Monday, December 31, 2012

Concealing Information

image“’Have you seen Krishna coming this way? Kindly tell us which way He has gone and save our lives.’” (Lord Chaitanya in the mood of the gopis, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 15.36)

Is remaining silent when you know vital information about something the same as lying? If nobody asks you, and you don’t tell, are you to blame if something bad happens? The devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna don’t take any chances in this regard. Why risk getting caught in a moral gray area when you can take the safer route, which will in turn give you tremendous pleasure at the same time?

If there is a fugitive on the loose and the authorities come to your home, they may ask you if you have seen the missing person. “Excuse me sir, we’re looking for such and such person. They are implicated in quite a terrible crime and have fled the scene to escape punishment. We need to bring them to justice, for that is our job. Also, by apprehending the suspect we can make sure that they don’t commit any more crimes in the near future. Have you seen such and such person? We’ve heard whisperings that the suspect may have come through your neighborhood.”

If you know where the suspect is, or if you have seen them personally, you are obligated to tell the truth, at least in the eyes of the law. More importantly, saying anything but the truth here is considered a lie, and you are in essence aiding the fugitive in their crime. But what if this question wasn’t asked of you directly? Let’s say it was asked of your neighbor, and you were in the vicinity when the question was asked. Are you still obligated to tell the truth? Is remaining silent here the same as lying?

Though you weren’t asked directly, you can decipher the proper course by seeing the consequences to the different options. If you remain silent, the fugitive will continue to remain at large. Depending on the crime they supposedly committed, this may mean that others will be put into grave danger. If you speak up, however, you’re ratting out the suspect, but at the same time you’re no longer guilty of concealing information. There is no worry over the ethical gray area. More importantly, the burden is off of you. It is up to the authorities to then act off of the information you gave them. If they fail in their search, you are not to blame at all.

In the grander scheme every person is looking for ananda, or bliss. The problem with their search, however, is that they look in all the wrong places. As the human being is no wiser than an animal at the time of birth, the natural inclination is to scratch the itching for sense gratification. Look for bliss in beer, wine, and illegal drugs. Look for pleasure in intimate relations with the opposite sex. When the mind is bored, stimulate it through gambling, and when the stomach starts to growl, feed it with animal flesh.

None of these avenues deals with the soul. In fact, they tie directly to the opposite of spirit: matter. The human being can understand that they are spirit and not matter just by looking at the constant shifts to their own body. The concept of “you only get one life” doesn’t hold if you really think about it. You only get one childhood too then, right? But when you’re an adult your childhood is gone forever. You’ll never get that youthful form back. Does this mean that you cease to exist? Is not the consciousness that allows you to realize that your childhood is gone indication enough that you’re still alive?

That consciousness never leaves, even during times of rest. At the time of death that consciousness accompanies us to a new form, which is again composed of material elements. The consciousness is tied to the soul, which is the essence of our identity. Real ananda is found through addressing the needs of the soul. To address the needs, you have to know more about the soul. In the Vedas, the atma, or soul, is described as blissful, knowledgeable and eternal. It also has a core property, or dharma, which is service. The service is ideally directed at the Supreme Soul, who is the same in quality as the individual soul but vastly superior in the quantitative measurement of that quality.

How can we quantify knowledge, bliss and eternality?

Some people have a little knowledge while others have a lot. The same applies for happiness. As far as eternality goes, the quantitative measurement is drawn from the Supreme Soul’s ability to remain within the same form for all of time. We are also eternal, but we accept and reject different bodies through reincarnation, which is ultimately our choice.

In service to God there is no need to change bodies, as the original consciousness is God consciousness. Service to God is ideal because God is all-attractive; hence one of His names is Krishna. The devotees of the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord, which is His original feature, thus hold vital information. They first gathered it from a spiritual teacher who follows devotion themselves. They learned it from their own spiritual teacher, and if you ascend the chain of succession you eventually reach the Supreme Lord Himself.

Lord KrishnaThe Vaishnavas, devotees of Vishnu [Krishna], don’t take any chances with respect to concealing vital information. They will gladly share information about Krishna, provided that one is receptive to the message. I can explain the trade policy with China to my friend during dinner, but if they are focused on something else, my talk will fall on deaf ears. Yet devotees in this age of Kali are so kind that they constantly look for people who are interested, rather than wait for others to approach them. And to catch the attention of the world, they always chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

This chanting actually delivers Krishna, as the Lord is not different from His holy name. And when one is offered Krishna, the Lord’s presence saves their life. This was shown by the gopis of Vrindavana, who are considered the topmost devotees. Lord Chaitanya, who is Krishna Himself, inaugurated the sankirtana-yajna, the congregational chanting of the holy names. During His time on earth He often exhibited the mood of the gopis, sometimes asking the trees if they had seen Krishna. If they told Him where the Lord was, that information would be a lifesaver. And so the kind preacher following in Lord Chaitanya’s line looks to save everyone by revealing Krishna’s location. And more importantly, they teach us how to keep Krishna’s association through following bhakti-yoga.

In Closing:

Authorities may question if you know,

Where the suspected fugitive did go.


If within the vicinity of question you hear,

Whether to tell the truth or not is unclear.


If the location to them not told,

Future crimes possibly to unfold.


Similarly, God’s location Chaitanya gave,

So that countless souls He could save.


His followers take up the same task,

So that “Where is God?” we won’t have to ask.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

United in Peace

Chanting the holy names“Free from all contaminations of material desires, the distressed, the inquisitive, the penniless, and the seeker after supreme knowledge can all become pure devotees. But out of them, he who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth and free from all material desires becomes a really pure devotee of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.17 Purport)

“I don’t want any more war. Why should one country send soldiers to fight soldiers of another country? We don’t fight to the death with our neighbor, and the country is just a collection of communities, or large groups of neighbors, so why should there be conflict? It would be great if the entire world were united in peace. No more fighting; just sharing and caring.”

To want world peace is certainly noble, but how does one actually go about achieving it? Many organizations have been formed, but instead of increasing the peace, there is only more division, which automatically leads to more strife. If I think that I am constitutionally different from someone else, how are my desires ever going to square with theirs? And if desires clash, then surely someone will get frustrated. If someone is frustrated, they are bound to get angry, and as a response to that anger they may take to violence. Only when I and others know that everyone is equal constitutionally is there any chance for peace.

Let’s look at a practical example of where a peace solution goes wrong. There is the United Nations, which was formed in response to World War II. Never do we want a repeat to the second world war, which saw millions die in a struggle for sovereignty over various lands. In the United Nations, the many nations around the world come together to talk things out, to resolve their disputes diplomatically, in a peaceful way.

But what kinds of disputes are there? One country wants to take over another country. They believe that the land in question belongs to them and not the current occupiers. How do you settle this dispute? Do you just hand over the land to the country that wants it? What about the people that currently live there? Well, you can always ship them off to somewhere else, but as soon as you do this, you are setting the precedent that one governing body, an authority figure if you will, has the ability to decide who can live where.

If an authority figure can determine that land belongs to a specific country, why can’t it do the same for my country? Who is to say that I can’t have the entire world as my playground? Why should I listen to this authority figure anyway? Who are they? Are they beyond vice? Do they not have flaws? Just because they earn majority support in an election doesn’t automatically make them infallible. In an election the primary objective is to receive the most votes, which can be accomplished in many ways that are not admirable. The victorious party could have used every fallacy of argument in the book. It could have purchased votes by promising certain favors once elected. Actually, these things take place all the time already in democratic elections.

As long as there are conflicting interests, there will always be division, which in turn makes peace unstable. The more nations you add means that you’re only creating more points for conflict. However, the human race can unite under a common thread: knowledge of the individual’s constitutional position. This position is hinted at in the Vedic aphorism athato brahma-jijnasa, which means “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman.”

What time does this refer to and what is Brahman?

This aphorism applies to the human birth. This means that as soon as we emerge from the womb, our time has come for inquiring about Brahman, which is the Supreme Absolute Truth. In the United Nations and other governing bodies there are relative truths. What one country wants isn’t necessarily in the interests of another. What brings peace today may not tomorrow. These truths are based in duality; they have two sides. The Absolute Truth is that which is beyond duality.

Can such a truth exist?

Only the human being can make the inquiry into this. Notice that the aphorism doesn’t say, “Now is the time for surrendering to such and such personality.” It also doesn’t say, “Now is the time for adopting this faith so that you’ll avoid eternal damnation.” For real surrender to take place, one has to have full faith in the object being surrendered to. And real faith only exists when there are no doubts. And the easiest way to dispel doubts is to be confident from knowledge.

The human being learns about Brahman to dispel doubts. The learning ideally begins at an early age, in the same way that we learn the alphabet, grammar and mathematics while still under the age of ten. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, exist for the purpose of understanding Brahman, and one who knows Brahman fully is known as a brahmana. By occupation the brahmana can be likened to a priest, but from their position in knowledge they are more than just a figure dressed in religious garb. From their knowledge of Brahman, they can impart wisdom to any person in society, whether that person is Brahman realized or not.

“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)Bhagavad-gita As It Is

The person who is realized in Brahman no longer hankers or laments. In that superior position, they take up devotional service to the Personality of Godhead. Again, this figure is not sectarian and neither is He an abstract concept conjured up by the speculative mind. He is the very source of Brahman, which can be likened to a collection of individual spiritual fragments. Spiritual means not material, which means that it is not riddled with the defects of mutability and impermanence. That which is spiritual is immutable, unchanging, and ever-existing. The individual thus does not die at the time of death and does not come into existence at the time of birth.

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.20)

I am Brahman and so are you. In fact, so is the dog and the cat, but due to their material coverings they are not able to understand Brahman. If I know that every person is equal on a spiritual level, I will treat them better. I will not unnecessarily be violent towards innocent creatures, both human and nonhuman alike. I will not need to collect more than I should because I know that my true identity is as spirit. All spirit emanates from the Supreme Spirit, or God, and so there is an inherent relationship we all have to Him.

Krishna with cowA Brahman realized soul takes the next step into devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. In this discipline, there is still desire and relevant activity, but they are dovetailed with the interests of the Supreme Lord. Just as we are above the dualities of the material nature, so is God. If my identity is not rooted in place of birth, bank balance, or physical relationship to another object, the same holds true for God. As a result the many temporary problems we create are not in His scope of interest.

What does interest Him, however, is connecting with the Brahman sparks, the individual spirit souls. Thus one who is in full knowledge of Brahman and the source of Brahman takes to activity that is pleasing to the highest authority figure. His gifts in the form of material opulence, whether large or small, are enough to continue on in life with peace. In bhakti-yoga, division between the living entities, at least in thought, is eliminated. Thus desires no longer clash as well.

As long as I continue to think that I am different from someone else at a constitutional level, I will have desires that are sure to clash with another person’s. In bhakti-yoga, the uniform goal is pleasing the Supreme Lord, whose qualities and instructions are described in the ancient Vedic text, the Bhagavad-gita. The devotees of God unite in peace by chanting together the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The supreme authority figure gives each person their allotment, and whatever is provided is fair for continuing on in service, which unites others who are around in the mission of serving God in a peaceful way.

In Closing:

World peace is what we seek,

But conflict when nations meet.


Desiring to take over a certain land,

With ease they’ll raise conflict’s hand.


Desires guaranteed to collide,

When in ignorance of spirit we reside.


From the Vedas Brahman know,

And straight to enlightened state go.


Worship of universal Lord from there,

And automatically for all creatures care.


To find God for every person is the plight,

In chanting the holy names let the world unite.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Chasing Opulences

Panchamukha Hanuman“Parents and other relatives of the Lord achieve all mystic opulences automatically because of their intimate relationship with the Lord. Such opulences include all details of material enjoyment, salvation and mystic powers. Therefore, the devotee of the Lord does not seek them separately, wasting his valuable time in life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.4 Purport)

You stumble upon something favorable. You weren’t specifically looking for this, but it fell into your lap. It’s so enjoyable to have that you now expect the same favorable item in the future. You might receive it again and again for one hundred times in a row, but as soon as it is missing just one time, when it’s favorability vanishes, you’re stuck with unhappiness that could have been avoided all along. If that opulence hadn’t been chased, the later negative experience wouldn’t have occurred. The wise saints know that opulences come and go, and when there is connection to the person who possesses all opulences, necessary things arrive without our specifically seeking them.

Let’s work through a few examples to see the futility in chasing opulences separately, without connection to God. Connection to God is known as yoga, and the human being, through first inquiring about the Absolute Truth, Brahman, has the opportunity to practice yoga. As there is connection in yoga, when not in yoga there is an automatic disconnection. The superior party is not affected in the disconnected state, just as the electrical socket is the same with or without appliances plugged into it. The appliance is what requires the electricity, and without being plugged in, it won’t work.

In the same way, the living entity requires connection to God in order to approach life properly. As the default condition with birth in the material world is disconnection, the first path chosen is the improper one. In the disconnected state, I chase after opulences, thinking that getting them will make my life better. Let’s say that pizza is my favorite dish. In America there are so many restaurants that make and sell pizza. I can spend a good amount of time trying to find the best pizza place. I can make this an adventure, trying new places week after week.

Let’s say that I find a place that is really good. The pizza is exactly to my liking. The crust is soft, the sauce isn’t too greasy, and the cheese is fresh. This will be my new pizza place. I will go here from now on because the good pizza satisfies my senses. I start going here week after week, but one time the pizza doesn’t taste so good. They overcooked it. You can’t undo “burnt”, and so this well-done crust is not cutting it today. The perfect pizza place that I found is no longer perfect; it has flaws. Thus my chase after opulence in this area was futile.

The same pattern applies to the king. He rises to prominence through hereditary links or by exhibiting his fighting prowess on the battlefield. With that prominence he gains control over the kingdom, and with that control he can get whatever he wants. Even in democratically elected governments, the leader enjoys perks that others don’t. The President of the United States can call out for a pizza at any hour of the night and have one brought to him. He can get Air Force One ready to fly to wherever he wants to go, at any time.

Yet even the ruler runs into a wall eventually. They can’t have everything they want, all the time. Presidents don’t always win reelection, and sometimes kingdoms lose sovereignty over areas. The British kingdom once stretched across the world, but slowly its power faded. More and more countries gained independence, and the once mighty kingdom shrunk in scope.

The advantage of yoga is that you strive to please the senses of the connected party first. In simpler terms, your primary objective is to please God. To please someone else, they must be a distinct personality. To be a distinct personality requires a form, and so the Supreme Lord is more than just an impersonal energy. He is full of all opulences; hence He is also known as Bhagavan. In the Vedic scriptures His opulences are described to the best extent possible, and there are also pastimes presented to show us the difference between action in yoga and action in maya, or illusion.

In the Treta Yuga the Supreme Personality of Godhead personally expands into Lord Rama, the youthful prince of the Raghu dynasty whose actions while on earth are recorded in the sacred Ramayana poem of Valmiki. From that work we see that those devoted to Rama achieve extraordinary opulences without specifically endeavoring for them. Sugriva and Vibhishana take over kingdoms just by serving Rama in full devotion. Shri Hanuman, considered Rama’s greatest devotee, is arguably the most worshiped figure in the world. This is true not only today but for the past many thousands of years.

hanuman-poster-CJ09_lDid Sugriva and Vibhishana strive for sovereignty as the ultimate objective in life? They may or may not have, but nevertheless they couldn’t get full control over their respective kingdoms. Yet from just surrendering to Rama in one second these things were handed over to them. And more importantly, both were in yoga, so while ruling over their kingdoms they only thought of Rama and following His dictates set forth in the Vedic literatures.

Hanuman asks for nothing from Rama but is given everything. The Supreme Lord’s wife is the goddess of fortune. She is like the wife who manages the finances for the household. She spends the Lord’s limitless fortune on worthy recipients. Sita provides for Hanuman’s necessities, allowing him to constantly chant the names of her husband wherever he goes. Thus he stays in yoga, and since he is the ideal devotee, others can worship him too.

Bhukti, mukti and siddhi are the three categories of opulences sought out by those who are not connected to God in a mood of love. Bhukti is material enjoyment, and we know that one can’t have full control over anything without God’s sanction. Mukti is the release from the cycle of birth and death, an end to reincarnation. And since one of God’s names is Mukunda, or one who grants mukti, only through the Supreme Lord’s will does liberation come about. Siddhi is a mystical perfection, the result of meditational yoga practice. Shri Hanuman has all the siddhis of yoga, but he doesn’t purposefully strive for them. You must have a purpose to an ability for it to mean something. If I can hold my breath for hours, it doesn’t really mean anything unless I can use it to better my condition. Hanuman uses mystic perfections in service to Rama. Since he uses his abilities to please God, his opulences fall into the category of bhakti.

For one who follows bhakti-yoga, intentionally or unintentionally, all necessary opulences come on their own, allowing more time for focus in transcendence. As Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, something as little as a fruit or flower is accepted by Him if the offering is made with love. This means that whether we have a lot or not very much, we always have the opportunity for real yoga in bhakti. And love for the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, which is the fruit of bhakti-yoga, is the greatest opulence, a gift that keeps giving.

In Closing:

Frustration to come from just one time,

When perfect circumstances don’t align.


For opulences separately no need to strive,

Supreme Lord to provide plenty to stay alive.


Vibhishana and Sugriva kings became,

Eternal devotion Shri Hanuman gained.


To be connected with God we are meant,

In devotion all required opulences sent.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Not An Angry God

Vishnu kicked by Bhrigu“The Lord has the sign of the foot of bhrigupada as the mark of tolerance. The Lord, therefore, is never affected by any kind of wrath, so how can there be any place for lust, which is less strong than wrath? When lust or desire is not fulfilled, there is the appearance of wrath, but in the absence of wrath how can there be any place for lust? The Lord is known as apta-kama, or one who can fulfill His desires by Himself. He does not require anyone's help to satisfy His desires.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.7 Purport)

In an episode of the famous American television sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, one of the children makes a presentation of a short story in school. It is titled “The Angry Family”, and it is about how the members of the family are always angry with each other. This alarms the parents, grandparents and uncle who are in attendance. They all live within close proximity, so for the young child to describe a family that’s angry, he must be referencing his own. The concern is caused by the fact that a family is not supposed to be angry; it is supposed to be happy to have each other around. We get angry with people we are not friends with or with people we don’t know very well. Friends and family are our support system, so why should they be angry in dealing with each other?

But there is anger from time to time. Especially between husband and wife, personal desires aren’t always met. The wife wants the husband to do more around the house. “Don’t just come home and plop yourself on the couch. Help out with the dishes. Cook something. Take the kids out of the house so that I can get some work done. Ask me how my day was. Don’t be so selfish. If you really loved me, you wouldn’t have to ask why I’m angry.” The husband, for his part, wants the wife to be supportive. “Don’t nag me all the time. I had a hard day at work, so I want to have some peace and quiet when I get home. Why are you always yelling? And don’t tell me what to wear and what to eat. I don’t like that.”

In social circles that believe in God, it is generally accepted that we living entities are God’s children. He is the Supreme Father, and we are the nurtured dependents. We see that families get angry, so God must be the same way with us, no? “If we defy His will, He will punish us. And sometimes the punishment is severe, so we mustn’t go against His wishes.” Through consulting Vedic texts, we get more concrete information about God, and the analogy to the father who sometimes gets angry starts to break down. God is most certainly a caring father, but there is no specific anger on His part in relation to our willful neglect of worship. The consequences are automatically built into the system, and in actuality God is the most benevolent. Not even a kick to His chest from an unexpected assailant can make Him angry.

To understand how the consequences operate, we can look to fire. If we place our hand into a fire, we will get burned. It’s as simple as that. We don’t need to study too much about the fire or the hand. This is just the law of nature. The wise person will advise against putting the hand in the fire, but if someone else doesn’t listen, is the wise person to blame for the reaction? Of course they aren’t, as the properties of fire exist regardless of outside opinion. In addition, that same fire has other uses which are beneficial. This means that it is the improper use which causes the negative reaction, not the fire itself nor the person who created it.

God created everything in this world, and thus there is an ideal use for everything. In the improper use, there are negative consequences, which are sometimes intense. He is not to blame, as the energies can be used for our benefit. Independence, a minute amount at that, is the most potent gift that we have, which means that it also has the highest potential for misuse. Our independence is meant to be used for serving God in what is known as bhakti-yoga, or the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. This is confirmed by Lord Chaitanya, who says that the true form of the self, or svarupa, is servant of God.

“It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krishna because he is the marginal energy of Krishna and a manifestation simultaneously one and different from the Lord, like a molecular particle of sunshine or fire. Krishna has three varieties of energy.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.108-109)Chaitanya Charitamrita

Any other engagement is thus a misuse of the independence. Large or small, pious or impious, if the activity is done for personal sense gratification, enjoyment tied to a temporary body, there will be some negative consequences. This is how karma operates, i.e. there is work and a subsequent reaction tied to the material body. Bhakti is above karma, as it is the constitutional engagement of the soul.

One has the choice between karma and bhakti because of God’s benevolence. He does not force anyone to love Him. In fact, if there were force applied the resulting relationship couldn’t be accurately described as a loving one. There has to be voluntary acceptance from the person offering the service; otherwise the offering is not genuine. If someone apologizes to us simply to get away with what they did, will we accept their apology? Do we not expect a genuine feeling of remorse from someone who has wronged us?

The “angry God” concept is invalid also because of what causes anger. Anger is due to frustration, the inability to get what you want. But if you’re God, how could you ever not get what you want? If you are frustrated due to inability, it means that you are fallible. If you are fallible, then you aren’t God. If you are God, then your tolerance should actually be immeasurable; no one should be able to sway you from your steady position.

There is an interesting incident related in the Puranas that illustrates this high level of tolerance. One time Bhrigu Muni conducted a test to see who was supreme among Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. The original Personality of Godhead is known as Krishna in the Vedic tradition, and Vishnu is His direct expansion who carries out the original creation and subsequent maintenance of the universe. Brahma and Shiva are exalted living beings who carry out other functions in the same creation, but they are subordinate. They worship Vishnu and that’s what makes them exalted.

Bhrigu managed to offend both Brahma and Shiva with his purposeful impious behavior. When he reached Vishnu, his method of experiment was a kick to the chest. Can we ever imagine doing such a thing? Would you go up to a professional wrestler and kick them in the stomach? They would immediately run after you, no? God is the most powerful, so if you kick Him in the chest, He has the most strength to use in retaliation.

Lord VishnuVishnu took the blow in stride. Since Bhrigu was a brahmana devotee, Vishnu said that He was very humbled to have felt the lotus feet of a brahmana on His chest. He worried that Bhrigu might have gotten hurt by having to kick a chest that was so hard. In this way Vishnu’s supremacy was proven, as His tolerance was unexpected and unbelievable. For the devotee, the Supreme Lord is willing to do anything.

If He needs to show anger on occasion, He will do so. Prahlada Maharaja was harassed by his father when he was only five years old. Prahlada used his independence properly, but the foolish father didn’t like that. For the sake of protecting the devotional service of His devotee, the same Vishnu arrived on the scene in a ferocious form named Narasimha and very angrily tore Prahlada’s father in half, killing him. The father had neglected devotional service for all his life, but that in itself didn’t warrant personal intervention from an “angry” God. It was when he tried to obstruct the devotion of his son that the Supreme Lord personally intervened.

Families sometimes do get angry, but in the spiritual family consisting of the devoted sons and daughters and the Supreme Lord, there is only love. To this day Vishnu proudly wears Bhrigu’s footprint on His chest, and His protection of Prahlada is a famous incident celebrated and discussed constantly. God is nice, and those who chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, quickly realize it.

In Closing:

Families sometimes with each other fight,

Familiarity raises tension just upon sight.


Since God is father maybe He is the same,

To those who ignore Him He brings pain?


Actually, the Lord’s tolerance supremely strong,

Never defeated in getting that for which He longs.


Between karma and bhakti is our choice,

Better in glorifying God to rejoice.


He’ll even get angry for protection to offer,

Like when Prahlada harassed by his father.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

He Has Got Life

Worshiping Krishna's lotus feet“The body is only a dead vehicle to be worked by the spirit soul, which is always active and cannot stop even for a moment. As such, the spirit soul has to be engaged in the good work of Krishna consciousness, otherwise it will be engaged in occupations dictated by illusory energy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.5 Purport)

“If only I could sleep in; wake up on the weekend. I work so hard during the week. There are endless responsibilities. I have to get up in time for work. I have to make breakfast, eat it on time, get out the door at a certain hour, all just so I can arrive at the office. And then life at the office isn’t a picnic, either. I’m constantly bombarded with requests. It’s like a never-ending soap opera. At the end of each day, we complete one task, only to have a new one that needs to get resolved. When I get home at night, I just want to relax and do absolutely nothing. I long for the days when time is of no concern, when I have no idea where the day is going, nor do I care.”

These laments are certainly understandable given a hectic lifestyle for the busy adult worker. But on the other hand, think of the day where you don’t have to do anything. You can get up out of bed whenever you want. In fact, you can stay in bed the whole day. Wake up, reach over for the remote control, flip on the television, and just lie there. Watch show after show. Maybe get up once to use the restroom, but then quickly jump back into bed.

After a few hours of this, will you feel good? Will you feel happy? Is the summit of an existence the absence of activity? Actually, you probably feel better on the days when you have responsibilities. Not that you crave tension and pressure, but at least during those times you are actively engaged. Rest is nice when it comes after hard work, but rest as a fulltime occupation is not very fulfilling.

The ancient art of bhakti-yoga, devotional service, is the topmost system of activity because it directly deals with the core properties of the individual. To know those properties one must know the individual. What represents me? Is it my hand? My leg? What about my body as a whole? In the Vedic definition, the individual is identified by the atma, or soul. There are different kinds of atmas, and the individual soul is more technically known as the jivatma.

The jivatma is not dormant. To “be” means to be alive, and since the spirit soul always exists, it is always active. Evidence of this can be seen even during sleep. Sleep is the absence of activity for the tired worker, but just because we’re not working doesn’t mean that the mind ceases to function. In fact, in order to fall asleep the mind has to start racing from one thought to another, more quickly than it does during periods of alertness. Thus the mind is “always on”, if you will, which is a symptom of the soul’s active propensity.

The properties of the soul are known to the Vedic seers, who first heard them from the Supreme Soul, who never heard it from anyone because no one existed before Him. In fact, He has always existed; He is sanatana. Our mind has no way of conceiving of infinite time or infinite space, so we are inferior to the sanatana Supreme Soul. The jivatma is also sanatana, but because of its inferior nature it can be placed into bodies that mask pure consciousness.

Knowledge of the soul is kindly passed on by the original person to sincere disciples, and that chain of information transfer has continued to this day. It is through consultation with this link of spiritual knowledge that we’re able to know that the spirit soul is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge. Eternal means never inactive. Blissful means not unhappy, and full of knowledge means not ignorant.

Compare this to the state of inactivity, where we’re just sitting around all day. The soul is still active during this period, but the consciousness is in a less active state. In addition, bliss is absent as well; otherwise everyone would immediately choose to do nothing all the time. Also, you cannot be knowledgeable when you are in a state of laziness. Laziness equates to ignorance. Combining these conditions together, we see that bodily inactivity does not square with the constitutional position of the spirit soul.

To regain the real happiness of the soul one needs to find an engagement suited for the soul and its properties. Bhakti-yoga is that engagement. Any other activity that brings some sort of satisfaction is but a derivative of bhakti-yoga, sort of like a watered down version. As you can dilute a compound in decreasing percentages of purity, you can water down bhakti-yoga to the point that you’re offering service to just your personal senses. Bhakti-yoga can translate to mean the connection of the individual soul to the Supreme Soul in a mood of love. Love manifests in service, and so any kind of service gives a glimpse of the original occupation that is bhakti-yoga.

There is service to the parents, the community, the paramour, the children, the nation, the employer, the employee, the customer, and so on. Only service to the personal form of God qualifies as bhakti. The personal forms are described in the Vedic texts. Not to be confused with the concocted idea of many gods popularly attributed to Hinduism, there is only one God. He kindly expands into other non-different forms to fit the preferred method of worship of the devotee, but this does not mean that everything or everyone is God.

Lord KrishnaThe original Personality of Godhead is described as all-attractive, and so He is addressed as Krishna. He is also the source of transcendental pleasure, and so He is also addressed as Rama. His energy is always tied to Him, and we are part of that energy. The aspects of that energy that follow bhakti-yoga are as worshipable as God, and so the chanting of the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is a great way to practice bhakti-yoga.

Better than worshiping by yourself is worshiping with others, and better than this is expounding on the glories of God to others. The need for this kind of preaching should make sense. If there weren’t active spiritual preachers around, how would we ever find out about God? How would we know the alphabet if nobody taught it to us? How would we know mathematics unless someone took the time to give instruction? Similarly, how are we going to learn about the properties of the soul and its ideal engagement if no one is kind enough to give us the information?

In ancient times the spiritual teachers were very selective in sharing information. We don’t allow just anyone to take over the airplane and fly it. We don’t put children behind the wheel to drive a car. You must be qualified to do these things. Knowledge of the soul and the fundamentals of bhakti-yoga represent very powerful information, and so only the worthy recipient should be blessed with it.

In more recent times, finding qualified recipients is much more difficult, as the watered down versions of bhakti, which are based in illusion rather than knowledge, are more prominent. For this reason, saints like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu actively preach about bhakti-yoga through the method of congregational chanting of the holy names. Let everyone hear the names of God, and if there is an interest from there, then one can further expound on the glories of the Supreme Lord and His personal features. Even if no one is around to listen, the devotee is advised to still carry on with their preaching, for through describing God they will gain a better understanding of Him for themselves.

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a spiritual teacher following in Mahaprabhu’s line of instruction, would say that his spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, used to say that one who has life can preach. In other words, someone who is actively engaged in spiritual life will take to glorifying God out in the open and discussing those glories with others. This preaching life is actually a wonderful gift handed down to the sincere spiritualist. This is a gift that continues to give infinitely into the future. You can never run out of good things to say about God. There is limitless information found in Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and Ramayana. Personal experiences bring new points of reference which can be used in explaining the properties of the soul and how its constitutional engagement is devotional service.

Plugging into these new outlets of worship beats sitting around doing nothing. We are happiest when we are active, and in real spiritual life the individual is never sedentary. And in that always active state, bhakti-yoga’s supremacy, along with the authority of the personalities who teach it to us, is validated.

In Closing:

One who has got life can preach,

Of devotion to God they can teach.


Why all day just sit around,

And behave like rocks on the ground?


With work initiative take,

And fulfilling your day make.


Describe God every single day,

And happily never run out of things to say.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Keeping the Momentum

Japa beads“The mahatma is always engaged in different activities of devotional service, as described in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, hearing and chanting about Vishnu, not a demigod or human being.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 9.14 Purport)

Vishno-smaranam is one of the processes of devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, recommended by a young Prahlada Maharaja many eons ago. Devotional service is the constitutional engagement of the soul. This means that the soul’s ideal occupation is to serve God, the Supreme Absolute Truth. As the soul is eternal, so is its ideal occupation, and so the closest equivalent term for religion in the Vedas is sanatana-dharma, or the occupational duty which has no beginning and no end. Unfortunately, with residence in the material world, the soul goes on hiatus from the constitutional engagement. Therefore steps are necessary to rekindle the dormant love for God that rests within the heart. From the model of the assembly line, we learn one way in which to increase efficiency in devotional service.

Vishno-smaranam means remembering Vishnu, which is another name for God. In the Vedic literatures you will see many mentions of Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Narasimha, and other such beings who are considered the original Supreme Lord. There is also mention of other god-like figures, but nowhere is it said that they are equal to Vishnu. Vishnu and Krishna are equal because they are the same person, the origin of life and matter. Just like there is an original candle that can then light many other replica candles, the original Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, personally expands into different avataras to carry out different functions. The living beings, both elevated and degraded, are separated expansions, so they are not the same as God.

A simpler definition of vishno-smaranam is “remembering God”. “This seems worthwhile enough. Just remember God.” You have to remind someone else of this because of the proclivity towards forgetfulness. If we can forget what we had for lunch yesterday, we can most certainly forget God. Aiding that forgetfulness is the preponderance of religious systems which appear to be contradictory. One person worships five times a day while another goes to church once a week. They both say that their religious system is authentic. How do we square the differences? Are they worshiping the same person?

In the Vedas, the oldest scriptural tradition in the world, the differences are reconciled through the truth that God is realized in three different ways. There is the impersonal energy known as Brahman. Think of collecting every individual fragment of spirit and putting them together. This is the Brahman energy. It is transcendental to the temporary changes of the manifest world. We are all Brahman, aham brahmasmi.

Brahman is only a partial realization of the Absolute Truth, because there is also Paramatma, or the Supreme Soul. This is the localized aspect of the superior spiritual force within every single living entity. The Supersoul is the same individual within each person. My identity is different from yours, but the Supersoul in my heart is identical to the Supersoul in yours. They are one and the same, and so they are conscious of both my activities and yours.

Bhagavan is the full realization of God. Bhagavan means one who possesses all opulences. To possess an opulence means to possess a form. To have a form that is above maya, or the material nature, means to have a spiritual form. This concept of spiritual matter is achintya, or inconceivable. We only use the term Bhagavan to get a slight understanding of the Personality of Godhead’s features. Bhagavan is a singular entity, and the different religious traditions around the world worship the same Bhagavan but with varying levels of knowledge. If you don’t really know who He is, you are essentially worshiping Brahman. If you want to attain spiritual awareness through yoga, you are essentially worshiping the Supersoul.

Lord KrishnaBhakti-yoga is exclusively reserved for Bhagavan. Within bhakti-yoga, there are different methods, and they are not all required for perfection. Just one implementation done in the proper mood, where desires for material gain and for the elimination of distress are completely absent, brings perfection. Perfection is connection with God, or yoga. The question then remains as to how to implement any or all of the processes.

Remembrance seems the easiest, but how do we practice it in a way that is fruitful? We can look to the assembly line concept to see how to build something in an efficient way. Let’s say that I have to mail out a large number of letters. To mail a letter requires a piece of paper with written content, an envelope, a stamp, and the act of dropping the letter in the mail. There are different ways to tackle this project. I can take out a piece of paper, write the letter[which in this example will be a form letter], stuff it in an envelope, affix the proper postage, and then go to the mailbox to drop it off. Once the entire process is done, I can go back and start on my next letter.

The wise person, however, will divide up the components in a way that will allow for momentum in work. For instance, one part of the day can be spent solely on writing the letters. After all of the letters are written, all of them can be stuffed in envelopes. Then postage can be applied to all of the stuffed envelopes. Finally, all of the letters set to go out can be taken to the post office at once. This way there is momentum in each task, and the work is much easier to accomplish. If you break your concentration by jumping from one task to another, your mind will be less interested in the work itself.

Taking the same concept and applying it to bhakti-yoga, it is better to practice remembering God in a way that builds momentum. This brings us to the most important recommended practice for spiritual seekers of the modern age: the chanting of the holy names. If you’re going to chant, why not pick the best names? In the Vedas are to be found many names for God, but Krishna and Rama are considered the best. Hare refers to Bhagavan’s energy, and so the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is the best sequence of words to chant.

Chanting out loud actually fulfills two other methods of devotional service, namely chanting and hearing, or kirtanam and shravanam. The recommendation by the acharyas who follow in the line of Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is that we chant the aforementioned mantra for up to sixteen rounds a day on a set of japa beads. You can divide up the rounds throughout the day if you prefer, but one round consists of 108 recitations of the mantra. There is automatic momentum built into this recommended practice. Rather than chant one mantra, then drift off to something else, and then return to chanting, if you chant the mantras over and over again, in a circle that repeats, it slowly turns into a habit.

There is no better habit to have than remembering God, and by chanting and hearing the holy names, the best habit quickly forms. Devotional service, the soul’s constitutional engagement, soon becomes a fixture in everyday life rather than a separate endeavor viewed as a chore. In the recommendations of the acharyas we see that they give us the tools necessary to build our way to a spiritually-infused consciousness, a subtle house of delight so sturdy that it doesn’t even break at the time of death.

In Closing:

With someone with discipline instilled,

Work in way where momentum builds.


The work no longer to become a chore,

Otherwise jumping mind to easily bore.


In bhakti divine consciousness to make,

To find success lessons from assembly line take.


In japa chant holy names in succession,

Remembering and hearing God make perfection.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Greatest Donor

Krishna's lotus feet“He who reads this beautiful ashtakam of the sweet pastimes of Kunja-vihari receives the best fortune of attachment to the worship of the lotus feet of the Lord.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 9)

aṣṭakaḿ madhura-kuñja-vihāri
krīḍayā paṭhati yaḥ kila hāri
sa prayāti vilasat-para-bhāgaḿ
tasya pāda-kamalārcana-rāgam

The living organ donor kindly offers an essential part of their material body to someone else so that they can continue to live. It is not an easy transfer by any means, but to the donor the risk is worth the reward. To see someone else continue to live when they otherwise would die is a tremendous gift. This is but one example of a generous donor, but transcending life and death is the soul. If there were a way to give someone a gift to last beyond the current lifetime, that gift would have to be considered superior. In addition, the person granting that gift would have to be considered the greatest donor. Both of these conditions are met by Shrila Rupa Gosvami and his wonderful gift of devotion to the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

You see a destitute person on the street and offer them a few dollars since that’s what they’re asking for. Can’t hurt, right? They need money, and you have no problem sparing a few dollars. Ah, but what will they do with that money? If your response is, “I don’t care,” you should know that you are immediately implicated in the resultant reaction as soon as you interfere with your donation. Think about it for a second. If a thief wants to commit a crime and comes to me for a weapon, should I give him one? Should I lend him my rifle and then say, “Go ahead, do what you want with this”? Of course I would be partially at fault for the resultant crime, even if I was totally ignorant of the situation beforehand.

“And charity performed at an improper place and time and given to unworthy persons without respect and with contempt is charity in the mode of ignorance.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.22)Bhagavad-gita As It Is

In the Bhagavad-gita, the different kinds of charity are covered. The material universe consists of three modes of nature, and there are many combinations of these modes. There are 8,400,000 species of life, with each one possessing a unique combination of the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Goodness is knowledge, passion fruitive work that leads to a neutral state, and ignorance stupidity, i.e. doing things the wrong way. The animals are mostly in ignorance, while the heavenly beings are mostly in goodness. The human species has a combination of the three modes.

Charity in the mode of goodness is giving to the proper recipient, at the right time, and not expecting a payback. The proper recipient is the brahmana, or a person in the mode of goodness. As they are in knowledge, they don’t have the time to engage in fruitive activity as much as those in passion and ignorance do. Therefore charity to them never goes to waste. The true brahmana, by quality and work, uses the charity they accept to continue their worship of the Supreme Lord, which then benefits society.

How does this work exactly? The brahmana is not just a receiver. He is a donor too. Shrila Rupa Gosvami is an example of this fact. He roamed this earth during the medieval period in India, and in his early life he was a government minister. Due to the influence of Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu he accepted the renounced order of life. Living on practically nothing, taking shelter underneath a tree, he and his associates revived a dormant spiritual culture in the holy land of Vrindavana. Part of that culture is hearing the glories of the Supreme Lord, and in order to hear there has to be material available to consult.

The original Vedas and their supplements like the Ramayana and Puranas take care of this need, but the saints also take pleasure in describing God through their own lens. It is not that they change the conclusion. The Supreme Lord is still a person, and His original form is Krishna, the beautiful youth with a dark complexion. Each of us has a unique life experience, and that can be used in further describing God, which has the added benefit of purifying us in the process.

Rupa Gosvami’s Shri Kunja-vihary-ashtakam is an example of a description of God added on after the composition of the original Vedas and Puranas. It is a short work of eight verses, which are concise and beautifully sequenced. They specifically reference Krishna’s affinity for the Vrindavana forest, where He happily plays about in transcendental sweetness. There are family and friends in Vrindavana as well, and they are equally worthy of contemplation by the spiritualist.

In the concluding verse to his short poem, Rupa Gosvami says that by hearing these sweet verses one gets attachment to the lotus feet of Krishna, which is the greatest fortune. Can we get such a gift just by hearing? Actually, we can, provided the attitude is right. Attitude is ultimately determined by consciousness, and so when consciousness is cleared of distractions like doubt, envy, pride, and attachment to temporary things, it can create the attitude necessary to relish the sound vibrations that describe God, who is a figure universally worthy of worship. Whatever spiritual tradition you inherit, whether you are religious or not, to hear about Krishna in a humble attitude is a wonderful experience, one that eventually gives the fruit of your existence.

Rupa GosvamiAnd that fruit is attachment to Krishna’s feet, which are His servants. Attachment to His feet is devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. This is the greatest reward because it is like a wish-fulfilling tree that can be accessed at any time. Whether you are in trouble or in peaceful comfort, chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, can make you even happier. Chanting and hearing go hand in hand, and they foster remembrance, which is the function of consciousness. Consciousness follows us in each life, like the air carrying aromas.

“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.8)

The gift Rupa Gosvami gives the listeners of his poem is a purified consciousness that is permanent. In this respect he is the greatest donor, a brahmana who requires only sincerity in humble submission as alms. He then gives back a thousand times what others offer him. And since it is the greatest gift, there is no way to properly repay him other than to try to spread that same gift to as many as possible, following his example.

In Closing:

That which eternally your spirits to lift,

Will be considered the greatest gift.


He who such a benediction gives,

Known as the greatest donor who lives.


If we have devotion to Lord’s lotus feet,

In humble service His pleasure we’ll seek.


Earn this gift just from Rupa’s poem hearing,

Such a wonderful servant to God so endearing.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Strange Bedfellows

Sugriva and Vali fighting“Sovereignty over the Vanara kingdom was difficult to obtain and was protected by Vali. It was for her sake that Sugriva obtained that kingdom, which is honored throughout the world.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.11)

aiśvaryam vānarāṇām ca durlabham vāli pālitam |
asyā nimitte sugrīvaḥ prāptavān loka satkṛtam ||

Here we get more information on what Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, will do for His devotees. He will go to any length, cross any bridge, and battle any enemy to maintain His promise to protect and defend those who are surrendered to Him. This fact is noted by Shri Hanuman, who is an extension of Rama’s mercy. Though a servant, Hanuman follows through with the same vigor, accepting Rama’s desires to be the most important. Rama aligned with forest dwellers to find His missing wife, and in that alliance He defeated one of the most powerful fighters in the world.

Applying brute force isn’t always the best tactic to get what you want. If I pull out a gun on someone else and threaten them with violence, I may get what I want today, but then in the future that same person can pull a gun on me. “Fight fire with fire” is the saying, so just because I have ammunition doesn’t mean that others don’t. It is therefore sometimes necessary to make alliances, to have people around who will support you in a struggle.

In order for that alliance to materialize, you have to compromise. You might have to do something for the other party. You might also have to join up with someone who isn’t always your friend. The famous world wars of the twentieth century made for strange bedfellows, countries which were allies during the period of military conflict, but who immediately returned to their respective corners once the conflict was resolved.

Shri Rama is a friend to all, but while playing His role as the warrior prince of Ayodhya, He had some enemies in the form of Rakshasas. These vile creatures were actually enemies to the world, especially the innocent priests seeking refuge in the quiet forests. Rama too lived in those forests for a brief period with His wife Sita and His younger brother Lakshmana. The Rakshasas, who were headed by the King of Lanka, could not leave well enough alone. They had to harass Rama as well, first attacking Him with an army of 14,000 strong. Rama defeated them singlehandedly, and so the opposition leader, Ravana, resorted to trickery to strike back. He took Sita away in secret, leaving Rama and Lakshmana to frantically search for her.

Shri HanumanFortunes turned their way when they ran into a minister to the Vanara-king Sugriva. Vanaras are mostly monkey-like, but in the earlier periods of the creation they have human-like features as well. We learn from the Vedas that the material bodies already exist; they don’t evolve. Each body is composed of a combination of elements in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. These modes are present at the beginning of creation, so the different species are like different paintings, different ways to mix the three component qualities. The spirit soul, the occupier within the body, evolves through the different species, but the species themselves aren’t capable of evolving. Life comes from life; matter cannot do anything on its own.

The minister Hanuman met Rama and Lakshmana at Sugriva’s insistence. Hearing what had happened with Sita, Hanuman knew that Rama and Sugriva could help each other. Sugriva was kicked out of his kingdom by his brother Vali. Rama was exiled from His kingdom of Ayodhya for fourteen years, but the matter of pressing urgency related to finding Sita. Rama could help Sugriva and Sugriva could help Rama. Through Hanuman’s efforts an alliance was born.

From the above quoted verse from the Ramayana we see what the immediate result of that alliance was. Sugriva obtained his kingdom back. It was difficult to obtain and it was protected by Vali. Vali was actually more powerful than even Ravana. He was one of the strongest fighters in the world. Through a misunderstanding, he and Sugriva became enemies, and since Sugriva was physically weaker, he was forced out of his kingdom.

Under normal circumstances, Rama would have had no interest in the feud. Conflicts arise all the time, especially between siblings. But Rama took more than just an interest in this case. He directly intervened by shooting Vali in the back while the Vanara was fighting Sugriva. According to the standard code of ethics, this is sinful, but since Sugriva was a surrendered soul and a friend, Rama would do anything for him. Vali too protested Rama’s deed as his life breath was leaving him, but Rama correctly reminded him that as the prince of Ayodhya He had jurisdiction over the entire forest. There was no reason for Vali to have kicked Sugriva out. Therefore Rama actually gave the kingdom back to the rightful owner.

More importantly, we understand from Hanuman that all of this was done for Sita. As the Supreme Lord, Rama is self-satisfied. This means that He doesn’t need someone’s company to feel happy. If a man who has been married for many years suddenly has to sleep in an empty bed at night, he feels very lonely. If his wife leaves his side, he doesn’t know how to handle the separation. Rama is not like this. He can live by Himself if He has to.

He moves heaven and earth for Sita because she is completely devoted to Him. In many respects she has a higher stature than Him. There is no sin in her, and she has to suffer sometimes in separation from her beloved. For this Rama is criticized, but never Sita. Rama takes special attention to protect the honor of His devotee. In this instance, His trusted servant, who was also Sugriva’s minister, went to find Sita. Hanuman’s arduous journey to Lanka is documented in the Sundara-kanda of the Ramayana. It was not an easy trip, and it was only after an exhaustive search that Sita was finally found.

When he saw her Hanuman knew that she was something special. Here he remembers the different things that Rama did for her as a way to further glorify her. If for Sita’s sake Sugriva could regain a kingdom that was so honored throughout the world, imagine how great Sita must be. And if Rama would do all that for Sita, He most certainly will do the same for anyone else who is devoted to Him. He doesn’t always do the work Himself. Sometimes He sends the fearless messenger Hanuman, whose association is just as good as Rama’s.

In Closing:

His kingdom back Sugriva did gain,

Guarded by Vali, was difficult to obtain.


The enemy brother was rid,

By Rama, for Sita this He did.


For His devotees God anything will do,

Sometimes even transgress moral codes too.


His messengers like Hanuman He’ll also send,

For worries in separation to mend.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pleasing the Self

Sita and Rama“And Khara was killed in battle, and also Trishira and the highly splendorous Dushana brought down by the self-realized Rama.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.10)

karaḥ ca nihataḥ samkhye triśirāḥ ca nipātitaḥ |
dūṣaṇaḥ ca mahā tejā rāmeṇa vidita ātmanā ||

For Shri Hanuman, remembering the glories of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His role as a warrior prince, brings great pleasure to the self. The self is the spirit soul, and the ultimate knower of the self is the Supreme Lord, who is also the Superself, or the supreme soul resting within the heart of each living being. That knower of the self one time defeated some of the most powerful fighters in the world, and Hanuman remembered that remarkable feat when looking at the knower’s wife from a distance.

It is one thing to say that a woman is beautiful. That’s a pretty vanilla description. We can say that about a lot of women. If the woman is the most beautiful person we’ve ever seen, we’ll need other ways to describe her. In addition to comparing her external features, if she should happen to have a husband of tremendous fighting prowess, it would be helpful to know the nature of the relationship between the two. Can anything from the husband be used to better describe the beauty of the wife?

Hanuman was able to make this connection immediately upon seeing Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. She was separated from her husband through no fault of her own, and Hanuman was the person sent to find her. After a lengthy search that spanned many months, Hanuman finally located her in a grove of Ashoka trees in a land ruled over by Rakshasas. A Rakshasa is like a human being who is a man-eater. If someone were to tell us that they eat cats and dogs, we wouldn’t think too highly of them. Therefore we can understand just how degraded one must be to eat other human beings. The man-eating is but a symptom of a larger problem: ignorance.

Previously, these same ignorant creatures attacked Sita’s husband in the quiet forest of Dandaka. Sita was with Rama at the time, and Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, was with them as well. The trio wasn’t bothering anyone, and yet the King of Lanka, Ravana, sent 14,000 of his best fighters to attack after his sister was disfigured by Lakshmana. She had tried to take out Sita in the hopes of being with Rama, and so Lakshmana kindly defended his sister-in-law. Ravana’s band of ghastly men previously had no problem attacking innocent sages set on religious observances in the forest, and so attacking Rama this time was not an extraordinary request.

Of course 14,000 against one doesn’t seem like a fair fight, and that is true here in one sense. Against the origin of matter and spirit, not even 14 million fighters stand a chance. Rama told Lakshmana to take Sita away to a safe place. He was going to fight this battle Himself. The details of the ensuing fight can be found in the Aranya-kanda of the Ramayana. In short, 14,000 of Ravana’s fiercest fighters were dispatched by Rama. They used every weapon imaginable, but just with arrows Rama fought them off. Then Dushana fought with Rama alone. The Lord lopped off his arms with His arrows and thus ended his life.

Khara, the best fighter in the group, was ready to attack next, but Trishira begged to be allowed to try first. So he then fought with Rama and was eventually killed. The final battle was with Rama and Khara, and after a fiery exchange of weapons, Khara’s chariot was shattered, leaving him to fight from the ground. Rama took this opportunity to chastise the demon, informing him that his past evil deeds were now coming back to him. Khara and his Rakshasa friends thought there would be no consequences to killing innocent sages, but just as the trees blossom at the appropriate season, so the doer of sinful deeds reaps their ghastly reward at the proper time.

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

Lord RamaFighting on foot, Khara hurled a fiery club at Rama, but the Lord shattered it with His arrows. Rama then laughed at Khara, and the demon in turn retorted with his own promises of victory. In the end, Rama took out an arrow given by Indra and shot it at Khara, killing the demon. Khara was the best fighter sent to Janasthana, or the Dandaka forest, and so when Rama killed him it was certainly a big deal. With great pride Hanuman remembers Rama’s killing of the three leading Rakshasas. Similar statements are found elsewhere in Vedic literature, including in the Shrimad Bhagavatam.

“While wandering in the forest, where He accepted a life of hardship, carrying His invincible bow and arrows in His hand, Lord Ramachandra deformed Ravana's sister, who was polluted with lusty desires, by cutting off her nose and ears. He also killed her fourteen thousand Rakshasa friends, headed by Khara, Trishira and Dushana.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.9)

The wise relish the opportunity to remember God and celebrate His triumphs. Now seeing Sita from afar, Hanuman remembered Rama’s heroic act in a new way. Rama had indeed killed these fierce fighters of cruel deeds, and He had done so to protect the sages. But He also fought to protect Sita. If not for her, those fiends would probably have still been alive and kicking, wreaking havoc throughout the world. Thus in her own way Sita brought about the demise of the Rakshasa clan in Lanka. Rama kicked things off in Janasthana, and now Hanuman was in Lanka to give the message to Sita that Rama was coming to save her. And in the end the entire army of Vanaras, who teamed with Rama and Lakshmana, would come to destroy Ravana and his clan.

In Closing:

When beloved wife of Rama he sees,

Remembers His pastimes for self to please.


Fourteen thousand demons headed by three,

Were killed by Rama’s arrows set free.


Khara, Dushana and Trishira had might,

But never to win against Rama in a fight.


That Sita had the best husband this meant,

Known to Hanuman who to find her was sent.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Special Lady

Sita Devi“(For her) fourteen thousand Rakshasas of dreadful deeds were slain in the forest of Janasthana by arrows that were like tongues of fire.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.9)

catur daśa sahasrāṇi rakṣasām bhīma karmaṇām |
nihatāni jana sthāne śarair agni śikha upamaiḥ ||

Wives shouldn’t get into a competition over who has the best husband, but it is natural to think that the person you are married to is the best in the world. If you love your parents, will you not think they are the best? Will you not wonder what you did to deserve such a wonderful combination of mother and father? In appreciating their standing, you will review the many things they have done for you, in the process supporting your claim that they are the best parents in the world. When seeing Sita Devi from afar in the Ashoka grove, Hanuman reviewed some of her husband’s heroic acts, which showed that Sita was indeed married to the best man in the whole world.

“Will you slay dragons for me? Will you protect me for the rest of my life? Will you risk your life for me?” These are legitimate questions voiced at least internally by the wife to be. Manliness is the desirable attribute in a male and chastity in a female. Manliness is best exhibited in protection of the wife, and so the man who can best protect his wife would be considered the best husband. To assess the ability to protect there must be real-life tests, and fortunately for the world Shri Rama was tested on many an occasion.

Rama is the Supreme Lord as an incarnation. Not that He is an ordinary man or a mortal being who goes through the cycle of birth and death. In the Bala-kanda of the Ramayana it is said that Lord Vishnu agreed to descend to earth in human form to help the demigods, who are sort of like saintly characters that reside in the heavenly realm. A fiend was wreaking havoc across the world at the time, and it was only a human being who could defeat him. But it would take the best human being, and for that role Vishnu kindly agreed to appear.

If He agrees to appear, it means that He is not forced into the material realm, which is known as mrityu-loka, or a planet where death takes place. Everything must die; not just living entities. Housing structures don’t have souls in them, but they are nevertheless fixtures for a certain period of time. No matter how sturdy the construction, eventually the buildings will crumble. If this is the case for strong matter, it also applies to weaker collections of matter such as the bodies of the living entities.

Birth and death for the personal incarnations are more accurately referred to as appearances and disappearances. We have no control over the material elements, but the Supreme Personality of Godhead does. That is why He can appear at will and do anything with His body that looks material on the outside but is completely spiritual. As proof of this fact, only a spiritual body could defeat 14,000 of the most powerful fighters in the world without any outside help.

Lord RamaRama had to perform this task while in the forest of Janasthana. He was there with His wife Sita and His younger brother Lakshmana. Rakshasas are a cruel species; they feast off animal flesh. They will even eat other human beings. It is not that they just go to the restaurant to eat the flesh of animals killed elsewhere; they will do the killing themselves. They don’t attack only the miscreants, either. They go after the most innocent members of society. The saintly priests were living in Janasthana at the time, and so the Rakshasas loved to invade in the nighttime and then find their fare.

The leader of the Rakshasas was Ravana, and his sister one time approached Rama and propositioned Him. Being rejected, she realized that Sita was her competition. So she tried to go after Sita, at which point Lakshmana stepped in and lopped off the hideous creature’s ear and nose. She returned home disfigured and complained to Ravana about what had happened. In response, Ravana sent 14,000 of his best fighters to Janasthana to attack Rama.

The best husband in the world told Lakshmana to take Sita away into a nearby cave. Rama would handle these fiends by Himself. He shot arrows from His bow. These arrows were like tongues of fire, and they chased the Rakshasas like heat-seeking missiles. The Lord did away with these fiends by Himself, and He did it all for Sita.

The act quickly became legend, and Hanuman also heard about it. Hanuman and his forest-dwelling friends aligned with Rama later on after Ravana came and took Sita away in secret. Hanuman hadn’t met Sita, but when he saw her from afar inside of the Ashoka grove in Lanka, he could see why Rama had killed those 14,000 Rakshasas for her. She was the most beautiful woman in the world, and any man would want to move heaven and earth to please her.

Previously, to marry her Rama lifted an extremely heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. This proved that only He was worthy of Sita’s hand in marriage. After they were married, He continued to fight for her by battling attacking Rakshasas in the forest. And when she went missing, He used His trusted servant Hanuman to discern her whereabouts. In this way Sita’s glory was enhanced further. She had a husband who slayed demons for her. She also had a husband who had the best messenger in the whole world, someone uniquely qualified for the most difficult reconnaissance mission in history.

That special lady is the goddess of fortune herself, and she is forever with Rama. Hanuman to this day continues to worship the divine couple, always chanting their names and singing their glories. He found her in the Ashoka grove after a long journey, and through seeing her and later meeting with her, all the effort became well worth it.

In Closing:

When prospective groom the bride sees,

She wonders, “Will he slay dragons for me?”


“Will he drive enemies away without fear,

And in that way to me always remain dear?”


For Sita Shri Rama did that and more,

Killed 14,000 fiends for wife whom He adored.


Hanuman immediately appreciated this fact,

When he discovered Sita’s location exact.


Goddess of fortune has husband the best,

And His servant too passes every test.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Complete Picture

Lord Rama“(For her) fourteen thousand Rakshasas of dreadful deeds were slain in the forest of Janasthana by arrows that were like tongues of fire.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.9)

catur daśa sahasrāṇi rakṣasām bhīma karmaṇām |
nihatāni jana sthāne śarair agni śikha upamaiḥ ||

An easy way to try to defeat someone in a public argument is to use an ad hominem attack. Don’t address the issue in question. Instead, find some fault in the person making the argument. Find something that they said or did one time that wouldn’t make them look good. Introduce that point into the argument, and thereby try to discredit the person. Of course the argument itself is not addressed, and therefore such a retort is correctly labeled a fallacy. With respect to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His teachings found in the ancient Vedic texts, the staunchest opponents will quickly try to turn to one or two incidents that they can take out of context. “See, this is what your purported God did. Could God ever do that?” What they fail to mention, however, are the countless occasions where He does things which are just as extraordinary but in favor of the devotees, the surrendered souls, in a way more socially acceptable. When the complete picture is studied, the individual actions and teachings are better understood.

The Vedas say that there is only one God. He is known as Vishnu, Narayana, Krishna, Rama, or by a host of other names. There is a singular original personality, who is described as Bhagavan. The word means one who holds all opulences, and it can translate to “Supreme Personality of Godhead”. This translation is purposefully presented by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to counter the notion that God is impersonal. There is an impersonal aspect, known as the Brahman energy, but there is still a separate, personal supreme entity. He is the origin of Godhead, which means that there are many expansions and non-different forms. He is a person, but a supreme one, a fact proved in one way through His extraordinary feats.

“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15)

The lowest among mankind are those who know of Krishna but still don’t surrender to Him out of envy. They try to discredit His teachings and prove that He is not God. They will point to incidents like Krishna’s marrying 16,108 wives during His time on earth and His dancing with young girls in the forest of Vrindavana. Their arguments are quite easy to refute, however. They think they have the worshiper cornered with such statements. “You see, if a person is lusty, they are not considered worshipable. If a person succumbs to the desires for sex life, they are not supreme.”

But how do such persons know that Krishna married so many women? How do they know that He danced with the gopis in the middle of the night? They know this because of the statements of shastra, or scripture. These events are described in detail in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, considered the crown jewel of Vedic literature by those who follow bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. This work describes Krishna’s position as God in scientific and historical terms. It explains that the Lord creates this and countless other universes through exhaling, and then destroys them through inhaling. He is both with form and without. His absence of form is represented by the impersonal Brahman energy, and His possession of form is of the spiritual variety, where His attributes are not limited. He can do anything with His hands. He can lift a massive hill with His pinky finger and He can eat an offering made to an altar painting.

If you take the complete picture from the Bhagavatam, you know that Krishna is God, and as such He is not governed by the mundane laws of society. Why shouldn’t He marry so many women? If He can take care of them and they want Him as a husband, will He submit to the laws of society designated for mortals to elevate them to the platform of understanding God? Krishna is already God, so He doesn’t need to do anything to understand Himself. His dancing with the gopis shows that He will do whatever it takes to please those who love Him without question. Only God would do such a thing. Anyone else would be incapable of satisfying so many surrendered souls. Anyone else also might feel beholden to rules and regulations, fearing what others would think of them.

The Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama also a few times broke the rules of society. He once shot an enemy fighter in the back while he was engaged in conflict with someone else. He also abandoned His wife when accusations were made against her by the citizens of Ayodhya. Yet to understand Rama’s behavior one must hear the entire Ramayana, which is the ancient Sanskrit poem dedicated to His exploits. Rama is God not just because of a few statements. Sure, those are enough to know His position, but the statements are substantiated by real-life actions. One of the most amazing actions took place in the forest of Janasthana.

Rama was there with His wife Sita and His younger brother Lakshmana. Rakshasas, fiends of cruel deeds, came to attack Him there. Just think; here was an innocent man living in the wilderness not bothering anyone, and yet the ogres couldn’t do the decent thing and leave Him alone. Their leader Ravana sent 14,000 of his men to deal with Rama. The Lord told Lakshmana to take Sita to a nearby cave and protect her. Rama would battle them all by Himself.

“Neither the demigods nor any exalted personalities were there helping Rama, for He acted alone. You should not entertain any doubt on this matter. Indeed, Rama shot feathered arrows, plated with gold, which turned into five-headed serpents that devoured all the Rakshasas. The Rakshasas were oppressed with fear, and wherever they went and wherever they turned, they saw Rama in front of them. In this way, O spotless one, have your Rakshasas been destroyed in the forest of Janasthana by Rama.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.18-19)

LordRamaTo protect His wife, Rama defeated these 14,000 Rakshasas by Himself. One of them managed to escape back home. Upon reaching there he relayed what he saw to the leader Ravana. After seeing his men so soundly defeated, Ravana created a ruse and took Sita away in secret. Hanuman, a Vanara working for the king Sugriva in Kishkindha, first went to Lanka to find Sita. Seeing her from afar for the first time, Hanuman was amazed at her beauty. He immediately recalled all that Rama had done for her, and he rightly concluded that the effort was worth it.

No ordinary man could defeat that many demons at one time. The gross materialists and the lowest among mankind will have a difficult time believing this, but if we are to reference Rama’s name, forms and pastimes to any extent, we must accept all of His actions as fact. If He can create this and many other universes just by breathing, why can’t He defeat so many powerful fighters using just His bow and arrows? His servant Hanuman is also like one of those arrows, and he would set fire to Lanka before returning to Rama. Thus the servant inherits some of the unlimited potency of Rama, and in their service they protect those dear to Rama like Sita.

In Closing:

If confidence in argument one lacks,

Susceptible they are to ad hominem attack.


Miscreants with followers of God try the same,

Taking things out of context for cheap points to gain.


But statements of Vedas must accept as a whole,

Like Krishna’s supreme stature from Bhagavatam we’re told.


Rama is also God, once an amazing deed He did.

Of 14,000 Rakshasas He singlehandedly rid.


When the beloved Sita he finally did find,

To Hanuman Rama’s deed came to mind.


The servant also like one of those arrows shot,

Thus no surprise that Hanuman vision of Sita got.