Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Miserable Existence

Krishna's lotus feet“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15)

The decision to follow the righteous path in life is made so much easier by the visible behavior of those who follow any other path. As if they were trying to steer us in the right direction on purpose, their actions and demeanor prove that, at the very least, the path recommended by the saintly class of men fulfills a higher immediate destiny, with a calm disposition and a love for humanity engulfing the previously bitter and competitive living entity. From the noticeable dichotomy the sober thinking individual can take a further interest in the enlightened path and make steady progress in that most important endeavor.

The importance of the association of saints cannot be overemphasized. The famous Vaishnava poet Goswami Tulsidas prays in his Vinai Patrika to always have the association of the saintly class in whatever birth follows. According to Vedic information, depending on the type of consciousness one has at the time of death, their residence in the next life can be pretty much anywhere. Have a mind concentrated on money, you’ll take birth in circumstances where you can compete with your fellow man to deliver a good or service to the public for the intended result of a profit. While at the moment of quitting the body if you are focused on meeting the base demands of the senses, you’ll be granted birth in an animal species in the subsequent existence, wherein you’ll get to cater to the desires for eating, sleeping, defending and mating without impediment.

The saintly class can rescue any person, from any walk of life. Tulsidas points to the examples of Prahlada Maharaja, Valmiki, Jatayu, and a few others to remind the sincere listener of the power of good association. The saintly class has outward features which are definable. A person who doesn’t even know that someone is following the righteous path as a way of life can at least notice that a saint has a unique demeanor. They are kind, sweet, compassionate, instructive and knowledgeable. The most noticeable feature is their equal disposition towards all creatures.

“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste] .”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

Lord KrishnaWhy would this feature stand out? How many people do you know that treat a stranger just as well as they treat a friend? How many people view the cat, the dog, the elephant, the learned sage and the dog-eater as being equal on a spiritual level? The visible variety in outward forms makes acquiring the equal vision of a saint very difficult. For starters, why would we treat something as wild as a tiger the same as a human baby? They have very different inclinations. A tiger will jump at the chance to kill you, while the infant human is the essence of innocence.

The saint isn’t a sentimentalist who irrationally follows gentleness under all circumstances. Rather, real kindness is defined by showing compassion upon creatures and knowing what will benefit them in the future. The tiger does not have the ability to accept sober instruction on the meaning of life. Though the tiger is a spirit soul at the core, because of the features it assumed at the time of birth, its potential for knowledge gathering is limited. The human being, on the other hand, can mature to the point that it can take instruction from others and be benefitted from those kind words of advice.

The saint proves to be beneficial in all circumstances. They may not always preach openly with their words, but they configure their actions to meet the situation at hand, finding a way to help others with their association. With Prahlada, the association of Narada while within the womb helped him to be devoted to God right from the time of birth. Valmiki was a highway robber who stole for a living, but through the association of Narada he was transformed into a staunch devotee whose heart was so pure that he could author the wonderful Ramayana, a poem which chronicles the life and pastimes of Lord Rama.

Birth after birth, the association of the saints is so valuable that it is equivalent to having God’s direct company. In one sense the saints are no different than God, for they chant His names all the time, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. They have the Lord on the mind all the time, so naturally that consciousness will influence their behavior. People who have the association of such a spiritually enriched person can only find benefits.

ValmikiThe saints also know the true meaning of advaita. The Sanskrit term means “non-dual”, so one who understands it knows that God pervades all of space. We say that God is not personally present in a particular area because of our limitations. The sun sets at night, but it does not disappear. The position of the earth has changed, and because our sense perceptions are limited, we are no longer able to see the sun. This lasts for only a brief period, until the next morning.

“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.8)

With the Supreme Lord, His influence is felt in the nature at large. He is the taste of water, the sound in ether, and the original fragrance of the earth. The results of the actions of the individual are delivered by God in His unmanifest form, which pervades the space as Brahman and also lives locally within the heart of every creature as the Supersoul. The saints understand this presence, so at every second they are seeing the divine. More than just trying to get a glimpse of Him for a moment and then proclaiming life to be a success, the saints take the sight of God as fuel for their actions. They notice His presence everywhere and then use that vision to make every place a playing field for devotional activities; this is the true meaning to advaita.

But how do we know that the saints are correct? What if they just have good qualities but are actually following a bogus system of spirituality? Thankfully for us, the people who don’t follow the purported righteous path are full of bad qualities. Thieves, liars and cheats may outwardly claim to be religious, but based on their behavior we know that they have no understanding of advaita. Even if they should openly profess to follow spirituality, donning the garb of a saint, based on their miserable disposition, their utter hatred for humanity, and the lack of any positive influence they have on others, we know that their knowledge of the highest matters of spiritual life is lacking.

If you were to make an honest comparison between the saint and the atheist, you’d see that the saint is calm and peaceful, while the atheist is always in angst. They are never happy about their condition, even if they should have millions of dollars in the bank. They come up with their own philosophies for what the meaning of life should be. Perhaps they want to give money to the poor or open hospitals; thus essentially admitting that only some people are worthy of help. The fact that money doesn’t bring happiness to the rich person is overlooked, for the belief is that if the well-off aren’t doing so well mentally, it’s their fault. “They probably deserve it for having exploited others, preventing them from acquiring wealth.”

The concept of hating your country or community can only come through ignorance of the all-pervasiveness of spirit. Spirit is also glorious in its attributes. The Supreme Spirit is full of bliss, eternality and knowledge, and those features are inherited by His innumerable sparks that roam this and many other lands. If you hate your country, you’re essentially saying that you dislike your neighbors. The person who lives next to you is part of your country. The people you run into in the supermarket and restaurants are your community. If you have blanket hatred for them you are not very intelligent, for you know nothing about them.

“They believe that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus there is no end to their anxiety. Being bound by hundreds and thousands of desires, by lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 16.11-12)

Lord KrishnaThe atheist doctrine is to gratify the senses as much as possible before death comes, for the afterlife is considered just a mythical concept concocted by spiritualists who couldn’t deal with death. But the flaw with this logic is that the life of hedonism proves to be miserable. If more drinking and gambling were the answer to life’s problems, the entire world today would be filled with happy people. The society at large would embody good qualities, the fraternal spirit. We see that just the opposite is true, as with each foray into sense gratification, the senses become conditioned to temporary happiness. So the next time it will take more sense gratification to reach satiation. Then there is the competition factor. Others are also struggling to find that happiness, so you better get “yours” before someone else takes it from you.

Contrast this with the life of the saint. He lives peacefully, with very little, and stays in a neutral position mentally. He has high regard for every single creature. He doesn’t only pity the destitute human being for their materially impoverished condition. Rather, every living entity has the potential to acquire the divine qualities, to know and learn about God and use that knowledge to better their condition. Just looking at the two results, we see that the saints are superior. If we’re comparing the outcomes as a type of experiment, there is no question that the test case of atheism brings inferior results. Who would want to be miserable all day? Who would want to increase their hatred of humanity as they matured through life? Who would want to grow old and be stuck with boring activities that don’t take you any place meaningful?

The saint grants the benediction of God’s association through a variety of mediums. The holy name is the entry point and also the solid foundation for the spiritually enlivened soul. That name is the true wealth of the saints, who hold on to it for dear life. The example of the atheist and the dichotomy they create helps to clear up the right choice in life. The greatest skeptic of religion still is interested in meeting a beneficial end, a future condition that is positive. By taking the association of the saints and learning from their behavior, the immediate aftermath is a kinder, gentler and wiser person. The reward of God’s permanent association in the afterlife is the mature fruit that results from steady practice in bhakti-yoga, which only brings increased happiness with each passing day.

In Closing:

To have an existence should be pleasurable,

But without acknowledging God life miserable.


Atheist divine consciousness they live without,

Days then filled with misery, worry and doubt.


Saints, on the other hand, always at peace,

With equal vision, duality and anger cease.


Make an experiment, do a visible test,

Results will tell you which method is best.


With their behavior saints show what is right,

Bhakti under guidance to reach bliss’s height.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Rama Navami 2012

Lord Rama with Queen Kausalya“The most fortunate Kausalya looks charming as she sits on the beautiful bedstead holding the child Rama in her lap. Gazing upon His moon-like face again and again, she makes her eyes like a Chakora bird to His form.” (Gitavali, 7.1)

subhaga seja sobhita kausilyā rucira rāma-sisu goda liye |
bāra-bāra bidhubadana bilokati locana cāru cakora kiye ||

Rama Navami celebrates the appearance day of Lord Ramachandra, the delight of the Raghu dynasty, who has a moon-like countenance to please the Chakora-like devotees, who never tire of gazing upon His beautiful face, which wears an enchanting smile and gives off a soothing radiance that douses the fire of material suffering. In fact, it is the association with the divine that is the only remedy for all ills, for the root of pain and misery is forgetfulness of that supremely fortunate person, who holds every opulence at the same time and to the fullest degree; hence one of His many names is Bhagavan.

In general social etiquette, it is not polite to stare at others. The reason for this should be quite obvious. Would you like it if someone else was looking at you all the time? Perhaps you wouldn’t mind the attention if the sentiment was positive, but after a while, the instinctual reaction would be, “Hey man, quit looking at me! Can I help you with something?” Indeed, the gawking husband has been the painful burden of the devoted wife for ages, as the man can’t help but try to assess the attractiveness of another female when he first sees her. Of course this is very rude behavior towards the wife, for the desire to look at another woman indicates that the man might not be pleased with whom he has for a life partner.

Lord RamaOne sneaky way to get around the impoliteness of staring is to find situations where the person being looked at either doesn’t know what you are doing or is powerless to stop you. Thankfully for us, the creator made one situation which is favorable for staring and which also doesn’t violate any common standards of decency. The young child, especially the dependent, can be looked at nonstop, especially if they are really new to this world. Their vision can be so enchanting, making you really believe in a higher power, for how else to explain such innocence placed into a tiny bundle of joy? For a mother a long time ago, she couldn’t help but stare at her newborn. To make the situation that much more auspicious, the delight she held in her lap was the honoree of the soon-to-be instituted tradition of Rama Navami.

During a period of time in the Treta Yuga, King Dasharatha was at the helm of Raghu’s clan, the dynasty of kings originating with King Ikshvaku and which subsequently had the good fortune of including King Raghu as one of its members. The descendants in that line were thus often referred to as Raghava. A key for rulers in this family was to keep it going. If you have a famous family that is known for its ability to protect the citizens, to give them proper guidance in all matters of life and to keep out the influence of sin and vice, including that which comes from foreign attack, it’s important to keep that line of succession going. This way the citizens won’t have to worry when the king gets old. They can rest assured knowing that he will pass on his good reputation and character to his heir.

This was the problem for Dasharatha. He had no sons to whom to pass down the kingdom. After consulting with his royal priests, it was decided that a sacrifice would be held. The queens would eat the remnants of that sacrifice, and from that sanctified food they would become pregnant with child. Sure enough, everything went according to plan, except no one could predict the beauty and grace of the four children. The four sons born to Dasharatha were expansions of Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His opulently adorned, four-handed form.

Dasharatha and familyThe eldest Rama was Vishnu Himself, and the three younger brothers were partial expansions. Queen Kausalya gave birth to Rama, Kaikeyi to Bharata, and Sumitra to Lakshmana and Shatrughna. The children were a delight for their mothers, and Rama was especially enchanting to everyone, including Dasharatha. There is much attention paid when a new child is born, and since these boys were to be successors in the ancestral line, there was even more celebration when they took birth.

Brahmanas were fed, cows were milked, and gifts were distributed quite liberally by the king. The townspeople felt as if the four boys were their own children, so they showed up to the royal palace with so many gifts. They also decorated their homes very nicely, creating auspiciousness all around. Whenever the Supreme Lord personally appears, there is automatically an auspicious condition, but these residents had pure love, so they didn’t take anything for granted. They prayed for the welfare of the four sons, that they would grow up to be brave, strong, pious, and just as dedicated to the welfare of all as Dasharatha.

Queen Kausalya had a special benefit, for she got to spend time with Rama alone. In those quiet moments, she got to stare at her young child, and there was nothing He could do about it. As one gets a little older, the smothering attention from the mother can become a bother. The child doesn’t know any better, as they can’t understand at such a young age what type of attachment the mother has formed with them. In the infant years, though, the child can only pleasantly smile in return when the mother constantly stares at them.

In the above referenced verse from the Gitavali of Goswami Tulsidas, we see that Dasharatha’s chief queen looked especially charming when seated on her wonderful bedstead. She held the Supreme Lord in her lap, for she earned His company from pious acts performed in previous lives. Can we imagine the happiness she felt? The most beautiful person in the world lay in her lap in a form that required motherly affection. He was in front of her in a special form that best brought out spontaneous, parental affection, loving feelings that were not inhibited in any way.

Kausalya with RamaOf course to try to understand Kausalya’s feelings at the time is a little difficult, so the kind poet gives us some help. He says that she made her eyes like those of the Chakora bird, which constantly stares at the moon. The Chakora has a pure love for the moon, for it looks constantly at the bright luminous body in the dark sky and doesn’t ask for anything in return. No other light gives it as much happiness, and when that moon is gone, there is no source of happiness that can replace it.

In a similar manner, Queen Kausalya’s only source of pleasure was Rama, and because of this she was considered most fortunate, or subhaga. How can she be described in any other way? Where we get our primary pleasure is what will determine how fortunate or unfortunate we are. The drunkard worships the bottle of whiskey and thus finds only distress amidst illusory and temporary elation. The gambler worships the game and the next roll of the dice, and the sensually stirred person hangs on the next move of their significant other, not realizing that the same type of pleasure is already available to the less intelligent animals. The voracious meat eater takes their pleasure from the flesh of animals that were needlessly killed.

Because these sources are not pure, those taking their primary pleasure from them will be in unfortunate circumstances. On the other hand, one who finds pleasure from the person who is the most fortunate, Bhagavan, can in many ways be considered more fortunate than God Himself. Lord Rama has the company of His devotees and His pleasure potency expansions like Sita Devi, but the Chakora-like devotees have the association of both Shri Rama and His associates. As they depend only upon Rama and His every move for their happiness, they are never bereft of the pleasure that is every person’s birthright.

On Rama Navami, we celebrate that very fortunate queen, who would love her son for the rest of her life. He would have to leave her company several times when He got older, but never did He leave her heart. She constantly gazed upon His moon-like face, and not at any time was the behavior impolite. On the contrary, the Chakora-like devotees know that devotion is the only auspicious path, and that through following it Rama will never abandon them, either in this life or the next.

In Closing:

In common circumstances impolite to stare,

To look at someone for too long we don’t dare.


In one situation that behavior is actually fine,

To stare at newborn, they are too young to mind.


Shri Rama created this for His loving mother,

She stared at Him in her quiet room, for God no bother.


So adorable was the Supreme Lord in the small size,

That mother like a Chakora bird made her eyes.


On Rama Navami the mother and son we celebrate,

To Lord and devotee’s pleasure this life we dedicate.


Lakshmana and Rama with Vishvamitra“Travelling along the way with the rishi they are looking so beautiful. That beautiful image lives within Tulasi’s heart. When the trio was going, it looked like the sun travelling north, taking with it the spring season.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 4.2)

riṣi sanga sohata jāta maga chabi basata so tulasī hiem̐ |

kiyo gavana janu dinanātha uttara sanga madhu mādhava liem̐ ||

From this one verse found in the Janaki Mangala, courtesy of Goswami Tulsidas we get so many lessons coupled with feelings of transcendental pleasure. The simple image of an elderly rishi travelling along the road with two new disciples can be studied over and over - with the mind contemplating on the significance of the parties involved and the righteousness they were upholding - and new delights can be found with each renewed mental effort. The comparison to the sun is most significant, as the fiery body in the sky is the giver of light. Depending on its positioning, the residents of the affected land are either optimistic about the immediate future or unhappy about the change in weather that is about to occur. The sun’s influence is seen in so many areas but is especially evident in the seasons. When a new season ushers in the beginning of life again, the residents feel optimistic. In a similar manner, the sun that is Vishvamitra was taking the two months of the spring season to the residents of the forest.

In the above referenced verse the poet says that the two boys, Rama and Lakshmana, are looking very beautiful travelling with the rishi. Rama is the eldest son of King Dasharatha, a pious ruler of Ayodhya who lived on this earth many thousands of years ago during the Treta Yuga. Lord Rama is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as stipulated by the Vedas and their foremost literatures like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Ramayana. If one is hesitant to believe that God can appear on earth in human form or that Rama Himself is a historical personality and not just a mythological concoction, following the events relating to Rama documented in the sacred texts, hearing about them from those who truly understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His features, will dissipate the darkness of ignorance and provide a kind of enlightenment not found through any other endeavor. The results from hearing about Rama give indication enough of His divine nature. That benefit is there for one and all, irrespective of religious faith, family tradition, skin color, nationality, or the language spoken. Just as the sun distributes its heat and light to everyone, so the spiritual sun that is Bhagavan pays no attention to sectarian boundaries.

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

Lord RamaWhy Rama would appear on earth is always a mystery not completely understood by the living beings that require an education to learn how to do anything important. In the Bhagavad-gita, the same Rama in His original form of Krishna says that whenever there is a rise of irreligion, in order to reinstitute the principles of dharma, or the occupational duty for mankind, He descends Himself to earth in His personal form. The personal form extends to Krishna’s direct incarnations as well, which include Shri Rama. Therefore we can deduce that during Rama’s time there was a rise in irreligion, a fact confirmed when one time King Dasharatha welcomed a notable rishi to his kingdom.

A rishi is a devoted soul, kind of like a priest, but someone who lives a certain lifestyle that maintains a certain type of consciousness. That consciousness is one focused on God. God consciousness is the ultimate objective in life, for every single person. The rishis are those who are fortunate enough, through many austerities and pious acts from previous lives, to pursue the divine consciousness as their primary objective in life. The lifestyle they follow thus aims to foster that thinking of God and keep it at active levels. Just as there are best practices when administering a database, writing code for a new application, or keeping your documents on your computer in order, there are certain ideal principles one can follow that best allow for God consciousness to remain alive.

A common principle in all of the recommendations is minimalism. Keep the attachment to material nature to a minimum, preventing the senses from getting spoiled. If I eat every time I think I’m hungry or if I sleep whenever I get the slightest hint of fatigue, I will actually do harm for myself going forward. This is because the next time I get hungry, it will be even more difficult to control myself. The same goes for sleep. If you sleep for an extended number of hours each night, you will actually be more tired throughout the day, for your body gets accustomed to the rest.

On the other side, if your senses can be trained to remain controlled, you can better stay alert and focused on your tasks. The best way to train the senses is to limit the number of objects of interaction in the immediate environment. Think of it like trying to lose weight by keeping food out of your radar. If you’re on a diet, you won’t do so well if you’re seated at a buffet table the entire day. Similarly, if you’re around material allures throughout the day, you won’t stand a good chance of staying detached.

Lord RamaA famous sage by the name of Vishvamitra was following these principles in the serene setting of the forests. There was one problem, though, which would indicate why Shri Rama advented on earth. A band of night-rangers, Rakshasas who could change their shapes at will, rose in influence and began to harass the peaceful sages in the forest. Vishvamitra came to Ayodhya to ask for King Dasharatha’s protection. The king was not part of the priestly order, but he still had occupational duties to perform that would complement the activities of the rishis. The royal order is to provide protection to the innocent, and by following that obligation with faith and detachment, the same control of the senses can result. Thus we see that although the brahmana class has the best opportunity for arousing God consciousness, the ultimate objective in life is open to anyone to attain, provided they follow the guidelines prescribed for their order.

Vishvamitra asking for help wasn’t out of the ordinary, but what was strange was that he asked specifically for Dasharatha’s eldest son Rama. At the time, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty was not even twelve years of age, but Vishvamitra knew that He had divine abilities, that He could easily fend off the Rakshasas. Dasharatha reluctantly agreed, and Rama took Lakshmana with Him. Lakshmana is an incarnation of Ananta Shesha Naga, the expansion of the Supreme Lord that plays the role of the servitor-God, the number one protector of Bhagavan’s interests. True to his nature, Lakshmana would not allow Rama to leave home alone. He had to come along as well.

In the verses preceding this one, Tulsidas remarks that Rama and Lakshmana’s beauty could not be described. They appeared as if Lord Brahma had taken all the beauty in the world and concentrated it into them. Whatever beauty the creator had left over he used for the rest of the creatures. Lord Brahma is the first created living entity. As a spirit soul he lives forever, but since he accepts a material body, he is destined for death, though for him it occurs after billions of years. Since he is in charge of creation, every living entity in the material world is related to him. The comparison to Brahma is very nice because it illustrates that Rama and Lakshmana are not of the material world; their spiritual forms are so magnificent that nothing can compare to them.

Vishvamitra with Lakshmana and RamaThe image of Rama and Lakshmana leaving Ayodhya to escort Vishvamitra is so beautiful that Tulsidas keeps it within his heart. In that safe location, the image can be conjured up whenever the poet wants. And what comes from remembering that sweet vision? For starters, one gets to remember how Rama advented on this earth to protect the innocent. The mind is reminded of Lakshmana’s unselfish dedication to Rama and how Vishvamitra was so fortunate to be wise enough to approach King Dasharatha. The mind remembers the kind residents of Ayodhya who took to the streets to bid Rama and Lakshmana farewell. So many things can be remembered just by finding that image in the heart and bringing it to life. Even the image of the poet keeping that scene in his heart is tremendously heartwarming.

The second part of the above referenced verse says that when they were leaving, it looked like the sun was taking the two months of spring towards the north. As winter dissipates, the sun’s repositioning towards the north indicates the return to life of the plants. The spring season is considered auspicious because of the chance for a new beginning, as it also stirs the passions of those who are responsible for keeping life going. It was during the spring season that Rama would remember His wife Sita Devi, whom He would marry soon after travelling the forests with Vishvamitra.

“Those who know the Supreme Brahman pass away from the world during the influence of the fiery god, in the light, at an auspicious moment, during the fortnight of the moon and the six months when the sun travels in the north.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.24)

In the Bhagavad-gita, it is said that the mystic who knows Brahman passes away during the months that the sun is in the northern position. This departure represents a kind of liberation. Reincarnation is automatic for as long as there is not a permanent God consciousness. Mysticism, contemplating on the Supreme Absolute Truth in the impersonal form, is a way of focusing the mind on God at the time of death, but this path is fraught with difficulty. If the mystic should pass away during the six colder months of the year, that same liberation is not guaranteed. Therefore from Krishna’s statements we see that the more auspicious time is when the sun travels in the north.

Rama and LakshmanaIn the above comparison, Rama and Lakshmana represent the two months of spring and Vishvamitra the sun, or dina-natha. Dina is the day and natha is lord, so the sun is the lord of the day. Though Rama is often compared to the sun, in this circumstance Vishvamitra was acknowledged to be the superior entity, for he was the guru and Rama and Lakshmana his students. By figuratively travelling north into the forest, the sun that was Vishvamitra was taking the spring season in the form of Rama and Lakshmana with him. This meant that the occupants of the forest would be given life through the protection of the two boys. Vishvamitra would impart confidential mantras to them that would augment the power of the arrows shot from their bows. During that particular time period, all warfare took place with the bow and arrow, and Rama and Lakshmana were so powerful that their arrows could create blasts similar in strength to today’s nuclear weapons.

The spiritual master is always like the sun, and with him comes the sweetness of the spring season represented by the personal association of the Supreme Lord. In addition to the external protection, Rama and Lakshmana would grant their divine vision to the residents of the forest, who would have a renewed life thanks to that association. In a similar manner, since the image of those three figures resides in the heart of Tulsidas, there is never a chance for the poet to feel the pangs of winter, for it is always spring when Vishvamitra is travelling north with Rama and Lakshmana.

In Closing:

With Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshmana move forth,

Like spring season going with sun travelling north.


Makes the spring season come and winter go away,

The sun is responsible, is the lord of the day.


That renewed life to sages in forest to bring,

Glories of Rama and Lakshmana they would then sing.


Image of trio leaving Ayodhya etched in poet’s heart,

Bringing to mind that sweet vision gives day the best start.


Take note of the comparison, keep image by your side,

So that in felicity of divine vision to reside.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

From The Rooftops

Lord Krishna“While the ladies of the capital of Hastinapura were greeting Him and talking in this way, the Lord, smiling, accepted their good greetings, and casting the grace of His glance over them, He departed from the city.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.10.31)

Lord Krishna, the benefactor of the Pandavas, their best well-wisher who stayed with them through thick and thin and looked out for their interests, was on His way back to His home in Dvaraka. Though the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing on earth in the guise of an ordinary living entity, Shri Krishna voluntarily accepted the roles of king, friend, chariot driver, lover, husband, son and many others. As He started back for the city of Dvaraka, the women in Hastinapura, the capital city for the Pandavas headed by their eldest brother Yudhishthira, started going over Krishna’s features and praising His various activities. The Lord, hearing these words from afar, acknowledged them with a smiling glance as He left.

That response wasn’t necessary, but towards Krishna there is never any wasted effort. We may praise someone that we adore without them knowing about it, but that affection won’t reach their ears, nor can it affect their behavior. At most, it will increase our attachment to them, but the acknowledgment from the beneficiary is lacking because of the defects in their abilities. Not that they are misers or ungrateful, but each spirit soul is limited in its capacity. Consciousness is the most powerful gift bestowed to the living creature, and since it is developed best in the human species, the lower animals are considered inferior.

Nevertheless, consciousness for the individual is localized. I have no idea what someone else is thinking unless they tell me. Still, I can’t follow their experiences or know the many thoughts that arrive in their mind at every second that form the foundation of philosophical debate. All of my senses are limited in what they can do. I can eat, but only when something is presented before me and it goes through the chain of digestion. I can see, but only what my eyes are able to make out in the circumstances of the time. If there is no lighting, I can’t see anything. I can touch, but only that which is in close proximity.

Lord KrishnaSimilarly, I can only hear that which is in audible range. With the help of radio and cell phone technology, I can perhaps hear more, but these require external devices. With the Supreme Lord, His consciousness pervades the entire space. He is simultaneously conscious of every single living creature’s thoughts and desires, and He remembers the thoughts of the same beings from their previous lives. The concept of reincarnation seems like a mystical idea of the east which gives solace and comfort to those who don’t understand life and death, but it doesn’t have to be thought of only within the context of past and future lives. Rather, the time continuum always acts within the present body and yet our identity doesn’t change. Today, this very moment will soon become a past life and the time you wake up tomorrow can be considered a future life. Your memory will not be so great going forward, but the Supreme Consciousness will not forget anything.

It, therefore, shouldn’t surprise us that though Krishna was not in the immediate vicinity of the women of Hastinapura who were standing on the rooftops, He could still hear their kind words and acknowledge them. What’s even nicer is that the talking wasn’t intentionally directed at Krishna. The women were just talking amongst themselves about how sacred the various plots of land were that Krishna roamed. First there was Mathura, where He appeared from the womb of Mother Devaki. Then there was Vrindavana, where He played as a small child to the foster parents Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda.

The ladies talking also addressed some of the interactions Krishna had with females. They said that His company was so invigorating that the damsels of Vrajabhumi were known to faint just by thinking of it. Imagine that. It’s understandable if you’re in ecstasy when in the direct company of something attractive, but Krishna was so charming that just by thinking of Him these women would be overwhelmed by the blissful emotions.

Then there were the many wives that Krishna had. As atmarama, Krishna is completely self-satisfied. He does not require any external aid for His happiness. Yet the exalted souls cannot live without the Lord, and if they should so desire His company as their husband, why would Krishna not grant that request? In bhakti-yoga, the sincerity of the emotion is what matters most, not the external standing. This was proven when Krishna married the sixteen thousand princesses that were previously held captive by the king Bhaumasura.

Lord KrishnaAfter defeating the king, Krishna released the princesses. He could have sent them back to their homes, but then no one would have married them. Who would be there to protect them afterwards? Also, they desired to have Krishna, their rescuer, as their husband. Thus the Lord obliged and treated them wonderfully, buying them gifts regularly and making them feel like they were in control of the relationship. The person whom meditational yogis and mental speculators are trying to understand and see for but one second can be commanded by those who are surrendered to Him in thought, word and deed.

The women on the rooftops in Hastinapura were feeling the separation already, even though Krishna had not yet left. They understood His divine nature and how His company is the prime benefit to having an existence. The sweetheart son of Yashoda delighted at their talks and made sure that they knew He heard them. What else could one ask for? If someone you love knows that you love them and is pleased, that recognition is all you need to keep offering your love going forward. Impediments and struggles are part of life, but the vision of the smiling face of the darling of Vrindavana makes the difficulties worth it.

In bhakti, thinking about God is as good as being with Him. Therefore it wasn’t required that Krishna remain in Hastinapura indefinitely. The five Pandava brothers, cousins to Krishna, had led a life of hardship, with their own family attempting to kill them on various occasions. It was due to Krishna’s grace that the brothers survived and eventually triumphed. Arjuna especially was close with Krishna, for the Lord had acted as His chariot driver during the famous battle of Kurukshetra. Yet Krishna did not stay with the brothers forever. He had duties He wanted to tend to in Dvaraka, where His queens, sons and grandsons awaited His return.

Lord KrishnaIrrespective of His physical location, Krishna can remain in the mind through regular recitation of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The same talking started by the women on the rooftops can take place in the congregation of assembled devotees. That association of saintly people is one of the greatest boons in life, for the features of the Supreme Personality can be discussed. Through discussion comes the painting of mental pictures, which can then be conjured up at any moment. “All glories to the assembled devotees” is a common refrain in temples dedicated to Krishna to acknowledge the benefit that comes from association with people who love Krishna.

Through the interaction with devotees proper knowledge can be acquired. Intelligence is only worth having if it can bring you to a better place. You can score high on an IQ test that measures your ability to change shapes and do math problems in a short amount of time, but if you’re still mired in a life devoted to sense gratification, your intelligence is going to waste. It’s sort of like working hard to earn so much money and then going home and burning all the cash. Real intelligence is intended for understanding the features of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and then becoming more and more convinced that service to Him is the only worthwhile engagement. The women in Hastinapura did not have degrees from prestigious universities, but since they were pure of heart and since their talks were borne of spontaneous affection for the hero of the Yadu dynasty, their intelligence was perfect and utilized properly.

If you currently offer your love to others, there is still no harm in worshiping Krishna. For instance, if your time is spent giving love to your children by protecting them, hearing about Krishna and praising His activities that took place as a child in Vrindavana will only make you a better parent. If you’re faithful to a life partner through a committed relationship, hearing of how Krishna was devoted to His queens in Dvaraka will only purify your heart and make you a more loving person. Krishna is the source of everything, so worship of Him brings benefits that spread to the various trees and branches that have sprung up from the root of existence. The women in Hastinapura were not renounced ascetics, but they didn’t need to be to find happiness. Keeping the Lord in the mind at all times, we can forge ahead in whatever position we find ourselves in.

In Closing:

One last glimpse of Him the ladies sought,

In process of His glories they talked.


Greatness of gopis no one could know,

Universal form to mother Yashoda shown.


Of Krishna’s greatness they were well aware,

So upon His departure at Him they did stare.


Most fortunate were Krishna’s wives,

His company gives pleasure to the eyes.


Krishna could hear the talking going on,

Responded with smile while moving along.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

His Next Move

Hanuman praying“Having mentally entered the all-auspicious Ashoka wood, that monkey, the son of the wind-god, pondered what he should do next.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.61)

sa gatvā manasā pūrvam aśoka vanikām śubhām |
uttaram cintayām āsa vānaro māruta ātmajaḥ ||

It’s time to start the task that you put off for long enough. The procrastination related to the difficulty of the job. If you do a cursory review of previously completed tasks, you’ll notice that successful outcomes require a lot of work, some of which is not easy to perform. The entire collection of tasks necessary for completion thus presents a challenging obstacle for both the body and the mind. Therefore prior to the commencement of the latest project, a little thought is given on how to succeed, how to find the outcome that you desire. If your heart is situated in the right place, if you seek the benedictions of the right people, and if you are following an authorized system of activity, then no matter how difficult the task, your initial sincerity will take you across the finish line. This was the case with Shri Hanuman prior to entry into the Ashoka wood, a place he had yet to search.

Hanuman was wise enough to recollect past experiences and use that information to feed his mental computer, which in turn would spit out a possible course of action to follow. He had searched through an entire city unnoticed. Could we ever imagine such a thing? A surveyor’s job is to, not surprisingly, survey. To be effective at this job, the spotlight from the eyes must shine on practically everything. “Hey, don’t look now, but that guy is looking at you.”, is likely what our friend would tell us if one of these surveyors should happen to be in our range, if they are looking at us to find what they are searching after. Indeed, the more people and things you can look at, the better your chances are of finding what you’re looking for.

HanumanYet Hanuman made his observations without being noticed. His natural form didn’t blend in well with the area either. In fact, just the opposite was the case. The area he was searching was populated by ogres, vile creatures given to the worst type of activity. They took after their leader, whose name was Ravana, meaning one with a terrorizing roar. This name was kindly bestowed upon him by Lord Shiva, the destroyer of creation, one of the principle deities of the Vedic tradition. When granted benedictions by Lord Brahma, the creator, the vile creature with ten heads took a tour of the world and fought any person he thought was a threat. Known as Dashagriva for his strange figure, he tried to bother Mahadeva during his meditation. Lord Shiva is always meditating on the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu, who is the maintainer and also the fountainhead of all forms of Godhead, the Supreme Lord who has four arms and is opulently adorned. Vishnu is the face to the abstract concept of God, a real person from whom all men emanate; hence one of His many names is Narayana.

Narayana has many other forms, of which Lord Rama is one. Lord Shiva meditates on Vishnu’s form of Rama by repeating the name over and over again. Krishna, the all-attractive youth with two hands holding a flute and wearing a peacock feather in His hair is the same Rama but in a different form, thus anyone who chants the sacred maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, follows a system of religious practice authorized by Lord Shiva himself. If the name of Rama, which is non-different from the Lord and His wonderful form that holds a bow and arrow in His hands and is always smiling, is good enough for Mahadeva, then it should be good enough for anyone else. The holy name is the secret ingredient in fruitful worship; its recitation simultaneously brings cognizance of God’s other features.

In an immature state, the worshiper thinks that God is formless, or nirguna Brahman, the all-pervading spirit that lacks personal features. Brahman understanding is the equivalent of abstracting everything. To see how this works, let’s take something as simple as a party. At a party you have guests, entertainment, food and a location, a place where the event is held. Within the festive gathering there is so much variety. There are different conversations, food items, activities, visions, etc. As you abstract one piece after another, you eventually have the entire concept of a party. For instance, if you see two people talking to one another, they are having a conversation. Then the same concept of a conversation can be applied to other people talking to one another at the party. If one person is eating pizza and another ice cream, both activities can be abstracted to the singular concept of eating. Keep zooming out in this way and you eventually get the full concept of a party, which incorporates all of the variety.

In a similar exercise, if you were to abstract every aspect of creation, including both the material and the spiritual, you would get Brahman. Through this method the neophyte thinks that everything is God, including themselves. “God is just a definition, not something with any personal features; God is the complete whole.” While the definition of God certainly includes everything, this doesn’t mean that we can just pick up a rock off the ground and say that we have found God. Our arms and legs are part of the definition of our current existence, but they do not identify us. The all-pervading presence of the Supreme Lord is just one aspect of His inconceivable self.

Then there are the incarnations, the personal aspects of the Lord possessing variety. These personalities have visually identifiable attributes, and they also perform specific activities through interaction with fortunate living entities. The Supreme Lord is known as Bhagavan because He is the most fortunate. Anyone who gets to interact with Bhagavan through a transcendental mellow, or rasa, is similarly fortunate. Bhagavan, in His different avataras, and also in His original form, for others draws out the transcendental features that are otherwise difficult to notice. Bhagavan is the same Brahman but in a more complete definition, one that is distinct and identifiable.

Lord RamaThe holy name is so powerful that it brings cognizance of both the impersonal and personal features of the Lord. Chanting the names of Krishna and Rama over and over again can give a vision of the form that is otherwise taken to be impersonal. At the same time, the holy name can liberate even those who never get to personally meet the avataras or the original Bhagavan. For instance, Rama roamed the earth during the Treta Yuga, an ancient time period, and interacted with a select few individuals, of which Hanuman was one. Similarly, Lord Krishna gave certain members of society a chance to see His beautiful face and take comfort in His unflinching protection. Yet the powerful holy name can also deliver anyone today, a time when the Lord’s personal presence is seemingly absent from the world. Therefore the holy name is the most superior aspect of the Lord, as it automatically allows for interaction with the other features. Lord Shiva knows this very well. That is why he constantly chants Rama’s name.

Dashagriva, on the other hand, had no interest in pleasing Vishnu, chanting His name, or worshiping Him. With his new powers he tried to disrupt Mahadeva’s meditation, but this failed. Lord Shiva responded by putting Dashagriva into so much pain by crushing his fingers that the Rakshasa started screaming for mercy. Seeing his contrition and also hearing the ridiculously awful sound, Lord Shiva then named him Ravana. Since Ravana didn’t interact with Lord Shiva in the proper way, this meeting and subsequent devotion offered did not alter his consciousness for the better. Rather, he decided to take Rama’s wife Sita Devi and try to enjoy her for himself.

It was to find Sita that Hanuman was in Lanka, for no one was really sure where she was or if she was still alive. As boastful of his prowess as Ravana was, he didn’t dare fight Rama one-on-one for Sita’s hand. Instead, he took her away while Rama temporarily wasn’t by her side. Hanuman was so eager to offer service to God that he was given the benediction of finding Sita. He thus found himself in Lanka all alone, with no one to help him. He amazingly took on a diminutive stature and looked through the different palaces, roads, bridges, and city streets for a bewailing princess. His failure in this regard almost got the better of him, as he seriously contemplated quitting and just ending his life.

HanumanRemembering Rama and his love for Him, Hanuman chose to fight on. Now he had this nearby grove that he hadn’t looked through yet. Prior to going in, he thought of saluting the principle deities of the material creation, and then he actually invoked the names of Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, who is Rama’s younger brother. Then Hanuman prayed to the other gods, as if to show everyone else the proper way to worship. The demigods, or devas, operate under the direction of the Supreme Lord, so they can never be considered equal to Bhagavan. When the gifts distributed by the demigods are used to please Bhagavan, the worship is fruitful. Hanuman was only interested in finding Sita, so he was not after a personal reward. He was hoping that every higher authority would be favorable upon him and allow him to succeed in putting a smile on Rama’s face.

Hanuman first mentally entered the Ashoka wood because he needed to think things over. What a daunting task lay ahead of him. There were so many trees that the wind hardly blew there. This presented a disadvantage. Hanuman had used the aid of the wind, which is managed by his father Vayu, to leap across the massive ocean that separated land from the island of Lanka. Not only would the trees inhibit his ability to swiftly course through the area, there would be many Rakshasas guarding the place as well. He thus knew that this would likely be the most difficult place in Lanka to search. His intuition was correct, for Sita was being held in this area. She was the real jewel of Lanka, but since Ravana did not have a rightful claim to her, she had to be kept hidden, remaining a secret to everyone. She refused to give in to Ravana, so she was kept in an isolated area.

The daunting tasks that we take on are completed by first focusing on smaller issues, taking one day at a time and one step at a time. Lay down each brick until you finally get the housing structure that you want. For a computer programmer, write down each algorithm and function and work on each individual module until you have all the code necessary to run your program. For the student, follow along with each homework assignment, studying gradually the entire scope of the course until you are familiar with the material that will be presented on the exams.

HanumanHanuman was ready to follow this same tact, but he still prayed for good fortune from those who manage the outcomes to events. The human being is a god in the sense that he has control over his actions, but the results are certainly out of his hands. The ability in man is God, a fact so nicely pointed out by Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. The choice in the exercise of that ability is up to the individual. Hanuman was choosing in favor of serving Sita and Rama, so they would never let him down. Such a humble soul, Hanuman was never proud of his abilities. Instead, he always thought that he wasn’t doing enough and that he couldn’t complete what was assigned to him. Because of this attitude, his faith in Sita and Rama, and his request for kindness from the higher authorities, his difficult task in the Ashoka garden would be completed successfully, with Sita being rescued later on by Rama and the massive monkey army headed by Sugriva, whose minister was Hanuman.

In the most difficult mission facing the human being, to realize the potential for the purification of consciousness, the collection of tasks may be difficult to complete, but by taking one day at a time, following a routine in bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, one can steadily make progress towards full God consciousness, which is required at the time of death in order to secure liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Just as Sita, Rama and Lakshmana were favorable to Hanuman during his devotional acts, Hanuman is kind to those who request his help in maintaining their link to the spiritual world. Just thinking of Hanuman is an auspicious activity, one that brings so many spiritual merits. He is the hero of the Ramayana’s Sundara Kanda, the book of beauty. Though he is in a monkey form, the love he has for God runs through every fiber of his being, making his vision one pleasing to the eye.

In Closing:

Hanuman, endowed with so many skills,

Beautiful devotion his heart fills.


To search for Sita he and his monkeys were sent,

At last stage, mentally into Ashoka wood he went.


If he’d find success he did previously wonder,

Now his next move in wooded area he pondered.


Hanuman’s success guaranteed by higher authority,

For though fully capable, unmatched was his humility.


In daunting task, in mind Hanuman always see,

He’ll help you, from shackles of fear be free.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Proverbial White Flag

Lord Krishna“When mother Yashoda and the other ladies finally saw that Krishna, although decorated with many bangles and other jeweled ornaments, could not be bound with all the ropes available in the house, they decided that Krishna was so fortunate that He could not be bound by any material condition. Thus they gave up the idea of binding Him. But in competition between Krishna and His devotee, Krishna sometimes agrees to be defeated.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.18 Purport)

“Alright, I’ve had my fun. My dear mother is trying so hard, but everyone should know that I cannot be bound by any material condition. But my affection for her is so strong that I will allow her to carry out her motherly duties. Her sincerity is spotless; not a hint of sin in her. What a shame it would be if she could not succeed in this act?” Thus Lord Krishna, the origin of the creation, the person who is without a material form and full of spiritual attributes, allowed His beloved mother to complete her task, only after she had given up in frustration. The ishvara that is the living being can choose to act, but the results to action are never in their hands, even if they may think otherwise.

“You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.47)

Lord KrishnaHow does this work exactly? If I decide to get up in the morning, am I not responsible for the outcome of standing up? Is it not my effort that is responsible for the change in condition? Obviously one would think that the living being is the controller in these situations, but we know that the controller does not have absolute authority. For instance, what if we have some injury to our hands or legs? Will our decision to get up bear fruit? What if there is a heavy weight on top of us or other shackles placed on the body that prevent us from moving?

The opposing argument is that the impediments are extenuating circumstances and not the norm, but for an authority to be absolute it must be able to do whatever it wants at any time. No excuses. As soon as there is an excuse, the authority is diminished. If you take the same principle and apply it to every single behavior of every single living being, you’ll see that no one person is the absolute controller. They have some say so in what the body does, but the end result is not in their hands. The material nature controls every living being, causing them to take shelter of the heat in the winter months and desperately look for cool conditions in the summer.

The material elements are controlled by elevated living beings put in charge of them; sort of like how the stop lights that guide traffic are operated by the administrators of the highways and streets. Though the lights may operate off of a computer program, someone must initially write the routines and then monitor the execution of those programs. In the case of nature, elevated beings known as devas, or demigods, each have a responsibility with respect to a specific section of the gross collection of material elements.

“O Arjuna, I control heat, the rain and the drought. I am immortality, and I am also death personified. Both being and nonbeing are in Me.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.19)

Lord KrishnaIn the Bhagavad-gita, it is revealed that God, whose original form is the personality known as Krishna, controls the heat and the rain. His influence is not always direct, but nevertheless He is the origin. The owner of the company may direct a subordinate to make a statement to the workers. The messenger reveals the statement, but the owner is the controller. He is the origin of the message distributed to others. In a similar manner, Krishna’s deputies act on His behalf to maintain the system of fairness known as karma.

There is little control over outcomes at the individual level; a fact very difficult to realize and remember. If one studies the Vedas from a bona fide spiritual master, especially one who takes the Bhagavad-gita as their life and soul, they will be daily reminded that the living being is not the doer, that they are seated as on a machine that is controlled by higher forces.

“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.61)

At the same time, it is said that anyone who thinks of Krishna at the time of death no longer has to suffer through birth and death. If we’re just seated on a machine, how can any single action we take bring a specific result? The results do follow action, but the responsibility for those results is not in the worker’s hands. For instance, dropping an object from the hand will cause it to fall, but the higher authorities instituted this law. Therefore they are responsible for distributing the result, not the person who dropped the object.

In the case of thinking of Krishna at the time of death, the result of the pardon from the cycle of birth and death is granted by the Lord, the object of service. The purpose to action thus becomes quite evident. You have obligations to fulfill, but do them for the satisfaction of the origin of action and reaction. Follow behavior that will please Him, and He will reciprocate by making sure that the results of your actions are what they should be.

Lord KrishnaHow do we find out what Krishna would like us to do? One person is praying for a field goal kicker to miss a game winning kick in a football game, while another person is praying for the same kicker to make it. How do we know which side God favors? Fruitive activity is not within the realm of bhakti, or divine love. The Supreme Lord Krishna has many times stated that He particularly favors those who wish to connect with Him. Not that He’s mean or unfavorable to others, He just knows that His personal intervention will be meaningless to someone who is suffering from the fever of material existence, which is fed by the desire to imitate God and surpass His abilities.

More than just saying what pleases Him, Krishna sometimes descends to earth to show what gives Him happiness. Such was the case during a famous incident in Yashoda’s courtyard. Krishna will not descend to earth and announce His divinity to everyone. This would serve no purpose, and it would break the laws of the material nature for no reason. Material nature exists to facilitate the desire to imitate God. If the Lord came down and told everyone that they’re stupid for doing this, who would actually listen? It’d be like going into a playground sandbox and telling all the young kids that they’re wasting their time making pretend sand castles. What will the children know about meeting mortgage payments, building skyscrapers, or getting an education to earn a high salary?

“In the course of traversing the universal creation of Brahma, some fortunate soul may receive the seed of bhakti-lata, the creeper of devotional service. This is all by the grace of guru and Krishna.”  (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.151)

This doesn’t mean that the world is bereft of people desirous for divine association. Those select few individuals who are sincere in their interest in connecting with God are granted the good fortune of meeting a bona fide spiritual master, an arrangement made by Krishna Himself. The guru then leads the disciple towards Krishna, completing the circle. In more special circumstances, Krishna Himself descends, but not everyone is granted entry into this magical kingdom of pastimes. At the same time, however, they don’t need to. Even if you weren’t roaming the earth in a human form during the time of Krishna’s descents, you can still connect with those pastimes by hearing about them.

In a lot of ways, this sort of connection is superior to the personal association. If I miss a big music concert because I couldn’t get tickets, I won’t be able to experience the live show, the interaction between the band and the fans. But if I can get a recording of that concert, I will be able to listen to the same show over and over again, relishing the interaction with the music longer than by being at an event and just feeling a one-time thrill.

With the Shrimad Bhagavatam, those who weren’t in Yashoda’s courtyard can delight in what happened there one day. Shri Krishna as a young child had broken a pot of butter out of anger. The dear mother had churned yogurt into butter through difficult effort, but she needed to quickly step away to deal with a pot of boiling milk in the kitchen. Krishna did not like this diversion, so He broke the pot of butter in anger and ran away, taking some of the goods with Him.

Yashoda punishing KrishnaThe mother finally caught Him and decided to tie Him to a rope as punishment. For the adults this wasn’t that severe a punishment, for it would keep the darling Shyamasundara within their sights. This wasn’t a punishment for Krishna either, as there was no physical harm done through the ropes. There was one slight problem, though. Yashoda couldn’t find a rope long enough to bind Krishna. The first rope ended up two finger widths short. No problem, right? Just tie another rope to the culprit? Ah, but even that ended up being two finger widths short. Rope after rope was added, with the result unchanged.

Finally, Yashoda relented. She had worked so hard that the flowers nicely placed in her hair were falling off, and she was perspiring. The effort was so sincere that Krishna finally decided to let her bind Him, ending the display of transcendental magic. No material condition can bind the person who is above the influence of matter, but through divine love, any outcome is made possible by Krishna’s direct influence. In a helpless condition, through finally surrendering, Krishna came to the rescue and gave the devotee Yashoda the delight she deserved. Therefore anyone who regularly tries to connect with Krishna, such as through chanting His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, will not have to worry about the outcome to their actions, for the beneficial end will be delivered by the object of that attention.

In Closing:

As ishvara over body you have control,

Fate of outcomes in your hands hold.


Through illusion this is the mistaken thought,

But from material nature lessons always taught.


Krishna is the hand that controls all,

Determines when fire and where rainfall.


Yashoda and friends finally white flag waived,

Krishna couldn’t be bound, though naughty He behaved.


Rope long enough only when Krishna agreed,

Gives outcomes to devotees when He’s pleased.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Two Handsome Boys

Lakshmana and Rama“After Brahma created them, there was no beauty left for the rest of the world. If you searched the entire fourteen bhuvanas you wouldn’t find anything that could compare to their beauty.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 4.1)

birace biraṃci banāi bām̐cī rūciratā rancau nahīṃ |
dasa cāri bhuvana nihāri dekhi bicāri nahiṃ upamā kahīṃ ||

There are fourteen planetary systems in each universe. With innumerable universes, we get an idea of just how unlimited the material creation is. In each sphere Lord Brahma is tasked with creation, with developing the material nature to act as the playing field for the bodies of the many living entities who make up the population. The spirit souls exist eternally, so Brahma has no powers of creation on the spiritual side. Depending on their desires, if they should so choose to leave the constitutional area of the spiritual sky, they get to roam in a land that has a temporary manifestation. For those who don’t know better, Brahma is considered the master behind all the manifestations of matter. Therefore when looking at two handsome youths, sons of King Dasharatha, the only thought that could be made was that Brahma ran out of beauty. There was none left after the bodies for these two boys were made. Hence the rest of the world became bereft of splendor and beauty, a fact noted instantly by gazing upon these two handsome princes.

“There are fourteen planetary systems within the universe, and all living entities reside in those planetary systems.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya, 1.267)

Lord BrahmaThe fourteen planetary systems don’t all have the same environment. There are varying levels of enjoyment with the many systems, which accounts for the distinctions between heaven, earth and hell. The heavenly planets are in the upper portion. The residents there live for long durations of time in comparison to the residents of the earthly planet. Heaven brings enhanced enjoyment, but which is still temporary. The earthly planet has a mix of heavenly and hellish life, and the lower planets are reserved for the most sinful. Regardless of the residence, the occupants are part of a temporary stay, though through attachment to the matter shaped and molded by Lord Brahma forgetfulness of mortality arises.

The mention of the fourteen planetary systems in the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala is made to try to accurately convey just how beautiful Rama and Lakshmana were as they were departing Ayodhya for the forest with Vishvamitra Muni. Lord Rama is the Supreme Lord in the guise of a warrior prince and Lakshmana is His chief companion, the servitor-God. The Supreme Lord is the father of even Brahma, so there is no question of any of His bodies ever being created. Lord Brahma crafts the forms of the conditioned living entities based on their past karma, but the system of fairness taking into account action and reaction does not apply to God.

Lakshmana is a Vishnu-tattva expansion, so He too does not have a material body. Rama is of the darker, or shyama, color, while Lakshmana is gaura, or fair. To enhance the delight of the fortunate souls with whom they associated, Shri Rama and Lakshmana masked their divine identities. It was not known to everyone that they were God. With the Supreme Lord’s personal self, the brilliant features cannot be masked fully. I may not know what gold is as a young child, but if I see it sparkling in front of me, I will still be enamored by it. I may not know what sweets and chocolates are, but if I eat them, I will still enjoy the wonderful taste.

In a similar manner, those sinless souls who are blessed with the company of Rama and Lakshmana may not know that they are the Supreme Lord and His number one servant, but through the association they enjoy the brilliant features nonetheless. Through Rama’s potency of yogamaya the mind starts to wonder just where a splendid body like that could come from. The comparison to Lord Brahma and the fourteen worlds is brilliant because the hidden meaning is that Rama and Lakshmana are not of this universe. You could search through every inch of space, look at every living entity and their temporary manifestation, and still not find anyone who could compare to the beauty of the two youths.

Rama and LakshmanaWhy is it important to mention this fact? The purpose of the Janaki Mangala is to provide transcendental enjoyment, to both the author and the listeners. The preacher gets so much enjoyment out of discussing the glories of the Supreme Lord. Since His features are inexhaustible in their endurance, the opportunities for glorification never cease. The spirit soul, the essence of identity, has inherent characteristics. Rather than try to decipher these on our own through the tedious process of elimination, we can take it on the authority of the Vedas that the soul is eternal, knowledgeable and blissful. Only something that is knowledgeable from the start can do complex math and think rationally after receiving proper training. Only something that is inherently blissful can feel happiness through association and activities that speak to its inherent tendencies.

In the same way, only something that is eternal in its existence can continue to remain vibrant through the cycle of birth and death, the constant acceptance and rejection of bodies. The spirit soul is the same in quality when it is in the pea-like body within the womb as it is when it is in the body of a fully matured adult. The best way for the soul to seek happiness is to find an engagement that meets its natural characteristics. That internal bliss is found through service, which is ideally directed at the Supreme Lord. Rama is meant to be served and the numerous sparks of spirit are meant to provide the service.

Shri Lakshmana is always in a devotional mood because he never breaks from the divine consciousness. He then passes on the wisdom necessary for accepting that mood of service with confidence to the people he teaches. The spiritual master of the Vedic tradition, the guru, is Lakshmana’s representative. In the Janaki Mangala, we get an idea of how glorious Rama and Lakshmana are, and at the same time we are given an outlet for extending our service to God. We may be very rich or very poor, but in either case there is the same opportunity to serve the Supreme Lord and feel happiness.

The devotee sacrifices their time and effort in composing poetry and sharing it with others, and the consuming public lends their ears to these works, basking in the sweetness of the words and the mental pictures they paint. The image of Shri Rama and Lakshmana escorting Vishvamitra, the son of Gadhi, into the dangerous forests is a pleasure for the consciousness, which needs a vital source of happiness while residing in a land full of bewilderment furthered by constant creation and destruction.

Rama and LakshmanaWhy was the forest dangerous? A band of night-rangers, headed by Maricha, was wreaking havoc, disrupting the sacrifices of the brahmanas, the priestly class. Think of a priest delivering a sermon in church on Sunday when a terrorist comes in and blows everything up. A similar thing was happening in the forest of Dandaka, where many ascetics had sought refuge because of the peaceful surroundings. Rama and Lakshmana were sons of King Dasharatha, so they were trained from birth to protect the innocent. Dasharatha did not want to part with Rama, but Vishvamitra insisted that only Rama could protect him. Thus the two beautiful sons left their comfortable home to reside in the austere settings of the forest. Not once did they complain nor did they fail to uphold their responsibilities. Vishvamitra, pleased with them, gave the boys mantras to be used when fighting. Rama and Lakshmana don’t need any help from anyone, but so great is their respect for the priestly class that to boost the stature of figures like Vishvamitra they pretend to require help.

The devotees have limited abilities in the area of glorification, but the kind Lord pays more attention to sincerity than to the end result. What can we really create anyway? Lord Brahma is much more powerful than we are, for he is responsible for the 8,400,000 different species that appear in the fourteen worlds. Despite his abilities to create, there is no beauty available on his massive palette of qualities to create something comparable to Rama or Lakshmana.

You could search the entire fourteen worlds and not find anything like those two youths. Similarly, you can scour the whole of literature, spiritual or otherwise, and not find anything as sweet and heartwarming as the works crafted by Goswami Tulsidas, the author of the Janaki Mangala. Because he was selfish enough to want to bask in the sweet vision of Rama and Lakshmana with Vishvamitra, we are today fortunate enough to have the same mental image painted for us.

In Closing:

Beauties like Rama and Lakshmana never seen,

Anywhere in the planetary systems fourteen.


Leaving with Vishvamitra such a pleasurable sight,

The two boys who bring to Raghu’s clan delight.


Tulsidas in attempt to keep vision in mind,

Wrote many poems, allows for time to rewind.


Brahma must have used materials the best,

All beauty used up, none left for creatures the rest.


Of course no creation, God’s body and soul the same,

Comparison attempt for unexplainable to explain.