Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fun In Frustration

Mother Yashoda with Krishna“To bind Him should have required only a rope not more than two feet long. All the ropes in the house combined together might have been hundreds of feet long, but still He was impossible to bind, for all the ropes together were still too short. Naturally mother Yashoda and her gopi friends thought, ‘How is this possible?’ Seeing this funny affair, all of them were smiling.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.17 Purport)

What is it like to be liberated? Enlightenment is the pinnacle of thought because of the influence it has on behavior. An enlightened individual isn’t sad over the loss of a job, the sudden downturn in the economy, or the onset of the winter season. By the same token, the truly wise don’t offer too much elation when something good happens, when something they know is only temporary should arrive and bring others so much excitement that they can’t explain it. For the spirit soul transcending the influence of the senses, there is one more step to go, one more hill to climb. In that highest state of liberation, wherein one happily falls victim to the influence of sharanagati, there is all sorts of activity with variety, but instead of bringing about a temporarily painful or pleasurable state, or even a neutral indifference, there is pure elation.

How does this work exactly? How can we say that one kind of elation is different from another? We actually see examples of this all the time. The elation and misery involved in the progression towards a culminating state are different from those temporary ups and downs that have no bearing on anything. For instance, if I’m frustrated from studying for an exam that I must pass in order to complete a certain course, that pain will prove to be beneficial if it forces me to study harder and do everything in my power to pass. On the other hand, if I’m frustrated over being unable to find a specific shirt to wear or the wallet I need for purchasing liquor, the frustration has no bearing on an ultimate progression.

It is for this reason that the Vedas, the oldest system of spirituality in existence, put behavior into three different categories. In goodness, the highest mode, all work is done under the umbrella of knowledge gathering, wherein the individual gradually learns how to see the difference between matter and spirit and their position transcendental to the ever-changing external nature. In passion, one works very hard to get a temporary reward that does not bring lasting happiness. Along the way there could be ups and downs and in the end the fruit is not guaranteed to manifest on time. Throughout the process the living being remains tied to the idea that they are their body, which is an indication of illusion.

Picture identifying yourself as a child throughout your life. As a fully grown adult you get up in the morning to watch Sesame Street or some other children’s program. In the afternoon you go out to play on the fields and at night you wait for your parents to set dinner out on the table. The next day you repeat the cycle again, not taking advantage of your adult form. Obviously the incorrect identification as a child is the cause of your misfortune.

In the larger picture, the living being’s ignorance of his true position as pure spirit leads to pain and misery not only in this life, but in future ones as well. The next life is sort of like a new day, as the passage of time has no bearing on the properties of spirit. Through the passage of time the flower may wilt away and die, but the spark of life within it, the spirit soul, is always the source of identification. When the external form decays and eventually dies, the spirit soul gets placed into a new body to begin the cycle again.

“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)

Lord KrishnaIn the lowest mode of activity, there is not even a temporary fruit received. Rather, the behavior is considered stupid; it does not fulfill any tangible purpose. The individual remains in ignorance in the current life and in the next one as well. Think of driving drunk, going on a killing spree, or sleeping throughout the day. These behaviors don’t further any purpose, though in illusion the bewildered soul may think that they do.

The height of practicing the mode of goodness is the realization of Brahman, which is the impersonal spiritual force. Think of every life form that you see and what makes up its identity. Then take all those individuals and group them into a collection. That whole energy is known as Brahman, and it is very difficult to see, sort of like looking at a large number in its numeral representation without any commas. If you add some commas and take some time to study the same number, you can perhaps make out its value. The brahma-bhutah soul understands the essence of spirit and thus remains aloof to the temporary changes.

Yet this stage of liberation is not the end. The spirit soul has inherent properties, the foremost of which is its desire for ananda, or bliss. Brahman too has a source. Not surprisingly, the fountainhead of Brahman is also the reservoir of pleasure. The liberated soul cherishes this person’s association more than anyone else’s. From the knowledge of Brahman comes equanimity in demeanor, not being taken off of the righteous path regardless of what happens in external surroundings. However, in the highest state when connected with the source of Brahman, there is still activity. From activity come temporary results, so that should bring the individual back into the trap of acceptance and rejection, no? Ah, but the nature of the rewards is different. Both frustration and victory have the same effect for the spirit soul connected with the reservoir of pleasure.

An example is always helpful in this situation. To see how even frustration is pleasurable to the liberated soul, we can go back to a famous incident that occurred in the courtyard of a cowherd woman named Yashoda. This event took place some five thousand years ago in the farm community of Vrindavana, so the people were generally more pious than they are today. As further time elapses from the beginning of creation, dharma, or virtue, represented as a table or stool loses its legs. In the beginning it stands on all four legs, but with the passage of time dharma dwindles to the point that it only stands on one leg, as is the case today.

On this day Yashoda was involved in punishing her young son. In defiance, in anger over her having gotten up to tend to boiling milk in the kitchen, the son purposefully broke a pot of butter and then took some of the goods to a neighboring room. He ate some of the butter that was so difficult to churn and then also shared some with the monkeys. When Yashoda found out what happened, she chased her son with a whipping stick, finally catching Him.

Krishna caught by YashodaThe boy cried crocodile tears of remorse, and to make sure that He didn’t run away, the mother decided to tie Him to a mortar. This should have been a pretty simple chore. The boy was rather small and the mother was a mature adult. Yet after the first attempt, the rope came up two finger widths short. Okay, so this means that the rope was just too short. Not a big deal; you just get another rope to compensate for the short length. Adding another rope, Yashoda began tying again. Uh oh. The same problem. The rope was just short by the same length. She kept trying rope after rope and each time the problem was the same.

Now, normally this frustration would not be pleasurable. The child needed to be punished and something strange was occurring to stop it from happening. Yet mother Yashoda was smiling after each failure, as were the neighboring cowherd women watching the apparent magic. They didn’t step up to show the mother how to correct the situation, for they were enjoying this display from her young son. You see He had this effect on people and situations. The many nefarious characters that had come to Vrindavana to kill the boy could not escape with their lives intact. Though they were much more powerful than Yashoda’s son, they could not kill Him as they were ordered to do.

On this wonderful day the sweet child could not be tied up, no matter how hard Yashoda tried. Since the boy that was caught was the reservoir of pleasure, the source of Brahman, the connection with Him in love was on the highest platform of activity, even above the mode of goodness. This automatically made Yashoda and her friends liberated souls, the most enlightened. Though they weren’t outwardly acknowledged as such, since they got to interact with the young boy in this way, they felt the bliss that can only come through God’s association.

In this liberated state, even the frustration of being unable to tie Him up brought Yashoda and others so much pleasure. That same happiness is available to every person should they harbor the same level of affection for the young boy, who has an eternally existing form that is full of bliss and knowledge. His sach-chid-ananda-vigraha can be worshiped with the mind through thoughts, with the body through offerings to the deity, and with words through the regular recitation of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

So what would happen? Would Yashoda’s son named Krishna get away? The Lord can never be caught by yoga, austerity, sacrifice, or knowledge alone. Only through love will He agree to be caught, to stay within the vision of the people who truly relish it. Therefore He allowed Yashoda to finally tie Him up, to perform her motherly duties with dedication. Whether He was playing with His friends, breaking pots of butter, sneaking into the neighbors’ homes to steal their food, or frustrating His mother by making the rope always too short, Krishna was a delight to everyone. With connection to Him through the discipline of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, even frustration turns into fun.

In Closing:

Yashoda’s naughty son is on the run,

Chasing after Him for mother good fun.


Breaking pot of butter He did something bad,

But deep down the affectionate mother was glad.


Chase reached culmination when Krishna was caught,

For tying Him up to mortar Yashoda brought.


Despite best efforts, rope was short on its reach,

Through this magic God divine lessons did teach.


Only through divine love this delight can you find,

Worship Him with body, speech and mind.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Getting Back Up

Hanuman“Having thus reflected for a moment, his senses bound up in anxiety, Hanuman, the mighty-armed son of the wind-god, arose.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.58)

sa muhūrtam iva dhyātvā cintā vigrathita indriyaḥ ||
udatiṣṭhan mahā bāhur hanūmān māruta ātmajaḥ |

Did they really think they were going to win? The forces of maya have drowned many an intelligent man in a sea of sorrow, ruining his chances of ever finding true happiness that is the result of applying real intelligence. The feeble man, thrust into an ocean of misery where the slightest loss causes a breakdown in mental faculties, a respite from the journey onwards towards ultimate success, can be debilitated by the effects of the nature around him. But this couldn’t happen to the most courageous warrior of all-time, a person fighting for the interests of the controller of maya. Though the mental demons seemed to almost bring him down, this brave fighter eventually got up, more enthusiastic than ever about success.

What are these forces of nature of which we speak? Doesn’t everything operate on its own, in an impersonal manner? For instance, if we get hit by a severe weather event, like a hurricane, doesn’t the destructive path of the storm not choose favorites? These questions actually show a level of wisdom only available to the human species. The animals cannot make these inquiries, as they are too bothered by the devices of the senses that look for immediate satisfaction. Try to tell a dog to sit down and wait until the time is right to bark and eat, and you will have a very difficult time. Maybe through sensory training the behavior can be altered, but you can’t go much beyond that. You can’t explain “why” patience is required to a dog.

The human being can gather sense perceptions and keep them recorded in an internal memory bank. More than just a storehouse of information to be queried, patterns of events can be recognized, with their effects noted down. For instance, if day after day I go out into the blazing sun and notice that my body starts to sweat and my skin starts to bake, eventually I can realize that the sun is the cause of those effects. Therefore using the collected experimental data, I can change my behavior so that these unwanted results don’t occur again. Prevention of pain and injury is the primary benefit to acquiring information about the external world.

sunThrough a deeper study, we see that the vital parts of the world don’t seem to have any bias or prejudice. The same blazing sun gives life to the plants, which in turn keep everyone alive. Even the most voracious meat eaters, those who enjoy visiting restaurants where the waiters walk to each table with a giant cooked carcass ready to be chopped up and distributed onto the plates of the patrons, rely on plant life to remain alive. The animals they eat need grass and vegetables. The sun plays an integral role in the maintenance of the animal community as well.

Once we see that nature and its influence have results that fall into duality, we can take that information in one of two ways. One way is to follow the atheistic tendency, wherein we just accept nature as a constant factor and then try to work within its boundaries to find our own successful end. A duality means that the results are neither universally favorable nor unfavorable. The sun example can be used, but so can pretty much anything else. If I am ecstatic about landing a new job, the result seems favorable, for it means that I will have something to do and a steady source of income. At the same time, if the job causes tremendous stress which yields health problems, the sudden fortunate event turns out to be unfavorable in the long run. The event itself had nothing to do with favorable or unfavorable, just the temporary reactions accepted by the affected person fell in both directions.

The mode of thinking where nature is considered impersonal and not having a cause is essentially an atheistic one, where there is no supreme controller identified. In the odd case that the force is recognized, then maybe you just need to accept His presence through a formal acknowledgment and then return to your activities, which basically deny His existence anyway. When nature is accepted to be an impersonal force not having an original cause, every person essentially makes their own rules. What determines this system of right and wrong? Obviously, whatever end is required. For instance, if my goal is to accumulate lots of money and live the lavish lifestyle, whatever steps I can take to reach that end form my occupational duty, or my religion per se.

To the sober person, this attitude is riddled with flaws. For starters, just at the local level the objectives are always changing. One day my outlook on life can be that I need to enjoy as much as possible, while later on my objective may be to donate as much money as possible to other people. With different objectives come different rule-sets, i.e. different religions. Now take this same variety and apply it to every single living entity following the atheistic model and what you get is a giant clash of interests. With competing interests, you get competition. With competition you get temporary victories and losses. With losses you get anger, which results in further strife; hence the constant quarrel and hypocrisy that goes on. How can one person be immoral if they are simply trying to further their personal interest? Why is lying, cheating, or stealing bad if the aim of life is to try to exploit nature’s resources as much as possible?

These competing interests are best illustrated in governments, especially those run on a democratic system. Democracy is preferred to dictatorship because of the insulation it provides from one person running amuck with bad policy. At the same time, the flaw in democracy is that you get relative morality. It may be immoral to go up to your neighbor and take their money out of their wallet and use it for your personal interest, but if you can get a majority vote in Congress to do practically the same thing, the activity becomes legal. If one person is receiving benefits from the government, if they are given preferences in life, then everyone else has a similar right. Therefore the struggle is not over what the duty of the government should be, but rather who should be benefitted and who shouldn’t. We already know that the largest governing body known to the people working under this system, Mother Nature, doesn’t play favorites, so why should the smaller governments?

The wise person, who receives training from someone who has seen the light themselves, understands the real position of material nature, that it is simply one of the expansions of energy coming from the Supreme Lord. Not only is this person understood to be God, but He has personal features and characteristics. These personal qualities are used for His own pleasure, and their identification serves to enhance the existence of the living being struggling between personal objectives. The only reason there can be multiple systems of maintenance, or multiple religions, is because the desired objectives fail to provide the real fruit of existence. If we taste the reason for our being, then we will want to repeat that taste over and over again instead of jumping from one venture to another.

What is that fruit of existence? And how can we taste it? Not surprisingly, the ultimate mission in life is to become God conscious. More importantly, once God is properly identified, the living being can interact with Him through various transcendental mellows, thus basking in His association. The first issue is that material nature exists to inhibit the knowledge gathering capabilities of the conditioned living beings. Just by the fact that a living entity needs to gather knowledge indicates that they are flawed, that they are inferior to God. Moreover, since they have to overcome forces which are instituted to be inhibiting towards realization of God, you see just how difficult the struggle in material life is.

If God is so wonderful, why would He erect these barriers? Why would He create this material nature that is full of duality? The reason known to the Vedic seers, those who follow the ancient system of spirituality which reveals and discusses the real set of religious principles, or dharma, is that the living beings, the separated expansions of God, wanted to be illusioned. Why would anyone ever want to be put into ignorance? One way to explain this is to think of the experience we have when watching movies, television shows and plays. The whole point is to be entertained, and if we were consciously aware of the fact that what we were watching was a performance scripted to perfection, the enjoyment wouldn’t be the same. On the other hand, if we forced ourselves to forget that what we were watching was fake, we could immerse ourselves in the performance and thus enjoy the show.

The material nature is the largest stage, where the allure is the forgetfulness of God and the ability to think oneself to be the supreme enjoyer. Obviously the tastes resulting from these pursuits are limited at best, and they carry many defects. Just the fact that good and bad are both relative shows that the enjoyment under illusion in the material nature is severely limited. This also means that material nature, though operating impersonally, has a negative influence on every single person, even the richest and most successful person. The person who has no God consciousness can never be in an auspicious condition, because they are always in the dark about their real existence. In addition, once the time of death arrives, they return to the ocean of nescience and repeat the cycle of pursuit for enjoyment again.

“Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, are cast by Me into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.19)

Lord KrishnaThe sincere souls fortunate enough to have contact with a spiritual master, or guru, who knows the personal nature of God and the reason for the material existence can receive direct instructions to help transcend the effects of nature and rise to a position of enlightenment. The even more fortunate souls get God’s personal association and the ability to carry out His orders. This was the benediction granted to Hanuman, though at times it seemed like he was handed a burden more than anything.

The Personality of Godhead descended to earth in His spiritual manifestation as a warrior prince named Rama. The task handed to the great servant of God, Shri Hanuman, was to find Rama’s wife, Sita Devi, who had gone missing. The task was actually handed out to many able-bodied warriors, but Hanuman was the one most enthusiastic for it. Also, the place where Sita actually was could only be reached by Hanuman.

There were many obstacles along the way, but Hanuman eventually made it to the island where Sita was being held captive. Thus far no sweat, as Hanuman still had a chance for success. Yet he searched and he searched and he still couldn’t find her. This is where it appeared that the influence of material nature started to have an effect on him. Hanuman was keenly aware of the limits of time and space, and now the seed of doubt crept into his mind. What if Sita wasn’t alive? What would happen if Hanuman returned to Rama’s camp and informed Him that he had failed in the mission? Hanuman hadn’t done anything wrong, but he thought he had. Therefore he was in tremendous mental distress.

The distress was actually not needed, because whatever events occurred were the result of divine intervention anyway, as Rama is not affected by material nature and neither are those intimately tied to Him in consciousness. Nevertheless, Hanuman temporarily suffered, for his love for Rama was so strong. In devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, there is no such thing as defeat, even if there are temporary setbacks. This fact is validated in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, where we see Hanuman rising up after having been overcome by anxiety. He was so worried about what to do, about how to please Rama, that he couldn’t decide what step to take next.

Hanuman worshiping Sita and RamaThis doubt is material nature’s gift to the soul not in God consciousness. Hanuman always thinks of Rama and His welfare, therefore he could never be defeated by his mental demons. Remembering Rama and His interests, Hanuman arose and decided to fight on. He would rather die trying than give up the fight. He found a nearby Ashoka wood that hadn’t been searched yet. He would look through that area for Sita. If he didn’t find her, he’d defeat all the enemies that lived on this island, including its leader Ravana, who had taken Sita away in the first place. Redemption came for Hanuman in the form of a renewed enthusiasm to please his beloved, the creator of material nature. The victory would taste extremely sweet, as Hanuman would finally find Sita and then return to Rama with information of her whereabouts. All would end well, with material nature being defeated by Rama’s most ardent supporter. That pillar of strength, Shri Hanuman, rescues countless fallen souls through his example and his blessings bestowed upon those who try to love Rama and find the welcoming arms of the spiritual world.

In Closing:

To disturb Hanuman nature did choose,

Did she really think that he would lose?


Hanuman victory in the end would see,

In devotional service never a defeat.


The ocean of suffering makes the future scary,

Through the ups and downs only temporary.


Devotee sees clearly the bigger picture,

Following guru’s instruction success assured.


Hanuman, eventually Rama’s wife to see,

Full of valor, honor, courage and devotion is he.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Forms of Address

Lord Krishna“There are thousands and millions of names of Lord Krishna — Vishnu-sahasra-nama — and all of them are given to Him because of His transcendental qualities.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 14)

With a deep understanding of the human psyche, including the many ways that the mind challenges pieces of information purported to come from authority and the way it tries to understand higher concepts, the Vedas present the science of self-realization from all angles. The paths to knowing the Supreme Absolute Truth are not singular, though the destination is. Based on the variety in tendencies found within the living spirit, there may be one aspect of the Truth that is more appealing than another. Perhaps one person’s childhood environment completely differs from another’s, thereby leading to a different perspective on the world. Not to fear though, as the many names of address provide limitless ways to both understand and worship that Supreme Person.

Right away we see a way to understand this higher entity. By indicating that He is a person who is supreme we compare Him to an entity type with which we are familiar: people. Also, by using masculine pronouns, we compare the Supreme Absolute Truth to a male, or a member of the more dominant species. The female is the fairer sex, while the male generally has more physical strength. The male is the enjoyer and the female is the enjoyed. The male plants the seed and the female nurtures it until maturation so that it can become a living entity that can independently move about.

“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.4)

IMG_5172The same parallels can be used to describe God. In the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Person’s original form of Shri Krishna explains that it is He who impregnates the total material substance and makes possible the births of the living entities. Therefore God is the father and nature the mother. God is the real enjoyer, or purusha, and the living entities are the enjoyed, or prakriti. At the local level, the individual spirit soul is the purusha and its body and field of activities the prakriti.

Since Krishna is the Supreme Person, or Supreme Enjoyer, He is sometimes addressed as parama-purusha or maha-purusha. This type of address is both satisfying and helpful in terms of enlightenment. The spirit soul, the essence of identity, is naturally prone to service. Whether someone wants to accept this fact or not is irrelevant, for the penchant for service will be acted upon regardless. Just look around you and observe people’s behavior. Everyone would rather praise someone else than be praised. They would rather try to put a smile on someone else’s face than make themselves happy. Even the most selfish people in the world eventually get so miserable that they try to help others.

Addressing the Lord with names recognizing His superior standing with respect to dominating nature allows the soul to feel the pleasure from divine service. At the same time, the name brings a better understanding of the Absolute Truth’s position. Think of the small child and how they try to understand the parents. The children only know about playing all day and perhaps going to school. The adults are superior because they don’t have to go to school. They also get to do things that kids can’t. Therefore the definition of “adult” to the child incorporates these smaller concepts, whereas for the adult the definition of maturation is much more comprehensive.

The living entity doesn’t remember its many previous lives. Think of a past life as a past day, for the soul does not change in properties with the passage of time. The same soul that resides within the individual now existed within the womb of the mother, so just the outer covering changes. We wouldn’t consider a few weeks ago a past life, but it actually was. The future turns into the past very quickly, so the many previous lives we spent roaming the material land were at one time future lives.

The individual soul is known as the atma, or jivatma. The soul is blissful, knowledgeable and eternal, yet from travels through temporary bodies in a land governed by prakriti, forgetfulness gains strength. This means that the living entity has difficulty remembering things from one day or week ago. Thus when learning about the Supreme Absolute Truth, the living being must use known reference tools to try to make assessments. By addressing God as the Supreme Person, the individual takes their own acquired definition of a “person” and uses it as the basis for their initial assessment of God.

Lord KrishnaIn the discussion of the soul, we have stumbled upon yet another way to both address and understand God. The individual soul has limitations, but the Supreme Soul does not. Krishna is Paramatma, or the all-pervading witness. He resides within us in this form of spirit, but unlike us, He can remember every past life. Moreover, He lives within every living being, so He is aware of the past, present and future for every single instance of spirit.

What if you don’t know God through these methods? What if you’re not interested in making comparisons based on personalities and the differences between matter and spirit? Whatever your preference, whatever your likes and interests, you can still understand God in the way that suits you best. As another example, many worshipers like to honor heavenly figures so that they will bless them with personal rewards. The worship of the abstract concept of God sometimes takes place in this way as well. “O Lord, forgive us for our sins. Please continue to give us Your blessings. Please keep us safe and allow our children to grow up to be happy and healthy. Please give us food to eat and eliminate our troubles.”

In the Vedic tradition, such pleas are typically offered to heavenly figures known as devas. The devas, or gods, are living entities like us but they live for much longer periods of time, and they can give boons to those who worship them. Yet again, the Supreme Lord can be understood through using the established practice as a frame of reference. Shri Krishna is known as the deva-vara, or the chief god. With this address, the same concept of a god is there, but the understanding of Krishna’s position as being the most powerful God or the God of the gods is introduced.

“Shri Rama’s name is greater than Brahman, and it grants boons to even those who are capable of giving boons. Lord Shiva knowingly selected it out of the one hundred crore verses describing Rama’s acts.” (Dohavali, 31)

Another way to understand the Supreme Lord’s position is to know that He grants boons to even those who grant boons. This is the point made by Goswami Tulsidas in a couplet that appears in both the Dohavali and the Ramacharitamanasa. The poet’s preferred form of Godhead is Lord Rama, the incarnation of Krishna as a warrior prince. The avataras are equal to the original personality, but the outward tendencies may vary so as to attract certain kinds of worshipers and also fit the needs of society at the time. Shri Rama is Krishna and Lord Vishnu too, both of whom are approached by the devas that others worship to get benedictions. Mahadeva, the great god, also worships Shri Rama by regularly chanting His name. Therefore even the greatest boon-donor, Lord Shiva, spends his life worshiping the Supreme Lord.

Lord RamaWhat if you are into yoga? You like to sit down in meditation and chant the sacred syllable om, which represents the impersonal feature of the Supreme Lord, that which pervades all of nature. Again, you can understand Krishna’s position without leaving your realm of activity. As Yogeshvara, Krishna is the Lord of yoga. He is the greatest mystic, expert at doing whatever the topmost yogi can do, but even better. If you’re interested in achieving the mystic perfections of becoming small or large at the drop of a hat, travelling outside of your body, getting whatever you want, controlling others, or being able to hold your breath for long periods of time, know it for a fact that Krishna can do all of these much better than any other yogi can. This higher position automatically makes Him worshipable.

Even the term “Supreme Lord” is a way to understand God. Every living entity is an ishvara, or lord of their body. We make the decision when to get up and what to do. Material nature has the effect of tricking us into thinking that we are inferior to matter, but in our constitutional state, we are always superior to the external energy. God’s position is higher though. He is Parameshvara, or the chief lord. Therefore through this nice name we can better appreciate His position, how He is fit to be worshiped.

Every living entity likes attractiveness. Search for pleasure through objects and activities that are pleasurable. The very name Krishna indicates that the Supreme Lord is the most attractive. That feature is shared with His many personal forms and names used to address them. That Krishna attracts every living entity shouldn’t surprise us, but the sweetest association, the most lasting form of happiness, comes from His personal self. The material nature is His external energy, so it lacks His personal presence. Therefore we see such things as crime, depression, anger, rage, and tremendous sadness mixed in with short bursts of happiness in the land that we currently occupy.

Through reciting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the best names used to address the Lord are invoked, along with a call to His energy that helps the devotees find that highest pleasure. Krishna is all-inclusive, as is the name Rama, which addresses both Shri Rama and the ability of God to give transcendental pleasure to others. Whatever your state in life, chant these names with firm faith, conviction and love. In the end, you’ll know all that there is to know about God and why it is man’s primary duty to worship Him.

In Closing:

Shri Krishna, He of glorious fame,

Limitless attributes give so many names.


Understand Him in ways that you already know,

Through that path let devotion to Him grow.


As ishvara, over decisions you have control,

As Parameshvara, God has powers untold.


Natural beauty appreciate with eyes to see,

Krishna is all-attractive, most beautiful is He.


Demigods to their devotees boons grant,

Krishna is even their lord, so His name always chant.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Parting Is Sweet Sorrow

Shri Rama's lotus feet“Walking along, all the townspeople are so fearful of separation that they have lost consciousness. Bharata, along with his younger brother, with love approaches Rama’s feet to offer respects.” (Janaki Mangala, 30)

calata sakala pura loga biyoga bikala bhaye |
sānuja bharata saprema rāma pāyanha nae ||

It is much easier to leave a place as the guest than it is to be the host and watch your guests depart. When you’re leaving, you have the upcoming journey to keep your mind preoccupied. If you arrived with a band of people, that same group follows you during egress. In addition, you’re the one instigating the separation, so you don’t feel abandoned. The hosts, on the other hand, enjoyed having you around, so when you leave their place feels a little more empty. The residents of a sacred town a long time ago felt tremendous sadness when their most honorable family member left them, though it was only for a brief period. Their attachment to this young child was not based on ignorance of the difference between matter and spirit, for any attachment to the Supreme Spirit is worthwhile.

Normally, attachment and sadness over the separation from someone’s association is not considered wise by those who know the true nature of the soul. At the time of birth the newborn child has no possessions and no attachments. Every attachment that is formed throughout the journey of life starts from a blank slate. This means that the people we are so afraid of losing were once not a major part of our lives. A new work environment may not seem inviting to us, but the place at which we currently work was once that way too. Through familiarity that comes with the repetition of days the mind loses sight of the fact that everything will be relinquished at the time of death.

changing bodiesHow cruel it is that those things we cherish the most are destined to be removed from our vision. The body, the vehicle for action, itself will gradually diminish in abilities. The elderly person has poorer vision, hearing, and energy. Eventually, the life force is forced to exit the dwelling it was so comfortable in. The wise who study the difference between spirit and matter through instruction from a bona fide spiritual teacher are taught to transcend the dichotomy of acceptance and rejection. Don’t dwell too much on the body, for it is a kind of illusion. You think matter is one thing, but it is really something different.

In addition to the influence of matter, the ways of time can trick us as well. Just because certain events take place day after day, for year after year, doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed to continue in the future. For the parents of young children, a day will come when their help is no longer required. The children may even leave home to start their own families, for this is part of the parents’ objectives. A mature adult is someone who can take care of themselves. If an adult is self-sufficient, what need do they have to live under the protection of the parents?

In Ayodhya a long time ago, the king’s four sons were trained to be expert military men. In those times the military consisted of warriors skilled in using the bow and arrow. In addition to fighting, they were tasked with administering justice fairly. They also had to be up to the call of duty. They were never to shy away from a battle and they would always protect the most innocent members of society, the priestly class. The issue with King Dasharatha’s four sons was that they were so loveable. Starting with the eldest, Lord Rama, down to the youngest, Shatrughna, the boys were a delight for everyone in the town. Though they were the king’s sons, everyone accepted them to be their own children. Such practices are commonplace in small communities where everyone feels like they are neighbors and part of an extended family.

The upside to that attachment was that they got to see Rama and His brothers every day. The residents got to see the most beautiful person in the world and love Him unconditionally. Though He was learning the art of the trade from His spiritual masters, Rama was still adorable and kind. The residents, unaware of His divine nature, would pray for His welfare, not wanting even a hair on His head to fall while taking a bath. But as fate would have it, Rama’s dexterity with the bow and arrow would bring Him to the forests, where the sages were being harassed.

Lord RamaIt is one thing to feel sadness when a guest who stayed only for a short while leaves, but Rama had lived in Ayodhya for almost twelve years. That He would be called to the forest did not sit well with the citizens. Yet they knew it was His duty to keep the venerable Vishvamitra safe from the attacks of the night-rangers. Therefore they prayed primarily for Rama to be successful. Only with that condition met would they wish for Him to return home. For a kshatriya, or one in the royal order, nothing is more honorable than fighting valiantly against an enemy. Regardless of the nature of the war, whether you’re fighting for the good guys or the bad, you automatically go to the heavenly planets should you lay down your life on the battlefield.

“O Partha, happy are the kshatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.32)

In the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, it is recommended that to get spiritual merits one should perform yajnas, or sacrifices. In the typical fire sacrifice, oblations of clarified butter are poured into the fire for the enjoyment of the celestials. The spirit soul is eternal in its existence, but based on work and desire it can be placed into different bodies which have varying durations of manifestation. In the heavenly planets, the spirit soul gets placed into bodies which live for a long time and get to enjoy tremendous material opulence. To reach that realm one must be pious, adhere to the regulations of their order, and perform sacrifices regularly.

The soldier giving up his life on the battlefield is compared to the ghee poured into the fire sacrifice. The specific life is offered up for a higher cause, so there is spiritual merit accrued as a result. Therefore, for a kshatriya, nothing is more honorable than laying down your life on the battlefield. Despite knowing that Rama was capable in fighting, the citizens couldn’t help but feel the pain of separation. They were so attached to Dasharatha’s eldest son that they started to faint when they saw Him walking away with Vishvamitra and Lakshmana. As Rama’s closest younger brother, Lakshmana refused to allow Rama to go anywhere unprotected. It was two-for-one with either brother. With Rama you always get Lakshmana, and vice versa.

Rama and Lakshmana with VishvamitraFrom the strict textbook point of view, the attachment of the residents of Ayodhya was based on ignorance. Rama was just a child after all, and it was also His duty to protect the innocent. Why should anyone have such a strong attachment to a family member? The ways of Providence are such that people come together and separate all the time. Many thousands of years later, in the kingdom of Hastinapura the elderly aunt and uncle of King Yudhishthira would one day suddenly leave home and go to the mountains to practice austerity. The king didn’t know where they were, and he was afraid that they had left on his account. The couple’s one hundred sons had just died in a bloody war where Yudhishthira’s side emerged victorious.

“As a player sets up and disperses his playthings according to his own sweet will, so the supreme will of the Lord brings men together and separates them.”  (Narada Muni speaking to King Yudhishthira, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.43)

Narada Muni would later arrive on the scene and explain to the king what had happened. In explaining the situation, the muni said that the ways of the Supreme Lord are such that people are constantly coming together and separating. The purport of the message is that the way the dice rolls is not in our control. Life is packed with unexpected ups and downs, starting with the time of birth. We had no control over when and where we took birth, though through our past actions we were able to indicate to the higher authorities what type of body we wished to receive. Nevertheless, the time of birth is determined by higher powers, as is the time of death.

Knowing the ways of Providence, the residents had no reason to overly lament. Yet since Rama was the Supreme Lord in the form of a human being, the loss of consciousness on the part of the residents was actually beneficial. There is no such thing as harmful illusion when it comes to Rama and His association. Attachment and aversion are only two extremes not worth paying attention to when there is the issue of illusion, something taken to be something that it is not. With Rama, what you see is what you get. If you are attached to Him, you are attached to something permanent, something which is linked to your true identity.

The spirit soul is eternal, and in its constitutional position it is a servant of God. This type of service is entered into voluntarily, and it provides lasting happiness. The residents of Ayodhya were not forced to love Rama. Their emotions flowed naturally, and they were so sincere that upon seeing the Lord walk away they lost consciousness. They couldn’t stand the thought of not seeing Dasharatha’s beloved son.

Rama with His brothersRama’s two other younger brothers felt the same way. As Rama was leaving, Bharata, along with Shatrughna, approached Rama with love and paid respects to His feet. The three younger brothers are all expansions of the Supreme Lord, so it is not surprising that they would be so close during their time on earth. The brothers all looked out for each other, and their common link was the love they felt for the eldest Rama. The citizens and the brothers would not have to wait too long, as Rama and Lakshmana would glorify their family by protecting Vishvamitra from the hideous night-rangers attacking the innocent. And as a bonus, they would return home with beautiful wives received in the kingdom of Videha. First there was sadness at Rama’s leaving and then there was rejoicing upon His return with His new wife, Sita Devi, who is the goddess of fortune. The sweet sorrow of parting from the Lord thus indicated the high standing of Ayodhya and its residents. The Supreme Lord is non-different from His land, and so today the area of Ayodhya remains holy, a place where devotional affection took over the pious residents a long time ago.

In Closing:

With Rama leaving parting such sweet sorrow,

Along with Lakshmana and sage, there went tomorrow.


Younger brothers came forward for Rama to meet,

Paid respects to His lotus feet.


Residents wanted Rama at home to stay,

So that with brothers daily He could play.


But warrior must the innocent protect,

Call of duty he can never deflect.


Not knowing His return the exact day,

Consciousness lost seeing Rama walk away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Natural Concentration

gopis of Vrindavana“The mystic (yogi) tries to concentrate upon the Supersoul by controlling the senses from all other engagements, and thus he ultimately attains samadhi. A devotee more easily attains samadhi, or trance, by constantly remembering the Lord's personal feature along with His holy name, fame, pastimes, etc. Therefore, the concentration of the mystic yogi and that of the devotee are not on the same level. The concentration of the mystic is mechanical, whereas that of the pure devotee is natural in pure love and spontaneous affection.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.9.39 Purport)

When learning a new skill, there is the mechanical approach, wherein one accepts certain tools and tricks and then tries to implement them through steady practice. This method is helpful considering the difficulty of the skill being learned, but for the person who is naturally prone to such behavior there is not a problem at all. In many instances the person providing the instruction developed the technique through their own ability and then only after the fact performed some review to decipher the specific mechanics that went into their technique. In a similar manner, there is a way to reach the highest end of divine trance, or samadhi, through a mechanical method, but the natural approach is always more effective and easier to implement. Those who practice the latter method are so immersed in blissful thoughts of the divine that they don’t even know they are trying for samadhi.

Picture an expert ice hockey player, who can shoot the puck up to 100 miles per hour. Perhaps in their youth they were taught the proper skating technique and how to put weight into the shot, but nevertheless, not every professional hockey player has a hard shot. The bending of the stick and the right timing of skating and backswing all go into the perfect shot that is both fast and accurate. Those with a hard shot can try teaching their technique to others, but likely their own ability was developed naturally. It was already within them, so they figured out how to extract it on their own, without following a mechanical approach aimed at reaching the future end.

Brett Hull slapshotFor the spirit soul trapped in a cycle of birth and death, some instruction is required in order to find the highest end. This is because by default the animal instincts take over. Leave a child to play for the rest of their lives and they will never learn anything. That’s why during the critical early years, when the child is willing to listen to parents, education is imposed. Without some sort of discipline, the hyperactive senses of the child would run wild, causing them to be spoiled and grow up to have a difficult time coping with life.

In the larger scheme, the living entity in general is prone towards eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Divine trance is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It occurs when the aforementioned activities take a back seat, when they are done as a matter of fact rather than a matter of pleasure. This shouldn’t be that difficult to understand, for if we have a higher engagement, we will only eat what is required to maintain the body. Sleep will be a necessary evil, not something we truly relish. Mating and defense also take on a minimal role, for the mind will be focused on something else.

There are two pathways towards samadhi. One is mechanical. It involves some sort of austerity, with the senses controlled through niyama, or regulation. There are also breathing exercises, sitting postures, and specific meditation techniques that further purify consciousness and reduce the influence of the senses, which are likened to serpents with deadly fangs. The mechanical route essentially removes those fangs.

The mechanical approach is appealing because there is no sectarian designation. No one is going to hell if they don’t practice yoga, and neither are they dedicating their worship to a distinct figure of a specific tradition. If they will recite any name at all for the divine, it will be the impersonal sound representation of the Absolute Truth, om. Find a peaceful spot, sit quietly, chant om for a while, and then go back to what you were doing.

It is this last piece that causes the whole system to break down. Meditational yoga is introduced in the Vedas, which come from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The impersonal feature of the Supreme Lord is known as Brahman, and since it lacks opportunity for personal interaction, those who try to connect with it find the path very difficult. Meditation on Brahman is meant to be a full-time engagement, not something that you do for five minutes a day. Think of it in terms of exercise. If I spent one hour in the gym each day but then ate without control the rest of the time, what good will my exercise do?

In the same manner, if the yogi follows the dictates of the senses for the majority of the day, their yoga practice will not do much for them. Therefore it is not surprising that the mechanical process aimed at finding samadhi has degraded to the point that just the extraneous health benefits are now sought. Forget the spiritual component, do yoga so that your body’s internals will be in balance, so that you can enjoy your life of sense gratification even more.

yogaThe natural process is much more beneficial. It is known as bhakti-yoga because it involves love directed at the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There are mechanical components to it in the beginning, but in the stage of maturation there is no conscious thought given to practicing any type of discipline. Rather, the devotee connected to God almost spits at the thought of practicing yoga, for the term implies that there is some benefit the devotee is trying to acquire. It’s like a friend going up to you and complimenting you on your parenting abilities, how you are doing a good job raising your kids. For the good parent, there is no specific reward sought for dedicating your life to protecting your child. You’re not in it for the attention or the pat on the back; the dedication comes naturally.

The path of devotion ideally leads to a point where the worship of God takes place spontaneously, throughout the day. One can be cooking, cleaning, watching television, or even driving and still be in samadhi by thinking of the forms, pastimes and names of the Supreme Lord, who is addressed as Krishna because of His all-attractiveness. Like an iron rod that eventually turns into fire upon steady contact with a scorching flame, the devotee eventually becomes completely spiritualized through enough contact with the personal aspect of the Lord.

That same Krishna descended to earth some five thousand years ago and spent a significant amount of time engaged in delightful pastimes in the farm community of Vrindavana. As time passed, Krishna had to depart for the neighboring town of Mathura, leaving the cowherd women, the gopis, most affected by the separation. Shortly after He left, Krishna sent His cousin Uddhava to deliver them a message. Uddhava looked just like Krishna, so at first glance the gopis thought that maybe Krishna was returning to them.

When it came time for Uddhava to speak, the gopis were more interested in Krishna’s welfare than the message He had given. Through Uddhava, Krishna told the gopis that they were the topmost yogis. They had abandoned attachment to their husbands, friends and family in favor of loving the Lord, and for this there was no way Krishna could repay them. He declared that they were exemplary devotees, and that they should be proud of their exalted position.

This is some lofty praise. If your aim is to be a mystic that reaches the samadhi stage, this news confirms that your yoga practice is going very well. Ironically, the gopis did not like this message. Granted, they loved hearing Krishna’s words and the chance to think about Him, but they paid no attention to the descriptions of yoga. What did they care if they were practicing yoga? They just wanted to know if Krishna remembered them and those moonlit nights in the forest when they all danced together. Did He miss them? Was He happy as a king? Was He ever going to come back?

Krishna dancing with the gopisUddhava was overwhelmed with appreciation for the gopis and their behavior. Though the gopis didn’t know it, they were exhibiting all the signs of samadhi, the goal for the mystic yogi. Because they only wanted to think about Krishna and love Him, they had no need for the mechanical processes of yoga, nor hearing about how they were practicing mysticism so well by concentrating on Krishna. Through their reaction to Krishna’s message, the gopis showed that the Lord was indeed correct about their position as the greatest yogis.

The simplest method of yoga and the most effective are one and the same. Regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, reignites the devotional flame that is inside all of us. This sacred mantra also addresses the pleasure potency of the Supreme Lord, whom the gopis represent as well. Therefore “Hare Krishna” calls both the author of the message delivered by Uddhava and the recipients. The underlying request with the perfect prayer that is the maha-mantra is to have the ability to practice devotion spontaneously, to be immersed in blissful thoughts of the delight of Vrindavana, the life and soul of the gopis, and the author of everything good that ever was, is, and will be in the future. With a humble request made at the feet of the object of yoga, the need for the mechanical path goes away, as it becomes unappealing at the same time. The devotional path is always superior because it directly leads to Krishna, whose association is most cherished.

In Closing:

By following yoga’s mechanical process,

One can surely reach a point of success.


The forced restraint and practice gives chance,

To reach position of full divine trance.


But in reaching pleasure no need for force,

Divine love charters simpler and better course.


Just think of Krishna always like gopis did,

Shyamasundara from their minds couldn’t rid.


Their supreme standing messenger Uddhava could tell,

Their hearts and minds to Krishna the gopis did sell.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gift Giver

Hanuman worshiping Sita and Rama“Defeating the Rakshasas, I will give the queen, the delight of the Ikshvaku family, to Rama, just as a perfection is bestowed upon an ascetic.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.57)

jitvā tu rākṣasān devīm ikṣvāku kula nandinīm ||
sampradāsyāmi rāmāyā yathā siddhim tapasvine |

There are constant struggles for success, as nothing comes easily in life. If you want material prosperity, success in your ventures, peace of mind, or so many other rewards, you have to really work hard for it. As they say, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”, so even those things handed to us don’t necessarily represent a successful completion. The spirit soul wandering the world in different forms has desires that burst forth, irrespective of whatever successes were encountered in the past. For the observing loved ones, seeing their beloved struggle is difficult. The desire is to be able to help the struggling person reach their end, to deliver them their goal. Shri Hanuman, in carrying out the mission assigned to him, had a similar desire. He had seen his beloved Rama suffer so much on account of separation from His wife, a separation which was by no means deserved. Therefore Hanuman not only worked hard to follow the orders given to him to find Rama’s wife, but he personally dreamt of being able to deliver Rama success, such is the kindness of Hanuman.

The exact sentiment felt by Hanuman in this instance is a little difficult to explain, as the emotion is rooted in a very strong love. Try to imagine one of your loved ones studying very hard to pass a very difficult examination. If you could somehow be on the examination board and grant them a passing grade, how much joy would that bring you? To know that you could deliver the fruit of the results to the person working so hard, the person you care about so much, would bring you immense satisfaction. The person being helped doesn’t even have to know that you played a role in their triumph. Just knowing yourself that you did something to ease their troubles, to put a smile on their face, is enough to make the task worth it.

Radha and KrishnaWhen studying the lives of famous saints and personalities of the Vedic tradition, it is natural to wish that you could go back in time and have had played a role in helping them through personal struggles. For instance, some five thousand years ago, Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, descended to earth and had intimate dealings with the gopis of Vrindavana, of whom Shrimati Radharani was the chief. Radha and Krishna represent the union of God’s energy and God. In one sense they are equal, as they both play their role in the relationship, but there is still a difference. They are distinct entities with different qualities; there is a uniqueness to their individualities.

Studying Radha and Krishna in the proper mood is important because their dealings illustrate the ideal relationship one can have with God. In the constitutional position, the spirit souls, the living entities wandering through various life forms, are devotees of God. God is the energetic and His expansions represent His energy. Since they are both of the same spiritual qualities, they are inherently linked. The expansions can, however, forget about their constitutional position and their relationship with Krishna. Once forgetfulness is introduced, all sorts of other divergences take place.

What does this mean exactly? To use a crude example, let’s say that we build a baseball field, perfectly suited for playing games on a regular basis. The field is populated with players who, not surprisingly, play baseball. Therefore the rules on this field all relate to America’s pastime, where the ideal objective is the competing in the game of baseball and winning. Now let’s say that one of the players deviates from their position as a baseball player. Not identifying with the game at all anymore, they decide to use their portion of the field to play lacrosse, which is another game. They then get others to follow suit. Now you have a baseball field used partially for lacrosse.

Obviously, you can’t fit both games on the same field, as the lacrosse field is shaped differently and requires a lot of space, of which there is not much to go around. Now let’s say that some of the other players decide to use a portion of the field for farming, something not even related to sports. Another person erects a house on the land, while another sits in a corner and sings all day. Obviously none of these engagements follow the makeup of the field, the reason for its existence. Therefore there will be constant struggle, with each faction declaring that their system of regulation is the right one. They will write books on how to succeed in their specific ventures, and since none of the engagements are related to the field, nothing tangible can happen from following any of the recommended procedures properly.

baseball-diamondTake this same example and expand it to the largest scope possible and you get the situation in the material world. The soul is meant to be a lover of God, but as soon as that fact is forgotten, the individual pretends that life is meant to further personal sense gratification. In this area there are many different avenues of enjoyment, with the massive playing field that is the material creation divided up to accommodate the different desires. New law codes are written with respect to each venture; thus resulting in a plethora of religious systems which don’t tackle the issues of the soul, its position transcendental to matter, and its inherent link to the spiritual world, the place where God in His personal form resides.

Radha and Krishna are the embodiment of religion, as their dealings illustrate how divine love operates. Devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, is the constitutional engagement resulting from the soul’s position as lover of God. The gopis of Vrindavana are the best practitioners of bhakti-yoga. To get evidence to this claim, we can go back and revisit Krishna’s time on this earth some five thousand years ago. The gopis also descended to earth to give the world a glimpse of what goes on in Goloka Vrindavana, which is considered the highest spiritual planet in the transcendental realm of Vaikuntha.

What does personal and impersonal refer to? God is also present in the material world, but His presence is impersonal. This means that He is not directly involved in the day-to-day dealings of the living beings, and also His presence is difficult to realize. Brahman, the all-pervading spirit, is like the effusion of light coming off of God’s gigantic transcendental body. Just as we can tell the sun exists by the sunshine, we know that there is a God based on the presence of spirit, which is the essence of identity in every life form.

The personal presence is more important because this is where transcendental mellows can be exchanged, a taste in interaction. The dealings between Krishna and the gopis show us these interactions in their purest form. During their time on earth, the gopis were cowherd women, many of whom were married and attentive to their duties in the home. Krishna chose to be raised in the farm community of Vrindavana because this is where His purest devotees resided.

Lord KrishnaSince everyone in Vrindavana got Krishna’s direct association, one would think that all the inhabitants were yogis. If you’re with Krishna all the time, you must be practicing religion perfectly. This must mean that you renounced worldly life and sat in meditation all day. Just the opposite occurred actually. The residents of Vrindavana were dedicated to protecting their cows and raising them properly. Everyone was supremely God conscious, and they performed their daily work as a matter of obligation. They were more attached to dharma, or religious principles, than the results of their actions.

Even the women worked. The gopis used to take care of the house and the children and still find time to churn milk products. Shrimati Radharani and her gopi friends would regularly travel to the neighboring town of Mathura to sell their yogurt and cream. Radha is the goddess of fortune, which means that she bestows benedictions upon Krishna’s devotees so that they can continue their service. The devotee doesn’t require much; just enough to remain alive and continually chant the glorious maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

Despite the fact that Radha gives out benedictions, just hearing about how she used to sell milk products to others stirs some longings in the hearts of devotees. “If only I could have been there to buy some of the yogurt that she and the gopis were selling. I would have bought so much. In fact, I would have spent my life savings to buy as much of their yogurt and cream as possible. In this way she would be pleased, which would in turn make me happy.” These thoughts are a little irrational, as no one can go back in time. Moreover, Radha and the gopis have Krishna’s association, so they don’t require any help in selling their products.

Nevertheless, the sentiments are rooted in a good place. If we love someone and we see them struggling, we wish that we could find some way to help them. This was the feeling of Shri Hanuman as well. The same Lord Krishna had descended to earth many thousands of years prior in the guise of a warrior prince named Rama. This time He abided more by the established law codes of religion, or dharma. He also had the specific task of ridding the world of the plague that was the Rakshasa king of Lanka, Ravana. To fight Ravana, Rama needed an excuse, something which would come when Ravana would take away Rama’s wife Sita Devi behind the Lord’s back.

HanumanBefore He could fight Ravana, Rama needed to find Sita. For this He enlisted the help of Vanaras living in the forest of Kishkindha. Hanuman was one of those Vanaras, and he had the distinction of being the most eager servant, even though he had not known Rama for very long. For the divine figures endowed with superexcellent qualities, it’s not difficult to spot God’s presence. Hanuman recognized Rama’s divine nature soon after meeting Him. Hanuman took the mission of finding Sita as his life and soul.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see Hanuman pumping himself up before the most difficult struggle in his search for Sita. Up until this point he had braved all obstacles thrown his way except one, the prospect of not succeeding. He made it into Lanka unnoticed, searched every inch of space, and still didn’t find Sita. The mental demons started to creep in, tempting Hanuman to give up.

What would keep the Vanara warrior going? His love for Rama of course. In the above referenced verse we see Hanuman declaring that he will continue the search for Sita and battle any Rakshasas that try to stop him. He will find Sita and deliver her to Rama, just as an ascetic is rewarded with the fruit of his austerity.

An ascetic is known by his austere lifestyle. He doesn’t do this just to punish himself. There is a siddhi, or perfection, that arrives at some point. Think of an investment bond that matures after a set amount of time. The ascetic dedicated to austerity and penance eventually reaches a point where they get their reward. Hanuman uses this analogy because Shri Rama was in the austere position of having to be separated from His wife. Imagine having the most wonderful wife in the world, someone who loved you more than any person could love anyone else. Then imagine them being taken away from you, not knowing if they are in a safe position or not. This is what Rama endured for the rest of humanity, to show that He was a human being just like everyone else, even though He wasn’t.

Sita and RamaIt might have actually bothered Hanuman more to see Rama suffering in this way. Therefore he put his existence on the line to see to it that Sita and Rama were reunited. Lord Rama is God, so what can we ever give to Him? He owns everything, so nothing that we offer to Him can actually come from us. Nevertheless, the devotional attitude is one that constantly follows service to the Supreme Lord. Hanuman didn’t care whether or not Rama was God. He saw his master in pain, so he was willing to do anything to remove that suffering. Indeed, it was not his assigned mission to bring Sita home. He was told just to find her, for Rama had to rescue her to maintain the high standing of the Ikshvaku dynasty, the family of kings He was born into. Hanuman’s attitude is wonderful nonetheless, as his passion in life is to keep a smile on Rama’s face.

This attitude is all he needs for success. Life in Lanka was no picnic. He had no friends to call, and no one to rely on for advice. He had his love for Rama and the details of his mission. That’s all he would need, as he would end up being a major contributor in Sita’s rescue and Ravana’s eventual demise. His eagerness to please Rama is so wonderful that Sita and her husband make sure that Hanuman always has what he needs to perform his service. Just as he is eager to deliver the fruits of success to Rama, Sita is always eager to bestow gifts upon Hanuman. Sita is the very same goddess of fortune, so no one can stop her from delivering rewards to her intended recipients.

In Closing:

For austerity ascetic goes to the forest,

Eats very little and wears bark for dress.


So that their time in difficulty not for waste,

Wait for the perfection of sacrifice to taste.


Shri Rama found Himself in similar position,

Separated from wife, unpleasant was condition.


Hanuman desired that displeasure to end,

The Rakshasas of Lanka to Yamaraja to send.


Wanted to deliver wife to Rama, but no need,

With his sincerity, success for Hanuman guaranteed.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Personal Form

Lord Krishna“For the ordinary man who wants to lord it over material nature, the Lord not only sanctions and becomes a witness of activities, but He never gives the nondevotee instructions for going back to Godhead. That is the difference in dealings by the Lord with different living beings, both the devotee and the nondevotee. He is leader of all the living beings, as the king of the state rules both the prisoners and the free citizens.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.9.32 Purport)

It’s strange to think that the worst criminal in the world also has God living inside of them. Since they are part and parcel of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the same as Him in quality but vastly inferior in the quantitative measure of attributes, they become part of the definition that is God. At the same time, the aspect that resides within them isn’t the complete feature of the Supreme Lord. The Supersoul within the heart is an impartial witness, watching both the good and the bad activities of the living entity from a neutral position. When the same person connects with God in a mood of love, the personal form of the Lord, the fully featured Personality of Godhead or one of His direct incarnations, appears on the scene to show just who the worshiping individual is targeting. Therefore in all respects the Personality of Godhead is superior.

How can we say one is superior to the other when in terms of spiritual qualities both entities are equal? Is my form that meets with someone in a coffee shop superior to my form that talks to the same person over the phone or through internet communication? Am I not the same person regardless of how I connect with others? That is certainly a valid point to be raised with respect to the Supersoul, which resides within the heart next to the individual soul, but the distinctions are made from the perspective of the illusioned living entity, who may not know any better.

telephoneWhat do we mean by this? Let’s say that the person I talk to on the phone only thinks of me as a voice. They’ve never seen me in person, so they think the only way I exist is through the sound that comes in the earpiece of the telephone receiver. Obviously, such a line of thinking would be considered foolish by the mature adult, yet to the person in ignorance, there is no physical proof of my existence. Therefore they feel justified in thinking of me as being only a sound.

In a similar manner, someone who is not properly educated in the science of self-realization so flawlessly introduced in the Vedas and since passed on by the bona fide spiritual masters will be led astray by so many mentally concocted theories that have no basis in truth. The personal aspect of the Supreme Lord has been denied for a long time in the majority of the spiritual traditions of the world. “Worship God”, is the recommendation, but if you don’t know who God is or what He looks like, how is that worship going to manifest? Is it any wonder then that the worshipers are left to take shelter of materialist pursuits such as philanthropy, following general principles of piety, and redressing social ills?

“What is wrong with these pursuits”, you say. Well, for starters they are already taken up by those who are not religiously inclined. Someone doesn’t need to know anything about God to help the poor. Cleaning up the environment also takes place without any knowledge of spirituality. The real principles of religion teach one how to worship the origin of life and matter; it is a discipline which then permeates all subsequent behavior. By attaining the divine consciousness, one learns how to adjust their behavior in a way that the link to the spiritual powerhouse of energy remains active despite the performance of regulative activities aimed at maintaining the vital force within the body.

Denying the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord as being a mythological tradition supported by those unaware of the truth or something that is not logically possible, the theorists emerge with their own ideas of God. “God is impersonal. He is the formless Absolute Truth.” Others will say that any person can become God through enough enlightenment. Of course, these are silly assertions because if someone has to become God, it means in a prior circumstance they were not God. If at any time you are not the Supreme Controller, your superior position is invalidated.

The features of the Personality of Godhead are described in the Vedas, whose most sacred work is the Bhagavad-gita. It’s difficult to put comparisons on the bhakti-shastras, or the scriptures forwarding devotional service as the highest aim in life, but the Bhagavad-gita gains its significance by its combined punch of brevity and import. The short work touches on all subjects of Vedanta, or the ultimate system of knowledge. In the end, however, the true mission in life of following the words and instructions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is presented.

Lord KrishnaIn His original form God is known as Krishna, which is a Sanskrit word that means all-attractive. Krishna’s immediate expansion is known as Vishnu, who is often times considered the original form of Godhead depending on the tradition you follow. Even in many Puranas and Vedic hymns Vishnu is described as the original. The fact is that any personal expansion of the original Lord is equally as worshipable. The living entities are known as jiva-tattvas, so they are sort of clones of God that aren’t nearly as powerful. The most notable distinction is that the jivas are prone to illusion, doubt, mistakes, and imperfect sense perceptions. Only a jiva can fall victim to the fallacious notion that God can be equaled.

With the distinction between the Personality of Godhead and His many sparks, why would the Supersoul agree to live inside of anyone? This expansion is actually the Lord’s mercy, not meant to be a punishment. Despite the longest fall from grace, the jiva has the open invitation from the Supreme Lord to return to His realm, to retake the constitutional position. Just as a fish is meant to live in water, the jiva is meant to be in Krishna’s personal company in the spiritual sky, where things like birth and death don’t exist. Time and space are still present in the spiritual lands of Vaikuntha and Krishnaloka, but they don’t have a debilitating influence, sort of like a snake without teeth.

In his fall from grace caused by desires to lord over material nature, the jiva soul is accompanied by God in His form as the Supersoul. In some spiritual traditions this form is described as the nirguna, or attributeless, aspect of the Supreme Lord. It is described as such because to the onlooker it doesn’t have any features, sort of like the voice emerging from the telephone receiver. The Supreme Lord is always who He is, though, so regardless of whether He’s described as nirguna or saguna, His supreme standing never changes.

The Supersoul resides within even the worst criminal, but at the same time there is no connection with God in such cases. With the devotees, however, the presence of the Supersoul proves to be extremely helpful. It guides the sincere worshiper towards the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in a mood of love, a methodical march towards spiritual freedom, release from the cycle of birth and death.

There are countless examples to show how the Supersoul has a different effect depending on the nature of the person, but one of the most notable was the interaction between a famous king and his son. Hiranyakashipu was on the demoniac side, given towards sinful life. He had an opulent kingdom and a tremendous fighting ability. No one in the world could defeat him, and he made sure to let everyone know about it. The Supreme Lord Vishnu had previously killed his brother, so Hiranyakashipu denied God’s existence, or at least His superior position. Hiranyakashipu viewed Vishnu as his archenemy, someone who needed to be defeated.

We can just imagine then the king’s dismay when his son ended up being one of the staunchest devotees of Vishnu in the world. Unable to tolerate the devotion in his son, Hiranyakashipu tried to kill the five-year old Prahlada in so many different ways. The many methods were employed because Prahlada seemingly couldn’t be killed. Thrown off of a cliff, dropped in the ocean under heavy weights, thrown in a pit of snakes, and even tossed in a fire, nothing could kill Prahlada. All the while, the boy’s devotion to Vishnu increased.

Narasimhadeva killing Hiranyakashipu's attendentsBoth Hiranyakashipu and Prahlada had the Supersoul residing within them, but only Prahlada knew how to take advantage of the Lord’s close proximity. At the same time, the entity Prahlada was worshiping was indeed a person and not some impersonal force. Hiranyakashipu couldn’t understand this, so he sarcastically asked if the God Prahlada worshiped was in the pillar next to them. After Prahlada responded by saying that Vishnu was indeed in the pillar, and within everything else in this world for that matter, Hiranyakashipu started to punch the pillar, after which Vishnu in His ferocious form of a half-man/half-lion named Narasimha emerged and proceeded to kill the demoniac king.

Devotees of Vishnu have studied and honored that incident ever since. Goswami Tulsidas mentions it in his Kavitavali as being evidence of the fact that the personal form of the Supreme Lord is superior. If the nirguna and saguna aspects were on an equal level, then Vishnu would have emerged from Hiranyakashipu’s heart. We know from Vedic science that the Lord existed within the demon’s heart, but since He was a neutral observer, He did not play an active role in the demon’s reign of terror. The same Supersoul resided within Prahlada, and since the boy knew how to connect with the Supersoul because of the instruction previously received from the exalted Narada Muni, his actions eventually led him to seeing and worshiping Vishnu in an avatara form, or one that is personal.

Thus even though there is no difference between the personal and the impersonal aspects of the Supreme Absolute Truth, it is the personal aspect that is the original. Sort of like how darkness only emerges from the absence of light, the impersonal aspect can only exist when the original feature is a person. Therefore those who take to bhakti-yoga find the highest engagement in life. The Personality of Godhead accepts all kinds of worship, provided the motives are pure. Through the pious activity in devotion the worshiper gets the knowledge necessary to see God and continue service to Him thereafter. On the other hand, the person fooled by the illusory material nature to ignore the Supreme Lord’s personal presence stays far away from God life after life, despite having the Supersoul within them. Knowing the two options, the wise regularly chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and remember the innocent Prahlada Maharaja, who proved that worship of God’s personal form is always superior.

In Closing:

Talking on the phone person you can’t see,

That only exists as a voice, can it be?


Obviously voice comes from person that is real,

Personality who can hear, see, taste and feel.


Supersoul is God’s form that you cannot see,

Rests within everyone’s heart does He.


Nevertheless, form is just an expansion,

From original whose qualities Vedas mention.


From Prahlada know that personal is superior,

Worship Vishnu and abandon matter so inferior.