Saturday, April 23, 2011

Long and Short Game

Lord Vishnu riding on Garuda “Actual greatness, however, is not one-sided. One who is actually great can become greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Ch 13)

Not only has man created the massive airplane at great expense to transport large groups of individuals across long distances, but he is also keenly interested in personal flying machines, wherein just one individual can travel through the air like a bird, similar to how the fictional television series The Jetsons depicted an advanced age of space travel. The most recent popular invention involves a singular, short flight duration with a machine connected to a body of water via a tube to propel the thrilled traveler into the air across very short distances. Though the invention gets great attention because it is seen as progress in terms of technology and enjoyment, in order to be considered truly amazing a skill must be great in all areas, large and small. The human being already travelled through and survived in the tiniest of spaces when it was in the womb. Now, if such an amazing feat as that could be repeated in a scientific experiment, the achievement would be something to behold.

The JetsonsObviously bringing up the notion of womb-travel will be met with some skepticism. “Are you crazy? How are you going to move within a tiny a space as that? You would die instantly, as your body cannot squeeze into such a small area.” These concerns shed light on an interesting fact about the body and the source of identity for the individual. Surely an adult-aged human being has difficulty getting through small spaces, but at some point in the life of the same person they were able to move about and survive in the tiniest of bodies. The embryo inside the womb is a living force, as it has growth and maintenance just like the mature human being. Consciousness may not be all that developed, but this deficiency is present in the infant and we don’t hold that against them. Through the miracle of life, the identity of the individual remains intact irrespective of body type. Indeed, even if one is to lose an arm or a leg, their life force doesn’t stop; they can still carry on. Rick Allen, the famous drummer for the rock band Def Leppard, lost an arm in a car accident and yet somehow maintained his identity as an expert drummer.

The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, accurately note that the spirit soul is the basis for identity in all forms of life. This includes not only human beings, but ants, reptiles, plants, trees, birds, and all other species. The exterior features may vary, but the essence of individuality, the spirit soul, is the same. Though it may be difficult to imagine that a cat or a dog has a soul, just by observing the outward symptoms, such as the autonomous nature of speech, thought and movement, one can very easily identify the difference between a living form and a dead one. The presence of the soul, the spiritual spark which is full of eternality, bliss and knowledge, gives the indication of life. Once the soul exits a particular body, the life form becomes dead and useless. The body immediately starts to decay, and in the case of warm-blooded animals, the internal fire also stops burning.

“If we divide the tip of a hair into one hundred parts and then take one part and divide this into another one hundred parts, that ten-thousandth part is the dimension of the living entity. This is the verdict of the chief Vedic mantras.” (Panchadashi-chitra-dipa, 81)

changing bodiesThe soul is infinitesimally small, so much so that no blunt instrument can measure its size or perceive of its presence. The soul’s properties are only perceptible through outward symptoms, and its dimensions only understood through statements found in authorized scriptures. Judging by the fact that a body as small as a tiny ant has a soul in it, we see that spirit is indeed amazing. The human being cannot fit into the body of an ant and survive, but the spirit soul, through the laws of nature governed by the higher spiritual authorities, can travel into any type of body. The exact nature of the outer covering is determined by one’s work and mental quality, karma and guna. Though the tendency for popular theistic traditions is to focus on the negative aspects of material life and the sinful engagements that result through contact with matter, the spirit soul has active engagements that it is well-suited for. When these activities are adopted, not only are the effects of the present body transcended, but the future fortunes are taken care of as well.

One who is ignorant of the properties of the soul, its inherent nature, and its ideal complementary target of service will be enamored by the workings of the phenomenal world. The undertakings of the scientists in the fields of space travel and machine generation reveal the deficiencies of material enjoyment. Though the airplane is a marvelous invention, there is much strain and effort required in successfully getting one to fly with passengers in it. Moreover, the bird already knows how to travel through the air without a problem. Aside from the pursuit of technological advancement, there is also the desire to enjoy the senses to the fullest degree, with the most potent form of enjoyment coming from sex life. Yet the monkeys and the dogs already enjoy sex without any problems, as they don’t have to worry about courting members of the opposite sex and getting them to consent to relations. Instead, the lower animal species simply go up to whoever they like and enjoy their business. They have insatiable appetites for sex, so they can continue on and on without any of the after-effects and worries.

Shrila PrabhupadaAside from the fact that animals can already do many of the activities the inquisitive human being is trying to imitate, there is the issue with one-sidedness of purpose. Space travel and the overindulgence in sex life represent the excess of achievement, the extreme positive end of the scope of activity. But in order to be considered great, one must be able to show excellence in both extremes. The airplane is very large and can accommodate many passengers, but have the scientists created anything that can transport an individual within the tiniest of bodies? As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada so nicely notes in his Teachings of Queen Kunti, a truly remarkable individual is one who can become greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest in their particular area of interest. The space travel of the spirit soul within the womb is only one example of becoming smaller than the smallest, but we can also understand the importance of showing excellence in both ends of ability by studying other endeavors with which we are familiar.

In the world of sports, there is always great anticipation, talk and speculation about who will win the next particular big game or the upcoming championship trophy. Even with all the talk and analysis, the matchups on paper never seem to correspond with the way the events actually turn out. Often times the truly great players and teams, those who are deemed superior, will lose in a close game to a competitor deemed inferior. In tennis, the anointed better player will say, “I can’t believe I lost to such and such a player. He is not very good.” The comparisons usually focus on the ability to do certain things extraordinary well, similar to the greater than the greatest comparison. The favorite player will be able to serve at high speeds and hit the ball very hard, while the inferior player will be deficient in these areas. But victory in any game boils down to winning specific aspects, with success in tennis furthered by putting the ball into play longer in each point than your opponent. As such, there are many different ways to win. A player who doesn’t hit the ball very hard but can play terrific defense and employ a variety of shots will be very successful. Indeed, this matches up with the historical data, as the greatest players of the past were those who could not only serve very hard and run very fast, but could also come to the net and play short shots.

putting greenGreatness in tennis or any other sport involves skill at every aspect. In the game of golf, Tiger Woods and past legends don’t just drive the ball far off the tee; they are good at the short game too. If we have one player who can hit his driver over 300 yards, but then it takes him three or four putts on the green to put the ball into the cup, he will certainly not be a very good player. Another player who can hit the ball maybe 200 yards, but then is great at the short game might be very successful. You can’t just be great in one area, fail in the overall endeavor and then expect to be praised for your abilities.

The scientists responsible for enabling travel to the moon and outer space have made a great achievement by allowing an individual to travel far distances and maintain the life force within the body. But at the same time, an honest person would have to concede that an equally as great achievement would be to remain exactly where one is and be completely steady of mind. One who can enjoy to the fullest, that is maintain a steady and positive outlook within their consciousness, without ever having to engage in sex life, travel on an airplane, or even eat nice food should be equally as lauded. There are many yogis who meet these requirements, as through their mystic practices they can perform amazing feats like exiting their body, travelling through subtle space, and remaining fixed in their sitting posture for an extended period of time. They can become lighter than the lightest and even hold their breath for hours on end.

The scientists perform feats which are seen as very great, while the yogis can do things which are seen as very small, but the common result shared by both groups is that their consciousnesses are somewhat altered. The yogi performs some mystical feat and feels very proud inside, as it took great effort to be able to acquire and master their skill. Similarly, the scientist feels tremendous satisfaction being able to say that they did something no one else has ever done before. Ah, but have they? One individual in particular has certainly done all these things before. Not only can one person create, maintain and destroy on the grandest of scales, but even His tiny fragmental sparks can perform similar feats. The scientist is proud of space travel, but the birds and insects already fly through the air without any need for jet fuel. The yogi is proud of becoming very light and being able to travel outside of their body, but the infinitesimally small spiritual spark, the individual atma, is the greatest space traveler in history. The soul, as the only natural acrobat, jumps from one body type to another through the laws of karma.

Lord KrishnaIn this way we see that trying to become greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest are both unnecessary pursuits, as others have already performed similar feats without any strenuous endeavor. Bhagavan, the entity most of us refer to as God, reluctantly created the phenomenal world out of the polluted desire of a set of individual souls who wanted to imitate the inconceivable potencies of the Supreme Spirit. Since only God can be God, there needed to be a replica, or shadow-copy, of the original spiritual realm in order for such faulty desires to be acted upon. Hence the visible world was created, and since time immemorial it has served as the playing field for those keenly interested in paltry achievements. Bhagavan is so kind that He continues to reveal tiny bits of information about the infinitely complex workings of the universe so as to whet the appetite of the scientists who have no interest in understanding the nature of the soul, its properties and the true mission in life.

For those who are interested in a higher taste, one that far surpasses that which comes from mundane scientific or physical advancement, the system of dharma, or religiosity, is always there. The skeptic will argue that dharma cannot be universal because there are so many different religions in existence, each having their own deity and method of worship. There are different religious systems in the world, but the properties of the soul are nevertheless universal. We may have differences in body types, but the soul, the essence of life, is always the same in quality. There is no such thing as an Indian soul or an American soul.

When man is very sinful, when he is overly committed to harmful activities like meat eating and intoxication, the specific incarnation of the time, or spiritual leader who rises to prominence in a particular geographical area, will come and institute a streamlined set of rules which consist mostly of don’ts. “Don’t kill anything; don’t dishonor your parents; don’t covet your neighbor’s wife”, etc. These restrictions have helped countless individuals escape from the pangs of hellish life. Yet beyond just the restrictions and the blind sentiment that is often recommended, there is a set of positive activities which the spirit soul is naturally inclined towards performing. These activities are not sectarian in any way, and they appeal to all walks of men and women due to the singularity of purpose, that of connecting with Bhagavan.

Lord KrishnaThe Vedic scriptures, the ancient set of law codes emanating from India, describe these constitutional activities as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Dharma represents an essential characteristic, a property that never leaves the soul. As such, any and all law codes and recommendations aimed at reestablishing the essential characteristic also constitute dharma. The restrictions on sinful activities are only one aspect of religiosity, while the positive engagements of bhakti-yoga complete the picture. The quintessential act of devotion to God is the chanting of His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

The ability to chant this mantra with full feeling and attachment is what separates the human being from any other species. The animal can travel through small spaces and live for very long periods of time without eating, but it has no ability to understand dharma or the properties of the soul. The human being, when he becomes sober through kind submission to a bona fide spiritual master, a pure devotee of God who has dedicated all of their life’s actions to Him, can understand the efficacy of devotional service and the universal appeal and worthiness of service to Lord Krishna. The skeptic, atheist, and blind sentimentalist will argue that Krishna is simply a sectarian figure, a specific viewpoint of God crafted by the Hindus. But Krishna is actually a Sanskrit word which means “all-attractive”. More than just an order-giver or a grand creator, God is the most attractive person in all the universes. Attraction to Him is never fatal, at least not for the aspect of life that counts. Love for Krishna brings eternal residence in the spiritual sky. Bhakti can be considered the religion of love, the system of spirituality aimed at bringing an eternal life and removing the painful existence arising from contact with material nature. How could any honest transcendentalist and theist ever be against loving God?

Lord KrishnaFor love to truly manifest, it must bring about a change in consciousness. Simply swearing allegiance to a particular spiritual figure and attending functions once a week is not enough to indicate a drastic shift in thought. We can say that we love someone but then dedicate all of our actions to something or someone else and thereby invalidate our initial profession of faith. Bhakti is a full-time engagement, one that always keeps the pure lover, the spirit soul, in touch with its most pleasurable object, Krishna. Though bhakti can be attempted on other worldly objects and elevated figures, it is meant exclusively for Lord Vishnu, which is another name for Krishna. When bhakti, or pure love, is attached to any entity that is not God, the results will, not surprisingly, keep one further away from liberation. We may be firmly attached to a specific politician, but when they lose or fall down from their post, the worshipers are left to search out another object of interest. Similarly, worshiping a particular spiritual leader can at best bring the dear servant in the company of the worshiped individual. Yet if the object of worship is incapable of providing supreme pleasure, if he is not a true representative of the Supreme Person, the worshiper will eventually have no choice but to divert their attention elsewhere.

Vishnu-bhakti, as the topmost form of transcendental love, is free of any defects. Not only is the object of worship ever worthy of the love and adoration of the countless spiritual entities residing in all the different worlds, but He never falls down either; hence one of His names is Achyuta. Worship of God in pure love is the true business of mankind. By following the regulative principles of freedom enjoined in the shastras, anyone, regardless of their country of origin, the language they speak, and the spiritual traditions they are accustomed to, can gain emancipation within this very life. Eternal freedom is found in the spiritual sky, where the company of the Personality of Godhead is enjoyed for all of time.

Lord VishnuThe embryo survives within the womb without a machine. The bird flies without needing refined petroleum, and the ant moves around without any need for yoga practice. In the same manner, the bhakta, without any aid of advanced technology or mystical exercise, can always remain connected with the Supreme Spirit while in any type of body. As such, the pure devotee can be considered greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest, a property which initially belongs to Shri Krishna, who as God is capable of doing anything. By remaining firmly attached to the lotus feet of the bhaktas, the humble soul can learn how to similarly transcend the effects of nature, which are constantly enticing the individual to take to any engagement except divine love. The Supreme Lord, as the greatest of all time, tells nature what to do. Therefore when one is sincere in their desire to be with God, nature, operating at the behest of Krishna, will work in their favor.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Careful What You Wish

Hanuman “It is my thinking that not even the wind can pass through here unnoticed. Certainly there is nothing here that is unknown to the mighty Rakshasas.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.44)

vāyurapyatra nājñātaścarediti matirmama |

na hyastyaviditaṃ kiṃcidrākśasānāṃ balīyasām

As the saying goes, “Careful what you wish; you just might get it”, the thief who acquires his possessions through ill-gotten means gets more than what he bargained for through the incessant worry of getting caught that follows. Even the most harmless of entities, such as the wind, causes great trepidation to the miscreant who has achieved the passionate end he was so desperately seeking. Buried deep in the consciousness is the knowledge of propriety, right and wrong, and the basic standards of decency. Knowing that he did something terribly wrong, the grievous offender to the natural laws of society always remains on edge, fearing punishment at the hands of authority figures. When the time for judgment arrives, their power, wealth, fame and strength come crashing down to a halt, with no one else around to whom the finger of blame can be pointed. Such was the case with a famous demon-king who made the tragic mistake of trying to have another man’s wife.

“Generally, the wealth of misers never allows them any happiness. In this life it causes their self-torment, and when they die it sends them to hell.” (Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.23.15)

Lord KrishnaIn the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the crown-jewel of Vedic literature, Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, states that for the wealthy miser, there is a hellish condition endured both in the present life and the next. In the current life, though possessing great wealth, the stingy and greedy individual is constantly worrying about what will happen to his money. “I have millions of dollars right now, but how will I maintain this? What if my business goes under? What if my investments all crash and burn? I will be left with nothing.” Money is supposedly the great panacea of security, providing a blanket of protection against destitution, which itself is seen as the worst situation. Despite the fact that in the Vedic tradition, the practices of spiritual life passed down since time immemorial on the Indian-subcontinent region, the highest class of transcendentalists, the sannyasis, take to complete renunciation, there is still a general fear of poverty by most. After all, who would want to beg for food and not have any fixed place of residence? Indeed, only the most renounced person, one who has completely taken shelter of the lotus feet of the ever-blissful, always ready to protect, all-sensing, all-hearing Supreme Lord, can completely abandon every fear and exclusively spend time travelling from place to place, chanting the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

Krishna’s statement to Uddhava in the Bhagavatam is so brilliant because it goes against the natural way of thinking. The normal mindset pertaining to wealth acquisition is considered correct because it is quite prevalent. But from analytically studying the causes and effects, we see that simply acquiring wealth at the cost of hard time and work doesn’t actually bring any mental satisfaction whatsoever. If the aim of wealth acquisition is the removal of distresses, how can one who is constantly worrying about what will happen to their money be considered to be in a positive condition? Even the poverty stricken man, he who is working hard to earn an honest living, doesn’t have nearly the same worries as the rich miser, as he has nothing to lose. In this way Krishna’s assertion that miserliness resulting from great wealth leads to a hellish condition in the present life proves to be completely accurate.

“That gift which is given out of duty, at the proper time and place, to a worthy person, and without expectation of return, is considered to be charity in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.20)

Lord KrishnaSo what about the afterlife aspect? How does one go to hell by becoming too greedy and wealthy? The miserly attitude that results from the fear of losing one’s possessions leads to a certain type of behavior, for how many of us have strong fears and then fail to act on them? The miser’s impulse reaction to his trepidation over potential destitution is to hoard his money. As a result, he will fail to be charitable, even towards those who are ever worthy of it. In the Bhagavad-gita, the very same Lord Krishna declares that charity given to the proper recipient, at the proper time, and without any expectation of reciprocation is considered to be in the mode of goodness. Goodness, passion and ignorance govern all activities of this world, and therefore they also constitute the different body types of the numerous species. The mode of goodness is considered the best because it keeps one on the straightened path, one that follows knowledge. The mode of goodness can be thought of as the highest grade in a school system, a level of thought and activity which automatically incorporates all knowledge acquired from previous classes.

If an individual who has sufficient money fails to be charitable out of miserliness, there will be a negative reaction in the afterlife. Karma is quite fair, so if a transgression is made, there must be reactions in the future. Just as how when we fail to properly erect a specific beam in the construction of a building there will be negative consequences sometime in the future, acts of impiety eventually bear fruit, and the intensity of their unfavorable nature matches the magnitude of the original sin. If an abundance of miserliness in this life causes a failure to aid those who are worthy of charity, it stands to reason that suffering of a similar nature will be endured in the next life for the stingy man. In this way we see that Lord Krishna, who is known as Achyuta because of His infallibility, is indeed correct about miserliness leading to hell in both the present and future lives.

“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)

Lakshmana and Rama fighting a demonWhen wealth is acquired through nefarious means, there is even greater paranoia that results. Such was the case with Ravana, the king of the Rakshasas ruling over the island of Lanka. He had everything at his disposal; beautiful women, an unending supply of the finest wine, luxurious palaces, and a kingdom strategically located. The island was so far away from any mainland that it was deemed unreachable by any worldly being. Even the celestials, the demigods in the sky in charge of the various departments of the material creation, were afraid of Ravana and his fighting prowess. Despite his abundant wealth and opulence, Ravana’s lust was not controlled. Hearing of a beautiful princess residing in the forest, Ravana decided he couldn’t live without her. There was one problem though: she was the religiously wedded wife of another man.

On the surface, this wasn’t a problem for Ravana. He was a king after all, and it wasn’t uncommon for rulers to challenge other heads of state to duels, with the winner taking ownership of the princesses and queens belonging to the defeated party. But the princess that Ravana wanted was married to the most powerful bow warrior the world had ever seen. This man, who exhibited every quality of the most powerful celestial, had previously defeated over 14,000 of Ravana’s associates singlehandedly. The one demon in Ravana’s party that happened to survive this lethal counterattack and return to Lanka then begged Ravana not to even try to fight this prince alone. Normally, Ravana would get offended by such statements, but since he wanted this princess so badly, he wasn’t concerned with his ego in relation to fighting. Instead, he devised a plan which temporarily lured the powerful warrior away from His wife, paving the way for Ravana to come in and kidnap the princess.

Sita and RamaAll went according to plan, and after bringing back the princess to Lanka, Ravana tried his best to win over her. Unfortunately, this wasn’t any ordinary princess that Ravana had taken; she was the goddess of fortune herself, Lakshmi Devi, in human form. Known as Sita Devi, the princess was more than capable of providing unlimited wealth to anyone who wanted it and intended on using it for the right purposes. Sita Devi is the wife of the Supreme Lord, Lord Rama, the pious prince of Ayodhya. Rama is non-different from the original form of Bhagavan residing in the spiritual sky. Sita is akin to the manager of all the wealth in the world, the person who manages the books in the household situated in Vaikuntha, or the spiritual realm free of anxieties. Sita, though a royal princess, loved to go to the forests and visit with sages, brahmanas who were first class devotees of Shri Rama. Instead of desiring to acquire more wealth and spend time enjoying the royal opulence of the kingdom of Ayodhya, Sita loved to bring gifts to all the brahmanas. Her husband, as the original provider for all of humanity, behaved in a similar manner. Just prior to His sojourn into the forest for fourteen years, Lord Rama, through Sita, gave away all His wealth and most valuable possessions to the brahmanas, who, according to the Vedas, are the only class of men deemed worthy of accepting charity.

Ravana could have had anything he wanted if he had humbly asked Sita for benedictions. Instead, he chose to take her away from the side of her husband and enjoy her for himself. Obviously the latter can never happen, as it is impossible for Sita to ever be with another man. After later being rescued by Rama, Sita would prove her chastity to the miscreants and doubters by surviving the test of being placed in a fire. This incident has since become an issue of controversy amongst those with a poor fund of knowledge. Those trying to discredit what they know as Hinduism will point to the incident and say that if Rama is God, the all-merciful, how could He have forced His wife to stand in a blazing fire? To those with a modicum of intelligence, Sita’s fire test actually shows the greatest mercy on the part of the Lord. As the purest woman to have ever graced this earth, Sita had the highest reputation of respect, decency, kindness, and devotion to God. Rama knew that miscreants, present and future, would always question what really happened in Lanka while Sita was held captive. To show mercy to His wife and to allow her reputation to stand above even His own, Rama created the situation which allowed Sita to voluntarily ascend a fire pit, a test which proved her chastity and devotion to Rama for all of time.

Sita passing the fire testJust after the kidnap, when Sita rebuked him in Lanka, Ravana eventually realized that she wasn’t going to change her mind, so fear immediately set in. Ravana and his Rakshasas were always worried about being punished for their horrible crimes. Aside from abducting innocent princesses, the Rakshasas were also known for harassing the sages living in the forests. By harass, we mean attack during times of religious performance. By attack, we mean kill and then eat. That’s right; the Rakshasas would kill the most harmless men at the most innocent times and then eat their flesh. Therefore it’s not difficult to understand why the Rakshasas living in Lanka were constantly on edge. They knew punishment was coming their way; they just didn’t know when.

Final justice would come from Lord Rama Himself, but to soften up the playing field, to gather intelligence on Sita’s whereabouts, and to give Ravana an indication of what he was in for, Shri Hanuman, Rama’s faithful servant, was sent to Lanka. After braving the obstacles placed in his aerial path while crossing the lengthy ocean, Hanuman successfully reached the outskirts of Ravana’s kingdom. But he wasn’t going to enter Lanka in haste. The specific mission entrusted to Hanuman was to find Sita, so he wanted to enter the city unnoticed, in a way where his presence wouldn’t be made known to Ravana.

HanumanIn the above quoted passage from the Ramayana, we see just how intelligent Hanuman is. He knows very well the nature of the demons residing in Lanka. He accurately notes that not even the wind can go unnoticed in the city; such is the trepidation and anxiety of the inhabitants. If one who is accustomed to residing in a home with other family members suddenly has to spend a night alone, there is an understandable sense of nervousness. During that night there is constant fear that someone will attack or that some other unexpected event will occur. In these situations, it becomes difficult to sleep peacefully, and if there are any sudden movements or sounds, even those caused by the wind, the apprehension will only increase. In a similar manner, the Rakshasas in Lanka were constantly on edge, so even if an unrecognized sound were caused by the wind, they would fear that someone was coming to attack them.

What need is there to be afraid of the wind? It is actually the sustainer of life, for if the wind is properly cared for within the body, there is a prolonged life. The key to remaining healthy is not necessarily to eat a certain type of food, but rather to ensure that the wind, in the form of the life breath, is allowed to flow uninhibited within the body. By eating moderate amounts of food, we can ensure that the air within continues to flow properly, thus allowing for a healthy equilibrium between the various internals of the body. In the outer world, the wind serves the vital functions of providing breezes, moving water, and carrying different aromas. Unless a tornado was known to be arriving soon, who would ever think of being put on edge by the movements of the wind, one of the central material elements?

Hanuman burning LankaFrom their behavior we see that Ravana and his cohorts, even before being attacked by Rama, were living a hellish life. Those who go against the Lord’s wishes and cause harm to His dear associates can never have any peace. Hanuman, taking shelter of his immeasurable wisdom and ability, ultimately decided upon the proper form to assume. He would successfully make his way into Lanka, find and speak with Sita, and return to Rama. Of course, prior to leaving Lanka Hanuman had to give Ravana a taste of what was coming. Before Hanuman’s exit from Lanka, Ravana would spot Hanuman and then have him bound up, something which only happened as a result of Hanuman’s fervent respect for Lord Brahma. One of Ravana’s associates had shot a weapon that was empowered by Brahma. If Hanuman had countered the effects of the weapon, Lord Brahma would have been made out to be a liar, as his weapon wouldn’t have worked as promised. Rather than insult the self-create, Hanuman allowed the weapon to bind him. Thinking that he had caught Hanuman, Ravana set fire to the Vanara’s tail. That turned out to be a big mistake, as Hanuman later easily freed himself from the shackles and then used his burning tail to set fire to the entire city.

Ravana wished for something so strongly that he didn’t care who he insulted and what he had to do to get it. He got what he wished for, and so much more. Sita Devi, a harmless princess who never raised a weapon in her life, ended up being Ravana’s downfall. In the human form of life, there will always be demands brought on by the senses that have contacted material nature. It is the tendency of the spirit soul to seek pleasure, but when this propensity is misdirected towards worldly objects, the only result is misery, both in this life and the next. On the other hand, for those who seek pleasure through association with the likes of Hanuman, Rama and Sita, there is only happiness.

Hanuman chantingHanuman doesn’t have an opulent kingdom to rule over nor hundreds of beautiful princess to cavort with nor the finest wine to get intoxicated on. He enjoys eternal bliss by simply remembering the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord and hearing stories about Him. Hanuman’s spiritual potency is so great that simply hearing of his exploits can bring us the same pleasure. Hanuman lives forever, for his glories know no end. Anyone who is fortunate enough to even see or recite his name just once and realize his true nature will be benefitted and insulated from any unfavorable conditions in this life and the next.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Do You See What I See?

Lord Krishna “The Lord moves everywhere—within and without—and we simply have to make our vision clear so that we may see Him. By devotional service, we can purify our senses so that we may perceive the presence of God. Those who are less intelligent simply try to find God within, but those who are advanced in intelligence can see the Lord both within and without.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Ch 11)

It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Everyone is gathered around the television to watch the game. There is a large group of friends and family over the house, with plenty of food and a big screen television with full high-definition and surround-sound capabilities to enhance the viewing experience. When the game starts, a big play happens right away. The underdog team, the one most of the people in the room are cheering for, runs back the opening kickoff for a touchdown. It’s pandemonium in the stadium and at home; seemingly everyone is excited. But there are a few people at the party to whom such a moment brings no joy whatsoever. Not only are they not interested in the fortunes of either team, but they can’t possibly understand why anyone would be excited over someone else carrying a football in their hands and running with it for over one hundred yards. “What are they seeing? Who cares that someone thousands of miles away just scored a touchdown?”

cometSimilarly diametrically opposing levels of emotion are witnessed when viewing visible phenomena such as the passing of a comet. Imagine a similar scenario where a group of friends is gathered together on the roof of an apartment building with their telescopes ready. When the particular comet, one that only passes through the night sky every several hundred years or so, finally comes, the onlookers will be elated, feeling fortunate to have witnessed a modern marvel, a miracle of science. Yet to the skeptic and the disinterested observer, the movement of a tiny blip in the sky doesn’t really mean anything. “So a comet passed through the night. Big deal. What does it matter anyway? If we saw it or didn’t see it, I don’t see how our lives are affected at all?”

What could be at the root of the divergence in opinion? The act of visible perception certainly is the same in both individuals. Both sets of onlookers are viewing the exact same thing, but the reactions are still totally different. If we study a little more closely, we see that the level of consciousness is what differs between the two groups. One set has spent much time and effort contemplating, pondering over, and worrying about the big football game. When the underdog team scores on the opening kickoff, it means that their chances to win have just increased. In football, the season culminates with the Super Bowl championship, one of the most difficult trophies to win in all of sports. The opportunity to even play in a Super Bowl is rare enough. So many great players have gone their whole careers without ever winning a championship. Therefore if the team you are supporting further increases their chances of winning the big prize, you will be excited. The visible perception of the event that increased the odds of success thereby brings satisfaction to the mind.  While one observer is simply seeing a man running on a field with an oblong shaped ball, the other is seeing the chances of victory increase.

footballThe viewing of the comet follows a similar pattern. One side, which consists of scientists and inquisitive minds, is seeing the tiny blip in the sky as a sign of the incredibly complex and wonderful nature of the universe. The sun rises and sets every day, but certain comets only come around every few hundred years. Hence those who can witness the passing of a comet are certainly highly fortunate. Yet to the skeptic and disinterested observer, there is no thought or appreciation given to the comet, as their consciousnesses are focused on other things. Therefore the same visible perceptions go unappreciated.

When it comes to spirituality, the justifications provided by the skeptics for not believing in God or not wanting to accept the authorized statements found in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, cover the full spectrum of opinion. The one side, the secular scientists, wants tangible proof, evidence of God’s existence seen through experimental analysis. On the opposite side, the meditational yogi only perceives of the Supreme Being in an invisible form, for he looks around and doesn’t see any truth or anything that is permanent. In reality, both angles of vision are flawed, as evidence of the Lord’s presence is all around us. When one’s eyes are properly conditioned through the practice of transcendental love, the presence of the Divine Personality is witnessed, appreciated and adored at every single corner of the earth.

“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.8)

Krishna speaking to ArjunaThe skeptical scientist can be compared to the disinterested observers at the football game and comet watching gatherings. Without knowing that Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, created this and millions of other universes, the divine workings of nature go unappreciated. A devotee, one who practices bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, as a way of life, can simply taste water and understand that the enjoyment derived is a direct manifestation of Krishna. The sun, which is the sustainer of life, is another direct representation of the Supreme Spirit’s energy. Without the sun, which is self-illuminating and perpetually burning, life could not exist in any tangible way. If the sun were to burn out, life on earth would be destroyed soon after.

The skeptical scientist will say that there is no evidence that Krishna is God. Rather, the statements found in texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Mahabharata are merely myths, exaggerations put into poetic form. Through skepticism one can certainly debunk any assertion or opinion. Even the scientist claiming that a particular object is composed of millions of tiny molecules can be proven wrong. After all, the scientist had to learn his techniques from another teacher. What if the teacher was wrong in their assertions? It is a well established fact that man is prone to error, as are scientists. What if the microscope being used to observe a particular object is flawed? How would the scientist even know that the microscope was properly manufactured, as there are too many instances to count of mechanical production failing?

In this way the importance of the seemingly irrefutable sense observations of the most respected scientist can be minimized. The key to accepting any type of observation, personal or otherwise, is authority. If the source of information is deemed an authority figure, one who is trustworthy, the information will be accepted and acted upon. Moreover, we put faith and trust into our own observations and tendencies over the course of time. When we step out the door of our home, we don’t know for sure if someone else is lurking around the corner to attack us. But from evidence gathered from previous experiences, we have deduced that the likelihood of such an attack is minimal. Therefore there is always trust behind the actions we take and the information we choose to accept.

Lord KrishnaSimilarly, the statements of the Vedas and their supporters pertaining to Krishna’s supremacy and His divine nature can be accepted through faith in the beginning stages. Unlike the scientists who may or may not lead us astray based on the validity of their conclusions, the Vedic principles are meant to be implemented precisely to produce tangible and lasting results in every instance, with the primary benefit being the altering of consciousness. Proof of God’s existence is seen in the results that come from practicing devotion to Him.  The quintessential act of devotion is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

The skeptic will argue that repeating a sound vibration can’t possibly bring one closer to God, as people go on singing songs all the time and never advance in terms of consciousness or intelligence. While this line of thinking seems plausible enough, the authorized acharyas, those who lead by example, kindly inform us that the name of God is different from any mundane sound vibration. The holy name automatically brings an awakening of the forms, attributes and pastimes of the original Divine Being, who is personal and fully formed. This brings us to the other skeptical viewpoint pertaining to God’s existence. The meditational yogi and those who want to only conceive of the invisible aspect of the Supreme Lord don’t follow the line of the atheists and scientists, but they will reject all outward sense perceptions as being false. After all, everything in this world is temporary, including our lives. Just as the human being is created at the time of conception and destroyed at the time of death, the entire cosmos must have been created at some point. Therefore it must also be dissolved at a future point in time. In fact, the latter portion of this opinion is confirmed by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita, wherein He states that the universe constantly goes through cycles of creation and destruction under His direction.

“The whole cosmic order is under Me. By My will it is manifested again and again, and by My will it is annihilated at the end.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.8)

Irrespective of how the conclusion is reached, simply knowing that the outer world is temporary is not enough to understand the true nature of the Supreme Lord. One can try to meditate within on the invisible aspect of the all-pervading Supreme Spirit, antaryami, but without knowledge of the reason behind the temporary manifestations of matter and the position of the individual souls within the complex nature, the invisible aspect of the Lord will always remain just that: invisible. Goswami Tulsidas very nicely touches on these truths in his Dohavali, wherein he mocks those who simply are after the invisible aspect of the Lord, alakh. Tulsidas says that one must first understand the visible world, which is also known as maya, the unmanifested, which is known as Parabrahman, and the marginal position of the jiva, who is in between Parabrahman and maya. If we’re simply searching after the unmanifested aspect of the Absolute Truth, we will never understand what His transcendental form looks like and what our relationship to Him is.

As the marginal potency of the Supreme Spirit, the individual souls have a choice as to whether to associate with maya or Truth. Wanting to see God is a noble desire, but unless one understands who they are and why they are put on earth, they will never understand God sufficiently. The jivas, as the marginal potency, chose to separate from God at some point in time and were thus allowed to play in maya’s playground, the material world. The association with illusion, or the temporary nature, continues for as long as the desire to enjoy the fruits growing on the playing field and take part in the material pursuits that further bind one to the temporary happiness and suffering of the phenomenal world remains.

Lord RamaThe material scientist is baffled in his attempts at understanding nature because he can’t see God’s presence anywhere, and the yogi set on meditating on the invisible aspect of the Lord misses the opportunity to truly understand God’s sublime nature as the all-attractive, best friend of every single form of life. Tulsidas says that even better than trying to separately understand maya, Brahman, and the jiva’s position in between the two, which itself is very difficult to perfect in one lifetime, is chanting the holy name of Lord Rama. Krishna and Rama are Sanskrit words which describe the Supreme Absolute Truth, who is always full of form. The name is the key because it brings about sublime understanding, information that is already stored deep within the recesses of the heart. The foremost property of the jiva soul, who is part and parcel of Krishna, is that of eternal lover of God. Therefore those who become one with their natural property and love God to the fullest are never bereft of knowledge or bliss.

When in the material world, by becoming deluded by the workings of maya the jiva’s property as the marginal potency swings the pendulum over to the side of illusion; thus causing the natural knowledgebase to be clouded. Chanting the names of God, which is the most efficacious process of bhakti, brings about a reawakening of the divine consciousness. Only one who is firmly fixed in the practice of bhakti can perceive of God’s presence at every corner of life. Through the proper consciousness not only is the Absolute Truth’s invisible aspect appreciated, but His original forms residing in the spiritual world are also worshiped and honored at all times. When statues and pictures depicting the vigrahas, or spiritual bodies, are crafted and worshiped in the material world in temples and in homes, the devotee feels even more elation. The wise-guy may think he has found a contradiction with the introduction of deity worship. “If God is everywhere, why do you need to go to a temple? If through the practice of chanting and devotion in general you are able to appreciate Krishna’s presence in every sphere of life, what is the point to seeking more bliss by seeing the deity?”

Lord KrishnaThe skeptic of deity worship may seem to have a point in this situation, but a series of even more valid counter questions may be raised. “If you see God everywhere, why would you fail to appreciate His deity form? If you know of Krishna’s nature and all-pervading presence, surely you would know that the deity is His special mercy upon the conditioned souls who have a difficult time perceiving of His presence? Surely you wouldn’t scoff at those who are trying to elevate themselves to the highest platform of Krishna consciousness through the worship of the deity? You required purification yourself due to the natural conditioned state you assumed at the time of birth, so why should others be criticized for appreciating the Supreme Lord and His wonderful mercy that is the deity?”

The deity or any other aspect of the physical world can only be truly appreciated when the eyes have been properly conditioned through bhakti. The statements of any philosopher or teacher can be accepted or rejected, but true authority is established by seeing tangible results from following the recommendations given to submissive students. Chanting the names of God is the best way to see the Lord’s universal presence, including His invisible aspect. This conclusion is supported by all the Vaishnavas, whose authority is firmly established through the purification of vision achieved by the exalted devotees. If we can get excited by watching a football game and by observing the movement of a comet, why shouldn’t our experiences be enhanced when we realize that everything in this world has God as its source? Through a regulative chanting process, which evokes the most blissful of thoughts, consciousness can be cleared, and our vision, both within and without, can be spot on when observing anything.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recognizing Their Own

Hanuman “Even if one has a Rakshasa form, what to speak of others, it is impossible to stay anywhere here and not be detected by the Rakshasas.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 2.43)

na hi śakyaṃ kvacit sthātumavijñātena rākśasaiḥ |

api rākśasarūpeṇa kimutānyena kenacit

A lion will notice if another lion is lurking around the corner coming to take its food in the form of a carcass. Certain carnivores only eat once every few weeks, so they have to make sure that when there is an opportunity for being fed, others don’t come in and swoop the bounty away. Such is the nature of competition in the animal kingdom, where the species are incapable of judging between right and wrong, piety and sin, innocence and guilt. The lions and tigers can be excused for their behavior, as killing is their business for survival. But in the human species, if the ignorant behavior of the animals is imitated, the activities are viewed in a negative light. The meat eating of the human being represents one level of transgression, but one race in particular, the Rakshasa, is so vile that they live off human flesh. Needless to say, members of this species are also keenly aware of any other Rakshasas that might get in the way of their enjoyment.

“There are various living entities, movable and inert. Birds, beasts, men and many other living creatures are moving living entities; trees and plants, however, are inert—they cannot move, but only stand. Every entity is contained within the scope of 8,400,000 species of life; some of them are moving and some of them are inert.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.10 Purport)

Shrila PrabhupadaThough scientists for centuries have studied the different species that are known to exist, their tabulated list is very small compared to the total number of unique life forms to be found. How do we know this? Knowledge acquired through the descending process, that information taken in from authority figures, provides us insight into how many different species there are and why there is such a variety. The Vedas, the oldest scriptures in existence, the original set of law codes originally passed down through an oral tradition, declare that the essence of life is the soul. This certainly isn’t a novel concept, as most theistic traditions agree that there is a soul within the body. Where the Vedas depart from other fields of study is in their detailed analysis of the different body types and the actual makeup of the soul. It is said that the spiritual spark, the atma, within a form of life is equivalent in size to the measurement of a very small fragment of the tip of a human hair.

If the soul is so small, why are life forms much larger in size? This introduces the difference between matter and spirit. The spirit soul is the source of identity, but its outer covering has no relation to it, save for appearance sake. A soul does not change its constitutional makeup at any time, but the features which are used to identify the presence of life, external combinations of matter, do vary and go through shifts. The souls populating the material world are ensconced in covers composed of varying combinations of the three modes of material nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. Just as you get new compounds by changing the proportion of the ingredient chemicals, when you mix the modes of nature by varying percentages, you get up to 8,400,000 types of material dresses. This is a large number, but the variety speaks to the array of engagements found in the material world, a realm which facilitates the spirit soul’s desire to enjoy their senses.

The Rakshasa is one of the many species in the material realm, with their noteworthy characteristic being their enjoyment in eating human beings. Those in the mode of goodness are known as suras in the Vedic tradition. If a body is composed mostly of passion, the life form is known as an asura, or the opposite of a sura. Suras are devoted to God; hence they are usually pious and adherent to the laws of material and spiritual life passed down by the Vedas. Since the asuras are only interested in passionate activity, such as sex life, gambling and fruitive ventures involving much struggle, there is little attention paid to spiritual life. The asura may know of religion and the presence of the soul, but they assign this field of study secondary importance while favoring the desire to satisfy the demands of the senses. Because of their opposing natures, there have been struggles between the suras and the asuras since the beginning of time, the good versus the evil.

The Rakshasas are completely in the mode of ignorance. In one sense, a Rakshasa is also an asura because they don’t act according to any established system of guidance. Rather, they take passionate activity to the extreme, not even considering the detriments and future harm that will come their way. One in the mode of passion knows that there are many struggles involved in securing sense pleasures, but these troubles are considered worth tolerating in the end. For example, gambling inflicts much toll on the brain and lack of focus. Yet all this mental turmoil is endured in the hopes of gaining the quick payout. The Rakshasa is completely unaware of the mire they are in. They look to satisfy the demands of the senses immediately, irrespective of what their behavior may cost them down the line. Therefore they have no problem killing innocent human beings and eating their flesh.

“They are serving as the food for the Rakshasas, who are fiendish creatures that subsist on human flesh. While being eaten away, the sages residing in Dandaka-aranya, those best among the brahmanas, said to Me, ‘Please rescue us’.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi about the brahmanas in the Dandaka forest, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.6)

Lord RamaThe Rakshasa race had an especially strong presence many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. For sport, they would harass the innocent sages, the suras, residing in the forests. Who could ever imagine being bothered in a quiet wilderness by other human beings, especially when the purpose of such a residence is religious in nature? It’s understandable if there would be some opposition to the preaching efforts of the pious, but these sages were simply looking for peace and quiet, a place to execute their penances and austerities. Not only would the Rakshasas harass the sages, but they would kill them and then eat their flesh. In this way, the ogres proved to be the vilest of creatures.

The leader of the Rakshasa clan was Ravana, whose island kingdom of Lanka was a sinner’s paradise. Wine flowed from the hilltops, and beautiful women were found at every corner. Indeed, every allure of material life was found in full abundance, keeping the ogres firmly grounded in ignorance. Ravana was so enamored by sex life that he finally went too far by trying to take the one woman he couldn’t have, Sita Devi, the wife of Shri Rama, the divine incarnation of Godhead and warrior prince of Ayodhya.

Shri Hanuman, Rama’s faithful servant, Ramadutta, made his way to Lanka to search for Sita, to make sure that she was alright and return the news of her whereabouts to Rama. Just prior to entering the city, Hanuman consciously thought things over, reviewing what action should be taken and what should be avoided. In the above quoted passage, we see Hanuman’s concern about being discovered by the Rakshasas. Who wouldn’t be flustered in such a situation? Hanuman was on the side of the good guys; he wanted to find a princess who was forcibly taken away from the company of her husband. Hanuman shouldn’t have expected any troubles at all during his noble endeavor. In fact, others should have been willing to come to his aid, helping him achieve success in the mission given to him by Rama.

For the average person, buckling under the immense pressure of a tough assignment is quite understandable. These Rakshasas wouldn’t just be disturbed by an intruder entering their confines. Rather, they would punish any foreign element, innocent or otherwise, with death. The sages of the Dandaka forest had previously not been bothering anyone, yet the Rakshasas killed and ate them. From Hanuman’s thoughts, we see that he is keenly aware of the cunning nature of the ogres of Lanka. Even if he assumed the form of a Rakshasa, something Hanuman was more than capable of doing due to his mastery over yoga, the demons would likely ferret him out. A devotee, a lover of God, can never hide their true nature. Even when mixed among the vilest of creatures, the devotee shines bright. Just as the Supreme Lord is described as maha-tejah, or highly effulgent, one who is in constant contact with the Supreme Energetic, Bhagavan, is similarly full of glow and splendor. When Hanuman first met Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana, he assumed the false guise of a mendicant out of respect for Sugriva, the leader of the band of monkeys in Kishkindha. Sugriva was worried that Rama and Lakshmana may have been sent by an enemy to kill him. Therefore he asked Hanuman to kindly approach the two brothers and find out the purpose of their visit.

Hanuman meeting RamaHanuman, though in a false guise, couldn’t help but praise Rama and Lakshmana. In the same way, if he were to enter Lanka in the guise of a Rakshasa, his pure devotion for Rama could never be hidden. The Rakshasas also can sniff out any person who is sympathetic towards the interests of the Supreme Lord. Ravana’s younger brother Vibhishana, though born an ogre, was completely in the mode of goodness. He had not a tinge of impiety in him. Eventually, his affection for Rama and His servants would cause him to be outcaste from the kingdom by Ravana. Hanuman’s influence on Vibhishana would later result in his joining Rama’s side.

Hanuman, faced with the difficult task of making his way into Lanka undetected, didn’t succumb to the pressure. He would be excused for thinking, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I have been playing by the rules, so why should I constantly be faced with these obstacles?” But Hanuman didn’t have the luxury of quitting or giving way to lamentation. Success lay in his hands, as Shri Rama and Sugriva had full faith in his abilities. No ordinary entity could cross the vast ocean in one leap as Hanuman did. Therefore at this critical juncture Hanuman chose to forge ahead, eventually deciding on taking a form that was undetectable to the Rakshasas but still capable of gathering the necessary intelligence.

HanumanThrough his behavior, Hanuman shows honor, determination, and dedication in the highest mission, meeting the Lord’s interests. A human birth is considered the most auspicious of the millions of life forms because of the potential for intelligence. One who acts under the direction of the divine consciousness performs every activity for the benefit of the Supreme Loveable Object. The move towards spiritual life isn’t adopted out of fear or out of the desire for some personal reward, or even the potential for the alleviation of distress. From Hanuman’s example, we see that once the sublime engagement of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is adopted, the troubles encountered actually increase in number. The difference between activities in bhakti and acts of any other type of engagement is that divine love brings about supreme pleasure at every step. The Lord is the best friend of the living entities, so pleasing Him has a reciprocal benefit, even though that is not the intent of the devotee going in. Success may be had in a material venture, but the rewards provide second class happiness and no guarantee of immunity from future distress.

For those of us struggling to stay afloat in the turbulent waters of the ocean of nescience, the only life-raft is the humble instructions provided by the Vaishnavas and the wonderful example set by Hanuman and other devotees. Hanuman always keeps Rama’s interests at heart; whatever Rama asks of him gets done. When apart from Rama’s company, Hanuman always keeps the Lord and His family in his thoughts. The best way to maintain the divine consciousness is to take shelter of the holy names of the Lord found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The name of God is the mother, the father, the guru, and the ocean of nectar. Holding on to this name as our life and soul, no opposing elements, demonic or otherwise, can thwart our business. The Rakshasas were no match for Hanuman and his strength, and in a similar manner, the opposing forces ignited by the asuras, Rakshasas, and those lost in the ocean of nescience can never stop the humble sage from chanting their beloved’s name.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Lord Krishna “The feature of the Supreme Personality is the ultimate realization of God. He has all six opulences in full: He is the strongest, the richest, the most beautiful, the most famous, the wisest, and the most renounced.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Science of Self-Realization, Ch 4a)

In any field of activity, there are certain skills required for success, attributes and levels of dexterity that correspond with the required tasks of the discipline. For those managing the endeavors, the people in charge of seeing to the successful end of a particular task, just finding one person who suitably matches a specific component of the job is cause for celebration. The leader would love to tackle the entire project alone if they could, but to increase productivity in the venture, they add helpers to the mix, especially in jobs where a team of workers is a necessity. But if the manager, the owner of the team, is able to find one individual who possesses many different beneficial attributes and qualities capable of being utilized across a broad scope of activities, the results of their recruiting efforts become all the more enjoyable. There is one individual, one supreme entity, who is not only qualified to perform every task in the phenomenal world, but He in fact possesses all six of the most important attributes to the fullest degree and simultaneously. Therefore not only is He the ideal worker and the missing piece of the puzzle in any endeavor, He is also the best friend anyone could ever have, the companion we’re all looking for.

baseball diamondIn no endeavor does it hurt to have a worker who is capable of flourishing in multiple roles, but in the arena of sports the benefits derived from having such stars is especially highlighted. In the game of baseball, there are nine starting players which all field their position and also bat. In one of the two leagues in the professional ranks, the National League, the pitcher position doesn’t bat, but all the way up through the lower ranks even the pitcher has to learn how to hit the ball. A good team owner or manager looks for players to fill specific positions. Each position requires a different skill-set; therefore the players that occupy them tend to have similar attributes and traits. The pitcher can throw the ball very fast and for long durations of time. A starting pitcher plays every five days and thus pitches for a long duration in each game. The relief pitchers come in more frequently but they don’t throw for as long. The relievers, especially the closers, can throw the ball very hard, as it is not required for them to vary their pitches too much because of the short duration of time they are in the game.

Pitching is only one aspect of the game, for good pitchers don’t necessarily make good hitters, nor are they expected to be skilled behind the plate. When the pitcher throws the ball, someone needs to catch it. Not surprisingly, that someone is known as the catcher. This position similarly doesn’t require a very capable batter due to the other functions that must be performed. A catcher must be able to crouch down and catch pitches thrown by all the pitchers in the nine inning game. Therefore catchers are usually somewhat stocky in stature, with the majority of their weight found in their thighs and calves. As such, catchers are also usually not fleet afoot. The first-baseman is tasked with fielding any ground balls hit to the infield. When a batter hits a ball into fair territory, they must run to first base. The first-baseman thus covers this base and hopes to get the runners out before they reach the bag. Since the first-baseman doesn’t really need to run very long or even throw the ball very well, he can concentrate more on the hitting aspects of the game. Therefore the first-baseman is usually a power hitter, one who can bulk up in the upper body so as to have a high bat-speed. The higher the speed of the swing and the more power in the arms of the batter, the farther the struck baseball will travel.

battingThe second-baseman has to guard the area of the infield adjacent to the first-baseman. Hence he must be very agile and able to cover a lot of ground with his feet. He doesn’t necessarily need to have a good arm, but he has to be somewhat quick. Therefore he usually doesn’t have much power when it comes to batting. The same holds true with the shortstop, a position player who is usually faster than the second-baseman. The shortstop’s requirements are increased in the area of throwing, as he is situated at a further distance away from the first-baseman, the man to whom all infield ground balls must be thrown. The third-baseman is similar to the first-baseman in that he doesn’t necessarily need to cover much ground with his feet. But his throwing abilities are fully scrutinized, as he has a very long toss to first-base. Therefore the third-basemen are usually power hitters who aren’t that fast.

Moving to the outfield, the center-fielder has the most ground to cover, so he must be very fast at running. Any outfield position requires a long throw back into the infield, so the fielder must be capable of throwing the ball very hard and a far distance. The left-fielder is similar in makeup to the center fielder but he doesn’t have to run as much. The right-fielder must have a good arm, as he has to make throws from his position in the field all the way to third base quite often, but he doesn’t have to run nearly as much as the other outfielders. Hence the right-fielder tends to have the most power at batting, while the center fielder has very good speed on the base paths. The left-fielder is usually somewhere in between the two as far as speed and power go.

OutfieldersIt is up to the manager to find the right player to fit each position. Putting someone with the qualities of a shortstop at first-base isn’t a good idea because the player’s abilities in the areas of throwing and fielding aren’t utilized properly. Similarly, putting a first-baseman behind the plate to catch isn’t a good idea because they may damage their knees by crouching down for nine innings. Even with the requirements specific to each position, there is one type of player who is seen as a godsend to the team, the owner, the manager and the fans. This individual is labeled a “five-tool” player, as he has the five attributes necessary for success in playing baseball at any position. A five-tool player has an above average capability in the areas of hitting for average, hitting for power, fielding, running and throwing. The power hitters, those with bulky arms and a very big swing, aren’t expected to hit for a high average. They aren’t necessarily concerned with putting the ball into play, just hitting it very hard. By the same token, the high average hitters generally suffer in the power department since their swings aren’t tailored for hitting the ball very far; they are more interested in making contact with the ball.

The five-tool player is a real gem because he can be placed at any position and still succeed. He can play the outfield or the infield and not cause a detriment to the team. If opposing teams want to pitch around such a player and put him on base, he is fast enough to be a threat to steal bases. The five-tool player can inflict damage at the plate in any situation, despite what the other team’s strategy might be. It is not surprising, therefore, to see five-tool players be handsomely rewarded in salary and be highly sought after by teams.

Lord KrishnaThough this example only describes the game of baseball, the concepts apply to all areas of endeavor. In the business world, one man or woman who can write, speak, think and sell effectively is the most valuable player to the company trying to distribute their product or service for a profit. While only certain tasks are required of each individual, one who can transcend any and all designations and properly fit into any situation will be the most valuable member of the team and the most highly sought after professional. While a multi-talented worker can excel in the various aspects of a specific material endeavor, there is one individual who is capable of fitting into any situation. Not only does He possess the necessary attributes to an above average degree, He is also the only individual who holds every beneficial quality at the highest level and at the same time. Not surprisingly, this person is deemed the most attractive in the world, and thus goes by the name of Krishna.

“The person who possesses all wealth, strength, fame, beauty, knowledge and renunciation is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan.” (Parashara Muni, Vishnu Purana, 6.5.47)

Krishna is a Sanskrit word that describes the features of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the entity most of us refer to as God. Even for those who are in the unintelligent state of mind, where the picture of the Absolute Truth remains foggy, there is still a tendency to associate with and pray to the Divine Entity in the spiritual sky. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, provide many names for the Supreme Being, allowing for different addresses by the conditioned souls desperately needing a companion while travelling the troublesome road of life. The name “Krishna” especially indicates the Lord’s attractiveness. He is the most beautiful entity the world has ever seen. While every aspect of His nature is beautiful, His transcendental form is uniquely attractive. More than just an ordinary figure turned folk hero, Krishna is the Lord of Lords who constantly appears on different planets in the innumerable universes. Just as the sun is rising at some place on earth at every moment, Krishna is appearing from the womb of Mother Devaki in some universe at this precise second. Wherever He is and wherever He goes, His natural beauty follows Him. He is the greatest enchanter, as those who have witnessed His unmatched beauty firsthand have described their experiences and how they became immediately transcendentally situated upon first glancing at the sweet Lord, who is also known as Shyamasundara. In this way, Krishna’s beauty is like no other’s.

Lord KrishnaKrishna also is the wealthiest. When we only have a cloudy picture of God, the issue of original ownership often gets overlooked. The material elements were all here prior to our birth and will remain manifest after our death, but there still must be an original owner, someone who created everything. The scientists will say that chemicals collided and created life, but who generated the chemicals? Are not the atoms part of the material world? The Vedic conclusion, one based on the authorized statements of acharyas following in the line of disciplic succession started by Krishna, reveals that God is the original proprietor of everything. Therefore to understand the true breadth and scope of His wealth, we must sum up the net-worths of every individual on earth since the beginning of time. Only then can a proper appraisal of Krishna’s massive estate be had. Indeed, during His times on earth, a small glimpse of His unimaginable wealth is put on display when He rules over the underwater kingdom of Dvaraka. In an instant, Krishna create thousands of the most beautiful palaces, with each one inhabited by the most beautiful and attractive queens the world has ever seen.

An infant, through the proper training and nutrition regimen, may eventually grow up to be a strong adult, but Krishna is so strong that He is not limited by His body type. Since He is eka-rasa, or complete in potency at all times, He can exhibit tremendous strength while even in the body of a small child. Such were the miraculous feats He performed during His childhood in Vrindavana some five thousand years ago that people couldn’t believe how the young Krishna was able to defy the laws of nature. Demon after demon was sent from the neighboring town of Mathura to kill baby Krishna, but each of them not only went away surprised, but dead. Krishna is the most benevolent killer, as He grants the soul of the departed liberation from the cycle of birth and death. The demon’s form of salvation is a little different from what others receive, as Krishna’s sparring partners get association with the blissful energy beaming off of the Lord’s original, gigantic transcendental body. For the devotees, those who swim in the ocean of bliss consisting of Krishna’s names, pastimes, forms and qualities, there is no loss of individuality when liberation arrives. Indeed, there is not even a loss of consciousness, as the thought processes of the soul remain forever blissfully stimulated. Krishna lifted a massive hill and held it over His head, all while He was just seven years old in terms of the time that had elapsed since His exit from the womb of Mother Devaki. In this way Krishna proves that His strength is always unmatched, as no one is able to come close to performing the same feats in any similar type of body.

Krishna lifting Govardhana HillCelebrities, actors, inventors and successful politicians have certainly garnered much fame throughout the many years the earth has been in existence, but only Krishna can validly claim to be the most famous. The greatest indication of this truth is the popularity of the books that describe His pastimes. The oldest and most widely read works in the world are the ones describing Krishna’s various forms, teachings and pastimes. The Ramayana, arguably the oldest poem in the world, describes the life and pastimes of Lord Rama, a non-different expansion of Krishna. The Ramayana was compiled during the Treta Yuga, which occurred many millions of years ago. The Vedas themselves are too old to accurately date, as they describe the events that took place at the beginning of creation. The Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God personally sung by Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, was compiled around five thousand years ago, yet it is the most widely read, studied and celebrated text on spirituality in the world. Krishna is the most famous individual today, and He will continue to be so in the future. His name found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is also the one word recited the most times in the mood of love and affection. This sacred formula is regularly chanted by the devotees, and it will continue to be vibrated throughout the universes for as far into the future as the eye can see.

Krishna’s supreme and unmatched knowledge is evidenced in the wonderful teachings He provides in books like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. Though one may argue that even such wisdom is narrow in scope, the limitations actually apply only to the individual being instructed. The human mind cannot think beyond time and space, but Krishna can. The Bhagavad-gita represents only a tiny fraction of His immeasurable mastery in the fields of logic, understanding, rational thought and sublime wisdom. Krishna can create thousands of Bhagavad-gitas in an instant, with each version supplanting the previous one in beauty and effectiveness at arousing the dormant spiritual consciousness within the listener. Krishna’s scriptures such as the Vedanta-sutras are so profound that others can study them for many years and still not understand them fully. The wisdom of the Vedas is so powerful and logical that many foolish commentators even try to deny Krishna’s existence by citing passages from the very same Vedas. Vedic logic is so potent that when not properly understood it can actually further delude the mind into believing that the human beings are themselves God. Only in the highest knowledge system, one emanating from Krishna, can the words be so powerful that they can lead to utter and complete delusion for those not qualified to understand them.

Radha and KrishnaThe sixth tool that rounds out Krishna’s justification for being labeled Bhagavan is renunciation, His ability to be completely detached from any and all situations. Though He possesses five of the most important attributes simultaneously and to the fullest degree, He is not attached to any of them. Though He is the most attractive entity and thus offered love by the most beautiful women in the world, He is not driven by lust, greed, anger, affection or attachment. As atmarama, Krishna is fully satisfied within Himself. One may argue that if Krishna is so renounced, how could He have associated with so many beautiful women during His most recent time on earth? Didn’t He marry over 16,000 princesses and regularly associate with the gopis of Vrindavana, the cowherd women of the town? To the devotees, those who are qualified to hear about and relish in the descriptions of Krishna’s activities, the Lord’s outward behavior doesn’t represent any contradiction at all. Since He is self-satisfied and fully renounced, Krishna can do whatever He wants. If 16,000 princesses captured by an evil king and held prisoner for a long time surrender fully unto Him, will Krishna deny their request for marriage? Will He just leave them hanging and tell them to go back home where they will be viewed as outcastes for having spent such a long time in another man’s custody? For the gopis of Vrindavana who only think of Krishna at all times, will the Lord deny their request for personal association?

Only the fools who have no ability to think beyond mundane logic, reason and the bounds imposed by the material world will give deference to rules, regulations and postulates and turn their backs on divine love. Krishna is the object of all dharma, or religiosity. The rules of science and math are meaningless unless applied practically. Similarly, the Vedic tenets, and the rituals and rules of conduct recommended, are all intended to bring one to the platform of bhakti, or pure love for God. As such, one who has attained the state of pure Krishna consciousness has no need to adhere to any mundane rules of morality. If such a principle applies to an individual worshiper, it most certainly also applies to the object of worship, Lord Krishna. Though Krishna spent so much time giving pleasure to those who desperately sought it from Him, He was still never attached to anyone or anything. He left Vrindavana when family business required His attention in Mathura. He left the world and His queens behind when the time was right. Though it is said that Krishna never leaves Vrindavana, it should be understood that the Lord voluntarily agrees to be in the company of His loving associates at least in thought. He is never required to listen to anyone.

Lord Krishna Krishna, as the only six-tool player in any game that He plays, is the most attractive individual to every person, regardless of the particular field of activity. Though the world we live in is temporary, the endless glory and beauty of Krishna are not. The aim in life is to develop a deep and loving attachment to the Supreme Spirit. One who sees God as He is, as the most attractive entity possessing the six opulences of importance to the fullest degree and simultaneously, will be able to derive the highest benefit out of their spiritual practice. Just as no one can beat Krishna in any contest of ability, no reward can surpass the eternal association He grants the sincere devotees.