Saturday, December 3, 2011

Defined By Attributes

Arjuna“As there are symptoms for each and every man, in terms of his particular situation, similarly one who is Krishna conscious has his particular nature—talking, walking, thinking, feeling, etc. As a rich man has his symptoms by which he is known as a rich man, as a diseased man has his symptoms, by which he is known as diseased, or as a learned man has his symptoms, so a man in transcendental consciousness of Krishna has specific symptoms in various dealings.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.54 Purport)

“I am a Christian; I am a Jew; I am a Hindu.” These identifications are inherited from the parents. That the offspring should openly admit to accepting these designations shows that there is some regard for a higher power, a system of maintenance that should bring rewards which span beyond the current lifetime. These acknowledgments indicate advancement from the foolish mentality that erroneously claims that there is no God or that religion is for the weak who can’t deal with life’s troubles. Spirituality’s main purpose is not for finding insulation from pain, gaining material success, acquiring knowledge, or achieving an end that involves no activity. Just as in any other venture, the leap into spiritual life looks to find a condition that is an improvement from the starting point. Though the acknowledgment of religion, the rubber stamping of a particular faith, at least shows there is some belief in God, a truly spiritually inclined person is identified by their attributes, the qualities they exhibit through behavior. If we have difficulty believing this, we can study how other identifications are made.

tissuesIf we claim to have a particular illness but don’t have any symptoms, what effect does the illness have? I go up to my friend and say, “I have a cold.” He responds with: “Really, how bad is it? Are you coughing? Are you sneezing? Do you feel weak in the body?” I come back with: “No. I feel fine. Actually, I don’t have any symptoms of a cold at all.” The friend will certainly look at me funny. If I don’t have any of the symptoms of a cold, what good is claiming that I have one? The designation means something; it must have an effect for the claim to be valid.

A symptom of a businessman is his dedication to the particular business. He wants to earn a profit, so he has some work that he does to sell a good or service for a price that is higher than what it costs him to produce. Investments follow the same principle, for the aim is to gain a return that is higher than the amount initially put into the venture. The doctor has symptoms of being able to heal patients, knowing how to diagnose diseases, and having completed medical school. Even something as simple as an identification based on country of origin has some symptoms, like the person living in the country where they were born.

The rules apply to spiritual life as well. A spiritualist in name only is one who applies a designation to himself and then does not alter his behavior. The topmost transcendentalist is known as a bhakti-yogi, someone who follows the discipline of divine love. Is it possible to make qualitative judgments between spiritualists? Can we say that one person’s religion is better than another’s? The terms “bhakti” and “yoga” have nothing to do with country of origin, the religion of the parents, the entity identified as the most worshipable figure, or even the level of intelligence.

Bhakti and yoga come to us from the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, but their definitions are presented from the scientific point of view. Science is appealing to those not spiritually inclined because there is no dogmatic insistence, or at least there isn’t supposed to be. In reality, even the field of science is riddled with politics and bias. As an example, those who claim that mankind’s behavior has an effect on weather will vilify anyone who dares refute the claim. Even if the countervailing evidence is backed up with scientific research, which is the equivalent of the scripture in the spiritual tradition, the proponents with their own agenda will not want to accept anything that refutes their claim.

Bhagavad-gitaFor the sober person, however, the scientific basis for spirituality and its components is a refreshing departure from the “finger in your face” persuasion methods employed by some overzealous preachers. For a valid religion there must be a combination of both philosophy and sentiment, which the Vedas nicely provide. Those who are interested in this method of instruction can take the most valuable lessons from the Bhagavad-gita, a short treatise on spirituality that packs a powerful punch. Select pearls of wisdom from the Gita cannot be found anywhere else. And these truths are so profound that they will spawn endless thought and discussion, thus allowing for enlightenment to mature gradually, with knowledge increasing further with each passing day.

In scientific terms, bhakti is pure love; the desire to please another object without any personal motive. What is a personal motive? One’s satisfaction, happiness, advancement in stature, pleasure, etc. all constitute personal rewards. If they are explicitly sought through an exhibition of love, then the behavior cannot be categorized as bhakti. Yoga is the term that describes the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. The thinking person can see that there is an energy guiding behavior, instigating action across nature, within every kind of species. Even the weather is instigated by some action, for we know that matter is inanimate and thus inferior to the higher force. The Vedas define that higher force as spirit, which is localized within specific body types. This is one way we can perceive spirit in our present circumstances.

“Besides this inferior nature, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.5)

Since there is spirit within everything that has life, we know that all beings are equal in their constitution. Just because one person wears designer clothes and another rags doesn’t mean there is anything inherently different about the two people. The Vedas go one step further by applying this principle across the full spectrum of life. The cat, dog, ant, germ, plant, and human being are spiritually equal. We only perceive differences because of the outward symptoms, the behavior that is exhibited. This is where the human beings have a leg up. They can understand terms like “bhakti”, “yoga” and “dharma” and then use that understanding to alter behavior. The new outward symptoms thus lead to a future end, one that can be supremely beneficial.

Along with the individual soul, there is the Supreme Soul, who resides locally next to the individual soul within each body type. Without yoga, there is no way to recognize the superior soul’s presence. In a state of ignorance just believing that a superior force rests inside us is difficult. Through steady practice of regulative principles, however, the linking in consciousness between the individual and the Supreme can take place. Bhakti is added to the mix to ensure that the linking provides the highest pleasure, the greatest benefit.

Are there other kinds of yoga? As most people today are familiar with, yoga is popular as an exercise discipline. This shouldn’t be misunderstood to mean that the yoga involving sitting postures and breathing exercises has any purpose outside spirituality. The term is still the same, and so is the ideal goal. The senses are the force that most strongly inhibits the realization of the Supreme Soul. Therefore through meditational yoga, which can involve the gymnastics we are accustomed to seeing, the influence of the senses can be mitigated to the point that the Supreme Soul can be better realized.

Of course with the reduction in the influence of the senses come tremendous health benefits. With the passage of time, those not interested in spirituality took the ancillary benefit of improved health to be the superior reward. Therefore yoga morphed into what it is today, where the delineation between the two souls and the need for connecting them are not touched upon at all. In addition to meditation, one can perform yoga through sacrificing fruits of work [karma] and through studying the differences between matter and spirit and finding enlightenment [jnana].

Lord Krishna's fluteBhakti-yoga is considered the topmost discipline because it connects with the Supreme Soul in His original form. That person the world refers to as God actually has spiritual attributes, features which are complete and inexhaustible. The more the features are defined, the more the abstract vision clears up, the greater the benefit received by the yogi. In other kinds of yoga, God in His personal form of Bhagavan cannot be understood. Perhaps in meditation there is the realization of this form of God residing within the heart, but the pleasurable interaction of emotion is absent.

Bhakti-yoga operates on love, so every activity within the discipline is an offering of love made to Bhagavan. The quintessential act of bhakti-yoga is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Again, these names can be understood from the scientific point of view. God is the most attractive; therefore we can call Him Krishna. He provides transcendental pleasure to those who directly interact with Him; therefore we can call Him Rama. He has an energy that pleases Him known as Hara; therefore we can make the call “Hare” to ask for help in serving Krishna.

A person who follows bhakti-yoga is known to be Krishna conscious, which means that their individual soul remains linked with God. More than just a title, there are symptoms that result. We may claim to be following a certain religion based on the word of our parents or the perfunctory rituals we follow reluctantly in our own lives, but the real mark of a spiritually inclined person is the behavior they show from their characteristics. Consciousness - where it is situated and what it feels is most important in life - is the foundation of the behavior. A Krishna conscious person feels that devotion to Krishna is the ultimate objective, the height of activity, either spiritual or material.

Lord KrishnaService to Krishna follows authorized methods, recommendations from those who follow bhakti-yoga themselves. It is not that one can just make up a type of behavior and then say they are serving Krishna. Service to man is not service to God because man has no idea how to serve anyone else if they don’t know how to serve God. On the other hand, service to Krishna automatically does the best service to man. How does this work exactly? For starters, bhakti-yoga sets the best example for others to follow. Pure sentiment can be matched by another person’s sentiment, which introduces competing beneficiaries. Denial of God’s existence is an even worse example because it is based on utter foolishness. The dedication that is shown in bhakti-yoga allows others to see that religion can be fun, that it can occupy one’s time, and that it can be done without motivation and without interruption. In no other sphere of activity is this seemingly paradoxical combination present.

Bhakti-yoga, being a scientific discipline, applies to every single person. This means that regardless of one’s religious persuasion, bhakti is something that will benefit them. The more that bhakti is practiced, the more it can be distributed to others. If I distribute something that is beneficial to every single person, then naturally I am performing the best service for man. On the other hand, if I have no idea what will benefit someone else, my service can actually turn out to be harmful to others. If a patient is suffering from some disease and is forbidden from eating certain kinds of food, one who thinks they are serving that person by giving them the restricted food is actually causing great harm.

Bhakti-yoga can never do harm in this way because every person is benefited from thinking about Krishna, or God. Therefore the symptoms exhibited by the Krishna conscious person tell us that they follow a system of spirituality that is free of sectarian boundaries, dogmatic insistence, and irrational fear mongering. The Krishna conscious person’s primary trait is that they are always talking about God. Either they are glorifying His features and pastimes, or they are talking about how devotion to Him can change lives. Through dedication in bhakti the devotee acquires all praiseworthy attributes, such as kindness, peacefulness, humility, intelligence and strength of conviction. The Krishna conscious person also knows that they are not their body, that they are spirit soul. This allows them to tolerate the pains inflicted by material nature better than the non-devoted soul can. Time and space are put into the proper perspective when the fountainhead of all energies, Shri Krishna, is known and worshiped.

Shrila PrabhupadaThe symptoms of the bhakti-yogi can also help us weed out the pretenders, the spiritualists in name only who put on the dress of a mendicant but then lead their followers astray. We can also better spot out those who cheat people by claiming that they are God or that they have become God through their meditation. By following bhakti-yoga - whose guiding principle is that one constantly chant the holy names, think about God, offer service to Him through worshiping in a formal way at regular times, and refrain from the activities that are most inhibiting to yoga practice: meat eating, gambling, intoxication, and illicit sex - those of us who claim to be following a particular religion can have our statements actually mean something. When the right symptoms are present, titles and designations relating to God gain their teeth. On the other hand, without full allegiance to bhakti, the exercise of religion will never bring the true fruit of our existence, the transcendental taste of God’s association.

In Closing:

For selling products businessman has the feel,

Doctor his patients knows how to heal.

Spiritualist also needs symptoms to be legit,

Not just religion from the parents inherit.

Bhakti-yoga gives religion its teeth,

Allows sincere soul God’s form to greet.

Service to Krishna is best way to serve man,

Shows that acquire divine features he can.

Always chant the holy names, dance and sing,

To others science of spiritual life bring.

Friday, December 2, 2011

If At First You Don’t Succeed

Hanuman“Indeed, perseverance is what always propels one to pursue all profitable objects. It makes the actions it inspires in living beings successful.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 12.11)

anirvedo hi satatam sarva artheṣu pravartakaḥ |
karoti saphalam jantoḥ karma yac ca karoti saḥ ||

Hanuman is such a humble soul that he has no idea that through his own actions he gives proof to the age-old adages about perseverance and fortitude. When we are in a troublesome situation, a calming technique is to take shelter of past incidents involving people who had to struggle. “Hey, if other people got through similar circumstances, then maybe I can as well.” The most frustrating aspect to a particular task is lack of progress, the fear that success will never arrive. When that fear arises, it helps to look back to examples of past figures who persevered through difficulty, who fought the hard way and eventually got what they wanted. Hanuman, reminding himself of the benefits that come from perseverance, would himself set about creating a wonderful example for millions of people, spanning countless future generations, to follow. That example reveals yet another reason why his glories continue to be sung, honored and remembered.

The difficulty of a task and the fear of what might result with failure take away rational thought. In every aspect of adult life there is some sort of fear, as this is ingrained into the mature human being. Even the animals have fear, along with desires to eat, sleep and mate. With the human being lacking full knowledge of the spirit soul and its relationship to the Supreme Lord, fearing can reach a new height. The fear easiest to identify is that of dying. Lord Rama, the Supreme Lord in His form as the two-armed warrior prince of Ayodhya, notes in the Ramayana that for the mature human being there is no other fear except death.

“Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than falling, the man who has taken birth has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)

Lord RamaThe comparison Shri Rama makes is to the ripened fruit. The fruit starts off as nothing but a tiny seed within a larger plant. Through the gifts of nature and the influence of time, gradually the seed matures into a full blown fruit. Maturity takes a while, so there must be good fortune for the fruit to reach ripeness. Any of the inhibiting influences of material nature can take effect at any second. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, group miseries into three categories. There are those inflicted by the heavenly forces, acts of God if you will. These miseries include hurricanes, tornadoes, and just about any general unpleasant weather event. Then there are the punishing influences of other living entities, those who infringe upon others’ natural rights. These people may also harm us with their insulting words aimed at breaking our resolve.

Last but not least, there are the miseries inflicted by the body and mind. These can include diseases and also fearing. The mature fruit does not have the advanced consciousness to fear, but once it reaches its peak development, its destiny is to fall off the plant and get eaten. It has nothing else to wait for. Similarly, the human being matured through the various stages of life, after acquiring so many objects relating to the senses and forging so many relationships, has nothing left to do but die.

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

As the body was at one time accepted, a sober person can realize that it must also be renounced. In this sense there is nothing to fear, but the forces of material nature are such that fear nevertheless takes over. From the fear of death come all other types of worries and concerns. For young children, there is a fear of not performing well in school. In our youth particularly, in every year of school we were afraid of being left back, forced to repeat the same grade. We even had a recurring dream where we regularly skipped a particular class, only to have a final exam forced upon us at the end of the year that we weren’t prepared for. This isn’t an uncommon dream, as the fear of failing in the classroom is quite widespread.

schoolAs one gets older, the fears turn toward the safety and security of family members and occupation. Since fear of failure is so common, and since frustration is found at every corner of the material existence, young children are given lessons on perseverance. Famous fables relay the importance of sticking with a task and seeing it through to completion. Sayings like, “early to bed, early to rise”, “the early bird gets the worm”, and “put your nose to the grindstone” reinforce the need for regulation and dedication in attaining a beneficial end.

In the sports world there are so many instances of athletes overcoming obstacles and defying the odds through perseverance. When a famous athlete fails on the big stage, the impulse reaction for the fans and sportswriters is to label that person a bum. “Oh, they choked. They can’t win the big one. Perhaps they will never win. They will stay a failure forever.” Driving these fatalistic predictions is fear, the thought of what would happen should such and such player or team never achieve their desired end.

Those who do overcome obstacles and finally achieve the victory that everyone thought was impossible become almost folklore. Their stories are honored and remembered for many years, as everyone takes comfort in their triumph over inner demons. The more stories there are like this, the more people will have faith in their abilities and the benefit of fighting through adversity.

When you throw spirituality into the mix, the benefits of perseverance take on a divine nature. What does this mean exactly? Just as the human being is destined to renounce his body, or die, the rewards accumulated that relate to the enjoyment within that body are also short-lived. Perseverance in running the race can bring victory, a trophy indicating an achievement. Fighting through the difficulties in school can result in a degree, and fortitude at work can make others happy, but all of these things will be given up along with the body at the time of death.

The spirit soul, on the other hand, continues its existence. Like a natural acrobat, a space traveller not requiring any rocket ship or spacesuit, the soul jumps from one body type to another through what is known as reincarnation, or the transmigration of the soul. But this cycle does not have to continue perpetually. One who has their consciousness properly situated before renouncing their body does not have to take birth again. As soon as birth ceases, so does death. When death is stopped, the most inhibiting fear, the root of all other worries, is eliminated for good.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)

Lord KrishnaHow do we know that a specific type of consciousness can stop death? Aside from the fact that Lord Krishna - the same Shri Rama who appeared on earth some five thousand years ago and delivered the Bhagavad-gita on a battlefield - clearly says so, we know from our own experiences that consciousness can alter future fate. Taking shelter of perseverance is an act of the consciousness, for there is no physical work involved in generating motivation. The physical work itself can only harm motivation or cause doubts within the mind. It is through rational thought that situations become favorable or unfavorable. The fruitive worker driven by sense desires looks at the scorching sun as the cause of pain and discomfort, while the yogi who limits their food intake and sleeping sees the sun as the giver of life, a direct manifestation of the Supreme Lord.

Depending on consciousness, even defeat and frustration can be handled as favorable conditions. We can take the example of Shri Hanuman to see how this works. During Rama’s time on earth many thousands of years ago, His wife Sita Devi was taken away from His side while the couple was residing in the forest of Dandaka with Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. Hanuman, a Vanara warrior, a forest dweller residing with others of his kind in Kishkindha, made his way to the enemy territory of Lanka to find Sita. His mission was to find her, though he had never seen her before, and give to her Rama’s ring. The Rakshasa king Ravana had brought Sita back to Lanka against her will, so Rama wanted to give the princess an indication that He was indeed searching for her and dedicated to her rescue.

Hanuman didn’t have fears over death. He is an eternally liberated soul, which means that material nature can’t affect him. His consciousness is properly situated, so his mind is always connected to God. Even still, this doesn’t mean that defeat and frustration, and even fear, become totally absent. Rather, they just take on a different nature; their influence is different. The same goes with the invocation of perseverance, as using fortitude in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, brings the highest benefit.

HanumanAfter searching long and hard, Hanuman had yet to find Sita. It just didn’t seem fair. He had braved so many elements to reach Lanka. No one had before done what he did, so there was no comparing his activities to anyone else’s. Nevertheless, the mission still wasn’t complete. After clandestinely searching through Lanka for Sita, Hanuman still didn’t see her. The fear in his mind now related to Rama and the monkeys in Sugriva’s army. Sugriva was the king of the Vanaras in Kishkindha, and it was at his command that the monkeys were dispatched to search for Sita.

The monkeys searched valiantly, and at one point it looked like they wouldn’t succeed. Hanuman remembered his friends and what they had been through together. The last thing he wanted to do was return to them a failure. He couldn’t bear to see the look of disappointment and sadness in their faces. He didn’t want to return to Kishkindha and meet Sugriva’s wrath, for nothing makes a ruler angrier than learning that his subjects disobeyed his orders. Sugriva told the monkeys to find Sita or face severe punishment. Hanuman also didn’t want to disappoint Rama, who was showing signs of suffering from separation from His wife.

Before moving forward, Hanuman decided to think things over. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, he reminds himself of a few adages relating to perseverance. Tireless determination, indefatigability, leads a person to their profitable end. This makes sense, for if you don’t really want something, you won’t be willing to put in the work to see the successful outcome. Hanuman wanted to find Sita more than anything, so motivation was there. He remembered that when there is desire, strong motivation, the chances for success will greatly increase.

The famous saying, “God helps those who help themselves”, applies nicely to this situation. It is actually most appropriate with Hanuman because he was involved in a mission seeking to please God. In cases not relating to the Supreme, the saying doesn’t really apply. For instance, if our perseverance is dedicated towards procuring liquor and beer to get intoxicated, why would the Lord help us? If our desire is to perpetrate some horrible deed, something against the law, surely the divine forces will not provide any aid.

HanumanIn fact, any activity performed for our personal benefit does not catch the Lord’s eye in the least. There is really no such thing as good or bad when it comes to the body that is destined for destruction. There is only favorable and unfavorable with respect to the advancement of consciousness. Hanuman was engaged in the constitutional activity of bhakti; therefore for him there was all sorts of aid from the Supreme Lord. The motivation itself, his strong perseverance, was enough to forever endear him to Sita and Rama.

Not surprisingly, Hanuman would end up succeeding in his mission. While taking shelter of a truth of life known to the wise, he ended up giving countless generations a real-life example of those principles put to use. As our mission in life is to become God conscious, the best way to adapt to every circumstance is to regularly chant the Lord’s names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. In the pursuit of spiritual perfection, there will be many obstacles and moments of despair, but by remembering Hanuman and his perseverance, our chances for success will greatly increase.

In Closing:

Tendency to fear will always be there,

Thought of losing everything causes scare.

For mature fruit no fear but to fall,

For adult human tolling bell death's call.

Perseverance in worker thus praised,

Famed is champion with victory's arms raised.

Hanuman knew that perseverance guided will,

Brings fruit to those who through trouble stand still.

Success when from fortitude action springs,

Lesson of Hanuman insight brings.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Lord Krishna“It is natural that when a child becomes angry he can begin crying with false tears in his eyes. So Krishna did this, and biting His reddish lips with His teeth, He broke the pot with a stone, entered a room and began to eat the freshly churned butter.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.6 Purport)

Beautiful Mother Yashoda, sitting peacefully, doing her household chores, was one day approached by her beloved son, her cherished darling who was the delight of Vrindavana. He had just awoken from sleep and was hungry. Though she was churning butter at the time, her work didn’t preclude her from harboring motherly affection and tending to her child. She had the perfect setup going, seated wearing a nice sari and a belt and pulling on a rope to help her churn the butter. Nevertheless, despite the time and effort she had put in, she was not too busy to feed her child. The work was dedicated to her son to begin with, so why should she want to disappoint Him personally? After she began to feed her child, an urgent matter forced her to stop and get up for a moment. The darling Shyamasundara did not like this, for the mother’s attention was meant for Him. In retaliation, He did something that would both make His mother angry and satisfy His desire to eat at the same time.

Krishna and Mother YashodaA pot of milk boiling over in the kitchen was what caused Mother Yashoda to leave the scene. Her prioritization makes perfect sense. How long does it take to turn down the heat on the stove? Just get up for a second, fix the situation and then return to where you were. Plus, she had just interrupted her work to tend to Krishna, so hopefully the young child would understand that a moment’s interruption is not the end of the world. But Shri Krishna wanted exclusive devotion, for that is what He offered to His mom. He was not distracted by other obligations within the home, though He didn’t have any as a child. Regardless, a restless child is known to jump from one play activity to another. A blessed child is the one who knows the parent’s level of affection and reciprocates by allowing them to offer their love as often as possible. Krishna’s insistence that Mother Yashoda stop churning butter was actually for her benefit, as she was thinking about her beloved child at the time anyway.

The sweet mother had composed songs about His many pastimes, which included the slaying of wicked characters that had travelled to Gokula for nefarious purposes. Somehow Krishna managed to survive the attack of a witch named Putana, who had disguised herself as a beautiful woman coming to nurse the young child. The innocent Krishna also survived the attacks of a giant whirlwind and the breaking of a cart He was resting on during infancy. Trouble seemed to lurk around Krishna, yet He was unbreakable, giving delight to the residents through His invincibility.

It is natural for a mother to think of her beloved son, but with Yashoda she was so attached that she would compose songs on the fly and sing them out loud for pleasure. Since Krishna awoke and came on the scene during the time the mother was working and singing, we can guess that He was able to hear these songs, that the mother’s dip into the transcendental pool of nectar made up of her son’s pastimes became known to the object of service.

Lord KrishnaHow was this possible? How could a young child even understand what His mother was singing about? The child Krishna was none other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That God can come to earth and play the role of an ordinary human being, that of a tiny infant no less, is very difficult to accept for many well-intentioned people. Lord Shiva, the worshipable figure of the Vedic tradition tasked with destroying the creation at the appropriate time, was asked about these issues one time by Sati, his first wife. Sati is also known as Bhavani, which means Lord Shiva’s wife. She is the past incarnation of Mother Durga, who is forever Mahadeva’s consort.

One time Lord Shiva was anxious to hear about Lord Rama, his ishta-deva, or desired worshipable figure. Though Mahadeva is worshiped by so many who are desirous of receiving boons, he himself is quite renounced. His only desire in life is to chant the holy name of Rama, which represents the Supreme Lord’s incarnation as the warrior prince of the same name who appeared on earth during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. Wanting to hear more about Rama, Lord Shiva approached Agastya Rishi, a famous Vedic sage who witnessed many of Rama’s activities. Just by hearing from Agastya, Mahadeva felt so much delight.

Not satisfied, Lord Shiva then came upon the scene to get a quick glimpse of some of Rama’s activities. He did so very quietly so that no one would know he was there. If people found out he was watching Rama, then maybe Rama’s true position as the Supreme Lord would be revealed, which was not the purpose at the time. Seeing Rama, who was in a pitiful condition at the time because of His wife Sita having gone missing, Mahadeva felt tremendous happiness, so much so that he was dancing and of general good cheer. Mahadeva was happy just to see Rama. He paid no attention to exactly what the Lord was doing, for God works in mysterious ways, especially when He appears as an avatara and engages in activity.

Bhavani was quite puzzled by this. She knew of Rama’s glory, but couldn’t understand how He could be the Supreme Lord and appear on earth as a human being at the same time. Moreover, how could God be lamenting the loss of anyone? Why was her husband now so thrilled just upon seeing Him? Therefore she kindly asked Lord Shiva to explain further, to settle her doubts, and Mahadeva replied that the person she was watching was indeed the Supreme Lord and that He is never subject to illusion or the forces of material nature, despite what the external appearance may indicate. Everything is carefully arranged by the Lord to fulfill a purpose.

Lord KrishnaIn the same vein, Lord Krishna’s interruption of Mother Yashoda during her churning of butter also served a purpose. Krishna’s appearance in Vrindavana gave pleasure to those truly deserving of it, those who had no other desire in life. The qualification of “pure” is often placed in front of devotion to distinguish the highest religious system versus other kinds. The purity is measured from the ultimate desire of the practicing individual. For instance, we may be devoted to someone, but there may be an underlying motive in the background. Pure devotion is present when there is no other desire except to remain devoted to the Supreme Lord in love.

As an example, in his Gitavali Goswami Tulsidas describes the scene in Ayodhya after Lord Rama returned home from His fourteen year exile and took over the control of the kingdom. It was Rama’s birthright to be king, and He was ready to be crowned to the delight of all the residents. Suddenly, however, everything was turned upside down and Rama was instead banished from the kingdom, with His younger brother Bharata given the throne. After an arduous time spent in the forest and a host of other events so nicely described in the Ramayana, Rama finally returned home. Not only was He made the new king, but He acted in such a way that everyone was pleased. In ancient times, the kings would host public assemblies to answer the questions and concerns of the citizens. There were also days when the king would distribute whatever was asked of him. Any person could go up to the king on this day and get whatever they wanted. In describing this occasion, Tulsidas says that he is on the scene and approaching Rama for his gift. Tulsidas only asks to be devoted to Rama forever, and because of the nature of that day, the king is forced to agree to the poet’s request. That is pure devotion.

The residents of Vrindavana had the same level of purity, for Krishna was everything to them. Just the fact that the Supreme Lord descended to earth and remained in their land for such a long time shows that they could not have harbored any other desire in mind. When Mother Yashoda went to tend to the milk that was boiling over, Krishna became angry and broke the pot full of the butter she had so nicely churned. Faking tears in his eyes because of his anger, Krishna then went to another room and ate the butter. So not only did he spoil her work, but he began eating the butter that was to be used for other things.

In the aftermath, Yashoda chased Krishna with a stick and then tied Him to a mortar as punishment. The fact that Krishna would allow this to happen shows just how much He loves His mother. Celebrated thereafter as Damodara, Krishna is honored every year in the month of Kartika with candles offered by the devotees to His form bound up by the ropes of Yashoda’s motherly affection.

Damodara with Mother YashodaFrom Krishna’s behavior we see that devotion to God on the highest level flows in both directions. Just as the devotee is anxious to see Krishna, the Supreme Lord is eager to see the devotee, so much so that He’ll get angry if the worshiper’s attention is diverted elsewhere, even for a moment. Though Krishna broke the pot of butter in anger, He actually did Yashoda and countless future generations of listeners a huge favor. He let Yashoda know that He was not happy when she left Him, that He accepted and appreciated her love more than anyone else’s. It is not surprising therefore that such a sweetheart of a son would be honored by all types of transcendentalists.

With so many engagements available to the conditioned soul residing in the material world, there are many avenues to take that promote forgetfulness of Krishna. But if there is a sincere desire to remain connected with Him - a wish best revealed by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” - Krishna Himself will ensure that the distractions are minimized, that the flow of devotional ecstasy can continue in the worshiper’s mood of choice.

In Closing:

In anger young Krishna cried tears that were fake,

Broke pot and butter to other room did He take.

Yashoda’s attention innocently diverted,

Tended to boiling milk pot so that crisis averted.

For Krishna’s stubborn anger there was no need,

Mother to Him milk would surely again feed.

Nevertheless showed anger because company she forsook,

Protested separation by the churned butter He took.

The pastimes with Krishna and His mother so lovely,

Hearing them gives heart delight always so timely.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Only The Best

Rama breaking Shiva's bow“The princes and their armies were beautiful, chivalrous, and of good age, family and birth, looking as if Indra had descended to earth and was marching towards Janakpur.” (Janaki Mangala, 9)

rūpa sīla baya bansa birūda bala dala bhaye |
manahum̐ purandara nikara utari avanihiṃ cale ||

With an arranged marriage, the union that takes place is really between two families. The bride and groom hardly know one another beforehand, so to foretell whether or not the relationship will stand the test of time, the standings of the two families involved are assessed. If it has been proved in countless past generations that such marriages worked, that the character of the support system was properly suited to the time and circumstance, then there is an increased likelihood that the same characteristics will be passed on to the present day participants. Even if the values weren’t explicitly instilled, just growing up in a pious environment can do wonders. One actually teaches more with the example they set than with the words of instruction they offer. Man, being born ignorant, is always unsure of the right move to take. To settle doubts, others are observed, for if they follow a particular route and don’t get harmed by it, then there is less of a risk in following their example. One event in particular saw the noblest families from around the world ready to accept the daughter of a famous king, whose qualities were so sublime that he was respected in every land.

Sita and Rama marriage ceremonyWhy were there multiple families involved? As these events took place during the Treta Yuga, all marriages then were arranged by the parents. Not to be mistaken for an artificial way of suppressing the natural desires for romantic interaction, the marriages were arranged to stay in line with dharma. The Vedic term “dharma” can be translated to mean religion, but its root meaning is an essential characteristic. The dharma of fire is heat and light, of water wetness, of grass green color, and so on. As objects can have more than one property, that which is foremost becomes its dharma. There is also no question of something assuming a dharma or rejecting it. Dharma always stays with the object; it defines its existence.

For the living beings, their dharma is the penchant to serve. To know why this penchant exists, one must know their real identity. The soul is the identifying aspect within every life form, as the temporary coverings are just that: temporary. As shirts, pants and coats can be put on and taken off, so the gross collection of material elements can be accepted, manipulated, and then eventually discarded, with the identity of the individual remaining unchanged.

When these forms are accepted, the dharma of the individual gets covered up, sort of like putting a shade on a bright lamp. The existence of the soul never ceases, so the dharma is always there. Depending on the type of dress accepted, knowledge of that characteristic may be forgotten to varying degrees. If we have a knife and think that it should be used as a spoon or fork, obviously we will not be following the proper guidelines. The knife is very sharp for a reason. It is meant to cut things. If it is used as a utensil to place food in the mouth, there is every chance of the tongue being cut or some other accident happening which carries negative consequences.

knifeThe spirit soul trapped in a material body similarly has a constitutional purpose. Through ignorance only the living being accepts their temporary forms to be their true identity. They see the gross collection of material elements on others to represent their identities as well. Sex life is based entirely on this illusion. We see someone of the opposite sex and measure their attractiveness based on their outward features, but what we don’t see is that they are a spirit soul at the core. Their collection of blood, pus and mucus will gradually morph over the years to the point that they may cease to be attractive, but their identity will not change throughout the process.

What is the harm in succumbing to this illusion? Just as the knife is meant to cut, the soul is meant to serve. That service is meant for a higher entity, one who is not illusioned by the material elements. Through these truths, we get one definition of God and His standing. God is just our word to describe Him, but He can also be referred to as the Supreme Soul, for He is spirit just like us but without a tendency towards ignorance. The human life is considered the most valuable because it carries with it the potential to develop consciousness to the point that the proper identity of the individual and the proper set of activities, namely the directing of the service mentality toward the appropriate area, can be revealed.

From this information, the ultimate mission in life becomes discernable. Dharma accepts an additional definition: a type of maintenance system having guiding principles, where regulations are instilled that help the individual understand the mission in life and achieve it. It is not that everyone will be open to immediately accepting all the truths of spiritual life passed on by the Vedas. Therefore there are scales of dharma, meant to target the varying levels of intelligence. The idea is that by following the more streamlined systems of regulation, one can gradually ascend the chain of knowledge. This ascendency continues even into the next life. Therefore, should someone never learn about the soul in this life, if they follow the prescribed regulations for their order, which is their occupational duty tied to their behavioral characteristics, they can find themselves in a better position in the next life.

The next life is simply a new demarcation of time. We could even think of each new day as a new life, for the time continuum hasn’t changed with the rising of the sun in the morning; only our perspective on the timeline changes. Since time is continuous, even within one’s lifetime the same spiritual advancement can be made. Illusion is the largest stumbling block towards assuming one’s real dharma. Illusion’s strongest force is sex life, especially the kind which is not based on religious principles. Therefore ideally from the very beginning, when children are young, the tendency towards illicit sex is checked by the parents through the marriage institution.

“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)

Lord KrishnaIn ancient times, the pious kings were especially conscious of the need to marry off their daughters when they reached the appropriate age. If you have an abundance of unmarried women in society, illicit sex will result. From illicit sex comes an unwanted and unloved population. From lack of loving attention comes a society full of rogues who have no culture in even the basic standards of decency. The women get exploited through this system as well, for the men can easily get sex from them and not be responsible for their welfare.

The ancient marriages weren’t that complicated to arrange. You get an expert brahmana, or priest, and have them review the child’s astrological signs from the exact time of their birth. The constellation of stars at any particular given moment can be either auspicious or inauspicious. Any person taking birth at one of these times can thus have their future predicted, including what type of character they will grow up to have. From the different characteristics ascertained, matches would be made. It wasn’t that just any boy and girl were suitable matches for marriage. The arrangement had to be “in the cards” so to speak, astrologically compatible.

One king faced a dilemma in this area. He had a most precious daughter, who was so beautiful, kind, sweet, compassionate and virtuous that the king didn’t want to let her go. The daughter essentially accepts a new family after marriage, leaving her father and his family bereft of her association. This daughter was special because the king had been childless prior to her appearance. She was considered the greatest fortune in his life, because she appeared from nowhere to give him and his family tremendous happiness.

This young girl wasn’t the king’s biological daughter. He had found her one day while ploughing a field. Thinking it was appropriate to protect and take care of her, the king really wanted to take her home and raise her as his daughter. As if the higher authorities read his mind, a voice in the sky appeared on the scene and told the king that this girl was indeed his daughter in all righteousness. The first issue was now resolved. The king could take the girl home and raise her as his daughter.

She proved to be a perfect fit in his family. The king’s name was Janaka, and he was one in a long line of pious rulers named Janaka. This Janaka was especially devoted to dharma and was famous throughout the world for being above the influence of the senses. Though he was married and ruling over a kingdom, he was not attached to any of his duties. He met every obligation as a matter of protocol, not caring for the result one way or the other. These are the godly principles, which are even lauded by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.

“Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty; for by working without attachment, one attains the Supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 3.19)

Sita DeviThe daughter was named Sita because she came out of the ground, not having biological parents. When it was time for Sita’s marriage, Janaka was torn inside. He felt like a wealthy man about to become poor, for the goddess of fortune was going to leave his family. Sita was really Lakshmi Devi appearing on earth to take part in the pastimes of the Supreme Lord, who had appeared as Lord Rama in the family of the Raghus. Janaka knew none of this, but he didn’t need to. From her qualities he could tell that Sita was special.

In addition to the trepidation over losing Sita, Janaka faced another problem. He didn’t know who Sita’s parents were, nor did he know the astrological signs from the time of her birth. Therefore how could he find a suitable match for her? Yet if he kept Sita unmarried, he would invite scorn from his family members and also the community that he vowed to protect. If the king could keep his daughter unmarried, why shouldn’t everyone else then follow the same example?

After consulting with his priests and family members, the king arrived on a compromise. He had been given an amazing bow belonging to Lord Shiva, the worshipable figure of the Vedic tradition charged with destroying the creation at the appropriate time. The bow was so heavy that it seemed impossible to lift. Janaka vowed that if any prince from around the world could lift it, they would get Sita’s hand in marriage. Through their strength they would prove to be the fittest man capable of protecting his beloved daughter.

The announcement of the king’s vow went out across every country. The news was so happily accepted that royal clans gathered their things and made the trek to Janakpur, Janaka’s city where the contest was being held. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Goswami Tulsidas says that the procession of the armies was so amazing that it looked like Lord Indra had descended to earth and was marching towards Janakpur. Indra is the king of the heavenly planets, where the residents live longer and more materially enriched lives. Indra is also responsible for fighting against the evil elements of the world. Since the beginning of time the devoted class, the suras, and the non-devoted, the asuras, have clashed. Indra is the most powerful of the demigods; hence he is their leader. His royal army resembles no other; therefore the comparison was appropriate.

It is also said that the princes arriving were beautiful and chivalrous, or disciplined. Sita was the most beautiful woman in the world, so a beautiful prince would be a fit match. She was also Janaka’s daughter, which meant that her level of piety was extremely high. Though Sita wasn’t formally educated, her knowledge of the Vedas was outstanding, as she observed the Vedic rites and rituals conducted in her father’s kingdom while growing up. Simply through listening to the words of her parents and the brahmanas, she acquired high knowledge.

The princes coming to Janakpur were also of a good age, family and ancestry. Lord Shiva’s bow would not be easy to lift. It would take more than just brute strength to raise it. One had to have a good family background, where they were trained properly in the military arts. The bow belonged to Lord Shiva, and it was obviously heavy for a reason. A prince had to be of the proper age to try to lift the bow. Men who are of the proper age for marriage typically have the highest levels of strength they will have in their life. Even in sports, it is seen that there is a typical age when the athlete’s performance is at its peak. If they are too young, they may have a lot of energy but not enough strength or dexterity. If the athlete is too old, they may no longer have the strength and coordination to compete at the highest levels. These princes arriving were of just the right age.

The princes were of a good family and came from good ancestry. It would seem like these things shouldn’t have mattered, but to marry the daughter of King Janaka, one had to come from a good dynasty, for the two families would be united through the marriage. The description of the armies arriving serves as a reminder that the most respected royal families came to Janakpur for the contest, showing how much Janaka was favored and how coveted Sita’s hand in marriage was. A prince coming from a good dynasty and having a link to many famous kings from the past obviously will not want to marry just any princess. The girl should come from a family equally as respected, if not more so.

Sita and RamaThe scene in Janakpur that fateful day was legendary. While many of the most respected and capable princes came to try to win Sita’s hand in marriage, just as the living entities have a particular dharma, so do the Lord’s closest associates. Sita is God’s eternal consort, which means that she can never be with any man except the Supreme Lord. During this time on earth, the external events were manipulated in just the right way so as to allow the goddess of fortune’s husband to arrive on the scene and win her hand in marriage. Lord Rama, though not part of the giant procession of armies, would arrive nonetheless, coming without any fanfare or pomp. He would come as the guest of the sage Vishvamitra, who was travelling the forests at the time, with Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana acting as his protection.

Though they didn’t come to Janakpur for the purpose of participating in the contest, Janaka was so invigorated by the vision of the two brothers that he allowed Rama to make an attempt anyway. At Vishvamitra’s request, Rama would step up, raise Shiva’s bow, and be garlanded by Sita as the victor. His family, ancestry, beauty and chivalry were unmatched, for He is the Supreme Lord that never ceases to be the most fortunate living entity in the world. He proved His worthiness to have Sita as a wife on that day. All the famous kings and princes from around the world were there to witness the history, the marriage of Sita and Rama, which is still talked about, honored, worshiped, and remembered to this day.

In Closing:

From countries spread out far and wide,

Massive armies to Janakpur arrived.

Having tremendous chivalry and beauty,

And belonging to most famous ancestry,

The princes for king’s daughter hand did vie,

For an elegant princess each was qualified.

Like Indra leading the demigods scene did appear,

But only man to wed Sita, the remover of fear.

Dasharatha's son proved His worth by bow's lift,

That treasurable moment the sincere heart's gift.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Circus Comes to Town

Lord Chaitanya“Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was God Himself according to the indication of the revealed scriptures, but He played the part of a devotee. People who knew Him to be God addressed Him as God, but He used to block His ears with His hands and chant the name of Lord Vishnu. He strongly protested against being called God, although undoubtedly He was God Himself. The Lord behaves so to warn us against unscrupulous men who take pleasure in being addressed as God.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.16 Purport)

Circus rolls into town, bringing its many attractions. You have the acrobats, lion-tamers, and entertainers with freakish strength. Then there is the lead clown, the head of the show, who can do things more amazing than anyone else. Now just imagine if such a person were to claim to be God in the flesh. “I am an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. My purpose is such and such. As proof of my divinity watch me do things that are amazing.” The innocent members of society sucked into this racket will be damaged severely, for the recommendations on how to live life handed down by the leaders are what actually count. Every single one of us is God in the sense that we are pure spirit and in minute control over our future fortunes, but since when did being tiny gods equate to being the Supreme Lord Himself? A little show of magic does not one God make, for the breadth and scope of the creation, with its intricacies and innumerable functions carried out at the largest magnitude, remind us that a little advancement in mysticism doesn’t compare to the supreme powers of the greatest mystic, Yogeshvara. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, an authentic version of God appearing on earth, stood out from the pack of charlatans by never claiming to be God. He utterly refused to be treated as such, for His message was more important than His standing.

Lord ChaitanyaAnd what was that message? In the Vedic tradition, the Supreme Lord is described by thousands of names, which each reference a specific transcendental activity or feature. The term “God” is too vague to give any pleasure to the worshiper, who is inherently searching after ananda, or bliss. As variety is the mother of enjoyment, the less abstract the vision we have of something, the more enjoyable the potential interaction. The dharma of the spirit soul, which is the essence of identity, is to serve, for this provides the individual the most lasting satisfaction. The service propensity is seen in every type of activity, even those driven by ignorance. If we have a lamp burning inside of the home, even if we put a shade on top, the light emitted is still seen to some degree. With the spirit soul, even the complete inverse of the loving service propensity, anger and rage, at least indicate that the soul’s dharma is present. As light can be reflected in any direction, based on the bodily makeup and the inherent qualities it brings, the living entity can exhibit their service propensity in a variety of ways.

Ideal enjoyment comes from interaction. Spiritual life follows the same pattern; it is not meant to create any artificial desire within the living being. Rather, the same propensities that already exist are purified through identifying the proper beneficiary. In a discipline driven by sentiment, dedication to the particular spiritual figure may be present, but unless there is some philosophy attached, the discipline will not be attractive to a large mass of people. Even if many people do claim to follow the identified personality, their allegiance will be in name only, for the majority of the activities followed will be dedicated to someone or something else.

To address these deficiencies, the Vedas provide the highest philosophy on life, as much information as can be consumed by the sober mind. Right away we see that there is a requirement before spiritual understanding can be awakened. The person intoxicated by excessive drinking or the burning rage of the fever of material existence will not have the patience or wherewithal to understand even the first rule of spiritual life, that we are not our bodies. “I am not my body? Then what the heck am I?” The bewildered spirit soul sees differences amongst species based on outward features and resulting behaviors. How can a cow and a pig be the same, for they follow completely different models of action? How is a human being the same as a dog? Moreover, how can the wise human being who is inclined towards piety ever be compared to the low-life who lives perpetually in sin?

“That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.20)

Lord KrishnaAccepting the angle of vision based on intelligence requires sobriety from the start, for without a clear head, how can we understand anything? Can we perform well on exams if we are tired or focused on something completely different? Can we operate a motor vehicle well while intoxicated? These are areas where the need for sobriety is readily acknowledged, but somehow with spiritual life the requirement that one be free of anxieties and attachments borne of bodily relations is a little difficult to accept. The reward for avoiding the most harmful sinful activities, such as intoxication and meat eating, is that one can study the patterns of behavior of the different species and have a better chance of realizing that all life forms are equal.

At the heart of the living being is the spirit soul, which is so tiny in size that it is impossible to measure its dimensions. We cannot even directly perceive its presence. The soul can only be noticed by the outward symptoms of a living being. Just the fact that there is a difference between a living being and a dead one underscores the importance of the soul. Death is the exiting of the soul from the body and birth is the entry into a new form. The soul is thereby the essence of life, the spark of action, for every species. If the soul has the same importance in whichever form it occupies, it means that there is no difference from one soul to another.

These cogent facts are revealed in the Vedas, whose most concise and complete treatise is the Bhagavad-gita. One who studies this work, learning it under the verbal or written direction of a spiritual master who understands the meanings to the different verses, will be able to see that all life forms are equal, that spirit has natural tendencies that are acted upon across all body types. From the understanding of spirit, from familiarity with the philosophy of the Vedic teachings, one is better situated to take up devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The abstract picture of God is made clearer through both the study and practice of devotional principles. The preliminary understanding that life forms are equal gives one the vision of Brahman, or the all-pervading light of the Absolute Truth. Knowing Brahman is similar to knowing the sunshine and how it dissipates heat and light everywhere. Through further study the same Brahman is understood to be localized in the form of the Supersoul, which resides in the heart of the living being adjacent to the individual soul, or atma.

Bhagavan paints the whole picture. Bhagavan is the most complete understanding of God, as it is inclusive of both Brahman and the Supersoul. It is not that one spiritual tradition worships a specific God who is different from the God of another tradition. Those who think this way are immature in their understanding of the science of self-realization. Yes, spirituality is a science, for it has law codes that are impossible to violate. Just as when you drop an object from the hand, it will fall to the ground because of the laws of gravity, the laws of spirituality apply to every instance, regardless of whether the particular actors are aware that they are being guided by a higher force.

Lord KrishnaBhagavan has spiritual attributes, with beauty, knowledge, wealth, strength, fame and renunciation seen to the fullest degree. Since these features are supremely wonderful, Bhagavan is known as Krishna, the all-attractive youth holding a flute in His hands and wearing a peacock feather in His hair. Lord Krishna is the complete representation of Godhead; therefore every other form or expansion comes from Him. The identical forms are referred to as avataras, or those who descend. Even Krishna is sometimes referred to as an avatara, for He comes to earth every now and then from the spiritual world to give people a glimpse of His transcendental features.

The ability of God to incarnate has created a slight problem in the present age of darkness known as the Kali Yuga. Though the specific incarnations and their features are described in the shastras, or scriptures, still many people in the past thousand years or so have claimed to be incarnations of God. Lord Krishna’s most famous avatara is Lord Rama, the handsome warrior prince of the Treta Yuga who defeated the Rakshasa Ravana in a fight using bows and arrows. In many Vedic traditions just Rama is worshiped along with His wife Sita Devi, younger brother Lakshmana and dedicated and courageous servant Hanuman. Bhagavan is wonderful in this way, as He allows devotees to follow their favored mood of devotion to taste the fruit of existence. It is not that one must worship Krishna and no one else. Bhagavan has different manifestations to provide varieties of transcendental pleasure.

Even the atheists worship God in some way, though their interaction is not direct. With indirect worship come inferior results. The consequence of worshiping matter is that you remain tied to something nonpermanent. If I love my high school so much that I decide I never want to graduate, obviously the decision is not very intelligent. The school has a purpose to fulfill, namely that of providing an education. Once that education is received, the student moves past the class and onto their next venture. If the class is enjoyed so much that one avoids their occupational duties in favor of following their allegiance to something that is constitutionally temporary, they will not be making the best use of their intelligence.

The same principle applies to the largest scale that is the material creation; so any allegiance offered to objects of earth, water, fire, air and ether will bring bitter disappointment in the end, for nothing in the material creation remains manifest forever, not even the sun. The taste relished through such interaction is automatically checked. This also explains why the bogus avataras can never be taken seriously, for their chicanery is exposed through the magic they show which aims to manipulate the material nature in favor of providing temporary enjoyment. The real avataras show people how to worship God perpetually, even into the afterlife. In addition, the transcendental features are not checked in the real incarnations of Godhead. Lord Rama defeated 14,000 attacking Rakshasas all by Himself, and He had a bridge built to Lanka that was made of floating stones. Lord Krishna lifted a massive hill and held it up over His head for seven consecutive days to save the wonderful people of Vrindavana from a massive flood instigated by Lord Indra.

Lord RamaWhat’s ironic is that even after exhibiting such unmatched feats of strength, Krishna and Rama never openly claimed to be God. People who knew them intimately understood their divine nature, but the Supreme Lord will never pound His chest and demand that others worship Him. The highest interaction possible for any living being is a rasa, or transcendental mellow, which operates on love. For there to be love, the interaction between the participants must be voluntary. Forcing someone to worship God, scaring them with a threat of eternal damnation in a lake of fire or killing them if they don’t show allegiance, doesn’t represent godly activity whatsoever. The material creation exists to house those souls who are not desirous of transcendental association, so there is full freedom in the exercise of activity.

Lord Chaitanya was Krishna Himself appearing on earth some five hundred years ago to teach the highest truths of spiritual life in the easiest possible way to understand. In days past, the intelligent class of men sought the shelter of the pristine wilderness, for the surroundings were more conducive to tapasya and yajna, or penance and sacrifice. Through penance one becomes detached from the senses and through sacrifice one remains connected to God. Therefore these two practices were an integral part of the sincere spiritualist’s regimen. In the modern age, however, such practices are almost impossible to adhere to. As evidence of this fact, just try to tell someone that drinking alcohol and eating meat are harmful. They will look at you like you’re crazy. Yet in times past, those who did indulge in these behaviors were considered the strange ones.

Just because sinful behavior is more rampant at any given time doesn’t mean that Krishna’s mercy is somehow made more difficult to acquire. As the circumstances become less favorable for transcendental enlightenment, the Supreme Lord redoubles His efforts towards reclaiming His lost sons and daughters. Lord Chaitanya preached the science of self-realization, the ultimate philosophy of achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, by chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, openly in public. Krishna and Rama are the holy names, and Hare is the energy of God. “O my dearest Supreme Lord who is known as both Krishna and Rama. O the energy of the Lord. Allow me to be forever engaged in the Lord’s service without any motive for personal sense gratification. Allow me to continually love God without fail.”

Lord ChaitanyaThis was the mantra propagated by Lord Chaitanya, who wasn’t met with universal adulation right away. The mantra He revealed was known in the scriptures, but many were hesitant to share it with others so openly. The maha-mantra’s unique message is precisely what makes it so appealing and effective, for it reveals God’s names to everyone in a way that doesn’t violate the rules of spiritual life. With most mantras, expert recitation is required to receive the full benefit. The mantras also aren’t passed on to just anyone. The spiritual master is charged with the safekeeping, holding onto the sound vibrations and waiting to share them with someone who is sincere in their desire to learn about God.

Lord Chaitanya became the spiritual master of the world by kindly offering Krishna-prema, or love of God, to anyone who was willing to accept it. Even if they weren’t, they at least got to hear the holy names vibrated through Lord Chaitanya’s chanting or the preaching efforts of His many associates. Intimate friends knew Lord Chaitanya to be Krishna Himself, but whenever anyone who would worship Him in this way, the Lord would cover His ears. He did not like to be called God by anyone, for that was not the purpose of His mission. His behavior stands in stark contrast to the pretender incarnations who show off some mystic ability and then claim to be God in front of as many people as are gullible enough to believe them.

The message broadcast by the spiritual personality is what matters. Even Lord Krishna hid His divine nature from the residents of Vrindavana, who are considered the greatest lovers of God. The dedication to bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is the desired result, and not a blind allegiance to a particular personality. The shastras tell us who the incarnations are, so we needn’t be puzzled over the issue. Lord Chaitanya was so kind that He didn’t even care if you worshiped Him or not. Worshiping Him, however, is supremely auspicious, because He and His spiritual brother Nityananda Prabhu remove offenses in the chanting of the holy name. They give love for Godhead even if we are unwilling to accept it. Those who regularly hear of the activities of Lord Chaitanya, the dearest son of Shachimata and Jagannatha Mishra, can’t help but be won over by His divine grace. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the ocean of mercy, and His transcendental features can only be found in Krishna Himself, who is the reservoir of pleasure.

In Closing:

When addressed as the Supreme Lord ears would He close,

To others divinity not liking to disclose.

Worship Krishna with love was His message,

But addressed Him as God some took the privilege.

Lord Chaitanya was an incarnation that was real,

The divine presence in His activities you could feel.

Study the message of preacher, that’s what really counts,

See if guidance removes mind’s pain that steadily mounts.

Remember Nitai-Gaura and have offenses removed,

From resulting love for Krishna their divinity proved.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Hanuman“Perseverance is the root of good fortune. Perseverance leads to supreme happiness. Therefore I will search again, in those areas where I have not searched already.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 12.10)

anirvedaḥ śriyo mūlam anirvedaḥ param sukham |
bhūyas tāvad viceṣyāmi na yatra vicayaḥ kṛtaḥ ||

Who is sweeter than Hanuman? Though known for his supreme prowess, his ability to ward off the staunchest enemies, his knack for changing his shape to match the situation, and his undying devotion to Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hanuman’s level of affection and concern for his dear friends is also impossible to measure. He never wants anything for himself, though he is deserving of the whole world. He is praised and honored daily by millions, but he only takes that as a sign of the greatness of the person he serves and thinks about every day. Whatever mood we find ourselves in, if we simply remember Hanuman, the quality of his heart and who resides there eternally, how can dejection and sadness stay for long? Shri Rama’s messenger searches through thick and thin, the darkness and the light, and among friend and foe alike to shine the torchlight of devotion, the divine vision of his smiling and soothing face, onto those who are deserving of it.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman is turning around his depressing thoughts and channeling them towards excitement, anticipation and confidence in battle. His mission was simple: find the missing princess of Videha, Lord Rama’s wife. Since these events transpired during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, even the monkey species roaming the earth was advanced to some degree. They befriended the jewel of the Raghu dynasty, who was roaming the forests at the time due to family troubles at home. When Rama’s wife went missing, the Lord and His younger brother befriended the monkey-king Sugriva residing in Kishkindha. The meeting took place because of Hanuman, who is the best messenger anyone could ask for.

“O sinless one, certainly how can any king accomplish his objectives if he doesn't have such a messenger working for him?” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.34)

HanumanShri Rama correctly noted to Lakshmana upon first meeting Hanuman that no king could ever get his business accomplished without having a messenger like Hanuman. As Rama is Himself a king - the king of the universe - for tending to business He also uses Hanuman. Therefore no one was a better candidate for finding Sita and returning the information of her whereabouts. As a parent if you give an important task to your child, they will usually be enthusiastic to work. The adult has responsibilities and other things they would rather be doing, but the child looks for any opportunity to take on something important, to act like a grown up.

Though Hanuman was in an adult monkey body, he nevertheless took on the mission with the enthusiasm of the most sincere child. His love for Rama was pure, and that’s all he needed for success. Yet even with his excitement and fervent desire to succeed, there were troubles encountered. Upon reaching the enemy territory of Lanka, where it was heard that Sita had been taken, Hanuman searched and searched. He went through apartment after apartment, room after room, but Sita he could not find. He discovered seemingly everything else in Lanka, including the beautiful women married to the king Ravana, the leader of the Rakshasa clan.

Rakshasas are human-like creatures given to sinful activity, with the most notable repugnant behavior being their eating of human flesh. Indulgence in wine and women rounds out the picture, so we can just imagine what kind of place Hanuman entered. Hanuman is fixed in righteousness, or siddha. He has no blemishes in his character, and yet he found himself in “sin city” forced to look at things he didn’t want to see. He was able to properly justify to himself the gazing upon women who were wives of another man, but his resolve started to crack as more time went by without finding Sita.

HanumanIn the situation of the above referenced verse, Hanuman is thinking that Sita must have perished, that she couldn’t be in Lanka. “I’ve looked everywhere in this place. There isn’t one inch of space that I haven’t uncovered. She must not be here. I couldn’t blame her either, as she probably quit her body upon looking at the ghoulish creatures that live here and their horrible behavior. She is the embodiment of chastity and virtue, so how could she possibly survive for long without Rama by her side?”

Hanuman’s premonition was well founded, but now he had to figure out what that predicament would cause. If Sita was in fact not in Lanka, if Ravana had maybe killed her, what would Hanuman say when he returned to the monkey camp? This is where his true kindness and undying love for Rama and the Lord’s friends was again exhibited. Hanuman thought of what everyone would say, how Sugriva would become angry that the mission he assigned to the monkeys on behalf of Rama was not complete. Hanuman thought of his monkey friends, with whom he had persevered through a long search, who had given him the encouragement to leap over the massive ocean that separated Lanka from the mainland. After what they had been through, how could Hanuman return as a failure? He couldn’t bear to face his friends and see the dejection on their faces. He was fine with having failed himself, for Hanuman is never concerned over his stature or fame. But he never does anything that will cause harm to his friends.

Past military leaders and war heroes have uttered phrases which are today famous declarations of dedication and resolve. “Give me liberty or give me death” and “I have not yet begun to fight” embody the chivalrous spirit of the dedicated warrior. Yet long before these phrases were uttered, many thousands of years ago, before the modern incarnation of organized military conflict, Hanuman reminded himself of the importance of perseverance, giving himself a small pep talk in the process. Hanuman rightly concluded that perseverance is the source of good fortune, that it brings supreme happiness.

The opposite of perseverance is weakness in resolve, giving up rather quickly. It is much easier to give up when there is no enthusiasm in the task to begin with, when the reward is not worth the effort. For Hanuman such issues were not present. He took the task assigned to him by Rama as his life and soul, and he knew that finding Sita would be the greatest reward anyone could ask for. Therefore he rightly concluded that perseverance in this case would lead to good fortune. Sita Devi resides eternally in the spiritual sky as the goddess of fortune, so anyone who is fortunate enough to please her by dedicating their life to serving her husband, God, will always be in her good graces.

Perseverance also brings supreme happiness. If we don’t put in our best effort and fail in a task, there will be so much regret later on. “I really wish I would have tried harder. I wish I had given it my all. Maybe then the outcome could have been different.” In many instances, even if there isn’t ultimate victory, if the perseverance is still there then there is every reason to be proud. Hanuman would find supreme happiness by remaining dedicated in his service to Rama. He would eventually find Sita, and all would end well.

HanumanWho among us hasn’t tasted defeat? Who among us hasn’t searched for something or someone repeatedly, only to have failed? The genesis of the material creation is the flawed search for happiness in the absence of God’s association. The search can go on and on, even in planets outside of earth, for that elusive happiness, but it will never be found. The only path towards lasting happiness is spiritual life, and more specifically the discipline of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service.

Chanting the holy names of the Lord, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is the most auspicious activity because it keeps the mind engaged in Truth, the consciousness focused on an area where God eternally resides. Though the Lord is everything, He is not personally present within every sphere. Rather, He lives in the hearts of those who regularly chant His names and delight in descriptions of His pastimes and glories. Those who reproduce the sound vibrations of Krishna and Rama, two wonderful names describing the Supreme Lord’s transcendental body and limitless attributes of opulence, find the Lord with them at all times.

In the path of bhakti-yoga, which leads to emancipation, there may arise difficulties. “I’ve been chanting for so long and I don’t feel anything. I’ve looked here and there and still I don’t realize God.” But as Hanuman says, perseverance leads to good fortune, to supreme happiness. If after chanting so much and abstaining from the four pillars of sinful life [meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex], we still don’t feel that God is with us, the solution is not to abandon our dedication and return to association with maya, or material nature. Maya has already been searched thoroughly to no avail in both this lifetime and many previous ones as well.

Faced with the possibility of failure, Hanuman decided to renew his search, to go places where he had not gone before. When we have momentary lapses of judgment and feelings of dejection in our devotional efforts, the key is to delve even deeper into spiritual life, to uncover those practices that we have yet to take up. We can chant more rounds, read more books, visit more temples, or simply hear more about the Lord from people who love him, who follow in Hanuman’s footsteps by dedicating their life and soul to pleasing the Supreme Lord. Just as Hanuman was eventually successful, the weary soldier trying to win the war against the material nature that inhibits his spiritual growth too will ultimately prevail.

Who can be more concerned over the welfare of their friends and family than Hanuman? The answer is “no one”. Therefore anyone who has a sincere desire to connect with God through bhakti will surely catch Hanuman’s eye. He will be concerned about their welfare to the same level as if they were a family member. This shows one of the many reasons why Hanuman is so passionately worshiped, honored, adored, and remembered by followers of the Vedic tradition. Hanuman casts a shadow that is impossible to break out of for those following the path of divine love. By using that shadow for comfort, as relief from the intense heat of material existence, the chances for success in life’s mission increase all the more.

HanumanWho can better deal with the distresses that come with temporary failure than Hanuman? After all he had been through, it would have been understandable if he would have quit, thrown in the towel, and decided to return home. Yet that wasn’t an option for him. He’d rather fight every single Rakshasa in Lanka and punish them for whatever they had done to Sita than return home without news of the whereabouts of the princess. His supreme wisdom borne of his devotion to Rama kept him going, giving him the fortitude necessary to remain calm in the face of major duress.

Seeing Hanuman’s thoughts and level of dedication, we can’t help but be touched by them. Since the events of the Ramayana took place so long ago and describe attributes and creatures not seen on the earth today, it is very easy to discount the whole poem as being mythology. Yet the wonderful dedication of Hanuman and his very character alone prove that Rama can be none other than the Supreme Lord, whom the entire creation is given to worship and honor. Where Shri Rama finds people like Hanuman to serve Him is a mystery. Even Lord Brahma, the creator, is enamored by Hanuman’s exhibition of divine love, for who could ever imagine a creature like him roaming the earth? The mystery of Hanuman’s character and immeasurable devotion is known only to the Lord, who always has the best friends and well-wishers. Should we one day be fortunate enough to consider ourselves among that illustrious group of souls, our existence will have proved fruitful.

In Closing:

To keep firm resolve under duress,

Is what can lead to success.

To the task at hand keep focus in,

Perseverance leads to good fortune.

These postulates Hanuman himself did remind,

So that he wouldn’t fail in Sita to find.

Because his character is kind and sweet,

Victory he'd ultimately meet.

He gives the lesson for us to follow,

In sadness and failure don't wallow.

Have perseverance in your bhakti practice,

To always remember Hanuman your mind insist.