Saturday, September 18, 2010


Lord Krishna “My dear King, although Kali-yuga is full of faults, there is still one good quality about this age. It is that simply by chanting the holy name of Krishna, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 12.3.51)

With every progressive achievement, be it in the area of technology or philosophy, there are tradeoffs, bad things that come along with the good. As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, there’s no such thing as advancement without retreat in other areas. The advent of computers and the programming required for their operation serve as great examples in this regard.

computer Computer programming is a field that arose out of the desire for increased productivity, driven by the desire for profit. Why put an army of workers on a project when you can have a computer do the job for you? The computer doesn’t require social security, health benefits, or even personal interaction; therefore it serves as a much easier entity to manage than an employee. Productivity is the driving force behind technology. A proprietor starts a business to earn a profit, to make a good living while being their own boss. The key to earning profits is to limit your expenses. The easiest way to keep your expenses down is to increase the output of work from the staff that you already employ. Computers are helpful in this regard because they don’t require much added expenditure, yet the output can increase greatly.

For a computer to perform the required tasks for a specific project, it needs to be programmed. Aside from the hardware configuration, at the heart of the device is the operating system, which serves as the foundation for all the functions the computer will perform. The operating system sets the ground rules; it tells you how memory will be allocated, how programs will look and feel, and how quickly operations can be performed. The developers, those who write the programs, need to tailor their programs to the target operating system. In the early days of computers, there was no such thing as Windows, or a system with a user-friendly graphical interface that allowed for the use of a mouse. All input/output was performed through terminal systems which had limited features as far as visuals were concerned. Not only were programs written to run on these terminal systems, but the development was done on these machines as well. Writing a program involves adhering to the syntactical and semantic constructs of the language being used, which means that the computer scientist must know how to declare and assign variables, write and call functions, and properly perform assignment and loop operations. Program languages are generally locked down very tight, so the slightest mistake in coding syntax will result in a compiler error. An error during the compilation of the program prevents the program from ever becoming an executable, meaning that the program can never be used by anyone unless and until all compiler errors are fixed.

Programming IDE When programming on a terminal/command line interface system, fixing compile errors is not that easy. Sometimes these errors aren’t even that easy to find; you could have a program with a thousand lines of code that has an error on line 535. Actually navigating to that line would be quite difficult on a system that didn’t have a mouse or copy and paste functions. As time went on, however, operating systems took a giant leap forward, and with this advancement programming became much easier. On today’s Windows-based systems, there are visual interfaces that allow programmers to generate new programs very quickly. In the latest releases of these IDEs [integrated development environments], compiler errors can actually be identified on the fly, as the program is being written. Auto-complete allows for the automatic generation of significant pieces of code during the time of writing. Variable names are also immediately verified, for many programming languages are case sensitive. Depending on the language, if a variable is declared with a capital letter in the beginning, and the same variable is called later on but written out in all lower case, the compiler will not recognize the variable. Auto-complete allows the developer to quickly find the correct spelling of the previously declared variable.

While it is much easier to write a program these days, there are inherent tradeoffs, some of which are quite unpleasant. Since the newer operating systems do much of the work in the background for you, they are generally slower in completing their operations. This means that the same program written on a terminal system could run much faster than it would on a Windows-based system. This may not make a difference for a simple user-interface program that doesn’t process many requests, but for a larger program that say is parsing through very large files, the difference in execution times is quite notable. Another issue that is managed automatically on the newer systems is memory. Depending on the hardware configuration of a computer, there is a set amount of memory that can be allocated to all the concurrently executing programs. In this scenario, memory management is quite important, for you don’t want a program to eat up memory that it doesn’t need, but you also want it to have enough memory to perform its necessary functions. In the past, memory management was an art form, something handled explicitly by the developer in their code. The newer systems have garbage collection mechanisms where dynamic memory management is taken care of behind the scenes. While this is beneficial most of the time, memory leak issues can arise, causing the computer to crash. These issues aren’t easily diagnosed either since the memory management is not handled explicitly in the code.

Lord Krishna These concerns relating to computers and programming show us that even the greatest advancements have tradeoffs built in. In order to get something favorable, one must put up with an unfavorable condition. There are seemingly similar issues to contend with in spiritual life. In this age, the recommended method for attaining self-realization is sankirtana, or the congregational chanting of the holy names of God. While there are thousands upon thousands of different names for the Supreme Lord, the names found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, are considered the best. Krishna is a word that describes God’s original all-attractive form. Rama refers to Krishna’s celebrated incarnation of Lord Rama. Rama also means one who gives pleasure. Chanting Hare Krishna means associating with God’s all-attractiveness, which also gives eternal pleasure to the soul.

Chanting this mantra, whether out loud [kirtana] or to one self [japa], is considered the only religious practice worth adopting for the people of this age. Since this method is a little different from the methods of ages past, we could classify it as an advancement, the moving forward of religious practice. After all, everyone seems to be intrigued by the idea of evolution, the concept of coming up with a better, smarter way of doing something in comparison to the methods employed by generations past. While advancements in other areas of life certainly do bring tradeoffs, this is not the case with chanting Hare Krishna.

Vyasadeva At the beginning of creation, man was so intelligent that he could memorize thousands and thousands of Sanskrit verses after only hearing them once. These verses served as the religious doctrine, the scriptures if you will. Since these truths were passed down through an oral tradition, they were referred to as shrutis, or that which is heard. There was no need for books; the mind could be delivered simply by hearing. As time went on, however, mankind’s mental abilities diminished, thus the need for books arose. The advent of the written word certainly seemed like an advancement. Books allowed for the eternal truths of life, the Vedas, to be written down and saved for future generations to look over. Unlike with the memory capacity of the average human being, books had no limits to how much information they could contain. A person could go on writing and writing if they were passionate enough, as was the case with Vyasadeva. Lord Krishna partially incarnated on earth many thousands of years ago as a great writer and spiritual master named Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa, also known as Vyasadeva. He had memorized all Vedic knowledge, but for the benefit of future generations, he decided to have everything written down into book form.

Yet for the people of this age, even reading is too much of a chore. There is so much time spent maintaining the body for satisfying the senses that there is really no inclination for reading all of Vyasadeva’s works. For this reason, the chanting process was inaugurated. Simply chant Hare Krishna wherever you go and you will always be in connection with God. With this system, it seems that a potential tradeoff could be the decrease in intelligence. In days past, by either reading books or hearing the shrutis, a person could become an expert Sanskrit scholar, acquiring knowledge about the soul and its constitutional position in relation to God. With this new system, it appears that no one will be able to learn Sanskrit or deep philosophy since they are just chanting all the time.

Gaura Nitai chanting and dancing Though chanting is a simplified method geared towards attracting those who lack an interest in high philosophy, it is actually a tool of deliverance as well. Chanting Hare Krishna is part of the discipline known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Yoga means the linking of the soul with the Supreme Divine Entity. This Supreme Object of Pleasure lives in the spiritual sky, but He kindly accompanies the fallen individual soul in its descent to the material world. The Lord expands Himself as the Supersoul and rests within the heart of every living entity, side by side with the soul of the individual. Perfection in life is achieved when the individual soul is linked up with the Supersoul. When this link is achieved, one is said to be in perfect yoga.

“Thus established in the mode of unalloyed goodness, the man whose mind has been enlivened by contact with devotional service to the Lord [bhagavad-bhakti-yogatah] gains positive scientific knowledge of the Personality of Godhead in the stage of liberation from all material association.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.20)

Bhakti means love or devotion, and the term taken on its own doesn’t really have much significance. We can love our dog, cat, family member, nation, or community, but this love doesn’t really advance the condition of the soul. The soul is the basis of our identity, an identity which is never removed. The soul always exists, even through birth and death. In order to further the condition of the spirit soul, bhakti needs to be directed in the right area, it needs to be purified. Bhagavad-bhakti is the discipline which directs our love and devotion to Bhagavan, which is another name for God. Bhaga refers to fortunes, so Bhagavan is one who possesses all fortunes. This is a very nice term to describe God because no conditioned living entity can meet these requirements. Those who direct their bhakti towards Bhagavan also become fortunate. If God is fortunate, then obviously anyone who loves Him purely will be equally as fortunate. This is why sometimes great devotees like Narada Muni and Lord Shiva are also referred to as Bhagavan.

Radha and Krishna Whether we memorize all Vedic instruction through hearing, read the same information in a book, or simply chant the Lord’s names, the ultimate goal is to practice bhagavad-bhakti, or pure devotional service. In this way, we see that there is no tradeoff in chanting Hare Krishna. It brings one to the platform of devotional service, the only valid pathway towards the desired liberation of the soul. Though the ultimate reservoir of pleasure has made the method for transcendental realization easier for the people of this age, there is no tradeoff in the end-result. Those who chant the sacred maha-mantra with rapt attention and reckless abandon will be rewarded with Krishna’s association in the spiritual world. Love for God is not dependent on academic scholarship, the ability to process information quickly, or knowledge of the Sanskrit language. When arriving at the topmost spiritual platform, all other qualities, except for pure bhakti, are checked at the door.

The sankirtana movement inaugurated by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Krishna’s incarnation as a preacher, represents advancement and simplification. This is a feature unique to the spiritual discipline of bhagavad-bhakti, for no material advancement is free of tradeoffs. Lord Chaitanya, by establishing the supremacy of the engagement known as devotional service, showed us the way. We simply require the good sense to follow His lead.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Lord Rama "O hero, many times in the past You had spoken the same words of instruction to me. Of course how can anyone, be they even Brihaspati himself, be capable of instructing You?" (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.18)

Charges of hypocrisy and dishonesty are often leveled by politicians hoping to gain an advantage. Political parties usually don’t have much to stand on with their own ideas, so they take to discrediting their opposition as a way of advancing their agenda. This game is played by dredging up old quotes which contradict a certain personality’s current position on an issue. The idea is that if a person is confronted with their own previous words, they will be forced to either admit they previously lied or that their current position is invalid. While this type of chess match goes on all the time in politics, nothing really substantive results from it. When we apply these same techniques to spiritual practice, however, it can yield tremendous results.

Lincoln Douglas debates Debating is an art form. There are classes in high school and college which teach the ins and outs of public speaking to students. On the surface, this seems odd because one would think that a debate focuses on the substance of the arguments rather than the delivery of speech. Each person is either right or wrong in their arguments; the correctness being determined by authority. This is how Vedic truths are discovered anyways, for no serious follower of Vedic traditions would ever think of just making up new arguments without substantiating them with scriptural evidence. But things are a little different in the material world. Opinions are formed based on whims, so in order to back up their positions a person needs excellent debating skills. A good debater looks to not only defend their own position, but also discredit their opponents and their arguments. It is additionally beneficial if you can use your opponent’s statements to support your own arguments.

The arena of politics serves as a great example in showing how debates are won and lost in the modern age. Most politicians today are lawyers by trade, so they make their livelihoods on argument, debate, contradiction, and cross-examination. Politics is a volatile game, something which can immediately cause divisions amongst large groups of people. As soon as a person takes a stand on any issue, they are sure to alienate half of the voting public. In order to win over people who are against their stance of an issue, a politician will try to pick apart their opponent’s beliefs. In addition, politicians will try to support their own positions by pointing to prior incidents where their opponents stood for the same issue. This technique is actually known as the tu-quoque fallacy, meaning “you too”, but it is not easily recognized. This fallacy is typically seen in the situation where person A makes a negative claim about person B’s behavior. Person B, instead of trying to defend the merit of their behavior, decides to use the tu-quoque fallacy whereby they note that Person A had previously engaged in the same behavior. Person B is essentially saying, “Well, you did this same thing in the past, so how can you complain now?” This is obviously a fallacy because Person B has not discussed the merits of Person A’s claim.

These types of arguments go on constantly. We can turn on the news tonight and be sure to see countless examples of this kind of debating technique. While it may be nice to expose a high office holder’s hypocrisy, what is the end-result? Do people end up changing their behavior? Most often they don’t. What people do learn is that politicians lie and say whatever is necessary to get elected. But this isn’t really shocking news to anyone. Yet if we apply these same debate techniques to spiritual life, it can pay real dividends. This is because the rules of engagement for spiritual life are set by Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Unlike self-interested politicians, God is the supreme pure, so He is someone we can count on to be honorable and fair.

Lord Rama An example of this chivalry was seen many thousands of years ago when Krishna incarnated on earth as Lord Rama. Each of Krishna’s incarnations on earth has specific attributes suited for the time and circumstance. During Lord Rama’s time, man was still generally spiritually inclined, so the Lord suited His demeanor to match this characteristic. Rama was a pious soul, dharma-atma, who took birth in the Raghu-vamsha, or the dynasty of King Raghu. All the kings in this line were noble and chivalrous, for they had to be since their duty was to provide protection to the citizens. Rama was the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha. As the eldest son, it was Rama’s duty to not only attend to state affairs, but also to give instruction to His three younger brothers. Rama’s brothers viewed Him as a father-figure, and they listened very attentively whenever He spoke.

How do we know that Rama’s brothers listened to Him? We get evidence of this from a few notable incidents. On one particular occasion, Rama’s beautiful and chaste wife, Sita Devi, was kidnapped by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Rama, His younger brother Lakshmana, and Sita were travelling the forests of India for fourteen years as a result of an exile punishment handed down by Dasharatha. Sita was protected whenever Rama and Lakshmana were around, but Ravana devised a plan which led the two brothers away from their ashrama. Ravana then used this opportunity to take Sita away by force. Upon returning to their cottage, Rama saw that Sita was gone. He immediately gave way to lamentation and despair. Rama loved Sita very much, and He was also playing the part of an ordinary human being. What man wouldn’t be distraught upon learning that his wife had gone missing?

Lakshmana At this time, Lakshmana stepped in to offer some sound words of advice. It wasn’t that Lakshmana viewed himself as superior to Rama. On the contrary, Lakshmana openly declared to everyone that he was Rama’s servant for life. Such a younger brother will never be found in this world; Lakshmana’s personal character and dedication to God was unmatched. Still, sometimes when we see our loved ones in trouble, we have to step in and offer counsel. After all, our family members help us out when we’re in trouble, so shouldn’t we try to do the same for them? This is what Lakshmana thought, so he didn’t hesitate to offer a helping hand. The gist of his statements was that Rama should not worry about loss or gain and that even if Sita were dead, He shouldn’t deviate from the righteous path. All of us have prescribed duties we must perform in life, and we should perform them without attachment to the results. These are some of the central teachings of Vedic philosophy, for statements almost identical to the ones given by Lakshmana are found in the famous Bhagavad-gita, which was delivered many thousands of years later by Krishna Himself.

“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, Bhagavad-gita, 2.38)

After giving his advice, Lakshmana added one more piece of information which was of critical importance. Lakshmana made sure to remind Rama that he had, on many prior occasions, heard the same teachings delivered by Rama Himself. This is the proof that Lakshmana always listened attentively to the original spiritual master of the world, Shri Rama. Moreover, this one piece of information offered by Lakshmana actually put Rama in quite a bind. Lakshmana essentially told Rama, “You have to follow my advice, for these statements actually aren’t coming from me. All of this I learned from You originally. Thus if You don’t listen to what I’m saying now, You’re essentially going against Your own teachings. You wouldn’t want to do that, would You?”

“‘A woman, without her husband, cannot live’, this truth has been pointed out by You, O Rama, to me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 29.7)

Sita, Rama, and Lakshmana This is the beauty of devotional service. Since the pure devotees hang on God’s every word, they make sure to keep everything in memory should they need to repeat the same information at a future time. Ironically enough, this wasn’t the first time one of Rama’s close associates used this technique. Just prior to going to the forest, Rama informed Sita of the exile punishment and insisted that she remain in the kingdom for the duration of the fourteen years. Sita, however, was also a good listener and made sure to remember everything Rama had taught her about the duties of a spouse in marriage. She immediately invoked many of the Vedic tenets relating to the fact that a wife must always remain with the husband and how the wife can never be happy living without the husband. At the end of her statements, she too reminded Rama that what she was speaking was originally told to her by Rama. Thus the Lord had no choice but to listen to Sita. In a similar manner, Rama was forced to accept Lakshmana’s advice.

Lord Krishna Since Lord Rama is the Supreme Divine Entity, He is never required to listen to anyone, but for the devotees, He kindly creates circumstances where He is forced to listen to their words of advice. Lord Rama was very pleased with both Sita and Lakshmana, for their words of wisdom were offered out of pure love. Following Lakshmana’s advice, Rama would regain His senses and continue His search for Sita, eventually finding and rescuing her after defeating Ravana in battle.

“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.66)

There are several important lessons we can take away from this. Since Krishna knows that our natural home is in the spiritual world with Him, He kindly gives us guidelines to follow in our journey through life. His most important teaching is that we should abandon all the so-called dharmas that we have created and simply surrender unto His lotus feet. Fully surrendering unto God will guarantee us a return ticket back to His spiritual abode after our current life is over. So how do we surrender? We simply have to take up devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. In this age, the easiest way to practice Krishna-bhakti is to regularly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. We should also avoid the four pillars of sinful life: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex.

The beauty of this system is that if we fully surrender unto God, He will be compelled to make good on His promises. If we become pure devotees by always thinking of the Lord and spending all our time engaged in His service, He will have no choice but to abide by His own statements promising our salvation. If our hearts are pure, then just as with Lakshmana and Sita, we too can put the Lord into a checkmate situation, where He is forced to accept our service.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Lord Krishna “When the senses are satisfied in the seer-Supersoul, the Personality of Godhead, and merge in Him, all miseries are completely vanquished, as after a sound sleep.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.7.13)

In the late 1980s, a popular fad amongst celebrities and notable personalities was the red ribbon. Worn as a symbol of support for the fight against AIDS, the ribbon was used as both a political statement and as a way of showing dislike for a disease that started to garner much attention. In more recent times, similar behavior is seen with those wanting to raise awareness for causes like breast cancer, leukemia, and other diseases. Even supporters of military men and women have adopted ribbons and other symbols to show their support. While there are many causes that a person can take up, there is only one issue that if solved automatically provides the solution to all other causes at the same time.

Support the Troops ribbon In a democracy, issues take on an added importance, with individuals joining together to form special interest groups in hopes of swaying the opinion of the ruling class. According to the Vedic definition, and also the opinion of those with common sense, government exists to provide protection to the innocent. Protect life and property; these are the two primary functions of government. What tends to happen, however, is that when protection is provided at high levels, citizens start to look for more things from their government. In addition to providing protection, the government is looked to to solve issues of happiness, needs, and wants.

This mindset leads to problems in that everyone’s needs and wants vary. One person may find a particular issue appealing, while another person may not. There are special interest groups for just about everything. There is a group that looks to stamp out the practice of circumcision, while another hopes to ban soda pop and coconut oil from restaurants. Members of both factions believe that their issue is important enough to warrant the formation of a non-profit organization which raises money to be used to influence politicians. These are just two of the many organizations out there, so we can imagine what a chaotic condition results. For a government official, there is no fair way to decide whose issue is more important. Therefore, what results is a situation where people are always unhappy, with turnover in leadership occurring on a regular basis.

Valmiki writing the Ramayana What can be done to solve the problem? How do we decide whose issues are more important? Should we spend more money on fighting cancer or on helping the poor? To reach the solution, we first need to take a look at how these issues come about. The Vedas are the ancient scriptures of India, a set of law codes and instructions passed down by the Supreme Lord Himself. Even for those who don’t believe in God, the Vedas provide much cogent instruction and philosophy. The original keepers of the faith, the great saints of India, had the time to both ponder high philosophy and also to mull over the eternal truths passed down by Supreme Divine Entity. If we tap into this storehouse of knowledge passed down to us, we are sure to find all the issues of today addressed, along with their root causes and viable solutions.

According to Vedic wisdom, the “cause” mentality comes about as a result of two primary activities: accepting and rejecting. As soon as the living entities take birth, they begin this process of acceptance and rejection. They find things that they like and thus accept them as palatable. After a short period of time, they may then reject the same thing. A “cause”, or an issue of importance to an activist, comes about when there is a strong rejection. Something very unpalatable comes about in life and a person decides that they need to do whatever they can to make sure the unwanted situation never occurs again. This is a general description, but the scope of this mindset is quite far-reaching.

Soda pop Let’s take two examples to see how the seeds of activism are born. In America today, one will notice that most of the soft drinks are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup instead of natural sugar. There is actually a reason behind this. Sugar is certainly a superior sweetener, since it is natural and has a better taste than corn syrup. Yet problems arose for sugar farmers in America when foreign sugar began to be imported into the country. This sugar was less expensive than the sugar produced by the American farmers, so this caused an issue. The American sugar farmers were faced with an unpalatable condition, something they wanted to reject. They saw their profits diminishing and the prospect of being put out of business. This negative condition caused enough fear that they decided to take up the issue with Congress. Instead of switching to another line of work or finding ways to produce their sugar at a lower cost, the sugar farmers lobbied Congress to take action. They asked for the government to impose tariffs on sugar, so as to raise the price of imported sugar, thus keeping the farmers in business. Congress viewed this “cause” as important enough to take up and thus granted the farmers their tariffs. Congress also started to subsidize corn production as a result of similar lobbying efforts by corn farmers, thus making corn products cheaper. As a result of these two government actions, soda manufacturers then chose to use the less expensive high fructose corn syrup in lieu of sugar so as to keep their profit margins the same.

The sugar example dealt with profits and a person’s means for earning a living, but there are other examples of rejection relating to completely different areas of life. Fighting cancer is one of the most popular causes in America. Companies often organize charity races where members of the general public can pledge donations to the participants of the race. Charity golf outings are similar in this regard. The money raised is then used to fund research to find cures for cancer and also to find ways to treat the deadly disease. What’s interesting to note is that the founders of these organizations usually have had their own dealings with cancer. A friend or family member died as a result of the illness, so the affected relative decided to make the fight against cancer the primary cause of their life. The sudden death of a relative turned out to be a negative condition which was deemed important enough to reject on a grand scale.

Walking for cures These are just two examples of the countless causes that are adopted. Even amongst followers of spiritual traditions, there are minor causes taken up such as cow protection, violence against animals, environmental protection, childhood hunger, etc. So what do we make of all this? Which cause is the most important? How can we even say that one cause is more worthy of attention than another? After all, each cause is taken up by those who were personally affected by the issue, so who is to say whose issue was more harmful? The Vedic seers, the self-realized sages of the past, tell us that there is one cause that is superior to all others. Those who take up this sublime engagement will have all other issues in life resolved. This cause is the reawakening of the dormant God consciousness of the individual living entity, the connection of spirit with Supreme Spirit.

As mentioned before, the primary cause of activism is rejection. Things that are acceptable are not given as much attention because the favorable condition is somewhat taken for granted. Moreover, those who take to activism feel that the eradication of the negative condition will eventually lead to a positive condition. The Vedic conclusion is that in this world there is no possibility of a permanent positive condition. The concept of acceptance and rejection, bhoga and tyaga, is a product of material nature, an illusory and temporary world which is meant to be miserable. “God, show to mankind that you really exist. Then explain to us the meaning of chaos.” These are sentiments echoed by many of us at some point in our lives. This world is so miserable and the cause of so much frustration that we have a kneejerk reaction to point the finger at God. This is actually a good beginning, but we need to go one step further in order to have our miseries removed.

Lord Krishna The purified condition of the living entity is achieved once it is in constant connection with the Supreme Spirit, or God. Currently this connection is broken, thus the living entity constantly toggles between bhoga and tyaga. God created this material world and everything inside of it, so how can we be disconnected from Him while living here? Of course God is always absolute and never disconnected from anything, but matter is considered an external energy, a separate and inferior manifestation of the Supreme Lord’s potencies. This is by design, because only through association with an inferior energy can the wayward spirit souls derive the false enjoyment they are looking for. What does this mean exactly? In simple terms, only through association with matter can we living entities pretend to be God. In the spiritual world, where everyone is constantly linked with the Supreme, this flawed desire to imitate Him cannot be acted upon. The spiritual world represents a realm where the superior energy reigns supreme, thus there is no chance for bewilderment, acceptance, rejection, misery, chaos, tumult, despair, etc. In order to imitate God, the spirit soul must be placed in a realm where they are allowed to forget Him, taking shelter of an inferior energy. Hence the material world was born.

This seems quite bleak. Luckily for us, there is a way out. Those who take to bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, can fix their broken connection. Devotional service is the natural engagement of the soul, so it is not an artificially concocted remedy like those of the bhogis and tyagis. The beauty of bhakti-yoga is that one who practices it properly can automatically solve all the other issues of life. We shouldn’t misunderstand this point; it is not as if the unfavorable conditions get resolved in a manner similar to that of government action. Devotional service doesn’t involve raising money to fight cancer or lobbying the government for sugar tariffs. Devotional service tackles the root of the problem, the eradication of the original negative condition. If someone is always connected with the Divine, the unfavorable situations are either ignored or their effects limited.

Lord Krishna Devotional service also involves the acquisition of knowledge. Knowledge of the Supreme Spirit, the soul, and the constitutional position of the living entity allows a person to determine the proper course of action in all situations. Therefore, there is no need to get up to speed on any issue because everything is thought of in terms of its relation to God. In the Vedic tradition, Lord Krishna is taken to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the all-attractive form of the Lord. Krishna can accept devotees from around the world, regardless of their religious affiliation, personal circumstances, age, gender, or ethnicity. When every issue is seen in its relation to Krishna, one automatically acquires the knowledge needed to tackle the problem.

Based on these facts, we see that there is only one cause that is really worth taking up: the rekindling of the spiritual love we feel for Krishna. The quickest and most effective method for reconnecting with our long lost friend is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Additionally, we should try to take up this cause on behalf of every other person as well, kindly asking them to chant and devote themselves to Krishna’s service. In this way, others will eventually realize how to take care of their fellow man, offer them a helping hand during times of trouble, and respect their desires and wants. A devotee looks at another man’s wealth as poison, his wife as their own mother, and his good fortune as the greatest source of happiness. The devotees acquire all good qualities and thus become the greatest welfare workers in the world. Connecting with Krishna is the only cause, the cause to end all causes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Do It Again

Lord Rama "O hero, many times in the past You had spoken the same words of instruction to me. Of course how can anyone, be they even Brihaspati himself, be capable of instructing You?" (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.18)

Important facts and theorems need to be repeated again and again in order for others to understand them. This makes sense because it is our tendency to forget things, especially considering just how fast the human brain works and how quickly it processes ideas, memories, and experiences. Repetition is beneficial because sometimes even the givers of information, the teachers, can forget the relevant facts relating to their subject of interest. If a person repeats key concepts or finds new ways to explain the same ideas, they gain a better understanding of the subject matter. This principle especially applies to teachings relating to spiritual life.

Newspaper The initial inclination is that such repetition will end up boring the intended audience. “Why would I want to listen to the same thing all the time? After a while, I’m just going to zone it out anyway.” This may certainly be true in many scenarios. We have a tendency to get bored very quickly, thus there is a plethora of television channels and internet websites for our perusal. Though there appears to be variety in material enjoyment, if we do a careful study, we’ll see that this variety is an illusion. Let’s take the news for example. We like to watch the news for the obvious reason that it gives us new information; things that we don’t know about. People who watch the news feel like they are in the know, ahead of the curve so to speak. But is today’s news really anything noteworthy?

Say we opened up a newspaper from five or even ten years ago. First off, hardly anyone would have any interest in reading a newspaper which is that old, for even yesterday’s news is of no interest. If we were to open up one of these old papers, we’d likely find a few stories relating to notable celebrity figures passing away, Congressmen declaring a crisis in some area of the economy, another person contemplating running for political office, a few gruesome murders here and there, and a new study saying that such and such food will cure cancer. The nature of the stories never really changes, though the exact details, facts, and proper names may vary. So while we may think we are getting variety in material life, we are more or less “chewing the chewed”, as the great devotee Prahlada Maharaja would say.

Prahlada Material life has this effect on us. We try something out, get some enjoyment out of it, and then eventually cast it aside in favor of a new venture. But the nature of the activities doesn’t really change, for everything revolves around the four principles of animal life: sleeping, having sex, consuming food, and worrying about defense. Every new grandiose philosophy expounded by the latest intellectual is really no different than anything we’ve already heard. With each new activity, our enjoyment actually diminishes more and more. Since we have already “chewed” on such activities, there isn’t much left there to give us happiness.

When all the enjoyment is chewed out of a particular activity, what do we do? Naturally, we look for new activities. But if the nature of the activities doesn’t change, we’re not likely to derive any new enjoyment. Spiritual life is different though. When talking about Lord Krishna, or God, devotees derive pure transcendental pleasure. They can go on and on talking about the Lord - describing His glories, activities, and names - and never get bored. To see evidence of this, we need only consult the recorded teachings of two famous Vaishnava acharyas: Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Goswami Prabhupada, and His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta was Shrila Prabhupada’s spiritual master, so we’ll look at some of his activities first. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta was known as the genius of his time; he even received the nickname of the “living encyclopedia”. He could recite entire sections of Vedic literature straight from memory. Not only was he good at memorizing, but he could invoke relevant scriptural verses when needed, especially when debating other non-devotees. Aside from writing many books in several languages about devotion to Krishna, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta loved to lecture. It is said that he once spent two months giving lectures on just one verse from the Shrimad Bhagavatam. These verses aren’t very long; maybe a few sentences, so how could one person talk for that long about the same verse? It also must be noted that his lectures weren’t carbon copies of each other; he didn’t just repeat himself every day.

Shrila Prabhupada behaved in a similar manner. He authored a large number of books after he had reached the age of seventy, which itself is a remarkable achievement. Moreover, he continually travelled across the world giving lectures, engaging in conversations, and translating books every single day. Many of these lectures were recorded, and one can listen to them today at their leisure. A point of interest is that most of the Prabhupada lectures had the same meanings, touched on the same famous verses from scripture, and eventually reached the same conclusion. Yet one will never get bored listening to these lectures. How could this be?

Shrila Prabhupada An even more relevant question is how were these two great saints able to talk about the same subject matter every single day and not bore themselves? How were they able to remain passionate about what they were teaching and how were they able to keep others interested? As mentioned before, there is a difference between something that is material and something that is spiritual. Matter is part of God’s inferior energy, so even though it is related to God, it is subordinate in nature to spirit. Spirit is anything directly relating to God, thus it is considered the Lord’s superior energy. When we engage in any activity that is aimed at developing our material bodies, it is called karma. Spiritual activities are geared towards developing our spiritual bodies, so these activities are considered free of karma.

Since matter is inferior to spirit, it makes sense that the enjoyment derived from associating with the material energy would also be inferior. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta, Shrila Prabhupada, and all the great devotees associate exclusively with God’s spiritual energy, so they never tire of teaching. They were able to talk so extensively about Krishna because they had the proper understanding of everything material and spiritual. A scientist may be enamored by how grass grows. They will study the chemical properties, how long seeds take to sprout, and what it takes to sustain the life of the grass. While this information is beneficial, it doesn’t really help in the grand scheme of things. The better way to go about learning about plants, trees, crops, etc. is to first understand the source of all life: God. This is the path taken by devotees. They try to find out who God is, where He lives, what He looks like, and what our relationship with Him should be.

Lord Krishna's lotus feet After finding the answers to these questions, devotees immediately gain a perfect understanding of everything else in life. The same example of grass can be used here. The devotees look at the growing of grass in this way: “Oh this grass is so nice. It grows because of the sunlight produced by Krishna. It needs fertile soil in order to grow, thus it requires high quality dirt, which is also emanating from Krishna. Once the grass grows, it can be eaten by the cows, who will then freely supply milk to mankind. This milk will then be used to prepare foodstuff to be offered to Krishna. Once the Lord eats the food, the resultant prasadam [the Lord’s mercy] can be distributed to others. Thus the grass helps everyone in becoming Krishna conscious, which is the ultimate goal in life.”

Devotees not only look at grass through this prism of devotional service, but everything else in the world as well. Thus we see there are unlimited ways to describe the Lord. At this point, one may ask, “Okay, so you can describe God in so many ways, but why is this needed? Why do you constantly need to find new ways to explain the same concepts of spiritual life?” The reasons are twofold. The first is that devotees like to find ways to relate everyday things to spiritual life for the benefit of the non-devotees. In the grand scheme of things, every person is a devotee of Krishna, but they just might not be aware of it. Also, the objects of their devotion may vary. One person may be worshiping Krishna’s illusory energy known as maya, while another is worshiping the mind, the body, etc. Though every person is a devotee, since their objects of worship vary, so do the results of their worship. When we speak of devotees of Krishna, we refer to those people who worship Krishna directly, either in His personal form or one of His vishnu-tattva expansions such as Rama, Narasimha, Narayana, etc.

Lord Krishna Perfection in life can be achieved only when we take to direct worship of Krishna, because only through this worship can we develop a permanent spiritual body. This development is essential because only in a spiritual body can we enjoy pure transcendental bliss; something which gives us enjoyment that never runs out. In order to persuade people to take to direct worship of Krishna, intricate explanations are required. Moreover, not every person is of the same mindset, so it is up to the spiritual master, or guru, to tailor his message to the specific audience. For example, some people may be strict karmis who are after sense gratification. When speaking to such people, a devotee may choose to focus on the temporary nature of material sense gratification and how karma is a never-ending cycle. Then there are others who may believe in God, but may not want to accept the fact that He has a permanent form. They’d rather spend their time sitting in silent meditation or studying Vedanta. For these people, devotees would focus their attention on the fact that merging into Krishna’s impersonal energy, Brahman, doesn’t provide spiritual satisfaction since all spiritual activity is eliminated in the Brahman effulgence. If one wants transcendental bliss with activity and individuality, things which are natural for the soul, it is better to worship God’s personal form.

The second, and probably more important, reason that devotees love to explain the same concepts over and over again is that it gives them great pleasure. An example of this was seen many thousands of years ago with Lord Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. During the Treta Yuga, God personally appeared on earth as one of His vishnu-tattva expansions named Rama. Appearing as the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya, Lord Rama was a great warrior and pious soul from birth. Not only was He adept at fighting enemies, but He also had a full grasp of Vedic concepts and truths. This shouldn’t be surprising, as Rama was God Himself. Since He was the eldest son of the king, Rama had added responsibilities. He had to set a good example not only for the citizens of Ayodhya, but also for His three younger brothers. His brothers all looked at Rama as a father, and the Lord would oblige by giving them instruction on dharma.

Lord Rama The Lord is the most merciful after all, so He doesn’t like to always be the one providing instruction. Sometimes He likes to glorify His devotees by giving them the opportunity to teach. This was the case when Rama’s beautiful and chaste wife, Sita Devi, was kidnapped from the forest by the Rakshasa demon Ravana. Rama pretended to be very distraught. He was playing the role of an ordinary human. Seeing that his beloved brother was distressed, Lakshmana stepped in and offered some sound words of advice. Though his teachings were intricate and detailed, the sum and substance was that Rama should not overly lament over bad fortune and that He should remain fixed on the righteous path, performing His duties as a prince and husband with detachment. These teachings, which are a central part of Vedic wisdom, are also found in the famous Bhagavad-gita delivered by Lord Krishna Himself.

At the conclusion of his statements, the sweet and kind-hearted Lakshmana was somewhat remorseful for having instructed his superior brother. In the above referenced statement, he makes note of the fact that Rama had many times previously offered the same instructions to him and that no one in the world was capable of telling Rama what to do. These weren’t just flattering words but undeniable facts. God is the original spiritual master of the world, so no one can surpass Him in intelligence. Yet Lakshmana’s statement is quite noteworthy since it tells us that Rama had previously offered the same words of advice to Lakshmana. This means that the Lord enjoyed discussing the same spiritual topics over and over again, and Lakshmana, being the great devotee that he was, also enjoyed hearing them. So we see that even though Lakshmana had already understood everything perfectly, there was still a need for repetition. Additionally, Rama enjoyed hearing the same teachings repeated to Him by His younger brother.

Lakshmana The devotees, as their primary business in life, try to get others to take up the discipline of devotional service. They subscribe to this dharma because they know that only through the execution of devotional service will mankind find the permanent happiness that currently eludes it. One of the simplest ways to perform devotional service is to discuss topics relating to Krishna with others. The easiest way to discuss Krishna with others is to simply chant His names out loud, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This is by no means the only option available to us. In today’s advanced technological age, simply typing out Krishna’s name and sending it to others is also a form of Krishna-katha, or discourses about God. We can also find a nice story on the internet relating to Krishna and forward the link to all of our friends. The possibilities for igniting spiritual discourses are endless.

Bhagavad-gita - Krishna-katha So we see that talking about Krishna pleases four distinct entities: the people we are talking to, other great devotees, ourselves, and the Supreme Lord. Knowing this fact, it would be a crime not to continue talking about Krishna and discussing transcendental topics over and over again. As long as the life breath remains in our body, we should make this our primary activity.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Radhashtami 2010

Shrimati Radharani “If one asks about the origin of love of Krishna, the answer is that the origin is in Shrimati Radharani alone. Who is the most dear friend of Krishna? The answer again is Shrimati Radharani alone. No one else…” (Krishnadas Kaviraja Gosvami, Shri-Govinda-Lilamrita, 11.122)

When worship of Lord Krishna is performed in a temple or any other formal gathering, the deity or picture that is offered obeisances usually contains two entities. Surely Krishna is always there, either holding His flute, dipping His hand into a butter pot, or lifting a gigantic hill. Each one of these poses represents a particular activity performed by the Lord during His time on earth. In fact, we know from the Shrimad Bhagavatam that these pastimes continue to take place all the time throughout the millions of universes in existence. At this precise moment somewhere in the universe, Lord Krishna is appearing from the womb of Mother Yashoda, lifting Govardhana Hill, stealing butter and yogurt from the neighbors, and even dancing with His beloved. This eternal companion brings the greatest pleasure to the Lord and therefore she is always with Krishna in mind, body, or spirit. The devotees understand that since this divine entity represents the height of unadulterated love for God, she is equally worthy of worship. Her name is Shrimati Radharani and her appearance day is celebrated as the occasion of Radhashtami.

Radharani Normally we think of God as a singular entity. Those who believe in multiple gods are often viewed as pagans or people who make up their own religion. In fact, the very existence of multiple gods utterly contradicts the notion of a Supreme Controller. In Vedic terminology, the Supreme Lord is known by thousands of names such as Parameshvara, Bhagavan, Achyuta, and Aja. These names point to His supremacy in the areas of power, opulence, infallibility, and transcending birth. Since only one entity can possess all of these qualities at the same time, there can only be one God. If there are multiple gods, it means that more than one entity is deemed as Supreme. Therefore the concept of God loses its value.

In the Vedic tradition, there are certainly many god-like entities. They are known as devas, and they have extraordinary powers in their ability to create, maintain, and destroy in the material world. This distinction between material and spiritual worlds is what separates the devas from the devah-varah, or chief divine entity. The chief is known by the name of Krishna and He is the original form of Godhead. Due to His kind mercy, this singular divine entity is known by other forms and expansions such as Vishnu, Rama, Narasimha, Vamana, and Chaitanya. These forms are non-different from the original, so they are equally as worshipable as Krishna Himself.

Yet there are also separated entities which are not exactly direct expansions of the Lord, but which are still treated on the same level. The Vedas inform us that Krishna, or God, is the energetic. The living entities, separated expansions of the Supreme Lord, serve as Krishna’s energy. Since these expansions are separated, they are not equally as potent as the original. In this way, the living entities, we human beings and other forms of life, are similar to God in quality, but vastly inferior in quantitative powers. Krishna is the reservoir of energy, and as tiny sparks emanating from the gigantic fire, we are meant to be in association with that powerhouse of energy. When the energy becomes separated from the energetic in terms of consciousness, the energy becomes subject to delusion, bewilderment, and the loss of intelligence. The greatest delusion, the nadir of material existence, arises when the energy thinks itself to be the energetic. This is represented by the idea of “I am God” or “I am Brahman”, with Brahman taken to be the ultimate feature of the divine. This is the mindset adopted by the class of transcendentalists known as Mayavadis or impersonalists.

Radha and Krishna The living entities, as Krishna’s energy, are certainly equal parts of the transcendental effulgence known as Brahman. At the same time, they can never be an on equal footing with the Lord. In order to realize one’s true relationship to the Supreme Energetic, one must see past the effulgence of Brahman and stare directly at the transcendental, blissful, and sweet form of the Lord. Those who are able to do so achieve a heightened state of consciousness, a mindset where they are always thinking of Krishna in various moods of love. Those who are at the highest level of transcendental love are thus considered the representation of the perfected energy of the Lord. The one entity who best embodies this mindset of Krishna consciousness is, not surprisingly, Krishna’s eternal consort, Shrimati Radharani.

Radharani, often referred to as Radha, is more than just God’s wife. They say that the wife is the better half of man, meaning she is the energy behind the husband. Behind every great man is a powerful woman, someone who stands by her man and makes sure he is always acting properly and is well cared for. This woman is usually either the mother or the wife. The terms “husband” and “wife” refer to the system of marriage, something which involves rules, regulations, and dharma, or occupational duty. Certainly other non-different forms of Godhead take one or many different spouses, but with Krishna’s case, His relationship with Radha is much greater than that shared between a husband and a wife. With Radha and Krishna, there are no rules. There are no occupational duties or regulations guiding their relationship. Krishna is always with Radha and Radha is always with Krishna. In this way, they are equal. They represent the fusion of the energy and the energetic, the most powerful synergistic relationship.

Radha and Krishna Shrimati Radharani’s love and devotion towards Krishna is so strong that she even takes to chastising Him on certain occasions. Normally taking to criticism is an act of the miser, someone who is outside the bonds of affection. Love and devotion usually equates to forgiveness and the overlooking of short-comings. Yet with Radharani, her love for Krishna is so strong that even her acts of criticizing are considered praiseworthy. An example of this was seen when Krishna’s cousin Uddhava once visited Vrindavana. When Lord Krishna advented on this earth five thousand years ago, He spent His childhood years in a village called Vrindavana. This town still exists in India and is actually a replica of the same realm that can be found in the spiritual world. Krishna grew up in a family of cowherds, so all the neighbors were involved in similar occupations. At night, Krishna would engage in romantic escapades with Radha and the other neighboring cowherd girls known as the gopis. Unscrupulous commentators and non-devotees will never be able to understand these intimate dealings, for they transgress all the rules and mores of society. This is the beauty of the relationship between Radha and Krishna. The divine couple is the object of piety and virtue. One who takes to the path of righteousness but doesn’t eventually come to the stage of loving God has essentially wasted their time.

Radharani talking to a bee As with any other activity in this world, Krishna’s dealings with the gopis and Radha had to come to an end eventually. As He grew up, Krishna had other affairs to tend to in neighboring towns such as Mathura and Dvaraka. The day He left Vrindavana was a very sad one for all the residents, but especially so for the gopis. They cried and cried and couldn’t understand why their beloved Krishna was leaving them. Shortly after His departure, Krishna sent His dear friend and cousin Uddhava to relay some information to the residents of Vrindavana, and especially the gopis, all of whom were suffering greatly in Krishna’s absence.

Uddhava was almost identical to Krishna in appearance, so when he first approached the gopis, they thought that maybe he was Krishna. But upon closer examination, they could tell that he wasn’t. Shrimati Radharani wasn’t really interested in Uddhava’s words, for she was still upset with Krishna for leaving them. The gopis took Uddhava to the forest since they knew he had a message for them from Krishna. Radharani, who was quite upset, stepped away from the group and began talking to a bumblebee that was buzzing around her. Radha thought maybe the bee was sent by Krishna to deliver a message. Thus she took the opportunity to let the bumblebee know just what she was feeling towards her prana-natha, or the Lord of her life, Krishna.

“You do not know much about Krishna, how ungrateful and hardhearted He has been, not only in this life, but in His previous lives also. We have all heard this from our grandmother, Paurnamasi.” (Radha speaking to a bumblebee, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 46)

Radha took to criticizing Krishna, telling the bumblebee that the Lord was not very reliable, nor was He very righteous. She said that the Lord had enjoyed with the gopis intimately in the forest and then abruptly left to go live as a king in Mathura. She essentially compared Him to a person who takes advantage of a woman and then leaves her without protection. She then continued with her criticisms by referencing activities performed by Krishna’s previous incarnations. The Sanskrit term avatara refers to one who descends, thus it deals solely with Krishna or Vishnu. The Vedas tell us that as many waves as there are in the ocean are how many avataras of Vishnu exist. Nevertheless, the list of the primary avataras is mentioned in books like the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Radha made reference to incidents pertaining to some of these incarnations.

Lakshmana driving Shurpanakha awayShrimati Radharani criticized several activities performed by Krishna’s previous incarnation of Lord Ramachandra. In the Treta Yuga, Lord Vishnu appeared on earth in the guise of a valiant warrior prince named Rama, a descendant of the Raghu dynasty. On one occasion, the Lord was residing in the forest of Dandaka with His wife Sita Devi and younger brother Lakshmana. A Rakshasi, a female demon, came and propositioned Rama. According to the etiquette established for the warrior caste, a prince should never refuse the advances of a woman. A warrior is to provide protection after all, so if a woman wants to enjoy conjugal love, the warrior is essentially tasked with providing that love and giving protection at the same time. Lord Rama, however, loved Sita, who ironically was the same Radharani, very much, so He refused Shurpanakha’s advances. He jokingly said that Lakshmana wasn’t married and that she should cavort with him instead. Not heeding His advice, Shurpanakha dashed at Sita in hopes of eliminating the competition. Lakshmana couldn’t stand for this, so he immediately stepped in and disfigured the female demon. Her nose having been cut off, she ran home to tell her brother, the King of Lanka, Ravana. Radharani mentions this incident to support her claim that Krishna has always been an enemy to the rules of propriety, for He allowed an innocent woman to be disfigured because of His love for Sita.

Rama shooting Vali Radharani wasn’t finished talking to the bumblebee. She next mentioned another incident from Lord Rama’s life, where He killed a monkey king named Vali. After Shurpanakha went crying to Ravana, the demon devised a plan where he was able to kidnap Sita and take her back to his kingdom. In His subsequent search for His missing wife, Rama ended up forming an alliance with a monkey king named Sugriva. Vali was Sugriva’s brother, and the two were mortal enemies due to a dispute over the right to rule a kingdom. Lord Rama agreed to help Sugriva defeat Vali and regain his kingdom. Yet the nature of Vali’s defeat and death weren’t exactly ideal. Since Vali was stronger, there was no way for Sugriva to defeat him. Lord Rama devised a plan where Sugriva would first engage Vali in battle, leaving the door open for Rama to attack. This is precisely what would happen, as Rama would shoot and kill Vali from behind while the monkey was engaged in a fight with his brother. According to the rules of fighting established for the kshatriya order, an enemy is never to be attacked while he is engaged in a fair fight with the opposition. Yet since Rama was God Himself, such rules and regulations never apply to Him. In fact, if one is devoted to the Lord in thought, word, and deed, the Lord will take whatever action is needed to secure the devotee’s happiness. This also explains Krishna’s dealings with the gopis. As pure lovers of God, the gopis wanted association with Krishna and nothing else. Though they weren’t His wives or even unmarried girls, the Lord enjoyed with them simply to satisfy their pure desires. Nevertheless, Radharani mentioned Rama’s killing of Vali as another example of Krishna’s impious nature.

Radha Krishna So it may seem strange that Radharani is worthy of worship even though she openly takes to criticizing Krishna from time to time. But in reality, such displays of emotion are mere symptoms of pure love for God. Being a surrendered soul means you always think of and rely on Krishna no matter what, through the good times and the bad. After speaking this way about Krishna to the bumblebee, Radharani immediately lamented and was hoping that the bumblebee wouldn’t tell Krishna what she had said. The reality of the situation was that she was completely devoted to Krishna, so through feelings of separation, she took to criticizing Him. Only the devotees can criticize the Lord in this way. Others, who are competing with God for the title of greatest enjoyer, can never take issue with the Lord and still be considered pure and worthy of worship. Only the greatest devotees, those who worship in separation, can be worthy of love and adoration for their behavior.

What is the difference between worship in separation and worship in person? Worship of Krishna in separation is considered superior because it is more conducive towards Krishna consciousness. There are other famous expressions such as “don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” and “absence makes the heart grow fonder” which convey a similar message. When this separation is applied to spiritual life, it evokes a certain type of bliss which is unmatched. When appearing on earth, Shrimati Radharani and her various expansions deal with great separation from the Lord precisely to taste the bliss that arises from separation. Sita Devi also spent much time away from Lord Rama.

Lord Rama Goswami Tulsidas, the great devotee of Lord Rama, remarks in his poetry that he hopes to be just like the Chatak bird. This bird is known for staring at the dark blue raincloud, a cloud which has the exact same complexion as Rama’s [Krishna/Vishnu] body. Yet Tulsidas also prays that no matter how long this bird looks at the cloud, it is better for it not to rain, for if it did, then the bird would maybe become lax in its devotion and love for the cloud. In this way, the great poet is asking to always worship Rama in separation, for that evokes the greatest transcendental love and maintains the firm link in consciousness between the devotee and the Divine. Tulsidas asks that even if the bird dies, one should not turn its beak away from the raincloud during the performance of the last rites. In the Vedic tradition, last rites are usually performed in the sacred Ganges River so as to facilitate the liberation of the departed from the cycle of birth and death. In this way, the great saint tells us that worship of God in His personal, original form through love and devotion is far superior to any other reward, including that of liberation.

Radha Krishna deities This worship in separation is seen in perfected form with Shrimati Radharani. In fact, Lord Krishna was so enamored by Radha’s devotion to Him that He decided to appear on earth in a dual incarnation of Radha-Krishna to see exactly what this devotion was like. Appearing as Shri Krishna Chaitanya some five hundred years ago, the Lord played the role of a devotee of Krishna, experiencing many of the same separation pains felt by Radha. Lord Chaitanya taught us by example to always remain attached to the Supreme Lord and His pleasure potency in a mood of loving separation. This mood can be adopted through the chanting of the holy names of God, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Therefore we should all hang on to this most sacred of mantras as our lifeline. On Radhashtami Day, we celebrate the greatest devotee of Krishna, Shrimati Radharani. As much as she loves Krishna, she does not keep Him to herself. She is so kind that she allows others to also taste the sweet transcendental mellows of bhakti. Worship of Radha is as good as worship of Krishna, therefore the two are always seen together for the pure-hearted to love and adore.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Lord Krishna dancing on the Kaliya snake “…the boys who were playing with Krishna had no fear of the demons. They were free of fear. Any material arrangement for protecting oneself from death is always unsure, but if one is in Krishna consciousness, then immortality is confidently assured.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 12)

There is little doubt that we live in an insurance conscious society today. While the Vedas declare that thinking of God is the ultimate aim of life, due to innate fears of separation from our friends, family, and possessions, our consciousness gets shifted towards security and protection. With the advent of insurance, one would think that mankind would be more at ease and peaceful as a result of knowing that their possessions are secured and that their family members are taken care of should an emergency situation arise. Yet we see that just the opposite occurs; the anxieties and fears only increase with the more insurance we acquire. The reason for this is that only Krishna, or God, can supply peace of mind and an ease to our fears of losing our possessions. No material arrangement can do so.

Lord Krishna What is a material arrangement? Let’s say we are building a house. Money is invested, time is put into determining the layout of the building, and work is started. After the work is completed, the home owner will naturally want to insure their new property; otherwise all the hard labor and money will go to waste as soon as there is a calamity. To protect against calamity, homeowners insurance is purchased, siding is applied to the outside structure of the house, and fencing is erected around the perimeter. These arrangements are all considered material because they only seek to insure a material object through arrangements relating to matter. Siding protects against the effects of weather, and fencing protects against the intrusion of unwanted outside elements.

The example of the house isn’t the only type of material arrangement aimed at providing protection. The entire insurance industry is built around the concept of safeguarding against calamity. Since we live in a economically advanced time, people have the disposable income to spend on protecting their possessions. Aside from homeowners insurance, there are insurance policies for health, automobiles, jewelry, and life. The term “life insurance” is a little deceiving, for it doesn’t protect a person from dying. As most sober people eventually realize, everyone dies at some point. Death and taxes are the two things guaranteed in life. Life insurance pays out large sums of money to the family members of the departed. In this way, if the breadwinner of the family should pass on, the dependents aren’t left to fend for themselves; they are ostensibly given insurance against financial hardship.

Protecting the home Automobile and health insurance work the same way. No material arrangement can stop car accidents or diseases, but the insurance policies aim to help alleviate the financial suffering that comes as a result of these unwanted events. So let’s assume that a person has all the major insurance types covered. Does this mean they will be at peace? Does this mean that their mind will be at ease? Based on the symptoms observed in today’s society, we see that just the opposite is true. Why is this the case? As mentioned before, no material arrangement can safeguard one from troubles in life. Life’s calamities are built into the system known as material nature; hence the very same matter that causes problems surely can’t do anything to safeguard a person from calamities.

Insurance is considered a material adjustment. At its foundation, it is simply a business run by those who are interested in turning a profit. The ultimate objective for an insurance company is to take in as much money in premiums as possible and to pay out as little as possible in the form of insurance claims. Therefore if a calamity should occur, the insurance company does not readily step up to pay the bill. They will carefully assess the situation to see if the policy holder is eligible for a payout. For homeowners insurance, there are often exceptions in the policies relating to damage caused by natural disasters. A natural disaster is considered an act of God, so it is something that many insurance companies don’t want to indemnify. According to the Vedic definition, a natural disaster belongs to the category of adhidaivika miseries, meaning those which are caused by the divine intervention of the demigods, God’s chief deputies in charge of the material creation. In this way, we see that the material adjustment of insurance falls short of providing protection from one of the primary sources of misery in life.

Fender bender It’s equally as difficult to get other types of insurance companies to pay. If a person gets into a car accident, they will do whatever they can to avoid going through insurance because they know that the company will make it difficult to get the money needed to cover the damages. If the insurance company does end up paying, the policy owner’s premiums will surely increase when the policy is next up for renewal. While insurance is supposed to be something beneficial, people try to do their best to avoid ever using it. In fact, one of the reasons that health insurance premiums rise so rapidly is that people use these policies very frequently. If car insurance was used as often as health insurance is, surely the car insurance premiums would be much more expensive than they are today.

Aside from the inherent flaws relating to insurance payouts, there is a larger issue to contend with: paying for the premiums. Let’s think of it this way: We start with the fear of losing our home, car, or source of family income. This fear leads us to purchasing insurance policies. But then we have to pay the premiums on these policies. Hence a new burden is introduced, a new cause for anxiety. Aside from having to pay for the mortgage, groceries, and utilities each month, a person has a new obligation introduced in the form of an insurance premium. This means that the same person has a new fear to deal with, and has to take new actions to alleviate that fear. A higher paying job is now required, which again brings on a new set of worries. “What if I lose my job, or what if my salary gets cut? How will I afford my insurance policies? What if I lose my employer provided health insurance? How will I go to the doctor?”

If we did a quick compare and contrast of the same person’s outlook when they didn’t have any insurance versus when they had all the insurance they thought they needed, we’d see that the person was likely much better off in the beginning stages when they had no insurance. In fact, this is how society functioned for thousands of years. Even as recently as one hundred years ago, there was no such thing as car insurance or health insurance. If a person got sick, they called the doctor, and after treatment was provided, they would pay him. The issue of indemnification was handled by the common sense technique of saving money.

Lord Krishna Upon careful analysis of the tumultuous situation of today, the root cause of all fears and anxieties is uncovered: forgetfulness of God. Insurance became popular through the years not only due to fear of calamities but also as a means of handling liabilities. Due to their forgetfulness of God, some people started to feel entitled to other people’s money, especially if there was damage caused by an accident or a mistake. Car insurance is a requirement in many states in America simply as a way to pay for the liabilities involved in an accident. Someone makes an honest mistake and gets into a car accident with another vehicle and then becomes liable for the damages. If there is a tornado or a hurricane, we most certainly can’t sue the demigods, but if another living entity unintentionally causes us misery, we can sue them for all they are worth. In Vedic terminology, the miseries inflicted by other living entities are known as adhibhautika miseries.

“As a ripe fruit has no other fear than to fall, so a man who is born has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)

So it seems that we are in a pickle. We can’t really live without insurance nowadays due to lawsuits and the excessive costs of service, but we see that buying more insurance doesn’t get rid of our anxieties in any way. Though material arrangements can’t protect us from calamity or death, Lord Krishna, or God, certainly can. Since He is completely spiritual, only arrangements made through Him or one of His direct representatives can deliver peace of mind. An example of this was seen with the cowherd boys of Vrindavana. Lord Krishna kindly appeared on earth around five thousand years ago. Of all His activities, those performed during His youth in the town of Vrindavana are the most celebrated. Vrindavana means a forest where the presence of Vrinda Devi, the maidservant of Krishna, is prominent. During Krishna’s time, the cowherd population had taken refuge in Vrindavana to escape the attacks of the King of Mathura, Kamsa.

Lord Krishna eating lunch with cowherd friendsThough they didn’t know that Krishna was God, the residents still had no fear when they were in His presence. This was because Krishna had performed many wonderful feats that seemed impossible for a young child to pull off. Kamsa had sent demon after demon to Gokula to kill Krishna, but the Lord was easily able to defeat each and every one. Krishna’s best friends, the cowherd residents of the town, loved to spend time with the Lord. When in His company, there was no fear of death. These young children had no concern for insurance, calamities caused by demigods, or miseries brought on by other living entities. All they knew was that if Krishna was with them, everything would be alright.

The cowherd boys felt safe with Krishna many thousands of years ago, but how does this information help us today? How can Krishna save us from death and other calamities? The secret is to adopt the same mindset as the cowherd boys of Vrindavana. Krishna’s presence isn’t only felt when the Lord is standing next to us in His personal form. One simply has to always think of Him, being confident of His unflinching protection. This will allow a person to always have peace of mind and transcend the fears of loss and death.

Krishna devouring a forest fire At this point, a wise person will ask the question, “If Krishna saves people from calamity and death, why are there still calamities? Why is there death?” The answer is that birth, death, old age, disease, loss, gain, tragedy, etc., will still certainly go on, regardless of one’s mindset. The logic behind associating with Krishna is that if death is guaranteed to happen, what need is there to be fearful? Moreover, the result of associating with Krishna in heart and mind is that the process of birth and death will be stopped. While death is guaranteed for a person as soon as they take birth, birth in the next life isn’t. If a person is Krishna conscious at the time of death, they don’t have to take birth again. In this way, they put a permanent end to the cycle of birth and death, or reincarnation.

So were the cowherd boys of Vrindavana fearless around Krishna because they knew He would stop reincarnation for them? For such exalted devotees, there was no fear of birth, death, or anything else. They were simply happy in Krishna’s association. This is the result of surrender. Surrender means giving up one’s fight to be happy in any way devoid of Krishna’s association. If one only looks for happiness through Krishna’s association, then there is no fear of anything. The Lord takes charge of those who surrender unto Him, alleviating all their fears and worries.

Krishna's pastimes The lesson here is that from the smallest fear to the largest, no material arrangement is capable of eliminating worries. Since matter is the root cause of these fears, it most certainly can’t do anything to remove them. Only through devotional service, regularly connecting with God through acts of love and devotion, can one make the proper arrangements for spiritual insurance, the guarantee of salvation for the soul in the afterlife. We should try to hear of Krishna’s pastimes with His cowherd friends as much as possible, for this association will help alleviate our fears and remind us of the true power of the Supreme Lord and His dominion over the forces of nature.