Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Umbrella of Protection

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill“He is called the well-wisher for the devotees only. He appears to be partial to His devotees, but factually the matter rests on the living being to accept or reject equal treatment by the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.16.26-30 Purport)

It’s pouring rain outside. There is nothing you can do to avoid the downpour because you have to make the walk to your intended destination. You have just exited a shopping center and your car is parked a long ways away, as this was a particularly busy shopping day. The forecast didn’t call for rain, so you’re a little surprised that so much rain has come by unannounced. If only you had an umbrella at this moment when you really need one.

Oh, but you could have brought one with you. You keep a spare umbrella in the trunk of your car for emergency situations like these. But you didn’t remember to bring it with you as you left the car. Since you were entering a shopping center, you intended to carry at least one bag in your hands, if not more, on your way out. A closed umbrella, though compact, would have added to the burden of items to carry around, and since it was sunny outside when you parked your car, you paid no attention at all to the umbrella.

Ah, but now you desperately need one. To make matters worse, you see other people who have their umbrellas; thus they are safe from the pouring rain. They can make it to their cars without a problem. They will not be soaking wet when they sit behind the wheel to drive home. In this scenario, is the umbrella to blame for your misfortune? Obviously it is an inanimate object, so it can’t make any decisions of its own, but if for argument’s sake we say that the umbrella is capable of hearing your complaints, should it consider them valid?

umbrellaFrom the rational human being’s perspective, it is understood that the fault lies completely with the person who forgets the umbrella. The umbrella gives protection from the rain, but it is still impartial. It doesn’t only protect one type of person. It does not look down to see who is holding it and then decide whether or not to block the scorching rays of the sun or the falling raindrops. In fact, you know that the umbrella gives protection; that’s why you kept one in your car. But in this situation you forgot, and though the umbrellas seem to be partial when they protect others, they are simply fulfilling their role.

This hypothetical situation and the analysis of the umbrella’s function help to explain the Supreme Lord’s position and how He diffuses His energy. These points are worth understanding because only in ignorance does the human being blame the higher authorities for their troubles. “Oh God, why did you let this happen to me? How could you do this to me? I never did anything to deserve this. You favor everyone else except me.”

In reality, when someone accepts the gifts of God already available to everyone else there is only the appearance of favoritism. The highest pleasure comes in the transcendental arena, where the previously conditioned living entity associates with Supreme Spirit and His direct energies. Something that is completely knowledgeable, blissful and eternal can share its transcendental radiance with others, provided they choose to interact in the proper mood.

To understand what the proper mood is, we can use a crude example like a lavish ice cream cake. The cake is meant to satisfy hunger and be enjoyed by the taste buds at the same time. But what if we used the ice cream cake as a tray, something to hold our other food items. We place whatever it is we want to eat on top of the cake, but this is actually not the proper use. The cake is meant to be consumed, and by its constitution it cannot remain in its ideal state for too long without melting. When taken out of the freezer and used as a tray, once the melting cake sinks and thus fails in our desired use as a tray, the blame for our troubles actually lies with us. The cake had its ideal role, and we rejected it.

Lord KrishnaThe Supreme Lord lives inside of us as the Supersoul and outside as the soul of all creatures. He is the existence of all existences, and not a blade of grass can move without His influence. Nevertheless, that influence is difficult to spot if we don’t know the proper use of objects. The hands we’re provided are meant to be used for such things as clapping along to the congregational songs glorifying the Supreme Lord. The eyes serve their ideal purpose when used to look at pictures of God and His beautiful form. The legs allow for travelling to places where the Supreme Lord is glorified, and the taste buds can eat the remnants of food first offered to Him, prasadam.

The tongue can also be used for chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This simultaneously takes care of hearing, for Krishna and His name are non-different. The name Krishna indicates that God is the most-attractive, that His features are perfect in every way. Those features give pleasure to the devotees, and hence He is also known as the reservoir of pleasure.

The results of utilizing the various body parts in an ideal way are peace of mind, the removal of stress, and an invigorated spirit that is ready to take on new tasks in the discipline known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Thus far there has not been any mention of caste, color, ethnicity, age, or country of origin. The holy name can be chanted by any person, and the beautiful deity in the temple is the sight for any person’s sore eyes. Even if the houses of worship unjustifiably deny entry to some, the mental pictures of the Supreme Lord based on descriptions and accounts of His activities found in the sacred texts can be drawn and enjoyed.

“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)

Krishna speaking to ArjunaIn the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna’s song that touches on the meaning of life, it is said that the Lord does not envy anyone, and neither is He partial to anyone. Nevertheless, He still shows favoritism to the devotees, who are friends to Him. This apparent contradiction is resolved by the fact that the offer for protection and favoritism is open to any person; but there is the requirement that they make the conscious decision to accept it. The Supreme Lord proved to be an umbrella of protection for the distressed Queen Draupadi when she surrendered everything to Shyamasundara and asked for His help as she was being disrobed by wicked-minded family members in an assembly. Prahlada Maharaja was protected by Krishna during trying times because he only thought of the Lord. The residents of Vrindavana were saved from a torrential downpour, which was instigated by the king of heaven, when they went underneath the umbrella Krishna created by lifting the massive Govardhana Hill and holding it over His head.

That same protection is available to anyone who recites the holy names with love, faith and humility. Those who refuse to accept this protection cannot blame Krishna for their troubles. How kind then are the Vaishnava saints who try to spread the holy names to as many people as possible? They know the tremendous protection that God provides through His personal energies, so they selflessly try to share the knowledge on how to utilize nature’s gifts properly to as many people as are willing to listen.

The Vaishnava, the devotee of Krishna, hopes that no one will reject the kind treatment offered by Krishna to all. The distresses relating to temporary conditions arise from ignorance of the true meaning of life, which is to become God conscious by the time death arrives. Through the holy names and the proper implementation of bhakti-yoga learned from a bona fide spiritual master, the divine umbrella resting within opens up to protect you from the many rainy days the material land has to offer. Under that protection the protector’s company is cherished and appreciated daily.

In Closing:

Umbrella meant to block out falling rain,

Shields you from wetness’s pain.

 

But what if umbrella you should forget,

Pummeled with rain, in your trunk it rests.

 

Others took theirs, you could have done the same,

But you forgot, so is umbrella to blame?

 

Know that Supreme Lord to all His glorious light diffused,

Pain only comes when His protection refused.

 

Chant holy names for transcendental shelter to gain.

And thus make sunny even a day filled with rain.