Saturday, April 21, 2012

Not Fooling Anyone

Shri Hanuman“How shall I today see in my path that weak, helpless woman who was overwhelmed by the strength of that vile creature of wicked deeds, whose beautifully adorned exterior masks his harshness? (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.69)

kṣudreṇa pāpena nṛśamsa karmaṇā |
sudāruṇa alānkṛta veṣa dhāriṇā |
bala abhibhūtā abalā tapasvinī |
katham nu me dṛṣṭa pathe adya sā bhavet ||

“You can put on all the jewelry you want, but you’re still not fooling me. A golden helmet, valuable earrings hanging off your many ears, the jewels around your neck and arms, exquisite weaponry and a wonderful chariot may be able to fool you into thinking that you are somebody, but to me you’re just a vile creature with no moral standing whatsoever, a pathetic person who had to mask his true figure in order to steal away another man’s wife, resorting to trickery instead of invoking the fighting prowess you so proudly boast of.” The grim-visaged ruler of Lanka was a nefarious character, not worthy of respect from anyone, including Hanuman. The dependable, noble, perseverant, kind and ever-dedicated messenger from Kishkindha was ready to find Sita Devi, for his hard work was due to pay off eventually. In thinking of the beloved princess’ wonderful qualities, Hanuman couldn’t help but also remember how she ended up in such a terrible condition.

Shri HanumanHanuman was in Lanka to look for Sita Devi, Lord Rama’s wife. One of the more important moments from the Ramayana, which is Rama’s life and pastimes put into poetry form in the Sanskrit language, Hanuman was about to meet success in his mission. Nothing was given to Hanuman in this endeavor; he earned his rightful place in this historic moment. He did gather some intelligence relating to where Sita had been taken, but this was like telling someone that the person you are looking for lives in the United States. A geographical area that large isn’t much of a clue to the seeker, so they must make use of their searching abilities to find success.

To add further difficulty, there was no government department to greet Hanuman kindly. Instead, the residents of Lanka were under the rule of their leader, Ravana, who was endowed with every ignoble quality. He was keeping Sita hidden away in an Ashoka grove so that no one would find her. He was also always fearful of enemies coming to attack him. He was especially afraid of Lord Rama arriving. Only the foolish would view the Supreme Lord and His emissaries as enemies, but this was Ravana’s sad condition. The lord of creatures, the fountainhead of all energies, had descended to earth to grace those with a pure vision with the chance to see and hear about God.

On the flip side, those who are driven by sensual pursuits, so much so that their good judgment remains tucked away behind their sinful desires, not only cannot recognize God, but they actually take religious principles, the guidelines that help mankind to attain the proper end, to be impediments in their path towards happiness. Sita and Rama were peacefully residing in the Dandaka forest, not bothering anyone. They were members of the royal community in Ayodhya, but they had given everything up in favor of honoring a promise made by Rama’s father, King Dasharatha, to his youngest wife Kaikeyi.

Thieves typically have a motive. Theft involves taking something that you want, that which doesn’t belong to you. Rama, His younger brother Lakshmana, and Sita were living in a forest hut that Lakshmana had built. What could any person want from them? Ravana, though possessing immense opulence in his own kingdom, nevertheless found something to try to steal. From the accounts of historic events found in scripture, so many life lessons can be learned. The symbolism isn’t there on purpose, but it just becomes obvious to notice based on the workings of man. The general course of events in the present time carries the same symbolism, but it is more difficult to recognize. With the Supreme Lord and His specific activities, the events are arranged accordingly so that both pleasure and lessons can be derived from the actions of the main characters.

Events from the RamayanaIf acquiring material wealth, which includes real opulence like gold and exquisite jewelry, and sensual delights, such as animal flesh, flowing wine and endless sex life, was the real aim of life, Ravana would have had no reason to bother anyone. In today’s world, his Lanka would be the place to visit, a heaven on earth place for those who enjoy the fast paced life of casino cities. There was no shortage of any material amenity in Lanka; Ravana himself was getting drunk on a regular basis. What need, therefore, did the king of Lanka have for flying to the remote forest of Dandaka and bothering people who were living the vanaprastha lifestyle.

In the Vedic tradition, every injunction is meant to further the goal of pure God consciousness. When this mindset is present at the end of life, the living being has essentially reached full maturity. Notice that the maturation does not have anything to do with the body. There is no such thing as having a proper age for making the most out of life, nor is there any requirement relating to bodily possessions, familial relationships, or the performance of specific activities. The doctor is mature when they get a medical license, the lawyer when they graduate and pass the bar examination, the star athlete when they receive entry into their professional league of choice, etc. In this way we see that a state of maturation typically comes about from the achievement of a goal, something that is done through action.

Consciousness, however, is not dependent on anything, including knowledge and renunciation. Though acquiring knowledge about God and renouncing those things which keep the mind from thinking rationally can help in eventually tasting the fruit of existence, the final state of enlightenment is never dependent on any single object or process. If it were, then the activities themselves would take on a superior importance. If activities became strictly important, then certain manifestations of matter would become superior as well.

“Actually, the cultivation of knowledge or renunciation, which are favorable for achieving a footing in Krishna consciousness, may be accepted in the beginning, but ultimately they may also come to be rejected, for devotional service is dependent on nothing other than the sentiment or desire for such service.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 14)

The Nectar of DevotionMatter is an inferior energy, having no intrinsic relation to the spirit soul. Matter can help the soul, as the conditioned living entity resides in a home that is composed of the material elements, but this doesn’t mean that matter ever becomes a superior force. Since matter is inferior, no manifestation of it can ever become a prerequisite for reaching spiritual maturity.

What does this all mean exactly? In the larger scheme, there is no such thing as good or bad. The effects of time take away accumulated gains and miserable conditions. Progress and detriment, however, can play a vital role. This is where the aim of life comes into focus. The Vedas provide guidelines for human behavior so that progress towards the ultimate goal can steadily continue. The procedures themselves are not superior, as someone can reach the state of pure God consciousness very quickly through fortunate encounters and the grace of the Lord Himself, or it can take them many lifetimes within a human form of body even after following all the guidelines before achieving perfection.

To help in reaching the end of pure God consciousness, the timespan within the human life is divided into four periods. First there is student life, then married life, then the first stage of renunciation, followed by full and complete renunciation from material attachment. The third stage is known as vanaprastha, which means living a life in the forest. In vanaprastha one can take their spouse with them, as being married for so long naturally creates some type of attachment. There is, however, no obligation to work or support a family. Work generally exists for economic reasons, to ensure that the home is properly maintained and that nice food can be eaten and guests can be welcomed hospitably.

In vanaprastha the requirements of home aren’t there, as one can live in a simple hut or underneath a tree and eat the berries that nature gives. You can bathe in nearby rivers, and you can find clothing through simple garb like deerskin. Sita and Rama, though married and still rather young, briefly took to the third varna quite early in life, though they were not specifically after self-realization. The purpose of knowing your constitutional position is applicable only to those who can be illusioned by the external energy of matter. Rama is the internal energy of God, the same Supreme Lord that everyone else worships, ignores or hates. Sita is His immediate energy expansion, the pleasure potency. Therefore they can never come under the sway of the material energy, which operates only on the marginal potency expansions, i.e. we living entities. The marginal position comes from the fact that the living entities can choose to be under the control of either maya or Parabrahman. Maya is illusion, or that which is not Brahman, and Parabrahman is God.

Sita and RamaIn this particular situation we have two different lifestyles in two completely different places. One side is the fast-paced city life of Lanka, where material amenities abound. The other side is the quiet forest of Dandaka, where the residents don’t have any money, valuables, or sensual delights. The group in the latter situation is living the simple life out of respect for their elders. This is something Ravana couldn’t understand. He thought that Rama was a poor person unable to maintain even His claim to the kingdom of Ayodhya. Therefore, what could Sita want with Him? It is believed that a woman is attracted to beauty, strength, confidence, and fighting prowess after all, so once Sita would see Ravana and his amazing features, she would surely give up Rama’s association.

This again proves the intellectual inferiority of the gross materialists. The swans like Sita and Rama and their devotees actually understand every viewpoint. They are familiar with pious principles and the need for them, and they are also acquainted with the ways of material existence and why someone would surrender to them. On the other hand, the crows like Ravana only pay scant attention to their way of life, and they don’t have a clue as to why anyone would follow piety. Lacking authorized information about the differences between matter and spirit, such fools concoct theories as to why people accept religion. They reach a consensus conclusion that the pious only follow such principles because they are failures in material life. “They don’t have the ability to emerge victorious, so they worship an invisible God to remedy their pitiful situation.”

Ravana, for all his pomp, didn’t approach Sita in his original guise when he hatched up the scheme to take her. If women were so captivated by his opulence, why would he hide his figure? He knew he had no chance of winning Sita over on his own, especially when Rama was still by her side. Therefore he created a ruse which temporarily lured Rama away from the couple’s cottage. He then approached Sita in the guise of a mendicant, showing that he had no scruples whatsoever. After Sita let her guard down, Ravana revealed his true form and then forcibly took her back to Lanka, where he would try to win her over but fail miserably.

Hanuman remembered that beloved daughter of Janaka prior to entering the Ashoka grove, the one place in Lanka he had yet to search. He was anxious to meet Sita, for that is the nature of the saints. The person who was acting in Rama’s interest was desperate to have a meeting with the person who had captivated Rama’s heart, who was so devoted to Him that no one could believe her level of dedication. Sita wasn’t the ruler of a giant kingdom, nor was she openly inviting others to come and take benedictions from her, yet Hanuman wanted to see her all the same. For the saintly class, material opulence and dry renunciation are taken to be on an equal level, for in either case the aim is to remain connected with God, at least in consciousness. Whether Sita and Rama lived in the opulent kingdom of Ayodhya or in the quiet forest of Dandaka, Hanuman eagerly anticipated meeting them.

Hanuman worshiping Sita and RamaHanuman did not like that Sita was alone in Lanka. Such a wonderful person didn’t deserve the treatment she got, so Hanuman was anxious to show her that a friend had come bearing good news, that Rama and the rest of the monkey army back in Kishkindha were ready to arrive and rescue her. Hanuman, though in the form of a monkey, which is known for stealing food and other items without any shame, was endowed with every divine quality. He had no need for self-realization, for he was acting out God consciousness on the biggest stage. His inner emotions are provided to the listener of the Ramayana to give pleasure to those looking to find maturity in life, those who want to reach the state of pure God consciousness so that the association with matter that has gone on since time immemorial can finally end.

Just as Hanuman gave relief to Sita by eventually meeting her, hearing of his exploits gives hope to the sincere souls looking to stay on the divine path. In the present age of Kali, the entire world is like the hedonistic paradise of Lanka, with the swans like Sita difficult to find. Therefore the sound vibrations passed down by the Vedas, including those in the sacred maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, are the most potent weapons of attack against maya. These sounds can penetrate any space, regardless of how unfavorable the circumstances may seem. Hanuman showed his brilliance in Lanka by finding Sita and then setting fire to the city on his way out. He would later return with Rama and the Vanaras to remove Ravana’s influence. Sita would be rescued and all would end well. Hanuman worried over how to find success in his mission, but because he saw everything properly, his meeting with Sita was never in doubt. Those who keep the vision of Rama’s greatest servant always in their mind will similarly be assured of seeing success in their spiritual pursuits.

In Closing:

Of his fighting prowess Ravana very proud,

But his ornaments only to act as a shroud.


Really a vile and despicable creature inside,

In a city full of sin and vice did he reside.


He forcibly took innocent Sita there,

Female ogres ordered to daily give her scare.


Sita, Rama and Lakshmana made wilderness their home,

Not bothering anyone, should have been left alone.


Thus to meet Sita Shri Hanuman very anxious,

Allayed her fears by presenting Rama’s ring precious.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Changing The Anxiety

Yashoda and others worried about Krishna“Everyone in the material life, in all species and varieties of life, is full of anxieties, either by breaking or without breaking the laws of nature. Liberation, or mukti, means getting relief from these constant anxieties. This is possible only when the anxiety is changed to the devotional service of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.12.28 Purport)

This may be difficult to realize because of the constant pressures you face, but actually no matter where you turn in life you will suffer anxiety. The tendency of course is to think the opposite way. “Let me just fix this one problem and I will be alright. If I could only take care of this single nagging issue, finding a way to solve it, then I can live peacefully, with no worries in life.” The anxieties will continue primarily due to the temporary nature of the objects around us. If that anxiety is changed, however, towards a controller who is absolute in His authority, then even the suffering can turn into pleasure.

Let’s say that you’re working at a company, having been there for over ten years. You probably didn’t consciously decide that you would stay there that long, as on day one your aim was to just find any work. You needed a job, and this business was kind enough to hire you, so you stayed at the company and learned so many things. The ten year mark is only noticed because the future of the company is now in jeopardy. Any business that sells a good or product for a profit will have an uncertain future, as competitors will enter the market and look to capitalize on the same wave that you initially did.

The misfortune of the downfall of the company will trickle down to the lower employees. Though you may not be the lowest person on the organizational chart, eventually the financial austerity measures are going to have their effect on you. The worry then turns to overall job security. “Will my job still be around in a month? Will I be able to put food on the table? I haven’t looked for a job in so long, will I even know how to do it? Why would I want to start at a new company when I’m already comfortably situated here?”

The control over these anxieties rests in the hands of the company’s owner, who is responsible for steering the ship. He makes the vital decisions that will affect profit margin, either for better or worse. The problem with this reliance, though, is that the owner is not all-powerful. We may think that a particular quarterback in American football is unbeatable and the greatest of all time, but he also can lose games, and big ones at that. He may have won multiple Super Bowls in the past, but he can also lose the most important game of the season.

Should we put full reliance on our boss, there is no guarantee of a successful outcome. This is not a criticism of him per se, as he could be trying his best to save the company. Follow the same reliance in practically any area of life and you reach the same limiting wall. Just imagine if someone relied on you like that. Are you perfect? Do you not make mistakes? Do you not worry about the future? If these faults exist in you, why should they be absent in someone else?

In addition to the fallibility of man, there is the issue of non-permanence. There is fear over losing a job because no job lasts forever. There is anxiety over not being able to earn enough money to pay bills because that destitution is a real possibility. As soon as there is birth, death is guaranteed. As soon as something is created, there is a point in time when it will get destroyed. Therefore the sober person does not lament in the unavoidable discharge of their duty. Every person must work to support themselves, so why not work with detachment?

“For one who has taken his birth, death is certain; and for one who is dead, birth is certain. Therefore, in the unavoidable discharge of your duty, you should not lament.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.27)

Lord KrishnaOf course the principle of ignoring anxiety is difficult to live by, for we’re not accustomed to looking at the world from the macro perspective. We see nuance and variety because of our immediate vision. We’re not observing the earth as a whole from outer space, so it’s difficult to abstract everything while you’re actually in the middle of so many things.

No reason to worry, though, as only the nature of the anxiety needs to be changed. Regardless of where you are, you will have things to worry about. Should you win the lottery and never have to work again, there is still the anxiety of what to do with yourself every day. As soon as a decision is made in one direction, should anything get in your way, you will feel anxiety. I may plan to visit my family members over the weekend, but if my car breaks down during the ride, I will feel anxiety. If something gets in the way of plans, which is certainly possible, uneasy feelings will creep up.

If the worry is shifted towards the area of devotional service, the entity in charge of delivering the results makes sure that there is no failure. Devotional service is bhakti-yoga, or the religion of love. Dedicate your life to God, chanting His glories and never forgetting Him. For dedicated remembrance it helps to know what the object in question looks like. To offer wonderful praise it is helpful to know some of the activities and features of the worshiped entity.

This is where the vast Vedic literature comes to the rescue. The Shrimad Bhagavatam, the crown-jewel of Vedic literature, specifically contains details on the Supreme Lord’s forms, names, attributes and pastimes. In His original feature Bhagavan is all-attractive; thus He is addressed as Krishna. Since He appeared on earth and delighted so many people, the Bhagavatam devotes an entire canto to Krishna’s lila, or divine sports. As His name is non-different from Him, the Bhagavatam lists so many names for the Lord, which can be called out in a mood of love.

The direction of the spiritual master, or guru, is necessary for practicing devotional service properly. We need discipline when we don’t have any. We need education when we are not knowledgeable about something. Surely there are some things we can pick up on our own through practice, and perhaps the same route can initially be taken in bhakti, but regardless there must be a reference point. If we’re picking up computer programming on our own, we must consult a guidebook which describes the subject. That book must be written by a programmer, a person in the field.

Shrila PrabhupadaThe acharyas have also left written instruction to be implemented by sincere spiritualists. The instruction of the spiritual master is more important than his personal association, as what we hear from someone may get forgotten very quickly. If the same points are written down and can be referenced at any time, they can stay with us.

The central component of bhakti-yoga is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Recite this daily on a set of japa beads for sixteen rounds. That takes quite a bit of time at first, but then that is the point. Your consciousness will be determined by what you think about the most. If the most time is spent in bhakti, then naturally your consciousness will be focused on Krishna.

There are also a few restrictions accompanying the chanting routine. Steer clear of meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Serve the Vaishnavas, the devotees of Krishna, and try to chant with others as much as possible. To abide by these principles requires dedication, and to stay dedicated there must be some pressure applied both internally and externally. With pressure there is bound to be some anxiety. “What if I can’t chant sixteen rounds? How am I going to avoid eating meat when there is meat all around me? These principles are so difficult; I don’t know how I’m going to follow them properly.”

Ah, but this kind of anxiety is good. Mother Yashoda had fears when she was tending to Krishna directly in Vrindavana. She worried about whether her son would enjoy the food she made. The clever child was known for raiding the butter supplies of the neighbors and then running away with the contraband. He would feed the butter to monkeys, animals known for stealing people’s food. If you visit Vrindavana today, watch out for the monkeys when walking the streets. They will grab whatever is in your hands, thinking that it is food. They are especially fond of snatching eyeglasses.

Yashoda with KrishnaYashoda’s anxiety resulted in even stronger feelings of attachment for Krishna. The Lord, unlike the business proprietor or the customer, is all-powerful. The anxiety of Krishna’s dependents relates to their ability to serve Him. Since that is the sweetest worry in the world, Krishna ensures that there is never any failure. Whether you belong to the highest caste or the lowest section of society, if you’re sincere in your wish to please Krishna, the Lord will guarantee success for you.

Success doesn’t mean an end to the anxiety. There will always be worry no matter where we turn, but the nature of the anxiety can be purified. Shri Hanuman was anxious in his travels through Lanka while looking for Rama’s wife Sita. Rama is the same Krishna but appearing on earth in a slightly different visible manifestation. Hanuman was worried that he would fail his beloved Rama, but this worry helped him further strengthen his resolve. It also gave him more opportunities to think of Sita and Rama, his life and soul.

Thus the anxiety in bhakti turns out to be a good thing. The path of devotional service is not the path of least resistance, but it is the sweetest path nonetheless. The Supreme Proprietor is the wealthiest person in the world, so whatever the devotee needs for their devotional practices will be provided to them. The key ingredient of a positively situated consciousness, one that maintains the vision of the sweetheart who roamed Yashoda’s courtyard, will always be there for the pure devotee, both in this life and the next.

In Closing:

Company’s profits dwindling in a hurry,

So about your future work you now worry.


Control over anxiety in boss you invest,

You do your job, he’ll take care of the rest.


But he is flawed, he can certainly fail too,

He must worry also, if worry you do.


Anxiety always there, in new direction turn,

Follow devotion’s path, from acharyas bhakti learn.


Yashoda always worried but for her it was good,

Her love Supreme Lord Krishna understood.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

All Things To All People

Rama and Lakshmana fighting off Tataka“The people observing received auspicious fruits for their eyes and mind. Rama accompanied Vishvamitra to his ashrama, with the fears of the sages removed.” (Janaki Mangala, 37)

mana loganha ke karata suphala mana locana |
gae kausika āśramanihaṃ bipra bhaya mocana ||

There is the saying that you can’t be all things to all people. This means that whatever behavior you adopt, you’re not going to give everyone a favorable result. For instance, if you should decide to dedicate more time to your job, you may make the coworkers and boss happy, but at the same time you’ll spend less time with your family. Perhaps the wife and kids will be upset with your decision, so you’re essentially caught in the middle of competing interests. With one person, however, whatever He does satisfies the desires of all the people He affects, even if those people belong to separate communities and keep different goals in mind.

Is the person we speak of God? Isn’t that too broad a generalization? God is everything, sure, but what does that really mean? Ah, the Vedas and their many branches of literature exist precisely to expand upon this concept, to give it some meaning. The above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, fulfilling many purposes, also sheds light on this issue. The scene at hand is the forests of India many thousands of years ago. At the time, there was no such thing as India, but we refer to the modern day country for geographical purposes. The entire land was known as Bharatavarsha, or the area ruled by King Bharata and his descendants. There were different states and provinces but everyone lived under the recognized authority of one king, though the rogue states sometimes tried to usurp control.

At the time, the island city of Lanka, which was ruled by a fiendish character by the name of Ravana, had become a state where sinful life thrived. On the complete opposite end, there were the forests that were inhabited by the animals and the ascetics given to piety. The forests were under the jurisdiction of the pious kings, and since the rogues in Lanka were against dharma as it was meant to be practiced, there were clashes. Rather than fight the kings outright, Ravana and his band of Rakshasas would head straight for the lifeblood of society, the vipras.

Vishvamitra MuniA vipra is a kind of high-thinker, someone who avoids material association. Think of playing video games as a child and then giving them up in favor of more important obligations when you grow older. With increased maturity comes a reassignment of priorities, realigning which things are more important in life and which things can be relegated to the category of entertainment. For the enlightened vipra, the true purpose in life is to find the Supreme Absolute Truth, that one energy which is beyond duality, and then stay immersed in thoughts of Him.

What is duality? Think of a pendulum that swings back and forth. On one side is acceptance and on the other is rejection. The living being constantly swings on this pendulum, all the way through to the time of death. One activity is accepted with anticipation and eagerness only to be rejected later on in favor of something else. The cycle of birth and death represents the largest swing of acceptance and rejection. Take on a form, have it develop, leave some byproducts, and then exit that same form.

There has to be a higher purpose to fulfill. At least this is what the vipras think. In order to even ponder this issue one must be very sober. So many other outlets are tried first, before the final approach towards learning the truth in earnest is made. “Perhaps if I try my hand at increased sense gratification, I will be happier. My current lifestyle isn’t cutting it, so maybe I should get a more expensive car or take up a new hobby. Or maybe renunciation is the answer. Live a minimalist life and try to stay peaceful in mind.”

The vipras of the Vedic tradition take the route of austerity and penance, but with a purpose. The Absolute Truth is known as Brahman, which is formless. It does not have a visible manifestation, but we can sort of see it through the autonomous functions of the living beings. You can’t really see the wind, but you know it’s there if flags are blowing or trees are shaking. Similarly, you can tell that the life force of Brahman is present when living creatures are moving around and operating on their own.

The formless Brahman is not tainted by duality, so one who can realize it is highly enlightened. The flawless properties of Brahman stay with the living being even while they are encased within a material covering. For Brahman realization to take place, association with Brahman’s covering, known as maya, must be limited. Therefore traditionally the vipras would take to austerity and penance in the forest, to realize Brahman and make the most of their human birth.

Ravana talking to MarichaThe Rakshasas concentrated in Lanka not only didn’t care about Brahman, but they didn’t like anyone who went against the life dedicated to service to maya. To make sure that the influence of the brahmanas, the vipras who know Brahman, was limited, the Rakshasas would attack the sages in the forest. If your life is dedicated to spiritual pursuits, you’re obviously not much interested in violence. You don’t have a group of secret service agents around to protect you nor are you quick to pull the trigger when dealing with attacking enemies.

Vishvamitra, one of the more exalted vipras of the time, approached King Dasharatha of Ayodhya for protection from the Rakshasas. The vipras could have cast curses back on the demons, but this would have caused their accrued spiritual merits to decrease. Why have so much effort go to waste when it was already the duty of the king and his class to protect the innocent? Vishvamitra specifically asked for Dasharatha’s eldest son Rama to protect him. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana then left home and escorted the vipra for some time.

While Brahman is formless, it has a source that is full of spiritual form. Rama is that source. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the manifestation of a warrior prince. His association provides the delights of choice, cherished fruits, to every single person. For the vipras in the forest, the predominant desire was to be protected from the Rakshasas. They were living in fear, so there was no peace of mind. And without peace, how can there be happiness?

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

As an initial test of His strength, Rama had to defeat a powerful female Rakshasa named Tataka. He did not want to slay a female, and even though Vishvamitra advised Him to do so, the Lord was still resolved upon only hurting Tataka instead of killing her. Finally, when she started using her illusory tricks, appearing on the scene and then quickly vanishing, Vishvamitra pleaded more emphatically with Rama to give up His unnecessary kindness. The Lord obliged and slayed the wicked creature who had been harassing the sages.

Lakshmana and Rama fighting TatakaAs a result, Rama removed the fears of the vipras, including Vishvamitra. He made good on His promise that is found in many sections of the Vedas to protect the innocent, to make sure that the demon class cannot vanquish them. At the same time, the observers in the forest received the fruit of their eyes and mind. All of the onlookers, which included vipras, forest dwellers, and householders living innocently, watched the most beautiful form of Shri Rama, who was accompanied by His equally as beautiful younger brother Lakshmana.

God’s vision is more delightful when He is actively working on something for the good of the devotees. Rama was very young at the time, as was Lakshmana. When the two were fighting a very formidable enemy, the vision was something wonderful to behold. Imagine seeing two young boys able to pick up a car or run a marathon. While those feats are amazing, the sight of the two sons of Dasharatha ridding the forest of a wicked creature with just their bows and arrows was so splendid that the mind didn’t want to forget it.

The fruit of the eyes is the sight of the Supreme Lord. The same goes for the mind, as the external vision creates the image that can then be remembered over and over again within the mind. The young Rama and Lakshmana walked with Vishvamitra back to his hermitage, where they would continue to protect the vipras. Eventually, the trio would make its way to Tirahuta, where a marriage contest was taking place. The winner would win Sita Devi as a wife. There too, the residents had the desire to see Sita marry the beautiful Rama, and the Lord would oblige their request.

The slain enemies of Rama got the pleasure of liberation, which is achieved by seeing the Supreme Lord at the time of death. The atheists also take temporary pleasure in Rama’s external energy of maya, proving again that the Supreme Lord gives every person what they want.  When the innermost desires are shifted towards the transcendental realm, the true fruit of existence is tasted and relished.

In Closing:

To sages in forest Tataka was a pain,

Therefore they rejoiced when she was slain.


With her illusory powers, she came and went,

But finally killed by arrows from Rama’s bow sent.


The attacks on sages innocent to cease,

Because of Rama, they could now live in peace.


Eyes and mind to taste existence’s fruit,

By seeing Rama, whole creation’s root.


Dasharatha’s son, to all people He is all things,

Meaning to life His divine vision brings.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Always With Form

Lord Narayana“He [the Lord] was only thumb high, but He was all transcendental. He had a very beautiful, blackish, infallible body, and He wore a dress of lightning yellow and a helmet of blazing gold. Thus He was seen by the child.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.12.8)

Though within the womb of his mother, the child could sense the scorching heat of the brahmastra weapon. Life had already begun, though emergence from the womb had yet to take place. The weapon was set to utilize intense heat to do its damage, but for some reason it wasn’t working on this tiny embryo. A more powerful force was there to counteract the heat. As small as it was, the counteracting energy still had a form. The child remembered the form and all that it did for him. Just as his grandparents had honored and served that form in its original manifestation of Lord Krishna, so Parikshit never forgot what it did for him.

That vision seen by the child was of Lord Narayana, the four-armed form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Though Narayana lives in the spiritual sky of Vaikuntha, He is all-pervading. Therefore the vision of Him residing within the mind of the devotee is as powerful as His personal self. His personal intervention marked by His appearance within the womb of Uttara also did not change His position. True opulence fires in all necessary directions. In tennis one player may have a powerful serve, but unless they can return serve and win points with groundstrokes and volleys, they will not be successful. One golfer may be good at driving the ball long distances, but if they cannot putt on the greens, they will not win tournaments.

“Actual greatness, however, is not one-sided. One who is actually great can become greater than the greatest and smaller than the smallest.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Teachings of Queen Kunti, Ch 13)

Lord NarayanaTrue greatness means being both very large and very small in ability. Spacesuits, rocket ships and large vehicle transports show greatness in size and ability, but the same dexterity can’t be accomplished within a smaller form. That dexterity may have been there previously, but it cannot be repeated. The living entity survived living in the tiniest size body within the womb, but upon reaching adulthood, the same feat can’t be repeated. There is no magic pill to diminish your size down to nothing again. You can put on a suit and travel to outer space, but you can’t take off your body and crawl through tiny spaces.

With the Supreme Lord, His exhibitions of strength and dexterity travel in both directions, the large and the small. In His impersonal form He is the virat-rupa, or the universal manifestation. Picture all the “stuff” of the world. If you could get the largest truck imaginable and fill it with stuff, you would have everything. That entire collection is one way to imagine the Supreme Lord’s standing. At the same time, He is smaller than the smallest, residing within the heart of every living entity as the Supersoul, the charioteer waiting to steer the individual in the proper direction. Without knowing that you have that driver inside of you, you will live a life of constant fear and worry. You have someone waiting to give you sound advice, but unless you know they are there, how will you take advantage of their association?

Both the virat-rupa and the Paramatma [Supersoul] represent an original personality. His spiritual form is so amazing that no one can properly understand it. Nevertheless, it still exists and it can be shown to the living entity if they are fortunate enough. Maharaja Parikshit had the great fortune in several ways. Though generally it is not considered a good thing to get attacked while you are in the womb, when you have the most powerful figure protecting you from that attack, there is nothing to fear. In the process, you learn to appreciate your position with respect to your savior, and you get to bask in the sweetness of His vision.

Some five thousand years ago there was a great war to end all wars. Mother earth was feeling the burden of the sinful population treading her land, so the Supreme Lord decided that He would relieve that burden. Instead of doing the job all by Himself, He coordinated events in such a way that the bellicose parties would fight with each other. Only a select few would survive, and those personally protected by the Lord in His form of Shri Krishna would emerge victorious.

Arjuna and Krishna on the battlefieldThe Pandavas were the five brothers favored by Krishna, who acted as the charioteer to the leading warrior Arjuna. Towards the end of the war, one of the fighters for the opposing army was captured and then subsequently released. As revenge for the humiliation, the fiend, Ashvatthama, released a fiery weapon towards the womb of Uttara. Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu was slain during the war, and his child was within the womb of his wife Uttara. Ashvatthama thus decided on infanticide as payback. Uttara’s womb carried the lone member of the dynasty to survive in the future, to carry the family name going forward.

The brahmastra is a weapon of intense fire. To counteract it, you need intense cold. Lord Krishna stepped in and saved the child within the womb. Parikshit saw God while he was protected. He did not notice a bright light of Brahman or a gigantic cosmic manifestation. He did not perceive an unidentifiable force. Rather, He saw an opulent form that had four arms which was nicely adorned. Thus from the incident we see that God always retains His spiritual attributes, regardless of the area of space He apparently takes up.

The deity reinforces this fact. Though made of stone, wood, or resin, and maybe only a few feet tall in height, the archa-vigraha is as good as the original form of the Personality of Godhead because worship of it is authorized. The deity is the benediction from the higher being, who allows those with an obstructed vision to get to know Him better. When you first meet someone, they likely won’t tell you everything about themselves. They would rather gradually reveal this knowledge once they see that you are interested in what they have to say. They also want to be sure that you will not divulge their secrets to just any person and that the relationship you have with them is meaningful.

In the same way, the conditioned living entity, who is filled with so many personal motives, isn’t qualified to accept all the truths of spiritual life right away. Yet they still want a worshipable figure. They want to love someone without motivation and without interruption. If they feel the person they are loving will compete with them, then walls are erected, emotional barriers preventing the rival from gaining an unfair advantage.

Lord KrishnaWith the deity, there is no such worry, as you simply look at it and derive pleasure. If you feel so inclined, offer it some water, flowers, or fruits. If you want to spend even more time, prepare elaborate dishes made of ingredients that belong to the mode of goodness, those foods free of animal flesh and other impurities like garlic and onions. Add the key ingredient of love and first present the offering to your spiritual master and you are assured of pleasing the intended object of worship. Though God is never limited to a certain height, He will assume the form of the deity to meet your needs for worship. He tailors His appearance to suit your understanding, such is His kindness.

In the case of Parikshit, the circumstance called for a tiny form to enter a womb and counteract the brahmastra weapon. Krishna did just that, and the form of Narayana that Parikshit saw for just a brief moment would be remembered for the rest of his life. That sort of ajnata-sukriti, or unintended spiritual merit, stayed with him, sort of like a piggy bank that holds gathered money. The stock doesn’t deplete over time, as you can’t really lose spiritual merits. If you unknowingly acquire auspiciousness relating to Krishna, the maturity of that reservoir leads you to do things like chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

If you spend your saved money on a good, service, or experience, the money is lost; there is a debit to your account balance. In bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, the reservoir spent in connecting with Krishna only further grows the account, affording you more opportunities to serve the same person and continue to derive pleasure. The transcendental form that Parikshit saw marked the beginning of his devotional life, which he would remain dedicated to up until the time of his death. The sacred Shrimad Bhagavatam has Parikshit as a main character for a reason. He was favored by God at both the beginning and end of life. Seeing Narayana was the beginning of His understanding, and from that meeting further dedication in bhakti developed, to the point that He never forgot that form. If we should be so fortunate to see the Supreme Lord in any of His non-different forms, including the sweet vision of the two-armed Krishna, our spiritual merits will increase all the same, allowing us to spend our way into transcendental ecstasy.

In Closing:

From fire of brahmastra about to burn,

Towards savior Narayana embryo did turn.


To stop fiend Ashvatthama’s attack,

He used divine powers to push fire back.


Not a formless energy or bright light,

Instead had four arms, made a beautiful sight.


That vision of Supreme Lord he never did forget.

The saved Parikshit devotion to God in his heart set.


Know that sum of spiritual merits never to decrease,

With each expenditure, chances for devotion increase.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Flawless Face

Sita Devi“Oh, when shall I see that noble lady’s flawless face, with its raised nose, white teeth, pristine smile, eyes like lotus petals, and which resembles the lord of stars, the bright moon?” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.68)

tad unnasam pāṇḍura dantam avraṇam |
śuci smitam padma palāśa locanam |
drakṣye tad āryā vadanam kadā nv aham |
prasanna tārā adhipa tulya darśanam ||

A killer smile, a sleek figure, an enchanting countenance - these things can be quite harmful to one who is trying to control their senses. One who is sober, or dhira, cannot be distracted from his assigned duties in life despite any impediment. Yet the man vying for supremacy in spiritual efforts, for overcoming the influence of the senses that have led him astray for far too long, can best be attacked by the sight of a beautiful woman, who can lure him into the depths of danger. In this respect, the eyes of the more renounced spiritualists steer clear of women, even if the women potentially being viewed pose no threat. In the spiritual world, however, such rules don’t apply. With the most beautiful woman, her vision is always appreciated, beneficial, and never harmful to one’s spiritual aspirations. The wise eagerly anticipate that meeting with her and take any and all risk to ensure that the successful outcome arrives before their very eyes, that they drink the sweet nectar that is the beautiful spiritual form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s eternal consort, Sita Devi.

Sita and RamaOne person saw her, however, and didn’t seem to gain any benefit. The king of Lanka during a particular period of time in the Treta Yuga took Sita way from the side of her husband through a nefarious plot. Sita is the energy of God, the purified form of it. She doesn’t know any other business except loving her husband. As a divine personality, she can grant benedictions to others, such as by expanding herself in the form of opulence and wealth, but these valuables have an ideal use. Just as a currency may be traded for goods and services in a specific country, the notes printed up by the goddess of fortune and distributed to those she favors are meant to be cashed in for service to her husband, the Supreme Lord Himself, who roamed the earth during Ravana’s time in the guise of a warrior prince named Rama. Not any ordinary prince mind you; this was the most beautiful and the handsomest man in the world, who also happened to be the most capable bow warrior.

When the wonderful benedictions given by Sita Devi are used for other purposes, those that lack a relation to Rama’s pleasure, they can cause great harm to the person having temporary possession of them. Imagine having a car battery and installing it incorrectly in the car. There can be both sparks and an explosion when the battery is put in the wrong way. Imagine having scissors, a key, or some other metallic object and deciding to stick it into an electrical socket. These actions seem silly, but then so is taking the opulence provided by the goddess of fortune and using it for any purpose besides devotional service, the real occupational duty of the soul.

Ravana tried to use Sita Devi for his own pleasure. He didn’t have the courage to fight Rama one on one to win her hand. He knew from the words of Akampana, one of his fiendish contemporaries, that Rama would smoke him in battle in an instant. Therefore he approached Sita in a false guise and then forcefully took her back to his island kingdom of Lanka. He got to see her in person, marvel at her beauty, and personally give himself over to her. Yet she rejected him outright, as she has no desire to be with any man except Rama. Ravana was anxious to see Sita and he got his desire fulfilled. Yet his vision was clouded, and this flaw would cause him to act in the wrong way. When something is done improperly, there are negative consequences; otherwise where does the incorrectness come into play?

Hanuman destroying LankaIn Ravana’s case, the punishment would come in two stages. First there was the visit by Hanuman, Rama’s messenger. Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya and all-knowing Supreme Lord, could have found Sita Himself, but then what work would have been left for others? If one person in the company took on all the tasks, what would the other employees do? In the business environment, it’s difficult for one man to do everything, but we know by the wonders of this creation that the Supreme Lord can do whatever He wants. Through His energies the large land masses known as planets float in the air without any machine to prop them up. The material elements operate seemingly like clockwork, which is again instituted by the Supreme Lord and His energies. Therefore finding Sita would have been no problem for Rama.

Hanuman and the Vanaras residing in Kishkindha were very eager to please the Supreme Lord; so they were given opportunities for service. Hanuman was the most eager, so he was provided the most difficult task. One who can complete the toughest mission under very difficult conditions earns even more fame with their success. The obstacles faced by Hanuman were unimaginable, so much so that they tax the brain of the person who hears about them. He had to deal with people obstructing his path, the fact that the enemy territory was infested with ogres given to sinful behavior, and his own mental demons. Doubt can get the better of even the most confident person, especially when the time factor is considered. A person can be dexterous and resourceful, but if they start running out of time to finish their task, their abilities get neutralized. You can have the best quarterback in the world with the ball in his hands, but if there is little time left on the clock, there is not much he can do to help his team win.

Hanuman had to deal with the time factor in relation to Sita’s well-being. If she was in Lanka as had been previously learned, then surely Ravana was waiting to kill her. If Hanuman failed to find Sita, what would he tell his friends back home? How could he look Rama in the face? Hanuman had no reason to lament or be disappointed, for just getting to Lanka and searching the area unnoticed were amazing feats in their own right. But he is never focused on temporary accomplishments or patting himself on the back. The mission that would please Rama was not successfully complete yet, so that’s all he was worried about.

HanumanFinally, Hanuman decided to search the one place he hadn’t entered yet: a nearby Ashoka grove. Just prior to entering it, he offered prayers to Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, the Lord’s younger brother. He also asked the many divine figures in the heavenly realm to be favorable upon him. In the above referenced verse we see him asking the question to himself of when he will finally see Sita. He lists her specific qualities as a reminder of why she is so brilliant. He also reveals his eagerness to have the divine vision of such a wonderful person, who had no flaws whatsoever.

Today, we know from Hanuman’s stature that his eagerness to see Sita, a beautiful woman even by the material estimation, was not harmful, but for Ravana it was. Ravana eventually lost everything because of his desire to see Sita, while Hanuman gained eternal fame and adoration from pious people looking to remain committed to the path of bhakti-yoga. In the Vedic tradition, it is emphatically stressed that a man should look upon every woman except his wife as his own mother. This way the urges for sex are curbed and the proper respect is given to females. Regardless of how the female behaves, whether she is married or unmarried, young or old, the same respectful treatment should be offered.

This guiding principle reveals the difference in outcomes. Hanuman saw Sita properly, even though he had never met her before. He eagerly anticipated being graced with the presence of Rama’s wife, but Hanuman had no desire to enjoy Sita in the way that Ravana did. Rather, anyone who sees the beautiful princess of Videha, the beloved daughter of Maharaja Janaka, and worships her in the proper mood can be granted only benedictions in life. Hanuman’s eagerness would pay off, as he would later beat down every opposing force that came his way.

Hanuman meeting SitaIn his initial meeting with Sita, whom he would finally find in the Ashoka wood almost emaciated due to the pain of separation from Rama, there would be some difficulties to overcome. Hanuman was so anxious to defeat Ravana and make Rama happy that he suggested to Sita that she come back to Kishkindha with him. Hearing this, Sita practically insulted Hanuman by saying that his monkey nature must have been coming out, for how could he suggest such a ridiculous thing like carrying her on his back? Hanuman felt a little hurt, but he did not get angry nor did his love for Sita diminish. Sita’s reservation related entirely to her love for Rama. She did not want to touch another man again. She was forced to by Ravana, but her vow was to always be devoted to Rama in every act. Moreover, she did not want her husband’s reputation sullied by the fact that someone else had to come and rescue His wife.

The admonition was harmless, and Sita would be so pleased by Hanuman and his bravery that she would shower him with so many gifts, benedictions that continue to arrive to this day. On his way out of Lanka to return to Rama, Hanuman would be bound up and have his tail set on fire by Ravana. While being paraded around the city in this way, Sita saw Hanuman and immediately prayed that the fire would feel as cool as ice for him. Of course who can ever deny the requests of Rama’s wife, who has more accumulated pious deeds than anyone else? Hanuman, not feeling the pain of the fire anymore, freed himself from the shackles and then proceeded to use his fiery tail to burn Lanka. This was how Ravana’s first punishment for having taken Sita arrived.

Ravana’s ultimate reward would be delivered by Rama Himself, who would shoot the arrows that would take his life. Thus Ravana’s lusty desires led to his eventual demise, whereas Hanuman’s pure desires relating to Sita brought him eternal fame. To this day, Sita ensures that Hanuman has whatever he needs to continue his devotional practices. He daily sings the glories of Sita and Rama, and we daily remember and honor Hanuman, who keeps the divine couple safely within his heart. He had the sight of Sita that he wanted so badly, and everything favorable came about in his life because of that eagerness. Anyone who is similarly eager to see Hanuman and remember his bravery, courage, honor, dedication to piety, and perseverance in pleasing Rama will meet with auspiciousness in both this life and the next.

In Closing:

Hanuman was full of eagerness,

To see Sita, she of face flawless.


Her countenance resembled the moon that is bright,

Lotus-petal eyes and white teeth made for brilliant sight.


Taking Sita, Ravana did something very unwise,

Through Hanuman and Rama, to find ultimate demise.


Hanuman had similar desire but it was pure,

So for benedictions he was assured.


Sita’s prayer to fix his burning tail,

Her gifts to devotees never fail.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Talk Of The Town

Neighbors watching Krishna“Krishna's activities are always very attractive to devotees. Therefore the neighbors, who were friends of mother Yashoda, informed mother Yashoda of whatever they saw Krishna doing in the neighborhood. Mother Yashoda, just to hear about the activities of her son, stopped her household duties and enjoyed the information given by the neighborhood friends.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.28 Purport)

Vrindavana had components common to a small community. There were the various households managed by the mothers, with the husbands spending time outside tending to the various duties required of them. Vrindavana was a farm community, so everyone was involved in taking care of the cows and using the ability that God gave them to produce food for themselves. If you boil it down, you’re essentially working to eat. All that hard work that you put in, the long hours at the office, and the time spent commuting are to ensure that you have a roof over your head and food on the table. With that identified objective, if your labor can be directly applied to produce that food, you will be better off for it. All the time in Vrindavana, including the work hours, was spent delighting in the sweet presence of Yashoda’s beloved son.

If you’re working all day, how are you going to take care of your children? If they are old enough to walk around and play, they will want to enjoy with their friends. Like any close-knit community, Vrindavana had an extended family atmosphere to it. This meant that the mothers looked out for all the children, not only their own. Yet one child in particular seemed to grab the attention of the neighbors. He was showing exemplary behavior as a child and was so enchanting that the mothers couldn’t stop talking about Him.

Lord KrishnaExemplary for a child is to show your childish nature. We don’t expect someone who has never been educated to expound on the philosophical points of Vedanta or the meaning of life. Because of His divine nature, this young child was actually the source of Vedanta, the object of sacrifice. Nevertheless, His mission in Vrindavana was to provide pleasure to people in the mood in which they would enjoy it the most. For a town filled with wives tending to their household chores every day, there is bound to be idle gossip. “Did you see what that person is wearing today? I see that they’ve gained some weight. Did you hear about that new car that the people across the street bought? I saw them showing it off to their friends the other day.”

In Vrindavana the gossip focused on the activities of young Krishna, Yashoda’s boy. More than just gossip, the women would detail the various activities of Krishna to Yashoda, almost complaining in a sense. This one behavior reveals the magic of devotional service, which is also known as bhakti-yoga. Rather than force yourself into restriction and difficult meditation techniques to understand God, if you are pure at heart you can follow your natural tendencies and derive transcendental joy that way.

The mothers in the neighboring homes were naturally prone to talking about what others were doing, for there is a difference between what occurs when you get a group of men together as opposed to a group of females. In male circles the conversations aren’t very emotionally in-depth, and they likely involve much joke-making, ribbing of the other guys. In female circles, the talking can continue nonstop, for every emotion is discussed along with what others are doing or did in the past.

With the women in Vrindavana, their talkative natures were used to stay immersed in bhakti-yoga. The object of action is what makes the difference in results. For instance, if I go to work to maintain a life devoted to drinking and gambling, my work is actually a giant waste of time. On the other hand, if the objective of the work is to maintain your family and feed yourself, then your time and effort are more worth it.

In the grand scheme, the ultimate beneficiary is Shri Krishna, who is more commonly addressed as God. Every activity can be purified by dedicating it to the Supreme Lord. For the women in Vrindavana, idle gossip turned into a time of glorification. They saw what Krishna was doing during the day, and knowing that Yashoda wasn’t privy to these scenes, they decided to fill her in on the details.

Lord KrishnaWhat exactly was Krishna doing that was worth talking about? He would steal butter from the neighbors, feed it to monkeys, pinch little children to make them cry, and do a host of other things that caused a stir. Why would Krishna act this way? Why would He make the lives of cowherd women more difficult? Well, if the Supreme Lord didn’t take to noticeable activity, how would others notice Him?

If you’re God, why do you have to be noticed? In actuality, the Supreme Lord’s influence is noticed at every second, just the level of association is different. For instance, the alcoholic feels Krishna’s presence in their intoxication, but since this is part of the illusory energy known as maya, the Lord’s personal aspect is not represented. It’s sort of like enjoying the shadow created from the light that the sun provides without knowing that the sun exists. The sun is more powerful than the resulting shadows, and its rays are a more direct representation of its energy.

The personal presence, which includes the forms and their activities, is far more enjoyable to the devoted soul. Thus Krishna enacts pastimes for the benefit of those who are willing to be delighted by the divine pastimes. In one sense we can think of the neighbors’ gossip as a sort of lecture on scripture. In Krishna-katha, or discourses on the Supreme Lord, an elevated transcendentalist speaks to a gathered assembly on the meaning of life and about how one should be devoted to God in order to achieve the end known as liberation, which signals a halt to the cycle of birth and death.

The key ingredient in Krishna-katha is Krishna, or God. Therefore if we are talking about the Lord and describing His pastimes, we are following a behavior similar to that of the speaker in the assembly. The neighbors complained about Krishna to Yashoda, but they secretly loved what her child was doing. They didn’t want Him to be punished; they only wanted an excuse to talk about Him some more.

For the mother, hearing about her son’s activities from others was quite delightful. We may witness an event go down with our own eyes, but it is not until we hear someone else retell the story of what happened that we really appreciate what we saw. If you hear someone else glorifying something that you consider to be noteworthy, you will have a greater appreciation for it.

Lord KrishnaThe young Shyamasundara thus set up a nice chain of events. He appeared on earth, took part in pastimes in Vrindavana, and made sure that others were around to see what was going on. If they were busy with their household chores, He would find ways to catch their interest to the point that they had to discuss what they saw with others.

“You won’t believe what Krishna did today”, was pretty much the sentiment echoed daily by Vrindavana’s residents, and especially the neighborhood cowherd women. By discussing what they saw Krishna do, they brought delight to the kind mother. Then the same pastimes were recorded in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, to be enjoyed by countless future generations.

Question: Sometimes gossip involves false rumors. Was this the case with Krishna and the neighborhood gopis?

Obviously when you’re hearing strange stories about your son’s behavior from others, you might be tempted to not believe them. What if the women were just exaggerating or mistaken in their vision? There was no mistake, for the witnessed activities were part of the Lord’s nature after all; He makes the amazing look easy. He is not limited in His exhibition of strength, which means that as a small child He can lift a mountain or kill a powerful demon that infiltrates the town. He can steal butter from any place where it is hidden, and He can pretend like he’s innocent even while being called out for His childish pranks.

Mother Yashoda with KrishnaIdle gossip is generally not good because it keeps the mind away from thoughts about God. The temporary ups and downs that others encounter is not really of interest to a spiritual seeker who is looking for the Absolute Truth. In Krishna, we see no hint of duality, for even His childish play proved beneficial. His actions, whether large or small, outwardly pious or impious, whether to purposefully delight or agitate, had the same effect.

His killing of the demon Putana brought salvation to her and amazement to the residents of Vrindavana. His stealing of butter gave the gopis a chance to talk about Krishna and spiritual nectar to the ears of Yashoda. From the example of the gopis, we see that if we are itching to gossip about someone, why not hear from the Shrimad Bhagavatam and talk about young Krishna and the havoc He raises in Vrindavana? Discuss His discourse on spirituality that is the Bhagavad-gita and the delight He provides to the saints who continue to chant His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In Closing:

About Krishna and His actions gopis like to gossip,

With their words Yashoda’s son they worship.


Women in communities notice what is going on,

Those happenings their discussions dwell upon.


Same thing in Vrindavana, with one difference,

Focus on Krishna and His butter’s indulgence.


Witnessing event to watcher pleasure gives,

But better when through story they can relive.


Yashoda these acts of her son couldn’t see,

But hearing from neighbors pleased was she.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Passing The Test

Lakshmana and Rama slaying Tataka“Rama showed His tremendous knowledge of fighting by killing the demon Tataka. The muni then gave to Him knowledge of secret mantras to be used in fighting.” (Janaki Mangala, 36)

badhī tāḍakā rāma jāni saba lāyaka|
bidyā mantra rahasya die munināyaka||

Sometimes we’re asked to do things that we really don’t want to do. The suggested acts seem to break all the rules of propriety, every standard of decency which we have instinctively followed for many years. But when the request comes from a superior, someone we respect and who we know will not lead us astray, perhaps we will go ahead despite our reluctance. In the Vedic tradition, such requests sometimes come from the spiritual master, and if they are true to their vow to remain devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the acceptance of those instructions and their prosecution with firm faith, attention and honor by the disciple will prove beneficial in every way. This system of acceptance and action is so important that the object of service Himself shows its merits through His behavior.

Case in point the incident with Lord Rama and the female Rakshasa Tataka. Rama is the person most of the world refers to as God. More than just a vague concept of someone who may or may not get angry with us depending on what we do, the Supreme Lord is the person from whom everything emanates. His “personality” is a little different than ours. He is not limited to one manifestation, nor is He bound by the influence of time and space. Intelligence is rooted in Him, for the concept of a person or living creature descends from His very existence.

Lord RamaLord Rama is the Supreme Lord in the spiritual manifestation of a warrior prince, carrying with Him the bow and arrow wherever He goes to slay the wicked elements harassing the saintly class. In a world full of relative good and bad, it’s difficult to say who actually deserves protection and who doesn’t. For instance, the person being attacked by another person may think they are innocent, but perhaps in the past they were not so kind to a helpless creature like an ant or a cow. The person being attacked may also have ill motives to act upon in the future. The person doing the attacking may be acting as a vehicle to deliver the sinful reactions to past work.

“Just as a tree starts to blossom during the proper season, so the doer of sinful deeds inevitably reaps the horrible fruit of their actions at the appropriate time.” (Lord Rama speaking to Khara, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 29.8)

The dualities in the phenomenal world make it a little difficult to understand God’s position and even acknowledge His existence. For instance, is it wise to pray to God for help in a football game? The last second field goal attempt by the kicker will grant victory to his team, but defeat to the opposition. If he should miss, the opposition will be elated, but the kicker will have to deal with the pain of having lost the game for his team. In this scenario, is praying for an outcome one way or another something that God should have to deal with? Is He really interested in trivial things like football games?

“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)

The divine descents give us a slight understanding of what really interests the Lord and where He decides to intervene. It is said in the Bhagavad-gita by the same Shri Rama in His original form of Lord Krishna that whenever there is a decline in religious practice and a rise in irreligion, the Lord descends Himself. This one statement reveals that there is no difference between Rama, Krishna and any other personal incarnation of Godhead. The “myself” indicates that Krishna is personally arriving on the scene, though His outward form may be suited to the current situation in society.

Lord RamaHow do we tell if there is a rise of irreligion? Isn’t this a relative measurement? Is not religion practically nonexistent today? The key is to see how much the pious members of society are being harassed in their daily affairs. If the entire population voluntarily chooses against religious life and instead turns towards temporary material satisfaction, the personal intervention of the Lord isn’t necessarily required. But when the pious elements that do exist all of a sudden can’t carry out their duties because of the intentional interference of the miscreant class, then the attention of the by-default neutral Supreme Lord is caught.

In His descent as Rama, the Lord dealt with many nefarious characters harassing the innocent sages in the forests. Rama appeared in the dynasty of King Raghu, who was a famous ruler known for his piety. Therefore Rama and His three younger brothers were taught from an early age about chivalry and how to respect and honor the most honorable members of society. Vishvamitra, one of the sages facing harassment in the forest, approached King Dasharatha of Ayodhya and asked to have the king’s eldest son Rama escort him through the forest. Rama was ready to carry out the request, and He took the younger brother Lakshmana with Him. The boys were still very young at the time, but Vishvamitra knew that Rama was capable of providing full protection.

Capability and implementation are two different things. You can say that you’re capable of performing the job responsibilities during an interview for the position, but once you get the job you have to deliver. Otherwise you will prove to be a failure and also show that the people who hired you made a mistake. Rama’s initial test came with the female demon Tataka. She was a ghoulish looking creature who had a vendetta against the saintly class. She was previously a beautiful woman but was then later cursed by Agastya Rishi through a series of events. She became a hideous looking Rakshasi that would eat whoever would come near her. She loved to harass the sages living in the forest, including Vishvamitra.

It was now time for Rama to slay her. But the Lord was hesitant. Why should He kill a woman? The chivalrous fighters of the Raghu dynasty never did anything inappropriate. Dasharatha did not want to part with Rama, but since a venerable rishi made the request, the king felt obliged to follow. Now Rama was showing how well His father had raised Him by not desiring to break the standard rules of warfare. In reality, there was no risk of sin, for Tataka had been killing and eating people. In this sense she was more a vicious animal than a woman. She lost her standing as a member of a protected class by the actions she took.

Rama and Lakshmana fighting TatakaVishvamitra tried to dispel Rama’s doubt by telling Him that she needed to be killed and that doing so would not break any rules of conduct. Thus Rama twanged His bow to get the attention of the demon, who then proceeded to attack. But in the back of His mind Rama had decided that He wouldn’t kill her. He would just attack her, rough her up a little bit, but then let her live. Tataka started by releasing an onslaught of crags, and Rama responded by using His arrows to protect Himself. Then Lakshmana stepped in and lopped off the hideous creature’s ears. Rama too started attacking her with His arrows.

The Rakshasas are also masters of illusion, using black magic when necessary. Thus Tataka started disappearing and appearing at will, making it very difficult to attack her. Vishvamitra at this time told Rama not to wait much longer. Nighttime was about to fall, and during that period the Rakshasas become almost unbeatable. Rama should not pay any concern to her gender. He should instead shoot to kill. Following the sage’s words, Rama showed His ability to fight enemies using just sound. Locating the invisible demon, He pierced her in the chest with His arrows, ending her life.

Vishvamitra was so pleased by Rama’s act. The son of Gadhi could have attacked Tataka with a curse, but then he would have lost some of his accumulated spiritual merits. The brahmanas are not meant for fighting. If you have a hired security firm to protect you, why would you want to use your own effort to fend off attackers? If you did that, what need would there be for the hired security? In a similar manner, the entire society is meant to be protected by the kshatriya class. The brahmanas can take to any activity if necessary, but their primary purpose is to worship God and teach others how to carry out that same worship through their occupational duties.

Rama was hesitant to kill Tataka but He followed through because Vishvamitra, the guru, requested it. By pleasing the guru, Rama received so many valuable weapons and secret mantras to chant to invoke those weapons. Just by calling up on the celestial weapons, they would appear to Rama and help Him in fighting off enemies. Lord Indra, the chief of the demigods, watching the slaying of Tataka from above appeared on the scene afterwards and advised Vishvamitra to give to Rama the many weapons that would help Him in the future.

Rama killing TatakaThe irony is that Rama never needs any help from anyone. He simply exhales to create this and many other universes. When He inhales, everything comes back into Him. But just to show how important the guru is, and how respected Vishvamitra was, Rama acted like a servant. He pleased the guru by passing the test placed in front of Him, even though He was not desirous of taking that test. It is impossible to measure the merits of the blessings received from the guru. Vishvamitra was a devotee, so by pleasing him one could get only auspiciousness as a result.

The Vaishnava spiritual masters, those who follow the same devotion as Vishvamitra, advise everyone to regularly chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Always think of the Lord, become His devotee, revel in His many triumphs, and follow the direction of His servants. Even if you are reluctant to chant and don’t see what the benefit in it is, just know that the gurus most enthusiastically recommend the chanting of the holy names, that they beg as many people as possible to at least say the name of Krishna or Rama one time. By obliging their request, we receive secrets that unlock the door to boundless future happiness, which includes the sight of the Supreme Lord’s lotus feet day after day.

In Closing:

At pleasing the Supreme Lord guru is the best,

For their benefit, gives the disciple a test.


Son of Gadhi wanted Rama Tataka to kill,

Hearts of forest’s sages with terror she did fill.


At initial request Rama was hesitant,

To kill woman and break rules reluctant.


Nevertheless, showed that He can kill by sound,

Using nothing else, female demon’s location found.


Dropped to the ground after pierced in the chest,

With His arrows, Rama passed beloved guru’s test.