Saturday, April 7, 2012

Adult Supervision

Lord Rama“They are so hesitant and very fearful when seeing the muni that they come back. Plucking flowers, fruits and leaves, they make garlands.” (Janaki Mangala, 34)

sakucahiṃ munihiṃ sabhīta bahuri phiri āvahiṃ |
tori phūla phala kisalaya māla banāvahiṃ ||

When there is an adult around, the young child will be more mindful of the rules. The natural inclination is to run free, but the adult keeps that voice inside the child’s head that says, “No. Don’t do that.” The child may even come close to breaking the rules but at the last minute, looking back as if to see if someone is watching, they will check themselves. Such behavior is very endearing in innocent young children, so the Supreme Lord in His form of Shri Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana made sure to mimic it, giving the guru Vishvamitra tremendous delight.

How can God be fearful? Why should He require a guru? Does not this make the spiritual master the superior entity? Through mental speculation alone we can’t understand the Absolute Truth. When learning things on our own, such as a new language through immersion into a foreign culture, there must be observation of external behavior in order to pick up the necessary components. You can’t just automatically start speaking a new language without having heard it from someone else first.

languagesThis principle applies to all areas of learning. The knowledge of the soul and its travels through transmigration represents the most important and difficult to acquire pieces of information. Therefore the mind, which is limited by time and space, cannot possibly alone collect all relevant information in just one lifetime. Even if we could remember every one of our experiences in this life, so many other living beings have accumulated an infinitely larger number of experiences. If the mind could expand to the size of a giant computer and store every single person’s experiences, it still would have no way of knowing what to do with that information. The mind would be something like a library, which in itself has no intelligence. The library can only lend information for brief periods of time to interested readers and researchers.

The highest truths of life are easy to accept, provided one goes to the right source. The spiritual master following in a line of teachers that starts with the Supreme Lord is the only authorized source. Approaching any other teacher for spiritual information will either lead the student astray or cause them to miss out on the opportunity of feeling the pleasure that comes from the company of the reservoir of pleasure. There are different pathways towards true enlightenment, but once that superior vision is acquired, there is only one source of pleasure beyond that. The knowledge that is first acquired is that of Brahman, or pure spirit. Seeing Brahman is difficult because sight itself can be illusory. Start with your own body. You look in the mirror every day but you can’t see that you’re slowly dying, a process which starts from the time you were born and culminates with the exit of the soul from the body. Thus seeing deludes you into thinking that you are your body, which you are not.

Brahman realization sees the spirit soul within the body. Not only is spirit localized internally, but it also exists within every other species. Thus there is a large collection of individual fragments of spirit. The sum total is known as Brahman, and only one who is sober in mind and following the real principles of religion can understand the equality shared between the various species. The bona fide principles of spirituality involve austerity, sacrifice and dedication to study.

The chance to learn about Brahman is a boon for the human birth, affording the opportunity to acquire real knowledge. Knowing how to eat, sleep, mate and defend requires no explicit education, for the animals take care of these responsibilities without a problem. The Vedic tradition stipulates that the person wanting to know about the Absolute Truth should approach a bona fide spiritual master and render service to him.

Shrila PrabhupadaIn actuality, service starts from the very beginning of life. The mother and father are the first worshipable figures, or gurus in a sense. Knowing that there is a God is beneficial, but actually serving Him is difficult because He is considered inanimate. If I want to talk to God, where should I go? How can I see God and know that He is real? The personal interaction with the Supreme Lord is certainly possible, but it can only occur after the purification of vision. That purification takes place after one offers service to those who are worthy of it. From that dedication comes a simultaneous withdrawal from the interest of the senses.

After the parents are served, the spiritual master then takes over as the worshipable figure. He is a servant of God, so he knows how to teach his students the right way, so that through their actions in adult life they can attain the same God realization. It is not that everyone will follow the same path. There are divisions in society based on a person’s natural qualities. From those divisions comes different prescribed work. For the royal order, the primary business is to take care of protection. They must protect the innocent, and especially the priestly class.

As Lord Rama, the Supreme Absolute Truth appeared on earth in the famous Raghu dynasty, which had chivalrous kings dating back to the beginning of time. As God, Rama did not require an education. He is the source of Brahman, so what need does He have to learn about the all-pervasiveness of the impersonal spiritual force? Yet to set the proper example of how one should carry out their prescribed duties, He accepted Vishvamitra as a guru, serving him perfectly.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Shri Rama and His brother Lakshmana are holding back a little after having run through the forests chasing bird and deer for fun. Rama and Lakshmana were escorting Vishvamitra through the forests because the sage was being harassed at the time by wicked night-rangers who could change their shapes at will. Rama was not yet twelve years of age, so He was still very young and showed signs of youthful exuberance.

Vishvamitra was older, so Rama made sure to show the proper respect. In remembering the muni’s presence, the boys drew back and returned to his side. In this way Rama shows that He is a sweetheart who loves His devotees so much. He gives them the pleasure they deserve in their specific mood of choice. Vishvamitra got to have Rama as a protector while outwardly acting as His guardian. Lakshmana was there too, showing the muni the tremendous fraternal affection the brothers felt for each other.

Rama and Lakshmana with VishvamitraA child listens to people they respect. Therefore Rama coming back to the camp after having run off in fun shows that Vishvamitra was held in high esteem. The muni would give the two brothers secret mantras to be chanted during fighting. With the power of the sound vibrations, the arrows flying from their bows would then pack a punch similar to nuclear weapons. Again, Rama and Lakshmana didn’t require these mantras, but they accepted them to show the value of the guru and how he can help the sincere students to carry out their prescribed duties.

It is also stated above that the brothers plucked flowers, fruits and leaves and made garlands out of them. The beautiful nature we see around us isn’t meant only to further strengthen illusion. If I take nature to be the sum and substance of everything, the very cause of creation, I am obviously mistaken and will have to suffer rebirth in the future. On the other hand, if I use the same aspects of creation to serve the Lord, I am making the best use of those gifts.

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

In the Bhagavad-gita, the same Rama in His original form of Shri Krishna states that anyone who offers Him a leaf, a flower, fruit or some water with devotion will have their offering accepted. In the case of Rama in the forest, the leaves, flowers and fruits were taken and accepted by the Lord to be a garland worn around His neck. To this day devotees who worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead take the time to make flower garlands and offer it to the deities and the spiritual master. Flowers are nature’s beauty. They are so amazing that no mind except the Supreme Mind could ever come up with something so wonderful to look at, which has a nice fragrance at the same time.

Lord RamaThe flowers, fruits and leaves were used for the Lord’s pleasure and thus fulfilled the highest purpose. This material body of ours is intended to be sacrificed in the same manner. The tongue exists to taste the remnants of foodstuff offered to God and to chant His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The feet are meant to take us to holy places of pilgrimage and to any place where the glories of the Lord are sung. The eyes are meant to gaze upon the wonderful deity. And most importantly, the ears are meant to hear about the Supreme Lord and His pastimes, such as those so beautifully presented in the Janaki Mangala of Goswami Tulsidas.

In Closing:

After chasing the birds and stopping the deer,

Brothers come to muni out of fear.


Flowers, fruits and leaves along the way they take,

So that beautiful garlands for pleasure they make.


Vishvamitra, son of Gadhi, all of this he sees,

Supreme Lord acts so that His devotees are pleased.


Spiritual master has information worthy to know,

Boat towards supreme destination he rows.


Eat prasadam, Lord’s glories do you hear,

To Rama’s vision your eyes do you steer.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Spiritual Instincts

Krishna's lotus feet“Advancement of civilization is estimated not on the growth of mills and factories to deteriorate the finer instincts of the human being, but on developing the potent spiritual instincts of human beings and giving them a chance to go back to Godhead.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.11.12 Purport)

It’s strange to think that the advancement we’re so desperately seeking will actually not do much for us. For instance, take the scenario of the first member of the family to attend college. Perhaps previous generations were relegated to life on a farm, where there wasn’t much of a chance for rapid economic development. You worked to eat, and you didn’t have to work that hard. Perhaps a few months out of the year to tend to the crops, and the rest of the time you had to yourself. At the same time, the drawback was that others who were involved in industry had more disposable income, which afforded them the ability to travel far and wide. But does such a lifestyle represent advancement? To find the answer, the key components of the competing worldviews need to be analyzed and assessed in relation to the effect they have on consciousness.

Yes, it is consciousness and not the amount of money in the bank that determines your wellbeing. The disposition of the mind, whether or not it is peacefully situated, trickles down into all other activities. A peaceful person will not fight with others and they will not be so easily distressed at the first sign of trouble. And who wouldn’t want to possess these attributes? Would we rather be miserable all the time, envious of our fellow man, and unable to tolerate the sudden rise in temperature or the inclement weather that appears on a particular day, at just the wrong time?

“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

Lord KrishnaIn the famous Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that one must learn to tolerate the sudden shifts in fortune, for they come and go like the seasons. It would be silly to complain about the summer because it will arrive no matter what we do. Nothing can be done to change the temperature of the earth, though foolish philosophers who have no understanding of the forces of nature and how powerful they are will think otherwise. If nothing can be done to redress temporary ailments and prevent them from reappearing in the future, what is the use then in overly lamenting bad times?

By the same token, what goes up must fall down. If I am on top of a particular industry today, it should be remembered that previously I wasn’t holding the top post. As my upward mobility indicated a shift in possession of the leadership position, I should remain aware that the same shift can occur again in the future. This is already visibly identifiable with the process of death, but alas the ignorant human being mired in a cycle of acceptance and rejection tries to forget the eventual end of life as much as possible. You can defer the payments you owe on a specific loan if the entity lending the money allows you to do so, but eventually you’ll have to pay the money back. In the game of life, we may put off thinking about death, but nevertheless the forced exit from the body must occur.

If we are compelled to leave the form that we call home for so many years, why should there be any attachment to happiness and sadness that come with temporary success and failure? Only through illusion is a temporary ascendency towards a higher position taken to be the ultimate objective in life. Look at the world’s wealthiest individuals. Are they satisfied with just one million dollars or starting a single profitable venture? With each new success comes a desire to inch towards more advancement, leading the passionate individual to work harder and fear even more about future outcomes.

Throughout all the changes that occur around us consciousness remains our best friend. It can also be our worst enemy, but this only happens if there is an improper identification. Unfortunately, the flawed identification is the one we accept at the time of birth. Taking a collection of material elements that constantly change to be our identity, we assume that anything that provides satisfaction to that collection will lead to our personal satisfaction as well. The consciousness, however, is not solely hinged upon physical strength, dexterity, association with other living entities, or one’s personal net worth.

Krishna and ArjunaConsciousness is shaped through experiences, and it reveals what the living being thinks of most. Consciousness also indicates the presence of life, for once consciousness dissipates the living being is no longer considered alive. The soul is the carrier of the consciousness, and it travels from form to form in the process known as reincarnation. These facts are nicely revealed in the Vedas, whose most famous work is the Bhagavad-gita. Through the lessons of the Gita, which are provided by Shri Krishna, the fountainhead of knowledge and the object of sacrifice, man can learn to purify consciousness.

If it is consciousness that remains with us, why shouldn’t we make its purification our top priority? But how would that work exactly? If I want to purify my consciousness, what do I need to do differently? What am I doing now that I should give up and what should I take on in the future? Though the explanation of the shift can be quite lengthy, using a simple example can help to illustrate the foundational principle. Revisiting the family farm example, in a simple life the mind has much less to worry about. Though the subsistence farmer is considered poor in the standard estimation, they actually get all of their necessities in life supplied without too much of a problem. Is it poor to not have to worry about food? Are you in poverty if you’re not constantly worried about having a job in the future?

The competing lifestyle hinged on progress provides a nice contrast. In a world filled with mills and factories, the precious value of the human life is traded for hard work to earn a paltry living. The aggregate earnings are considered paltry because in menial work the result should be the ability to eat and sleep peacefully. Moreover, the work shouldn’t be that difficult and it shouldn’t last that long. In the end, we just need some basic food to consume and a sturdy shelter to put over our heads. I can use my God given abilities to plant crops, tend to them, harvest them, and live in a simple housing structure.

With a mill or factory the labor is quite intensive, and it repeats for long periods of time each week. The worker is so tired at the end of the day that they are happy if they can just sit on the couch at home and do nothing. Perhaps kick back and drink alcohol and forget about the fact that you have to go back out to the mill the next day. The person working in the office may have less intense labor to complete and better working conditions, but the cycle of action and rest is the same.

The biggest difference between the two lifestyles is the effect on consciousness. In the simple life, there is less competition and thus a lower occurrence of strife and envy. If I am a farmer and my neighbor is a farmer, both working to eat food, what need is there for competition? Rather, since we are in the same boat, we will likely help each other out. In the close-knit community the neighbors are like extended family members, who provide nice companionship and help to raise the children.

The properly situated consciousness has more time to contemplate the meaning of life and why birth and death occur. The sober truths of the Vedas are meant for uplifting the human spirit towards true enlightenment. Mired in an endless game that provides paltry rewards, the members of the so-called advanced civilization don’t have the time to see things properly. Should I really spend the majority of my time on this earth engaged in fruitive activity that leaves me so tired and disgusted that I don’t want to do anything else in my little free time?

“Okay, so the simple lifestyle of a farm community is more ideal, but what am I supposed to do today? What if I can’t just give up everything and buy land and go live on it? I still need to eat, and with the way civilization is structured today that requires getting a college education and working hard in an office. Do I thus have no opportunity for spiritual realization?“

Lord KrishnaThe modern conditions show the presence of the Kali Yuga, the dark age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Maya, or material nature, has a strong influence during this time period, illustrated by the fact that the majority of society considers the modern way of life to be superior. We have cell phones and the internet now, so why should we return to the primitive days of the farms? Maya makes sure that the past work applied to get paltry rewards is quickly forgotten. Only with forgetfulness will a person try the same activity repeatedly and hope to get a different outcome.

The holy name is the strongest weapon to curtail Kali Yuga’s power. The holy name represents the Supreme Lord, the savior of the fallen souls. The consciousness can be purified only when it learns to focus on that sweetheart, whose original form shows a beautiful youth with a blackish complexion holding a flute in His hands and wearing a peacock feather in His hair. If you are not keen on accepting this vision of the Supreme Lord, chant the holy names anyway. Through a positive activity not related to fruitive gain, personal sense enjoyment, or the elimination of temporary ailments, the consciousness can learn to focus on pure spirit.

If the consciousness is accustomed to hearing the sacred sound vibrations of, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, there is no question of worrying over the issue of advanced versus primitive. A properly situated consciousness can keep the individual peaceful and calm during both the most intense storm and the peaceful and soothing presence of the springtime sun. The source of this consciousness and its resulting strength is the person addressed through the holy name. The features of that person are revealed through the removal of the veil of ignorance. He is always present before us and also inside of us as the Supersoul, but He must be accessed through the consciousness. The principles of bhakti-yoga, the discipline to bring about true spiritual freedom, give the conditioned living being the tools to have their consciousness always fixed on God. Connection with Him is always beneficial, so in whatever situation we find ourselves, if a desire to associate with Him is present, favorable circumstances will automatically follow.

In Closing:

In mills and factories work hard with pain,

So that in the end to enjoy a paltry gain.


The subsequent day difficult cycle repeat,

Too tired at end of day, on couch take a seat.


This is not how precious human life to be spent,

To understand Supreme Lord our existence meant.


Know that connection with Him pleasure will bring,

That is why Vedas, Puranas, and saints His glories sing.


Primitive versus modern, debate to continue on and on,

In whatever condition, holy name of Krishna rely upon.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cannot Do It Alone

Shri Hanuman“I have contracted this body of mine for Rama's interest and for avoiding Ravana. May all the devas along with the rishis confer success upon me.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.64)

samkṣipto ayam mayā ātmā ca rāma arthe rāvaṇasya ca |
siddhim me samvidhāsyanti devāḥ sarṣi gaṇāḥ tv iha ||

Only the person with a poor fund of knowledge thinks that there is no God, from whom the entire material existence has sprung. The same person who thinks that they just emerged out of the womb of their mother through random action takes the belief in God to be childish play, like putting faith in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. The gifts of nature are meant to be exploited in a manner seen fit by the person who has developed their system of regulation from their own whims, through their own personal observations. But since the universe has been in existence for billions of years, what can any one person ever experience that could be of significant enough value to be used as a valid system of maintenance? The wise understand that there is a God, and they also know how to please Him. Since His existence is real, the saintly class follows pious behavior aimed at pleasing the fountainhead of all energies. Though they encounter many successes and develop glorious features, they never forget God. They also remember to invoke the names and seek the blessings of those who are similarly engaged, who stay connected with God through consciousness.

$(KGrHqUOKpQE6RpghmWBBOufhSHfbw~~60_3What is the difference between behaving piously with regard to the standards of spiritual life and following a system of maintenance crafted through your own mind? The mentally concocted system is limited. Use the recipe to see how this works. One person created a particular food dish through experiment, and they liked what the outcome was. To repeat the same outcome in the future, and to also show others how to create the same dish, a recipe is written and passed on. By following the recipe in your cooking, you are essentially following a system of maintenance. A scriptural work may be thousands of years old and contain information vital for the soul’s future well being, but in the end it is just a series of law codes, guidelines for behavior that aim to further a position.

Following the recipe can bring success, but the scope of the affected outcome is very limited. Food is just there to keep the vital force within the body after all, so how much can we really gain from a recipe? Expand the same principle out to a larger scale, like to a governing document for a nation, and you’re still limited in your scope of applicability. This is because the human being cannot possibly see all that there is to see. Moreover, automatically he is limited in his brain power due to the fact that he has no memory of past lives. Where the individual spirit soul was prior to attaining consciousness in this life is a giant mystery that cannot be deciphered with certainty, for there are no documented sense perceptions linking the individual in their previous lives to their current form.

Notice that the limitation comes from the time that consciousness is somewhat developed in the present life and not from the time of birth. This is because we have no memory of all of our experiences during this lifetime, though we know they took place based on the authority of our parents, the people who did have a developed consciousness at a time when we lacked one. Again, we know with almost certainty that we took birth from a womb, for that is how everyone else seems to enter this world. Sense perceptions are never one hundred percent accurate after all. Do we remember what we wore to school or work one year ago to the date? As things are easily forgotten, even personal experience is not perfect as an authority source.

Systems of maintenance that come from only sense perceptions will thus be limited in their effectiveness. Also, what if someone is not interested in the particular area that the guidelines cover? A recipe used to create a fancy dish is applicable to a person who likes to cook or to someone who likes to eat that dish, but if I am satisfied by eating fruits that fall off of trees, I have no use for that recipe. This isn’t even a deficiency on my part, as I will never require such recipes. I will have nothing to gain by reading those guidelines.

Bhagavad-gita, As It IsThe Vedic scriptures are not limited like this because they come directly from God. Therefore they have applicability to every single person, even if they don’t know it. I may be familiar with the Constitution of the United States of America, but this doesn’t mean that I can gain anything tangible from it. Depending on my goals and desires, I will focus on guidelines specific to my field of interest. As the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, deal with the soul, its position with respect to the material and spiritual energies, how it travels through different bodies in what is known as reincarnation, how it is related to the Supreme Soul, or God, and how it can gain release from the cycle of birth and death, the information presented is applicable to every living entity.

With the Vedas, a person may be unfamiliar with the specific tenets, the purposes behind the guidelines, and why they even exist, but they can still derive a benefit from following the instructions. It’s similar to how children are benefitted by begrudgingly going along with the wishes of the parents. “Go to sleep on time. Eat your dinner. Do your homework. Clear the table. Take out the garbage.” These commands are followed reluctantly, but they deliver future benefits to the child.

The adult human being is infinitely less mature than the Supreme Lord, who never suffers degradation of consciousness. Not only is He fully alert to His own dealings, but as the all-pervading Supersoul, He witnesses every activity past, present and future. Along with witnessing, He is an expert journalist, capable of recalling every single event within a second. Past, present and future are relative concepts to the living entity travelling through different body types. In addition, each person’s past, present and future don’t correspond with another person’s. My son’s past involved my future life at one point. My son will think of his birth as part of his distant past, but to me his birth was a future event eagerly anticipated. The afterlife will also one day become the past life for every individual soul. The present birth was the future life for the soul that left its previous body.

“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)

Lord KrishnaWith such limitations inherited at the time of birth, only a fool would think that he is the sole commander of his fortunes. Yet this is precisely what happens when one suffers from the fever of material existence. As more success is achieved, the tendency is for the false ego to further inflate. Yet from following the example of one notable personality, just by studying his behavior, his activities and his thought processes, we can see that no matter how successful we are, the final goal, the mission in life, must always be kept in front as the target. In addition, the successes we achieve are due to the favor of the Supreme Person and those who propitiate Him.

The personality we speak of is Shri Hanuman, who was a long time ago tasked with finding a missing princess within an enemy territory. In a typical reconnaissance mission, you have some intelligence about where the person is being held and how to infiltrate the area. You also have people helping you out, backing you up in case there are attacks made. Hanuman had no such luxuries. He did acquire the information that this princess was staying on a remote island called Lanka, which was ruled over by the vilest creatures in the world, those who had no understanding of a Supreme Controller.

To make the task even more difficult and to further enhance Hanuman’s glory at the same time, no one in Hanuman’s party of Vanaras was capable of reaching this island except Hanuman. This meant that the eager warrior would have to go it alone, fight the giant fight, persevere without anyone there to support him. Fight on he would, and eventually he would search through all of Lanka for the princess, who couldn’t be found. This search was by no means easy. Hanuman had to rely on his physical strength, mental sharpness, mastery of yoga, and keen insight with respect to time and circumstance in order to continue his search without being noticed by anyone.

HanumanDespite his amazing efforts, Hanuman thought that he hadn’t done anything. Lord Rama, the incarnation of Godhead as a warrior prince, was the interested party in this scenario. It was His wife, Sita Devi, whom Hanuman was looking for. Hanuman was not concerned with padding his résumé, looking good to others, or pumping himself up over his feats of strength. He thought that he was the biggest failure, so much so that he seriously contemplated ending his life and not returning to Kishkindha, where Rama and the leader of monkeys, Sugriva, were anxiously awaiting news on the search.

Only because of his love for Rama did Hanuman forge ahead. There was one area where he had yet to search, a grove of Ashoka trees. He first mentally entered this area to survey the scene, to measure what he would be up against. A wise military commander forms an initial strategy by becoming familiar with the field of battle. He will later shift gears if he needs to, but going in unprepared is not an option. Hanuman similarly wanted to know what he would face inside this garden, which was guarded by many Rakshasas.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see Hanuman stating the obvious fact that he had contracted his size for Rama’s interest and for staying unrecognized by the Rakshasas, who were headed by Ravana. This Ravana was the one who had taken Sita away from Rama’s side in a most cowardly way. These events took place during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. Therefore the fighting class was very chivalrous; they typically did not flee from battle nor did they take anyone away without winning a fight first. Ravana, however, was so afraid of Rama that he took Sita away by creating a distraction that temporarily diverted Rama away from Sita’s side. Hanuman knew all of this, so he was not expecting any decency from Ravana or his counterparts.

By clandestinely contracting his size, the spy is essentially following duplicity. They are entering someone else’s land illegally and not putting up a fair fight. But Hanuman’s task was to please Rama by finding Sita, therefore he would do whatever it took to get that job done. Contracting his size was in line with dharma, though it is not mentioned anywhere in the scriptures. Bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is the highest occupational duty because it corresponds directly with the soul’s loving propensity, which is its foremost characteristic. Bhakti is meant for God, as love’s ideal exercise occurs when the target beneficiary of action is the Supreme Lord in His personal form. The atheists also worship God, but they indirectly worship Him by giving allegiance to dull matter and the senses. Therefore the result of their worship, further association with matter, is substandard.

HanumanHanuman also humbly prays that the devas and the rishis be favorable to him. This is a little strange because Hanuman was in the middle of doing something the gods and the saints would glorify for all of time. He was their role model, for rare it is to get the chance to serve God directly, especially in the heroic manner that Hanuman had. Nevertheless, Hanuman was never puffed up. He never considered himself the source of his extraordinary abilities or the results that followed from their exercise. The devas, or demigods, are in charge of the material creation, where they deliver rewards to their worshipers. The devas are the worshipable objects for those who are somewhat pious but still not interested in bhakti, or connecting with God in His original form of Bhagavan. The rishis, or saints, are those who worship God through their thoughts, words and deeds.

Hanuman was acting in Rama’s interests, so the devas and the rishis had to be favorable upon him. The gods and the saints are the Supreme Lord’s glorifiers, so if they see someone else acting in the Lord’s interests, they do whatever they can to help them succeed, especially when asked to do so. The demigods grant benedictions to even the most sinful people, such as Ravana, when their motives have nothing to do with bhakti. If someone as kind and pure-hearted as Hanuman were to ask for help, how could they not help him? He wasn’t asking for a personal benediction either. He just wanted Rama to be pleased, which would come through success in the mission.

In this way Hanuman showed the proper way to respect and honor the demigods and saints. They are very powerful personalities, and their true potency lies in their ability to help the struggling soul succeed in their devotional efforts. Goswami Tulsidas, a famous Vaishnava poet who followed the mood of devotion shown by Hanuman, followed similar behavior by beseeching the gods and the saints for their favor when writing his poems glorifying Lord Rama. Tulsidas made sure to honor Lord Ganesha at the start of his works, for that is the standard etiquette in Vedic rituals. Yet he never asked Lord Ganesha for personal benedictions, just the ability to have Sita and Rama always reside in his heart. Just as the gods and the saints had no choice but to favor Hanuman in his work in Lanka, they are compelled to help any sincere soul looking for success in the path of bhakti.

Not surprisingly, Hanuman would succeed. The difficulties he encountered and the natural humility he possessed didn’t stop him from fighting with full force. His mental sharpness was as amazing as his physical strength, for they were both dovetailed with the mission of pleasing Rama. Just as he always acts to put a smile on the face of Sita and Rama, they are always thrilled at just thinking of Hanuman and remembering his bravery. All would end well, with Sita being rescued and Ravana being defeated, due in no small part to Ramadutta, Shri Hanuman, the Supreme Lord’s most capable messenger.

In Closing:

Through practice your skills do you hone,

But never think that results come on their own.


For outcomes higher powers must play a hand,

They control elements, bring rain to the land.


But Hanuman from others help doesn’t need,

For Shri Rama’s direct commands he does heed.


Nevertheless, Hanuman saints he does honor,

In carrying out devotion, asks for their favor.


For avoiding Ravana and meeting Rama’s interest,

He contracted his form, would pass the toughest test.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cursed To Wait For Krishna

!BvLhvl!!mk~$(KGrHqYOKkYEvPP1BkV1BMDdc1Qu!Q~~_3“While mother Yashoda was very busy with household affairs, the Supreme Lord, Krishna, observed twin trees known as yamala-arjuna, which in a former millennium had been the demigod sons of Kuvera.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.22)

The mother’s work was finally done, at the behest of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who remain tied to a mortar in the courtyard as punishment for having broken a pot of butter. The same Bhagavan cannot be so easily captured by even the most exalted figures of the world, but due to the spontaneous affection of the dear mother, Krishna agreed to her desires, allowing her to perform her motherly duties. As the saying goes, “Everything happens for a reason”, Krishna staying in that courtyard as punishment fulfilled so many purposes simultaneously. The two sons of Kuvera were awaiting atonement, and after many years of punishment, their time for deliverance was set to arrive.

Though one may be born into a pious family, if they should fall victim to false pride and ego, their fortunate surroundings still cannot safeguard them from unhappiness and distress. If you are born into a wealthy family, not having to worry about procuring material possessions obviously should be a good thing, but say that you get spoiled by what your parents give you. Instead of learning that hard work is required to earn money and that because of this the fruits of labor should not be spent frivolously, you think that you can get whatever you want, whenever you want it.

On one birthday you demand from your parents an expensive luxury car. Though you’re not old enough to work to earn enough money for the car, because you have grown up in wealth, you don’t find the request to be odd. If the parents are kind enough to give you the gift, though, the blessing can turn out to be a curse fairly quickly. The luxury car can reach high speeds in a short amount of time. Since the handling is so smooth, you don’t feel like you’re travelling that fast. Therefore, you are more prone to getting into an accident, causing injury to yourself. The potential for the same misfortune is absent in those who don’t grow up in wealth, who don’t have parents that could supply them with expensive gifts.

Nalakuvara and ManigrivaNalakuvara and Manigriva grew up as sons of the treasurer of the demigods, Kuvera. Though we don’t see an intelligent force behind the operation of nature, there are elevated living beings in charge of it. This information is provided to us by the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. It is easy to discount this information as being mythology. “Perhaps primitive people didn’t know any better, so they came up with these stories to explain how nature worked.” The same tact can be taken with any information received, so we have to determine authority through other means. If someone presents us information and that knowledge ends up benefitting us, we can extend more faith to the same authority source in the future.

The Vedas, with their most celebrated work being the Bhagavad-gita, provide so much valuable information that cannot be found from any other source. While one tradition may say that God gave up His one and only son, the Vedas reveal that God can never be limited in this way. He is the source of everything, so the infinite number of creatures we see all come from Him. If they are not sons of God, then God has no relation to them. If there is no relation to God, then the very definition of God is not valid. The Supreme Being is the Personality of Godhead, the reservoir of all energy, including pleasure. If a particular living entity does not come from Him, i.e. they are not His son or daughter, then what business does God have in their life?

Along with the in-depth study of the differences between matter and spirit and God’s actual position as the Lord of all creatures, the Vedas provide information about elevated living entities and how long they can live. The “heaven” we commonly speak of is just another area of space where the living conditions are better than they are now. Because of the enhanced conditions, the residents can live longer. Since they can live longer they are given greater responsibilities, which include managing the material nature.

A tree in VrindavanaKuvera is in charge of wealth, and his sons Nalakuvara and Manigriva took advantage of their relation to the treasurer of the demigods by living comfortably. One time they were intoxicated and sporting naked with women in a lake. The famous rishi Narada saw them, and since they were too intoxicated to follow the proper etiquette, they were cursed by him for the behavior. Since they liked to remain naked, Narada granted them the forms of trees in their next life. A tree can live for a very long time without requiring much. In this way we see that living long within a particular form of body is not a sign of evolution. Just because someone can survive in a prison-like environment doesn’t mean that they have a superior quality of life.

The curse was two-sided, though. The brothers also received a blessing through the contact with Narada. The two sons would gain release from their curse through meeting the Supreme Lord Himself. Krishna wouldn’t arrive on the scene just to liberate them, but He would include their deliverance as part of His pastimes in the holy land of Vrindavana. Thus the two sons would see Krishna in His most adorable form of a small child who kindly acted under the control of His dear mother.

A good son delights the parents. The naughty child may sometimes provide a nuisance to the caretakers, but then again they also provide reasons for the application of guardianship. If you have a young child that can feed itself, determine when to go to sleep, when to wake up, and when to study, what work will you as a parent have to do? How will you offer your love? If you should have the “perfect” child, you will still try to give them some instruction, for what then would be the purpose of being a parent?

In Krishna’s case, He was sweet and adorable, and yet naughty too. Thus mother Yashoda swam in an ocean of transcendental nectar whenever she was in her son’s company. The boy loved His mother as well, so the reciprocal feelings made for a a pleasant atmosphere. The curious Krishna did not cry after His mother tied Him to a mortar and returned to the kitchen. Rather, He looked over and saw two arjuna trees nearby. Krishna knew who the trees were, and He knew that the mortar could help Him accomplish His task.

“Although He was able to pass through the passage, the large wooden mortar stuck horizontally between the trees. Taking advantage of this, Lord Krishna began to pull the rope which was tied to the mortar. As soon as He pulled, with great strength, the two trees, with all branches and limbs, fell down immediately with a great sound. Out of the broken, fallen trees came two great personalities, shining like blazing fire.”  (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 10)

Nalakuvara and Manigriva seeing KrishnaBy placing the mortar in between the trees and using it as a sort of lever, Krishna was able to knock down the trees. Normally this is a dangerous situation for a child to be in, but for Krishna there had been past incidents involving much greater danger. The female witch Putana tried to give Him poison through her breast and the demon Trinavarta took Him in a whirlwind all the way up into the air. Yet Krishna was still living and these demons were long since dead. The miraculous feats of the jewel of Vrindavana only increased everyone’s attachment to Him. That affection for God is every person’s birthright, but only in the proper conditions can it be aroused and remain active perpetually. When it is at the strongest levels at the time of death, the living being no longer has to suffer through the cycle of reincarnation.

“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)

When the trees fell down, the forms of Nalakuvara and Manigriva came out, and they offered prayers to the Lord and then returned to their previous position by Krishna’s benediction. Only Krishna and some neighboring children saw them, and when the elders arrived on the scene, they were amazed at how the young boy could knock down two large trees such as those. The punishment period was over, and now Krishna could return to roaming freely through Vrindavana, playing with His friends and getting into trouble.

The curse applied by Narada Muni made the two sons live in sorrow as lonely and helpless trees for a long period of time. But just one moment’s contact with the Supreme Personality of Godhead makes a seemingly endless amount of suffering and penance worth it. Kuvera’s sons were in a similar circumstance to Ahalya, Gautama Muni’s wife. She was also cursed to remain idle for many years until she was graced by the Supreme Lord, the same Krishna, in the form of Rama, the son of King Dasharatha.

Though we are condemned by the fact that we must suffer through birth and death, a moment’s contact with a devotee who can lead us to the spiritual land of Goloka Vrindavana can make all the suffering worth it. Many lifetimes have been spent in previous bodies searching for sense gratification that doesn’t bring any lasting happiness, so if we can make this stint within a material body worth it, all the past transgressions will be a distant memory. Hold on to the holy name, chant it regularly, and remember the sweetheart of Vrindavana, who delighted everyone with His pastimes.

In Closing:

Nalakuvara and Manigriva, of Kuvera were sons,

Ran into trouble when having intoxicated fun.


With prestige of higher parentage sons were drunk,

From Narada’s curse to forms of trees they sunk.


In that large and immovable state,

For sight of Krishna they had to wait.


In Yashoda’s courtyard, trees’ history boy could tell,

Moving mortar in between, trees to ground fell.


Sage’s curse to be a blessing it turned out,

As trees’ meeting with Supreme Lord came about.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Running Like a Child

Lord Rama holding His bow“He is looking at the many mountains, vines, rivers and ponds on the way. As part of His childish play, He is running after birds and trying to stop deer.” (Janaki Mangala, 33)

thgara tarū beli sarita sara bipula bilokahiṃ |
dhāvahiṃ bāla subhāya bihaga mṛga rokahiṃ ||

Travelling in the forest, the young son of King Dasharatha is having a good time, as any child close to twelve years of age would want. Seeing the birds and tigers, He is trying to catch them, and gazing at the beautiful surroundings, the origin of all life and matter is appreciating His marvelous abilities. At the same time, the boy’s younger brother Lakshmana is accompanying Him, and they are guarded by Vishvamitra, the pious muni. This combination of characters makes for a delightful scene, one which can be contemplated upon again and again.

Why was Lord Rama chasing after birds and trying to stop deer? As the father of the creation, all creatures come from Him. It is not that the intelligent species who can understand God slightly through the good fortune of meeting a spiritual master are the only candidates for the Lord’s mercy in the form of His personal association. Even the less intelligent deer, who run out into the road and get mesmerized by the headlights of an oncoming automobile, can delight in seeing Rama’s countenance. When God chases after them, tries to stop them, or shows any attention to them at all, how could they not feel pleasure?

Lord RamaAnimals have souls? They most certainly do. In fact, all forms of life have the same quality of spirit residing within them. The outer forms may not always have the same appearance, but the makeup of the spirit soul, the spark of life, in the individuals is not different. This shouldn’t be that difficult to understand. A spirit soul resides in a body so helpless that it requires diapers and then stays within that body until it is old enough to drive a car, go to work, and produce offspring. The soul is the constant; it does not move or change in quality.

Take the same principle and apply it to every single species and you get the vision known as Brahman realization. Brahman is pure spirit. It is not affected by the changes to the external features. Just as when we might be angry one day and sad another our identity doesn’t change, just because one soul is in the body of a deer and another in the enlightened human being doesn’t mean that there is any distinction in the end. If you gather together every instance of spirit and put it into one collection for observational purposes, you get the concept of Brahman.

Obviously, acquiring the Brahman vision is very difficult. The principles of a bona fide religion are meant to bring about the realization of Brahman. In the Vedas, the oldest system of spirituality in existence, strict austerity and dedicated sacrifice coupled with instruction from a spiritual master at a young age sets up the necessary conditions for attaining the enlightened vision of seeing all spirit souls as equal.

Yet the vision doesn’t represent the end point, as was proven by Vishvamitra Muni. On the surface Vishvamitra, the son of Gadhi, was a brahmana practicing the principles of the Vedas aimed at seeing all living beings as equal. At the same time, he knew that there was one spiritual force which was superior, which was the source of Brahman. That singular entity, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, happened to appear in the pious Raghu dynasty as the son of King Dasharatha. Known by the name of Rama, this incarnation of the Supreme Lord was loved and adored by all the members of His family, including His three younger brothers: Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna.

Four sons of King Dasharatha and his wivesIt was Rama and Lakshmana playfully travelling with Vishvamitra in the forests because the sage was being harassed by night-rangers looking to disrupt the religious practices of the ascetics avowed to following their occupational duties. While all living entities are the same constitutionally, realization of that fact and the connection with the Supreme Lord can only take place through dedication in yoga. Yoga means to link up the individual soul with the Supreme Soul, God’s expansion residing within the heart. Yet not all kinds of yoga are the same, though unknowing mental speculators and unauthorized commentators may say otherwise.

Through his dedicated practice of asceticism, Vishvamitra was also a yogi, following meditation and also the route of karma, or action, with detachment. Yet his real business was bhakti-yoga, or divine love. If this were not the case, Shri Rama would never have accompanied Him in the forest. To understand why, think of who the people are with whom you currently associate. Are they friends or enemies? Do you purposefully go out of your way to hang around people who hate you? Better yet, do you cherish the association of someone who pretends that you don’t even exist?

With the paths of impersonal study of Vedanta, fruitive work with the results renounced, and meditational yoga, the Supreme Lord in His blissful features, the sach-chid-ananda vigraha, is not acknowledged. Therefore, by definition how can anyone following these paths bask in Rama’s company, gaining His divine vision? Not that these paths are illegitimate, for they are mentioned in shastra for a reason. It takes the conditioned soul many lifetimes just to attempt to adopt an authorized system of spirituality in earnest. Therefore those who don’t take to the path of bhakti are not shut out immediately; they are given the chance to progress through other, more difficult paths.

Lord RamaOnly in bhakti-yoga, the linking of the soul with God through acts of love, can one hear about and relish the activities of the Supreme Lord Rama travelling through the forests with Vishvamitra and Lakshmana. The impersonalist can hear the same above referenced passage from the Janaki Mangala and not get any delight from it. Using only mental speculation and knowledge limited by time, space and logic, the philosopher may think that Rama was foolish for chasing after birds and stopping deer. “Also, why did the mountains, lakes, rivers and vines need to be appreciated? These are all objects of maya, or illusion. The birds are just spirit souls, part of the Brahman energy, so why the need to pay them any attention? Shouldn’t Rama have just sat back and stayed renounced?”

The Supreme Lord is always in ananda, or bliss. He derives this pleasure in whichever manner He sees fit, but at the core of any real pleasure is the exchange of emotion. In order for there to be an exchange, there must be more than one party. With the birds and deer, Shri Rama was having a good time with His parts and parcels, spirit souls who would appreciate His appearance. The animals enjoy God’s personal presence, at any time and at any place. It is said that the same Shri Rama, when appearing on earth as the preacher incarnation named Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, would get even the tigers to dance along to the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Shri Rama as Govinda, one who gives pleasure to the cows and to the senses, was loved and adored by all the animals in Vrindavana.

The lower species worship God in the mood of devotion called shanta-rasa, wherein they can’t directly offer obeisances. This mood is known as neutrality, but it is still part of devotion because love for God is present. Shri Rama always plays the part perfectly. Younger children are more energetic and difficult to restrain when let out into the open. A young child doesn’t require a television set or a video game console to be entertained. Simply by running in a field, seeing nature’s creation, a young child can find endless opportunities for excitement, avoiding boredom throughout. Shri Krishna and Balarama used to go out daily with their friends to play and they had such a good time that the dear mother Yashoda had to repeatedly call them to come home and eat.

Lord Krishna with cowsShri Rama similarly enjoyed travelling through the forests with Lakshmana, staying under the care of Vishvamitra. Ironically enough, the guru had specifically requested Rama’s company for the purposes of protection. Rama and Lakshmana were trained from childhood to be military fighters, and due to their divine natures, they were already expert at fighting at a young age. The most hideous creatures had been attacking the sages in the forests, so Vishvamitra knew that Rama and Lakshmana were the only ones capable of defeating these enemies and eliminating their influence.

As the Supreme Lord is Absolute, His fighting and His playing serve the same purpose. He fights with the enemies to protect the innocent and give them pleasure, and He plays with the deer and birds in the forest to enjoy their company. Thanks to the saints like Tulsidas who record these adventures in poetry format, any person can bask in the same sweetness by regularly hearing about the Lord’s activities. Vishvamitra certainly was delighted to have Rama with him, as was the entire population of creatures who called the remote wilderness their home.

In Closing:

The birds in the wilderness He did chase,

Giving them chance to see His beautiful face.


As part of His childish play,

Rama tries to stop deer in their way.


As the brothers with Vishvamitra move along,

The rivers, mountains and ponds they gaze upon.


Thinking of this scene for mind pleasurable,

Rama’s play with His brother for sage delightful.


Creatures of this world deserve God’s association,

They are souls too, devotees by constitution.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I See Me

Krishna's lotus feet“As we cannot see anything in the absence of the sun, so also we cannot see anything including our own self, without the factual presence of the Lord. Without Him all our knowledge is covered by illusion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.11.9 Purport)

Due to the thick covering of nescience surrounding the identifying agent within the body, we’re not even sure what it is that we’re looking for. We may think that we want something, but then later on that cherished desire turns out to be not worth it. These pursuits are all rooted in illusion, and because of the improper vision we don’t know how to identify either ourselves or the ideal object to be viewed. By tapping into the right source of information, however, we can learn to properly identify ourselves and know what gives our identity its true meaning.

Pretend that you’re looking for a new job. You’ve been at your current place for quite a while, so long that when you go to interview at new places they’re amazed that a candidate could stay with one company for so many years. You have to explain to them the reasons for your departure, that finally the proprietor of the business has pushed you far enough in the wrong way that you’re willing to leave your comfortable surroundings.

The problem you face is that you’ve never seriously looked for another job before. You got into a routine at your present place, and you got comfortable with the business environment and knowing how everything worked. Your job responsibilities spread across several different areas, so when you’re checking out the job listings for potential work, you have to choose which area of expertise you best fit into.

Looking at the new job listing is very exciting, for it offers so much potential with the words posted. But as soon as the abstract starts to get defined a little bit, as soon as more details pour in, the excitement slowly dwindles. The required life change really hits you when you are sitting in the job interview and meeting with the people you would be working with. They describe the new environment to you and what sorts of challenges you should expect to face.

Despite how kind they may be and how wonderful the job sounds, you can’t help but be overcome by fear inside. “I don’t want to quit my job. I want to stay where I am. I know that sounds stupid and it would be a mistake in terms of advancement in my career to pass up this new job, but I can’t help but feel uncomfortable about it.”

Shrila PrabhupadaIn this way what you initially thought was something worth going after turned out to not be what it was. The living entity follows similar paths throughout life, birth after birth, until they are fortunate enough to be graced with the presence of a bona fide spiritual master. The guru gets his strength from the person he serves, who as the all-pervading witness is ultimately responsible for the good fortune of meeting the guru in the first place.

What can the guru teach us that others can’t? What can we gain from hearing from one person that we can’t otherwise learn through experience? The first instruction taught to the aspiring transcendentalist of the Vedic tradition is aham brahmasmi, which means “I am Brahman.” This identification is impossible to uncover on your own, even if you are totally disgusted with the temporary ups and downs that life has to offer. Through your speculation at best you can perhaps perceive that there is a singular energy that acts as the catalyst to action, but you have no idea where this energy comes from or how long it will remain manifest.

The identification as Brahman is one thing, but actually acting off of that knowledge is another. Thus the bona fide guru does not stop his instruction with the introduction of Brahman. Rather, that forms the basis for the rest of the recommended spiritual practices. If advancement is not made along the proper path of bhakti-yoga, or divine love, misidentification and illusion with respect to goals can still arise.

What are some examples of spiritualists making mistakes due to illusion? Once we learn that we are Brahman, there is the curiosity to know where Brahman comes from. We are told that there is a God, a Supreme Brahman. Okay, that’s great, but how do we see Him? Can we see God? For the neophyte, this curiosity is understandable, but it is actually one based off of illusion. If one can’t even see themselves as spirit through regular practice, how do they expect to see God?

To use another comparison, if we can’t see objects around us without the sun’s help, how can we expect to perceive the subtle aspect of Supreme Spirit without outside intervention? Without the will of the Supreme Person, no one is able to see God. And that divine aid is only available if one pleases their spiritual master, whose desire it is to instill devotion to God within his disciples. Devotion is a practice where the devotee tries to act in such a way that God sees them, instead of the other way around.

“[O mystic] First know your visible form, then realize your position as Brahman, and then see the material nature standing in between. O wretch, without seeing these how can you understand what the unmanifested [invisible] feature of the Absolute Truth [alakh] actually is? Chant Shri Rama’s holy name instead, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 19)

Lord RamaIn his Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas addresses the same issue by rhetorically asking why the spiritualist should bother about the manifested and unmanifested forms of the Supreme Lord. If we have a limited understanding of our own identity as Brahman, how are we going to understand the different features of God and what it takes to notice them? In reality, Bhagavan is full of spiritual form, but since we don’t know what a spiritual body is, we contemplate His nature in terms of manifested and unmanifested. The dichotomy is also discussed in terms of visible versus invisible and personal versus impersonal.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is Bhagavan, who is complete in His qualities. Only because of our lack of proper vision do we say that God can be seen or not seen. In a particular couplet, Tulsidas says that if you are so anxious about seeing God or overly concerned with the unmanifested feature, considering the Lord to be formless, first try to see yourself. If you can’t even see your identity as Brahman, how do you expect to see God, who is the Supreme Brahman?

The recommendation is that instead of trying so hard to see God, why not just chant His holy names? Tulsidas prefers the name of Rama, which addresses Bhagavan’s spiritual form as the son of King Dasharatha holding a bow and arrow in His hands ready to protect the innocent. Krishna is also another name for the same Bhagavan. It addresses the Lord’s original form as the two-handed Shyamasundara who delights the residents of Vrindavana. Not surprisingly, these two names are prominent in the famous maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

What does chanting this mantra do for the person wishing to see God? Chanting is an act of love; it is part of bhakti. The same understanding of Brahman that comes through difficult study, austerity and penance arrives in the palm of the hand of the devotee. What’s better is that Bhagavan appears before the eyes without much effort, eliminating the need for understanding the self altogether. Consciousness is a byproduct of an existence, which comes from the spirit soul. The existence of all individual existences is due to the Supreme Lord. In this way it is more important to know Bhagavan than it is to know Brahman.

Krishna is the master of illusion. He creates material nature, or maya, to cloud the vision of the individual living entities. This is what they desire when they leave the graces of the spiritual land. Since the wish for illusion is granted by Krishna, it stands to reason that the desire for release from that illusion would also be fulfilled by the Lord. Anyone who is sincerely interested in seeing God and then knowing what to do with that sight will be given the help they need. If they are interested in seeing God for a second or two and then declaring that life’s mission is complete, they will have a tough time, for the desire itself is rooted in illusion.

Narasimhadeva with PrahladaSeeing God is great, but then what to do after that? Shri Hanuman and Prahlada Maharaja both saw Bhagavan personally, but they didn’t end their devotion afterwards. Hanuman subsequently took up difficult service to keep a smile on Shri Rama’s beautiful face. To this day Hanuman continues his service by chanting Rama’s name. He derives pleasure by hearing about the Lord’s activities. With Prahlada, the initial service culminated in the personal meeting with Narasimhadeva, Krishna’s half-man/half-lion incarnation. Once protected from the attacks of his father, Prahlada did not stop his devotion. Rather, he stayed concentrated on the lotus feet of Bhagavan while carrying out his duties.

Illusion is the bedrock of the many miseries we encounter. That cloud of nescience can be slashed away by the sword of knowledge, which is so kindly presented in the Bhagavad-gita. The Gita is Krishna’s direct instructions, and the spiritual master who follows that guidance in the proper way can lead the sincere listener out of the forest of illusion and into the field of devotion, where each new day brings endless opportunities for pleasure through service to God.

In Closing:

Without torchlight can’t see in the dark,

Then how to see God residing in the heart?


Spiritual form of Supreme Lord hard to understand,

Especially when living in maya’s land.


Illusion causes in understanding a grave mistake,

From our bodily features identity we take.


If your position as Brahman you can’t perceive,

How then sight of God expect to receive?


Consult Vaishnava guru to find path that is true,

Then learn of your position and Bhagavan’s too.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Carrier of the Holy Name

Hanuman“Surely this Ashoka grove, which is filled with many trees, must be guarded by many Rakshasas, as it is carefully tended to and purified in every possible way. And the guards there must protect the trees, and the all-pervading deity, the wind, does not blow there.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.62-63)

dhruvam tu rakṣo bahulā bhaviṣyati vana ākulā |
aśoka vanikā cintyā sarva saṃskāra saṃskṛtā ||
rakṣiṇaḥ ca atra vihitā nūnam rakṣanti pādapān |
bhagavān api sarva ātmā na atikṣobham pravāyati ||

Whether or not he did it intentionally, Ravana kept Sita Devi in a sacred place, one unlike any other inside of Lanka. While the rest of the town was adorned with gold, jewels and crystals, Sita’s surroundings were pristine, thoroughly cultivated, sacred and well-guarded. The trees were so aligned and protected that not even the wind could blow there violently. That being the case, how could the wind’s son, Shri Hanuman, enter that place and find the most beautiful woman in the world, who was waiting for news of her husband, to know whether or not He was going to come and rescue her and whether He was feeling the pain of separation from her? Despite the impediments and the restriction placed on the wind, Rama’s messenger, Ramadutta, would find a crafty way to enter not only the Ashoka garden, but also Sita’s heart.

Imagine being stuck in a place where you have nothing to do except count the seconds until the inevitable end of everything. Worse than being held in a prison, Sita was constantly harassed, day after day, by people ordered to make her stay in this grove a living hell. What had she done to deserve this? Up until this time she was respected by everyone. A man takes his pride from his manhood - his ability to protect his dependents, to brave through tough times and to show strength when it is difficult. A woman gets her standing from her chastity - the fact that she doesn’t give out her love easily. Take away a man’s manhood and you take away his essence, and take away a woman’s chastity and her reputation is ruined.

Sita DeviSita was known as the most chaste woman in the world; therefore she automatically earned the highest respect. Moreover, her husband was famous as the manliest fighter, a person capable of defending any person who sought His protection. He has actually maintained this characteristic since the beginning of time and still does to this day. The mere utterance of His name delivers countless more individuals than does His personal self. In fact, Sita’s ability to remain alive while held against her will in Lanka shows the power of the holy name.

How does this work exactly? The Supreme Lord is known by His attributes; otherwise He is not distinguished from any other person. Since the entire creation falls under His purview, into the definition of “God”, it is tempting to think that God is attributeless. “He must be without a form because only those things which are subordinate to material nature undergo change. If God creates nature, He must not ever change. Therefore His form must be nonexistent, i.e. He must be formless.”

This is surely one way to look at God. Take every single activity, motion of nature, event in life, and just abstract out to the largest scale and you get “the creation”. Since this giant neural network of cause and effect is guided by intelligence, there must be someone pushing the buttons, someone who is the source of that intelligence. Without knowing this person’s features, the abstract understanding remains the height of realization. The Vedas refer to the abstract, all-pervading Absolute Truth as Brahman. Brahman is everything. He is the living entities as well, who are struggling hard with the material nature. Even matter is from Brahman, but it is a different kind of energy, an inferior one to be more precise. The living entities that are Brahman are superior. The wise take to studying the scriptures that detail the differences between the two energies and make themselves familiar with Brahman in the process.

Yet, just as the light of the sun does not give us the complete picture of the sun itself, the entire creation as a whole, the light of Brahman, does not provide the necessary insight into the fountainhead of all energies, the Supreme Lord. While Brahman is impersonal, the Lord takes on personal traits, spiritual qualities belonging to forms known as avataras, to show us what Brahman actually looks like. Brahman is actually subordinate to Parabrahman, which is the title reserved specifically for God. The spiritual attributes of the formed incarnations show that Parabrahman is the most renounced, the wealthiest, the strongest, the wisest, the most famous and the most beautiful.

Lord RamaIn His avatara as Lord Rama, God graced a select few individuals with His sweet smile, His dedication to piety, and His promise of protection. In the Vedic system the husband’s duty is to protect the wife, who operates under his direction. Rama was perfect in this regard, as Sita always felt safe in His company. Even when Rama was sent away from His kingdom of Ayodhya, Sita did not find the pleasure of life in the palaces preferable to Rama’s company in the forest. She felt safer with her husband by her side.

Therefore it was a little disconcerting when Sita was taken away by Ravana, the Rakshasa king of Lanka. Not that Rama failed to defend against Ravana, the ogre didn’t even mount an attack against Rama. Rather, he took Sita away in secret, while Rama temporarily wasn’t by her side. Through the divine will, the need for bringing about Ravana’s end, Rama purposefully limited His display of opulence.

The holy name, however, is never limited. Sita kept reciting it while in Lanka, so she was able to think of her husband, keeping Him by her side even though He was far, far away. Ravana tried to win her over but to no avail. She was not budging from her dedication to chastity. She would not even look at the vile creature who already had hundreds of the most beautiful princesses as queens. The holy name thus proved many thousands of years ago during Sita’s time to be most powerful, and it is just as powerful today. Shri Hanuman even used it to succeed in his mission to find Sita.

Lord Rama, being the most knowledgeable, could have located Sita Himself, but the wiser thing to do was to allow those eager to serve Him the chance to take up the cause. The living entities are mini-gods, so they have some independence in their exercise of freedom. Brahman is transcendental to matter; hence there is no reason to be subjected to the threefold miseries. The pains inflicted by natural forces, the influence of other living entities, and the workings of the body and mind have no bearing on the qualities of Brahman. Nevertheless, the conditioned living entities struggle very hard with material nature; a fact we’re reminded of by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.

“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)

Lord KrishnaKrishna is the same Rama but in a different outward, spiritual manifestation. Lord Krishna is considered the original Personality of Godhead, the origin of Parabrahman. His face is full of sweetness, as are His words. The living entities struggle with material nature, but when they find their occupational duty of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, the same material elements become favorable. This was quite evident with Shri Hanuman, who found himself placed smack dab in the middle of a supremely difficult mission.

While a band of monkeys took up the task of finding Sita, only Hanuman from that group made it to Lanka, for no one else could leap across the massive ocean separating the island from the mainland. How did Ravana bring Sita back there then? He had an aerial car that previously belonged to his brother Kuvera. Ravana used it to fly around and terrorize people. Hanuman had to find Sita all by himself, without anyone around to help. After overcoming many obstacles, including a doubtful mind fearing the worst outcome, Hanuman was on the precipice of finding King Janaka’s daughter, though he didn’t know it.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman is thinking over what he will find in the Ashoka wood, the one place in Lanka he had yet to search. Having mentally entered the area, he started surveying the scene and going over what he should expect. The place would be sacred and guarded by Rakshasas. It would be so well-protected that the wind wouldn’t blow there. Thus Hanuman would have to contract his form, something he was more than capable of doing. He did not want to get noticed by the Rakshasas, because that might jeopardize the success of the mission.

The fact that the wind wasn’t blowing there violently was another impediment to deal with. On the strength of the wind Hanuman was able to leap across the ocean and make it to Lanka. The wind, or air, is actually the vital force to sustain life within all of us. One who can learn to control the vital breaths within the body can find good health and the ability to survive through duress. Therefore it shouldn’t surprise us that the ancient yoga practice of pranayama is very popular today.

HanumanHanuman, however, didn’t require violent wind to find Sita. He was determined to please Rama, to keep the smile on the face of the jewel of the Raghu dynasty no matter what. Using his keen intelligence, he would find his way into the woods unnoticed. He would meet with Sita and give her news about Rama. Along with regular chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, hearing about God and His activities is the best medicine for the mind and the heart. In this respect, Hanuman gave tremendous transcendental healing satisfaction to Sita, who loved to hear about her husband and how He was doing. Hanuman would return later to Lanka, but this time with the full army of monkeys commanded by Sugriva. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana would be there too, ready to rid the world of Ravana.

Hanuman’s determination played a vital role in the eventual victory, and his presence continues to be felt today. Chanting the name of Rama brings with it the vision of Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman. Rama may have personally defeated Ravana, but His name is what carried Hanuman into Lanka and helped him defeat the elements obstructing his path. Rama’s name helped Sita remain alive while in a perilous condition, and it continues to deliver the souls struggling with the pangs of Kali Yuga, the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Therefore the holy name and its many carriers are the only life raft for the souls looking for true enlightenment and lasting happiness. As Hanuman is one who cherishes the holy name and keeps it with him at all times, he is supremely worshipable.

In Closing:

Sita, in a tough situation she did find,

Harassed by vile witches, troubled she was in mind.


She did nothing wrong in life, her husband she missed,

Repeating His holy name her only solace.


Hanuman, Ashoka wood ready to enter,

But first conditions in mind he did ponder.


Trees to be guarded by Rakshasas full of sin,

So aligned that to enter difficult for even the wind.


Hanuman’s determination the Rakshasas to beat,

In his heart, Sita, Rama and Lakshmana take their seat.