Monday, January 24, 2011

Excitable

Hanuman thinking of Sita and Rama “Then observing that monkey [Hanuman], who was the most resolute and determined in his endeavors, the highly splendorous one [Rama] realized that success in the mission was certain and thus His mind and senses became thrilled with joy.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.11)

tam samīkṣya mahātejā vyavasāyottaram harim /

kṛtārtha iva saṃhṛṣṭaḥ prahṛṣṭa indriya mānasaḥ

God is not just a man in the sky who is waiting to punish the heathens and the sinners. Rather, the Supreme Lord is a person who has definitive attributes, qualities and activities. To enhance the enjoyment felt in the performance of these engagements, the Supreme Personality, who is full of bliss and knowledge, prefers accompanying associates with whom to interact. Being the all-blissful and self-satisfied Lord, there is nothing lacking in enjoyment in the spiritual sky, for the eternally liberated associates reside in that pleasant realm alongside their beloved Lord of their life breath, prananatha. Based on these truths, we see that religion, or spirituality, essentially boils down to a relationship instead of just a final destination or ultimate palatable condition. Since the relationship resulting from purified spiritual practice trumps all other attachments and bonds, the enjoyment derived from it is potent enough to erase all miseries, fears and worries. The source of the potency of this relationship is the two way exchange of energy, where both the giver and the receiver receive tremendous transcendental pleasure. Thus our aim in life is to find a way to reenter into the sublime relationship, and by following the example of great spiritual personalities of the past, attainment of the topmost goal can be made much easier.

Lord Krishna It is the natural tendency for the neophyte spiritualist to view God as an order supplier and an all-powerful figure. “Listen to Him or you will be punished with eternal damnation in hell. If, however, you surrender unto Him and acknowledge His supremacy, you will enjoy felicity in the eternal kingdom of heaven.” While there are certainly some truths to be found in this most vague and immature view of spirituality, the model fails to touch on key aspects of the original Divine Being’s nature and His relationship with His subordinates, the individual living entities. Though the Lord is often depicted as angry or jealous by spiritual leaders, this viewpoint actually contradicts the very idea of a supreme controller. Anger results from frustration. Jealousy is the result of feelings of inferiority, the insecurity caused by the thought that someone else is enjoying more or is happier than we are. If the Supreme Lord were subject to these two defects, He couldn’t be described as supreme. After all, if you are God, how could you be jealous of anyone? If God was jealous, it would mean that somewhere a person existed who was enjoying more than the Lord or who was more opulent. This certainly can never be the case because we know that man is mortal. No matter how much one enjoys in the present life, all activities come to an end at the time of death; a time that is rarely greeted with open arms. If the man upstairs were frustrated in any of His attempts, He could not be deemed supreme. Frustration resulting from fallibility is something experienced by ordinary man, for the greatest frustration of all is mortality. Though man tries his hardest to prolong life as much as possible, there is nothing that can be done to prevent death. In this way, all endeavors are bound to meet defeat at some point. If such frustration is experienced by the Lord as well, then there really is no difference between the two entities. If there is no difference, what need is there for religion or spiritual life?

The Vedas, being the original scriptures of the world, shed some light on these issues. Though we can never completely understand the full scope and breadth of the Supreme Lord and His multifarious energies, by carefully studying Vedic literature in a mood of humility and patience, we can gain a much better understanding of our constitutional position, our aim in life and the ultimate favorable condition. After all, it is the nature of the individual to act in their self-interest, a behavior based on the innate desire to search for happiness or at least a peaceful and pleasurable condition. Religion thus becomes that discipline which seeks to find that one condition which gives supreme pleasure. In order for pleasure to be supreme, it must be unending and free of any defects. A pleasure is considered defective if it is deficient in any aspect. For instance, the bliss felt from sex life is deficient because it doesn’t last very long and it doesn’t solve issues pertaining to the maintenance of the body, such as food, clothing and shelter. The pleasure felt from eating is similarly flawed since it only satisfies a specific aspect of regulated life.

Lord Krishna with cows The aim of spirituality is to find that pleasure which takes care of every issue, or problem point, in life. Vedic wisdom unequivocally states that the topmost pleasure can only come through the association of the Supreme Pleasurable Object. Not surprisingly, only one person is worthy of this title: God. Since the Lord is capable of providing the greatest enjoyment to others, He is naturally the most-attractive. Since God is the most beautiful, He is known by the name of Krishna. Just hearing that Krishna is the most attractive and the giver of transcendental pleasure is enough on the surface to get us to at least consider spiritual life, or that discipline which aims to keep one in Krishna’s association. Yet the Vedas don’t stop at this point; they go further into the explanation of precisely why Krishna is able to provide the topmost pleasure. The Lord is described as the energetic, and the living entities, the spirit souls, are described as His energy. Just as the sun is the power behind the rays of the sun, the Supreme Lord is the reservoir of spiritual power, with the tiny sparks represented by the individual spirit souls acting as the beams of energy emanating from the original powerhouse.

The rays of the sun are very potent, for they can burn the skin and cause surface temperatures to rise very rapidly. In this way, the sunrays have similar qualities to the sun itself. However, the sun’s power is infinitely greater than that of its rays. In this way, Lord Krishna, being the energetic, is vastly superior to the individual souls, the energy. The sun never loses its potency even after the associated rays exit its company and work their magic in the universe. Similarly, the spiritually energetic, being Supreme, is free to do as He pleases, as are the energy manifestations. Regardless of what the beams of energy do, Krishna’s superior position is never supplanted. The material world is created when the energy objects want to imitate the energetic. Through the desire to separate from the original source of all potencies, the natural order of things gets disrupted, as the energy can never become the energetic. The energy certainly will try every which way they can to circumvent this truth, but they will be frustrated in every attempt. No amount of renunciation, knowledge, sitting postures pertaining to yoga, or material wealth can turn the energy into the energetic.

The energetic is certainly not angered by the misguided activities of the energy. Rather, the Lord tries every which way possible to educate the energy about their true nature. Moreover, when the spiritual sparks become purified and conscious of their true position, they immediately return to the association of the energetic. When these two parties thus meet, there is love and bliss felt on both sides. The meeting of the energy with the energetic thus becomes the only bona fide spiritual goal because only through this synergy can both parties be benefitted. There are other inferior rewards of spiritual life such as ascension to various heavenly planets, a long duration of life and the merging into the giant sum total of energy. The energetic resides in His own realm, but He has an impersonal beam of energy known as Brahman which serves as the outer covering of His spiritual land. Brahman can be thought of as being similar to the outer atmosphere of the earth planet. When spaceships reenter the earth from outer space, they must pass through the topmost atmospheric layer of the earth, a task which is extremely difficult. In a similar manner, those transcendentalists who realize the futility of imitating the energetic and yet still fail to desire His direct association are allowed to enter into Brahman. Even with this reward, there is no benefit to the energy or the energetic. The energy loses its individuality when merged into Brahman, and since Brahman does not meet the standards necessary to be considered an object, it is incapable of feeling pleasure.

Radha and Krishna When the energy and the energetic unite through voluntary and loving actions, the bliss felt by both parties is unmatched. These truths passed down by the Vedas are pleasing to the ear, but in the theoretical stage they are quite difficult to imagine as being factual. Therefore the Supreme Energetic, the transcendent Lord Himself, kindly appears on earth from time to time in a spiritual form to prove that the statements of the Vedas are not merely products of rampant speculation, but rather irrefutable facts. One such appearance took place many thousands of years ago when Shri Rama took birth as the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha. Rama is considered an incarnation of Vishnu or Krishna, the transcendental forms of the energetic Lord which eternally reside in the spiritual sky. Though Rama appeared to take birth, His body was always completely spiritual. The individual living entities appear in the material world due to ignorance of their constitutional position, but for the Supreme Lord, there is no chance of delusion. He appears only out of His sweet, causeless mercy.

The Lord comes to earth primarily to deal with those who are interfering with the sincere efforts of the devotees. A devotee is someone who is trying to reassume their constitutional position through acts of loving service to the Supreme Lord. The quintessential act of the devotee is the chanting of the holy names of the Supreme Energetic, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. As mentioned before, the Lord can never get angry from frustration, but if He sees that a devotee’s efforts are being thwarted, He will personally take action to ensure that the devotional efforts continue without impediment.

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

Lord Rama In addition to dealing with the lowest of mankind, the Lord also comes to earth to personally connect with the spiritual sparks who are already purified. One such divine personality is Shri Hanuman, the most capable of Vanara warriors. Lord Rama spent many years on earth, and on one occasion He enlisted the help of a band of Vanaras, monkey-like humans, who were living in the forest of Kishkindha. Rama’s beautiful and chaste wife, the goddess of fortune herself, Sita Devi, had been kidnapped and taken away by a miscreant named Ravana. The Lord easily could have found and killed Ravana Himself, but since He was in the guise of an ordinary human being, He didn’t feel it necessary to pound His chest and show off His godly powers all the time. If the Supreme Lord performed all the difficult tasks in life for us, what would be left for us to do? Individuality manifests through activities, the most pure of which are those directed at the lotus feet of the Supreme Divine Being.

Rama used the unfortunate occasion of His wife’s abduction as an opportunity to allow the exalted Vanaras of Kishkindha to serve Him. One Vanara in particular had caught the eye of Shri Rama. This monkey was named Hanuman, and he was Sugriva’s most trusted aid. Since no one knew where Sita was, Sugriva divided up his massive army into groups, each of which was sent to a specific corner of the earth to find Sita. After the monkeys were partitioned in this way, Sugriva gave special attention to Hanuman, informing the exalted warrior that after all was said and done, he would be the one to find Sita. After hearing Sugriva extol the virtues of Hanuman, Shri Rama pondered the matter over in His mind. The Lord didn’t need to think long, for He knew all about Hanuman’s outstanding abilities and his fully potent attributes of courage, perseverance, dedication, love and strength.

Hanuman From the above referenced passage, we see that Rama is absolutely thrilled at the prospect of Hanuman taking charge in the search for Sita. Rama immediately felt that success was guaranteed. The Lord’s intuition would indeed prove to be true, as Hanuman would find Sita, return the information of her whereabouts to Rama, and then help the Lord and the rest of the monkeys defeat Ravana and rescue Sita. For these and many other reasons, Hanuman is still worshiped and loved to this day. His name is synonymous with dedication and love for God.

It is interesting to note that Rama, who is the Supreme Energetic, felt exhilarated from simply thinking of Hanuman’s potential exploits. The Lord’s mind and senses were delighted, thus further proving that the Supreme Lord is a person with transcendental senses. In addition, the concept of the ideal relationship being one between the energy and the energetic is also validated. When Lord Rama, the energetic, was united with a purified emanation of His energy, Shri Hanuman, the two felt tremendous bliss. Through their interactions, the path to perfection in life becomes quite clear. We simply have to love God as much as Hanuman does and have the same eagerness for service that he showed. Not only will this lead to our benefit, but the Supreme Lord will be made extremely happy as well, which is justification enough for adopting the discipline of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Shri Hanuman is not only a divine figure, a granter of boons and an emblem of courage and loyalty, but he is also a most generous donor of unending pleasure to the Supreme Lovable Object.

“The form which you are seeing with your transcendental eyes cannot be understood simply by studying the Vedas, nor by undergoing serious penances, nor by charity, nor by worship. It is not by these means that one can see Me as I am.” (Lord Krishna speaking to Arjuna, Bg. 11.53)

From Hanuman’s ability to please Rama’s senses, we see that mere courage, strength, chivalry and prowess aren’t enough to gain the good graces of the Lord. Only when these qualities are engaged in the humble service of the Lord will they be put to good use. The ideal relationship, the ultimate favorable condition, is achieved by using whatever we have at our disposal for the pleasure of the Supreme Lovable Object. The topmost relationship has nothing to do with perfunctory rituals, ordinary regulations, judgment days, or tests of loyalty. Bhakti is simply about love, the transcendental variety. When practiced perfectly, devotional service is unmotivated and uninterrupted. Not only is the service provided by the purified energy unending, but so is the bliss and joy felt by the energetic. Devotional service exposes the true potential that we all have for greatness and happiness. Spiritual life is not about simply passing tests of faith or pledging allegiance through formal processes. It is about reconnecting with the energetic and feeling pleasure that is free of any defects.

Hanuman thinking of Sita and Rama If Hanuman is capable of pleasing Rama, he is surely capable of pleasing others as well. For those who worship and respect Hanuman, devotion to Rama is quickly achieved. Shri Hanuman is not selfish in this regard, for he knows that the Lord will be pleased by seeing eagerness and affection from His fragmental sparks. Hanuman, by example, teaches us how to make the best use of our energy for the ultimate cause. As such, Hanuman forever remains our hero.