Saturday, March 10, 2012

Suffer Not Any Pain

Rama and Lakshmana“They pray to God to grant them blessings: ‘May You garner fame and return victorious. May You not lose a single hair while bathing.’” (Janaki Mangala, 29)

īsa manāi asīsahiṃ jaya jasu pāvahu |
nhāta khasai jani bāra gaharū jani lāvahu ||

The influence of yogamaya is so strong that even while in the presence of the Supreme Lord others are overcome with fear and concern over the future. In His spiritual manifestation as the eldest son of King Dasharatha, Lord Rama was so much loved and adored that the residents of the town prayed to God for His welfare as He embarked on a journey with Vishvamitra, the exalted sage residing in the forest. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were not yet twelve years of age according to the time elapsed from their appearance in the world, and yet they were called upon to protect Vishvamitra from hideous creatures who fought unfairly. Rama stayed true to His role as protector, and the residents, ignoring His tremendous fighting ability, prayed that He and His brother may return home safely, and especially victorious. They prayed that not a single head of hair would be lost while He would bathe.

What is the significance of this prayer? Why such a strange request made to God? The idea is that they didn’t want Rama to get hurt. Losing a single hair while bathing in a lake is as trivial a loss as you’ll find, but this fact was given attention because the residents of Ayodhya did not want any harm done to their beloved Rama and Lakshmana. The Lord’s sweet smile, the beautiful hue of His skin, which was similar to the dark-blue raincloud or the blue lotus that springs forth upon the sight of the sun, and His overall demeanor enchanted everyone. His brother Lakshmana was like a twin, with the only difference seen in his fair skin color. Isha is a word that addresses God’s position as the controller. The term Ishvara is also often used, which means the chief controller.

Lakshmana and Rama eatingThe prayer by the residents who watched Rama depart shows that they did not know He was God. Isn’t ignorance a bad thing? If we can’t identify someone properly, how can we interact with them in a meaningful way? Complete knowledge of another’s standing isn’t always helpful. For instance, if one of our friends or family members becomes famous or wealthy, should we then treat them differently? In these instances the more we can forget about their external stature, the better the relationship will be.

The same concept holds in the dealings with the Supreme Lord. His position as the most beautiful, renounced, wise, strong, wealthy, and famous is only worth knowing for those who originally believe that mortal men can hold this superior position. If you already believe in God, you are better off dealing with Rama under the sway of yogamaya, which is His direct energy responsible for clouding the vision of the surrendered souls. Through yogamaya, Rama’s mother Kausalya thinks He is helpless. King Dasharatha holds the strongest parental affection for the Lord. Even Rama’s eternal companions like Lakshmana and Sita, who both know how great Rama is and how He can defeat anyone in battle, still have concern for His welfare, not wanting Him to suffer in any way.

It is this concern that makes these personalities ideal candidates for receiving Rama’s association. Why would someone want to be around enemies? If you know that someone doesn’t like you, has no idea what makes you tick, and has reached erroneous conclusions about your position in life, would you enjoy spending long stretches of time with them? If, on the other hand, you had someone who cared about you so much that even if you were already taken care of they would never stop loving you, wouldn’t that person’s association be the most enjoyable to you?

Shri Rama was a descendant of the Raghu dynasty, which aside from having a reputation for piety was successful in its protection of the innocent. Therefore the concerned residents first asked God to make Rama successful in His mission. He was sent to protect Vishvamitra, and they knew that if He could do this His fame would increase at the same time. They didn’t curse the sage for taking Him to the forest or even the Rakshasas for causing such disturbances. The evil elements of society will always be there. Appeasement, diplomacy, and psychological warfare can only do so much. In some instances, the last resort of danda, or force, is the only worthwhile option.

When it is time for stiff punishment, the deliverer of justice must not be meek. He cannot be merciful either. The warrior must come strong or not come at all. The night-rangers scouring the forests looking to destroy the fire sacrifices of the sages did not play by the rules of warfare. They would hide their hideous forms until the last minute, thus lulling the sages into a false sense of security. Shri Rama and Lakshmana would have to defend Vishvamitra from these demons, and they would have to let their arrows fly without concern for the well-being of the attackers.

Rama and Lakshmana defending VishvamitraThe prayers offered by the residents were very sincere as well. They wanted nothing for themselves. This is the natural sentiment of the spirit soul, which exists in all living body types. Only in the human species, however, can that loving spirit be consciously directed towards a particular area. You’ll see that during awards ceremonies the winners spend most of the time thanking other people that helped them. It is seen that most people prefer praising others over talking themselves up. It is said that a true hero doesn’t speak much, which shows that the chivalrous and brave fight out of duty and not out of the desire to earn fame. Selflessness is a  byproduct of a saintly demeanor, which is acquired through following the highest system of maintenance, known as bhagavata-dharma.

The residents of Ayodhya followed bhagavata-dharma, though they may not have known it. They did pray to God often, but not for their own benefit. They performed their regulative tasks as a matter of duty, not out of any desire for personal upliftment. What could someone who has the divine vision of Rama in front of them ever want anyway? If I am in the company of the most merciful, the person who is most beloved and kind in return, why should I worry about any other kind of reward?

“May Indra protect you on the East, may Yama protect you on the South and Varuna on the West and Kuvera on the North.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 16.24)

These kinds of prayers would be regularly directed towards Rama during His time on earth. Many years later, after Rama would return home, He would be summoned to the royal palace around the time that it was announced He would succeed His father on the throne. At the time, Rama had already proven His immeasurable strength and His ability to stay safe through danger. Nevertheless, right before He left home, Rama’s wife Sita prayed to the different presiding deities of the material creation to protect her husband.

Many thousands of years later, the same Rama would appear in Vrindavana as Lord Krishna, the delight of Maharaja Nanda and mother Yashoda. The evil element at the time was concentrated in the neighboring town of Mathura, where the leader Kamsa was intent on killing Krishna. He once sent a powerful witch to Vrindavana to try to find baby Krishna and kill Him. Like the night-rangers in the forest harassing Vishvamitra, Putana changed her form into a beautiful woman that wouldn’t look conspicuous in the holy land of Vrindavana.

Putana was able to sneak into Krishna’s room and place Him on her lap. She came in with poison smeared on her breasts, so she was ready to kill the Lord by breastfeeding Him. Krishna granted her wish to temporarily act as a mother by kindly sucking milk from her breast. The problem for her, however, was that Krishna sucked the very life out of her. As she struggled to remain alive in the last moments, her original, hideous form revealed itself. The witch was so gigantic that after she was killed, her tumbling to the ground created a loud thud.

Mother Yashoda with KrishnaHearing this, the cowherd women of Vrindavana came upon the scene and saw baby Krishna innocently crawling on the witch’s corpse. They couldn’t believe the hideous scene so they quickly picked up the young child and smothered Him with affection. Mother Yashoda then offered so many prayers to the Supreme Lord to protect her young son Krishna. She did not know that the person she was addressing, Lord Vishnu, was the very same Krishna standing in front of her. This innocent and heartfelt prayer was thoroughly enjoyed by Krishna, for there was no personal motivation on Yashoda’s part.

Rama and Lakshmana would not be harmed during their time with Vishvamitra. Shri Rama’s company is always beneficial, even to those He punishes. He would do away with several powerful Rakshasas, and also liberate Ahalya, the wife of the sage Gautama. But best of all, Rama would return home with a beautiful new wife named Sita. Through Vishvamitra’s request for protection, Rama would coincidentally make His way to the town of Tirahuta, where a self-choice ceremony was taking place to determine the marriage arrangements for the daughter of King Janaka.

The contest in Janaka’s kingdom was simple, but difficult at the same time. There was an enormously heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva placed in the sacrificial arena. So many kings from around the world tried to lift it, but none of them could. Seeing Rama’s beautiful and enchanting appearance, the onlookers in Tirahuta prayed to God to have Rama win the contest. Again, the prayer was not needed since Rama is the most powerful. Yet, just as in the case of the residents of Ayodhya, the well-wishers in Janaka’s kingdom did not know that Rama was God. Through pure love they worried for His well-being and also Sita’s. With a sincerity of purpose, they would gain the fruit of their eyes by seeing Rama lift the bow and marry the goddess of fortune.

Sita and RamaThe prayers offered by the residents of Ayodhya would eventually be granted. Rama would have to leave their company once more, this time for fourteen years. That was a long time of separation, but eventually He would return home triumphant and then happily take the helm as their leader. That same sweetheart holding the bow in His hands and standing on guard to protect the innocent can stay with us at all times through the chanting of His names: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The saints pray to always have the opportunity to recite the holy names and to make sure that as many people in the world as possible can do the same. As the prayers are offered in pure love, the Supreme Lord answers them.

In Closing:

Shri Rama, Dasharatha’s son of beautiful charm,

Though off You go, may there be no harm.


May victory in Your efforts you gain,

So that upon return glorious will be Your fame.


May no harm come upon You in the forest,

You and Lakshmana by the sage be always blessed.


That You don’t suffer at all we pray,

While bathing let all of Your hair on head stay.


From the forest the Rakshasas do You chase,

For Your triumphant return we cannot wait.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Finishing The Race

Yashoda tying Krishna“This new rope also was short by a measurement of two fingers, and when another rope was joined to it, it was still two fingers too short. As many ropes as she joined, all of them failed; their shortness could not be overcome.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.16)

Because of how we currently view the nature of action, it is assumed that the path towards success in spiritual life involves piling various achievements on top of one another. “Start small and then build your way towards the final goal. Cram enough activity to accumulate numerous spiritual merits and you’ll eventually reach the topmost realm of the spiritual sky, where birth and death no longer take place.” Such a miserable cycle is not desired by one who is aware of it. The ignorant, though taking their paltry enjoyment to be blissful, are automatically harmed by being unaware of the ultimate goal and the supreme happiness it brings. Yet despite the best effort, no quantitative accumulation of merits can bring the Supreme Lord into one’s company, or more importantly, under one’s control. Rather, when sincerity is there, when the motivation is completely pure, the controller of this and every other land agrees to allow the surrendered soul to think that He is under their sway. Thus the emotional reservoirs can spill over from both sides and flood the situation with transcendental sweetness.

Marathon runnersWhat do we mean by building upon activities to reach a final goal? You can take running a marathon as an example to see the principles. The marathon runner has a goal to fulfill. They want to complete the race of 26.2 miles while keeping at least a running pace throughout. The serious runner will keep an eye on time, but for most of the participants just saying that you finished a marathon is good enough. After all, the person not accustomed to running will have a difficult time completing a single mile. Even the runners in the race don’t practice the entire 26.2 miles. They likely train to do half that distance on a semi-regular basis, knowing that on the day of the race the adrenaline will help push them across the finish line.

To run in a marathon requires training and a commitment to both physical and mental well-being. The runner needs to be in shape, ready to run long distances. They have to know how to prepare their bodies for a long-distance race. This means understanding how much to eat and when prior to the race. Also, they must know how to pace themselves and not exhaust their reservoir of energy before reaching the finish line.

Each one of these regulations can be considered a building block. Then, on the day of the race, the runner further builds smaller blocks by dissecting the race. “Finish one mile at a time and don’t think about the entire length. If you follow this procedure, eventually you can reach the finish line.” The same pattern applies to basically every fruitive venture. In school, complete each year starting from the first grade and eventually make your way to graduation after twelve years.

This is how goals are achieved. The larger the goal, the larger the number of smaller building blocks required for completion. In the big picture, the spirit soul, which is the essence of identity, has an ultimate purpose to fulfill. Only in the human form is there the ability to uncover that purpose. Therefore the Vedas consider the human birth to be the most auspicious. The intelligence of the human being is not best used to create a devastating bomb that can destroy the world or build an aircraft capable of flying into outer space. Inventing a gadget to receive and place telephone calls to people around the world also isn’t the best use of the brainpower of the human being.

The reason the human being has a higher purpose to fulfill is that the enjoyment derived from mechanical advancement is more or less the same as what is available to the animals. A human being may drive in their fancy sports car to an expensive restaurant that serves the finest steaks, but the animals lacking intelligence have the same ability to eat. Tigers eat the flesh of other animals without spending a dime. The human being has intelligence to go beyond the basic needs of eating, sleeping, mating and defending.

Religion ideally fulfills this purpose. Not the religion just inherited as a formality from the parents or a faith accepted one day and then rejected the next, a bona fide discipline of spirituality is presented and understood as a science, where specific laws that can’t be violated are taught. The laws are already in effect, but cognizance of them allows the worker to operate within their guidelines, avoiding the painful reactions that come from going against the stringent influence of nature.

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

Arjuna and KrishnaA young child may not know how gravity works, but if you let go of something from your hand, it will fall to the ground. If you are on a perch somewhere, if you jump off, you will drop to the ground. Therefore knowledge of gravity can be very helpful, for it will enable you to avoid dangerous behavior. In a similar manner, knowledge of the transmigration of the soul, how it travels through different body types from life to life, enables the human being to take the necessary steps to avoid that cycle, to put a permanent end to it. The samsara-chakra, or spinning wheel of material existence, is like an amusement park ride that one doesn’t have to patronize. Rather, as soon as the desire to reject that ride is broadcast, the spirit soul gets a better destination.

The real purpose of religion is to break free of the cycle of birth and death and find a more ideal destination. The natural instinct would be to follow the same pattern of using building blocks to reach the final goal. “Whatever steps are required, I will do and then hopefully reach the final point.” But things aren’t quite so simple. You can’t just put in a certain amount of time and then be guaranteed of success. Granted, the building blocks are there, but the purpose is to shift consciousness, to purify it. That stark change can take place within an instant, or it can be so elusive that many lifetimes spent in spiritual practice won’t turn the mind.

If the pathways to success are so varied, why even put forth the effort? Under the bona fide principles presented by an instructor who knows the ins and outs of the students, the progress can happen very quickly. More specifically, if there is sincerity in purpose, the object of that service will ensure success. An example of this was seen with mother Yashoda, who one day tried to tie her son to a mortar as punishment for His bad behavior. What Yashoda didn’t know was that her son was the Supreme Lord, Shri Krishna, appearing on earth in the spiritual guise of a tiny, adorable child. The jewel of Vrindavana enchanted everyone in the town, and He especially evoked the parental loving affection of Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja.

On one occasion, the naughty Krishna broke a pot of yogurt that was in the process of being churned into butter. He did so in protest to His mother having gotten up for a second to tend to affairs in the kitchen. Knowing that He did something bad, Krishna ran from the scene, taking His butter with Him, but leaving a trail on the floor to give away His location. The good mother chased after her son playfully with a whipping stick in her hand. Finally catching hold of Him, seeing that He had tears in His eyes, she decided she would tie Him to a mortar. This would serve two purposes. It would act as a mild punishment and it would ensure that He wouldn’t run off to a neighboring home out of fear.

Lord KrishnaThere was one slight problem. The rope that mother Yashoda used to tie Krishna came up two finger widths short. No problem, right? Just add an adjoining rope to increase the length? Yet with every rope she added, the end result was always the same. Just a bit short. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, cannot be bound unless He agrees to it. He cannot be captured by the mind no matter how much meditation has taken place, how many pious credits have been accumulated, or how long the person has studied Vedanta, which is the ultimate system of knowledge.

Krishna did eventually get tied to the mortar. This is because the mother’s efforts were sincere. She was not interested in yoga, though through thinking of her son in a mood of love she had achieved an end sought by every yogi. She did not want to study Vedanta, though through her behavior she showed that she knew who the Absolute Truth was and how to establish a relationship with Him. She did not want to purposefully give up the fruits of her labor for a higher cause, though she worked day and night to please the Supreme Lord, who had appeared in Vrindavana as her son.

Shri Krishna makes the sincere efforts of the devotee fruitful. The laws of material science don’t apply to Him. Putting two ropes together always increases the length of the new rope, but in Krishna’s case, the new rope can be the same length as the previous one. The contradictions to the laws of time and space exist only with the Supreme Lord and His spiritual realm, which is the destination for the pious souls who are committed to bhakti and granted success by the beneficiary of their activity, that sweetheart butter-thief who innocently played with mother Yashoda.

In Closing:

One upon another do you build,

At end have accumulation’s hill.


Success in life this pattern follows,

Methodically reach desired end allows.


Do your training and take right pace,

So that you’ll complete marathon race.


In bhakti the pattern is not the same,

Devotional spirit only way for Krishna to gain.


Yashoda tried to tie naughty son to mortar,

But never worked until Krishna gave the order.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Watch Me

Hanuman“Offering obeisances to the Vasus and the Rudras, as well as to the Adityas, Ashvins and Maruts, I shall proceed, increasing the sorrow of the Rakshasas in the process.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.56)

vasūn rudrāmḥ tathā ādityān aśvinau maruto api ca ||
namaḥ kṛtvā gamiṣyāmi rakṣasām śoka vardhanaḥ |

Shri Hanuman is so resplendent that he doesn’t need to call attention to himself. Should his particular surroundings be dark, he can still be seen by those who are deserving of tasting the sweet visual nectar that is the transcendental activities of Shri Rama’s most trusted and beloved messenger. Hanuman is known as Ramadutta, because he carries the message of the Supreme Lord. While an ordinary messenger, be he on a bike, truck, or train, is not given much importance, to be enlisted in any direct service to God puts one in such an exalted position that others who are pure at heart delight in every activity taken up by that messenger. With devotional service, the position of servant can put one in such high standing that even the Supreme Lord will direct others to worship such a person.

Why such importance given to a position that usually goes to those who aren’t as capable? Typically, the messenger isn’t a prestigious post because the occupant doesn’t have to do much. The brains of the operation, the boss, brings forth the ideas. Since they don’t want to get bogged down with the process of distributing those ideas to others, they hire workers to help them out. The proprietor doesn’t need to adopt a superior attitude; simply by their stature they become unworthy of menial tasks. What will others think of the head of the company should they show up one day to clean the floor or work the reception desk? They will think that the boss has either lost a bet or is spying on his workers. The heads of state, even in a small community like an office, need to be respected if their orders are to be followed.

Shrimati RadharaniThe messenger carries whatever information has been given to him to the notable parties. Yet since the dynamic of the relationship between individual living entity and supreme living entity is one where both parties are not on an equal footing, if the subordinates play their roles perfectly, they sometimes achieve a status greater than the superior. How does this work exactly? One wonderful example is Shrimati Radharani, the eternal consort of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If there is a God, He must have a form; otherwise He would be inferior to the living entities. We are all formless in the sense that our bodies are constantly changing. Within a specific body our attributes are also limited. A human being cannot survive in water and a fish can’t live on land. They both have forms, but their abilities are tied to the type of dwelling they occupy.

Every living being is formless because their identity comes from the soul resting within the heart. At the same time, the fact that a form is accepted indicates the presence of a person, a distinct personality who can be identified by the features shown in a particular lifetime. With the Supreme Lord, there are features as well; otherwise He would be inferior to those species that do have features, albeit temporary ones. The difference between God and the living entities is that He never assumes any particular form. The material energy works at His direction, so if He wishes He can appear in the manifestation of a fish and still talk. If He roams the earth as a bow warrior, He can shoot just one arrow and destroy the entire creation. In the body of a small child, He can lift a gigantic hill and hold it over His head without a problem. In the form of a boar, He can uproot the earth and save it from a disastrous flood. He can even mix the species up and look like a combination of a man and a lion.

There are no limits to what His attributes can do; thus His formlessness means something completely different than what we would tie to the absence of a form. In His original spiritual body He is described as Krishna because He is all-attractive. Attraction guides the living entity into so many activities like the bright light in the darkness catches the eyes of the insects and flies. Just like the flies, we sometimes follow lights that bring us closer towards peril, things that bring so much punishment that we later wonder why the earth even exists. Yet this tendency to follow attractive things is there for a reason. The original person is the most attractive, and thus we have an inherent link to Him, a desire to bask in His transcendental sweetness.

Radha and KrishnaSince this tendency is already there, whoever recognizes it and acts on it without inhibition would have to be considered the role model for everyone, a person to worship, honor and remember on a daily basis. Shrimati Radharani best embodies this loving, devotional spirit. She loves Krishna so much that He is completely sold to her. In this sense she is considered greater than God. The Lord loves everyone and seeks their intimate association, but Radharani loves Him so much that even Krishna, with His limitless attributes, can’t repay that love. It is seen in India that Radharani’s birthday is celebrated with more pomp by the devotees than is Krishna’s birthday.

Shri Hanuman operates with a similar mentality, except his mood of devotion involves service, or dasya-rasa. We tie this specific transcendental mellow to him only in an attempt to understand the mood driving his activities. In his love for Rama, Hanuman is not limited by any technical terms. Whatever he does, he thinks of Rama, and so Rama always thinks of him as well. As service for a messenger must involve a task, Rama kindly provides one. Rama is the very same Krishna, though in a different spiritual manifestation. The different energies of nature, the position of the Supreme Lord, the reality of reincarnation and its effects on the living entities, and so many other topics of spirituality form the basis of the vast Vedic literature, which extends to the boundaries of time and space. One needn’t think the Vedas are sectarian or sentimentalist; they describe devotion to God as being the highest scientific discipline, a system of education aimed at providing the highest benefits.

Hanuman’s task was to find Sita, Rama’s wife. She was being kept on an island called Lanka. Since the beginning of time, the forces of good and evil have clashed. The good earn their title from their devotion to God; their acknowledgment of His existence. From this mindset, other good qualities arise within them. The bad are just the opposite. They don’t believe in God. As a result, their primary aim in life is to enjoy the senses as much as possible, to facilitate happiness through their temporary body. Because of this, their dharmas, or occupational duties, are always changing. Moreover, one person’s system of regulation doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as another’s. Even a thief follows a dharma, albeit one that is not authorized. The thief’s religion is to take other people’s property and enjoy it for himself. As someone else’s dharma is to work hard to secure their own possessions, there are clashes between systems.

The sense enjoyers clash with one another and also with the good. Those who act directly on behalf of God have respect for the good guys and always seek to please them, even though this explicit distribution of honor is not necessary. Those choosing to reside in the material world governed by karma can get benedictions from many exalted “good” guys. These personalities are known as demigods, or devas, and they manage different departments of the creation. The asuras always fight with the devas, as the demons wish to stamp out any influence of goodness.

During Rama’s time, the Rakshasa influence was very strong. These were a species lower than asuras. The asuras just deny the existence of God and look to satisfy their own senses and thus compete with others for resources. The Rakshasas live in ignorance and try to kill even the saintly people who don’t bother anyone. The asuras may clash with the devas, but the Rakshasas also go after the bhaktas, those who don’t want to have anything to do with the material creation and its dualities of good and bad. A good result is not absolutely good. As a farmer it may be beneficial for me if it rains, but that same rain can cause flooding and disrupt other people’s lives. In the material world there is duality, with no situation being universally good or bad.

Sita and RamaDuality is present in everything except bhakti, or devotion. God is the fountainhead of all energies, so His association and those activities which help bring it about and maintain it are considered pure, or punya. Those following bhakti don’t favor either the good or the bad explicitly, but to the Rakshasas this doesn’t matter. Sita Devi, Rama’s wife, is the very same Radharani but in the form of a beautiful princess. Ravana thought he could have her by stealing her away from Rama when the Lord was temporarily away from her side. What he didn’t count on was Rama sending Hanuman to his kingdom of Lanka.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman is about to enter the Ashoka wood, a park of trees that the Vanara had yet to search. He was a little despondent over not having found Sita, as that was the mission assigned to him. He was seriously contemplating quitting, running through what would happen should he return home and tell everyone that he had failed. As Hanuman never stops loving Rama, he couldn’t abandon the mission without at least exhausting all options. Seeing the Ashoka wood, Hanuman decided he would continue on with his search and see where it would lead him.

We see that Hanuman here mentions the Vasus, Adityas and Rudras. These are three principle types of demigods. They are in charge of so many aspects of the creation, and they are devoted to God, though not in the purest sense. Any person who is associated with material nature has some contamination, as they must have some deviation in God consciousness to be out of the company of the Supreme Lord, who is situated in the transcendental realm. In this respect the demigods take on a thankless task, as they act on the direct orders of God but are not allowed to always think of Him in a mood of pure devotion. They must distribute rewards to anyone who pleases them properly. Typically, anyone who approaches the demigods shows at least a modicum of piety, as the grossly foolish carry on in life thinking that the wonderful benedictions offered by nature just come about on their own, without an intelligent, guiding force.

“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)

Lord KrishnaIn the higher stages of devotional practice, approaching the demigods is not necessary. This truth is validated by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita, the Song of God describing the ins and outs of spirituality in a concise manner. Hanuman also saluted the Ashvins and the Maruts. The Ashvins are the twin-physicians of the demigods and the Maruts are the deities of the wind. The invocation of the Maruts was significant because Hanuman’s father was the principle deity of the wind, Vayu. Hanuman had used his inherited abilities to fly over the massive ocean separating Lanka from land. Hanuman always remembered his heritage, and he never disrespected it. Vayu was related to all the demigods, so Hanuman made sure to think of his father and honor his associates.

Hanuman was honoring the important demigods prior to the important task of going into the Ashoka wood, but what he was really doing, though he may not have been consciously aware of it, was sending a signal to the inhabitants of the heavenly realm to pay attention. The devotees delight in thinking about God and hearing about His pastimes. This loving attitude extends to God’s devotees. And no one can be more delightful than Hanuman. What he would do in the Ashoka wood would be magical, as he would finally find Sita and temporarily allay her fears. On his way out of Lanka, he would lay waste to a beautiful grove as a way to show Ravana and his men that destruction would soon be coming their way.

Hanuman even hints at this in the above referenced verse. He salutes the demigods before his journey into the woods, which will cause grief to the Rakshasas. Their taking of Sita and hiding her had caused Hanuman grief. Sita wasn’t his wife, but she was Rama’s beloved. Since Hanuman loved Rama so much, he automatically loved all of the Lord’s family members. Since the Rakshasas kept Hanuman from fulfilling Rama’s mission, they had caused him pain. Rather than sulk and sit on the sidelines, Hanuman was determined to find Sita and then return some of that grief back to the Rakshasas. As the demigods are always fighting with the demons, Hanuman asked them to be favorable to him during his own fight with the demoniac race.

Shri HanumanHanuman sent a signal to the heavenly realm to pay special attention to what he was going to do next. For this the demigods were actually benefitted, and not the other way around. What temporary reward could Shri Hanuman need from anyone? He is promised success in his missions because he works directly for Shri Rama, with his only motivation being the pleasure of his master. Our gifts are due to Shri Rama’s mercy in the first place, so anyone who knows how to properly use those gifts and direct them in the right direction will be guaranteed of success by God Himself. The demigods were able to watch Hanuman when he called out to them, thus proving that Hanuman’s glory is meant for the pious class. He is the sweetheart of sweethearts, and he looks best when he is fighting for Rama in the most difficult situations.

In Closing:

That success upon him they will confer,

The principle demigods Hanuman remembers.


With desire to succeed for Rama he burns,

To unsearched Ashoka wood he will now turn.


Devotee of Rama, Shri Hanuman stands tall,

His prayer the attention of celestials it called.


Powerful demigods Rama’s servant to see,

Who shines bright from desire to please.


Position of messenger typically the lowest,

But Ramadutta in esteem held the highest.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Holi 2012

Prahlada Maharaja“Hiranyakashipu could not kill his son by throwing him beneath the feet of big elephants, throwing him among huge, fearful snakes, employing destructive spells, hurling him from the top of a hill, conjuring up illusory tricks, administering poison, starving him, exposing him to severe cold, winds, fire and water, or throwing heavy stones to crush him. When Hiranyakashipu found that he could not in any way harm Prahlada, who was completely sinless, he was in great anxiety about what to do next.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.43-44)

When a person does extraordinary things, a mythology starts to build around them. The legend of so and so grows as each new person hears about their past exploits. Because of this tendency relating to the activities of ordinary human beings, the term “mythology” is sometimes invoked to downplay the behavior of past divine personalities. This is the resort of the less informed, whose judgment is clouded by the limits of personal perception. The event of Holi celebrates the ability of one particular person to defy the odds, and though what he did was extraordinary and seemingly miraculous, because of his internal qualities it was actually not surprising at all. In fact, similar feats have been repeated since time immemorial by those who are under the protection of the greatest protector.

Prahlada with HolikaThe scene: a five year old boy awaiting a ride into a pit of fire. Think of going to an amusement park and getting strapped into a seat which is about to go places that you don’t normally think to be safe. The thrill of the ride is based on the danger, the spinning around in circles of your body at violent speeds, all the while knowing that you probably won’t get hurt. You are controlled in these situations; you are not in control. With this young child a long time ago, he was in the hands of an elder female, who was to take him into a pit of fire.

Oh, but this was no amusement park ride. As fire is not something you want to play around with, the elder woman had a trick up her sleeve. She thought she was immune to the effects of fire, and since the young boy was not, the desired result was her continuing to live and the boy dying. The order came from the boy’s father of all people. Can we imagine such a thing? What could a young child do that would cause us to even contemplate doing something so horrible to them? Where must our mind be if we’re willing to go through with such a dastardly act?

Actually, this father had previously made other vile attempts and would continue on afterwards. That’s correct; the boy would survive the attack. Unfortunately for her and her boss, the elder woman would not. The effects reversed when the young boy was in her presence. You see the child, Prahlada Maharaja, was completely sinless. This doesn’t mean that someone who is free of sin is automatically immune to the effects of fire, but in this particular circumstance the immunity relating to the fire transferred to the right person.

In the father’s eyes, the child was a vile creature for having dedicated his life to worship of Lord Vishnu at such a young age. Vishnu is the qualified form of the Supreme Lord. He is the Personality of Godhead, opulently adorned and responsible for the creation and destruction of every universe. Vishnu is God, but with the features more defined than in the abstract vision. Vishnu is but an expansion of the original personality known as Krishna, who is all-attractive. Regardless of whether these statements are accepted or not, the key point is that devotion to the Supreme Lord, however you choose to see Him, is an innocent practice when followed under authorized guidelines.

Lord VishnuIf you deny God’s existence, you will worship His external energy of material nature. There is harm with this route in the sense that matter is temporary, so whatever you choose to do will have only temporary effects. At the same time, others are performing the same worship, and since the external energy gives no protection, the competition leads to collisions and thus fosters the worst kinds of sentiments and emotions within people.

If you worship God as an impersonal energy or an abstract person from whom you ask things, your mode of worship is harmless in the sense that it’s not directly hurting anyone else. You may be more prone to surrendering to the same material energy worshiped by the atheists, but there is still nothing wrong with at least thinking about God, knowing that He exists.

In bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, dedicated worship towards the real form of the Supreme Lord takes place. This style of worship is also known as Krishna consciousness, because the aim is to change the way that you think, to alter your thoughts to the point that you’re always thinking about God. What could be the harm in this, especially if you’re a youth? Why would Prahlada’s father object so much?

The atheist takes shelter of material nature, and because of their denial of God’s existence they essentially apply the “God” status to themselves. For all you know, nature does not have any intelligence. And you know that you are intelligent, so this means that you can control nature, as opposed to nature controlling you. Never mind the fact that you can’t tell the sun when to rise and set and when the seasons to come and go, because you can get up at a certain time and speak when you want, you somehow think that you are God.

With Hiranyakashipu, the “I am God” mentality was strengthened by the fact that he had defeated all the powerful kings of the world. Even the celestials in the heavens were afraid of him. He had previously undergone great austerities to receive powers as benedictions, but once he received those strengths he forgot that he wasn’t responsible for generating them.

The father wanted the son to follow in his footsteps, to rule the world with a strong hand. “What could be gained by worshiping Vishnu?”, the father thought. To the atheist, God as a concept stands in the way of material enjoyment. He makes His worshipers suffer and needlessly renounce happiness in a temporary world. Of course, the devotee of Vishnu is knowledgeable, irrespective of the external conditions. Prahlada knew all about reincarnation, the temporary nature of material happiness, and the urgent need for following God consciousness in the precious human form of body. He was so intelligent that he kindly distributed this information to his classmates in school during recess.

Prahlada thrown from a cliffHiranyakashipu eventually became so sick of even hearing about Vishnu from Prahlada. The father decided that his son needed to die. One slight problem though. The boy was unbreakable. Nothing could kill him. The plot with Holika, Hiranyakashipu’s sister, was one of the many schemes tried by the evil king. Though Holika had the boon to remain immune to fire, Prahlada survived the trip into the fire because Vishnu protects His devotees. He makes sure to give them conditions that are conducive to their cherished worship.

In fact, Vishnu gives the same protection to the atheists through the workings of maya, or illusion. The atheist is guaranteed to stay miserable in their surroundings, to have ample opportunities for eating, sleeping, mating and defending, which alone don’t provide any satisfaction to the soul. There is no explicit protection from the Personality of Godhead in interactions with material nature, as the Lord is by default neutral, but at the same time the energy is non-different from the person who created it. Therefore the energy’s dissipation of elements to be used in material enjoyment represents a sort of favor from the master.

The sinless Prahlada survived the trip into the fire, but Holika did not. The ashes from her body were of many different colors, and since that time the tradition has been to throw different colored powders in fun to celebrate the original event. Though a seemingly ghoulish way to celebrate an occasion, the colors of Holi represent the victory of Vishnu’s devotee over the forces of evil. Prahlada thwarted all the attacks of Hiranyakashipu and did so without asking anything from the demigods. The celestials are powerful and act at the behest of Vishnu to grant benedictions, but at the same time Vishnu is the one who can give rewards to even them. This automatically makes Vishnu superior.

Narasimhadeva with PrahladaThe devotee who loves Vishnu or one of His personal expansions like Lord Krishna or Lord Rama can receive the greatest favor. There needn’t be any other master. And the attitude of service can continue in a mood of love, where the master eventually can’t do anything to stop the devotee from offering service. Prahlada was sinless because he had no other desire than to chant the Lord’s names and think of Him. No person, even a powerful king like Hiranyakashipu, can break the devotee’s determination. Prahlada emerged victorious by remembering Vishnu’s names, and so the wise souls of the Kali Yuga can escape the perils of material existence by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In Closing:

Prahlada Maharaja, devotion to Vishnu in him,

An innocent five year old, completely free of sin.


Boy’s insistence on bhakti path father did not like,

Eventually wanted son out of his sight.


King’s sister Holika immune to fire’s pit,

In it brought Prahlada with him to sit.


Ah, but Vishnu’s devotee from harm escaped,

To burn to ashes was instead Holika’s fate.


Sinless son saved by saying Vishnu’s names,

Tradition of Holi celebrates his fame.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gaura Purnima 2012

Lord Chaitanya“Shri Svarupa Damodara used to read the poems of Vidyapati and Candidasa and Jayadeva Gosvami's Shri Gita-govinda. He used to make Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu very happy by singing these songs.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 10.115)

Lord Chaitanya is the preacher incarnation of Godhead who first made His mark on this earth some five hundred years ago in India, and His influence continues to spread across the world today. As the kindest saint, He had love and compassion for all creatures of the earth, and He sacrificed everything to spread the gospel of love and devotion to God to everyone, regardless of whether they gave a kind reception in return or not. If I know what others really need, what will bring them true happiness, wouldn’t it be selfish of me to keep that knowledge confidential? Even if others scoff at my suggestions and curse me for my openness in speaking, shouldn’t the nature of that knowledge trump whatever reactions I personally receive? In this way Shri Gaurahari is known as the most munificent incarnation of the Lord, for He gave love of God freely to everyone; something never before done.

“O most munificent incarnation! You are Krishna Himself appearing as Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Shrimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krishna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You.”  (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.53)

Shrila Rupa Gosvami, soon to become one of the most famous saints of the bhakti tradition, once offered a very nice prayer to Lord Chaitanya, which addressed the fact that the son of mother Shachi and Jagannatha Mishra freely distributed prema for Lord Krishna, making Him more magnanimous than any previous incarnation. There are many avataras of the Supreme Personality of Godhead listed in the Vedic texts, and there are many unauthorized pseudo incarnations claiming divinity as well. Lord Chaitanya’s divine nature is hinted at in the Mahabharata and Shrimad Bhagavatam, but His mission had nothing to do with making followers recognize His supremacy.

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)

Lord KrishnaIn the Bhagavad-gita, the original form of Godhead, Lord Krishna, explains that whenever there is a widespread discrepancy in the practice of religion, or dharma, and the rise of irreligion, He personally descends to earth. In the past this has meant Krishna appearing in some sort of fighting role, where a strong personality is defeated by divine weapons. Hiranyaksha was defeated by Lord Varaha, Hiranyakashipu by Narasimhadeva, Ravana by Lord Rama, and Kamsa by Krishna Himself. These enemies were originally devotees in the spiritual sky, but due to the will of Providence and the uncontrollable hand of fate, they made transgressions that caused their descent to the material world.

Only in a land full of duality can a previously devoted soul take on the opposite role of miscreant. These villains played their parts perfectly, and they were so vile that they caused the saintly class to petition for Krishna’s direct intervention. So many tasks are carried out through Bhagavan’s personal presence. With His various avataras, Krishna showed His splendid beauty, His immense strength, and His dedication to protecting the innocent. Since the events relating to these avataras are documented in the Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayana and several other sacred texts, they can still be enjoyed to this day by people looking for the same protection that those persecuted in the past by the worst miscreants desired.

As Shri Gaurahari, Krishna appeared as a combined incarnation; both He and His pleasure potency together. The result was the Supreme Lord and His number one devotee taking on different moods at different times. The enemy this time was the seed of impurity implanted by the time period: Kali Yuga. Instead of using His tusks, fists, arrows, or nails, as Lord Chaitanya Krishna used the power of the holy name and its ability to melt the hardest hearts to defeat the enemy of impiety.

During Lord Chaitanya’s time, medieval India, the mediums for mass distribution of information were not available. He could not broadcast the holy names in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, through a radio signal. He could not record this sacred mantra, the greatest weapon against ignorance and deceit, onto a CD and then sell it through stores throughout the world. There was no internet and no television. With these conditions, obviously one would think the task of bringing large numbers of people to the cult of devotional service, the eternal and constitutional engagement of the spirit soul, would be impossible.

Narasimhadeva killing HiranyakashipuYet just as the formidable Hiranyaksha was defeated by the strange form of a large boar, the veil of ignorance created by Kali Yuga was no match for Shri Gaurahari, a mendicant without any material wealth. Hiranyakashipu tried to safeguard his life by receiving so many boons from Lord Brahma. He was not allowed to be killed in so many ways, but Krishna as Narasimhadeva foiled the demon’s plans by killing him in just the perfect method. Ravana was similarly immune from all kinds of attack, so Bhagavan took the form of a human being to do away with him. Kamsa thought he was safe after killing so many innocent children of his sister Devaki, but Krishna can never be killed, and when He decides that someone else’s time is up, nothing can be done to save them.

In the same way, the impediments of the time period were no match for Shri Gaurahari, who as a renounced mendicant went across India and infused the spirit of devotion into so many people. He did not go around the country giving people material gifts. He was not interested in distributing temporary wealth, though as the Supreme Lord He was capable of granting any benediction. He distributed something much more valuable: the holy name.

Why is this more valuable than tangible wealth? The holy name doesn’t put food on the table. It doesn’t pay the bills every month. It doesn’t even give me any knowledge on how to earn a living. Ah, but these aspects of life essentially take care of themselves. If you had to, you could eat the fruits that fall off the trees. You could use simple rags for clothes and live in isolated caves. The animals can find the necessities of life without any problem, without any outside intervention. There are no welfare programs for the animals and no redistribution of wealth schemes to look after their welfare.

Krishna, through His impersonal energy of material nature, takes care of the needs of every living entity. Thus the real wealth one can find has nothing to do with matter. The holy name is the direct incarnation of Bhagavan, who is every single person’s best friend. The ability to recite this name, to hold on to it for dear life, to take comfort in it, and to happily repeat it over and over again, is the real boon of the human form of life. Well aware of this, Lord Chaitanya tried to distribute that holy name to as many people as possible.

What would happen after someone met Lord Chaitanya? The devotional spirit would take over that kind-hearted soul. That spirit would then guide the rest of their activities. If I have a powerful torchlight, no matter how dark the environment may be, I can bring that light with me wherever I go and thus see whatever I need to see. With one light I can do so many other things. In a similar manner, with just one mantra, which contains the most potent names of Krishna and Rama, one can find a peaceful, enlivening, and enlightening activity under any circumstance.

maha mantraIdeally, we would seek out a spiritual master, or guru, to get the confidential information of the Vedas. That knowledge is valuable because of its ability to positively effect change. At the same time, the guru doesn’t want to openly distribute it to others, because not everyone will understand the information properly. Take one or two shlokas out of context and suddenly you have a worldwide movement trying to ban your system of religion. The mood of the worshiper must be proper; they must be humble and submissive in their learning. Only then will the power of the devotional path be revealed to them.

Lord Chaitanya was so merciful that He did not wait for others to approach Him. Through basic singing and dancing, the congregational style of chanting known as sankirtana, He brought the ancient art of divine love to anyone who was within audible range. He had a wife and family at home too, but for the good of humanity, He sacrificed personal pleasure. In favor of delivering the fallen souls looking for a real and legitimate religion to follow, Lord Chaitanya took sannyasa at a very young age and thus blazed the trail for future generations of preachers to follow.

Gaura Purnima celebrates Lord Chaitanya and His sublime mission. He was not on this earth for very long, but His influence is still felt to this day because of the sincere followers He inspired. His line of disciplic succession boasts some of the most intelligent, kind, and dedicated saints in history. Lord Chaitanya was not a sentimentalist. Though He preached primarily through chanting and dancing, that was just the best way to reawaken the devotional attitude in others. The foundation of that dedication in preaching was a keen understanding of Vedanta, the difference between matter and spirit, and the real meaning to religion.

Lord ChaitanyaWith all that Lord Chaitanya sacrificed, what actually pleases Him? Aside from seeing others chant the names of Krishna and Rama in divine ecstasy, Lord Chaitanya’s primary source of pleasure was hearing about Krishna. When He was in the bhava of Shrimati Radharani, Krishna’s eternal consort, Shri Gaurahari felt the pains of separation from the darling of Vrajabhumi. Only when His closest associates would read poems from the likes of Jayadeva and Vidyapati would Lord Chaitanya feel some relief. His favorite Vedic text was the Shrimad Bhagavatam, for its sacred tenth canto has wonderful descriptions of Krishna’s pastimes along with the prayers and heartwarming thoughts of the gopis of Vrindavana. Lord Chaitanya also preferred the Brahma-samhita and Krishna Karnamrita, two other works glorifying Krishna and devotion to Him.

Just as Gaurahari derived pleasure from hearing Krishna praised, so the sincere souls affected by Lord Chaitanya’s preaching efforts take tremendous delight in hearing about His hearing about Krishna. Anyone who has ever chanted “Hare Krishna” or “Hare Rama” has enjoyed the mercy of Lord Chaitanya, who proclaimed those phrases to be the most powerful weapons against illusion in the Kali Yuga. His influence continues to this day through the hard work of His dedicated followers, those who appear in the line of disciplic succession that He made prominent. On Gaura Purnima, we remember that most merciful incarnation of Godhead and hope to always put a smile on His face with our chanting.

In Closing:

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, of mother Shachi’s delight,

Appeared on earth on day of full moon bright.


Would spread to the world wisdom’s light,

At a time when irreligion at its height.


Message of divine love through sound was spread,

No difficult methods, chant holy names instead.


So many were pleased upon seeing Mahaprabhu,

His pleasure came from hearing about Krishna and gopis too.


For His honor names of Krishna and Rama we say,

Follow His path of bhakti day after day.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bon Voyage

People of Ayodhya“The king, queens and all the citizens of the city gave their minds to Rama. ‘Return home quickly, doing Your work successfully, O delight of the Raghu dynasty.’” (Janaki Mangala, 28)

purabāsī nṛp rāninha sanga diye mana |
begi phireu kari kāju kusala raghunandana ||

For Rama to return home, He’d have to be successful in His work. The king, queens and townspeople knew this, so they wished Him the best as He departed from their vision. The delight of the Raghu dynasty, the bright full moon to dissipate the darkness of ignorance and despair that envelops the material world, was departing with the sage Vishvamitra. This was no camping trip or pleasure vacation. Rama, though only a young child, had the most difficult responsibility put on His shoulders. But just as He had previously bore the burden of the world as the boar incarnation Varaha, Rama would dutifully accept the responsibility of protecting the sages.

One can only imagine what the people in the town were thinking. Rama was their cherished prince, the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha. Though there was variety in classes, with not every person belonging to the royal order, everyone felt as though Rama was part of their family. This occurs when there is good government and the king is respected for his implementation of justice. As Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana would note several years later, Rama was so respected that even those He punished couldn’t find anything bad to say about Him.

“I have not seen any person in this world, be they an enemy or one punished for heinous sins, speak ill of Rama, even in His absence.” (Lakshmana speaking to Kausalya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 21.5)

Rama and LakshmanaPolice and other authority figures are not liked because of the power they wield. Does every student like the teacher of the classroom? Do workers not despise their bosses for their position? Rama had to deliver justice on behalf of the people, but even those He punished respected Him. As a beautiful child not yet twelve years of age, Rama was taken away from His home, bringing Lakshmana with Him. Vishvamitra insisted on this protection, though, so what could anyone say? Dasharatha was ready to send the royal army into the forest to act as protection, but the muni insisted that the only person he required was Rama.

It is interesting to note that the onlookers seeing Rama off did not curse the muni or hold any grudge against him. Vishvamitra was equally as exalted as Dasharatha, and the people understood that he was in significant danger. He was a brahmana after all, so by nature, quality and work he lived in the mode of goodness, the highest of the three modes of material nature.

“O son of Pritha, that understanding by which one knows what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, what is to be feared and what is not to be feared, what is binding and what is liberating, that understanding is established in the mode of goodness.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.30)

Goodness equates to knowledge, sort of like following the instruction manual for an appliance that you just bought. In the mode of goodness one accepts the proper guidelines to attain a beneficial end. In the mode of passion, you are driven by the desire to get a reward, so you end up expending so much effort to reach an eventual neutral position. The mode of ignorance is bereft of both knowledge and a worthy fruit to enjoy. While there may be so many varieties of activity that include combinations of the three modes of nature, thus making it difficult to decide what is good and what isn’t, any behavior that gradually increases one’s real knowledge can be considered part of the mode of goodness.

What is real knowledge as opposed to fake? Real knowledge pertains to the self, the essence of identity. There is a larger collection of energy pervading nature, but at the core we are individuals. We are tiny sparks of that giant energy, so we have the same properties as the sum collection and also its origin. The sun is a gigantic body of fire and heat, and its many rays are tiny samples of that body. At the same time, just because the sunshine leaves the sun doesn’t mean that the sun is altered in any way.

We living entities are tiny samples of God, who is known as Brahman to those unaware of His transcendental features. The mode of goodness allows for the realization of Brahman, wherein we see ourselves and every other living entity as individual sparks of pure spirit covered by temporary manifestations of matter. The mode of goodness is better than passion and ignorance, and one who wants to realize the true destination, the proper home for the spirit soul, should follow the advice of someone living in that highest mode, a person who is Brahman realized.

Vishvamitra and LakshmanaVishvamitra lived in the mode of goodness as a matter of procedure, but he had transcended all the modes of nature. He was devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead by occupation, so there was no question of ignorance with respect to the Lord’s features, a fact evident during his visit to Ayodhya to get Rama to be his escort. A band of night-rangers, those living in the mode of ignorance, was harassing the sages living in the forest at the time. On one side you had a ghoulish creature who can change their shape at will, sort of like a terrorist who dresses up in civilian clothes to avoid attack by the military. At the last second they reveal who they are to the unsuspecting target.

The brahmanas, on the other hand, have no weapons. Fighting is reserved for those in the mode of passion, for one can only fight when they see bodily distinctions. The brahmanas know the equality of spirit, so to the best of their ability they try to avoid conflict. Dasharatha had jurisdiction over the particular areas besieged by the Rakshasas hailing from Lanka, so Vishvamitra did the right thing by approaching the king.

The sage’s credentials were well known to the people, so they also indirectly prayed for his welfare by thinking of Rama. Shri Rama, the Supreme Lord in the form of a warrior prince, is never alone. His closest associates and those people He protects are intimately tied to Him. By praying that Rama would do His work successfully, it automatically meant that those who would be protected by Rama would get the full blessings of the Lord.

The strain on the mother and father was the hardest, for they lived with Rama every single day. They made the ultimate sacrifice by putting their son in the custody of a sage who was being attacked. Despite their willingness to part with Rama, they never stopped thinking about Him. In the highest form of spiritual practice known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, thinking is as good as doing. Hearing about the Lord is as good, if not better, than seeing Him face to face. With sight mental distractions can arise and the consciousness isn’t forced to focus as much. With hearing, attention is required, and as the focused thoughts stay in the mind, there is a stronger link formed to the object in question.

gopis dancing with KrishnaThinking of Rama in separation is the superior method of worship because the longing creates a strong attachment. The exalted yogis of the past all practiced this method of worship, and most of the time not on purpose. The Supreme Lord knows best on how others can worship Him, so He creates situations where the mood of separation can flourish. In His descent to earth as Lord Krishna, the same Rama created separation from the gopis of Vrindavana, who thought of the Lord so often that they are considered the topmost devotees by exalted spiritual masters and saints like Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shrila Sanatana Gosvami, and their teacher, Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krishna Himself.

Worship in separation is not a theoretical exercise, for the object in question must be real for the effects to manifest. To know that Rama is real is to have some interaction with Him, even if for only a brief moment. The absolute nature of Rama’s names, forms, pastimes and attributes does not apply to His external energy of matter. For instance, we cannot worship a tree in separation, no matter how hard we try. Attempting to imitate the principles of bhakti-yoga practice - which are so nicely presented in sacred texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita through explicit instruction and in real-life stories documented in works like the Janaki Mangala and Ramayana - on objects not personally related to God does not work. Making up gods, inventing systems of religion, and denying the Lord’s existence outright are failing methods.

For those of us living in the present age, the worship in separation of the Supreme Lord can best take place through regularly reciting the holy names: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. These names are not sectarian, nor are they powerful sound vibrations addressing a fictitious person. The strength in chanting this sacred mantra lies in the potency of the beneficiary, in His absolute ability to deliver the surrendered souls through the mind. The residents of Ayodhya felt the burn of separation from Rama’s departure, but they were soothed by the memory of His activities. The very mention of His name would cause joy, bringing to life His vision at a time when He was far away.

Lord RamaRaghunandana, the delight of the Raghu dynasty, would indeed return home successfully. He wouldn’t come back alone though. He would bring with Him a new wife, along with wives for His three younger brothers. Vishvamitra’s request for Rama’s company would serve many purposes. It would show that Dasharatha was a man true to his promise to protect the brahmanas. It would allow the citizens of Ayodhya to worship Rama in separation, and it would also remove the influence of the Rakshasas from the forests in question. Since the above referenced verse is from the Janaki Mangala written by Goswami Tulsidas, we know that the ultimate purpose served by Vishvamitra was to bring Rama to the sacrificial arena in Tirahuta, where the svayamvara of the daughter of King Janaka was taking place. The delight of the Raghu clan would soon delight the many onlookers by lifting Lord Shiva’s enormously heavy bow and winning the goddess of fortune’s hand in marriage. Thus Rama’s time in the forest was extremely fruitful.

In Closing:

Though seeing Rama leaving made them depressed,

Still the citizens prayed for the Lord’s success.


Hopes that along with Lakshmana Rama would return,

So His pleasurable sight to soothe separation’s burn.


The king, queens and citizens for departure came out,

To see off the one person they couldn’t live without.


In the forest of many issues Shri Rama would take care,

To marry Sita Devi after Rakshasas away He scared.


Vishvamitra Muni lived in pure goodness,

Thus able to bask in Supreme Lord’s sweetness.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Simple Plan

Radha Krishna deities“Worshiping the Deity at home, serving the devotee, hearing the Shrimad-Bhagavatam, residing in a holy place and chanting the holy name of the Lord are all inexpensive items by which one can please the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.9.27 Purport)

You’ve decided to have an open mind about it. You will at least take some time to listen to what a preacher has to say. “What can it hurt?”, you think. What is the harm that can come from hearing from someone who thinks spirituality is so important that they will talk to strangers about it, sometimes for hours on end? The problem arises when there are multiple avenues, including different faiths that have their own worshipable figure. Almost like choosing which sports team to support in a big match, how do you decide which faith is for you? For the highest system of spirituality known as bhakti-yoga, there is no question of choosing sides or supporting a single team. The method of implementation is also very specific, leaving no room for misconstruing the purpose behind anything or abandoning the faith and giving the same attention elsewhere. The implementation follows very simple methods that, when enacted sincerely, pack a powerful punch.

Lord Krishna“Isn’t bhakti-yoga about worshiping Krishna, the Hindu God? Doesn’t that make it on par with the systems that support Jesus, Allah, or some abstract concept of a supreme controller?” Bhakti is divine love, and its methods of practice are universally applicable. In addition, with that practice an awakening of the mind follows which allows the individual to view all forms of life equally. The particular form of address for the Supreme Person is not so important, as the acknowledgement of a higher power and acting off of that admittance are what really matter.

The living being is constantly tossed around by material nature, sort of like a washed piece of clothing spinning in a dryer. Because of his ability to think critically and the potential for shaping his immediate future, man tends to think that he is more powerful than he actually is. For instance, if I want to eat at a certain restaurant tonight, I can just get in my car and drive there. In this way afterwards I think that I shaped my future. I could have eaten somewhere else, but I decided at that particular time to go to this one place that I desired. I assumed going in that I would make it to the restaurant successfully, and I also took for granted that I could make it home afterwards. Take this same example and apply it to so many different aspects of life and you see how easy it is to forget the influence of the more powerful force.

How do we know that force exists? For starters, it is not guaranteed that we make it to the restaurant that night. There might be an issue with the car. Then the roads could be blocked up or some type of obstruction could get in our way. Maybe our friend wants us to deal with a life crisis or they want to meet at some other restaurant. Maybe the wife isn’t so keen on eating out that night and convinces us to instead stay home and eat. Then there is the issue of the restaurant itself. What if it is suddenly closed for the night or so booked that they can’t seat us for at least an hour?

There are so many external factors that must fall the right way in order for our desired outcomes to materialize. Because these external factors tend to operate in regularity, we take them for granted, almost as a given. The sun rises and sets at periodic intervals and the seasons come and go at just the right times. Nevertheless, we have no control over these larger forces of nature. Just because we know how to utilize them for our benefit doesn’t mean that we are responsible for their actions.

Time is nature’s strongest force, and it waits for no one. There is no way to stop the aging that occurs with time nor the impending death slated for every single living being. The wise, realizing this fact, make it their life’s mission to find out what they are doing in a material body to begin with. Why should they have to succumb to nature? If they have limited freedom in enjoyment, where should that freedom be directed? After all, crimes against humanity can only exist if there is freedom to start. Thus we know that liberty is not the most important factor; it’s what you do with it that counts.

Hare Krishna mantraIn bhakti-yoga, the free will of the living entity is used towards finding the most lasting happiness. There is intelligence behind nature. Depending on the stage of spiritual intelligence reached, a person may only refer to that higher power as nature. Then if a little faith is adopted, nature turns into an enigmatic force referred to as God. Then there are the preachers who speak the message of God, about how man is supposed to love Him and avoid activity that makes Him angry. Then a faith develops off of that message. Slowly, little by little, more is revealed to the inquisitive soul sincerely interested in spirituality.

In bhakti-yoga, the origin of life and matter is defined as clearly as possible in the beginning. We qualify this statement because the human mind is incapable of fully understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The mind cannot grasp the concept of sanatana, or that which has no beginning and no end. For God to be who He is, He must be sanatana. This entire material creation is but one of His forms. We are amazed looking into outer space or looking down on the land when the airplane we board first ascends to the sky, but this aspect represents only one of the Supreme Lord’s forms, and it is still so amazing that the mind cannot comprehend it.

The Vedas describe God’s original feature as Krishna, or all-attractive. His features are exquisite, delicate, and humbling. His beauty is such that it will capture your mind and at the same time make you so dedicated to keeping the smile on that Supreme Lord that you will never give up His service. In material affairs, the guiding force is mother nature, who is impartial in her dealings. The sunlight is available for everyone, but someone who utilizes that energy improperly can get hurt. The material nature as a whole operates on the same principle, with the various energies open to be used both properly and improperly.

The presiding deity in the religion of love is Krishna. Since He is the foremost controller, the results of action in bhakti are influenced by Him. Someone who sincerely follows the foremost religious path need not worry over success or failure. The implementation is the success, for throughout the process the worshiper remains tied in consciousness to God. This feature is not present in any other type of system of maintenance, be it fruitive activity, philosophical study, or mysticism. Blind allegiance coupled with fruitive activity also doesn’t do much, as consciousness in these stages is limited in its growth.

How can we back up the claims about bhakti? An easier way to understand philosophical concepts is to take real life examples. The understanding is made easier when those examples can be created at the local level. The formula for bhakti-yoga is actually quite easy to follow, thus allowing any person to see for themselves whether or not Krishna is God. One of the simplest methods is worshiping the deity at home. Krishna’s complete material nature is His virat-rupa, or universal form. We cannot worship this form because not everyone is eligible to see it. Think of looking at the world’s largest number without any commas inside of it. Obviously you will go crazy trying to figure out the value of that number, as nothing will aid you in your discernment. The universal form is a similarly complex manifestation which has only been seen a few times in history.

“Arjuna saw in that universal form unlimited mouths and unlimited eyes. It was all wondrous. The form was decorated with divine, dazzling ornaments and arrayed in many garbs. He was garlanded gloriously, and there were many scents smeared over His body. All was magnificent, all-expanding, unlimited. This was seen by Arjuna.”  (Bhagavad-gita, 11.10-11)

Krishna showing the universal formOn the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago, Arjuna, a hesitant warrior preparing for a great battle, got to see that virat-rupa from Krishna Himself. This universal form was unique and had never been shown to anyone before. Previously, Krishna’s foster mother in Vrindavana, Yashoda, saw a version of the universal form when the Lord opened His mouth after having been accused of eating dirt. Prior to that a bird named Kakabhushundi saw the universal form when he was playfully swallowed by Krishna in His form of Lord Rama. Shri Ramachandra, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty, playing as a child in Ayodhya knew that the bird was a devotee, which made him eligible to see the universal form. At a time even prior to that, the venerable Markandeya Rishi saw the universal form in the stomach of Lord Narayana, after the end of a specific creation. Krishna is the original Personality of Godhead, but through His expansion of Lord Narayana, He exhales to generate the creation and then inhales to annihilate it. Markandeya was granted special favor on this occasion to remain alive during the dissolution, which enabled him to understand that Krishna was Narayana and that the Lord never takes birth or dies.

Seeing the universal form is a rarity, but this doesn’t mean that the average person is prohibited from seeing God or worshiping Him. Through the proxy of the deity, or archa-vigraha, any person can worship the Lord in their home. Krishna created matter after all, so if it is shaped properly and under authorized guidelines to display a replica of His spiritual attributes, the matter can become worshipable. An example often cited by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to explain this concept is the mailbox. If you have an important letter to send, you’ll drop it in a mailbox, which is specially marked. At its core, the mailbox is not different from any other box. It is composed of the same elements, but since it is authorized by the post office, you assume that your letter will be picked up and delivered to the proper destination.

The deity operates in a similar manner, as it is authorized to accept the obeisances of the sincere souls given to worshiping it. With the deity in the home, the devotee essentially invites God to live with them. The most honorable guest is then regularly worshiped with offerings of flowers, food, water, and incense. Just from a simple practice like this the consciousness of the worshiper can ascend to new heights previously considered unimaginable. If you think about it, the benefit of this method should be easy to understand. If going to church once a week is good for you, how can replicating that environment in the home be a bad thing? If worshiping God once a week is beneficial, imagine how many spiritual merits you can accumulate by worshiping Him every single day in your home.

Krishna's lotus feetAnother inexpensive way to serve God is to serve His devotee. The servant takes the time to regularly worship the Lord and praise Him. Thus anyone who serves that servant is playing a role in a very important activity. It has been said many times in the past by the Lord Himself that He feels the greatest satisfaction when one of His servants is honored. This pleases Him more than receiving direct honor. This explains why worshipable figures like Shri Hanuman and Tulasi Devi are honored so regularly. They are God’s exalted servants, and anyone who serves them with a pure heart will receive their blessings in their march towards final emancipation.

Another option in bhakti-yoga is to reside in a sacred place. Based on surroundings you are almost forced to act a certain way. For instance, if you live in a place where there is no animal flesh available for purchase, the vegetarian diet is a must. If no alcohol is around, you will be compelled to give up drinking. These are just the rejections of the negative, but imagine if you lived somewhere that had regular worship of Krishna going on in both public houses and residential quarters. If you lived there, you couldn’t help but be infused by the spiritual culture. In this way just spending a little time residing in a holy land can grant so much spiritual progress, without any difficult effort expended. The association does the trick.

The least expensive method of all, the one that is available to the most number of people, is also the most effective. Chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is open to every single person, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or level of intelligence. It is not a sectarian practice, nor is it dependent on one’s acknowledgement of a higher power. Even if you are the biggest sinner, the person who hates religion the most, chanting the holy names can do wonders for you. The environments of the temple, the holy place of pilgrimage and the association of the devotee can be replicated in an instant with a pure utterance of the name of Krishna. As saying this once without tainted motivations is quite difficult, the devotees try to recite the holy name as often as possible. It becomes their most important activity, showing that bhakti-yoga changes the way people live their lives.

The specific methods of bhakti-yoga are easy to implement and the results come very quickly as well. At the same time, whatever one thinks they might be missing out on from the other methods of spiritual practice is available too. If you support one team in sports, you are automatically not supporting another. Since Krishna is the reservoir of pleasure, the fountainhead of all energies, supporting Him in earnest through dedicated practice means automatically paying homage to His component parts. The resulting intelligence will allow the sincere soul to learn the true purpose behind the many different systems of maintenance. It will also firmly convince them of the superiority of the religion of love, the only system worth accepting.

In Closing:

Implementing a few items that are simple,

Gives one spiritual merits that are ample.


Install deity in home in which you live,

Offerings to it daily do you give.


Spend time in company of Lord’s servant,

From them hear message of love so pleasant.


Take up residence in a famous holy place,

Witness devotion on each smiling face.


There is one method that is best of all,

Holy name of Krishna do regularly call.