Saturday, May 8, 2010


Hanuman thinking of Sita and Rama “Of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.47)

There are certain transcendentalists who believe that bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is reserved only for the unintelligent. Devotional service involves offering prayers to and worshiping a personal God, meaning that the Supreme Lord is viewed as having a form consisting of hands, legs, etc. There are many transcendentalists who believe that it is impossible for God to have a form, thus they prefer impersonal yoga meditation or deep study of Vedanta over devotional service. They believe that devotees worship a form of God in order to help themselves better understand the difference between matter and spirit, but that in the end, such worship should only be performed by neophytes. In reality, bhakti-yoga represents the highest form of religious practice.

Lord Krishna deity The human body is mutable. Not only the body, but everything in the creation is as well. We take birth, remain for someone, perform some activity, and then die. The Vedas tell us that the soul inside the body is what counts, for the soul is eternal and unchangeable. It cannot be cut, burned, made wet or dry, nor can it ever take birth or die. Therefore the Vedas advise us human beings to pay more attention to the soul than to the body. The soul is often referred to as the self (atma), since that is what identifies us. Our bodies are constantly changing so it is quite foolish to base our identity off its appearance. There are so many equal rights and fairness movements that have sprung up over the recent years, but they are flawed since they don’t recognize the presence of the soul. People say that men and women are equal, or blacks and white are the same. These statements are most certainly true, but the Vedas go one step further. They tell us that every living entity is equal in nature.

“One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies and who understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul is ever destroyed, actually sees.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.28)

Lord Krishna A person is considered learned if he views all living entities equally. This includes the plants and animals, since anything with a soul can be considered a living entity. Dull matter is subordinate to spirit, since without the presence of the soul, matter itself is useless. We see this fact on full display when someone dies. Death is the event where the soul leaves the body. The friends and family of the departed soul then lament over their loved one’s death. Yet the body remains there right in front of them, so what they are really lamenting is the exit of the soul.

The Vedas tell us that the point of human life is to connect with the Self, the supreme soul. This is done through yoga, of which there are many forms. Since the various yoga systems help us link our consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness, they are collectively referred to as self-realization methods. Hearing of the existence of the Self is one thing, but realizing it is a completely different story. Upon taking birth, we immediately become conditioned into falsely identifying with the body. This misconception results in such things as nationalism, racism, and patriotism. In order to break free of this flawed mindset, the Vedas recommend the practice of yoga.

There are various methods of yoga, each having prescribed rules and regulations. As mentioned before, the aim of yoga is to realize the Self. In order for that to happen, one must break away from the bodily conception of life. This can be achieved by adjusting our mindset and our way of life. In the Bhagavad-gita, many recommendations are given to the aspiring transcendentalist. We should view all living entities equally; we should not lament over bad fortune nor should we overly rejoice over good times; we should not grieve for the body which is subject to destruction; we should perform our prescribed duties with detachment; we should not think ourselves to be the doer, and so on. There are so many brilliant aphorisms and prescriptions provided by Lord Krishna in the Gita and for this reason this book has been studied by religionists, scholars, and devotees for almost five thousand years.

There are several specific yoga systems in the Vedic tradition, but they all basically belong to either one of three categories. The first category is that of fruitive activity, or karma.  In the beginning stages, a person can perform yoga by taking up regulated fruitive activities in order to help themselves break free of the bodily mindset.  The second category is that of mental speculation. Vedic literature is very comprehensive and contains something of interest for just about every type of person. The Vedanta-sutra is one of the more popular Vedic texts, consisting of many high-level and deep-meaning aphorisms. The people known as Vedantists engage all their time in studying the Vedanta-sutra, which is also generally known as Vedanta. By engaging in deep study, one can slowly realize that the Supreme Absolute Truth is the source of everything and that the entire creation is part of Brahman.

“From whatever and wherever the mind wanders due to its flickering and unsteady nature, one must certainly withdraw it and bring it back under the control of the Self.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 6.26)

The third category is that of mystic yoga. The Vedas tell us that our gross senses are very difficult to control, especially our tongue and genitals. The mind, which is a subtle sense, is the driving instrument of our gross senses. As we all know, controlling the mind is almost impossible. We are always thinking, even while asleep. The mystic yoga process involves various breathing exercises and sitting postures aimed at curbing the influence of the senses. If our mind is in equilibrium, it is easier for us to see the soul residing within the body.

“The culmination of all kinds of yoga practices lies in bhakti-yoga. All other yogas are but means to come to the point of bhakti in bhakti-yoga.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bg. 6.47 Purport)

Bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, doesn’t fall into any of these categories. For this reason, the fruitive workers, mental speculators, and mystic yogis often view bhaktas as less intelligent. “They couldn’t understand Vedanta or they were too lazy to take up mystic yoga, so they chose the easier path. They simply imagine a form of God and worship Him. This way, they can make progress in curbing their senses and better understanding the difference between matter and spirit. Eventually, as their intelligence increases, they will give up their second class process.”

Lord Krishna - the master of yoga This is where the impersonalist philosophers and meditational yogis go wrong. Since bhakti-yoga enables one to realize the self, and to also view all living entities equally, it is most certainly a bona fide method of self-realization. However, bhakti-yoga is more than just some transcendental exercise, for it is the original occupation of the soul. Bhakti means love and yoga means linking of our consciousness with the Supreme, thus devotional service means lovingly serving God.

Studiers of Vedanta aim to realize the self residing within the body. After realizing the self, they come to the understanding that Brahman is everything. Thus they hope to merge their existence into Brahman. Mystic yogis also hope to realize the self, but they go one step further by trying to understand the Supersoul, or Paramatma, which resides side-by-side with the spirit soul. These two self-realization systems are certainly nice, but bhakti-yoga is superior since it connects directly with the source of both Brahman and Paramatma.

The Vedas tell us that God, or the Self, is a person and that His original feature is that of Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Bhakti-yoga is the original occupation of the soul because it aims at connecting directly with Bhagavan. For this reason, bhakti-yoga is also known as bhagavata-dharma. Bhagavan means one who possesses all opulences. This definition can only apply to God since He is the Creator and proprietor of everything in this universe. Brahman and Paramatma are two of His features. The Vedas tell us that the Supreme Bhagavan is Lord Shri Krishna. He is the controller of all living entities.

“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.61)

Hanuman keeping Sita and Rama in His heart Bhakti-yoga involves nine distinct processes, all of which are directed at Krishna, or one of His personal expansions. A question may then be raised as to how God can have a form. The Vedas describe the Supreme Absolute Truth as both nirguna and saguna. Guna means material qualities, so nirguna means without gunas and saguna means with gunas. Krishna is most certainly nirguna because He, by definition, cannot directly come into contact with the material energy. For this reason, to manage the affairs of the material world, He expanded Himself into three guna avataras: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Krishna is also saguna because He has spiritual qualities. He doesn’t have the types of arms, legs, and hands that we do, but this doesn’t mean that He doesn’t possess a spiritual body. On the contrary, the Vedas give us specific information as to what type of body Krishna possesses: sach-chid-ananda-vigraha, an eternal body full of bliss and knowledge.

Our bodies are mutable. For this reason, we are told to identify with the soul and not the body. God is different though. There is no difference between His body and His spirit. Everything related to Bhagavan is immutable. Therefore worship of His deity or one of His incarnations is the same as worshiping His original form. Unlike the other types of yoga, bhakti-yoga has no end. There is no ultimate end-goal. Devotees certainly enter Krishna’s spiritual world after death, but it doesn’t mean that their activities stop. Bhakti-yoga is an eternal occupation, something which provides eternal pleasure to the soul.

"Causeless devotional service is unmotivated by sense enjoyment, perfection or liberation. When one is freed from all these contaminations, he can bring Lord Krishna, who is very funny, under control.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 24.29)

Krishna is known as Bhagavan and those who associate with Him are known as bhagavatas, or devotees. There are countless great devotees that we can learn from, with one of them being Lord Shri Hanuman. Hanumanji is the eternal servant of Lord Rama, one of Krishna’s primary incarnations. Hanuman is one of the most commonly worshiped devotees/divine beings. He is loved and respected by almost everyone, including non-devotees. Hanuman is a perfect practitioner of bhakti-yoga. The key to his success is that he doesn’t even care about self-realization. He acquired all the intelligence of the Vedantists and all the siddhis, or perfections, of the yogis simply by dedicating himself to serving Lord Rama in a loving way. God is more than ready to grant him mukti, or liberation, but Hanuman refuses to accept it.

Rama Darbar In the famous Rama Darbar photos, we see Lord Rama standing with His wife, Sita Devi, and His younger brother, Lakshmana. Hanuman is also in the picture, but he is kneeling down on the floor offering His obeisances to Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana. One of Hanuman’s great yogic powers is his ability to change the size of his body, meaning he is capable of becoming extremely large or extremely small. In the presence of God, Hanuman chooses to assume a small stature because he never wants to think of himself as greater than God. This is the perfect example for all of us to follow. The Self, or Superself, being the original source, is always superior to the individual self, or atma. Thus any discipline which aims to please the creator of everything will always be superior to disciplines that aim to please the mind, body, or even the individual soul. Hanumanji is a true mahatma. No ordinary scholar or yogi can claim to be a higher authority than him. If such as an exalted person as Hanuman chooses bhakti-yoga, it must be the discipline reserved for the most intelligent class of men. Hanuman and a great many other devotees achieve perfection in life by taking up bhakti-yoga, thus we can never go wrong following their example.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Radha Krishna “Those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

In Vedic culture, much is made about the need to get a daughter married off to a suitable boy when she reaches an appropriate age. It is the duty of every father to provide full and complete protection to his daughter. This protection doesn’t just include providing for food, clothing, and shelter. The protection extends throughout the girl’s lifetime. Though the daughter only lives with the father in her youth, it remains his duty to ensure that the girl is protected in married life. On the flip side of this equation, the duties of the father of an unmarried boy aren’t discussed in the same level of detail. Nevertheless, we can always find the answers to any of life’s questions by seeking out Lord Krishna, or God. If an unmarried boy is devoted to Krishna, he will surely be blessed with a suitable wife should he choose to get married.

Marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati In the Vedic system, marriage is an optional institution. The point of human life is to know and love God, and this is achieved through progressing through the four ashramas of life: brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha, and sannyasa. Married householder life, grihastha, is the second ashrama in this progression. However, if a student is advanced and doesn’t want to get married, he can remain a brahmachari for life. It is considered a great benefit to avoid marriage since sex life is considered the greatest hindrance to the cultivation of spiritual knowledge. Still, most brahmacharis do end up getting married. In these instances, it is the duty of the father of the boy to find a suitable girl. In the Vedic system, the qualities of both the boy and girl are matched up by expert brahmanas. At the time of a person’s birth, the exact alignment of the stars gives an insight into the child’s character, demeanor, and even their future activities. The famous Savitri, daughter of Ashvapati, had the rare option of choosing her own husband. The boy she chose, Satyavana, was a perfect match as far as qualities were concerned; however, he was destined to die within a year of their marriage. This was known to the great Narada Muni, an expert brahmana in his own right.

So there are many factors that go into marriage arrangements. Families also do some digging into the potential spouse’s family background. The family lineages are compared, for it is considered a bad thing for the boy and girl to both belong to the same gotra. Even with all this due diligence, there is no guarantee that the marriage will be a successful one. The only way to guarantee success in life is to become Krishna conscious. If a person is a devotee, they can rest assured knowing that things will work out for them in the end.

Prahlada - a devotee born in a demon family Since every living entity in the material world has a body consisting of varying combinations of the three modes of material nature (goodness, passion, and ignorance), it is difficult to accurately tag anyone as undoubtedly belonging to a certain group. Nevertheless, on the highest abstract level, every person can be classified as either an asura or a sura. Asuras are non-devotees, or uncivilized people. Basically anyone who is not a devotee of God can be considered an asura. This is the strict definition, but generally speaking, the term asura is applied to atheists, or those who are enemies of the devotees. The suras are the opposite of asuras. They are devotees, engaging all of their time and effort in bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Suras can be human beings or even demigods. Since every living entity is qualitatively the same as God, sometimes people mistakenly think that God and human beings are equal. We are certainly equal in quality to God, but in quantity we are different. God is great, and we can never be as great as Him. He is known as Ishvara, the Supreme Controller, and we represent one His energies. Though we are part of His superior energy, we are still subject to the control of the laws of nature. We can only become liberated from the entanglement of material life through practice of devotional service.

Loving service to God is also known as bhagavata-dharma. Lord Krishna is Bhagavan, meaning one who possesses all fortunes. Those who serve Him can thus become bhagavata, meaning one who is connected with God. By perfectly executing devotional service, we can become god-like. That is another definition of a sura, a person who is like God. Lord Krishna has an eternal body full of bliss and knowledge. Pure devotees similarly possess bliss and knowledge at all times. This is due to their perfect knowledge of the Supreme Absolute Truth, Lord Shri Krishna.

A devotee automatically inherits all good qualities without striving for them. These qualities come in handy in any and all situations, including marriages. By default, Lord Krishna is neutral to every living entity.

“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)

Lord Krishna This rule makes sense. This beautiful creation acts as a field for the fruitive activities of those who want to imitate God. In this pursuit, the Lord gladly steps aside and allows nature to take its course. Yet He makes an exception for the devotees. The bhaktas have decided they want nothing to do with this material world, for they have no desire for fruitive activity, or karma. Due to their sincere desire to engage in spiritual activity, the Lord takes it upon Himself to ensure success for the devotee. This means that if a boy wants to get married, the Lord will provide the perfect wife. The wife may not be perfect in regards to amorous life, but perfect in the fact that she will enable the husband to make progress in devotional service. Evidence of this can be seen by reviewing the lives of two very famous Vaishnava saints.

A great poet and devotee of Lord Rama appeared in India some four hundred years ago. This poet was Goswami Tulsidas and he is best known for writing the Ramacharitamanasa and the Hanuman Chalisa. Yet these great works may never have been written were it not for the help of his wife, Ratnavali. Tulsidas was married at a very young age, which is quite customary in the Vedic tradition. Being a pure devotee, he was naturally very kind-hearted. This led to him forming a deep attachment to his wife. He was so smitten with his wife that he refused to allow her to go visit her parents’ home. One day however, Ratnavali snuck off to visit her family without telling Tulsidas. The saint couldn’t bear the separation so he travelled through a torrential downpour in the middle of the night until he finally reached her parents’ home. Ratnavali couldn’t believe the extraordinary steps he took to see her. Instead of praising him, she chastised him. She scolded him for not having the same devotion to Lord Rama. This turned out to be the seminal moment in Tulsidas’ life. He immediately took to the renounced order of life, sannyasa, and then began writing poems about Lord Rama.

Shrila Prabhupada Probably the most famous devotee of Lord Krishna in the past five hundred years or so is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Shrila Prabhupada founded the modern day Hare Krishna movement and wrote over fifty books, almost all of which were authored after the swami had reached the age of seventy. Yet the world may never have been blessed with his wonderful teachings were it not for his wife. Prabhupada was also married at a very young age, and though his wife was faithful and devoted, he was not very fond of her. Unhappy in marriage, it was Prabhupada’s father who urged him to take it as a blessing. His father told him that he was very fortunate to not be too attached to his wife. Many years later, when Prabhupada was grappling with the idea of taking sannyasa, it was his wife’s actions that finally gave the swami the impetus to take to the renounced order of life. Prabhupada took sannyasa, and the rest was history.

On the surface, it appears that both Prabhupada and Tulsidas received the short end of the stick when it came to marriage. But in actuality, they were extremely blessed by God. The ways of the Lord are a mystery to everyone. What may seem like a curse can actually turn out to be blessing. This doesn’t mean that God will always give us wives of the contemptuous nature. Many people are blessed to be married to pure devotees who actually perform devotional service alongside the husband. The exact predicaments will vary from person to person, but there is one commonality in all instances. If a person is a pure devotee, God will always give them exactly what they need to be successful in their devotion.

Sita and Rama Just as devotees are matched up with suitable wives, God Himself is always paired with the perfect woman, the goddess of fortune. Krishna is the energetic, and His energy manifests in the form of the goddess of fortune. This energy is referred to as hladini-shakti. Just as Krishna can take many different forms, His pleasure-giving energy also manifests in various forms such as Shrimati Radharani, Sita Devi, Lakshmiji, etc. The goddess of fortune herself appeared in human form as Sita Devi many thousands of years ago in Mithila. Raised as the favorite daughter of King Janaka, Sita’s marriage ceremony was a svayamvara, where kings came and competed for her hand.

“As Rama drew the bow back fully, the force He applied caused the bow to break in half. The sound that resulted was as fierce and frightening as that of a falling thunderbolt. Thereafter, my father, who was truthful to his promise, taking a jar of pure water and lifting it up, prepared to give me away to Rama.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.49-50)

It was decided that whoever would lift and string the illustrious bow of Lord Shiva would win Sita Devi as a wife. Many princes and kings from the around world came to give it a shot, but only Lord Rama, God Himself, succeeded. Just as God is never separated from His devotees, the goddess of fortune is never separated from the Lord. When God appears on earth to enact pastimes, His close associates usually come with Him. Lord Rama was destined to be married to Sita. The actual lifting and breaking of the bow were mere formalities.

Sita declaring Rama the winner All of life’s problems can be solved by seeking out Krishna or His bona fide representative, the spiritual master. This may seem like an overly simplistic truth, but it is completely valid. All the day-to-day problems of life are ancillary. The root of all our problems is our forgotten relationship with the Supreme Lord. If we act to rekindle the spiritual spark inside us, the rest of our problems will slowly disappear. Whatever the devotees need, God will provide. We simply have to love Krishna, have an eagerness to hear about Him, and have an affinity for His name, form, and pastimes.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Prahlada Maharaja with Lord Vishnu “Because of their uncontrolled senses, persons too addicted to materialistic life make progress toward hellish conditions and repeatedly chew that which has already been chewed. Their inclinations toward Krishna are never aroused, either by the instructions of others, by their own efforts, or by a combination of both.” (Prahlada Maharaja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.30)

Comment: “I believe in a loving God. I don’t believe that God would let us destroy the planet simply through trying to achieve progress.”

Response: Supporters of the man-made global warming theory contend that it is human activity which is responsible for drastic shifts in the earth’s climate. First it was believed that the earth was getting warmer, but when the warming stopped, the movement chose to go by the more generic term of Climate Change. In essence, followers of this movement have now found a way to blame any major climatic event on the behavior of mankind, focusing especially on the burning of fossil fuels. Recent events, including leaked emails and exposed computer models, have pretty much blown the lid off these flawed theories, proving that the movement was a source of confusion more than anything else. Those who were against the movement from the beginning view the recent news as substantiation for their belief that material progress can never be harmful to mankind at large or to the environment. The Vedas actually tell us otherwise.

Globe People who don’t believe in God, or those who don’t necessarily understand His power, are often prone to adopting the mentally concocted theories of scientists. During the 1970s, the consensus opinion among scientists was that the earth was headed for a drastic cooling period. Famous magazines ran stories about the impending ice age. Just a few years later, scientists changed their outlook and started talking about global warming. To support their argument, they pointed to the slight rise in average surface temperatures of the earth during the previous one hundred years. The only thing they could attribute this rise to was the increase in the burning of fossil fuels. “Planes, trains, and automobiles caused increases in pollution, and this in turn led to an increase in global temperatures”.

“O Arjuna, I control heat, the rain and the drought. I am immortality, and I am also death personified. Both being and nonbeing are in Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.19)

Lord Krishna This scientific theory was flawed from the very beginning since we know from the Vedas that Lord Krishna, or God, is responsible for creating and destroying this world. In fact, this creation isn’t the first one to have ever existed, nor will it be the last. Krishna expands Himself into guna-avataras to manage the material creation. In His Lord Shiva avatara, God takes charge of the destruction of the world. This belief isn’t exclusive to the Vedas, for pretty much every spiritual discipline believes in the idea of a divine creator. If God can create, He most certainly can also destroy.

The recent scandal involving leaked emails from The University of East Anglia shows that the global warming movement was more political than it was scientific. More and more people are coming out of the woodworks and admitting that there was never any scientific basis for the theory. In fact, one prominent proponent of global warming recently came out and admitted that the earth hasn’t warmed at all since 1995. We saw real-life evidence of this recently as there were record-cold temperatures around cities in America this past winter. Even in the Bahamas, which is a popular vacation destination during the winter months, people suffered through unseasonably cold temperatures. The low temperatures dropped into the fifty degree Fahrenheit range, and people didn’t know what to do since none of the building structures were equipped with heating systems.

“The demoniac believe that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus there is no end to their anxiety.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 16.11-12)

Lord Krishna People may ask why anyone would advance the global warming theory simply for political purposes. The reason is that in any society you will find a subsection of people who don’t believe in spirit, and thus choose to associate exclusively with matter. A gross materialist is someone who doesn’t believe in God or in a soul. They take their current life to be the beginning and end of everything. Thinking along these lines, they conclude that the aim of life is to enjoy as much as possible. Since other people are similarly enjoying, the gross materialists tend to ascribe more importance to their own enjoyment than they do to the enjoyment of others. This is the true sign of miserly behavior. If we enjoy material life ourselves, why shouldn’t others be afforded the same right to enjoy?

Wanting to hoard material wealth and possessions to themselves, the gross materialists look for any way possible to shut others out of access to resources. Essentially the atheistic global warming leaders think along these lines: “Who are these people burning all these fossil fuels? They are simply destroying the planet. If that happens, what will be left for me and my children? We must use the power of government to impose regulations and limits on the consumption of gasoline so that we can make sure these resources remain for us to use.” Some of the most vocal proponents for government intervention to combat global warming are extremely wealthy businessmen and celebrities who fly around in corporate jets and enjoy all the excesses of life. None of the government regulations they support would ever affect their way of life. In fact, these people don’t even curb their own use of fossil fuels, but rather engage in ponzi schemes such as purchasing carbon offsets. The current Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a big believer in this scheme which involves buying shares in companies that promise to cancel out a person’s carbon footprint by finding ways to save energy elsewhere. It’s akin to going on diet by asking others to lower their caloric intake, while you continue to eat as much as you want.

Automobile traffic The other side of the global warming issue is represented by those who believe in material advancement and progress. “Oil is the fuel of the engine of freedom. The burning of fossil fuels is required for our advanced lifestyle; a lifestyle which only seeks to make life better. The global warming people simply seek to punish others. There’s nothing wrong with searching after a better life, i.e. progress.” On the surface, these claims seem valid. Buying a car and driving it to get to work or school seems innocent enough. Almost all of us today rely on the great inventions of the past one hundred years such as the automobile, cellular telephone, television, DVD player, and computer. Yet the Vedas tell us that such technological advancement doesn’t represent any progress at all as it relates to the plight of the living entity.

How can this be true? In order to understand this, we must first know how to identify ourselves. The Vedas tell us that our true identity comes from the spirit soul and not the gross body. Actually we don’t need to learn this from the Vedas, for we can simply study our own life and the lives of others to realize this fact. As soon as a person dies, people become sad because the person who occupied that body has now left. Where have they gone? More specifically, what is it that has departed? The body remains standing right before us. It is lifeless, however, and it is this way because the soul has left the body. Therefore any sane person would conclude that it is the soul that defines life and not the attributes of a person’s body, a body which is subject to creation and destruction. Since the soul represents our real identity, the Vedas tell us that the aim of life is to search after progress for the soul and not the body.

How does the soul progress? Similar to the theory of evolution, the soul actually transmigrates from species to species over the course of millions of lifetimes. So many different species exist, up to 8,400,000 varieties, due to the influences of karma and guna. Karma is fruitive activity, or work, and guna is a material quality. The three material qualities are goodness, passion, and ignorance. Combine these qualities in varying proportions and you get all the different species. Yet we see there is a major difference between human beings and any other species. The key distinction lies in the area of intelligence. Human beings are much smarter than any other species, for they are even smart enough to know they are going to die.

Vyasadeva This is the key point. If we human beings know that we are going to die, shouldn’t we try to understand where we will go after death, or even try to find out where we were before our birth? It is for this very reason that God gave us religion. One of the most famous religious treatises is the Vedanta-sutras, written by Vyasadeva, an incarnation of Lord Krishna. The Vedanta-sutras open with the aphorism, athato-brahma-jijnasa, which means “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman.” Brahman is God’s feature as the all-pervading impersonal effulgence. Everything, including matter and spirit, is Brahman. Thus human life is meant for inquiring about all of matter and spirit, finding out why we are here, and then using that knowledge to achieve spiritual perfection.

So we must ask ourselves if all of our material advancements help us to better understand God, or do they take us further away from Him? The answer to this question is fairly obvious. Technological advancements are aimed at increasing sense pleasure. People want a better way of life, which means a better form of eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. If we study all the sybaritic pursuits of man, we’ll see that each one of them can be classified into one of these four activities. One may ask what is wrong with eating or sleeping. Nothing really, for we certainly require these activities in order to remain alive. However, we see that the animal kingdom already enjoys eating, sleeping, and mating. Some species, such as the dogs and monkeys, have no problem finding sexual partners. The hogs have no problem eating their own stool.

Human beings are supposed to be smarter than the animals. Yet if we spend all our time figuring out ways to find more comfortable living arrangements, more palatable food, or more beautiful sex partners, we aren’t really using our intelligence to our advantage. The animals already engage in these activities, without any of the hassles. Being a human being means not only having an advanced level of intelligence, but also having to suffer through hankering and lamenting. The human mind is always hankering after things it wants, and lamenting over things it is missing out on. The animals don’t have these worries. They simply live off their animalist tendencies.

So how do material pursuits take us away from God? The Lord is very kind to us. He essentially gives us what we want. If we want to remain in this material world, acting out our desires, He won’t stand in our way. The laws of karma state that one must suffer or enjoy the reactions of their work. This means that if we are pious, we ascend to a higher form of life in our next birth, and if we are sinful, we get demoted to a lower species. Either way, we remain in the material world, forced to repeat the cycle of birth and death. Those people, however, who want to return to God’s spiritual world never have to take birth again after their current life is over.

“Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; those who worship ancestors go to the ancestors; and those who worship Me will live with Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.25)

Krishna devotee Wanting to return to Krishna’s spiritual world is one thing, but how do we make this dream a reality? The great Vedic saints tell us that there is only one way to achieve spiritual perfection, and that is through the practice of bhakti yoga, or devotional service. Bhakti means love and yoga means linking our consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness. Our consciousness is determined by the activities of our spirit soul, jivatma, combined with our material body. The Supreme Consciousness belongs to God. Since He is the Supreme Lord, He expands Himself as the Supersoul, or Paramatma, which resides within the heart of every living entity. God is already inside us, we just need to connect with Him.

This connection is called yoga. There are various types of yoga, but only the yoga of love and devotion will guarantee us a return trip back to the spiritual world in the afterlife. Devotional service involves nine different processes but the one most recommended for this age is the chanting of the holy names of God. God has many different names based on His activities and spiritual qualities, but the Vedas tell us that two of His most important names are Krishna and Rama. When we combine these names together with Hara, or the name of God’s pleasure potency, we get what is known as the maha-mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This mantra is so beautiful because anyone can chant it, regardless of their religious faith or personal disposition. This mantra is free of any defects, for it doesn’t aim to provide any type of material advancement, but rather guarantees the greatest progress for the soul.

“When one is not attached to anything, but at the same time accepts everything in relation to Krishna, one is rightly situated above possessiveness. On the other hand, one who rejects everything without knowledge of its relationship to Krishna is not as complete in his renunciation." (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu 2.255-256)

Lord Chaitanya and associates The great saints following in the line of Lord Chaitanya advise that we should accept those things in life which are favorable towards the execution of devotional service and, at the same time, reject those things which are unfavorable. In this regard, we can take advantage of modern technology by using it to help us serve Krishna. Computers and the internet can be used to learn more about the Vedas and also to disseminate Vedic information to others. We can use cars and airplanes to travel to different holy places, or even just to attend our local temples. The possibilities are endless. Human life is auspicious, for it represents the best chance for the spirit soul to reconnect with God. Rekindling our forgotten loving relationship with the Supreme Lord represents the height of progress.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Raja Vidya

Lord Krishna “This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)

There are so many departments of knowledge in the major universities around the world. The early years of one’s educational life are spent learning the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. College represents higher education, a chance to further explore various subjects. One can get a degree in just about anything these days. The learning doesn’t stop just with undergraduate degrees, for people can get their PhD and then do even further research after that. In this way, the search for knowledge never stops. While academic pursuits are certainly a good way to occupy one’s time, the Vedas tell us that the knowledge gained from such study is flawed in nature because it only seeks to study matter, while neglecting spirit.

Rocket launch Probably the highest scientific discipline is aerospace engineering. Consisting of math, physics, chemistry, and even biology, this science requires a high level of intelligence to understand. In fact, there is a common expression that people use when describing the ease with which something can be done. “It’s not rocket science”, they’ll say, meaning that rocket science is considered one of the hardest things to learn. Therefore, by claiming that something isn’t rocket science, it must be the opposite of difficult, which is easy. Aerospace engineering has brought us great advancements. It has not only put man into space, but also landed him on the moon. There are now unmanned spaceships, like the Mars Rover, that travel to other planets as well. The universe is unlimited in its scope, thus man will never run out of opportunities for discovering new things in space.

Here on earth, we have seen great advancements in material science and technology as well. Man generally lives longer today than in generations past due to advancements in health care and medical treatment. People can survive on artificial organs, or even get new organs transplanted into them from other humans. There are so many vaccines that exist today that can inoculate a person from some of the more crippling diseases. These advances all came about through deep study, along with trial and error. The great pioneers studied atomic particles, matter, the human body, and many other things on their way to making their discoveries.

There appears to be no slowing down of this advancement. The last twenty years have seen a complete paradigm shift in the way people live their lives. This shift has been driven completely by technological advancements. The advent of the internet has forever changed the way information is distributed. People can now talk to millions of other people in just seconds, with little or no effort. The cellular telephone now allows us to not only talk with others in any place, but also allows us to send messages, watch television, listen to music, and even read books at any time of the day, either at work or at home.

The rapid increase in scientific discoveries has left us thinking that the best inventions are yet to come. “Someday maybe we can find a cure for cancer. Maybe we’ll even be able to live forever.” It is at this point that the limits to mankind’s study of matter make themselves visible. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, tell us that all this material advancement isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that it is flawed in nature. This is because all the major fields of study today focus on matter, which is an inferior energy. Without even referencing religion, one can understand that matter is subordinate to spirit. We can use our own bodies as an example. At the time of death, the body becomes useless. It starts to decay and take on a foul odor. No one wants to be around a dead body because it reminds them that someone has died. If we think about it, what is the difference between a living body and a dead one? The answer is the presence of spirit. When a spirit soul exists within the body, it has life. It is vibrant and active. This is because spirit is the engine which drives the movement of matter. Just as a car cannot operate without a driver, so the body cannot function without a spirit soul.

“This material nature is working under My direction, O son of Kunti, and it is producing all moving and unmoving beings. By its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.10)

Lord Krishna On a grander scale, all the matter that exists in this creation cannot operate without a supreme controller. The Vedas tell us that this controller is Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna, being God Himself, is the complete whole. Being God means that no one can tell you what to do and that you don’t need to explain your actions to anyone. For some reason or another, God decided to take many expansions. Though there are an unlimited number of expansions, they can all be classified into one of two categories: spiritual energy or material energy. We spirit souls are originally part of the spiritual energy since we are considered to be God’s separated expansions. Krishna also takes personal expansions such as Lord Narayana, Vishnu, Rama, etc. All of God’s personal expansions are equal to Him in power. The separated expansions, the spirit souls, are qualitatively equal to God, but subordinate to Him in quantitative powers.

To better illustrate this dichotomy, we can take a quick look at how material nature works. God created this material world for the benefit of the spirit souls. All the universes consisting of the five gross elements (earth, air, water, fire, and ether) and the three subtle elements (mind, intelligence, and false ego) were created by God so as to allow the spirit souls to have a place to come and enjoy material nature. Since the material world is created at some point, it also must eventually be destroyed. Therefore it is temporary in nature, and thus it is considered part of God’s inferior energy. We spirit souls, being part and parcel of God, are originally part of the spiritual energy, but since we can come into contact with material nature, we are technically part of God’s marginal energy. It is categorized as such because we have a choice as to which energy we wish to associate with.

Krishna and His incarnations The Sanskrit terms for spirit and matter are purusha and prakriti. Purusha also means the dominator and prakriti means the dominated. Purusha is the male and prakriti is the female. In this regard, we living entities can be classified as purusha since we have control over nature. This control is limited in species like cats and dogs, while the human species has a much greater control over nature…or so they think. All the material scientific disciplines of today seek to study prakriti. The reason these studies are flawed in nature is because although we are purusha, there is someone who is actually our controller. That someone is God, and since He created everything in this universe, He is known as maha-purusha. From this definition, we see that God is the only real purusha, or controller/enjoyer, because He even has control over us.

Material nature is always baffling man and putting obstacles in the way of his so-called advancement. If this weren’t the case, man would have no need for scientific advancement. The desire for a higher standard of living is an outgrowth of the struggle that has existed since the beginning of time between mankind and nature. The Vedas tell us that the solution to these problems is not to engage in an intense study of matter, but rather to understand the nature of spirit.

Lord Vishnu The first aphorism of the famous Vedanta-sutras states that the human form of life is meant for inquiring about Brahman, or God. Brahman is one of God’s features; a sort of angle of vision which represents the complete whole of all matter and spirit. Essentially, everything is Brahman. The priestly class of men are known as the brahmanas because they know Brahman, meaning that they understand that all living entities are constitutionally the same. The Vedas exist precisely to allow us to study this Brahman. Not only do the Vedas inform us on who and what Brahman is, but they also tell us who is the source of Brahman.

“Brahma, it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.33)

Vedic literature is quite vast and comprehensive, but probably the most famous and widely studied Vedic text is the Bhagavad-gita. Known as the Song of God, the Gita chronicles a discussion that took place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago between Lord Krishna and His cousin and disciple Arjuna. Prior to the commencement of a great war, Arjuna was hesitant to fight. He didn’t want to kill his family members who were fighting for the opposing party. Lord Krishna used this as an opportunity to teach Arjuna about Vedic principles. He declared to Arjuna that what He was telling him was the king of all education, or raja-vidya.

The teachings of the Gita are considered the highest knowledge because they give an in-depth analysis of the difference between matter and spirit. Krishna tells us that the soul is great and that it can never be created nor destroyed. Our bodies may be subject to birth and death, but the soul never dies. The aim of life is to take care of the soul within the body. By so doing, we will get to return to Krishna’s spiritual abode after our current life is over.

Narasimhadeva blessing Prahlada Since matter is inferior and spirit is superior, does it mean we should completely ignore matter? Many philosophers hold this view. They believe that quiet meditation and deep study of Vedanta are the means to salvation. While these are certainly ways to block out the effects of material nature, Krishna tells us that there is a much easier way to achieve perfection. Mankind’s original disposition is that of servitor of Lord Krishna. This isn’t a forced servitorship, but rather a purely loving relationship. The goal of life is to rekindle our forgotten love for God. The way to do this is to adjust our activities in such a way that we can always be thinking about God.

In this regard, matter can certainly be beneficial to us. We can use earthly elements to construct temples for the Lord. We can grow and maintain a nice garden and use it to offer flowers to the Lord. We can use our tongue to chant the holy names of the God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and to eat remnants of foodstuff offered to Him (prasadam). We can use advanced technology such as computers and the internet to disseminate knowledge about the spirit soul and its relationship to God. Thus we see that there are endless opportunities for service.

Lord Krishna Devotional service to God is mankind’s eternal occupation. Since God is so nice, service to Him will bring us happiness that far exceeds the pleasure derived from academic study or technological advancement. Human life is meant for advancing the position of spirit and not matter.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Power of God

Lord Rama lifting the bow “Having been well-received by my righteous father, Vishvamitra spoke to him as follows regarding the two brothers, Rama and Lakshmana, both descendants of the Raghu dynasty. ‘These two sons of Dasharatha would like to see the bow. Please show that divine bow to Prince Rama.’ Hearing the words of the vipra, my father brought the bow forward. Bending the bow in the twinkling of an eye and applying string to it, the mighty prince Rama, who was full of valor, quickly drew the bow at full length.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.45-48)

We often herald the great feats of strength shown by others. Great bodybuilders, long distance runners, Olympic athletes, magicians, mystics, etc. all enjoy great acclaim and notoriety for their extraordinary feats of strength and skill. Lord Krishna, being God Himself and the original person, possesses all opulences. He is capable of the most extraordinary feats of strength, and unlike mere mortals, He doesn’t require any practice, nutritional supplements, or any other crutches to aid Him. By nature, He is the strongest.

McGwire and Sosa In the sport of baseball, the last twenty years or so saw a rapid increase in the number of home runs hit. Not only were players hitting more home runs collectively, but individual records themselves were being shattered at an alarming pace. In the 1998 season, both Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire broke the single season home run record of sixty-one set by Roger Maris more than thirty years prior. By the end of the season, McGwire ended up with more home runs, but the chase for the record captivated sports fans around the country. Both players were celebrated, and baseball attendance skyrocketed as a result. A few years later, Barry Bonds would end up breaking the career home run record set by Hank Aaron. The career home run record seemed almost impossible to break, for it even took Aaron over twenty seasons of steady home run hitting to set it.

Yet all this record-breaking ended up being for naught as recently it was discovered that the majority of players in baseball during that time were illegally taking banned nutritional supplements such as human-growth-hormone and steroids. Steroids were banned in baseball and other sports a long time ago, but the testing procedures were very lax. For this reason, many players tried steroids and began using them on a regular basis once they saw their home run production increase. More home runs meant higher salaries, so the choice to take steroids became an obvious one. The steroid scandal left an indelible black mark on the sport of baseball. The speculation now is that these same great players - McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and others - might not even make the Hall of Fame since their home run totals are viewed as being artificially inflated.

The steroid scandal sheds light on a larger issue. Not every athlete or person possessing extraordinary strength is a cheater. Nevertheless, even natural strength doesn’t come on its own. Every one of us is born with certain qualities, referred to as gunas in Sanskrit. Even if someone is born strong, they still have to go to a lot of trouble to become experts in their field. Great athletes, performers, and even yogis certainly deserve praise for their efforts, but one should keep in mind that such talent pales in comparison to the powers of God.

Lord Krishna There are many annual awards shows celebrating people in the entertainment, science, and political fields, but there are no awards given to God. He is often overlooked in areas relating to strength. According to the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, God is known as Bhagavan, meaning one who possesses six opulences in full and at the same time. Strength is one of these opulences. By possessing these attributes in full, it means that no one can be stronger than God. Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and Lord Vishnu is His primary expansion. We get information from Vedic literature that this entire material world, with its millions of universes, was originally created by a single exhalation of Lord Vishnu. He breathes out to create and then breathes everything back in at the time of dissolution. Being subject to the illusory power of maya, we living entities easily forget God’s greatness and strength. For this reason, from time to time He personally comes to earth to remind us of just how strong He is.

When Lord Krishna personally appeared on this planet some five thousand years ago, He performed many wonderful feats during His childhood. These incidents are all documented thoroughly in the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. The residents of Vrindavana were amazed by all of Krishna’s wonderful acts. The king of Mathura at the time, Kamsa, was deathly afraid of Krishna since a prophecy had declared that he would be killed by the Lord. The king sent demon after demon to Vrindavana to kill the young Krishna. One by one, Krishna foiled each plot by personally killing the demons.

Of all of Krishna’s great feats, His most celebrated show of strength was His lifting of the mammoth Govardhana Hill. Lord Indra was angry at the residents of Vrindavana for neglecting his sacrifice on one particular occasion. This Indra-puja was skipped at the insistence of Lord Krishna, for He wanted to teach Indra a lesson. Indra, being the lord of heaven, is a demigod entrusted with the power to produce rain. He is also the leader of the demigods whenever they are fighting with the asuras, or demons. For these reasons, Indra tends to get puffed up from time to time, thinking he is even greater than God. This proves without a doubt that worship of the demigods and worship of Krishna are two completely different things. The demigods are highly elevated living entities, servants of Krishna. Though they are advanced, they are still subject to the laws of material nature. Illusion, bewilderment, and false ego are some of the forces that living entities fall prey to. Lord Krishna, on the other hand, is the creator of all material energies, so by definition, He is immune to the effects of these forces.

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill Since the residents ignored his sacrifice, Indra poured down a torrent of rain for seven consecutive days. Lord Krishna, a young child at the time, held up Govardhana Hill by His little finger for the duration of the rainfall, and used the hill as an umbrella to protect the citizens from the rain. Afterwards, Indra was very contrite and offered His respectful obeissances to the Lord.

“Within this material world there are many fools like myself who consider themselves to be the Supreme Lord or the all in all within the universe. You are so merciful that without punishing their offenses, You devise means so that their false prestige is subdued and they can know that You, and none else, are the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Indra, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 27)

God’s pastimes and glories are unlimited, so devotees choose to remember and celebrate the more notable ones. Another famous feat of strength exhibited by God was His lifting and stringing of the illustrious bow of Lord Shiva. Prior to His advent as Krishna, the Lord came to earth as a pious prince by the name of Rama. As the eldest son of the king of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha, Rama and His three brothers were all great warriors following in the tradition of kshatriya kings known as the Ikshvakus. Lord Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana once accompanied the venerable sage Vishvamitra for a period of time in the forest. Vishvamitra and others sages were living in fear of Rakshasa demons at the time, so they required the protection of expert warriors. Rama and Lakshmana rose to the occasion, and in return for their service, Vishvamitra imparted on them very powerful mantras to be used in combat.

Rama and Lakshmana Unlike today’s warfare which is conducted using nuclear weapons and technologically advanced missiles, fighting during Vedic times was done with bow and arrow. This may seem like a primitive style of fighting, but the weapons actually had extraordinary strength. In the Vedic tradition, every important activity is performed with the aid of mantras, which are collections of important words or phrases that are invoked for a specific purpose. Sound vibrations are so strong that a mantra recited with faith and devotion, and at an appropriate time, will yield extraordinary results. Rama and Lakshmana were so pure and devoted to their guru that simply by chanting a mantra, they could make the arrows shot from their bows have the same strength as that of a nuclear weapon. In fact, many of these arrow-weapons were known by specific names, such as the brahmastra. Each weapon also had a counter weapon that could be invoked by its own mantra. This is how warfare was conducted. Not everyone knew all the mantras, for one had to approach an expert guru and learn the mantra from them after offering humble service. Rama and Lakshmana were the perfect disciples in this regard. Rama was God Himself, and Lakshmana was His pure devotee, so it’s not surprising to see that Vishvamitra was pleased with both of them.

After spending some time together in the forest, Vishvamitra brought the two boys to a great sacrifice held in Mithila. The king of Mithila at the time, Maharaja Janaka, was holding a svayamvara (self-choice ceremony) for his daughter, Sita Devi. Janaka had been given an illustrious bow of Lord Shiva on a previous occasion. This bow was extremely heavy and impossible to lift. Janaka wasn’t Sita’s biological father; he had found her one day while ploughing a field. Not knowing her family lineage, he decided that she was too pure to be married off to any ordinary person. Nevertheless, it was the duty of pious kings to marry off their daughters as soon as they reached an appropriate age. Janaka compromised with himself and decided that Sita could get married but only to whoever could lift Lord Shiva’s bow. Many great princes and kings from around the world came to his kingdom to win Sita’s hand in marriage, but they all failed.

Rama lifting the bow From the above referenced statement of Sita Devi, we see just how easily Lord Rama was able to string and lift the bow. He not only lifted it, but He was able to break it, an act which caused a sound reverberation heard throughout the universe. The breaking of the bow seemed like a great act, but to Rama it was a piece of cake. As Sita herself describes, it all happened in a twinkling of an eye. This is the greatness of God. This wonderful event has been celebrated ever since, for it marked the union of Lord Rama and Sita Devi, the divine couple. Anyone who hears of this great feat with faith and devotion will surely always keep Sita and Rama in their heart.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Hanuman surrendering to Lord Rama “…the living entities, being superior energy to matter, have choice and discrimination either to surrender unto the Lord or to surrender unto material nature. By surrendering unto the Lord, one is happy and liberated, but by surrendering unto material nature the living entity suffers.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.6.36 Purport)

Comment: “I understand that the Vedas teach us to surrender unto God. This seems to be the teaching of all religions, so I don’t see what’s so unique about Krishna or the Vedas.”

Response: Most of the major religions of the world certainly do advise people to surrender to God in order to achieve salvation. The Vedas are no different in this regard, except that they give us more details as to what surrender actually means and who we are to surrender to. Using an analogy to a dictionary, the Vedas give us as complete and unabridged a dictionary about spirituality as we will find, whereas other religions essentially give us pocket-sized dictionary versions of the same teachings.

Bhagavad-gita Vedic literature is quite comprehensive. The epic Mahabharata itself is one of the longest books that has ever been written. Originally it was passed down through oral tradition and then later put into written text by Vyasadeva, along with the help of Lord Ganesha. The Mahabharata is actually considered a minor work, meaning it is of secondary importance in the grand scheme of things. The real gem of the Mahabharata can be found in one of its chapters which details a short conversation that took place between Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His disciple and cousin Arjuna. This conversation became so famous that it turned into its own book known as the Bhagavad-gita. The Gita’s teachings are so profound and unique that great scholars, religionists, and intellectuals over the past five thousand years have studied and praised the book.

As mentioned before, the Mahabharata represents only a small portion of Vedic wisdom. The original Vedas, consisting of various hymns, along with the eighteen Puranas, Ramayana, and Vedanta-sutras, comprise the major texts of the Vedic tradition. Each Purana is quite lengthy, with the Shrimad Bhagavatam, or Bhagavata Purana, considered the most important. Purana means old or ancient and thus the Puranas try to describe the Supreme Absolute Truth through stories that describe historical events past, present, and future. Not only do these original books make up the core of Vedic literature, but actually any other book that follows the same teachings can also be considered part of the Vedas. When we add these books to the equation, the entire breadth of Vedic literature becomes enormous. In fact, Vedic teachings are so comprehensive that great acharyas usually focus their studies on just one or two books. Most of us probably couldn’t get through half of all the Vedic texts that are in existence during our lifetime.

Krishna showing His Vishnu form to Vasudeva and Devaki Vedic literature is so vast because it aims to describe God. Being the Supreme Lord, God’s glories are limitless. Nevertheless, devotees try their best to put down their thoughts on paper. These devotees are realized souls, meaning they have a better understanding of who God is than most people. Due to the defects that we inherit at the time of birth, we are unable to ever truly understand God’s greatness. Most religions of the world tell us that God is great, but the Vedas go one step further by actually trying to quantify that greatness. One may ask the question, “If God’s glories are unlimited, what is the purpose in trying to describe them?” The answer is that we human beings understand things through analogy and comparative descriptions. Therefore to help the fallen souls have a better understanding of who God is, the great saints have tried their best to accurately describe some of the Lord’s features.

The most simple, concise, and complete definition for God is that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is supreme because there is no one above Him. He is a personality, meaning He is an individual just like us, except His powers are much greater. He is also the source of Godhead, meaning that God can take many forms. The Vedas tell us that the original form of God is that of Lord Krishna. Krishna then takes unlimited personal expansions, which are classified as vishnu-tattva. All the Vishnu forms, including the incarnations such as Rama, Varaha, and Narasimha, are vishnu-tattva, meaning they are as good as God. We living entities are also expansions of God, but we are jiva-tattva, meaning separated expansions. The difference between a separated expansion and a personal expansion is that separated expansions have less control. We living entities are capable of being controlled by God’s inferior energy, maya or material nature. Vishnu-tattva expansions are equal to God, meaning they are themselves the source of material nature.

Narasimhadeva with Lakshmi Now that we have a better understanding of who God is, why should we surrender to Him? What happens if we don’t surrender? To understand this, we have to delve into what it actually means to surrender. The exact definition can vary, but there are generally two aspects of surrender, especially as it relates to God. One aspect is that of giving up. This type of surrender relates to conflict; wars, fights, arguments, etc. Since the beginning of time, certain classes of men have chosen to settle their differences through violence. Even many sports have a fighting component to them nowadays. Surrendering in a fight means waving the white flag, which signals to the other side to stop fighting. This surrender occurs when the defeated party loses its will to fight. Sun Tzu, author of the famous military treatise, The Art of War, said that the key to gaining victory was not simply to defeat an enemy in battle, but to actually break their will to fight.

Scene of the Bharata War Real surrender in a fight can only occur when one side gives up its hope of winning, and loses its will to continue with the struggle. So how does this relate to Krishna? Are we in a fight with God? The Vedas tell us that we most certainly are, even if we don’t realize it. The material world exists so that the spirit souls can act out their desires to imitate God. That is the essence of karmic activity, i.e. the development of our material bodies. We perform some work, try to attain various perfections, and then think ourselves to be the cause and result of everything. The problem with this type of thinking is that there can only be one God. No amount of meditation, mental speculation, or renunciation of activity can turn us into the supreme controller. God is the most powerful, and we are at His mercy. In regards to the material world, God doesn’t personally have a stake in our fortunes and misfortunes. All living entities, animals and plants included, are part and parcel of God, meaning they are spirit by nature. God doesn’t pick sides as to which living entity He wants to see succeed in karmic life. Since material life revolves around imitating God, it is destined to lead to failure and frustration. In this regard, God can never take anyone’s side since no one can actually win in this fight.

Mother Yashoda with KrishnaSurrendering to God means giving up our fight to be like Him. Giving up the fight to be God is one thing, but what do we do after that? This is where the second aspect of surrendering comes in, namely that of pure love for God. In the simplest definition, love means to want more for the object of your affection than you want for yourself. In this way, love is also a form of surrendering because it means making yourself completely vulnerable and putting another person in charge of your emotions; i.e. being at their mercy.

In love, there are different kinds of surrender. Good parents love their children so much that they surrender unto them. This may seem strange to us. “How can a parent surrender to a child, especially a baby? The baby is completely helpless, so isn’t it the other way around?” Babies are certain incapable of doing anything for themselves. If not for parents, siblings, and caretakers, babies would not be able to survive. Yet we see that young children often have no problems being taken care of. In many families, there is an army of family members waiting to take care of a newborn baby. Everyone wants to see the new member of the family and hold them in their arms. They smile at the baby and make funny faces all in the hope of receiving a smile back. In this way, we see that the elders are actually the ones who become dependent on the infant. The child holds all the power, for their actions can either bring pain or pleasure to the parents and elderly family members.

Radha and KrishnaConjugal or romantic loves also involves surrender. In fact, that is one of the reasons why loving relationships bring so much joy and happiness. Material life means always competing for rewards. This competition requires that we always be on guard and make sure that no one else sees us sweat. If others sense weakness, they are sure to pounce on us and take advantage. A pure loving romantic relationship fructifies when all the guards are finally let down. Pure love for a paramour means making yourself completely vulnerable and dependent on the other person for your happiness. There is certainly a risk in letting your guard down, but if you are with the right person, the reward is worth the risk. There is no person more worthy of our love than God. The Vedas tell us that our loving relationships in the material world are simply reflections of the purified relationships that exist between devotees and God in the spiritual world. The different types of love we see here are actually referred to as rasas in the spiritual world. Some people prefer to have Lord Krishna, or God, as a son, while others choose to enjoy conjugal love with Him. The Lord rewards His devotees in the manner most pleasing to them.

Knowing all this, what happens to us if we don’t surrender to God? Aside from all the threats we see from preachers relating to eternal damnation and being sent to hell, what really results from our failure to surrender is that our fight continues. Those who don’t surrender are those who continue their war with maya, or God’s illusory energy. This fight can actually go on forever. When we die, if this fight still exists inside us, God allows us to take birth again in a body commensurate with the deeds of our previous life. Even when the existing creation is destroyed, the same souls get placed on earth again when the new creation comes into being. So enduring repeated births and deaths is actually the worst kind of damnation.

Shrimati Radharani The lesson is here that we should surrender to God not simply out of fear, but out of pure love. The Lord is extremely nice. He kindly asks us to surrender to Him in order to enjoy a blissful and peaceful life. The choice remains ours, for God will never force someone to love Him. To achieve perfection, we simply need to follow the example of the great devotees, the greatest of whom is Shrimati Radharani, Lord Krishna’s eternal consort. She is pure, kind, simple, grave, and above all, she is completely surrendered to Krishna. If we receive her blessings, we are sure to one day finally surrender unto the Supreme Lord.