Saturday, March 3, 2012

From Tree to Shining Tree

Hanuman in the Ashoka grove“Here is a large grove of gigantic Ashoka trees. I will explore it, as it has not yet been searched by me.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.55)

aśoka vanikā ca api mahatī iyam mahā drumā ||
imām abhigamiṣyāmi na hi iyam vicitā mayā |

Large and expansive trees, just perfect for hiding someone who shouldn’t be found. Erect a high barricade to prevent the defenders of justice from locating the innocent princess, who was ever worthy of being by the side of her husband. Though the tall trees provide enough of a cloak for the eyes, for extra precaution surround the damsel with hideous creatures ordered to torture her at every second. Even the most capable warrior, the person who is undeterred in his undying love and affection for his beloved, who is unwavering in his commitment to seek out success in the mission of all missions, almost didn’t locate the missing princess of Videha. Finally spotting his eyes on this expansive grove, the warrior in a monkey form seized upon the opportunity to continue his search, to remain dedicated to the service he promised to provide.

Shri HanumanWas this person a hired gun? Was there a bounty waiting for him at the end? Was there a cash reward for success in the mission? Up until this point, he was known only as an emissary, a sort of diplomatic head of a small community residing in the forest. The members of this group were monkey-like, but they had many human features as well. Therefore they could organize their affairs and follow some basic codes of a civilized society. There was a head of state, whose name was Sugriva. His chief minister was Hanuman, who was as loyal as they come. Loyalty as a concept can be modeled after Hanuman, for there is not a hint of duplicity in him. When he’s carrying out a mission, he does whatever it takes to meet the interests of the party he’s representing.

As kings are known to do, Sugriva formed an alliance with a person who had a similar interest. Though Sugriva and his monkey community were living in fear on the top of the mountain called Rishyamukha, their home was the entire forest of Kishkindha. Sugriva, however, had been driven away by his more powerful brother, who also happened to be his mortal enemy. Through the diplomatic efforts of Hanuman, Sugriva formed an alliance with a prince named Rama, who was roaming the forests with His younger brother Lakshmana. Rama was looking for His wife, Sita, who had just gone missing. In this way both Sugriva and Rama were looking to regain something they had lost.

Hanuman thought it wise to pair the two together, to create an alliance to meet both ends. As an expert bow warrior, Rama first helped Sugriva gain back his kingdom. To return the favor, Sugriva dispatched his massive monkey army around the world to look for Sita. Hanuman was in one of the search parties. Though he was only one out of thousands of monkeys, it was known to both Rama and Sugriva that if anyone was going to find Sita, it would be Hanuman. Many times prior the hero had measured up to his standing, proving his capability to succeed in a task assigned to him.

Not only would their faith in him be tested, but the exercise of Hanuman’s abilities, both mental and physical, would be stretched to the limit as well. Rama and Sugriva had faith in Hanuman’s ability to find Sita, but they didn’t necessarily consider all of the obstacles he would have to face. Moreover, no one can predict the workings of the most difficult enemy of all: the mind. Hanuman did make it to Lanka, the island where Sita had been taken. As the only monkey capable of reaching the island in a single leap, he found himself resuming the search with no one around to help him. Add to the fact that the inhabitants of this island were enemies, we can see what a daunting task lay ahead of the hero.

Hanuman with Lakshmana and RamaYet the strategic difficulties weren’t what would get to Hanuman. Marshalling his abilities in yoga and intelligence, Hanuman found a way to search through the entire majestic city without being noticed. So in this sense there were no difficulties presented by the Rakshasas. What did cause him trouble, however, was faith in the successful outcome. As more time passed by, it looked more and more likely that Sita would not be found.

When a television show gets cancelled, if it is popular enough with fans the producers will try to shop the show to other networks, hoping one of them will pick up the show. The likelihood of that happening is quite slim, and as the more time passes, the chances of success further evaporate. Hanuman was in a similar situation, as the more of Lanka he searched without finding Sita, the less likely it was that she wasn’t there. Who could have ever predicted this mental hurdle? At worst, perhaps the initial concern was that Hanuman couldn’t handle the onslaught of ghoulish creatures residing on the island. Sita was taken to Lanka by a Rakshasa king named Ravana. Rakshasas are a human-like species given to black magic, drinking, animal killing, and all sorts of other sinful behavior. Hanuman, on the other hand, is completely pure; hence the two didn’t mix well.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman is turning his mental outlook around, deciding to continue the search. He notices an Ashoka grove, a wooded area filled with many large trees. It would be a strange place to search for a missing princess, but since he had not looked in there yet, he might as well give it a shot. Human beings naturally reside in civilized parts of town, such as in the palaces and residential buildings. That Hanuman hadn’t searched this wooded area yet was understandable.

Though the many tall trees were hiding Sita, Ravana never would have thought that a monkey would come to find Rama’s beloved wife. Indeed, the wooded area was actually more conducive to Hanuman, since he was accustomed to living in the forest and climbing trees. He would be able to jump from tree to tree and not be seen by anyone. Moreover, he could use the strategic perch to gaze upon the situation down below, to map out a strategy on how to meet Sita. While the primary objective of his mission was to find Sita and then report back on her location to Sugriva and Rama, Hanuman also had to deliver to the princess Rama’s ring. This would give Sita validation that Rama was insistent on rescuing her and that Hanuman was His representative.

!BWO4rtQCGk~$(KGrHgoH-DkEjlLly2R-BKWgwT50rg~~_12An ordinary garden full of trees isn’t that remarkable, but when it holds the goddess of fortune, the most beautiful woman to have ever graced this earth, it becomes a subject of interest. Because of this characteristic, any person who would search through the area looking for this princess would similarly become glorious. The image of Hanuman deciding to search through the Ashoka garden brings pleasure to the hearts of devotees, those whose primary business in life is to follow bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. All kinds of service take place during the living entity’s many trips through the material universe, but only one service stands far above the others. Loving God as a way of life is the best way to describe bhakti-yoga. If we should acknowledge the existence of a supreme ruler, an original creator, shouldn’t we try to connect with Him all the time? This is the aim of real yoga.

Since bhakti is the highest discipline in life, any person who practices it wonderfully, without any personal motivation, and provides an example for others to follow, also becomes worshipable, as is the case with Hanuman. He doesn’t know that he’s following a yoga system; he just wants to please Rama. This attitude extends to Rama’s wife Sita, His younger brother Lakshmana, and all His servants. Lord Rama is the very same person the rest of the world addresses as God, so in this sense there is no sectarian designation. We already suffer so much by ignoring God and service to Him. Yet the offer to take up His service is always open to accept, as is the story of Hanuman and his dedication. Though Hanuman is only concerned with pleasing Rama, His deeds also serve to ignite the flame of devotion resting within the hearts of all living entities. Hanuman shines bright with his unmatched love for Rama, and this love is so effusive that it can be distributed to others, to those who are pure at heart and who love Rama and His devotees.

In Closing:

Standing tall and many are the garden’s trees,

Making it difficult for Sita to be seen.


This wooded grove Hanuman had yet to search,

As monkey could climb trees and use as perch.


Ravana thought that kidnapped Sita couldn’t be found,

Ashoka trees the divine princess did surround.


For Rama’s sincere servant no obstacle too great,

To meet goddess of fortune was his destined fate.


Hanuman to finish his search and succeed,

No match for his will were the many trees.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rescue Me

Radha and Krishna“The material relations are based on reciprocation of material enjoyment, which depends mainly on material resources. Therefore, when material resources are withdrawn by the Lord, the devotee is cent percent attracted toward the transcendental loving service of the Lord. Thus the Lord snatches the fallen soul from the mire of material existence.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.9.19 Purport)

Material nature is described as maya in Sanskrit, a word which at its root means “that which is not.” Maya casts a spell of illusion, causing the living being to accept something as part of their identity which really has no relation to their true qualities. The illusion extends to relationships as well, for otherwise man would never feel sadness over the loss of an inanimate object like an expensive shirt or car. For those who turn their back on maya, following the right steps along the spiritual path, a good portion of that illusion is removed personally by the master of maya. Bereft of material enjoyment with which to reciprocate, the material relation disintegrates, leaving the individual helpless in their desire to accept illusion. In that condition, they are better suited towards worship of the Supreme Lord, which is man’s primary occupation to begin with.

moneyReciprocation of material enjoyment is the essential ingredient in the relationship with illusion. Without that reciprocation, the return on the investment of action, the relationship wouldn’t last very long. For instance, if I work for an employer and provide him a good or service of value, I expect to be paid fairly. “Fair” in this regard refers to just compensation for the work provided. Fair has nothing to do with what other people in the company are making or what my financial situation is. For all the employer knows, I could be coming home every night and throwing my earned money into the river.

What keeps the relationship going is the return of material enjoyment. When the employer stops paying a wage or fair salary altogether, the work offered by the employee will eventually stop as well. In this sense, the loss of a material enjoyment leads to a type of renunciation. With working, however, such a stoppage of payment doesn’t mean that the worker will give up employment altogether. Rather, they will just look for another job, where ideally the level of reciprocation is higher than it was previously.

The same principles apply to every type of interaction with material nature. Every material relation is based on this reciprocal enjoyment, and once that enjoyment is cut off, the relationship dissipates. For the spiritualist sincerely interested in transcending the effects of maya, the direct method of achieving success is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Within bhakti there is no question of maya. At the same time, however, there is vibrancy in activity. The yogi following love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead will use whatever is at their disposal to please their beloved Bhagavan, a word which describes the Supreme Lord’s superior position as possessing opulences in the greatest abundance.

In the grand scheme, the living being is practically helpless in determining their living conditions. I may be very intelligent and capable of doing complex mathematics, but I can’t control the weather. I can’t control what happens to other people as well. Their behavior is determined by their desires, so there is no way for me to enter into their minds and tell them to desire something different. With respect to bhakti-yoga, the foremost activity is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Recitation of these holy names keeps the mind thinking about God. More importantly, hearing takes place at the same time. The gateway to the soul is the ear, and if the proper message is transmitted through that channel, it can penetrate through the wall of nescience and cause a resurgence in the active principle of divine love, which is currently dormant.

While the sincere spiritualist is chanting the holy names regularly, if they are still bound by the spell of illusion, their progression will be slowed. Think of it like driving to work and then hitting traffic that temporarily halts your progress. The traffic for the devotee is the bevy of material relations. As mentioned before, these are kept alive through material enjoyment that goes back and forth. Therefore, to help the humble soul looking to connect with Him, the Supreme Lord personally intervenes, breaking away from His position of neutrality, and takes away one’s material enjoyment.

“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)

Lord KrishnaIn the Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavan in His original form of Lord Krishna states that He is not partial to anyone. At the same time, if one is devoted to Him, He takes a special interest. We can think of it like utilizing the sun’s power for a higher purpose. The sun’s rays shine down on everyone; thus the sun is not partial. At the same time, someone who knows how to use the rays properly can take the highest benefit. In a similar manner, one who knows how to use Krishna’s energy can find enlightenment and a steady determination in following the path that leads to the highest destination.

The added bonus with Krishna is that He will directly offer assistance to those who are desirous of it. The surrendered soul is protected like a helpless child that doesn’t know what is best. The independent, self-sufficient child may leave home in adulthood and go on to follow their passions in life, but the pet child is protected throughout by the parents. The devotees are Krishna’s favorite children, so He never lets go of them, even if they should try to get away.

The Supreme Lord shows favoritism to His devotees by sometimes taking away material enjoyment. What room is there for illusion in the life of one who is in constant contact with the real thing, the Supreme Lord? Spirit is immutable, unchangeable and primeval, and since Krishna is the Supreme Lord, even His body has the same properties as spirit. Regular matter, on the other hand, is temporary, changing and not vibrant. Attachment to matter can only take place when one is not fixed in devotional consciousness.

Sometimes Krishna’s personal intervention in this area is not immediately appreciated, though it always proves to be helpful. A famous example of this intervention took place with the venerable Narada Muni. Think of the greatest reformer you know and their resume would still pale in comparison to Narada’s. The former son of a maidservant is a special space-travelling saint who has the ability to impart supreme wisdom to those who are deserving of it. His disciples fill up the who’s who of famous acharyas of the Vedic tradition.

Despite his status as an intimate friend and servant of Lord Vishnu, another form of Krishna, or God, Narada once fell victim to maya’s influence. It should be noted that for the devotees the temporary bouts of illusion come from yogamaya, which is directly controlled by God. Mahamaya, on the other hand, is not directly supervised by the Lord. Under yogamaya the illusion actually ends up benefitting the devotee, strengthening their resolve in devotional life.

Narada MuniNarada’s humbling occurred when he saw a beautiful princess that he wanted to marry. The material relation would be created through a reciprocation of material enjoyment. That enjoyment could only occur if Narada would marry the princess. Her father was holding a svayamvara, or self-choice ceremony, to determine her marriage. The princess would get to pick her husband from a lineup of princes. Narada, who had previously boasted about having conquered the influence of the senses, prayed to Vishnu to be able to get the princess as a wife. “Please let her pick me”, was his prayer.

If the material enjoyment had been granted to Narada, the illusion would have continued longer. On the other hand, if the enjoyment was ripped away in a tragic manner, the relation would dissipate immediately. Vishnu cleverly answered Narada’s request by saying that He would do what was best for the sage. Lo and behold, when the time for the svayamvara came, the princess looked at the princes assembled, and when she looked at Narada’s face, she saw a monkey. Detested by the image, she did not pick him for a husband.

Narada was quite angry over what had happened. He was so mad that Vishnu betrayed him. Nevertheless, the personal intervention ended up saving the muni. He was not destined to be married, especially if his relation with his wife were based on material enjoyment. In bhakti, it doesn’t matter whether one is young or old, single or married, working or renounced. The only requirement is a sincerity of purpose in connecting with God.

In other types of yoga or spiritual life the direct intervention of Bhagavan is absent. This means that one must fend off the advances of maya on their own. As even an exalted personality like Narada can temporarily be drawn in by the allures of material beauty, the paths not involving bhakti are very difficult, and may take many lifetimes to complete. Shri Krishna is the Supreme Controller, so when He helps someone, there is no question of failure. His beloved Narada still sings His glories to this day, and though he was angered by the Lord’s actions that one time, in the end the supervision proved to be the best thing for him.

There are countless other historical examples of where Krishna rescued a sincere soul from the clutches of material existence. The rescuer is atmarama, or self-satisfied, so He doesn’t need anything for Himself. He does not remove the source of the material relations to punish or to teach lessons. Rather, He knows what is best for everyone, and those who are prone to accepting the right path in life come under His protection, whether they like it or not. Bhakti-yoga is non-different from Krishna, and one who adopts it as a way of life through making chanting and hearing the holy names their primary engagement gets rescued by the one person capable of remedying any situation.

In Closing:

From the clutches of maya set me free,

Please will someone come and rescue me.


For attachment enjoyment must reciprocate,

Only then will one link appreciate.


This fact Supreme Lord certainly knows,

Therefore towards struggling devotee He goes.


Away from objects of illusion He does tear,

Whether they like the intervention He does not care.


In end receive benefit from Krishna’s personal touch,

Tough love because the devotees He cares for so much.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Respectable Boys

Rama and Lakshmana“Getting the permission of their mother and father, they came and touched the guru’s feet. They then put on yellow garments, tied a quiver around their waist, and held arrows and a bow in their hands.” (Janaki Mangala, 27)

pāi mātu pitu āyasu gurū pāyanha pare |
kaṭi niṣaṃga paṭa pīta karani sara dhanu dhare ||

“Mom, do I have to go? Dad, can’t I stay home? Why do I have to do this? You always make me do things I don’t want to do. I’d rather stay home and play. I don’t want to go to that place.” That parents would compel their children to do things they don’t want is not out of the ordinary. And that children would protest vehemently to doing chores and travelling to places to accept responsibility is also not uncommon. With one king in particular, however, his children were so well behaved that even when they were sent to escort an innocent sage and protect him from vile attacking creatures in the wilderness, they were respectful, honorable, and eager to the task. The description of the scene where they prepared for leaving is delightful to the heart, with each aspect infused with transcendental goodness.

Normally, if you hear about someone getting ready to go somewhere, the words of description aren’t necessary. If a fighter is preparing for a large conflict, what is the big deal about them putting on their clothes or preparing mentally? The real action occurs when the conflict starts. In the scene in Ayodhya many thousands of years ago, two youths were getting ready to leave home, and they wouldn’t face danger until later on. Nevertheless, the personalities in question were divine, beautiful sons of King Dasharatha. Any time the mind can remember those two youths there are countless benefits received. Every aspect of their behavior, including their dedication to one another, is remarkable.

Lakshmana and RamaWhy were divine personalities roaming the earth as children? Why not wield tremendous power and show off your true ability? This way people could then know who you are and worship you properly. With the Supreme Lord, the more amazing His displays of affection, kindness, compassion, honor, chivalry, and dedication, the greater the chances that others will take up worship in earnest.

To use a simple example to see the principle in action, we see that many athletes and celebrities rise to the top of their profession. Yet the ones who struggled in the beginning, who defied the odds, are given more attention. If someone who is considered less likely to succeed ends up winning in the end, their victory is more appreciated; it garners more attention. The person struggling through poverty, overcoming family adversity, dealing with debilitating diseases and handicaps, and then eventually rising to the top of their profession serves as a role model for others. If they can do it, why can’t anyone else?

When the Supreme Divine Being appears on this earth, He rarely displays His awesome powers immediately. Instead, He shows that even in the tiniest of forms, which normally wouldn’t have success in difficult ventures, He can succeed and live up to His role as the ultimate protector of the surrendered souls. Why protect only the surrendered and not everyone else? If someone doesn’t want protection, how are they going to be protected? For instance, we may have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, but when the next fire arises, if we don’t use the extinguisher how can we be protected?

If the protection is not used, it cannot be blamed for anything bad that happens. With the Supreme Lord, His energy is everywhere. The energy belongs to Him, so it is an extension of His mercy. Yet depending on how the target living entities utilize that energy, there can be either benefits or harm. Under the spell of maya, or illusion, the external energy is utilized for personal gain, for trying to become the most successful enjoyer in the absence of God’s association.

From consulting Vedic wisdom it is revealed that the essence of identity is the spirit soul. One of the soul’s properties is blissfulness. In the constitutional state, the bliss arises from voluntary, unmotivated and uninterrupted service to the Supreme Lord. Accepting that constitutional position is difficult for one deluded by maya. The illusory energy of the material world belongs to God, but it is described as external because it can have different uses. If one wants to live in illusion, they can. For illusion to have a detrimental effect, the Lord’s internal potency cannot be used. Instead, maya turns into the temporary presiding deity, as she fosters lust, anger, greed and vice. Through her agents of wine, women, animal flesh and gambling she deludes the otherwise pure soul into searching after contaminated happiness.

Lord Krishna's lotus feetFor the Supreme Lord there is never a chance of association with maya. The energy belongs to Him, so when He appears on earth it acts under His direction to give the appearance of fallibility to others. The material energy provides no protection from calamity; that is why she is known as durga, or difficult to overcome. The spiritual energy is present within all of us, and it is a positive force. Yet unless we know how to utilize that energy, how to connect with it and take direction from it, maya remains the sole benefactor. You can think of maya as the horrible boss who makes you work like a dog and pays you very little. At the same time, your job is always threatened; never is there a moment of peace.

The Supreme Lord offers protection in different ways to those who sincerely desire it. In the most basic exercise, just thinking of the Lord’s personal form is protection enough, as the mental image creates peace within the consciousness. The ability to develop consciousness is unique to the human being; hence the species is considered superior by the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India. In no other form of body is there the chance for becoming fully Krishna conscious by the end of life.

In His original form God is known as Krishna because He is all-attractive. Attractiveness is coupled with a form, or spiritual manifestation. Sometimes this form is described as nirguna or avyakta, which can mean without qualities or unmanifested. The spiritual manifestation is unknown to us; it is a concept that cannot be conceived by the mind. For instance, if Krishna were to stand before us, He might appear to be a certain height. Yet there is no height limit for the Lord. He is both larger than the largest and smaller than the smallest. In this way He is not manifested. We are graced with His visible presence in the form of the avatara every now and then to get a slight idea of His features.

Rama and LakshmanaIn the Treta Yuga, Krishna came as Lord Rama. The servitor God, the most dedicated servant of Krishna in His unmanifested, spiritual form is Baladeva, who is also known as Lord Ananta Shesha Naga. That divine personality appeared simultaneously with Rama as His younger brother Lakshmana. Dasharatha was their father, and the two boys had two other brothers. One time the venerable Vishvamitra Muni visited Ayodhya and asked to have Rama accompany him in the forest. It was not revealed to anyone that Rama was God. Rather, everyone just had a natural attraction to Him. The Lord was so pious that He could only be Dasharatha’s son. There was not a hint of sin in Him, and His three younger brothers looked up to Him like a father. Lakshmana was closest to Rama in affection, as he would always follow his elder brother around.

When Dasharatha finally allowed young Rama to go with Vishvamitra, Lakshmana was told to accompany them as well. The king was worried about his eldest son, for He was not even twelve years of age yet. There were many mature fighters that were part of the royal army, but Vishvamitra specifically told them to remain where they were. The enemy forces in the forests were a unique breed of man-eaters, capable of changing shapes at will. They were careful in their attacks, waiting until religious ceremonies were taking place. They were thus the vilest creatures who required an expert bow-warrior to be handled.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala of Goswami Tulsidas, the actions of Rama and Lakshmana right before they left for the forest are presented. Many things would happen while protecting Vishvamitra, and indeed the main subject matter of the poem is the eventual marriage that would take place between Rama and the daughter of King Janaka, Sita Devi. Nevertheless, something as simple as Rama and Lakshmana’s preparation while leaving home is presented to give the mind something wonderful to think about. This mental image provides just as much protection as Rama and Lakshmana’s arrows did to Vishvamitra.

Why is this the case? We see that the two boys first got the permission of their parents and then touched the guru’s feet. Rama is God and Lakshmana is practically identical to Rama. They don’t need permission to do anything. With a simple exhalation, Lord Krishna’s form of Vishnu creates this and many other universes. To show just how much they loved their caretakers, Rama and Lakshmana set an example of ideal children. This behavior is more heartwarming coming from children because there is innocence. An adult showing respect in this way has the ability to discriminate, so perhaps they are following protocol to receive a benefit later on. Rama and Lakshmana innocently loved their parents and would do whatever they asked. They weren’t being sent off to camp or to a local playground either. They were to act as guardians for someone who was so exalted that the king himself took direction from him.

Rama and LakshmanaThe boys did not hesitate in going. They showed respect to the people that deserved it. They next put on yellow clothes. Generally, Lord Rama wears a yellow robe and Lakshmana a blue one. When the brothers appear as Krishna and Balarama they follow the same tendency. The matching colors are also present with their appearance as Lord Chaitanya and NItyananda Prabhu. The brothers then tied their quivers around their waists. Again, they weren’t preparing for playing laser-tag or a day of innocent fun. Though youths at the time, they were getting ready to battle the world’s strongest fighters. Vishvamitra, as an expert teacher, would give them powerful mantras that could turn their arrows into weapons with the ability to create devastation like a nuclear weapon.

To complete the picture, they took bow-and-arrow sets in their hands. This wonderful scene of the two brothers readying for their journey with Vishvamitra cannot be contemplated enough. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and since Rama and Lakshmana are transcendental, just creating a mental picture through hearing has a similar, if not greater, effect. From this one scene we see how to properly respect our elders and spiritual guides. We see how dedicated to protecting the innocent the Supreme Lord is. We also see just how much Lakshmana loves Rama. Wherever the Lord goes, Lakshmana is right behind Him to act as protection. Rama doesn’t require this, but then Lakshmana doesn’t need anything except his brother’s association in life. As Akampana, a fierce Rakshasa fighter, would later point out, Rama is like a raging fire and Lakshmana a powerful wind that extends the reach of that fire.

“Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana, has reddish eyes and a voice that resounds like a kettledrum. His strength matches that of Rama’s, and his face shines like a full moon. Just as wind gives aid to a raging fire, Lakshmana has joined forces with his brother. It is that best of kings, Shriman Rama, who has brought down the Rakshasas fighting in Janasthana.” (Akampana speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.16-17)

The same protection offered to Vishvamitra exists in the image of Rama and Lakshmana and also in the holy name itself. The Supreme Lord has thousands of names which describe His transcendental features, and they are best sequenced together in the maha-mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The holy name is the transcendental fire to burn up the sinful effects of the dark age of Kali, and the spiritual master, following Lakshmana’s lead, is the powerful wind to spread those flames throughout the world. With that combination, how can maya ever stand a chance against the sincere devotee?

In Closing:

In elders transcendental love swells so much,

When their feet the two young boys touch.


Bow and arrows carry in their hands so soft,

As to the woods with muni they are off.


Love for their parents the scene does reflect,

And Lord’s dedication to the brahmanas protect.


Brothers not leaving home to have days of fun,

Went to put pain in sage’s side on the run.


Wherever Rama goes Lakshmana by His side,

For attacking demons, from arrows nowhere to hide.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Problem Solving

Krishna and Arjuna“If one adopts the principles enunciated in Bhagavad-gita, he can make his life perfect and make a perfect solution to all the problems of life which arise out of the transient nature of material existence.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, Introduction)

As soon as you introduce the property of transience, you get problems. For starters, since the objects in question are temporary in their manifestation, once this property is known fear will follow. Take a house for example. You purchase the house and then live comfortably within it, but you know that it can deteriorate. If you don’t keep up with the mortgage payments or if you don’t take care of the needed repairs on time, the comfortable dwelling can quickly become a thing of the past. The greatest fear of all is death, which is spared for no one. Since life is full of problems, the tendency towards looking for solutions is as natural as eating when you’re hungry. If you’re already looking for answers, why not head straight for the guidebook that in the beginning addresses life’s most difficult questions. From there find not only the solution to birth and death but also the tools necessary for dealing with any derived problem that should arise.

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

Lord RamaAs the famous prince of the Raghu dynasty and divine incarnation of Godhead once said, for a mature human being there is no other fear than death. That fact puts everything into the right perspective. The fear over losing health insurance relates to death. The fear over becoming destitute, of having no money to provide for basic necessities, also is tied to death. This fear is prevalent in the mature human being and not so much in the child because of the difference in intelligence. The child has yet to be disappointed by life, and they haven’t learned that everything within it is temporary. The adult may have achieved all of their childhood dreams and still had to deal with so many problems thereafter. Therefore once there is maturity, the human being knows that they have nowhere left to go but down.

The fear of death is not just personal either. Often times it extends to family members. This is actually a very nice sentiment, revealing some of the properties of the essence of identity that are mentioned in the conversation documented in that famous guidebook. During economic downturns polling companies will try to get a pulse on the nation’s thoughts of the economy. A common answer given to questions about one’s personal financial situation is: “I’m doing okay, but I’m worried about my neighbor. I’m worried about the country. It seems like there are no jobs anywhere.” Though the human being knows that their destiny is death, somehow they tend to pity others, even those who are in better off positions.

Emotions like these consumed a hesitant warrior on the eve of a giant battle. Fortunately for him, his problems were solved by the one person who can remove all distresses. The warrior Arjuna was more than capable of doing away with his enemy; what he lacked was the desire to fight. He knew that he was in the right with respect to raising hostilities, but if following the righteous path meant killing so many well-wishers and family members on the opposing side, Arjuna would rather be wrong.

Lord Krishna, Arjuna’s chariot driver at the time, stepped in and dealt with this all-encompassing problem. Arjuna was worried about death, and not even his own. He was worried about what would happen to the opposing members should they perish in battle. In this way the talk that followed between Krishna and Arjuna became the most applicable guidebook, as its starting premise is something missed through mental speculation.

Arjuna and Krishna on the battlefieldIn any problem, the solution is found through proper knowledge of the relevant parties. Proper knowledge addresses the inner properties of the situation, knowing how the different entities operate. If there is a misidentification, how can a proper solution be found? Sure, we can consult a guidebook on how to fix our wireless internet connection or properly bake a cake, but these are small problems. The fact that everything around us is temporary ensures that little problems will never go away. Having to fill up gasoline is a tiny nuisance. Drive enough back and forth to work and eventually you’ll have to break your routine and head to the gas station for a fill up. Many of the problems occur at regular intervals. They are deemed problems because they are unwanted inconveniences of life.

Krishna did not start off dealing with smaller problems. He did not wish to dwell on Arjuna’s hesitancy or his misdirected affection for his family members right away. These were indeed the external causes to his decision to refrain from fighting, which introduced a new problem, but at the root of the issue was a misidentification. Arjuna was seeing something that is temporary and taking it to be permanent. The body is not our identity; the soul is. We know that the body is temporary because it changes all the time. We even know that it goes away at the end of life, like the fruit that falls off the tree. If death is already destined to happen, why should one lament it when following religious principles?

Let’s say that I have an iPad filled with movies and books. I know that if I watch a few movies, one after another, pretty soon the device will lose battery strength. A low battery indicates a problem, which is solved by a recharge. Should I be travelling on a trip where power outlets are not readily available, once the recharge is required, I can no longer use the device. Does this mean that I shouldn’t watch a single movie? If that is the case, why have the device? The battery will be drained regardless, so utilizing the device for its intended purpose is the much better course of action. We don’t despise the car because it will run out of gasoline if we drive it enough.

In a similar manner, the body is already destined for death, so lamenting over this fact was not wise for Arjuna. Whether he fought or didn’t fight, those family members would have to perish. By abiding by Krishna’s orders, which were not made up on the spot and which had been followed for thousands of years even at this time, Arjuna would not be doing anything wrong. He was a fighter by occupation, so it was his duty to protect the innocent. If he wasn’t up for the job, who would protect the property of the helpless citizens relying on the stronger government forces?

Krishna and ArjunaThe route of solving smaller problems first is unfortunately taken by governments as well. Famous politicians often believe that the government’s duty is to solve problems, when in fact its primary role is to defend property and life. Yet what are the distressed citizens to do? In a society where the information of the proper identification of the individual is absent, the real problems of life, namely birth, death, old age and disease, will never be solved. Without a solution to the death problem, there will be constant fear and hesitation. The poor person worries about food and clothing and the rich man is concerned with maintaining his standard of living up until the time of death. In either case there is fearing, which indicates that there are problems no matter where you are in life.

Krishna rightly revealed to Arjuna that the soul never dies, nor does it take birth. It is eternal. The consciousness of the living entity at the time of death determines the next destination. Therefore following the original guidebook that is the Vedas - which are explained nicely by the saints and by Krishna Himself in works like the Bhagavad-gita - leads to a proper consciousness at the time of death. Something temporary is the cause of distress, while something permanent is in line with the properties of the soul. Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and His internal energy are permanent, while the external energy of material nature is temporary. Identify with nature and you’ll be in constant trouble. Identify with spirit and you’ll have the tools to solve even trivial problems.

How does this work exactly? How does connecting with Krishna solve the problem of finding a job or putting food on the table? The Lord’s ultimate advice to Arjuna was to always think of Him and follow the duties prescribed for his order with detachment. “Don’t worry about the outcome; just follow God, thinking of Him in a loving mood.” This advice would serve Arjuna well, for he was firmly convinced of it by the teachings presented by Krishna, which would later on be known as the Bhagavad-gita, a work to be studied by scholars, inquisitive minds, and sincere spiritualists alike.

By knowing that I am spirit and that Krishna is Supreme Spirit, if I regularly chant His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, I stand a good chance of thinking about Him at the time of death. Krishna is eternal and lives in a permanent abode. A consciousness fixed on Him leads the individual to a residence in that imperishable home, where the only problem is: “How can I serve Krishna more?”

Radha KrishnaThrough regular chanting in the discipline known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, the foremost desire of the individual is to stay connected with Krishna. The Lord bears the burden for success in this endeavor, and since He is Achyuta [one who never falls down], He never denies any sincere soul the success they deserve. The problems in life are automatically solved because from within as the chaitya guru and from without as the spiritual master Krishna gives hints on how to find the conditions ideal for continuing in devotion. With a purified consciousness, a commonly employed solution to problems is to just abandon the activity. Another method is to look for situations which bring as little distractions as possible. In Arjuna’s case, he took on the great burden of fighting in a war, but he was unattached to the result. As the supreme director standing right in front of him, Krishna made sure that Arjuna would emerge victorious, keeping his consciousness pure the whole time.

Find a solution to the root of all problems and you will have a way of dealing with the many issues that arise in a temporary existence. Birth and death are unavoidable for aspects of life that are temporary, but with a mind focused on the proper aim, detachment becomes rather easy to invoke. Association with the body is life’s biggest problem and connecting with Shri Krishna in a bond of love is the only solution.

In Closing:

Anger, sadness, depression and strife.

Form the many problems of life.


Try to initially tackle just the smaller,

In hopes that will address the larger.


But there is a better, more direct route,

Tackle issues of birth and death at their root.


Hesitant warrior Arjuna’s mind in a stir.

Went to his friend Shri Krishna for answers.


What followed was the most sacred talk,

Became Bhagavad-gita, path to success chalked.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No Picnic

Sita and Rama in Hanuman's heart“Therefore I shall certainly reside here, controlling my eating and my senses. Let not all the men and Vanaras be destroyed on account of me.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.54)

iha eva niyata āhāro vatsyāmi niyata indriyaḥ ||
na mat kṛte vinaśyeyuḥ sarve te nara vānarāḥ |

Just because he’s not returning to Kishkindha doesn’t mean that Hanuman is going on vacation. On the contrary, he will focus his efforts on austerity, ensuring that his choice resulting from his bout with a difficult conundrum doesn’t do anything to increase sense pleasures. Hanuman is concerned over the welfare of others, especially those he has vowed to serve. As the most sacred vow is to honor, protect, defend, cherish and worship the Supreme Lord, Hanuman is the embodiment of perfection in a living being. His flawless nature is visible in all of his activities, including his thinking.

How can someone think perfectly? Isn’t there a flaw in this concept? After all, thinking is a means of deliberation, a way to settle upon the proper conclusion, to decipher which course of action can be taken. How can thoughts that are used to come to a final outcome be deemed flawless? Practice is not something that we assign judgments to because the results are what matter. How we practice isn’t assigned top priority in importance; it’s all about how we perform. So how can Hanuman’s thoughts be perfect?

Since his thinking is rooted in pure love for the Supreme Lord, something very easy to hold on to but difficult to initially accept, even his lamentations, brief bouts with sadness, and dejection over the future outcome are not detrimental. In fact, just the opposite results. His fear over failing to keep the smile on the face of his beloved Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, maintains his dedication to the task at hand.

Lord RamaWhy did Hanuman need dedication? What obstacles was he facing? Just imagine being placed in a foreign land where you’re pretty sure that no one there likes you. And more than just dislike, these people will try to kill you if they should discover who you are and why you are in their territory. Add to the mix that no one is there to help you and there is no way of calling home for advice. You have to rely only upon your own skills to get the job done.

And what exactly is the job? A princess has been taken captive. You’ve never met her, but you’ve heard through gathered intelligence that she is being kept on this particular island. Oh, by the way, the inhabitants of this place are such vicious creatures that they eat human flesh on a regular basis. Their king was known for commanding attacks on innocent sages residing in the forest. That’s correct. People who renounced family life and attachment to material sense gratification in favor of religious austerity were harassed, disrupted and ultimately killed by minions of this infamous king.

Not surprisingly, the ruler of this land called Lanka had tried to take away the most beautiful woman in the world. Her inner beauty was more splendid than her outer, though both were outstanding. Her stature was enhanced by her dedication to her husband, who was of the princely order. As vile and sinful as the ruler of Lanka was, this prince was that much pious and dedicated to the established law codes of society. Laws are meant to be unbiased after all, not taking into consideration special circumstances. One who doesn’t show special favor to anyone is automatically equally disposed towards every single person. This feature inherently belongs to God because every single particle of spirit and matter comes from Him. In this regard He cannot play favorites.

rainThough the sun and the rain operate similarly, there are certain ways to make better use of the gifts offered. The sunshine can be used properly to grow crops, heat homes, and provide natural light to carry out daily tasks. The rain can be used to feed crops, cool the surface of the earth, and provide drinking water. Though neither the sun nor the rain purposefully target their benevolence to specific groups, those who can make the best use of the gifts are better off. Because of that utilization, they are in a sense more favored by these elements of nature than are others.

God is benevolent towards everyone, but the pious especially bask in His glories. Therefore the Supreme Lord sort of shows extra favor to them. Outwardly this is the case, but in reality those who are not shown favor simply don’t accept the gifts offered to them by God. Ravana, the king of Lanka, had plenty of food to eat and the most beautiful queens as wives. He was already blessed by mother nature, who works at the behest of the Supreme Lord. Not accepting this favor, he decided to break the standard ethical codes of society by forcefully taking another man’s wife.

During this time, which was the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation, it wasn’t uncommon for kings to take away wives of other kings, but it would always occur after a military victory; sort of like a duel, with the victor taking the spoils. Ravana was so low in morality that he didn’t have the courage to challenge this prince to a fair fight. Known by the name of Rama, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty was the greatest bow warrior the world had ever seen. He had singlehandedly defeated 14,000 of Ravana’s henchmen when they attacked the area of the forest known as Dandaka. Rama was accompanied in the forest by His wife Sita and younger brother Lakshmana, but when the time came to defend against Ravana’s Rakshasas, the Lord purposefully chose to teach them a lesson by Himself. In this way Rama is the most glorious, as He shines in full splendor when defending the innocent.

HanumanHanuman’s task was to find Sita. Rama is antaryami, or the all-pervading witness. He easily could have spotted His wife and destroyed all of Lanka with a single arrow shot from His illustrious bow. But if He had found Sita Himself, there would have not been anything remarkable about it. He is God after all, so He can do anything. When a servant follows through successfully on the orders given to him, both the master and the servant are glorified. Through using Hanuman as his messenger, future generations of saints would be delighted in hearing about the wonderful devotion displayed by Rama’s dearest servant.

Hanuman had a little trouble in Lanka. Not that he couldn’t infiltrate the city; he was able to get around just fine. He took on a miniature stature and thus roamed the streets unnoticed. But he couldn’t find Sita. This finally got to him after a while, for he started wondering what might happen if he never found her. He couldn’t bear to go back to Kishkindha and let Rama know about the failure. Hanuman was a forest-dweller, or Vanara, so he lived with other members of the same species. They were technically monkeys with human-like features.

Initially, a massive host of monkeys was sent to look for Sita, but Hanuman ended up separating from everyone once it was learned that Sita was in Lanka. Only Hanuman could reach the distant island. He thought that if he didn’t succeed in the mission, Rama would get irate over the failure and destroy everyone as a result. Not wanting to inflict further harm on his friends, Hanuman decided it would be best to remain in Lanka and continue the search.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman is further justifying his decision. Just imagine, here he was on one of the most difficult missions ever assigned to a servant, and he was worried about how he would come off in not returning to Kishkindha. He didn’t want himself to think that he had taken the easy route. What exactly would have been the easy option? Just sit back, relax, don’t tell anyone anything, and pretend like nothing happened. Shirk your responsibilities and enjoy life for yourself.

HanumanHanuman decided that he would keep his senses under control and regulate his eating. Not only does this represent an austere lifestyle, it is extremely beneficial when engaging in devotional service. Bhakti-yoga is a discipline involving the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Lord. There are several different ways to do this, with the most effective method in the current age being the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. In Hanuman’s case, he was engaged in bhakti through directly carrying out the orders of the Supreme Lord. Irrespective of the specific method of bhakti chosen, if food intake can be limited and the senses kept in check, the mind can better concentrate on the task of connecting with God.

Hanuman doesn’t need to follow these methods explicitly, but he did so to remain focused on the task, to keep his spirits up. It is seen that when depression hits, people can go on eating binges, like downing an entire pint of ice cream. Sometimes people even hit up the bottle, drowning their sorrows in intoxication. Hanuman would not let this happen. Rather than allow lamentation to get the better of him, he would fight ahead and find victory or die. He had no interest in failing and he was not about to let his friends down.

Hanuman is the most dedicated. You could pile up every piece of blank paper available in the world and try to fill them with written glories about Hanuman and you still wouldn’t have enough room. He is forever dear to Sita and Rama, who always reside in his heart. He is also loved by the devotees of Rama, who look to him as their savior, guide and protector. Hanuman would indeed succeed because his dedication is unmatched. When there is a will in devotional service, the way is kindly provided by the Supreme Lord. Hanuman has paved the way to the spiritual world, and anyone who is fortunate enough to hear about him and delight in his pastimes will remain firmly fixed on that path back to the supreme destination.

In Closing:

Quitting is something done with ease,

No more pressures, life is a breeze.


Hanuman never to take this route,

Pleasure his senses would live without.


His eating too he would strictly control,

This way avoid calamities untold.


Carrying on was right and Hanuman knew it,

Rama’s pleasure required him not to quit.


Vanara to carry on, Supreme Lord to please,

On opportunity to serve Rama he did seize.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tear Down This Wall

Prahlada Maharaja“Prahlada Maharaja said: One who is sufficiently intelligent should use the human form of body from the very beginning of life — in other words, from the tender age of childhood — to practice the activities of devotional service, giving up all other engagements. The human body is most rarely achieved, and although temporary like other bodies, it is meaningful because in human life one can perform devotional service. Even a slight amount of sincere devotional service can give one complete perfection.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.6.1)

Among the many issues discussed during a campaign for the office of President of the United States is foreign policy. How will such and such candidate deal with other nations, including those who may be hostile to the country? On the campaign trail it is easy to talk your way through difficult issues. You can say anything, as your words don’t directly affect legislation. The goal of the candidate is to get elected, not necessarily to immediately impact policy. Once you get into office and bring in your handlers, aides, advisers and administrators, you can make more rational decisions.

The general recommendation is for presidents to remain neutral in foreign affairs. Don’t ruffle any feathers. Why would you want to raise hostilities that might get your country into more trouble? The other nations understand that you might talk tough during the campaign season, but once you get into office they expect you to use keen diplomacy to get what you want. Even in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, punishment, or danda, is not the only means for achieving an end. There are other options such as pacification, giving gifts, and using divide and conquer strategies for rulers to achieve their stated objective.

“After some time, the teachers Shanda and Amarka thought that Prahlada Maharaja was sufficiently educated in the diplomatic affairs of pacifying public leaders, appeasing them by giving them lucrative posts, dividing and ruling over them and punishing them in cases of disobedience. Then, one day, after Prahlada's mother had personally washed the boy and dressed him nicely with sufficient ornaments, they presented him before his father.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.19)

Prahlada MaharajaDivide and conquer is one of the more intriguing options because it has a psychological component to it. Danda is straightforward. The aggressor sets the rules in any conflict, so if you have more military might then it is easy to just impose your will on another party. The United States has had the predominant military in the world for the past hundred years or so, but the option for armed conflict is not the one first taken. Rather than anger others, there are paths of lesser resistance like pacification and the giving of gifts. Typically, though, pacification is the resort for the weaker parties.

Division is your way to attack the enemy from within. You inspire rebel forces inside of the enemy camp to fight their way to achieve their interest, which is ideally your interest as well. Division is rarely practiced in the open, as the strong rhetoric required is not considered diplomatic. Why try “cowboy diplomacy” when you can speak softly on the outside and work your way around the edges without the enemy knowing?

One particular world leader in recent times was advised not to openly criticize a regime that had erected a wall in one of its satellite countries. Walls are only built when you want to keep people from coming in or leaving. The influx of people is only a problem when the nation you govern is attractive to outsiders. In the case of this small territory, the problem was the opposite. The people were dying to get out. If you live in an area with tight government controls and limited freedom, you will likely want to flee. The move may be difficult, but in the end you have to do what is right for yourself and your family. The egress is similar to leaving a job that you might be comfortable in. If the boss makes many changes and cuts your salary enough you will have no other choice but to leave and find another job.

The giant wall at the city’s boundary caused a problem for the people wanting to leave. The citizens that wanted to move out couldn’t. They’d have to try to climb the giant wall, which would place them out in the open for the governing bodies to see. The government put up the wall for a reason; they did not want people to leave. If someone did try to escape and then ended up getting caught, they surely wouldn’t be treated well by the authorities. Watching from the outside, many nations thought the government’s behavior was reprehensible. If people want to leave a country, why not allow them to? Why erect a wall?

the Berlin WallThough they were thinking this way, it was difficult for them to openly share their feelings, as a lack of confidence in the proper path often prevents the open sharing of criticism. “For starters, who is anyone to criticize anyone else? If one nation has a wall on its boundary, who am I, an outsider, to criticize? I don’t know their circumstances. I don’t know why they may have put up that wall. What gives me the right to say it should be done differently? Instead, I should kindly ask them to consider shifting gears, being collegial on the outside and then a little stricter when talking to them personally.”

On one visit to this famous wall, the world leader in question went the bold route. To the people gathered at the wall, he assertively advised the leader of that area to “tear down this wall.” The recommendation was straightforward, honest and could not be misconstrued. The message wasn’t, “Please consider getting rid of this wall”, or, “Please try reforming your nation so that people can live happily within these confines.” A few years later, the inspired people of that city would tear down that wall themselves, not waiting for help from the government.

The preacher who knows the true position of the spirit soul and its ideal home also is very bold in presenting their message. The spirit soul is the essence of identity, the spark within every living being. The temporary coverings are like shirts and coats that get put on before a trip and then taken off once the destination is reached. Through the transmigration of the soul, or reincarnation, these dresses are constantly put on and taken off.

“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

The soul remains the same throughout, but since the land inhabited is filled with inhibiting matter, there is no happiness. Through mental speculation and fruitive activity, the living being tries their best to make use of their environment. They are not allowed to escape the impenetrable walls of maya, or illusion, because they are unaware of their proper identity. Thus so many other systems of regulation arise. As the soul’s natural desire is to serve, that propensity follows so many outlets within the confines of maya’s walls. Philanthropy, charity, sense gratification, concern for the material wellbeing of others, protection of the environment, the feverish pursuit of profit, the desire to control people through accepting the reins of government, and so many other ventures are attempted to fill the void for lasting happiness.

Lord KrishnaThe Vaishnava preacher knows both the position of the soul and its link to the Supersoul, who has a personal form in His original feature. The spirit souls come from God and only in His association is there real happiness. The walls of maya are sort of like the perimeter of a large prison house. Through the proper behavior one can escape from confinement by figuratively tearing down maya’s walls. As this is what is best for every spirit soul, the Vaishnava boldly declares that the walls of maya must be brought down, not accommodated.

What is the difference between tearing down maya’s walls and remaining within them? What sort of behavior helps one break free of the prison-like environment? Mental speculation will be of no help in this regard. The human mind has the ability to discriminate, so when accepting the most righteous path of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, there certainly must be more than just blind sentiment. Nevertheless, the right path cannot initially be revealed through mental effort alone. One must tap into the storehouse of knowledge that is the Vedic literature, with its most important works being the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam.

The Vedas are non-different from God, so it is difficult to say that some works are more important than others. The Bhagavatam is generally considered the best because it deals exclusively with devotion to the Lord, without hints of procedures for material acquisition, dry renunciation, or mystic perfection. These other pursuits can help elevate one to the platform of God consciousness, but they can also serve as distractions. If the boss that previously treated you horribly one day comes in with a new enticing offer, you may be tempted to stay at the job. The employer’s intent is to make you forget about his past transgressions. But accepting the entreaty is a mistake because within a short period of time the same erratic behavior from the boss will resurface.

In a similar manner, taking shelter of any type of fruitive activity, mental speculation, or mystic perfection may make the living being temporarily comfortable again within maya’s prison, but only in bhakti are the walls eviscerated, with the invigorated spirit soul more anxious than ever to take the right action. The spark of life brings the potential for excelling in spiritual practice. The Vaishnava preacher presents all of this information, giving both the end-goal and the tools necessary for achieving it. The end is really the beginning of an endless pursuit that keeps the soul in ananda, or bliss.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna, is the object of sacrifice. The most potent sacrifice is the sankirtana-yajna, chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The recommendation is to take the chanting option right away. At the same time learn about Krishna and His teachings from the Bhagavad-gita. Become fully convinced of the position of the spirit soul, how it transcends birth and death, and how it remains always in Krishna’s association once full God consciousness is reached.

After acceptance of the devotional path read more about Krishna’s personal qualities and pastimes found in the Bhagavatam, which has accounts from great devotees and teachers like Prahlada Maharaja, who as a five year old boy instructed his classmates on the supremacy of vishnu-bhakti. In this way spend the rest of your life immersed in God consciousness, which automatically ensures that maya’s walls will have no influence. Tear down the walls of illusion instead of trying to work within them. Follow the path of bhakti, invite Krishna into your consciousness and soon you will taste the real fruit of your existence, freedom in pure bliss.

Question: What if I fail? What if I try to scale the walls and don’t make it over? Won’t maya punish me again?

In the past many yogis, real transcendentalists trying to perfect consciousness, were unsuccessful in fully scaling maya’s giant walls within their lifetime. If you try to escape from the government and get caught, they will punish you. With maya, she will provide many enticements to get you to stay within her web of illusion - which makes you take objects of matter to be yours and your material body to be your identity - but if the effort is directed at Krishna immediately, there is no need to fear.

Krishna saving DraupadiSeveral sincere devotees of the past were pure of heart and only dependent on Krishna for everything. They were attacked by others opposed to God or were stricken temporarily by the influence of passion, but they were nevertheless saved. Queen Draupadi was helpless in an assembly where other kings tried to strip her naked. At the last moment she finally prayed to Krishna, and the Lord came and took the form of her dress. No matter how much the miscreants pulled, they couldn’t seem to get Draupadi’s sari off of her. Prahlada Maharaja was a five year old practicing devotion, so he had no way of protecting himself. His father tried to kill him so many times, but Krishna was there to save the boy and maintain his devotional standard.

The body must be renounced at some point, so even if we don’t succeed in escaping the material prison house or purifying its influence within this lifetime, if the effort in devotion is sincere, in the next life the process resumes from the same position. It’s like hitting pause while watching a movie, taking care of some work, and then returning to the same spot. This feature is not available outside the realm of devotional service. If you build a house halfway and leave it, there’s no guarantee that the structure will remain there for you to complete. If the house should crumble, all of your past effort goes to waste.

If just one sincere utterance of Krishna’s name is made, there is no chance of ever meeting doom. Even if an accidental fall from grace should take place in the future, the divine consciousness will eventually revive. The spirit soul is capable of amazing things. If you look around and see the complex arrangements created by man, you should know that the people who created them have the same internal qualities that you do. Therefore the potential for action is tremendous, and with bhakti-yoga the potential meets its ideal match, resulting in a synergistic force that is capable of scaling the highest walls.

In Closing:

This wonderful land, don’t you dare leave,

To the almighty government’s will do you cleave.


If fail in your desire for freedom to gain,

Authorities to inflict punishing pain.


This material land home that you do call,

Has similar boundaries, unscalable walls.


But Vaishnava has answer, gives it to you bold,

To be devoted to Krishna and name you’re told.


Maya’s walls tear down, break them with force,

Or remove their influence, follow bhakti’s course.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Guardian

King Dasharatha with Rama and Lakshmana“The king said these words to the muni in a very humble and polite way. He presented Rama and Lakshmana to the muni and then touched his lotus feet.” (Janaki Mangala, 26)

dīna bacana bahu bhām̐ti bhūpa muni sana kahe |
sauṃpi rāma arū lakhana pāya paṃkaja gahe ||

With a young child’s first day of school, the moment is much more difficult to handle for the parents. Should the child start to cry immediately upon separation, through interaction with fellow students and classroom activity during the day, the separation can be forgotten rather quickly. The parents, however, are always left to worry about the child. They have raised them from the time they emerged from the womb, so to suddenly hand them over to the care of a teacher is not easy. For a particular king a long time ago, the pain was doubled by the fact that two of his four sons were leaving home. They would be under the care of an expert teacher, but they would be required to serve as his protection of all things. Because of that generosity, this king would go down in history as one of the most famous.

The Janaki Mangala, the sweet song written by Goswami Tulsidas that describes these events so nicely, presents some of the interactions between the king and the guardian of this situation. King Dasharatha did not have a son for the longest time. For a king following Vedic traditions that is a big deal. At the time of birth three debts are incurred. We owe our present circumstances to the past actions of spiritual entities. From the demigods, or devas, we get the rain necessary to maintain life. If our parents couldn’t survive from eating grains, milk and fruits, we never would have developed within the womb to the point that we could take birth. If not for the rishis of the past, who safeguarded Vedic wisdom and the knowledge necessary for flourishing in life, we would live like animals, following only our sensual pursuits.

King DasharathaThe third debt is what troubled Dasharatha. If not for our forefathers, the family that we are born into wouldn’t exist. For the king of Ayodhya, his family was quite famous and well-known for their dedication to virtue. If you’re born into a family of reprobates, perhaps you’re not overly concerned with keeping it going. But if you take birth in the most pious family that the society relies on for its welfare, you want to make sure that the legacy continues after you depart this world.

Long without a son, Dasharatha took the advice and consent of the priestly class and performed a grand yajna, or sacrifice. The remnants of that sacrifice were handed over to the king’s three queens, who simply by consuming the spiritualized food became pregnant. Four male children were soon born: Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. The four boys were naturally fond of each other, and they enjoyed growing up in the family environment in Ayodhya.

The eldest Rama was everyone’s favorite. This was especially true for Dasharatha. A parent is not supposed to have a favorite, as they love their children equally. Yet the bond of affection was strongest towards Rama. The child was the leader of His brothers, and they all worshiped Him like a father. Though they all loved Rama equally, Lakshmana was the one closest to the Lord. He would not eat or sleep without Rama by his side. He would not do any of these things before the Lord would. He would never dishonor his eldest brother; not in thought, word, or deed. To use a common modern expression, Lakshmana would gladly take a bullet for Rama.

The boys were groomed to follow in their father’s footsteps. The kings in those times weren’t just administrative heads; they were the best fighters in the world. After all, the primary duty of government is to protect property and life. These two vital aspects are threatened by miscreants, those who don’t have respect for what others have lawfully earned. A miscreant will not take well to logic and understanding. Imagine being the victim of a holdup like a carjacking and then trying to explain the issue of property rights to the culprit. “Sir, excuse me, but I bought this car with my own money. Therefore I am the owner. If you would like a car I suggest you work honestly so that you can buy one yourself.”

The warrior class of men exists to deal with the thieves in society. As an aggressor has no concern for rules of propriety, the defenders must use force when necessary. In the Vedic tradition it is considered a laudable sacrifice to lay down your life on the battlefield fighting bravely. The slain warrior is immediately granted residence in heaven, so noble is their bravery. To get to heaven involves many pious deeds. One must be quite religious, without sin and following the guiding principles presented by the priestly class. Yet the same benefit of ascension to heaven can come by nobly defending the innocent and dying in battle.

Dasharatha was a world-famous fighter, a protector of dharma, or virtue. His sons were to follow in his footsteps. Yet a fighter should be mature. You wouldn’t send children out to act as police officers. There is an age restriction for a reason. This made the visit by Vishvamitra all the more strange. An exalted sage living in the forest, Vishvamitra one day visited Ayodhya and was greeted hospitably by King Dasharatha and his family. The king was ready to give the world to the sage, as the administrator class operates off of the advice and consent of the priests, who are knowledgeable on all affairs.

Lakshmana and Rama with VishvamitraVishvamitra wanted to take Rama and Lakshmana with him. This wasn’t necessarily to teach the two boys about the art of fighting with the bow and arrow, the standard method of warfare of the time. He didn’t need to instruct them further on the Vedas or have them live with him so that they could find enlightenment. Vishvamitra was being attacked by the worst kind of villains. He knew that only Rama and Lakshmana could protect him.

In the father’s eyes, the two boys were quite immature. They hadn’t left home, and they were enjoying the company of the family. Dasharatha had a royal army full of capable fighters, so why wouldn’t the sage want one of them? Dasharatha was ready to lend his entire army headed by himself instead of giving over Rama, his favorite son.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see the end result of the interaction between the king and the sage. In utmost humility and kindness, Dasharatha offered praise to the muni, saying that his blessings would grant any reward to any person. The king brought Rama and Lakshmana before Vishvamitra and then touched his lotus feet. Just imagine the situation. A chivalrous fighter whom the entire community honored as the chief person in the city was bowing down before a mendicant with a beard. The brahmanas may look meek, but in mind they are the strongest. Their wealth is their devotion to God, and by accepting the dust of their lotus feet one can receive the most wonderful blessings in life.

Though Rama and Lakshmana would be protecting Vishvamitra from the attacking Rakshasas, the sage was essentially their guardian. Dasharatha wasn’t watching his children go away to school for the first time. Instead, he watched his two boys leave to certainly face attacks from creatures that were known for eating human beings. The anguish the king faced is unimaginable. Yet the incident once again proved his dedication to dharma. The famous ruler worked with detachment, following the guidelines prescribed to his order without concern over outcome. If he had kept his sons with him out of familial affection, then the responsibility for the outcome of the actions would belong to him. But since he followed protocol, Vishvamitra, and more specifically the person he was serving, bore the burden of the results.

Lord RamaWho were Vishvamitra and the other sages worshiping? Dharma comes from God. The material world is a sort of playing field which can provide different results based on the game that one plays. Dharma is the set of rules aimed at allowing the field to provide the sweetest tasting fruit of devotion to God. The playing field allows for all sorts of other activity, so following dharma is very difficult. Yet the reward is worth the effort, so the highest class of men known as the brahmanas remains on the righteous path. They worship God through their actions, and since they have sublime wisdom, they share it with others when appropriate.

Dasharatha’s eldest son was actually the person who originally instituted dharma. In this sense the king and the sage both were serving God, as loving Rama is the highest dharma for any person. Bhagavata-dharma, or devotional service, is the spirit soul’s constitutional engagement. Dasharatha loved Rama so much that he was willing to let Him go at the behest of the brahmanas. Vishvamitra loved Rama so much that he made sure to use his position in society to gain the Lord’s association. Rama and Lakshmana would prove the sage correct by valiantly protecting him from all sorts of attacking Rakshasas. For their bravery, the fame of the Ikshvaku dynasty and its leader at the time, King Dasharatha, would increase exponentially.

Though we may not be in the royal or priestly order in this lifetime, the same sacrifice can be made by regularly chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Recitation of the holy name through love and devotion is the only dharma for this age. It is applicable to every person, regardless of their social standing. The dark age of Kali has broken three of the four legs of dharma, leaving only one left standing. Therefore the many rules and regulations that previously formed the pillars of dharma cannot be erected. Yet just the dedication to chanting, to remembering God and glorifying Him, is enough to bring the same benefit of the Lord’s association. Hearing about Rama and Lakshmana going away with Vishvamitra is as good as having witnessed it. Hearing about God in the proper mood is as good as sacrificing work efforts for His benefit. Rama and Lakshmana protected Dasharatha’s good name and they supported Vishvamitra’s dedication to sacrifice. In a similar manner, the Lord and His personal energies will protect the surrendered soul who takes chanting of the holy names to be their life’s primary engagement.

In Closing:

Vishvamitra wanted king’s son, his brother too,

But Rama is God, thus who was guarding who?


Dasharatha did not want to let Rama go,

But dedication to dharma not to forego.


No worries, as both sides the Lord to please,

Rama to protect Vishvamitra with ease.


Vision of departing son to remain in king’s mind,

To that pleasure at any time to find.


In the modern day chant the Lord’s names,

So that His favor you’ll always gain.