Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Where There is Smoke

Lord Rama's lotus feet“The pure and gentlemanly kings are saying, ‘For me, I understand that wherever there is splendor, fame and beauty, the strength will be there as well.’” (Janaki Mangala, 59)

suci sujāna nṛpa kahahiṃ hamahiṃ asa sūjhaī |
teja pratāpa rūpa jaham̐ taham̐ bala būjhahin ||

The champions of the ancient art of bhakti-yoga say that through a single sound vibration one can get in touch with the Divine. More than just an abstract concept of a heavenly figure who has the power to give or take away rewards, this entity is a personality, where the names used to address Him call Him to the scene. And this personality possesses transcendental features which are purna, or complete, in their goodness. He is not lacking anything, a fact validated by the ability of His name to bring His aura.

The famous phrase, “where there is smoke, there is fire”, says that if there are the trace attributes of a specific thing, it is likely that the specific thing is present as well. The smoke is the aftereffect of the burning fire. If you see smoke, then it must have an initial cause. That cause will be the burning of something, and in order to burn you must have fire. Therefore, simply from the result of visible smoke you can deduce that there is a fire somewhere nearby.

In a similar manner, by seeing the results of chanting the holy names, especially the names sequenced in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, you can assume the presence of the divine personality. By chanting in the proper mood, with firm faith, attention and dedication, so many beneficial attributes are acquired. We’ll start with the foremost among them, which is the continued loving dedication that lacks both motivation and interruption. This looks like a paradoxical combination, as how can you have dedication without some sort of motivation? What will get you over the hump, pull you across the finish line, if a motivating force is lacking?

Interruption is equally as important, for the unending commitment alone depresses enthusiasm in an endeavor. If I assign a task to someone, they might ask me how long it should take. If I respond with, “Oh, it’ll go on forever. You’ll never finish that job,” will the worker want to accept the job? Who would want to take on a task that never finishes? Yet this is precisely what reveals the glory of bhakti-yoga, showing how it can break all combinations previously thought to be paradoxical.

The symptom of the pure devotee is the relentless attention to chanting and overall worship. They chant the holy names in a regimented fashion, preferably saying the specific mantra relating to God at least sixteen rounds a day on a set of japa beads. But there is also spontaneous devotion, where signs of transcendental love manifest at the mere mention of the beloved’s name. The holy name brings to mind the transcendental features of the person being addressed. His sweet form, His cherished pastimes, and His vital instructions are all contained within His name.

As an added bonus that is almost considered negligible, the devotee also avoids sinful behaviors like meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. One may argue that it is nearly impossible to avoid these staples of  modern material life, but the benefit of avoiding them can’t be discounted. A person who can avoid sinful life is always in a superior position, for they steer clear of the deepest pitfalls that prevent happiness.

So we have no sinful life coupled with a dedication to chanting, dancing, hearing, remembering, and worshiping in devotion. This combination cannot be found through any other endeavor. Mental speculation, fruitive activity, and mystic yoga cannot give the same benefit to the participants, as there is always a point of maturation. In fruitive activity, the reward doesn’t provide lasting happiness, so pretty soon you’re left searching for another endeavor. In mental speculation, the endpoint is void, where activity ceases. This goes against the natural inclination of spirit, for the soul is a vibrant force with a desire for activity. Mysticism provides a perfection of some sort, an ability that can be used but which doesn’t necessarily bring the yogi to a better end.

As where there is smoke there is fire, where there are the amazing benefits of bhakti through the innocent chanting, there must be a higher power responsible for the outcome. Just chanting any word or series of words will not do the trick. The power in the holy name is its equivalence to the supreme person it addresses. In this sense the results reveal and validate the superior standing of the Supreme Lord, whose features are so nicely described in the Vedas.

Lord RamaThat same Supreme Personality appeared on this earth many thousands of years ago to enact wonderful pastimes. One famous incident occurred in the kingdom of Tirahuta, which was ruled over by Maharaja Janaka. The king had an unmarried daughter who would be given away to whichever prince could lift the extremely heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. God in His avatara of Lord Rama appeared on the scene with His younger brother Lakshmana and the sage Vishvamitra. They supposedly were there just to watch, but as Vishvamitra, a brahmana, was well-respected, so too were his two disciples.

Rama and Lakshmana were of a young age, but they stood out. Their beauty was amazing. The attention focused more on Rama because He was the elder brother, so He was eligible for participating in the contest. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we get an idea of what some of the attendees were thinking when they saw Rama. In this particular statement, we see how someone can notice God’s complete feature-set simply by noticing other divine features.

In the Vedas the Supreme Lord is addressed as Bhagavan, which is a word that indicates that He possesses all opulences to the fullest degree and at the same time. From the visual, the other princes in Tirahuta could tell that Rama was the most beautiful. They also saw that he had splendor, or tejas. Fame belonged to Rama as well because of the family He belonged to and His having protected Vishvamitra from powerful attacking Rakshasas in the forest.

The princes making these remarks are described as pure and virtuous. This means that their assessments were not clouded by jealousy, rivalry, or the desire for personal gain. Bias is only natural when we are competing with our fellow man for opulence, but in this case the pious princes were not partial in their assessments. They accurately noted that since Rama had the three aforementioned features, He would likely have strength as well. They were correct, as Rama would indeed lift the bow and win Sita’s hand in marriage.

That same strength, beauty, fame and splendor are packed into the holy name cherished by the kind-hearted souls like Goswami Tulsidas, Shri Hanuman, and Rama’s wife Sita Devi. They know that where there is supreme auspiciousness due to chanting, the presence of the Supreme Personality must be there as well. Knowing this, the wise and virtuous souls, irrespective of their occupational duty or societal standing, make the chanting of the holy name their primary occupation in life.

In Closing:

Along with citizens, pious princes there too,

From looking at Rama one thing they knew.

 

When beauty, splendor and fame are there,

Strength to exist too, of this they were aware.

 

That Rama would lift the bow this meant,

In vain to Tirahuta so many princes went.

 

Use same principle for God to understand,

With holy name the Supreme Lord’s presence land.

 

When wonderful attributes from divine chanting come,

Know that the Supreme Lord and His name are one.

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