Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Mind Is Elsewhere

Shri Hanuman“Having offered his obeisances to them, including Sugriva, the son of the wind-god surveyed all the directions and then mentally headed towards the Ashoka grove.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.60)

sa tebhyaḥ tu namaḥ kṛtvā sugrīvāya ca mārutiḥ  |
diśaḥ sarvāḥ samālokya aśoka vanikām prati ||

The journey through life consists of a repetition of questions and answers. This holds true in other species as well, for we can hear the birds in the morning chirping to one another. One bird asks the question, and the rest chime in with their answers. The human being follows this pattern throughout life, especially during the needed maturation period from childhood to youth. Indeed, the purpose of reading books is to have questions answered, as the more information is gathered, the more questions arise. Coupled with this is the collection of data and the processing of it using the mental computer. Through memory, one can actually go back to different situations and almost place themselves into areas from which they are physically separated. If this can be done going backwards in time, it can also be done going forwards, as was shown by Shri Hanuman.

How can we mentally move somewhere we have never been? It shouldn’t be that difficult to do. After all, in the past we ended up places that were new to us. For instance, say that one of our good friends moved. He used to live in one apartment, and now he lives somewhere else. We were used to driving to the old place. We knew the directions, where to park, and how to exit without a problem. Now there is some trepidation about the new place. Not only do we have to find it, but we have to figure out where to park, something which can be difficult when the location is in a metropolitan area. So the first time we arrive at this place is a new experience for us, providing new information and mental pictures that can be stored within the mind. Pretty soon, after a few trips, the travel becomes much easier. In fact, it becomes as easy as the travel to the previous home, the old destination that was visited frequently.

parkingThis comparison provides valuable insight. The next time we have to travel to some place new, we can revisit the experience of travelling to the new apartment of our friend as a reference tool. This will especially help us if the new place is also in a metropolitan area. There are other advantages to using this technique as well. The past experience in the mind may be blurry and not remembered perfectly. To mentally picture our future endeavor, we can place pretty much anything into the scene. Pretend that you are in a specific place with surroundings that can be anything you choose.

Why would this even be necessary? Why waste time pretending like this? The reason is to practice dealing with the unexpected. Athletes use similar techniques, especially when they are nervous. The human being’s tendency is towards inertia, for that involves the least effort. Quitting, failing, and focusing on the negative are very easy things to do. People don’t get rich writing books about how to fail, how to give up in life. Rather, the self-help books that find new ways to stress positive thinking fly off the shelves. The bold leaders who found success are worth hearing from, not those who wilted under the pressure.

The most positive picture is that of a successful outcome. Since success doesn’t come easy, when simulating future experiences, it is best to have as many pressure points as possible. For the golfer, the mock situation could be one where he has to drain a lengthy putt just to maintain par. In a golf tournament based on stroke play, the winner is determined by whoever has the least amount of strokes. On each hole the aim is to get your ball to fall into the cup that can be situated hundreds of yards away from the tee. The player that can do this in the least amount of strokes is obviously superior. There are eighteen holes on the course, so the cumulative stroke totals are used to determine the winner.

To make it easier to gauge your progress, to see how well or poorly you are doing in the round, each hole has a suggested stroke amount, which is known as par. On a par 4, for instance, it is assumed that the average player will put the ball into the cup after 4 strokes. Making par is important because it shows that you are at least not performing poorly. If you shoot under par, you are essentially giving yourself a credit, building up a lead. The reverse is true if you shoot over par; you fall behind.

The long putt to make birdie, which is one stroke less than par, carries less pressure than the par putt because a birdie is typically not expected. The par at least keeps you in line with expectations. Therefore if you can imagine yourself in a pressure situation where you have to make a long putt to save par, you can somewhat simulate what the pressure will feel like in a real situation. If you can envision a successful outcome in this difficult circumstance, your ability to succeed in the real life situation will increase.

golf_puttingA long time back, a warrior was given the herculean task of infiltrating an enemy land and finding a princess who had gone missing. He had never met her before, so he couldn’t go by past experience to recognize her. Moreover, he had never battled an entire army of the strongest fighters in the world all by himself. Why would someone be given such a task if it was so difficult? The difficulty in the mission would actually enhance this fighter’s fame for all of time. And since he possessed such endearing qualities, he was completely deserving of the fame and adulation that would subsequently follow.

This warrior would first show off his physical strength by leaping off of a high mountaintop and landing on the other side of a massive ocean. Along the way, his path was obstructed several times, but he used his mental wits combined with his physical gifts to overcome the obstacles. As a good golfer can master both the long and short game, this warrior would also show in the enemy territory of Lanka his ability to conquer small spaces. To reach this island, where it was believed the missing princess had been taken, the warrior in question became massive in size and leaped across an ocean. Now, to look for the princess without being noticed, he shrunk his stature and began roaming the land in that tiny form.

Such amazing displays of dexterity earned this person world renown, and yet there was still a problem. After searching practically every inch of space, he did not find the princess. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that he is not ready to give up. The techniques he used to conquer the mental demons of doubt and trepidation are slightly revealed above. There was one place that he hadn’t searched yet: a park full of Ashoka trees. He wasn’t about to enter this place without thinking first, though. To do this, he mentally placed himself inside of the garden, accounting for all the possible outcomes.

What outcomes could there be? For starters, if this princess was being held in this area, she obviously would be guarded. The princess was taken away from the side of her religiously wedded husband, so whoever took her didn’t want her to be found. The fighter couldn’t just infiltrate this area without paying heed to the circumstances. The spy also happened to be a forest dweller, so he was accustomed to roaming the woods and jumping from tree to tree. He thus had no problem mentally entering a wooded area and placing every type of potential obstacle in front of him.

HanumanDespite his amazing abilities, this brave warrior was not so brash as to think he could just find success on his own. The foolish philosophers, misguided scientists and mental speculators look at the visible manifestations before them and think that they just came to be on their own. “Jobs are created automatically, heat and rain come on their own, and so do the various species.” Because of this viewpoint these variables are taken for granted, with the future aim focused on how to manipulate these aspects of life in favor of furthering a desired outcome. The wise, however, realize that there is an initial cause to everything. The job comes about through a desire for profit, the heat and rain from the controllers of nature, and the many species from the workings of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes.

This means that no outcome can just happen on its own. It’s very easy to get deceived in this area. For instance, if I want to say something, I simply speak and the audible words come out. I think that I am the cause of the released sounds, but in actuality so many other things had to happen for a successful outcome to arrive. From the time that I decided to speak to when the words actually came out, any force of nature could have attacked me. In addition, some disease could have affected my throat to prevent the words from releasing. While we naturally attribute the bad fortune to ill luck, we know that nothing happens without a cause. Therefore there is no such thing as luck; everything is managed by action and reaction, which is more technically known as the law of karma.

This fighter therefore saluted the principle deities of the world, which are spelled out nicely in the Vedic tradition. He also saluted the missing princess’ husband, who was Lord Rama, the Supreme Lord roaming the earth in the guise of a warrior prince. The dedicated warrior in Lanka then saluted Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana and also Rama’s wife, Sita Devi, whom he was searching for. He also honored the principle deities of the creation, asking for their blessings so that they would help him in finding Sita.

Shri HanumanThis courageous servant was none other than Shri Hanuman, who is famous today for his dedication in devotional service to God. His mental entry into the Ashoka wood allowed him to prepare for meeting Sita, as it only built up his anticipation to see the beautiful princess. She is the goddess of fortune herself, so she distributes the unimaginably large wealth possessed by her husband to those who are deserving of it, to those who know how to properly utilize it.

Wealth is not harmful as long as it is used to please the Supreme Lord. Hanuman was wealthy in abilities; he made use of every ounce of opulence he had by directing it towards Rama’s pleasure. He would go on to successfully find Sita and play an integral role in her eventual rescue. Since that time, he continues to use the practice of taking his mind elsewhere, except instead of travelling to the Ashoka wood he directs the mind to always gaze upon the beautiful form of Sita and Rama, who together with Lakshmana are the support of the sincere devotees well aware of life’s true mission, that of becoming God conscious.

In Closing:

Travel to future place within the mind,

So that knowledge of situation to find.


With this method the pitfalls you can detect,

Have better understanding of what to expect.


Many experiences stored in memory thus far,

So imagining future shouldn’t be that hard.


Upon the precipice of victory Hanuman stood,

Decided that he’d mentally enter Ashoka wood.


As forest-dweller familiar with what he’d see,

Finding Sita, Supreme Lord Rama he’d please.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Qualities That Don’t Limit

Krishna stealing butter“Lord Shri Krishna is sometimes described as a thief. He is very famous amongst His pure devotees as the Makhana-chora. He used to steal butter from the houses of neighbors at Vrindavana in His early age. Since then He is famous as a thief. But in spite of His being famous as a thief, He is worshiped as a thief, whereas in the mundane world a thief is punished and is never praised. Since He is the Absolute Personality of Godhead, everything is applicable to Him, and still in spite of all contradictions He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.10.19 Purport)

If someone were to celebrate God as being the kindest person in the world, the recognition is nice, but at the same time there is a limitation. With every attribute there is a complement, or an opposite. It is also said that God is the Supreme Absolute Truth. This means that one quality doesn’t seem sufficient, for by saying that someone possesses one feature, automatically its opposite feature is missing. While this law applies to worldly objects and people, it has no bearing on the one person who is above duality, whose nirguna feature reveals that none of His attributes are limiting.

How does this work exactly? How do we know that the Supreme Person is not limited in His features? In the Vedic tradition, the original divine being is known as Krishna. He is all-attractive and blackish in complexion, so the name suits Him well. The name is assigned by others based on features which already exist. We also know from shastra, or scripture, that Lord Krishna holds a flute in His hands, wears a flower garland around His neck, has a peacock feather in His hair, and sports a smile that defeats the pride of thousands of cupids.

Lord KrishnaThese features are certainly attractive, but what about the opposite quality of unattractiveness? If everything comes from God and the Lord possesses every feature simultaneously, how is He not also unattractive? If He is only attractive, does not that limited feature set represent a defect? If the Lord has a defect, how can He be absolute? How can He be God? Actually, the unattractive feature is also present in Krishna. The entire world is His expansion, so every concept we know of comes from Him. Unattractiveness is not present in His original form, however, for there is nothing negative that comes from Krishna’s personal association.

As an example, take the time that mother Yashoda checked young Krishna’s mouth to see if He had eaten dirt. The other children had accused the young boy of the nasty deed, but the Lord called them liars. Normally, if you’re checking someone’s mouth there is nothing attractive to find inside. The mouth that has just eaten something, especially dirt, will not be pleasant to look into, but the good mother doesn’t care. She is only interested in loving her child, so there is nothing that can disgust her when offering her motherly affection.

“When the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna was so ordered by His mother, He immediately opened His mouth just like an ordinary boy. Then mother Yashoda saw within that mouth the complete opulence of creation. She saw the entire outer space in all directions, mountains, islands, oceans, seas, planets, air, fire, moon and stars.”  (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8)

That which is normally unattractive ended up being a mesmerizing vision. The inside of Krishna’s mouth showed the universe, with its many planets and stars. The mother thought she was hallucinating, that the vision couldn’t possibly be real. Here we see a small example of what nirguna, or the absence of material qualities, means. A guna is a material quality assumed by the living entities travelling through the cycle of reincarnation. A guna can also mean an attribute, an identifiable feature. What we typically refer to as unattractive does not have the same nature in the Supreme Lord. The feature may still be there, but the effect is different. The inside of the mouth that is normally unattractive is a spiritualized guna, or attribute, with Krishna.

Lord KrishnaAnother example is stealing. Normally, theft is against the rules of propriety. Everything originally belongs to God, but during travels through temporary bodies, the living beings get to borrow the various material elements for their personal use. Taking that which belongs to someone else is inherently wrong and it carries negative consequences in the future. If you steal from someone today, karma dictates that someone will steal from you at a later time.

With Krishna, stealing carries no negative consequences. For starters, the Lord is above dharma, or religiosity. The purpose of a system of maintenance that meets the qualities of the soul is to connect the individual with the ultimate reservoir of pleasure. Krishna doesn’t need to follow rules and regulations to meet Himself; therefore He is not bound by any laws of conduct. When He was a child in Vrindavana, He would steal butter from the neighbors. The mothers would hide their stock of churned butter in a safe spot, but Krishna and His friends would hatch elaborate plots to steal the supplies and enjoy the butter to their stomachs’ satisfaction.

When a thief steals they are punished, but when Krishna steals He is celebrated. To this day devotees delight in hearing the pastimes of the butter thief of Vrindavana. Ordinarily the act of theft represents a defect in personal qualities, ignorance with respect to property rights. Since God is nirguna, the same quality turns out to be beneficial to all parties involved.

Krishna’s childhood form also gives us an example of an apparent contradiction. Children and adults are at opposite ends of the spectrum because of the difference in maturity levels. A child doesn’t know any better and due to their poor fund of knowledge they require adult supervision. The adult is responsible for the care and providing for the family’s well-being. Yet with Krishna the form of a child bears no limitation. He can steal, eat dirt, tease the young girls of the town, and have wrestling matches with His friends and the activities are heralded and meditated upon by yogis. These childish antics normally don’t mean anything, as they are considered childish for a reason.

Narasimhadeva killing HiranyakashipuIf Krishna possesses all mutually contradictory attributes, how are we to properly address Him? We can say that He is attractive, but He is unattractive at the same time. We can say that His form is beautiful, but He has a formless aspect as well. We can say that He is extremely kind, but He can show wrath as well. With the demon Hiranyakashipu, Krishna in the form of a half-man/half-lion bifurcated a miscreant using His nails. This is certainly a gruesome way to kill someone, and yet with Krishna the act is celebrated. In pictures depicting the incident, it is seen that Prahlada Maharaja is offering a flower garland to Narasimhadeva as the killing is taking place. Prahlada was Hiranyakashipu’s five year old son, so how could he not protest what was going on? Ah, but Prahlada had been harassed by his father to the point that so many attempts were made on his life. Prahlada’s real affection was for God, so seeing Him in a ferocious form was still a cause for worship.

The question is how to describe the indescribable. The answer is that you can’t. Rather, the Supreme Absolute Truth is neti neti, or not this and not that. However, this doesn’t mean that the attempt can’t be made. We can never make the perfect painting or write the perfect song, but the process is pleasurable nonetheless. There is some enjoyment derived through the attempt and also in the interaction with the end product. With Krishna consciousness, or bhakti-yoga, the process purifies the participant along the way. The devotee who at least attempts to glorify Krishna finds so much pleasure that they’ll spend the rest of their life doing the same. At the time of death, they’ll pray to be able to continue that glorification in life after life. As the original source of everything, Krishna ensures that whoever wants to glorify Him is never bereft of attributes and pastimes to focus on. The Lord’s all-pervading nature, His qualities that don’t have limitations, provide endless delight to the sincere souls.

Lord KrishnaIn bhakti, the sincere worshiper inherits the same ability to transcend duality that exists in the heavenly father. For instance, normally the loss of fortune is considered harmful. Fortune is beneficial because it allows for life’s necessities to be met without a problem. A person who becomes destitute thus has a tough time dealing with life, with their mind constantly burdened with fears pertaining to the future. Destitution in bhakti, however, can be good because it allows for thoughts to more clearly focus on Krishna. With too much opulence, a person can get distracted by all the attachments to objects. In the more renounced spirit, not only is life easier to maintain, but so is the dedication to regularly chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, which is the most effective cure for misery in the modern age.

No amount of indulgence in divine love is too much and no amount of contemplation upon the wonderful features of the butter thief of Vrindavana can satisfy the appetite for transcendental nectar. Insatiability is usually a negative feature, but when applied to Krishna, it serves as a catalyst for repeated engagements that automatically keep one renounced from harmful acts and focused on the path that leads to the imperishable spiritual sky.

In Closing:

Butter from the neighbors Krishna does steal,

Hearing of this the mind it does heal.


How is this, is not theft something bad?

Does not taking property make others mad?


Rules don’t apply to Shri Krishna’s case,

Full of transcendental charm is His smiling face.


Supreme Lord possesses features contradictory,

Understood through hearing Vedic history.


In bhakti all conditions end up being good,

Because in path Krishna gradually understood.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Rama and Lakshmana“The two youths, one dark-skinned and one fair, are treasures of beauty. It appears that Lord Brahma has taken all the beauty in the world and placed it in them.” (Janaki Mangala, 32)

syāmala gaura kisora manoharatā nidhi |
suṣamā sakala sakeli manahum̐ birace bidhi ||

As if you have found a treasure chest full of the most beautiful objects in the world, watching Lord Rama leave along with His younger brother Lakshmana brought so much joy to the eyes. Any chance to get a glimpse at these sweet boys was time well spent, as the material conditions have never been able to bring about such a benefit. The eyes are provided for a reason, and without the proper target to gaze upon the enchantment of material allures can lead us astray, in the process giving the eyes a bad name. With Dasharatha’s two sons leaving with the sage Vishvamitra, however, it seemed as if all the beauty in the world had been stored in one place. That same beauty is available to the eyes of the mind to feast on through the sacred works of Goswami Tulsidas.

Goswami TulsidasKing Dasharatha’s sons are the Supreme Lord and His support systems respectively. Why would God need support? It is the soul’s dharma to serve. In general, in the perverted state the individual living being seeks out the role of lord or master, when in reality they are ideally suited to be servant. Think of a high school production of a play, where the different acts represent the timeline through life. Every conditioned being is trying to audition for the leading role of controller, the person responsible for creation, maintenance and destruction. No one wants to try out for the role of servant, though characteristically everyone is properly suited for it.

The Lord’s younger brother Lakshmana, who is always His support system, has no interest in being master. He is already the leader of the disciplic succession of spiritual instruction, which teaches the many fragments of spirit their ideal condition, but he is always at the helm ready to provide service. As he can never disassociate from his dharma, he is considered the exemplary living entity, someone who is worshipable by his acts. Lakshmana is glorious and so dedicated to his service that not even Rama can stop him. Though God is the Supreme Controller capable of defying the law of gravity and controlling every outcome to events, He does not stand in the way of pure devotion that is inspired without motivation and without interruption.

In His spiritual manifestation as Lakshmana, God’s primary supporter has a fair complexion. The Supreme Lord, on the other hand, is darker. In some traditions the personal form of the Supreme Lord is denied, or it is taken to be subordinate to His impersonal feature. “Just as the living entities accept bodies and then reject them, so the Supreme Lord must follow the same tact, even when He appears before our very eyes.” This logic is flawed, as even the Vedas don’t support it. Impersonalism defined as a scientific discipline originates in the Vedas, the oldest scriptures for mankind. Every type of religious system and every system of maintenance descends from the original word of God handed down to Lord Brahma at the beginning of creation.

Yet only in the original system is the proper understanding of God as a person revealed. That personal feature has specific attributes that follow the different personal expansions. In the Vaishnava traditions it is agreed that Lord Vishnu is the original Personality of Godhead. Though some lines of disciplic succession take Lord Krishna to be the original and others Lord Rama, in any case there is no difference because Vishnu, Krishna, and Rama are practically the same person. The Vishnu-avataras are the expansions of the original personality, so they are equal to one another. Their spiritual manifestations are varied slightly, but in their original features they possess a shyama color.

“The shyama color is not exactly blackish. Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura compares it to the color of the atasi flower. It is not that Lord Krishna Himself appears in a blackish color in all the Dvapara-yugas. In other Dvapara-yugas, previous to Lord Krishna’s appearance, the Supreme Lord appeared in a greenish body by His own personal expansion. This is mentioned in the Vishnu Purana, Hari-vamsha and Mahabharata.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.337 Purport)

Lord VishnuShyama is dark. It can refer to dark blue or even green sometimes. The shyama color is like the tamala tree, of which very few are still left on this earth. Shyama is also like the color of the atasi flower or the raincloud that is just about to start pouring down its water. Generally, dark colored skin is not as visually appealing as fair-colored skin, but with the Supreme Lord His shyama complexion is still beautiful. For this reason He is also addressed by the name of Shyamasundara, which more specifically refers to His form as Shri Krishna.

With King Dasharatha, two of his sons were dark-skinned and two were fair. Bharata and Rama were of the darker shade and Lakshmana and Shatrughna were lighter. They were all either directly Vishnu or expansions of Him, so they were not lacking anything in beauty. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Goswami Tulsidas is specifically referring to the beauty of Rama and Lakshmana, who at a young age left the town of Ayodhya to escort the venerable Vishvamitra Muni through the forests. All attention was on the two youths, for who could imagine that they would leave home for such a purpose? Young children commonly go on trips, perhaps to have fun or to learn something from someone. You can throw kids into an open field without any direction and they will find a way to stay entertained.

The onlookers weren’t worried about Rama and Lakshmana being bored. Rather, Vishvamitra was taking them to the forest to act as protectors. Rama was not yet twelve years of age, so how much protection could He offer? Again, we are reminded of the difference between God and the living entities. A normal twelve year old is limited in both mental and physical maturation, so their capabilities aren’t as great as they will be in adulthood. With the Supreme Lord, any of His outward manifestations is equally as capable. As a young child in Vrindavana, the same Shri Rama would destroy the wicked plots of so many nefarious characters sent to the town by the neighboring King Kamsa. As a young child, Rama as Shri Krishna would lift a massive hill and hold it over His head for seven days to act as an umbrella to protect the residents of Vrindavana.

The young Rama was ready to protect Vishvamitra, for age did not hamper His ability to use the bow and arrow. Lakshmana came along because he would never leave Rama alone. Not to be mistaken for an annoying younger brother who insists on tagging along, Lakshmana’s presence was cherished by Rama. The true strength of the fraternal bond of affection shared between the two is known only to them, but through outward actions and the recorded events found in the Ramayana and its derivative literatures we gain a slight understanding of it.

Vishvamitra with Lakshmana and RamaRama and Lakshmana were beautiful in their appearance and also in their behavior. They didn’t complain about going with Vishvamitra. They were happy to protect the priestly class, an obligation vital to their order. They were descendants of King Raghu, so they were sometimes addressed as Raghava. They were taught from birth to follow righteousness and to always respect the brahmanas, who eschew material life in favor of worshiping God and teaching others how to follow that worship through the execution of their assigned duties. Seeing the boys carrying their bows and arrows and happily following Vishvamitra, the hearts of the residents just melted. Children are the essence of innocence, so when they take up serious tasks the sincerity of purpose is revealed. There were no ulterior motives in Rama and Lakshmana. They operated out of love only.

It is difficult to accurately describe God’s beauty, so the kind poet Tulsidas has here made a very nice comparison. Lord Vishnu is the origin of life and matter, but the specific faculties for creating are invested in Lord Brahma. If we see something possessing natural beauty, it is to be understood that it is the handiwork of the creator, Brahma. But with God such references to Brahma’s creating ability only relate to appearance, as Rama and Lakshmana’s bodies are not created. There is no difference between spirit and matter for God or His plenary expansions like Lakshmana. Nevertheless the comparisons are made in an attempt to describe what an onlooker might think.

Shri Rama darbarTulsidas says that it looked like Brahma had taken all of the beauty in the world and placed it into Rama and Lakshmana. This is a nice form of flattery in one sense, but a true statement at the same time. Rama is the owner of matter, so His spiritual features represent the height of all opulence. As Bhagavan, He possesses beauty, wealth, strength, fame, renunciation and wisdom simultaneously and to the fullest extent. He is not lacking in anything. Lakshmana, Rama’s constant companion, is the servitor-God, so he has the same features to an almost identical level.

This would not be the only time Tulsidas would use such a comparison. Similar kinds of statements are found in passages describing Rama’s future wife, Sita Devi. The two youths following Vishvamitra would eventually cause that union to take place on earth, though Sita and Rama are forever together in the spiritual sky. Pretty soon thereafter, the fourth piece of the group, Shri Hanuman, would join. Rama therefore never leaves the worshiper alone. If you honor Him then you get to bask in the sweet vision of Lakshmana, Sita and Hanuman as well. With those four beauties giving pleasure to the eyes, what more could anyone ask for?

In Closing:

Lord Brahma, all elements does he take,

To carry out his duty to create.


From the observer’s point of view,

All beauty Brahma must have used.


To craft bodies of Rama and Lakshmana the brother,

Their beauty out of this world, like no other.


Rama of skin dark and Lakshmana was fair,

Combination caused pleased eyes to stare.


To the forest with Vishvamitra were they sent,

Taking beauty with them, away the brothers went.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hail To The Chief

Lord Krishna“While the Lord was departing from the palace of Hastinapura, different types of drums - like the mrdanga, dhola, nagra, dhundhuri and dundubhi - and flutes of different types, the vina, gomukha and bheri, all sounded together to show Him honor.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.10.15)

It’s a magical moment. You’ve been searching your whole life for that one thing to make you happy, something which sparks an interest upon first contact. For many, the first moment when they hear about the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Krishna is remembered forever. The reservoir of beauty, the most attractive entity in the world, the origin of knowledge, the cause of the creation and its subsequent dissolution, and the protector of the surrendered souls makes an immediate impression on those who are looking for a higher taste, one which transcends the dualities present in the material realm. At the same time, once that transcendental taste is relished, the desire is to acquire it again. Should the source of that delight suddenly depart, their absence causes much distress. This was the case with the departure of Shri Krishna from the kingdom of Hastinapura.

If God is the reservoir of all good things, how can He cause pain to someone? In the Ramacharitamanasa of Tulsidas, it is wisely pointed out that both the saint and the miscreant cause pain. The cause of distress coming from the nefarious character is easy to decipher. They steal from us, lie to us, inflict pain upon our body and mind, and leave us generally unsure of the future. Without a feeling of security, how can there be peace? And without peace, how can there be happiness?

“One who is not in transcendental consciousness can have neither a controlled mind nor steady intelligence, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be any happiness without peace?”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.66)

Lord KrishnaThe saint also causes pain, though. Their association is so wonderful that when they should happen to leave us, as is bound to happen in a world that is temporary, the pain that results is very strong. The saint doesn’t intend to cause this suffering, but with their wonderful qualities they just can’t help but create a situation where so much happiness is seen that is otherwise absent from the affected parties’ lives.

The saints get their divine qualities from their intimate connection with the Supreme Lord. Therefore we can deduce that separation from God causes the most acute pain. Indeed, that separation is the genesis of the material creation and its subsequent unpleasant conditions. How can we say with ontological certitude that the material realm is miserable? Isn’t that too broad a generalization? For starters, we know that the land we live in is temporary. If it weren’t, there would be no need to trace out history and discuss theories of origin. Whether one is a theist, an atheist, a believer in a big bang as a source, or doesn’t care at all, the creation still manifested at some point. What goes up must come down, so whatever is created must eventually be destroyed.

The illusion of the temporary realm is so strong that even things we don’t derive much value from are missed when they are gone. Think of a job that you’ve worked at for many years. Perhaps you don’t like many of the days that you have to go into the office and all the politics between the employees and the constant uncertainty over the company’s future. Yet if you should happen to lose your job there, you will feel a little sad. Through the many days of working an attachment gets formed, even though that same time could have been used to form an attachment to something more worthwhile. This also explains why despots and cruel dictators are missed and cried over when they pass on. Despite their tyrannical rule, these leaders were able to create some sort of an attachment from the citizens.

Since God’s company is the best, any time you separate from Him you head for a condition of misery. The nature of the material land supports this fact. In Krishna’s company there is no such thing as time and space as we know them. The passage of time still occurs in God’s presence, but it doesn’t have a debilitating effect. Space is still boundless, but there is no negative influence upon the temporary body. Rather, the spirit soul fully energized with devotion to God has a spiritual body, a form that is permanent in its manifestation.

Lord KrishnaIf the spirit souls in God’s company are eternal and non-different from their bodies, how does anyone ever come to the material world? There is always a choice in association. Should a child desire to disobey the father, the father may try to persuade them otherwise, but the desires of the child can eventually win over. If there is forced suppression, the child will still have the seed of desire. The spirit souls desirous of lording over nature are granted residence in a temporary realm, where pain is caused by the association of thieves and the absence of saints.

Fortunately, even in the temporary realm the presence of the divine master can be had. In special circumstances, He personally appears, in a form that is both visible and spiritual. Typically there is a difference between body and soul. The body is temporary after all, constantly changing and marked for destruction at a future moment in time. With Krishna’s descents, this pattern appears to hold true, but in reality the spiritual form is identical to the owner, the individual within that form.

To see proof of this, we can look to the incident of Krishna leaving the kingdom of Hastinapura. In His adult aged years, Krishna spent a lot of time with a group of five brothers who were known as the Pandavas. They were of the royal order and had the rightful claim to the throne in the city of elephants. Yet through the nefarious attempts of a rival cousin and his family, the brothers faced hardship after hardship. Many attempts were made on their lives, but somehow they managed to survive through them all. Eventually, they were able to win the war of wars and regain their kingdom.

The brothers were not mystics adept in magic nor were they so powerful that they could do all of this on their own. Rather, their only wealth was the kind support of Shri Krishna, who was especially fond of Arjuna, the best bow warrior of the group. After the dust settled, Krishna stayed in Hastinapura as the exalted guest of the eldest Pandava brother, King Yudhishthira. Everyone enjoyed the Lord’s company so much, including the mother of the Pandavas, Kunti Devi. Draupadi, the wife of the five brothers, also remembered Krishna fondly and cherished His personal presence in the town.

Alas, the Lord finally had to leave for His kingdom in Dvaraka. As He was set to embark, He received a royal treatment, with much fanfare, sort of like how the President of the United States hears Hail to the Chief wherever he goes. The pomp of the egress could not dampen the sorrow of the residents, who were feeling the separation from their beloved Krishna.

Lord KrishnaUnder normal circumstances, once a person leaves our company, they are not with us. That is what it means to be separated, after all. The soul is capable of residing anywhere, but within a material form its influence is limited to the direct sphere, the area where the eyes, ears, nose, hands and legs can take action. For the residents in Hastinapura, Krishna’s separation should have meant that they no longer could be with Him. Ah, but in fact the Lord never left them; He never abandons the devotees who always think of Him.

As the Supreme Absolute Truth, Krishna’s name is identical with Krishna the person. Thoughts of His pastimes and the mental picture of His adorable form, holding the flute and wearing a peacock feather in the hair, bring the same association, as if Krishna were standing right before the individual. Proof of this fact is given in the behavior of the residents in Hastinapura that day and also in the devotional activities of the countless generations of mankind subsequent to that time. The fact that Krishna is still talked about, honored, and glorified to this day shows that His spirit is not different from His body.

That same quality of oneness can be achieved by the surrendered souls. Once they quit their body, they attain a nature similar to Krishna’s, that is they get a spiritual body that is not different from the soul. This particular body has the notable distinction of being able to directly carry out service to Shri Krishna without exhaustion. A taste of that service is granted in the material world through regular chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and it continues onwards to wherever fate may lead the individual.

Question: If everyone is so sad when Krishna leaves, why doesn’t He just stay with us all the time?

The Lord actually never separates from the individual. What causes the distinction between material and spiritual life is the forgetfulness of that link on the part of the individual. That forgetfulness is totally desired, for it is said in the Bhagavad-gita that Shri Krishna is the remembrance and forgetfulness of man.

“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.15)

Lord KrishnaThe individual wanting to imitate God desires that temporary lack of knowledge, though they may not remember making that decision. The purpose of chanting and hearing about Krishna’s pastimes is to reawaken that remembrance, to let the individual know that Krishna has never left them. The manifested form before the eyes only reminds everyone of who is already pervading the entire space. The unmanifested form is very difficult to realize, as it is not immediately attractive, nor does it provide a pleasurable interaction. The unmanifested form is like the beam of light coming off of the sun. The sun is always more splendorous, so the Personality of Godhead Himself is the reservoir of pleasure, the entity who is fit to accept an endless amount of service from all the people of the world simultaneously.

As soon as the predominant desire is to have Krishna in your life all the time, the wish is granted. The Pandavas didn’t necessarily stay by the Lord’s side all the time, but never could they forget Him. Even during times of turmoil and despair, such as when Arjuna would later realize that his fighting powers had vanished, the remembrance of the Lord and His influence was still there. That heightened level of thinking is known as Krishna consciousness, and its fruitful growth indicates that the auspicious human birth was taken full advantage of.

In Closing:

Obeisances offered for Krishna love shows,

Drums and horns make sounds wherever He goes.


Finally had to leave the city of elephants,

To Pandava family brief was Krishna’s stint.


Upon His departure Kunti and family in pain,

Their loss would soon be Dvaraka’s gain.


Even when not in presence God you can still see,

No difference between body and spirit, everywhere is He.


Never forgot Krishna though all were certainly sad,

Memory of Shyamasundara and His presence they had.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Together Always

Shri Rama darbar“I offer my obeisances to Shri Rama, along with Lakshmana and the divine lady, the daughter of King Janaka. I offer my obeisances to Rudra, Indra, Yama, and Anila, the deity of the wind. I offer my obeisances to the moon, the sun, and the wind-gods.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.59)

namo astu rāmāya salakṣmaṇāya |
devyai ca tasyai janaka ātmajāyai |
namo astu rudra indra yama anilebhyo |
namo astu candra arka marud gaṇebhyaḥ ||

This verse provides a glimpse into the famous Rama Darbar, a collection of four primary worshipable figures of the Vedic tradition. God is a singular entity, so worship of Him is typically done in a one-to-one connection, or at least this is man’s tendency. But those who are familiar with the Lord and His multifarious energies keep His entourage with Him in their minds, maintaining the family-like atmosphere that exists in the spiritual kingdom. That direct energy accompanies the original divine being during His performances in the material land, where He acts in plays that follow scripts written to perfection. The energy of God is like the trailing light of the sun, which follows it in its path through the sky. The energy is actually not different from the energetic; therefore the wise invoke God and His expansions in the same breath, keeping them together within their vision.

Shri Rama DarbarWhat is so special about the Rama Darbar? Why is Lord Rama alongside others? Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His spiritual manifestation as a warrior prince. A spiritual manifestation is different from a material one because the collection of elements is not inhibiting nor is it separate from the person directing things. The wheels on the bus go round and round, but they can also be replaced. The removed wheel doesn’t have any bearing on the other collection of elements that makes up the bus; hence it has a separate existence. With the Supreme Lord, however, His bodily features are tied to Him intrinsically. The material elements are inhibiting only for those who are not as potent as God, for beings who are subject to the forces of the land devoid of God’s personal influence.

The Rama Darbar features the prince of the Raghu dynasty, Lord Rama, accompanied by His closest associates. He is the first person invoked by Shri Hanuman in the above quoted verse. The faithful warrior was on a reconnaissance mission, and though he contemplated quitting after having not been successful despite so much effort, he nevertheless decided to forge ahead. There was one area in the enemy land that he had infiltrated that he had yet to search. Just prior to this, Hanuman told himself that he would worship several exalted divine figures who manage the material creation, such as the deities of the wind and the physicians of the heavenly planets. That these personalities should exist isn’t that surprising, as the gross collection of material elements needs a guiding force, intelligent life forces to ensure that the distribution of rewards and punishments is both timely and fair.

In this particular case, Hanuman is following through with his invocation. He was tasked with finding a missing princess, so rather than assume he could do everything on his own, the humble warrior invoked the names of his beloved worshipable figures, those he was dedicating his work to. Every activity has a beneficiary, even if it is not readily identified within the consciousness. The majority of the time that beneficiary is the individual, but in Hanuman’s case it was Rama, or God. Hanuman didn’t need to invoke the Lord’s name, as he was already acting under His direction. But Hanuman always likes to remember Shri Rama no matter what he is doing. If he should fail in his task to find the missing princess, Hanuman would at least get the benefit of invoking Rama’s name.

Why is it beneficial to remember the name? The holy name carries with it the potency of the Supreme Spirit. Just as the living entity cannot be divorced of its identity with Brahman, or pure spirit, the Supreme Lord is not different from His name. The fact that we see a difference indicates that we are subordinate to God. The name is the lifeline for the surrendered souls, a way to remain connected to their beloved, even if He is seemingly not with them in person.

Lord RamaRecitation of the holy name also keeps God and His divine qualities within memory. In times of trouble, the mind will take shelter of pleasant things, those experiences and people which are known to provide comfort. As no one is more powerful and capable of rescuing fallen souls than God, remembering Him is the most worthwhile activity. Through thick and thin, happiness and sadness, buying and selling, rising and falling, remembering God is never a wasted effort. Hanuman knew this very well, so he first invoked Rama’s name.

Of course, Hanuman remembered Lakshmana as well. Two-for-one, you get one you automatically get the other. Lakshmana is Rama’s younger brother and he never leaves the Lord’s side. Not a nagging sibling by any stretch, Lakshmana takes it upon himself to be his brother’s protector. Rama is older, thus it is His dharma, or occupational duty, to provide protection to His younger siblings. This fact makes Lakshmana’s attitude all the more endearing. He is not required to offer any service to Rama in the mood that he does, but he doesn’t care about the mundane rules of society. Lakshmana’s only dharma in life is service to Rama, and whatever he needs to do to keep that service going he will follow. Rama, for His part, loves Lakshmana just as much; therefore the two are inseparable.

Hanuman had the good fortune of meeting both of them, and even carrying them on his shoulders. This all occurred in a very short meeting when Rama was looking for Sita Devi, His wife who had gone missing while the couple was residing in the forest of Dandaka. Hanuman lived with Sugriva and his kingdom of monkeys in Kishkindha. An odd alliance was thus formed, with Sugriva agreeing to help Rama find Sita. Not surprisingly, the same messenger who brokered that deal would be handed the burden of success in the mission. Hanuman found his way into Lanka, where it was learned Sita had been taken. Yet when he really needed help in the mission, he remembered Rama and invoked His name.

Hanuman carrying Rama and LakshmanaBy first remembering Rama and Lakshmana, we get the first two pieces of the Rama Darbar. Next, Hanuman remembered Sita Devi, the person he was looking for. It is a little ironic that he would invoke her name, for she was thought to be in a distressful situation. Typically, you invoke the name of someone who is powerful and capable of granting boons in order to find success. If you need help, why would you think of someone who is in trouble? This shows that Hanuman knew Sita’s divine nature and her unmatched brilliance in qualitative makeup. She is described here as the daughter of King Janaka, who was one of the most respected kings in the world at that time. This meant that Sita was the king of queens, the best of all ladies. She could grant any boon to anyone, and she would especially favor those who were serving her husband.

Hanuman was strictly engaged in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Yoga doesn’t necessarily have to involve meditation or the practice of gymnastics exercises. Yoga is the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul, or God’s expansion residing within the heart. Therefore whatever steps can be taken to form and maintain that link fall under the umbrella of bhakti-yoga. Though Hanuman was searching for Sita in a foreign land, he was immersed in bhakti because he remembered Rama and His associates all the time. Just this verse from the Ramayana alone shows how captivated by divine love Hanuman was.

Hanuman also gives reverence to Lord Shiva, Lord Indra, Lord Yama, the wind-god, the sun, the moon, and the many other deities in charge of the wind. Lord Shiva is Rama’s faithful devotee who is also charged with destroying the creation. Lord Indra is the king of the heavenly realm and he controls the rain. Lord Yama is the god of justice, who hands out punishment to those deserving of it. The wind-god is actually Hanuman’s father, and he plays an important role in ensuring that the life airs are intact. The other deities of the wind are similarly important, thus Hanuman called upon them.

Rama Darbar with worshiping godsEach of these deities had specific relevance to the present situation. Lord Shiva was the worshipable figure for Ravana, the king of Lanka who had taken Sita away while Rama was temporarily not by her side. Though Lord Shiva grants material benedictions to anyone who pleases him properly, he is completely devoted to Rama. Hence there was no question as to whose side Lord Shiva was on. He was more than willing to help Hanuman in his mission. Lord Indra similarly was not rooting for Ravana, a demon who had terrorized both Indra and the other demigods. Lord Yama was invoked to ensure that Ravana would get the punishment that was due him for having taken the religiously wedded wife of another man. The sun and the moon are powerful entities who serve the Supreme Lord, so their influence could also be helpful. The wind-gods would help Hanuman succeed in his mission by allowing him to course through the town unnoticed, granting him the ability to dodge the attacks of the Rakshasas inhabiting the land.

The fourth piece of the Rama Darbar is Hanuman himself, who is always seen kneeling before Sita, Rama and Lakshmana and offering his obeisances. In one sense the scene from the above referenced quote can be considered the very first instance of the Rama Darbar. Mentally, Hanuman had the other three people standing before him, and he was offering his respects to them prior to undertaking his mission. Not surprisingly, this would be the last step Hanuman would need to find Sita. Finally entering the Ashoka wood, Hanuman would find the missing princess and set the wheels in motion for her rescue.

Hanuman is the dearest associate of Shri Rama and His family. Worshiping Hanuman is never futile because he brings Sita, Rama and Lakshmana with him. They are always within his consciousness, so anyone who is familiar with Hanuman and his qualities can’t help but find the association of Rama and His beloved younger brother and His famed wife, the beautiful daughter of King Janaka. The four of them always remain together, at least in spirit, so anyone who remembers them will similarly meet success in their devotional efforts.

In Closing:

If you are in moment of divine reflection,

Offer mind to the most sacred collection.


Four people who are beautiful in their character,

Auspiciousness to their devotees they offer.


Lord Rama, devoted son of wind god first remembering,

The prince of Raghu clan, son of Dasharatha the king.


Hanuman then remembered Lakshmana the brother,

And wife Sita Devi, King Janaka’s splendid daughter.


Shiva, Indra, Yama, and deities of wind offered respect,

With such support, success for Hanuman we should always expect.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Elder Brother

King Yudhishthira“The human being is the elder brother of all other living beings. He is endowed with intelligence more powerful than animals for realizing the course of nature and the indications of the Almighty Father.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.10.4 Purport)

It’s just not fair. The elder brother gets all the grief, all the negative attention, and seemingly none of the benefits. The younger siblings can mess up all the time, perform poorly, set a bad example for others, and still not get nearly as much blame as the eldest child does. This is a fact of life that must eventually be accepted, for the older one is supposed to be wiser. They are expected to set a good example for the rest of the children to follow. The elder brother has the authority as well, for they are more powerful than the younger brothers until full maturity is reached. With that responsibility comes the potential for setting the best example and also providing the best protection. The elder brother who fulfills their obligations thus achieves a very high end in life.

Why does the eldest get this burden? What if they didn’t ask for it? The younger ones live under the protection of the parents and the elder brother. The protection of the parents is easy to understand. The mother and father provide for the food, clothing and shelter and make sure that the difficulties in life are minimized while the young ones have a chance to mature. The protection of the elder brother comes in the form of the shielding of the parents’ influence. In the majority of cases, the younger siblings can skate by without drawing too much attention to themselves, but the elder is not so lucky. They are the first ones to get the blame and the last ones to get the credit. Nevertheless, throughout the course of human history there have been some terrific elder brothers, who bore the responsibility without uttering a complaint and set the best example for future generations.

Rama with brothers, wife and HanumanOf course a brother who is an incarnation of God would serve as the ideal example. Shri Ramachandra, also known as Lord Rama, the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha, set a terrific example for His younger brothers to follow. Sometimes the right course in life wasn’t apparently clear and Rama was not without His own difficult circumstances. As the eldest son, Rama was expected to be the successor to the throne, but on the eve of His coronation, He was instead ordered to leave the kingdom. Here was an instance where Rama was wronged without a reason. He was treated unfairly only because of the selfish motives of one of Dasharatha’s wives, Kaikeyi, who wanted her own son Bharata to be on the throne.

“Please tell me which of Your enemies shall today be deprived of their life, fame, and friends by me. I am Your faithful servant, so please do instruct me as to how I shall go about bringing this whole earth under Your control.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 23.40)

Lord Rama was the most powerful bow warrior of His time, so He could put up a violent resistance at any time. Indeed, this is what the younger brother Lakshmana suggested. Lakshmana was the third of four sons of Dasharatha, and he was the closest to Rama, though all the brothers respected and loved their eldest brother. Rama took the news of exile to the forest for fourteen years in stride, but Lakshmana did not. He did not have an example to set. Rather, he was able to follow his natural inclination of loving Rama first, without giving much attention to other details.

Lakshmana loved Rama more than anyone else, and he showed this by suggesting that the Lord enact a coup and take over the kingdom. Lest Rama think He would have to do all the work, Lakshmana insisted that he would administer the violent overthrow all by himself. Should Dasharatha or Bharata mount an opposition, Lakshmana would defeat them in battle. Rama was certainly pleased to the heart by the devotion shown by Lakshmana, but the suggestion was never taken seriously. Dasharatha and Bharata had done nothing wrong, and if Rama ignored the order, it would sully the family name established by the many pious kings who previously ruled in the Ikshvaku dynasty.

Rama set the example of an ideal elder brother and righteous ruler. He was detached from the outcome of events, though He fought rigorously to defend dharma, or religiosity. His brothers didn’t bear nearly the same burden because they were not the eldest in the family, but they appreciated everything that Rama did for them. Bharata, for his part, would later try to convince Rama to return home from the forest, but the Lord responded with many cogent facts relating to the shastras, or scriptures, and the need for upholding the good name of the father.

King YudhishthiraMany thousands of years later, an incarnation of dharma itself, Maharaja Yudhishthira, set a great example for his four younger brothers. The Pandavas faced many hardships and it would have been easy to ignore the rules of propriety and simply go on the attack against the aggressors in this case, the Kauravas. Bhima, one of the younger brothers, was always in an irritated spirit, angry at the people who had wronged his family. If not for Yudhishthira’s calming influence, Bhima might have acted upon his inclination towards violence. The eldest brother had much pressure on him, and sometimes he buckled under that pressure, but never did he completely abandon virtue. Rather, he was there every step of the way to set the best example, which would eventually result in the triumph of the Pandavas over the Kauravas. Of course that victory was not without the aid of the same Shri Rama in His original form of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

In the bigger picture, the human being is considered the elder brother of all living entities. Strange to think that we have a relation to tigers, alligators and insects, but we do. Every life force is a part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, miniature samples of God that are vastly inferior in the output of divine qualities. Knowledge, wealth, beauty, fame, strength and renunciation exist in the human being but not nearly to the same levels as they are found in the Supreme Lord.

The variety in species exists because of guna and karma, or inherent qualities and fruitive action. Yet just because one person makes a mistake and another is free of mistakes doesn’t mean that there is any constitutional difference between the two. The results are just temporary, while the qualitative makeup is the same. In the same light, the lower species are either travelling upward in the chain of spiritual evolution towards the highest form known as the human birth or they have temporarily fallen down from the auspicious condition of the human life.

In either case the human being still bears the burden of responsibility, for they are more intelligent. If the younger brother and older brother should get into a fight, even if the older is not in the wrong, the parents will blame him. “But Dad, I didn’t start it. He hit me first.” What is the response of the parents? “Well, you’re supposed to know better. He doesn’t know what he is doing, but you do.” For the human being this same principle applies. Just because the tiger eats other animals doesn’t mean that the mature human being has to follow the same behavior. Rather, with the combination of sobriety in thought and activity in the mode of goodness, the human being has the chance to realize the oneness of spirit, to see the undivided in the divided.

“That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of goodness.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.20)

Lord KrishnaNot that everyone is the exact same entity or God Himself, but every living being is part of the giant collection of spiritual energy known as Brahman. Only the human being can realize Brahman, and from that realization comes model behavior, which seeks to maintain that equal vision and also advance to the next position of loving God in His personal form. The living entity must eat another living entity to survive, for that is the law of nature. At the same time, however, there is discrimination. Even amongst meat eaters, there isn’t a desire to eat other human beings or cats or dogs. Therefore, the human being naturally uses discrimination, and with the vision of Brahman, the right kind of discrimination is applied.

“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.26)

How do we know which living entities we are allowed to eat? Grains, fruits, vegetables and milk have been provided to the human being for its sustenance. There is no sin involved in eating these foodstuffs when they have been first offered to the Supreme Lord. Animal flesh cannot be offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, for He has no desire to profit from another creature’s unlawful slaying. The food consumption of the human should also be limited, as eating is not meant solely to fulfill urges for sense gratification. It is correct to try to maintain the vital force within the body, for as long as there is conscious thought within the human form there is every chance of realizing God. But to try to go beyond maintaining the body and enjoy the senses at the cost of others is not a valid utilization of effort.

From setting the best example through loving God, the human being automatically has love for other creatures. With love for everyone, there is no question of anger, rage, greed, vengeance, or unnecessarily inhibiting the growth of others. Thus simply by loving God, by regularly chanting His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the elder brother that is the human being sets up conditions where everyone can move forward in their evolution towards the same platform of God consciousness.

In Closing:

The elder brother sets example on how to live,

Proper knowledge to younger siblings he gives.


In quarrel, spotlight on elder all the same,

Even if younger started, elder still to get blame.


Human being is elder of species, should set good example,

By knowing that all living entities of God are a sample.


Tigers and other creatures their prey they will chase,

Wiser human their behavior not to imitate.


Grains, flowers and milk for human being’s palate,

By devotion to God, in pure goodness sit.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Inviting Auspiciousness

Lakshmana holding his bow“By offering good tidings and wishing for all good things to happen, it was as if the people invited auspiciousness to the scene. Rama and Lakshmana then left with the sage.” (Janaki Mangala, 31)

hohiṃ saguna subha mangala janu kahi dīnheu |
rāma lakhana muni sātha gavana taba kīnheu ||

In the Vedic tradition, it is important to keep an eye out for signs of auspiciousness. A long time ago, while the king of Hastinapura ruled over his kingdom after victory in a very bloody war, he began to notice auspicious signs. There was no quarrel anywhere, and greed and fierce competition were not allowed entry into the city. The subsequent inauspiciousness followed the introduction of these unwanted elements in society. Once the bad omens were noticed, that the Supreme Lord had left the phenomenal plane to return to His spiritual abode was evident. As the Lord’s absence represents the most inauspicious condition, King Yudhishthira knew that the immediate future wasn’t so bright. Many thousands of years prior, however, the same Supreme Lord was in the process of leaving from a local town, but instead of relying on the external signs around them, the people of the town offered such nice prayers that auspiciousness personified arrived on the scene as an invited guest.

How does this work exactly? How can you create auspiciousness just by uttering a few words? Whether someone likes me or hates me, does it really matter in the end? If my boss says negative things behind my back or praises me to the hilltops, in the end all that matters is what he pays me. This is especially true if the relationship is based squarely on a business arrangement, where remuneration is expected. Isn’t every relationship the same way? How then can auspicious signs be found when the conditions speak otherwise? Are not the external circumstances the harbinger of things to come?

The outside signals are paid attention to in the Vedic tradition, which is the oldest system of spirituality in existence. Spirituality is an all-encompassing field. From knowledge of the internal comes the ability to cope with the external. It doesn’t work the same way when the order is reversed. I may know how to maintain a shirt and coat, but this doesn’t mean that I can automatically take care of myself. On the other hand, if I feed myself regularly, go to bed on time, and properly treat illnesses, I can then figure out how to get dressed properly and wear the clothes appropriate to the situation.

“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)

Lord KrishnaSpirituality deals with the internal spark at the lowest level, the tiny but powerful force of spirit localized within the body. The fact that spirituality is considered separate from any other endeavor or narrow in scope shows just how much attention the external gets. The Vedas provide the first instruction that we are spirit soul, not part and parcel of the body. Our current dwelling changes constantly, from boyhood to youth to old age. However, the spirit soul’s fortunes can be shaped by how this body is utilized. To be put to the best use, the body must take actions under the proper conditions. Every collection of matter has an ideal utilization. If that property is violated, the item is not put to its proper use. Think of driving your car in the snow or using a fork to eat soup.

With the duties prescribed to each member of society based on their specific order, there is a proper time and circumstance for action. When marriage arrangements take place, members of the priestly class determine an auspicious sign based on the qualities of the participants and the specific alignment of stars. If the conditions are not conducive to a future full of wedded bliss, the marriage ceremony will not be held at that time. On a larger scale, the outside conditions at any given time can portend good or bad things for the future. For a group of citizens a long time ago, their desire for future auspiciousness was so strong that they did not worry about the external circumstances. Instead, they gave everything - body, mind and soul - over to their beloved Lord Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana, who were on their way out of the town to escort a venerable rishi in his travels through the forests.

Why were the townspeople so enamored with Rama? Why not offer the same dedication to their own children? Shri Rama is the soul of all creatures, the original life force. From one have sprung many, and that one is supporting all the many at the same time. Because of His inherent qualities, every single life form is naturally attracted to Him. In the perverted version of that natural desire, the love turns to hate, but the attraction is still there. Even in apathy the attraction leads to association with the external feature of the Lord known as material nature.

With the residents of Ayodhya during the Treta Yuga, the personal presence of that original person was available. Everyone made the most of that opportunity by offering their love purely, without motive. An absence of motive means that there is no desire for personal benefit. I work at the office so that I can get paid. I go to school so that I’ll get an education. I give money to the poor so that I won’t feel as bad about their situation. I offer help to someone because I am afraid of the negative consequences that will come from not offering that help.

The residents of Ayodhya had no such motives or fears. They were tied in a bond of affection to the eldest son of King Dasharatha. Rama was a boy of less than twelve years of age when He had to leave the town for a short while. Vishvamitra Muni, a member of the priestly class, previously faced harassment in the forests from a Rakshasa named Maricha. That demon had fellow night-rangers with him to help in attacking the priests. Rama was a member of a royal family, so He was trained in the military arts. Vishvamitra knew that Dasharatha’s eldest son could protect him. Rama took Lakshmana with Him because the younger brother could not live without Rama. Lakshmana was equally as capable a fighter, with the duo combining to have a fire and wind effect. Fire can only burn the local area, but if combined with wind, it can spread across a much greater distance. With Lakshmana by His side, Rama could extend the reach of His protection to all the saints residing in the forest.

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

Rama_and_Lakshmana_fightingNow that we have this information, the behavior of the residents seems odd. On the one side you have a mature adult approaching the king of the town for help in getting protection against the wickedest terrorists in the world. The rishi came to Ayodhya only to ask for this young boy to protect him. Meanwhile, the residents of the town viewed the same youth as helpless. Therefore when Rama was walking away, they prayed for His welfare. They asked God that Rama return successful and that He not as much have a single hair removed from His head while taking a bath. Can we imagine such purity in emotion? They prayed to God for God’s welfare. It seems silly to do this, but this behavior actually represents the height of devotion. It is the embodiment of selflessness.

Goswami Tulsidas very much appreciated these sentiments. In the above referenced verse from his Janaki Mangala, we see that the poet has personified mangala, or auspiciousness, and said that through their offerings of good tidings the residents essentially invited auspiciousness to the area. Omens be damned, what they offered to Rama was better than any external sign of nature. It was during these conditions that Rama and Lakshmana walked away with Vishvamitra. The same practice has been followed ever since that time by sincere devotees. In temples where God is worshiped, the deities are awakened to the chanting of the holy names. Auspiciousness is invited to the scene by first offering prayers to Tulasi Devi, the Lord’s beloved servant. Next, the spiritual master is honored, for he is the Lord’s representative. With the blessings from Tulasi Devi and the guru, the proper mood of worship is created, allowing the further proceedings to have lasting effects.

Though there are different methods of religion, and even smaller sub-religions that meet targeted goals, nothing can be higher than the mood of worship shown by the residents of Ayodhya. They prayed to God for God to be safe, and the same type of prayer can be invoked by reciting the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Not to be confused with a prayer asking for personal wealth, the elimination of distress, or the perfection of mysticism, the sacred syllables uttered in the most wonderful prayer ask God and His energy for the benediction of being able to continue in service to Him.

Yet the innocent people of Ayodhya didn’t even ask for that. They just wanted Rama and Lakshmana to be okay. Of course the duo would always be in good spirits, and their vision would remain in the minds of the sweethearts protected by King Dasharatha. The boys would protect Vishvamitra well, and they would have the pleasure of escorting him to Videha, where a grand sacrifice was taking place. The auspicious conditions under which Rama and Lakshmana left were matched with the wonderful atmosphere of their return, when Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune herself, came to Ayodhya as Rama’s wife.

Just as the residents did not worry about outside conditions, time or circumstance when praying for Rama’s welfare, the sincere devotee does not have to pay much concern to the circumstance when reciting the holy names. The sound vibration representation of the same Shri Rama can be invoked, honored, cherished, and held on to for sustenance at any moment. Correspondingly, Shri Rama’s association, including the vision of His beautiful form leaving Ayodhya with His younger brother Lakshmana, can be created at any moment, even right at this very second, should we so choose.

In Closing:

When sadness upon the residents of Ayodhya fell,

Their worries for Rama’s welfare God they did tell.


Typically, future guessed from outside omens’ sight,

But residents decided auspiciousness to invite.


For proper time and circumstance why wait?

Insisted that brothers live in pleasurable state.


Let them successful in protecting sage return,

Then their eyes fruit of existence to earn.


Chant holy names at any time,

For auspiciousness to find.