Saturday, September 3, 2011

Radhashtami 2011

Shrimati Radharani“Shrimati Radharani is most dear to Lord Krishna, and Her lake known as Radha-kunda is also very dear to Him. Of all the gopis, Shrimati Radharani is certainly the most beloved.” (Padma Purana)

Radhashtami is the anniversary of the appearance day of Shrimati Radharani, the eternal consort of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The thrill felt by lovers courting one another, playing jokes and enjoying each other’s company, is found in its purified form in the intimate dealings between Radha and Krishna. To understand the transcendental nature of their interactions and derive the full benefit from hearing about them, one must be very fortunate. Without a properly situated consciousness, the conditioned mind will take Radha and Krishna’s interactions to be similar to the boyfriend and girlfriend dealings we are accustomed to seeing. Yet, just like the expensive antiques in the living room of the house, the pastimes between Radha and Krishna are meant to be enjoyed by those who understand its value. Put the priceless vase in the hands of children and they are liable to break it, not understanding its importance. With the benediction of wonderful holidays like Radhashtami on the Vaishnava calendar, any person can become familiar with Shrimati Radharani and her important position as Krishna’s most beloved.

Shrimati RadharaniIf you are God and you have someone who makes you extremely happy, it would make sense that your devotees would love her very much as well. We can just imagine the divine character of that pleasure-giving person, how many wonderful qualities they have. The Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita of Krishnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami lists some of Radharani’s most important qualities. She appeared on this earth as the daughter of King Vrishabhanu and Mother Kirtida. The exact sequence of events relating to her appearance can vary by creation. The variations found in Vedic literature do not give evidence to the theory that the information is just mythology or hyped up stories. On the contrary, as the creation and destruction of the earth and other material planets go through repeating cycles, the exact sequence of events pertaining to the pastimes of Lord Krishna and His associates isn’t always the same.

This also reveals why there are sometimes variations in the telling of the Ramayana, which describes the life and pastimes of Lord Rama, one of Krishna’s most famous incarnations. Indeed, even Goswami Tulsidas, who is sometimes criticized for having differences in his Ramacharitamanasa, provides a few different details in his other shorter poem on the same subject matter called the Gitavali. Was he not aware that he contradicted himself? Was he not aware that his versions of the events of Rama’s life differed slightly from what was found in the original Ramayana composed by Maharishi Valmiki? Obviously not, as the Lord doesn’t follow exactly the same behavior every single day. Just as our day is measured by the movement of the sun, the length of the creation is equated to one day of Lord Brahma, who is the creator. In each day of Brahma, there are cycles of the different yugas, with the sun that is Krishna appearing at similar times in each cycle. Though the spiritual sun that is Krishna doesn’t always follow the same path through the sky, the majority of the events relating to His pastimes occurs at similar times and follows similar patterns.

“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma's one day. And such also is the duration of his night.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.17)

Lord KrishnaWith Shrimati Radharani’s appearance, the earth was graced with the lotus feet of Krishna’s beloved. Around five thousand years ago the two roamed the sacred land of Vrajabhumi, performing wonderful pastimes together, many of which are documented in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, the crown jewel of Vedic literature. That the heartwarming tale of Radha and Krishna is included in this sacred work is enough to give it superior status. Though Vedic literature is quite vast and comprehensive, one needn’t study every single scriptural work to find full enlightenment. Rather, just lending an ear to the Bhagavatam and having an open mind when learning about Krishna, His beauty, His pastimes and the glories of His associates are enough to attain all the knowledge necessary in life.

Even if one isn’t given to hearing about Krishna, by visiting a place of pilgrimage, a tirtha, and taking bath in its sacred waters so many sins accumulated over many past lifetimes in the material world can be washed away. The soul is eternal, but the bodies it occupies are not. Just as our clothes get worn out and dirty over time, the dwellings occupied by the soul undergo development and decay. The sins accumulated are rooted in desire, with the consciousness not wanting to return to its constitutional position of pure loving devotion to the Supreme Lord. The inkling towards love is always there; but in the absence of bhakti, or pure devotion, it manifests in so many other forms. Only in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, does the loving propensity find a tangible outlet, a recipient who can never be smothered, a person who will never scorn the lover, a person who will instead find ways to increase the devotee’s attachment.

Krishna in VrindavanaOne of the most famous tirthas for devotees of Krishna is Radha-kunda. Adjacent to this is Shyama-kunda. These are the famous ponds dear to Radha and Krishna, and the story of how they came about is quite heartwarming. When Krishna appeared in Mathura in the prison cell of King Kamsa, He was immediately transferred to the neighboring farm community of Vrindavana, where He would be safe from the king’s wicked plots. A prophecy had warned Kamsa that his sister Devaki’s eighth son would kill him. Not taking any chances, the king locked up his sister and her husband Vasudeva in prison. With each son they produced, Kamsa came and threw the infant against a stone wall. He was anxiously awaiting Devaki’s eighth son to appear so that he could keep the tradition going.

Lord Krishna had arranged everything perfectly, so the prophecy was real and could not be reversed. Krishna decided to grow up in Vrindavana, though, to grace the residents there with His presence, for His childhood form and activities are the most attractive. Just imagine how much joy we get from watching our young sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren play around the house and try to learn to walk and talk. Add the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His immediate expansion Lord Balarama to the mix, and what you get is the unmatched pleasure felt by the residents of Vrajabhumi.

Balarama and KrishnaTo increase the transcendental satisfaction felt, there were many episodes involving danger, with Krishna able to save the day every time. Kamsa found out that Devaki’s child had made it to Vrindavana, so he sent demon after demon there to try to kill Him. One took the form of a bull and was named Arishtasura. He was killed easily by Krishna, but the Lord’s gopi friends were a little concerned with the manner of the slaying. The cowherd girls of the town were especially devoted to Krishna. Among the gopis, Shrimati Radharani was the chief, as she enjoyed Krishna’s company the most and had captured His heart.

A unique aspect of the mood of devotion practiced by the gopis is that they fly pass the stage of having reverence for God. For celebrity athletes and movie stars, it’s nice having adoring fans, but having peers and equals is more enjoyable because they allow for the exchanges of emotion to be more real. In devotional service, the transcendental mellows followed by the gopis are the topmost because they are more intimate than the reverential spirit usually reserved for God, who is the supreme powerful. It is not that one should just casually address Krishna and treat Him as an equal without cause. Rather, when the love is so strong, the attachment will be there no matter what, so there is no need to fear Krishna’s punishments, for He is like the dearest family member.

Shrimati RadharaniAfter Krishna killed the bull demon, the gopis were concerned that His sin of killing a bull would spread to the rest of the residents. Therefore they started thinking of a way to become absolved of this sin. While they were walking about, they ran into Shri Krishna, who was very happy about having saved the town from Arishtasura. When they saw Him, the gopis immediately chided Him. Shrimati Radharani told Him to stay away because He was contaminated by sin. Can we imagine saying such a thing? Krishna is the embodiment of purity. Sin only gets introduced when one is not tied to Krishna. The root cause of the material creation is forgetfulness of God, which thus forms the original sin. Since Krishna is the object of worship, He is incapable of behaving impiously.

The sentiments from Radharani were rooted in the most heartfelt emotions though. These sorts of insults gave great pleasure to Krishna, as it allowed Him to fire back with His own witty retorts. He told Radha that what He had killed was not actually a bull, but a demon in the guise of a bull. Therefore there could not be any sin attached to the demon’s slaying. Radharani, ever the wise Vedic scholar, quickly responded by referencing King Indra’s slaying of Vritrasura. Vritrasura was also a demon, but by birth he was a brahmana. Therefore Indra, the king of heaven, had to suffer the sin of having killed a brahmana, which is actually one of the most grievous transgressions one can make.

Radharani thus won this short, playful debate. When Krishna wanted to know how He could become absolved of the “sin”, Radha informed Him that He had to take a bath in all the sacred rivers. At this point Krishna gave up His fake humility and scoffed at her suggestion. Why would He need to visit any holy places? He is the Supreme Lord after all, so He can bring the sacred waters of the world to wherever He goes. Kicking the ground, the Lord was able to make a small ditch that soon filled up with Ganga water. Then the most sacred tirtha waters from around the world poured into the hole as well. Krishna then took His bath in front of the gopis, as if to show them He was now pure. After Radha downplayed this by saying that it was simply a display of Krishna’s illusion, to remove any doubt, the Lord then summoned the sacred rivers to reveal themselves.

Shrimati RadharaniAs the pastimes of Radha and Krishna completely delight the mind, it’s not surprising what happened next. Rather than accept that Krishna had now been purified and agree to His invitation to enter His newly created pond, Radha and the gopis claimed that the water had become contaminated by Krishna’s sins. Therefore if they were to step into His kunda, or pond, they would be infected with His sin. Radha then saw a hole in the ground nearby which had been created by the hoof print of Arishtasura. Taking her bangles, she started digging her own hole to be used as a bathing place. The many gopis that were there followed suit by using their bangles for digging as well. After the hole was made, they needed to fill it with water. The gopis were ready to travel far and wide to bring water from all the sacred places. Seeing their steady resolve, Krishna Himself summoned the same sacred rivers to come and fill Radha’s ditch.

With her kunda now built, Shri Krishna used His flute to break the dam separating the two ponds. The Lord then took a swim in the new Radha-kunda and declared its water to be sacred. These two bathing places still exist in Vrindavana, and devotees take tremendous delight in bathing in them, as there are tremendous spiritual merits accumulated from contact with these waters. Just as Radha is dear to Krishna, so is her bathing place of Radha-kunda. And Shyama-kunda is right next to it, so just by mentally taking a dip in both waters one can keep the image of Shri Shri Radha and Krishna in their minds for a long time. The aim of human life is to always remember the Lord and His dearmost associates. Among the devotees, none are dearer to Krishna than the gopis. And among the gopis, Shrimati Radharani is the best, for she gives so much pleasure to Krishna that He is fully surrendered to her. On Radhashtami we remember Krishna’s beloved, and we pray that she may have mercy on us and give us the boon of Krishna-bhakti, so that we may never forget the divine pastimes of Kishora-kishori and their sacred land of Vrajabhumi.

Radha and KrishnaIn Closing:

Shrimati Radharani to Krishna is most dear,

Her pastimes with the Lord pleasing to the ear.

On her appearance day her divine nature we remember,

Krishna’s spiritual senses enthralled just by seeing her.

One time after killing bull demon did Krishna walk,

On the way He saw the gopis, with whom did He talk.

Radha chastised Him, saying He was now contaminated,

For killing a bull, injunction of shastras He had violated.

“In holy waters Your body You must dip,

To become free of the sin, to tirthas take a trip.”

Instead, Shri Krishna made a hole in the ground with His heel,

Filling it with sacred waters, thrill of victory did He feel.

But Radha was not impressed, hoof print of Arishtasura she found,

Using their bangles to dig, by gopis large hole was made in the ground.

Krishna then summoned sacred rivers to fill Radha’s kunda,

New pond was loved by Him, found next to His Shyama-kunda.

On Radhashtami we remember Radharani and her beloved pond,

Of hearing of her love for Shri Krishna we are forever fond.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Hanuman holding Lord Rama“Those who trust in Shri Rama’s holy name, who have confidence in it and love for it, collect all good qualities and auspiciousness simply by remembering it, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 33)

rāma nāma para nāma teṃ prīti pratiti bharosa |
so tulasī sumirata sakala saguna sumangala kosa ||

A very simple formula for attaining success in life coupled with a wonderful reputation is provided by Goswami Tulsidas, a devotee of Lord Rama, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the form of a warrior prince. Though He might be given second billing because He is considered an incarnation of Krishna or Vishnu, Rama is lacking nothing in spiritual attributes, as He is the same Bhagavan, full of fortune and opulence. He holds the qualities of beauty, wealth, renunciation, strength, wisdom and fame to the highest degree and simultaneously.

Lord RamaAnother way to praise Rama is to view Him as the storehouse of all good qualities and virtues. If we’re looking for a particular item or object, it is best to search for it in a place that has it in full supply; this way we’ll know that the seller is familiar with the item in question and that they have dealt with it before. If we acquire our desired objects from a reputable source, we’ll know that they are genuine. Thus we can feel safe knowing that our product is of a good quality. In a similar manner, if we want to acquire the noteworthy qualities of piety, virtue, kindness, honesty, wealth, beauty and fame, we can strive for each one separately or we can go directly to the source of all goodness and collect on what we are due. The Supreme Lord is not stingy in this respect, as He is the most generous benefactor to those who know how to interact with Him properly. The nature of the interaction is the key, and thanks to the nice formula provided by Tulsidas, the proper exchange of emotion can be found very quickly.

Would God withhold His opulence from His children, those sons and daughters who are always linked to Him despite their forgetfulness of a higher power and His wonderful magnificence? Let’s think of it this way. Say one of our children approached us for some money. “Dad, can I have fifty dollars?” “Well, son, what are you going to use it for?” “I want to place a bet on tonight’s football game. I need fifty dollars to give to the bookmaker.” For the father in this example, fifty dollars is not a large sum of money, as he earns much more than that in the course of a week to support his family. In this particular instance money is not the issue, but rather how it will be spent. Gambling is certainly not a constructive activity, as it is delineated as one of the four primary sinful activities by the Vedas. Meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex are considered the most detrimental activities in terms of their effect on the consciousness, which is the determining factor in whether or not a living entity remains in the association of God. Therefore whatever activities can purify consciousness should be accepted, and anything that is harmful should be rejected.

Lord VishnuAside from the negative influence on fostering a spiritual consciousness, the father knows that the son has much better things to do than to waste his money on a wager. Therefore the father will deny the request, even though he is fully equipped to supply the fifty dollars. The Supreme Lord, who is the richest person in the world, can provide endless amounts of money to people that approach Him, but He will not do so without first evaluating the potential damage that can occur. With other spiritual personalities, who are known as devas, or demigods, the aforementioned evaluation is missing. These exalted figures are tasked with distributing benedictions to whoever pleases them properly, irrespective of the underlying motives. With the Supreme Lord, who can be worshiped as an abstract energy or through one of His non-different forms like Vishnu, Krishna, Rama and several others, you don’t always get what you want. He first surveys the situation and then decides if the benediction will be beneficial to the person asking for it. For these reasons many other spiritual personalities are often approached first, as the Supreme Lord is known to scrutinize in this manner.

In the eyes of the Lord, what reasons are considered legitimate for giving out rewards? How can we get wonderful qualities, saguna, and everything auspicious, sakala sumangala, from the person who is never bereft of anything? The father may provide fifty dollars to the son, but once that money leaves him, his net bank balance decreases. With the Supreme Lord, however, there is never a loss. He can dish out millions of dollars and still not suffer any loss to His personal fortune. Such apparent contradictions can only take place in the spiritual realm, where the proprietor defies all laws of logic, math and science. In the spiritual realm, one plus one can equal five, should the Supreme Lord declare it to be so.

The key to gaining Rama’s favor is to find out what He desires. Can God actually desire anything? Isn’t personal satisfaction a resort of the conditioned souls bewildered by the dualities of material existence and the mortality of every life form? As the storehouse of every beneficial virtue and quality, Shri Rama is certainly capable of desire, though His wants are spiritual and pure in every way. It shouldn’t surprise us that His desire actually corresponds with our own primary want, that of loving association. Nothing pleases the Supreme Lord more than to have the most intimate of relationships with His fragmental sparks, which include all the various forms of life on earth. But only in the human form of body can familiarity with Rama’s earnest wishes be acquired. Only in the human life can the fruit of existence be properly identified and hopefully tasted.

Krishna and Balarama with cowThat goal can be reached through many different avenues, as the necessary requirement is a sincere desire to associate with God. Though the solution seems easy, convincing the mind of the validity of the mission is not. Over many lifetimes on earth, the spirit souls inhabiting the world have steadily increased their aversion to loving God. Evidence of this is seen with the degraded practices that pass for virtue today. As an example, in earlier times killing an innocent animal for no justifiable reason was considered the greatest sin, especially if the animal was a cow. A cow kindly provides milk to the human being at no cost. The cow is still able to maintain its life and take care of its dependents after the milk is pumped, so there are only benefits to go around. Therefore killing the cow is worse than killing any other animal, as no other animal is as kind and benevolent.

We know that today killing cows is a lucrative business, as their milk is taken first, processed into other food products like cream, butter and cheese, and then the cow is mercilessly killed. The same milk products are then placed on top of the cooked meat, beef, to enhance the flavor. We could go on and on describing the sordid tale, but the point is that only through much elapsed time and increased deviation in thought from God and real religion can the situation evolve to the point where it is today, wherein slaughterhouses are seen as not a problem in the least bit, even by those who claim to be devoted to God.

The newly concocted dharmas, or systems of religiosity, make it difficult for the mind to be convinced of the need to serve God, as the basic demands of the body can seemingly be met without any attention paid whatsoever to spirituality. Fortunately for us, the saints, the true devotees who never deviated in thought, word, or deed from loving God, supplied us information on how to achieve life’s mission. In the above referenced verse from the Dohavali, Tulsidas provides a very simple formula, one that is complete in every way. The key ingredient to his formula, which is by no means a secret or one concocted personally by the poet, is the holy name, as this sound vibration brings direct audience with the Supreme Lord.

Lord RamaIf we regularly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, we are basically telling Lord Rama that we want to be by His side. We want Him always with us, and if we can’t see Him or if we somehow forget His beautiful form for even a second, we will simply chant His name again to revive our divine consciousness. In this respect even forgetfulness is auspicious, as it presents new opportunities to remember God. Since reciting the name of God signals a direct desire to be with the Supreme Lord, He will naturally oblige and give us His association.

Chanting alone can only take us so far, though. If we still have desires to use benedictions from the Supreme Lord for other purposes, we will not receive the full storehouse of attributes that the kind Lord and His beloved wife, Sita Devi, are ready to bestow upon us. Sita is considered an incarnation of Lakshmi Devi, the wife of Lord Vishnu in the spiritual sky. Nevertheless, Sita is an eternally existing figure, just like Rama. During her time on earth, she would charitably distribute the couple’s wealth to various persons who were deserving of it. She was always eager to go into the forest to visit sages and gift them with gold and jewelry. Sita is always anxious to bestow benedictions upon those who recite her husband’s name.

Sita DeviWhile the name of the Lord is the key ingredient in religious practice, the mood in which this sound vibration is chanted is the determining factor of whether or not the proper benedictions are received. Tulsidas says that the name of Rama should be chanted with confidence and love, with the devotee having full trust in its potency, depending on the sound vibration as their life and soul. When the name of Rama is chanted in this way, whenever the name is remembered, i.e. whenever it is heard or recited within the mind, all auspiciousness and benedictions come. In this way we see that there is a three step process. First, the name of God must be found and recited. Secondly, there must be love and faith in the chanting, along with trust in the person it represents. Dependence on the holy name means not holding on to any other process of religion or aspect of material life as being a more generous benefactor. This mindset is very difficult to achieve, because it is the natural tendency of man to believe that if he fails to perform a specific activity, he will become destitute or a loser. “If I fail to do my work properly, all my possessions and relationships will vanish. If I fail to eat properly, I will be unhealthy and lose my life.” These concerns are certainly valid, but having dependence on the name of Rama means putting the focus of concern into the chanting process. When the primary concern becomes the fear of the effects that will result from not chanting Rama’s name, the attitude of trust and dependence is adopted properly.

Hanuman worshiping RamaWhen the proper mood is there in chanting, all one has to do is remember the name of Rama and good things will come. More than just a rosy picture painted by Tulsidas, we know that this is a fact that can be proved by real life examples. Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant of Lord Rama, is proof positive that when the right mood is adopted, one will never be bereft of anything. Hanuman spends all his time chanting the names of Sita and Rama, and thus he is never lacking anything. In life he just requires the bare essentials to keep his devotional practices going. Sita Devi ensures that Hanuman is never without what he needs. But the greatest benediction he receives, aside from the wonderful qualities and virtues that belong to him and never exhaust, is the ability to continue to remember his beloved Rama. Hanuman is himself a storehouse of good qualities, so anyone who remembers him and his foremost occupational duty in life, devotion to Rama, will similarly be able to collect all good characteristics and auspicious qualities.

When there is dependence on the holy name acquired through a steady purification in consciousness that is concomitant with practice in bhakti, or devotion, Rama takes it as an indication of the devotee’s fervent desire to have His association. Therefore Rama will never deny their requests, nor will He hold back on sharing His limitless opulence. Rama is known as Bhagavan because of the fortunes He possesses, but the exalted devotees are also sometimes addressed as Bhagavan. They collect good qualities through their virtuous mindset, and they also have the greatest treasure of all, association with God through His holy name. Therefore there is no reason not to follow the formula outlined above, as one only becomes the greatest gainer by abandoning all other varieties of religion and surrendering unto the holy name and its potency.

Hanuman - devotee of Sita and RamaIn Closing:

Not all requests will the good father grant,

If harm will come, to son he will say, “I can’t”.

Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord, follows the same tact,

That He is Bhagavan, full of fortune, is a known fact.

If you want temporary rewards, demigods do you ask,

Unconcerned with motive, giving boons is their task.

Through time, the real religion man does forget,

Forges concocted dharmas and thinks they are the best.

Fruit of existence is the Supreme Lord’s association,

This comes from a sound vibration and its glorification.

Follow the formula of Tulsidas, poet and devotee of Rama,

Chant the name with love, and collect all good qualities as alms.

Have trust and confidence in the name,

Remember Shri Hanuman, of glorious fame.

Those who follow this formula have all their needs met,

By remembering Rama’s name, eternal bliss they get.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nothing To Do

Lord Krishna“O son of Pritha, there is no work prescribed for Me within all the three planetary systems. Nor am I in want of anything, nor have I need to obtain anything - and yet I am engaged in work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.22)

“Why should I worship Krishna? Why not give attention to another deity or even the abstract sound vibration om, which doesn’t directly address any specific person?” Since God’s transcendental qualities are impossible to fully enumerate, the task of convincing others why they should abandon every form of dharma except bhakti, devotional service, is a difficult one. Despite His being described as neti neti in the Vedas, which means “not this, not that”, the glories and transcendental qualities held by the Supreme Person are still worth mentioning, as the more we know about Him, the more the seed of devotional service found within the heart grows into a creeper, ideally culminating in the development of a full blown tree holding every tasty fruit imaginable. One of the more noteworthy qualities found in the Supreme Person in His original form of Lord Krishna is that He doesn’t have to do anything. No one can tell Krishna what to do, nor is He obligated to perform any work. Whatever He does is for His own pleasure, thus proving that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Lord KrishnaThe initial impulse for the maturing human being is to find a condition where life’s necessities are met to a satisfactory level, where necessary goods continually arrive without worry. The fact that the animal kingdom already has such needs met without any conscious thought given is overlooked, for the more possessions a human being acquires, the stronger the urge to protect and defend becomes. To ensure that a comfortable shelter is erected, that food is regularly supplied to the dinner table, and that clothing and other delights are available in sufficient quantities, the adult human being goes to work. He either starts his own business, becomes an independent contractor in a specific field, or goes to work for someone who runs their own business.

Irrespective of the specific path chosen, there is both service and obligation. The obligation itself entails service. The boss of a successful company must ensure that his customers are happy. Whether he is delivering a product or service, if there are no patronizing customers, the autonomy and power of the proprietor end up being meaningless. The most successful companies often have the hardest working owners. The employee can clock out when their shift is over, but to the proprietor the worry over profit and loss never ceases. If hard times are encountered, the workers can look for jobs elsewhere, but the owner must figure out a way to earn a profit, else risk losing his business, which is his life and soul.

After many years of working, the ideal end is retirement, the time in life when there is no longer an obligation to work. Enough money has been earned to provide for a sufficient standard of living, one that no longer requires the obligation of running a business or showing up to the jobsite. This time is highly coveted because of the relief of stress and pressure that it brings. Who wouldn’t want to live a life where you didn’t have to go to work? The only other time when such obligations are absent is during childhood, especially the years before schooling. Even while attending school during youth, there are vacations and time off, extended breaks not available to the adult worker. There are vacations and holidays sparsely populating the calendar for the busy business owner and laborers, but since adult workers are involved in a profit/loss game, not too much time can be missed from the business without a negative consequence resulting.

If we study the issue a little more closely, however, we’ll see that even retirees have to work. They have some sort of obligation they must meet. Either they have to tend to their children and grandchildren, travel to different places, or manage their finances. Even the “trust fund babies”, children born into wealth, make up obligations and duties for themselves. If they didn’t follow such obligations, there would be consequences that they would find unpleasant.

For one person, however, there is never any obligation. This is true for Him at any stage of life, which is a pretty significant fact considering that the length of His life is longer than any other person’s. Though the spirit soul travels through different species through reincarnation, its constitutional position never changes. The soul, or atma, is described as sanatana, or eternal, in the Vedas. This fact is difficult to comprehend from only using the known outward perceptions gathered in a particular stint in a particular form. The qualification is placed on “known” perceptions because not all sense observations are remembered or accounted for. During our childhood the length of time of one year was the same as it is during adulthood, but since consciousness wasn’t fully developed back then, the memories of those days and nights are almost all forgotten. Yet, just because we remember one event and forget another doesn’t mean that there are any differences between the two lengths of time.

“The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.5)

Lord KrishnaJust as we can’t remember the specific details of events in our life that took place many years ago, we have no memory of our experiences prior to the current life. Therefore the concept of sanatana needs identifying and explaining; otherwise the ignorant soul would simply associate with their present body, a form that is constantly changing. This association is silly because we know from our past that our body has constantly changed. An adult doesn’t consider themselves a kid, for they would never think of playing on slides and running through children’s parks as an adult. But surely during the time of childhood the identity was based on age and the makeup of the outer covering of the soul. Since this outer covering eventually completely changed, that past basis for identity was incorrect.

Similarly, the adult basing their identity off of their outward features makes a grievous error, for the entire covering will be discarded in favor of a new one at the time of death. Therefore the soul is accurately described as sanatana, though it has a choice as to which realm to occupy and what activities to adopt. When choosing in favor of the turbulent waters of the ocean of material existence, there must be obligations relating to such things as work, school and family interests.

The Supreme Person, the entity who’s realm is actually our natural home, is also sanatana, but in a different way. He remains in His body, unchanged for all of eternity. Even when He makes appearances in His material creation, His spiritual body is still unchanging, even though it seemingly goes through the natural shifts like from boyhood to youth, to adulthood, and so on. Along with His sanatana form comes a lack of obligation. Since the laws of karma, the effects of action and reaction, and the influences of the threefold miseries of life cannot ever touch Him, He never has anything to do.

Lord KrishnaMost of us refer to this person as God, but His specific features may not be as well known. Since in His original form His attributes are most fully represented, the name used to address Him in a loving way is Krishna, which means “all-attractive”. It must be noted that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, has many expansions, which include even the living entities. From one come many, but the many aren’t always equal to the one. When the one makes a personal expansion, the new form is identical in potency and supremacy to the original. When there are separated expansions, the qualities found in the Supreme Person are replicated only to a percentage, thus creating an inherent relationship between the two parties. The superior is always the same in quality as the inferior, but the inferior can never become superior. Where they are tied, however, is in interests. When the inferior becomes fully aware of their standing, they never leave the superior’s side.

“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, Bg. 4.7)

Whenever there is a decline in religious practice and a steady rise in irreligion, Krishna descends to earth either personally or in a non-different form. Based on this information it seems that Krishna has created an obligation. Since His appearance is tied to a specific condition on earth, it must mean that as soon as that condition is present, the Lord is compelled to appear. For instance, if we have a building equipped with a sprinkler system to deal with fire emergencies, as soon as the detector goes off, the sprinklers will turn on. Therefore the sprinklers are essentially obligated to act once a condition is met.

This actually isn’t true with the Supreme Lord. His appearing on earth to redress discrepancies in religious practice is simply out of His own whim, and it is not automatic. Rather, the statement relating to when and why He appears is made to give the unintelligent spiritual fragments trapped in a cycle of reincarnation a rudimentary understanding of why Krishna is sometimes visible and why He is sometimes not.

Lord RamaWhen the incarnations come, when Krishna personally remains in the spiritual sky but descends as an avatara, or non-different form, some obligations are seemingly put into place. For instance, as the warrior prince Lord Rama, Krishna assumed the role of a pious son, one following the tremendous example of virtue and dedication to righteousness passed down by the rulers of the Ikshvaku dynasty. Rama agreed to limit His activities to kingly duties and the exhibition of strength in defense of the innocent. Since Krishna can never hide His natural beauty, Shri Rama enthralled everyone with His stunning good looks and His kind nature. Therefore many people wanted to associate with Him intimately, but since He voluntarily abided by righteousness to set a good example, He only took one wife in His life, the glorious Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. Shri Rama also abided by the orders given by His superiors, such as the guru Vasishtha and the father King Dasharatha.

Other avataras have also followed obligations created based on the time and circumstance. Lord Narasimhadeva came for a brief period of time to specifically kill the demon king Hiranyakashipu, who was harassing his five-year old son Prahlada Maharaja. Lord Parashurama was only interested in killing, in wiping out the kshatriya race over and over again. Lord Vamanadeva came to liberate Bali Maharaja, and Lord Varaha came to save the earth when it was submerged in water.

Lord Krishna stealing butterWith Shri Krishna, however, the self-imposed obligations are virtually absent. Instead of abiding by dharma, travelling to certain places, or following orders so that society’s dedication to virtue can remain strong, Krishna simply plays on His flute. This is His most natural activity, as it gives Him tremendous pleasure. If He likes, Krishna enjoys with His cowherd friends, the cows, or even Mother Yashoda. Krishna is actually celebrated for His act of stealing butter from the stockpiles found in the neighbors’ homes. Shri Krishna is the wealthiest person in the world and lives under no one’s obligations, yet He steals from others because it gives Him pleasure. Since Krishna is the reservoir of all pleasure, anything He does to provide Himself happiness automatically brings pleasure to those who are connected with Him.

If someone were to come into our cupboard or pantry and take away our food that we had safely tucked away, obviously we wouldn’t be too happy. Yet the gopis of Vrindavana, while outwardly feigning anger and disappointment, were so thrilled to have the young Krishna, who was living with His foster parents Mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja in Vrindavana at the time, come and steal their butter. When they would complain to Mother Yashoda, the elderly gopis still would ask her not to punish Krishna, for they could not remain angry at Him, despite what He had done.

When the cows in Vrindavana would sometimes start running around uncontrollably or when the crowd of friends roamed away from Krishna’s side, the Lord would ascend a hill and start playing His flute. The sounds that emanated from this magical instrument had never been heard before, nor can they be found in any place in the material world. That flute sound is actually heard constantly in the spiritual sky of Goloka Vrindavana, which is the permanent residence of the Krishna devotees who think of Him at all times in their life, and especially at the time of death. As soon as Krishna would play His flute, everyone would settle down and fix their gaze upon their beloved Shyamasundara.

Since Krishna is not obligated to do anything, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His most complete form. If the Lord does seemingly take up an activity out of duty, it is done to simply provide pleasure to those who have abandoned hopes for enjoyment in material life. Krishna stays with those who want His association, who enjoy chanting His names found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, more than any other activity. Even the avataras and incarnations that follow obligations only do so because of the Lord’s love for His devotees. In this way, even though Krishna has no obligations and never has to worry about providing for Himself, when He sees others who need help finding their forgotten constitutional positions, innocent souls sincerely interested in adopting bhakti-yoga as a way of life, Krishna brings His beautiful image and pleasurable pastimes to the forefront of their consciousness. Though He has nothing to do, Krishna has everything to bring to the surrendered soul. To those who think of Him in a mood of pure love and devotion, Krishna runs at the speed of the mind to their location and gives them the pleasure they most certainly deserve.

Lord KrishnaIn Closing:

At the jobsite the dedicated worker tries his best,

To complete his tasks, to one day find real rest.

Retirement is seen as the panacea, for the dream of peace one hopes,

For reaching that end with the trouble of life the worker copes.

But obligations do never end, one must have something to do,

One needs activity, to keep the mind from feeling blue.

One person is so wonderful that He never has to act,

He is happy within Himself, that is a fact.

He is known as Shri Krishna because He is all-attractive,

At winning the hearts of the pious He is most effective.

He comes to earth to play on His flute,

His youthful figure so beautiful and cute.

From the neighbors’ homes does He steal butter,

Complain do the gopis to Yashoda His mother.

But once they see Krishna, their anger do they forget,

“Let Him come to our homes, a glance at His smile we’ll get.”

For Krishna there is nothing to do, no obligations,

For the devotees He comes to earth, to relieve their frustrations.

For this He is ever worthy of love and adoration,

Chant His name always and you will get liberation.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Deciphering Enthusiasm

Hanuman“(Hanuman did not see Sita) who was firmly situated on the eternal path of devotion to her husband, had her gaze always fixed on Rama, was always possessed by love for Rama, had entered the glorious mind of her husband, and was always the most exceptional of women.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 5.24)

sanātane vartmāni samniviṣṭām |

rāmekśaṇāṃ tāṃ madanābhiviṣṭām |

bharturmanaḥ śrīmadanupraviṣṭām |

strībhyo varābhyaśca sadā viśiṣṭām ||

“Do I have to? I really don’t want to. Can’t I do it later? Can’t we go some other time?” The dependent compelled to act will be reluctant to take up their assigned duties. The chances of enthusiasm being absent increase when force is applied. As such, the success of the mission, and the enjoyment experienced while performing it, will also be notably missing. But nevertheless, these tasks are sometimes very helpful, for Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavad-gita that those things which at first seem like poison but then later on turn into sweet nectar are in the mode of goodness, which is the level of material activity most conducive towards realizing the highest system of knowledge. Some tasks are more difficult than others; thus making it harder for the leader to find able bodied persons willing to take them up. With one combination of individual and task, however, there was no need for a pep talk. Because of the nature of the mission and its targeted beneficiaries, this worker was full of enthusiasm and conviction, so much so that he felt tremendous dejection anytime it seemed like success wouldn’t come. Because of this emotional response he is the most endearing person to those who are trying to find the true light in life, the spiritual sunshine that provides unending comfort.

Mother Yashoda with Lord KrishnaUnwanted tasks are introduced during childhood. The child is a bundle of energy; it can play for hours on end and find ways to stay amused. The child has no worries about where they are in life, how they will pay the monthly bills, or what their future goals should be. The new blood that joins this earth is after preyas, or immediate satisfaction of the senses. It is therefore up to the guardians to instill some discipline, to get the child to follow some regulated behavior so that they can reach a higher end. It is likely that in our childhood our mother and father gave us specific chores that required completion on a regular basis. Taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, and cleaning the room are not jobs accepted with enthusiasm, but they are nevertheless necessary responsibilities because of our parents’ insistence.

Then there are the infamous family trips. Though the child may not know this, their parents are no different than them in terms of how they choose to enjoy. The parents have siblings and friends of a similar age that they enjoy spending time with, though these people may not live very close by. When the weekend arrives after a difficult work week, the parents may just want to get out of the house and see their loved ones and close friends. For the children, such trips aren’t always welcome because the impetus for the visit is rooted in the parents’ interests. It is not surprising therefore for the child to put up opposition. “Why do I have to go? They’re your friends. Why can’t I just stay home by myself?” If the child is not old enough to take care of itself at home or if the parents want to maintain a strong family presence during their visit, they will compel the child to go. Left with no other choice, the child reluctantly follows, all the while refusing to have a good time.

While these difficulties must be endured during childhood, adults have more independence. There is a choice with every action, an up or down vote whether to accept or reject. In the business world the motivation, the driving force influencing the outcome of the mental poll, is the benefit received by the worker. Employees show up to work on time because they expect compensation from the employer. While at work, different tasks are undertaken, some of which are not so pleasant, simply to satisfy the boss, who will in turn pay a salary.

For the employer, the person assigning the tasks, it is beneficial for the employees to have enthusiasm while working. This will make them more invested in the outcome. With every action there is the initial work applied and the corresponding result. The employee’s primary obligation is to apply the work. The results are not always guaranteed, nor can they be predicted. Obviously for the employer the priority system is reversed. The person assigning the task is more interested in seeing the intended result. The actual work undertaken certainly shows effort on the part of the employee, but if there is failure encountered on a regular basis, the work applied isn’t very effective. Without a successful outcome, the employer is essentially wasting money on fruitless work.

The employer loves to see enthusiasm in his workers, because they know this will increase the chances of success, of reaching the intended outcome. The child forced to go to grandma’s house on a Saturday will not be very happy; they will not be a pleasant person to be around. Similarly, a worker just going through the motions will not have anything invested in the outcome. If there is no fear of failure, the chances of not succeeding increase all the more. When there is enthusiasm, however, there is an emotional attachment to the job. The worker desperately wants to see a successful outcome, as it will please both them and the person distributing the task.

For the employer, gauging the level of enthusiasm in the field of candidates is often difficult. In the beginning, the qualities belonging to each candidate will be reviewed. “Okay, this person has done such and such in the past. It looks like they are dependable and take orders very well. This other person looks like they can work independently and handle difficult situations. This other person has every skill necessary for the job.” When all the relevant factors have been taken into consideration, a final judgment is made.

A high enthusiasm level will naturally put a prospective candidate into a better position, but how do we judge this? Surely a candidate can verbally express how desperate they are to undertake the task in question. “Please give me the job. I’m ready. I’m up for the task. I won’t let you down.” If these statements are to be accepted, the employer must invest some faith in the worker, as they will have to assume that the candidate is being honest about how they feel. A way to get more assurance, however, is to get references, i.e. talk to people who know the worker and can vouch for their enthusiasm and ability to carry out specific tasks.

Sita DeviWith Shri Hanuman, the Vanara warrior asked to find a missing princess, all of the necessary qualifications were there. Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama, had gone missing while she was residing in the forest of Dandaka. Her husband was the strongest bow warrior of the time, but when He was temporarily lured away from the couple’s cottage, a fiendish character swept in and forcibly took Sita with him. No one was really sure where she had gone, or if she was even still alive. Sita was fixed in a vow of dedication to her husband, so she could never survive long without being in His company. Indeed, it would be learned later on that she only kept her vital breath within her body by keeping her thoughts fixed on her husband, His qualities, and the time they previously spent together.

Since outwardly there was not even a hint as to where Sita had been taken, Rama thought it wise to enlist the help of others. Who better than the Vanaras of Kishkindha, who were monkey-like creatures beaming with enthusiasm for pleasing Rama? A monkey is especially known for being hyper and capable of jumping from tree to tree without exhaustion. These monkeys were more human-like, as these events took place in an ancient time. The Darwinists believe that man descended from monkeys, but the Vedas correctly reveal that dull matter is incapable of causing shifts in species. Without a spiritual injection, no form of body, which is nothing more than a machine, can do anything. Without a driver an automobile just remains stationary. Even in advanced airplanes that can fly themselves, there must be the human influence of a programmed computer or remote pilot available.

Vanaras fighting for RamaSpecies are crafted according to specific combinations of the material elements of earth, water, fire, ether and air, along with mind, intelligence and ego. No life form is capable of creating a new permanent species on its own; as nature has full control over the human being. Just as we can’t stop the sun from rising and setting, we can’t suddenly generate a new race of human beings having three hands or some other advanced feature set. While the bodies themselves don’t evolve, the souls that reside within them can travel from one form to another. This is known as transmigration, or reincarnation. In the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, conditions on earth were so pure that even the monkey race had advanced characteristics. When the presence of the mode of goodness is strong, the abilities of a species are enhanced. The Vanaras, who were forest dwellers more than anything else, were predominantly monkey-like, but they nevertheless had the ability to think rationally at times and converse with human beings.

The leader of the Vanaras in Kishkindha was Sugriva, and he had a massive army of monkeys at his disposal. To find Sita, however, required great effort, courage, resourcefulness, intelligence and humility. This last quality would come in handy because the worker would have to follow specific instructions and not alter the objectives of the mission. Whoever would find Sita would certainly be praised for their accomplishment, but if their ego got too large, if they suddenly felt they were superior to others, they might violate the orders given. Rama wanted Sita to be found, but He was going to rescue her Himself. Shri Rama was of the princely order, so it was His duty to protect the innocent. If He had to rely on others to rescue His wife, His and His family’s stature would immediately be deprecated.

Lord RamaThough Sugriva dispatched thousands of monkeys to scour the earth in a frantic search, he knew that only Hanuman had any real chance of succeeding. Hanuman was Sugriva’s trusted aide, and he had many times prior proven the worthiness of his high position. Seeing his qualities personally and trusting Sugriva’s words, Rama had full confidence in Hanuman’s ability to succeed in the task. Indeed, the Vanara would go on to perform amazing feats, such as leaping across a massive ocean and defeating several powerful forces obstructing his path.

Hanuman’s enthusiasm didn’t need to be proven, as he was always devoted to Rama. Though he barely knew the prince of the Raghu dynasty or His younger brother Lakshmana, Hanuman could decipher their divine natures. Thus when he was told to find Sita, Hanuman took the mission as his life and soul. As if there were any doubt on the matter, when on the precipice of finding the divine princess, Hanuman would once again show us his terrific enthusiasm, his undying love for Rama and his eagerness to please Him.

HanumanSita Devi had been taken to the island of Lanka, which was inhabited by Rakshasas headed by their leader Ravana. These creatures were similar to ghoulish monsters, almost like ogres. They were attached to sinful behavior and thus lived mostly in the mode of darkness. Hanuman reached the shores of Lanka and then entered the city in a guise difficult to spot. Since he had mastery over every yogic siddhi, or mystical perfection, Hanuman could change the size of his stature at will. Taking on a form having the dimensions of a cat, Hanuman scurried through the city and searched different places looking for Sita. But he could not find her. Instead, he found many beautiful women, all dedicated to their ogre-like husbands. The women were looking very nice, but Hanuman could not be distracted.

Normally, seeing such opulence and beauty would bring some pleasure to the mind. After all, the entire aim of sightseeing is to gaze at amazing wonders, things that are not seen in ordinary life. Living in the forest his whole life, Hanuman was not accustomed to the wonderful opulence found in Lanka. But from the above referenced passage from the Ramayana, we see that he was still dejected even after having gone on a most wonderful visual tour. Since he was searching for Sita, it’s safe to assume that Hanuman noted every inch of space within Lanka. Therefore he was well acquainted with the city and its inhabitants; yet he was still unhappy.

HanumanTo give us an indication of why Hanuman was not pleased, some of Sita Devi’s foremost qualities are listed. These stand in stark contrast to the qualities possessed by any normal person, let alone the queens in Lanka. Sita was eternally chaste, as Ravana had tried to win her over many times, but she flat out refused. Sita Devi is actually the goddess of fortune and her husband the Supreme Lord Narayana. Their time on earth was like the showing of a play, with the actors playing their roles perfectly. If Sita and Rama weren’t divine figures, the Ramayana would be no more important than any ordinary poem. Hanuman’s stature and endearing nature are further enhanced by the fact that he was ever devoted to the Supreme Lord and His wife. Hanuman doesn’t dedicate his life and soul to just ordinary people who have no relation to God.

It is also said that Sita always kept her eyes fixed on Rama. Even when not in the company of her husband, she simply kept her mind’s eye fixed on the Lord, whom yogis, mental speculators and ascetics undergo trials and tribulations to understand. God is always there for those who love Him, and amongst such lovers none can be more dedicated than Sita. These facts were well known to Hanuman, as it is also mentioned in the above passage that Sita was the very mind of her husband and that she was the most exalted woman. God is atmarama; He is in need of nothing. The general tendency for the illusioned soul is to try to see God or find Him in different places. Yet the devotees are so wonderful that the Lord always sees them. Sita Devi, through her devotion and divine qualities, etched a permanent mark in the mind of her husband. Hanuman was fully enthralled just by thinking of Sita’s qualities and her strong devotion. She was the only person he wanted to meet. Even if he saw the most beautiful women and greatest level of opulence, he would still not be deterred in his mission.

Hanuman’s dejection over not having found Sita shows that his enthusiasm for serving Rama was unmatched. While the eagerness to serve can be measured by the behavior shown at the beginning of a task, it can be more accurately ascertained later on down the line. If there is temporary failure or things don’t go as planned, the reaction of the worker provides the best indication of their interest in the mission. Hanuman showed eagerness at the beginning of the task, and he also had references to his qualities given by Sugriva. Yet when he felt such strong dejection after having not found Sita in Lanka, Hanuman showed that he took the mission as seriously as Rama did.

Hanuman thinking of Sita and RamaSita and Rama are Hanuman’s very life and soul, and his enthusiasm towards pleasing them is unmatched. Because of this eagerness, he would eventually succeed. Hanuman only wants to think of God and sing His glories. Through accepting difficult missions assigned to him, Hanuman further glorifies the Supreme Lord by showing the benefits of devotional service. While Sita and Rama are worshipable for their divine qualities, wonderful nature and kind-heartedness, their glories are further increased by the brilliance of their most enthusiastic servant, Shri Hanuman. Whoever is fortunate enough to remember Hanuman for who he is and honor and respect his level of dedication will never be out of favor with God. To them will come the rarest, most unique and most valuable gift of all: divine love.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Doomed To Repeat It

Lord Krishna“Modern stories, fiction and histories are different from the transcendental pastimes of the Lord in that one will tire of hearing mundane stories, but one never tires of hearing about Krishna. It is for this reason only that the history of the whole universe is replete with references to the pastimes of the incarnations of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 10.18 Purport)

There is a famous proverb stating that those who don’t learn from history will be doomed to repeat it. The saying has a double meaning, with one side being humorous. When taught to history students, the warning is that if they don’t study the material presented, they will have to learn it again in the following year. The same rule applies to pretty much any class, but with history the statement has a deeper meaning, as lessons can be taken away from historical events. In addition to the potential for acquiring knowledge on what to do and what to avoid, history is studied as a discipline to learn about great men, to honor them, and to delve into their characteristics. Lest we think spiritual life is lacking such detailed information, the Puranas, and most notably the famous Mahabharata, give us all the history we could ever absorb in one lifetime. The men documented within these texts are the greatest of the great, and their journeys through life provide the most valuable lesson of all, namely of how to escape from the clutches of material existence.

Founding fathersHow history is eligible to be an academic pursuit can be revealed through studying any time period, so for this example we’ll take the recent Revolutionary War. The men who founded the United States of America are referred to as the Founding Fathers, and their lives have been well documented, studied, honored and even criticized in the two hundred plus years of the nation’s existence. The notable personalities of this group, like George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, are quoted from regularly by politicians and historians, for their statements carry much relevance even today. But if we delve a little deeper into the matter, what do we actually learn from the examples set by these great men? For having founded a nation which has been the most materially prosperous in recent history they are certainly noteworthy personalities, but what are the real lessons to take away from their behavior?

The result of their hard work was the Constitution, which was preceded by the Declaration of Independence. Both of these documents represent an abject rejection of the style of government endured by the colonists prior to the founding of the country. The British ruled over America, with different colonies having their appointed governors. The issues of taxation without representation and control and command coming from far overseas were eventually unbearable for the colonists. Therefore when they finally gained independence, they crafted a style of government which was unique, or so they thought. All of the issues previously encountered were addressed in such a way that the same situation would hopefully never repeat itself.

ConstitutionThe Constitution strictly limited the powers of the central government, essentially making the largest governing body in charge of just the military and seeing to it that foreign enemies did not break up the union. The central government wasn’t even given the authority to tax citizens’ income. Add to this the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and what you get is a framework document that explicitly prohibits Congress from doing so many things, such as infringing on the freedom of religion, press and protest, and the ability to carry firearms. The individual colonies, now known as states, were given almost full autonomy, essentially making them smaller countries. This style of government was known as federalism, and it was intended to ensure that the same policy mistakes made by the British wouldn’t be repeated.

Fast forward to today and it’s understandable why the Revolutionary War, the Constitution, and the men responsible for them are studied and their works often cited from. The style of government was certainly unique, but it definitely wasn’t free of flaws. The most obvious indication of this is that the government today bears almost no similarities to the country that was originally founded. The prohibition on levying income taxes went by the wayside in the early 20th century, and federalism now is virtually absent. The issues today don’t revolve around what activities government will be allowed to undertake, but rather on how the government will spend the trillions of dollars that annually pour into the treasury.

Since over two hundred years have passed since the nation’s founding, obviously modern politicians and their voters can’t be blamed for the stark contrast, but if we delve a little deeper into the matter, we see that with a framework document and a system of government put into place, there is every chance of all possible outcomes occurring in the future. Therefore in one sense today’s massive government is a direct byproduct of a system enacted by famous men who are studied and honored. The Constitution was crafted after much compromise, debate and consideration made by flawed human beings. Whatever document they would have come up with would have had issues. After all, the government of England did not start out hated by the colonies. It took a sequence of events to raise the ire of the colonists to the point that they demanded independence.

US MapSince the flaws from the Constitution and other famous governing documents haven’t been permanently addressed, it’s safe to say that the history classes and the attention given to past notable figures haven’t really been fully learned from. History as an academic course is meant to provide education after all, so if the subject matter and the people studied are themselves flawed, the potential for knowledge is immediately limited. The same goes for the study of any historical personality, be they a famous politician, singer, inventor, athlete, etc.

A human being is naturally inclined towards honoring others, towards heaping praise upon their fellow man, which includes historical personalities. Therefore the interest in history is completely understandable. Even if there is no one around in the house, sometimes it is seen that a dog or cat is brought home so that the lonely person has someone they can direct their loving sentiments towards.

scenes from the MahabharataWhen it comes to the bona fide discipline of spirituality that is the Vedas, every single issue known to man is addressed, including that of wanting to offer praise. With historical personalities devoid of full God consciousness, the praise offered to them is always checked. But with personalities fully dedicated to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, their glories are never ending. Studying about them from famous texts like the Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata brings endless joy and renewed thought, concern and care.

Out of all the Vedic texts, the Mahabharata is the most inclusive in terms of history. In one sense it can be considered the greatest history book, for it contains details of events that are found in many other books. Even the events documented in the Ramayana, the famous Sanskrit poem composed by Maharishi Valmiki many thousands of years ago, are included in summary in the Mahabharata. Every kind of person, from political leader to yogi, from child to dedicated wife and mother, is accounted for in the Mahabharata.

Since the work focuses on history tied to spirituality, the lessons that can be learned are unmatched. For starters, there is the main subject line of the work: the plight of the five Pandava brothers to regain their kingdom. They were the rightful heirs to the kingdom in Hastinapura, but their cousins, known as the Kauravas, had unjustly usurped control and tried to kill the Pandavas on many occasions. Through the travels of the five brothers, much can be learned about Vedic culture, how to deal with political enemies, how children should be raised, how to treat elders, when violence should be used and when it shouldn’t, and, most importantly, what the meaning of life is.

ArjunaHow do we figure out the meaning to our existence by studying about warriors roaming the earth some five thousand years ago? How is reading about people who fought with bows and arrows going to help us solve today’s problems? Aside from the obvious lessons learned from the different activities documented, the hidden jewel in the Mahabharata is the one very small chapter describing a conversation between Arjuna, the lead warrior for the Pandava side, and his charioteer. The chariot driver is a subordinate, someone who takes orders from the fighters. Similar to a caddy in golf, the driver makes helpful suggestions every now and then, but they are certainly not as skilled in the task at hand as the person in charge is.

Yet in Arjuna’s case, his charioteer happened to be Lord Krishna, the Supreme Lord, Bhagavan, the person most of us call God. How the Supreme Lord, the most worshipable person in the world, the one entity who never has to listen to anyone or succumb to lowly tasks, could take on the role of a subordinate in the face of a massive opposing army is a mystery known only to those who practice the ancient art of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. A yoga studio is a classroom-like environment where an instructor demonstrates different postures and helps their students attain a similar level of ability. These studios are very well patronized today because they deliver tremendous health results.

Bhakti-yoga, however, is so powerful that if a person were to practice it during these same sessions in the studio, they would find benefits applicable to every part of life, not just to their physical wellbeing. Meditational yoga leads to benefits in health, flexibility, and longevity in life, but bhakti tackles the very consciousness of the individual, allowing them to be fit, ready and in shape for any type of mental condition, both peaceful and distressful.

Krishna and ArjunaUnfortunately, the massive array of bhakti-yoga studios doesn’t exist. There are no regular classes given to teach paying students how to practice divine love, how to surrender their thoughts and desires over to God in a mood of pure love. Fortunately, we can just consult the one small part of the Mahabharata to find out all we need to know about bhakti. The conversation between Arjuna and Krishna would go on to be known as the Bhagavad-gita, or the Song of God. Since the Mahabharata stores this wonderful keepsake, it is known as the fifth Veda, or the supplement to the four primary Vedas, which are the divisions of spiritual knowledge passed down from the beginning of time by Shri Krishna Himself.

What is so remarkable about the Bhagavad-gita? What can we learn from that short conversation that we can’t find anywhere else? Reincarnation, the true position of the soul, the identity of the individual, the temporary nature of loss and gain, how to deal with distress, elation, heartache, pain and misery, and so many other issues are addressed in the advice given to Arjuna. Lord Krishna is the fountainhead of knowledge after all, so when He speaks the whole world should gather around with their recording devices and take notes.

Lord KrishnaThough there wasn’t such technology around back then, the wonderful Vyasadeva, the most prolific writer of spiritual works in history, documented what went down on the battlefield that day. The Mahabharata was compiled by him, so anyone who is fortunate enough to hear from the sacred work can be supremely benefitted. The words spoken by Krishna that day have been studied by many since that time, but only the devotees, those who either follow in the line of Arjuna or reach the same conclusion that he did, will be able to make full use of Krishna’s words.

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

The final conclusion of the Gita is that Arjuna should simply surrender unto Krishna and abide by His orders. This would eliminate his doubts and any chances of incurring sin as well. Krishna protects the surrendered soul. Therefore this recommendation applies to every single living entity, existing past, present and future. One who accepts the conclusion of the Gita and makes it their way of life follows bhakti-yoga. They can also teach others how to follow the same art. From studying the history of the Mahabharata, and the most wonderful Bhagavad-gita contained within, the enthusiastic listener of Vedic wisdom constantly shines light on an otherwise dark universe, which is filled with so much information that bears no impact on the spirit soul, the essence of identity.

Krishna and ArjunaJust as the Bhagavad-gita is glorious for its profound wisdom, so its speaker is forever worthy of praise and adulation. His position as Partha-sarathi, or Arjuna’s charioteer, was not Krishna’s only pastime enacted during His brief time on earth during the Dvapara Yuga. The crown jewel of Vedic literature, the Shrimad Bhagavatam, highlights the many important pastimes Krishna enacted, especially those from His youth in the farm community of Vrindavana. While the skeptics may take the accounts found within these works to be mythology, we know that fictional superhero movies and novels are well patronized. Glorifying the characters in these works doesn’t help us in any real way, for at best we can learn that material existence involves a constant struggle with evil elements lurking around every corner.

But even if one isn’t apt to believe in the reality of Krishna’s existence, just hearing about His exploits and His teachings on a regular basis can provide so much clarity of vision. The Pandavas were devotees of Krishna, so their being the main subject matter of the Mahabharata proves beneficial to anyone interested in sincerely studying the work. Shri Krishna knows man’s propensity to learn about great men and to offer praise to their fellow man. Therefore He kindly gave us the voluminous Vedic literature to ensure that we would always have something worthwhile to hear about and learn from. Even if there is no interest in studying Vedic history, simply reciting Krishna’s names on a regular basis through sacred mantras like, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is enough to keep the bhakti spirit alive.

Arjuna and KrishnaFrom mundane history we can learn why perseverance is important, what types of government to avoid, where and when certain colonies and countries were founded, and why past notable figures are worthy of praise and attention. Studying Vedic literature, however, can teach us about how to perform bhakti and make the most out of the valuable human form of life. In this way not only will the mistakes of the past be avoided, but so will rebirth. Reincarnation stops for the Krishna conscious soul, thereby eliminating the chances of ever having to take to knowledge gathering again. Arjuna found sublime wisdom by tapping into Krishna consciousness, which happened to be right next to Him in the form of the Lord. Similarly, by dovetailing our thoughts and desires with Krishna’s interests, everything we could ever want in life, including an object of praise who never leaves our side, can be found very easily.