating his fighting skills in his service to God.

Some may be put off by such statements since they seem to be condoning violence. Contrary to many popular theories on non-violence, the Vedas do sanction violence for specific cases.

“According to Vedic injunctions there are six kinds of aggressors: 1) a poison giver, 2) one who sets fire to the house, 3) one who attacks with deadly weapons, 4) one who plunders riches, 5) one who occupies another's land, and 6) one who kidnaps a wife. Such aggressors are at once to be killed, and no sin is incurred by killing such aggressors.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bg. 1.36 Purport)

Lakshmana viewed Dasharatha and his wife Kaikeyi as aggressors since they were perpetrating such an iniquitous act as Rama’s banishment to the forest. Violence committed on proper religious grounds is allowed. The Bhagavad-gita, spoken by Lord Krishna Himself, gives the same conclusion. It is not that one should go around happily attacking others. Since kshatriyas have a religious duty to give protection, they should execute their duty with detachment.

“Do thou fight for the sake of fighting, without considering happiness or distress, loss or gain, victory or defeat—and, by so doing, you shall never incur sin.” (Lord Krishna speaking to Arjuna, Bg. 2.38)

Shri Rama Darbar In the end, it turned out that Lakshmana’s intervention wasn’t necessary. Lord Rama had higher purposes to serve by going to the forest and taking His wife, Sita Devi, and Lakshmana with Him. Nevertheless, Lakshmana’s mood of devotion can serve as a great example for us. We can all use whatever we have at our disposal to serve God. We can use our hands to prepare nice foodstuff to be offered to Him, our ears to hear Krishna-katha, our mouth to taste Krishna prasadam, and our legs to travel to Krishna temples. We don’t require large sums of money, just a little sincerity.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Quitting Time

Lord Krishna “For those who are wandering in the material universe, there is no more auspicious means of deliverance than what is aimed at in the direct devotional service of Lord Krishna.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.2.33)

The American television sitcom Friends had a particularly funny episode relating to quitting a gym. Two of the main characters in the show were members of an exercise facility, or gym, and since they weren’t regularly attending, they had decided to end their memberships. Quitting a gym isn’t so easy though, and the episode focused around the trials and tribulations related to getting out of a gym membership. Though only part of a fictional television show, the episode gives insight into how material nature, as a whole, operates.

Ross and Chandler trying to quit the gym Friends first aired in 1994 and ran for 10 seasons. It was enormously popular, and one of the many reasons for its success was its ability to relate to the average citizen in America. The show was set in New York City, where the day-to-day lives of a group of friends, all in their late twenties, were chronicled. Two of the main characters on the show were Chandler and Ross. They were friends for a long time; they had roomed together in college. In one particular episode, Chandler had decided he wanted to quit his gym. He was paying a monthly membership fee but was hardly ever going. It didn’t seem worth it to retain the membership. However, Chandler knew that quitting the gym wouldn’t be so easy. The health club wouldn’t give up his patronage without a fight. Knowing this, Chandler enlisted the help of his good friend Ross. The two devised a plan whereby they would stand strong against any persuasive techniques employed by the gym’s staff.

The principle tactic used by the gym’s staff was guilt. When Chandler and Ross went to cancel the membership, not only did Chandler not cancel, but Ross ended up signing up for a new membership. The trainers at the gym told Chandler and Ross that quitting would be a bad idea because it would mean they wouldn’t get into shape, and that this would result in them being less attractive to women. Realizing that quitting the gym wasn’t an option, Chandler and Ross decided they would instead try to close their bank accounts, thereby eliminating the source of funding for their gym memberships.

For comedy to be good, it must have an element of truth to it. For this reason, this particular episode of Friends was very funny. Though the actual events of the episode were a parody or even an exaggeration of real life, it is most certainly true that quitting a gym is not an easy task. A gym owner is running a business after all, and so their job is to have as many paying customers as possible. Gym owners bank on the fact that the majority of their members will hardly ever attend the gym. This is why most health clubs employ a contract or automatic payment style of membership. One either commits to paying an entire year’s membership fee, or they pay monthly with the payments automatically charged to a credit card or debited from a bank account. Each health club in America is full of paying members who almost never attend. Some keep paying month after month, year after year, without ever going. Quitting is not an easy task either. Some gyms will require you to give a valid reason for breaking out of your contract. Other gyms actually won’t let you quit in person. They require a member to send a certified letter to an office. The thinking behind such tactics makes sense. The owners of the gym realize that if a person is too lazy to go to the gym, they will be too lazy to take the necessary steps to quit.

The health club is a microcosm of the entire material creation. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that spirit souls have a choice as to whether or not they want to take birth here. The material world is itself a sort of playground, where the spirit souls can assume bodies that are created, perform some action, leave some byproducts, and are then destroyed. Though there are varieties of activities in this playground, the end-goal is always the same; the living entities want to be God. They want to be the ruler of the playground. God is only fair after all, so as long as this desire remains, the spirit soul is repeatedly cast into the nescience of the material world. A person thinking they can become God is the very definition of nescience.

Lord Krishna The material world is governed by maya, which is God’s illusory energy. Maya traps us into playing her game of karmic activity. Karma is fruitive work, and by its definition, it cannot lead to liberation. Liberation means associating with the spiritual energy, or God Himself. While the material world is full of nescience, the spiritual world is just the opposite. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is described as having a body full of bliss and knowledge, sach-chid-ananda-vigraha. Not only is Krishna knowledgeable, but so is anyone who is directly in contact with Him. Not only is Krishna worshipable, but so are His land and spiritual realms. The material world, though created by Krishna, is only a partial representation of His energy. It is not considered spiritual because God Himself does not directly associate with it. The Lord has no desire to associate with an inferior energy.

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

Many of us come to the realization that material life is not for us. We either may be put into great difficulty, or we seek higher knowledge, or we just have an inkling that there is more to life than sense gratification. In these instances, we try to quit material life and take to religious life. Yet like the gym owners, maya doesn’t let her members quit so easily. Those who take to religious life are guaranteed to encounter many obstacles along the way. Maya is always telling us that we’ll be happier associating with her. She is always enticing us with the sinful activities of meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex.

Since we have associated with maya for so long, we have developed obligations to family, friends, and society. Material life means making plans. “I will do this, I will do that, and I will be happy.” These plans certainly do lead to temporary happiness from time to time. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch. With actions come consequences. We may plant seeds in the form of various plans and material activities, but these seeds eventually grow into trees. The trees appear to give us happiness, but they also have thorns on them that tear at us and cause us to bleed. When we try to give up association with maya, these thorns really dig in. For example, for those growing up in Western countries, it is very difficult to give up the sinful activities of meat eating and intoxication. If we suddenly stop eating meat, our friends may chide us. “What are you a saint now? You know it’s pretty girly to be a vegetarian. Real men like to eat meat and drink beer.” Of course this logic is silly. Being a man means eating the flesh of an animal that somebody else killed in a slaughterhouse? Giving up intoxication is just as hard. So much of social life revolves around going to bars and having drinks. If a person gives these up, they must drastically alter their social life.

Since quitting the gym was so hard, Chandler and Ross decided to try the alternative method of closing their bank accounts. In a similar manner, aspiring transcendentalists often try alternative methods such as jnana-yoga or hatha-yoga as a way of breaking free from maya. Jnana-yoga involves studying Vedanta and understanding the difference between matter and spirit. Hatha-yoga involves various breathing exercises and sitting postures aimed at curbing the influence of the senses. Both of these processes are certainly bona fide methods of transcendental realization but they are difficult to perform, and also, they don’t reward the practitioner with much. Perfection in jnana-yoga means merging into Krishna’s impersonal energy known as Brahman. This also means losing one’s identity, for there is no activity, spiritual or material, in Brahman. Hatha-yoga provides a similar type of reward, the merging into the body of Lord Narayana, Krishna’s four-handed form.

Mirabai performing devotional service There is one very easy way to quit material nature. This method is known as bhakti yoga, or devotional service. This is the best method because it is actually much more than just a method of self-realization. The Vedas tell us that the spirit soul is originally a part and parcel of Krishna. The spirit souls are inferior to God, but they can still attain perfection when they realize their constitutional position as eternal servants of the Lord. Bhakti yoga means acting according to the original nature of the soul. In its purified form, the soul engages in unalloyed loving service to Krishna. The only real way to break free of maya’s influence is to change our desires from the material to the spiritual.

When we quit a gym, we stop going. This also means we probably will stop exercising. Quitting the material world through devotional service is different. It doesn’t mean that we stop performing activities altogether. Rather, we just purify our activities by dovetailing them with God’s interests. So how do we do this? In this age, the easiest method is the chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This chanting can be done by any person, at any stage in life. It simply requires movement of the tongue and mouth. There is no difference between God and His name, so this activity is completely spiritual in nature.

The key is to spiritualize all of our activities. Religious leaders around the world recommend that people attend church at least once a week. This is certainly a good recommendation, but we see that many people forgo attending church. Skipping church on Sundays is as easy as not attending the gym. “Since it’s only once a week, who will notice if I’m not there?” This is why devotees of Krishna advise people to make service to God their fulltime occupation. One may ask, “How can I engage in religious activity all the time if I have obligations such as work, school, and family?” This is where chanting comes in. Anyone can chant the maha-mantra anywhere and at any time. We can chant while in the car, in our room in the morning, with our families at night, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Lord Chaitanya and Lord Krishna Along with chanting, there are other processes of devotional service such as hearing, remembering, worshiping, etc. As one progresses in devotional life, they can take up these other processes. In order to protect against falling back into the clutches of maya, it is also advised that one refrain from the four pillars of sinful life. It is much easier to give up meat eating and intoxication when we are doing it out of love for God. In addition, the more we chant the more spiritual strength we acquire. This is necessary when fighting against maya. Material nature is very strong, but if we have firm faith in the instructions of Krishna and the spiritual master, we will surely emerge victorious.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Supreme Shelter

Rama and Lakshmana protecting Vishvamitra “Please allow Rama to protect me during those times when I am observing religious functions and trying to keep my concentration. O chief of mankind, a terrible fear has befallen me on account of this Rakshasa Maricha.” (Vishvamitra speaking to Maharaja Dasharatha, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.4)

For protection in this world and the next, we don’t need to seek out the help of anyone except God. Demigods, government leaders, and even family members cannot come close to offering the perfect and complete protection that God offers His devotees. God is one, even though He has many expansions. Some people mistakenly take shelter of the demigods, believing them to be equal to the Lord Himself. This has proved to be disastrous on many of occasion.

Narasimha Deva with Goddess Lakshmi The Vedas tell us that God is one. His original form is that of Lord Shri Krishna, also known as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the supreme and original person, adi purusham. He is the origin of Godhead, because God can take many forms. Krishna’s direct expansions are known as vishnu-tattva, meaning they are equal to Him in potency. Whether one worships Lord Krishna, Rama, Narasimha, or Vishnu, they are still worshiping the same original God. This doesn’t hold true with demigods though. A demigod, or devata, is an expansion of the Lord who interacts with material nature. We living entities are also expansions of the Lord, known as jiva-tattva. Jivas are spiritual in nature, but they also can interact with matter if they choose to. Material nature represents God’s inferior energy. It is subordinate to His spiritual energy because God doesn’t directly provide any protection to those who interact solely with matter. Jivas are technically described as belonging to God’s marginal energy because they have a choice as to which energy they associate with.

Demigods are also living entities, but they are elevated in power and strength. To ere is human means that human beings are fallible. We have a tendency to cheat, to have imperfect senses, to be illusioned, and to commit mistakes. Demigods are also living entities who suffer through birth and death, but their duration of life is usually much longer. They also have extraordinary powers because they have been deputed by Krishna to manage various departments of the material creation. Because of their extraordinary powers, many people mistakenly take them to be equal to God. Demigods offer material boons, or rewards. If one wants a beautiful wife, a good grade on an exam, or plenty of food to eat, they worship various demigods through elaborate sacrifices and penances. Demigods, by rule, are required to bestow these boons to anyone who properly worships them, regardless of the underlying motives.

Ravana Wealth, fame, and power are very seductive to those who take material advancement to be the aim of life. Not really believing in God, gross materialists become enamored with procuring as much material opulence as they can. For this reason, many of them take to demigod worship. The demon Ravana was a great example of this. A Rakshasa by birth, he performed many great penances to please the demigods Brahma and Shiva. He took complete shelter of them. In return, the great demigods bestowed wonderful boons on Ravana. The demon was given ten heads and a tremendous fighting prowess. Ravana, not surprisingly, used these powers for evil. He immediately went on attack against other demigods, including his own brother. He quickly became feared around the world. Yet as powerful as he was, he was still subject to the laws of material nature, meaning he eventually had to die. He would meet death at the hands of Lord Rama, an incarnation of God. At the time of his death, no demigod was there to protect Ravana. In fact, the same demigods whom he had once pleased were now rooting for Rama. They had purposefully coordinated events in such a way that God Himself would come to earth in the form of human. Of course God can never associate with the material energy. For the living entity, there is a difference between matter and spirit, but for God, He is all spirit. Nevertheless, Rama appeared to have the body of a human being for the purpose of killing Ravana. When death came, all of Ravana’s possessions, powers, and relationships went away. The kingdom he worked so hard to protect, was now turned over to his younger brother Vibhishana, who also was on Lord Rama’s side.

Maricha The above referenced quote is from a conversation between the demon Maricha and Ravana, just prior to Ravana’s kidnapping of Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. At the time, Lord Rama had just defeated and killed 14,000 of Ravana’s associates in the forest of Janasthana. Akampana, one of Ravana’s fighters, informed him that there would be no way to defeat Rama in battle, but that he should rather devise a plan to steal Rama’s wife. Heeding this advice, Ravana quickly went to his advisor Maricha for help coming up with a scheme. Maricha was no fool, for he knew that messing with Rama was not a great idea. To deter Ravana from going through with his plan, Maricha told him a story of events from a previous time.

Maricha and other Rakshasas had a favorite pastime; they used to haunt the sages living in the forest and disrupt their sacrifices. These events all took place during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. Many great brahmanas had taken to forest life since it was more conducive to spiritual activity. The forests and countryside are considered to be in the mode of goodness. There isn’t any hustle and bustle, and people are content to live a simple life, subsisting on whatever food is available. This means that the rest of the time is spent meditating on God and performing various sacrifices. These Rakshasas were atheists by nature, so they had a deep hatred for the suras, or devotees. One great brahmana of that time, Vishvamitra, was especially perturbed by these attacks of the Rakshasas. He approached the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha, and asked him to send his eldest son, Rama, to protect him.

Vishvamitra with Rama and Lakshmana Vishvamitra is considered one of the greatest sages in history, primarily due to his association with Rama. Vishvamitra didn’t seek shelter of any demigod or any government leader. He knew that only God Himself was capable of providing Him complete protection. At the time, Rama was a young boy, who no one thought was ready to fight demons. Vishvamitra knew the truth about Rama, so he had no qualms about asking Dasharatha allow Rama to come with him.

For one who completely surrenders unto the Lord, deliverance from all calamities is guaranteed. The greatest calamity in life is the repeated cycle of birth and death, where one is constantly thrown into the ocean of nescience which is the material world. There can be no punishment greater than having to take birth again. Since only God can grant liberation, He is known as Mukunda.

Vishvamitra was a qualified brahmana, and more importantly, a pure devotee of God. For this reason, Dashratha acquiesced and allowed both Rama and His younger brother, Lakshmana, to accompany Vishvamitra. The lesson here is that we too should strive to be pure devotees. A pure devotee is one who only seeks the shelter of the Supreme Lord, without any personal motive for material power or fame. A person who has reached such a level of devotion becomes qualified to receive the Lord’s mercy. For such devotees, the Lord guarantees His unflinching protection. Rama and Lakshmana would come through for Vishvamitra, protecting him from Maricha and countless other demons. If we constantly chant the Lord’s names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and stay connected with the spiritual energy, we too can live without fearing the attacks of demons.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Rama and Lakshmana“You are worried that if You take over the kingdom, King Dasharatha will be bewildered, and thus the kingdom will not be ruled properly due to all the turmoil. And for this, You, who are a great soul, are unwilling to rule the kingdom Yourself? O great warrior, I promise to protect Your kingdom just as a shoreline protects the sea, otherwise I will not be worthy of the supreme destination of heaven set aside for great warriors.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 23.27-28)

In this passage, Lakshmana, Lord Rama’s younger brother, is swearing to protect his brother against any and all enemies. Lord Rama is God Himself, and Lakshmana is a perfect devotee of God. The example set forth here is that devotees should always be ready to defend the Lord from attacks.

Lord Krishna One may ask why God, the all powerful creator, would require protection from anyone. In actuality, He doesn’t but He appreciates the sentiment. People sometimes see horrific tragedies and other calamities and think that God is personally taking out His revenge on the sinful. This is not entirely true. The Lord indeed created the material world and everything inside of it, yet He remains a neutral bystander, someone who doesn’t have a personal interest in the day-to-day affairs of man. The idea is that this world is a playground for the jiva souls who come here in the forms of various material bodies. Everything here is governed by karma, the system of fruitive work which accumulates commensurate reactions. Anyone acting on the material platform, i.e. someone working for some personal benefit, is accumulating karma. The results of this fruitive work determine what will happen to them in the future, both in their current life and also in future lives. Everything good and bad that comes to us today doesn’t appear due to our personal endeavors. Rather, our good and bad fortune is allotted to us based on our past karma. As we continue to perform fruitive work, we accumulate more karma.

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

Since God is neutral towards all living entities, we are all free to do as we please. We have free will in how we choose to interact with material nature, but we still aren’t responsible for the things that take place in nature. This is an important point that is not very easy to understand.

“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)

Those who aren’t acquainted with Vedic teachings and the laws of karma, falsely believe that this gross material body is the be-all/end-all. “Once you die, everything becomes finished, nullified, nothing.” Based on this mentally concocted theory, these materialists then take the aim of life to be the pursuit of unfettered enjoyment. “Eat, sleep, and drink all you want.” While enjoying may be nice in the short term, if one doesn’t have a proper understanding about God and His energies, he becomes forever doomed. The fact of the matter is that this current life isn’t the only one we’ve ever had. Death is not the end, but rather the beginning of a new life.

“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.27)

Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield Since the material senses can never be fully satisfied, non-devotees jump from one material activity to another. They end up forming their own ideas of the origin of man and how life was created. These theories are all based on mental speculation. By coming up with these various flawed theories, they are completely rejecting the idea of God. For example, the modern day environmental movement seems harmless on the surface. “Protect the environment, burn less fossil fuels, recycle, etc.” These are the various prescriptions proposed by environmentalists for saving the planet and stopping global warming. While their intentions may be noble, the fact is that God created this planet, and He is in charge of destroying it. Human beings haven’t got the slightest idea how the weather system works. They have no power to make the earth warmer or cooler. Yet that is the precisely what the leaders of the modern day environmental movement are saying. They say, “Put us in charge. Let us run the governments of the world, and we will dictate everyone’s behavior. By following our guidelines, we can stop the earth from warming, and thereby save the planet.” These are the same people that told us thirty years ago that the earth was headed for a cooling cycle.

Material science has its limits. Scientists may bring about great material advancements, but they are still unable to explain the phenomenon of life. The original scriptures of the world, the Vedas, explain all these facts in great detail. The Vedas represent perfect knowledge because they have been passed down from authority, starting with God Himself. There is no need to perform any research or go to outer space to find out why we are here and how we can get out of this material world. The answers are all given by God. Yet most in society today still remain ignorant of the teachings of the Vedas. The scientific journals and the nightly television newscasts are what people follow. Therefore everyone is being educated in the flawed logic of the atheists. Devotees of God need to defend the Lord from the attacks that come from these godless theories.

Rama and LakshmanaMany thousands of years ago, Lord Krishna, God Himself, appeared on earth as the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya. Known by the name of Rama, the Lord was dedicated to dharma, or religiosity, and the welfare of the great saints. Unfortunately, one day Rama was ordered to spend fourteen years in the forest by Dasharatha. The Lord gladly accepted the order, but His younger brother, Lakshmana, didn’t take it too well. The name Rama means “one who gives pleasure to others.” The Lord was loved and adored by all the citizens, as He should have been. He never bothered anyone; He was nice and respectful to all those worthy of it. He never did anything wrong. Knowing these facts, Lakshmana was quite appalled at his father’s behavior. The above referenced statement was part of his plea to Rama to get Him to remain in the kingdom. Lakshmana wanted to install Rama on the throne by force, and fight anyone who stood in their way. He promised to protect Rama the same way that the shore protects the sea from overflowing onto land.

Lakshmana made another interesting point. He declared that if he was unable to protect Rama, he wouldn’t ascend to the heavenly planets. In the Vedic system of varnashrama dharma, the kshatriyas are required to provide protection to society. They are the warrior/administrator class, thus they are required to be brave and courageous and fight any enemy that comes their way. Since they are involved in such a noble profession, they are guaranteed to ascend to heaven should they die in battle. So here Lakshmana is saying that if he doesn’t properly protect Rama, God Himself, that he wouldn’t feel that he deserved to go to heaven.

Shri Rama Darbar This shows the proper mindset of a devotee. Most people worship God for some personal benefit. It is only natural after all to go to God in times of trouble or when we are inquisitive about the soul. Pure devotees, however, serve the Lord without any personal motive. They are assured of going back to Krishna’s spiritual planet after death, but they have no desire to do so. They would rather humbly serve the Lord who is so kind and compassionate towards them. Actually, God is compassionate towards everyone, even if we don’t realize it. There is no justification for the attacks thrown at God by the atheists. The lesson here is that we should all follow Lakshmana’s lead by openly vowing to protect the Lord all His enemies. Even many pseudo-religionists, such as the Mayavadis, regularly criticize Lord Krishna and His various activities performed during His times on earth. We may not be great kshatriya warriors like Lakshmana, but in this age, we can protect the Lord by always chanting His glorious names and inducing others to follow suit. We may or may not be successful in our attempts, but that shouldn’t deter us. We should serve the Lord with the same dedication shown by Lakshmana. God will appreciate our sentiment.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Pages Come Alive

Krishna and Balarama stealing butter “When Krishna and Balarama are caught stealing the yogurt and butter, They say, 'Why do you charge us with stealing? Do you think that butter and yogurt are in scarcity in our house?'” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8)

For a person to be considered alive, a spirit soul must reside within their body. This soul enables one to perform activity or work. The gross material body is useless in the absence of the soul. When the spiritual spark is present, the body moves, walks, and talks. As long as a person is alive, they can give pleasure to friends and family through personal interactions. When death occurs, the soul leaves the body, thereby causing grief and heartache to loved ones. What people lament most about death is that their interactions with the deceased have come to end. They will never hear that person speak again nor will they be able to observe their activities. While this principle relating to death holds true for living entities, it is not so with God. Since Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has an eternal body which full of bliss and knowledge, His activities never cease.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

Krishna and His many forms Not only does the Lord appear on this earth from time to time, but He also shows His presence on others planets which are part of the innumerable universes in existence. His appearances as a human being are what most people pay attention to. When Krishna incarnates as Lord Rama, people pay close attention to His activities and pastimes. When He personally appears in His Krishna form, great scholars take note of His teachings and His childhood pastimes in Vrindavana. The Vedas tell us that the soul is eternal and that it repeatedly undergoes birth and death in the material world, meaning that our current life is not the first one we’ve had. As far as interacting with Krishna goes, we may or may not have been present on the earth during the time of the Lord’s various appearances. The jivatma is similar to God in quality, but inferior in quantity. This means that we are unable to remember the experiences from our previous lives, whereas God is able to. Not only does He remember all of our previous births, but He remembers every action ever performed by any living entity, past, present, or future. This is the greatness of God.

Whether we actually got to personally associate with Lord Rama or Lord Krishna in the past is irrelevant since we wouldn’t be able to remember anyway. As a result, people sometimes bemoan the fact that they are unable to have personal interaction with God. This frustration is understandable. The material world is essentially a place full of miseries. This is because everything here, including our current body, is temporary. If something is temporary, meaning it is ultimately destroyed, it must be considered fallible and also a source of misery. We may be living the happiest life in a material sense, with a great family, a nice house, and a high paying job, but these things are all temporary.

The relationships we form with friends, family, and spouses are all checked in a sense. This is evidenced by the frequency with which arguments and disagreements occur. It is customary for a husband and wife to argue vehemently with each other. In fact it is often said that people will only argue with the people they love. We love our friends and family so much that it pains us greatly to see them behaving improperly. This pain causes us to attempt to correct the actions of our loved ones, which then leads to arguments.

Lord Krishna eating butter Sense gratification in the material world has limits, and people that realize this eventually look to God. This is certainly a good thing, for the purpose of human life is to know, understand, and love God. When searching out God, one may be frustrated in the initial stages. This is because God doesn’t appear to be personally present before us. “I want to see You God, but I can’t. I’m suffering in this material world and I want out. I want to be with You. I hear that You’re so great, but why can’t I see You? Why can’t You just come and be with me?” It is quite natural to feel this way, for association with God represents the ultimate achievement in life.

When a person dies, we will never see them again. They are gone from our lives. However, if we think of them and remember the time we spent with them, then they are still alive in a sense. This holds true even more so with God. Just because the Lord is not personally present before us, it doesn’t mean that we can’t interact with Him. Having a life means being able to perform actions. If we read about the wonderful pastimes of the Lord found in the great Vedic texts, we are directly associating with Him, because simply by reading that Krishna did this and Krishna did that, He is essentially performing those actions in front of us. If the Lord were personally present before us and enacting His pastimes, it would really be no different than if we were to read about it. This is the magic of the scriptures. Krishna lives forever through the authoritative texts written by the great saints.

If we watch television shows, movies, or even sporting events, we love to talk about them later on with our friends. Our friends may ask us, “So what did you do last night?” We may reply with, “Oh, I saw Jordan hit a buzzer-beater to win the game.”, or “I saw a hilarious episode of Friends, the one where Chandler and Ross tried to quit the gym.”, or “I saw that new movie that’s out.” Through these activities, we directly associate with the various athletes and movie stars. In essence, these notable figures come to life by entertaining us.

Rama and Lakshmana battling Ravana In the same way, God can also come alive right before us on a daily basis. The Tenth Canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam has detailed descriptions of Lord Krishna’s most famous pastimes. Lord Rama has an entire lengthy poem dedicated to His activities known as the Ramayana. By regularly reading these books, we can directly associate with God. If someone asks us if anything interesting happened over the weekend, we could respond with “Oh, Lord Rama killed Ravana. It was amazing; I was so happy.”, or “Lord Krishna lifted Govardhana Hill and protected all the inhabitants of Vrindavana.”, or “Lord Krishna kept impeding the path of Radharani as she went to sell yogurt in the market. Not only would He stop her from going, but He would eat all the cream off the top of the yogurt pots, thus jeopardizing any potential sales Radha would have made.”

In this way, God remains very much alive right in front of us. This pure and spontaneous mood of devotion is very much approved by Lord Chaitanya, Krishna’s most recent incarnation. During His time on earth, Lord Chaitanya once met a brahmana who was very distraught. The brahmana was fasting due to the fact that Mother Sita, Lord Rama’s wife, had been kidnapped by Ravana. He was waiting for her to come back so that he could eat. The actual events of the Ramayana had taken place thousands of years before, but this devotee of Lord Rama wanted to always remain in the moment. Lord Chaitanya appreciated this level of devotion very much.

Lord Krishna The Vedas are unlike any other religious discipline. Lord Krishna is loved and adored so much that His pastimes, and those of His incarnations, are found in many many books. We should all take advantage of these resources available to us. God is always alive; by regularly hearing about Him from the mouths of pure devotees, He can appear right in front of us. If we have a sincere desire to see the Lord and to serve Him, He will most certainly come to our rescue.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Personal Touch

Lord Rama “Those men who worship My personal form, are intent on doing good to others, firmly tread the path of righteousness, and are steadfast in their vow and devoted to the feet of the brahmanas, are dear to Me as life.” (Lord Rama, Ramacharitamanasa, Sundara-Kanda, 48)

Adding a personal touch to a sales pitch can go a long way towards securing a sale. If a potential buyer has faith and trust in the person they are buying from, they are more likely to become a loyal customer. For a salesperson, face-to-face interactions prove to be the best form of marketing. Impersonal interactions through advertisements, fliers, and postcards just don’t have the same appeal.

Human beings want to feel connected. It is the nature of the living entity to love. This is inherited from their original constitutional position in the spiritual world. The Vedas tell us that every individual is a spirit soul at the core, part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The material world is meant to be a mirror of the spiritual world, except that there is no presiding deity here. Every living entity is allowed to compete for the material post of God. This is essentially a false pursuit because no human being can ever compare to God. In the spiritual world, the spirit soul is an eternal servant of Krishna, interacting with Him through various transcendental mellows, or rasas. These same rasas exist in the material world, but in a perverted form. Pure love can only be of the spiritual variety. Nevertheless, the living entities still retain their loving propensity in the material world, though it gets directed towards other things.

Mother Yashoda with Krishna This desire to love causes us to form relationships with friends, family, and even lovers. All of these relationships involve human interaction and trust. Upon taking birth, it is the animal instinct of the living entity to defend. Wanting to protect its possessions and its life, the living entity engages in the mode of defense and views others with skepticism. This animalistic tendency is unnatural for the spirit soul, thus people like to break free of this distrust by forming friendships. A person is much happier when they are directing positive energy through love, than when they are exhibiting negative energy through hate. We would much rather have an attachment for something than have repulsion for something.

This characteristic of human beings proves to be very important for those in the sales and marketing fields. Sales is a cut-throat business. Everyone is looking to make a profit by finding as many customers as they can. One of the key components of marketing is “touching”. For a person selling a product or service, the goal is to have as many “touches” with potential clients as possible. A touch can be any interaction, either a phone call, a flier, a newspaper advertisement, a website, etc. The best kinds of touches, however, are the personal ones. Nothing beats personal interactions, such as face-to-face conversations, extended telephone calls, or personal emails. These personal touches are effective because they lead to the formation of friendships.

The only downside to personal touches is that they are more time consuming. A person can design, print, and mail out thousands of postcards in a few hours, while having a personal conversation with the same amount of people could take weeks, if not months. Personal touches aren’t guaranteed to bring sales either. Some people won’t be receptive to the message of the salesperson. Even with its drawbacks, the personal touch is still the preferred method for converting sales. Those who are receptive to personal interaction are much more likely to become life-long customers. Not only does the seller benefit from such a relationship, but the customer as well, since they are more likely to receive valued service and have their feedback listened to.

“The constitution of Brahman is immortality, imperishability, eternity, and happiness. Brahman is the beginning of transcendental realization. Paramatma, the Supersoul, is the middle, the second stage in transcendental realization, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the ultimate realization of the Absolute Truth. Therefore, both Paramatma and the impersonal Brahman are within the Supreme Person.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 14.27 Purport)

Lord Krishna The concept of the personal touch can be applied to religion as well. The Vedas tell us that God can be realized in three distinct features: Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. Bhagavan is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, God’s original form residing in the spiritual sky. There the Lord exists in His body which is eternal and full of bliss. Paramatma is an expansion of God. In every living entity, there exist two souls within the heart. The first soul, jivatma, represents our individual identity. The second soul, Paramatma, represents God’s expansion. In essence, God lives inside all of us as a neutral observer. Brahman is God’s third feature. Brahman is more of a classification than an expansion of God. Brahman refers to everything material and spiritual, all the way up to the brahmajyoti, which is the spiritual effulgence. Just as astronauts have to pass through various atmospheric layers when leaving the earth and going into space, there is similarly a spiritual effulgence that exists right before one enters the personal spiritual planets of Vaikunthaloka and Krishnaloka.

“…I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness, and which is immortal, imperishable and eternal.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.27)

Though Lord Krishna clearly states that He is the source of Brahman, there are many impersonalist philosophers who take Brahman to be the beginning and end of everything. They utter the phrase, brahma-satya jagat-mithya, meaning that Brahman is the truth and that everything else in the world is false. These philosophers view the Vedanta-sutras as the authoritative Vedic scripture. The Vedanta-sutras are a collection of aphorisms that appear to describe God in an impersonal way. Written by Krishna’s literary incarnation of Vyasadeva, the Vedanta-sutras actually describe devotional service to Krishna throughout, but people have misinterpreted the meanings of the aphorisms. For example, there are many statements declaring that God has no hands or legs, and that He is nirguna, meaning He has no form. These statements are certainly true in that God has no material hands or legs. But this doesn’t mean that He is formless in the sense that He doesn’t exist. Lord Krishna repeatedly uses words like “Me” and “Mine” when discussing transcendental topics in the Bhagavad-gita. This clearly indicates that Krishna is a person.

“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.24)

Though it is an inferior realization of God, Brahman still exists. It is certainly a representation of the Absolute Truth. Those who want to merge into Brahman are given every opportunity to do so. However, there is a much easier and more fulfilling type of worship, which is technically known as bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Depending on your angel of vision, this method of worship is either easy or difficult. It is easy in the sense that it merely requires one to surrender unto Krishna and engage in His service. That seems simple enough, but many people don’t want to surrender. They would rather negate all activity and hope to merge into Brahman.

“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 12.5)

Lord Krishna Krishna Himself declares that attempting to merge into Brahman is the more difficult of the two paths. This is because it is the original nature of the spirit soul to crave identity. If the soul merges into Brahman, it loses its identity. Eventually wanting to engage in activities again, the soul is prone to separating from Brahman, again returning to the material world. Bhakti yoga is the more natural self-realization process because it involves pure love of God. Many impersonalists look down at bhaktas, taking them to be less intelligent. This is because they view bhakti yoga simply as a method of self-realization. “Oh look, these people are tricking themselves into believing in a personal God so that they can more easily become detached from material nature. They are only taking to this method because they don’t understand Vedanta.”

This type of thinking represents a gross misunderstanding of bhaktas. Bhakti yoga technically cannot be compared to any other type of yoga because it is actually much more than a method of self-realization. Having a pure loving relationship with God is the original nature of the soul. Through personal interaction with Krishna or one of His Vishnu expansions, the spirit soul gains eternal bliss and knowledge. To help us understand this fact, we can look to the examples set by the great devotees of the past. Lord Hanuman is the eternal servant of Lord Rama, one of Krishna’s primary expansions. Hanuman is a great yogi, possessing tremendous powers. Yet he is not attached to any of his powers of detachment or yoga, for he engages all his time in thinking of Rama. In fact, Hanuman is not even interested in self-realization. He has no desire to be a perfect devotee or a Vedantist. Rather, he simply loves Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana, and spends all his time thinking of them and serving Their lotus feet.

Hanuman worshiping Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana The greatest benefit of bhakti yoga is that it rewards us with the most sublime relationship, eternal association with God. God is meant to be viewed in only one way, pure love, for this is how He views us. We should take up the worship of the personal form of the Lord. Krishna is our eternal friend, and someone who will never let us down. He is so kind and sweet that if we simply want to be with Him, the Lord will make it happen. In this age, we can practice devotional service by regularly chanting God’s names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Since God incarnates in the form of His holy name, chanting is our way of personally touching Him. By remaining steadfast in our devotion, slowly but surely, we will come to Him.