Saturday, April 28, 2012

Old Age

changing bodies“There is no superior power which can check the cruel hands of death. No one wants to die, however acute the source of bodily sufferings may be. Even in the days of so-called scientific advancement of knowledge, there is no remedial measure either for old age or for death. Old age is the notice of the arrival of death served by cruel time, and no one can refuse to accept either summon calls or the supreme judgment of eternal time.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.19 Purport)

You’ve seen the news. Eat blueberries to extend your life. Exercise a certain number of times each week and you can prevent the onset of a specific disease. And of course the claims are backed up by studies. Recent research shows this and shows that. Then there are the newer studies coming out which refute the older ones. “Scientists now believe that coffee is not good for you, while it was previously said that it was good for you.” One day oat bran was the secret to reducing the risk of heart disease, and the next day oat bran brought on so many side effects. While the focus is always on extending life and thereby trying to escape the undefeated warrior known as death, what about the issue of old age? How do we stop that?

Let’s think of it this way. Say that we listen to the advice that we get from the health experts, who use the advantages of modern medicine and the noted perceptions in recent scientific research to come up with their recommendations. Modern medicine has certainly given us many advancements, such as vaccines for debilitating illnesses and effective treatment for previously crippling diseases. The advanced machinery of today is very good at extending life, especially for people who are traumatically ill. In days past the same tragedies would have likely resulted in instant death, but with advancements in treatment people can heal a lot faster now.

Scientific researchRecorded perceptions, commonly known as experimental research, are what brought about these advancements. You started with a certain hypothesis. Next, you created a controlled environment, and finally you ran your tests. If the results are the same through repeated retries, you can assert that the original hypothesis was correct. This is the basic scientific method. You have both observation and experiment. Without observation the experiment is of no value. Without experiment, your observation is as good as a guess. Statements that begin with “I believe” can be countered by another person’s belief. As each person is a valid human being, who is to say whose belief is more valuable? How do we decide which opinion carries more weight?

So we have a specific set of recommendations that was created through past experiments and conclusions. For the moment, we’ll ignore the fact that past recommendations and conclusions have sometimes later on been refuted through new research, which in turn reveals the flaw in relying solely on the scientific method. The root cause of the defect is quite easy to spot as well: who is able to perceive every single event in history? We may create a controlled environment, but this doesn’t mean that we can think of every possible combination of conditions. For instance, studying weather patterns over a period of thirty years to come up with a guess as to the future changes in climate is silly because the earth has existed for much longer a period of time. If you can’t go back and study the entire history of the earth and its climate, the entire process is academic. If somehow you could absorb the information pertaining to all of weather’s history, you still have no idea how the millions of living entities residing on earth will behave going forward and what effect that behavior will have on the environment.

The recommendations we’re following from the health experts in this hypothetical scenario relate to daily habits. We’re told to sleep at least eight hours a night, so we do that. We eat on time, avoid saturated fat, exercise regularly, but not too strenuously, and eat all the foods that are purported to prolong life. For this situation, let’s say that everything works out. We live for a very long time, long enough to see the birth of our great-grandchildren. We reached old age, so the previous effort is considered worthwhile. The recommendations were effective because they extended our time within the present body.

But what about old age itself? Where does that fit into the equation? If I live to a point where my body starts to decay, what is the use in continuing on? Moreover, what have the recommendations done for my quality of life? If I lived a long time but remained stuck to a wheelchair or had difficulty walking around, should not those defects be a concern? In this respect the scientific advancements have done little to nothing. Eating the “right” foods can help you live longer, but nothing can be done to stop old age from coming, let alone death. A cure has yet to be found for old age, which is the messenger of death, telling the living entity that their time for exit is approaching.

Why bring this up? So what if healthy living doesn’t address old age? Would we rather live dangerously and die young? The reason the defect requires mentioning is that the living spirit has the potential to do great things. Extending life is not one of them and neither is preventing old age. Surely one should try to remain healthy, attempting to keep the spirit soul tied to an active form, but the real aim of life is to put an end to the cycle of birth, old age, disease and death. This can only be done through fostering the proper consciousness.

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

Lord KrishnaThe continuous cycle is known as reincarnation. One doesn’t have to die and get born again to be part of the transmigration process. The changing body can be seen through visual evidence, which shows that reincarnation is a scientific fact and not a dogmatic belief. Your outward form changes but you as a person do not. Identity is tied to spirit, which is immutable. In the C# computer programming language, the “string” data type is immutable. This means that you can’t change the contents of a string object after it is created. You can perform some operations on it and get a resultant value, but that new value must be reassigned completely to the original variable if you want to access the new value.

Following a similar concept, the spirit soul residing within the body cannot be altered, but it can be assigned to a new body. Old age also represents a kind of new body; thus the reassignment occurs constantly. When there is a complete shift in bodies, at which point memory is totally erased, the corresponding events are known as death and birth. There is no way to stop this from happening, at least in the immediate future, but through the proper consciousness one can escape the cycle going forward.

And what consciousness is that? The fear over death is what drives the scientific studies and the consuming public to follow the outputted recommendations. That same fear can be used as impetus to learn about the Supreme Lord, who is not a sectarian figure. His association is the most cherished, and through following the proper set of procedures, one can live a virtuous life and at the same time advance in consciousness. If you follow the regulations passed on by scientific studies, you can perhaps find a healthy condition that prolongs life, but the issue of consciousness is not addressed. When following the highest system of religion known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, every situation can become favorable.

How does this work exactly? The quintessential act of bhakti is the chanting of the holy names in a mood of love and devotion. You chant so that you can occupy your time and hear transcendental sound vibrations. Hearing is the easiest devotional act and it is also the most effective in terms of changing thought for the better and increasing intelligence. If you’re smarter you can recognize nonsense in instruction a lot easier. You can also follow the right path with more confidence. Hearing can take place with laziness on the outside, but the mind actively engages during the process by creating mental images and forming counterarguments to the thoughts that arise. If you’re forced to think while hearing, you will be better off in the long run.

“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)

Krishna's MercyBy regularly reciting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the consciousness gradually becomes so pure that it looks for ways to continue to stay in that sublime setting. Thus a proper scheme to follow on a go-forward basis is created without a problem. You learn to prolong your spiritual life, which continues after death. From the holy names, the forms and features of the Supreme Personality are revealed, and they are so pleasurable that you hope to bask in their glory without cessation. Whether in youth or old age, the devoted soul finds a pleasurable situation, and knowing that their cherished object of worship is protecting them, the time of death is no longer one to be feared.

In Closing:

From experts issues of health to resolve,

But still the problem of old age to solve.


Perhaps by eating right live long you will,

But from an aged body a problem there is still.


Know that every second your form is decaying,

But your identity the same it is staying.


Therefore must address the needs of the soul,

Through consciousness on its fate gain control.


Fix the mind on the Supreme Lord’s lotus feet,

In bhakti’s bliss, death with a smile you’ll greet.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Springing Into Action

Shri Hanuman's lotus foot“Having reflected for a moment and entered the Ashoka garden mentally, the highly powerful Hanuman jumped off of the ramparts of that palace.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 14.1)

sa muhūrtam iva dhyatvā manasā ca adhigamya tām |
avapluto mahā tejāḥ prākāram tasya veśmanaḥ ||

The time was now to spring into action. The moment to reflect on what lay ahead had passed, and now the crucial step of moving one foot forward was upon him. We may know what task is in front of us, and if it is daunting, we may be hesitant to move forward, sort of like laying awake in bed in the morning when we know we have something important to do once we get up. But fight on Hanuman would, and the successful end to his efforts was awaiting him.

Ravana’s palace was so exquisite that even the exterior walls were nicely decked out. It was along these walls that Hanuman stopped for a brief moment to decide what to do next. There was this park of Ashoka trees situated next to him that he had yet to search. It was likely very well guarded by Rakshasas, and the network of trees was arrayed in such a way that the wind didn’t travel there. Seemed like the perfect place to hide someone, to keep her away from others.

The details of Hanuman’s journey are provided in the Sundara-kanda of the Ramayana for a reason. Just as Hanuman had mentally entered the Ashoka wood prior to leaping off of Ravana’s palace, the sincere listener is given a chance to see the entire scene facing Hanuman, to know what he was thinking and how he conducted himself. The life lessons to take away are many, but the association itself is most valuable. Maharishi Valmiki envisioned these events before they occurred, and he noted down the relevant details because his mind obviously enjoyed staying with Hanuman throughout his daunting mission.

The task was difficult because Hanuman had to look for a missing princess with very little information to go off of. His group of monkeys, which came from the Kishkindha forest, was ordered to scour the earth to look for the missing wife of the prince of the Raghu dynasty, Lord Rama. Just when his group was about to quit, Hanuman and his friends received valuable intelligence. Sita was staying on an island called Lanka, for that was where the wicked king Ravana had taken her.

Hanuman jumping to LankaHanuman made it to Lanka alone because no one else in his group was capable of leaping across the massive ocean. That aerial journey was only the first hurdle, and within Lanka so many other obstacles appeared. The Ashoka wood presented a formidable challenge, as Hanuman had to enter it unnoticed. He had a monkey form by nature, so that image certainly would stand out in Lanka, a city ruled by ogres.

These vile creatures could change their shapes at will, but taking the monkey shape was not in their general practices. Moreover, they would strategically shift shapes, so as to achieve their desired end. For instance, if they wanted to strike a group of innocent sages, they would likely first assume the ascetic garb, thereby creating a false sense of security. Taking the ascetics in disguise to be benign, the innocent sages would make themselves prime targets for attack. The ghoulish night-rangers would then assume their natural, wicked forms and attack the sages, killing them and then feasting on their flesh.

Though not a Rakshasa, Hanuman was also capable of changing shapes. He assumed the garb of an ascetic when he first met Lord Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana, who approached the Kishkindha forest while first looking for Sita. Ravana had taken Sita by using the false guise of a brahmana as well. Rama and Lakshmana were temporarily lured away from the couple’s cottage by Ravana’s diversion, and seizing the opportunity the king of Lanka tricked Sita into being welcoming at first, taking her by force on his chariot after that.

“Sent by the great soul Sugriva, the king of Vanaras, I have arrived here. My name is Hanuman and I am a Vanara.” (Hanuman speaking to Rama and Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.21)

HanumanHanuman’s false guise was used to fulfill the request of the king of Vanaras, Sugriva. That deceptive dress didn’t stay on for long, as seeing Rama and Lakshmana’s beauty, Hanuman eventually revealed his true purpose. A friendship then immediately formed, and fast forward a few months, Hanuman was risking his life in a foreign city to look for Rama’s wife. Is it any wonder that the dedicated warrior is so endeared to Sita and Rama today?

In Lanka Hanuman would have to change his shape again, this time taking a diminutive size to avoid the eyes of the residents. If the lone hope for Sita’s rescue were to be captured, what would happen back home? So many people were counting on Hanuman, so he could neither increase the chances of being caught nor remain stationary for too long. The time for thinking had expired, so it was now time to search the one place in Lanka he had yet to see.

Monkeys are familiar with climbing trees and jumping between them, so this portion of the mission was not difficult for Hanuman. He had to try his best to remain unnoticed, however, so he also had to hide his enthusiasm. Working for Rama is the spirit soul’s occupational duty, and as soon as that fact is recognized, a whole new burst of excitement takes over the individual. Staying in a deep slumber from many previous lives, the conditioned living being uses every excuse in the book for not accepting the bona fide path of divine love. Sectarianism, the pursuit for temporary rewards, atheism, sadness, despair, chaos, tumult, and so many other issues get in the way of that eternal engagement taking hold within the individual.

But use the example of Hanuman to know that devotional service is always rewarding, provided one is willing to act. In his mind, Hanuman had plenty to lose, many excuses he could have invoked for not trying. But each one of those options ended with failure in the mission, which would mean disappointing the sweetheart son of mother Kausalya. Hanuman was dedicated to Rama at that time, and that dedication only increases with each passing day. With each successive obstacle thrown his way, Hanuman’s overall determination strengthened, to the point that he was ready to jump from tree to tree to see the beloved princess, who was surely aggrieved over separation from her husband.

Hanuman with Sita and Rama in his heartHanuman would succeed because Sita and Rama are the mother and father of the universe. Shri Rama helps those who try to connect with Him. As an all-powerful being, Rama could will every person into submission, forcing them to surrender. And it wouldn’t matter what anyone would say. You can protest all you want, but if the person dominating you is without any flaws and has superior strength, complaining will only force you to waste more valuable effort in a futile attempt at victory.

With the Supreme Lord there is no reason to put up such a fight, for He doesn’t force anyone to love Him. His benevolence is so great that He creates a temporary land for souls who want to vie with Him for supremacy. They are granted free will, but must subordinate to the external energy of maya, which serves as the commissioner of the playing field. And oh by the way, everyone else is given an equal chance to compete for ruler of the temporary land, so there is constant competition. Each person’s pursuit ends with a loss at the time of death, so there is no winning when separated from God’s company.

The divine servants, on the other hand, are aided in their efforts, given personal support by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The path of devotional service is so nice that victory comes at every step, and the benefits continue to pour in even after the present life ends. Though in a land filled with vile creatures, Hanuman stayed pure in consciousness by keeping Rama in His mind. Through that connection, the person who was supposedly situated thousands of miles away actually guided him from within, leading the noble warrior to Sita’s location.

That same Supreme Lord rests within all of us as the Supersoul, and He gives direction to the humble soul who first kindly propitiates the representative of Rama, the spiritual master. The Vaishnava guru begs everyone to regularly chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and most importantly think of God all the time. That mental effort alone will reawaken the dormant devotional spirit, springing the devotee into repeated meaningful action.

In Closing:

Having gotten over the mental hump,

From palace walls Hanuman ready to jump.


The Ashoka wood he was ready to enter,

So to Sita hopefully sacred ring to confer.


Details of Hanuman’s journey Valmiki included,

Because divine servant’s consciousness never deluded.


His dedication to Rama something at which saint marvels,

Follow him while to Sita’s location he travels.


God to help those who want to please Him,

Chant His names, take guidance from within.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spy Talk

Pandava brothers“He (Vidura) indirectly hinted, ‘A weapon not made of steel or any other material element can be more than sharp to kill an enemy, and he who knows this is never killed.’ That is to say, he hinted that the party of the Pandavas was being sent to Varanavata to be killed, and thus he warned Yudhishthira to be very careful in their new residential palace.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.8 Purport)

Watch any famous spy movie or spoof about the same and you’re sure to see people talking in code. Various signals are given to other members of the team, but they are verbalized out in the open. Since others are within audible range, the instructions must be cryptic and yet informative at the same time. The recipient of the information must be able to decipher the code so that they can act upon the intelligence. Some statements like, “The eagle has landed” and “The hen is in the nest”, can take on the humorous tone when used in situations where code is not necessary. Comedy writers have imagined their own variations of these kinds of statements to delight members of the audience. It appears from the ancient history documented in the Mahabharata and Shrimad Bhagavatam that the same practice of speaking in code was followed a long time back.

The Mahabharata is often considered the fifth Veda, or the supplementary division of work to the original Veda, which was later on divided into four parts by Vyasadeva, the literary incarnation of Godhead. The original Supreme Lord is one without a second, so He can accomplish all of His tasks alone. He doesn’t need any other forms or expansions, as He can see with His ears and hear with His eyes, but He nevertheless brings forth innumerable sparks of Himself that have independence in their actions. As their spiritual link to the original storehouse cannot be completely eradicated, there are varying gradations of particles of spirit.

VyasadevaThe more purified versions are better acquainted with their constitutional position. Then there are the almost direct incarnations which carry out divine functions. Vyasadeva is one of those incarnations, and his divine nature is evidenced by the volume and quality of his output. It’s easier now to mass produce literature with the advent of modern technology, but imagine doing the same thing thousands of years back. In addition, what you were producing was unique and committed to memory. This begins to tell the story of Vyasadeva and his tremendous brainpower. He spoke the Mahabharata, one of the largest works ever composed, to his disciples. When written down, the work spans thousands of pages, but since it was crafted in Sanskrit and according to a specific style of implementation, the entire work could be sung and remembered.

Of course more important than the length was the content. If not for the proper information contained within, the Mahabharata wouldn’t be so significant. The original Veda sprung forth from the Supreme Lord at the beginning of creation, and it was rather concise. Just a small collection of hymns praising God and His qualities. The songs didn’t need to be large in number or lengthy because just from the sound vibration representation of the Supreme Lord one is able to get God within their reach. That gift brings a closeness in proximity but has no bearing on control. The Supreme Controller cannot be compelled to do anything, but if His name is recited with love and devotion, He kindly agrees to remain within the immediate vicinity of the reciter. Hence the best way to approach God, stay connected with Him, and enjoy His association is to recite His names, such as those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

As further time elapsed from the beginning of creation, man’s interest began to divert towards other areas. The original Veda wasn’t cutting it anymore, as just singing songs was difficult to do when other enticements were available. To address the fallen condition, the Supreme Lord partially incarnated as Vyasadeva and then subsequently divided the original Veda into four branches, with each one focusing on special areas of interest. This made the highest truths of life a little easier to understand and expanded the reach of the songs to more people.

The Puranas next addressed an even further descent from the original position of pure consciousness. If you weren’t in the mood to sing songs, at the very least you could spend some time hearing stories about God and His associates. The accounts described the supernatural and the surreal, but they weren’t fabricated. Sometimes the events took place on the current planet and sometimes on other ones. Some events were from the past and others portended things to come.

Shrimad BhagavatamWe see that in the present age one of the desired methods of relaxation is sitting down in front of the television and watching a program. There is no pressure in this activity, and typically there is no finite time allotted to the engagement. This stands in contrast to the grind of work or school, where there is constant pressure to meet deadlines and fulfill expectations. In the relaxed state, one simply has to watch, without applying too much mental effort.

Better than watching is hearing, because then at least the brain starts to engage a little more, crafting responses to the opinions set forth, or at least mentally picturing the scenes being described. The ear is sharper than the eye because visions can be distracting, while the ear is accustomed to taking in information in a certain pattern. One can look at the difference in proofreading techniques to see evidence. If you were to proofread something that you or someone else wrote, you could gloss over many of the misspellings. This is because the eyes are accustomed to seeing words as a whole, so if there are only one or two letters off or transposed, the eyes might overlook the mistakes.

Sound vibration is different. Take off a letter from a word and it will sound completely different to the ear. If you were to take the same text that you had to proofread but this time hear it pronounced out loud, you would be able to pick out so many more errors without even consciously looking for them. Of course mistakes in context and ambiguity with respect to words that had the same sound but different spellings could be missed, but these defects are more relevant to the written word and not to the meaning during oral presentation.

Take that same superiority in hearing and apply it to discourses about the Supreme Lord and you get an easy way to attain enlightenment. From a higher way of thinking you can find a better way of living. Thus Vyasadeva composed the Puranas so that man could find God just by hearing and nothing else. The Mahabharata was the lengthiest work that he authored, and it contained pretty much every type of information relevant for living in a temporary land. It’s essentially the encyclopedia of Vedic teachings, with the heart and soul of the work being a small conversation held between a hesitant warrior and his charioteer.

The warrior was a member of the Pandava family and the chariot driver was the Supreme Lord Himself, Shri Krishna. While there are expansions and partial incarnations, Krishna is considered God in His complete form. He is purna, so He is not lacking anything, including wisdom. When the unsure warrior Arjuna needed help in deciding what to do, Krishna stepped in and offered sound words of advice. Since God was speaking, the words of wisdom never lost their relevance. The teachings presented by Krishna to Arjuna are as relevant today as they were on that day many thousands of years ago on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.

Krishna's discussion with Arjuna is the Bhagavad-gitaThe Mahabharata presents Vedic truths through the story of the five Pandava brothers. They were pious by nature, so it was not surprising that Krishna favored them. On the flip side, their cousins, the Kurus, did not like them at all. The leader of the rival cousins was named Duryodhana, and he tried in various ways to kill the brothers and their mother, Kunti Devi.

The Pandavas had several well-wishers helping them, either secretly or in the open. One of the key players behind the scenes was Vidura, the older brother of the Pandavas’ departed father Pandu. The Pandavas were lured into so many traps set by Duryodhana and his clan, but Vidura would secretly give the brothers information to be used as warnings. Without Vidura’s help, the Pandavas would not have survived.

At the same time, the different cryptic messages sent forth by Vidura can be taken in a humorous light, as they showed cleverness from both speaker and recipient. The Mahabharata is an ancient work, but just because the events described took place so long ago doesn’t mean that the human beings inhabiting the earth were bereft of variety, color and humor. The Vedas give you everything, including humorous incidents and delightful interactions between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and parents and children.

“Maharaja Yudhishthira said: My uncle, do you remember how you always protected us, along with our mother, from all sorts of calamities? Your partiality, like the wings of a bird, saved us from poisoning and arson.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.8)

Maharaja Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers, years later remembered Vidura’s partiality with appreciation. Through some way or another the saints look out for the innocent, the people who are willing to accept their instructions. In more recent times, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His spiritual brother Nityananda Prabhu took that benevolence to another level by offering sound words of advice to every single person, regardless of the reception they gave. Friend or foe, Shri Shri Nimai Nitai asked everyone to chant the names of Hari, the Supreme Lord who removes the distresses of His devotees. That security arrives from both the Supreme Lord and His representatives, which include the dear servants like Mahatma Vidura.

In Closing:

Strange phrases out in the open make up spy talk,

Reveal signals for things like knowing where to walk.


“The eagle has landed, the hen has returned to the nest”,

These phrases known to some but not to the rest.


Such talk found in works Vyasadeva compiled,

Through hearing find eternal wisdom and also a smile.


Vidura, to the five Pandava brothers a well-wisher,

To save them from danger, acted as secret instruction giver.


Shri Shri Nimai Nitai similarly to the world grant,

Best kept secret, holy names of Hari always chant.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happily Complaining

Lord Krishna with cow“The narration of Krishna's naughty childhood activities would be presented to mother Yashoda in the form of complaints. Sometimes Krishna would enter the house of a neighbor, and if He found no one there, He would release the calves before the time for the cows to be milked.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.29 Purport)

Someone comes up to you on a particular day to complain about something your young child has done. “Did you know that they did this? They weren’t even remorseful for what they did. We tried to tell them to stop but they just smiled and ran away. It is one thing if this occurred only once, but now it is happening on a regular basis. We are at a loss at what to do. Your child comes to our home every day and causes mischief and when we try to give punishment, they just run away, laughing the whole time.”

The first time you hear these complaints you’re a little anxious over the behavior of your child. After all, who wants to give trouble to the neighbors on purpose? These are people that you will see every day, and you expect to rely upon them in times of difficulty. Should you go away for an extended period of time, it’s nice to know that there are people to watch over your home. Perhaps they can pick up the mail, shovel the driveway and sidewalks, and keep an eye out for burglars or strange characters while you’re gone. If you offend the neighbors, you will lose their support, and your life in the community will be made uncomfortable.

But when the same complaints start to get lodged day after day, with the annoyed neighbors oddly not asking you to do anything about the delinquent behavior, you start to wonder a bit. “Hey, maybe they actually like what my child is doing? Maybe they come over to complain so that they can relive what they have just seen? After all, it is one thing to derive joy and excitement from witnessing an event, but it is likely more pleasurable talking about your experience later on to your friends and family. In this way you get to mentally witness the event again and experience the same excitement.”

Lord Krishna eating butterIn families it is sometimes seen that younger children complain about the behavior of their parents. One of the nice benefits to having siblings is that you have people with whom you can openly discuss the faults of your parents. If you say bad things about your mom or dad to a friend, you’re likely just venting, relieving some pent up hostility. You never want your friend to say the same bad things about your parents, even if they are just repeating what you have said. It’s okay for you to speak ill of your family members, but it is not for someone outside the family.

With siblings there is no such worry, as their parents are your parents. Therefore you can talk openly, for you both know that you love your parents. Often the close people in your life that you complain about the most are the ones you are the most attached to. Deep down, you enjoy talking about them because they mean so much to you. Especially with respect to parents, the perceived annoying behavior is rooted in love. Should your mom not nag you every day to eat or do your homework, you initially think that you will be happy, but you might start to wonder. “Hey, what’s going on? Why isn’t she asking me to eat? Sure, I complain about her nagging all the time, but what has changed? Does she not care about me anymore?”

In a small farm community some five thousand years ago, the neighbors used to complain daily about the young child of mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja. It was brought to the mother’s attention that the young Krishna was naughty in His dealings with the neighbors. He would do not so nice things and then not feel bad about it. Moreover, He would repeat the behavior day after day, forcing the women of the neighboring homes to visit Yashoda and describe what Krishna had done.

What was so bad about Krishna’s activities? The community in question, Vrindavana, lived off of cow protection. By growing grains and tending to cows, there was ample food available for everyone to live peacefully. The excess milk products would be sold in the neighboring towns for a modest profit. The cow is the magic ticket to economic security, for by owning a small plot of land and having a few cows, one can eat without a problem.

Krishna with cowYoung Krishna would cut right into the milk production of the community. The mother cows were separated from their calves for part of the day. This wasn’t cruel punishment; the mothers were meant to be milked prior to interacting with their children. The owners of the cows could get a nominal supply of milk to fit their needs, with plenty left over for the child cows to drink. Yashoda’s son, however, would release the calves before the mothers had been milked. The calves would then drink all the milk from their mothers, thus diminishing the milk supply for the owners. The naughty Krishna would do this regularly in the homes of the neighbors, and they used to try to catch Him as He ran away in fun.

Wasn’t this bad? Why would Krishna do this? Shouldn’t He have been punished? Actually, Shri Krishna is the reservoir of pleasure, whose beauty defies that of thousands of cupids. In the Vedas the god of love is known as Kama, and his beauty is beyond description. Since Krishna can enchant even cupid, He is known as Madana-mohana. That beautiful vision delights the eyes, so the cowherd men and women who would see Krishna releasing the calves would get the fruit of their existence on a daily basis.

Every living being is searching for pleasure. Every behavior, every identified goal, is rooted in the desire to feel pleasure. Strict renunciation, where no one has any fun, is also based on the desire to feel bliss. A professional athlete runs miles in a day, spends hours in the weight room, and carefully monitors their food intake so that they can perform well in competition. Optimal performance increases the likelihood of victory, which in turn should bring happiness.

In Vrindavana, the residents didn’t have to fight for supremacy in a competitive enterprise, sit in meditation, or study high philosophy to feel pleasure. The reservoir of beauty and sweetness placed Himself in front of their eyes on a daily basis. Just so they would know how precious that form is and how important it is to retain it in the mind’s vision, Shri Krishna would do naughty things. By behaving badly, something expected from young children, Krishna would let others chase Him. Through a chase one learns to appreciate the sought after object more. There is a famous saying that the chase is better than the catch. A similar truth is present in dealings with Krishna, as worship of Him in separation is considered superior to worship in immediate proximity. Chasing after the Lord actually brings His vision to the mind, so running after Krishna and trying to keep Him within the mind are equivalent.

Lord KrishnaThere is also no difference between seeing Krishna and describing His activities. Therefore the cowherd men that would chase after Shyamasundara would give their wives so much to talk about. By describing the incidents to Yashoda later on, the cowherd women got to interact with God in a mood of love. Shri Krishna is the original form of Godhead, as described by the Vedas and their sincere followers who understand Vedic principles and live by them.

Every person, regardless of their level of intelligence, country of origin, gender, or ethnicity has the right to interact with Krishna in love. The spiritual master, Krishna’s representative, teaches others how to receive that transcendental taste and never let go of it. The complaining housewives in Vrindavana showed us just how pleasurable it is to relive Krishna’s activities, which are taking place continuously. Somewhere at this very minute the sweetheart child of Yashoda is letting loose the calves in Vrindavana to drink all the milk from their mothers.

Can there be scarcity when the source of matter and spirit is in your presence? Vrindavana never runs out of milk because the mother cows pour forth more milk than they can hold as soon as they have the sight of Krishna, who is also known as Govinda because of the pleasure He gives the cows. In the same way, the Supreme Lord rushes to the scene and protects the devotees when He hears their pure cries for help coming in the form of the recitation of the maha-mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This is the mantra recommended for the people of this age. By reciting it one asks to have Krishna in their vision. When in the mood of bhakti, whether one complains about the Lord or praises His activity, the bliss they feel is the same, for they are in contact with the most attractive person.

In Closing:

Krishna lets calves loose so towards mothers they run,

Drink full supply of milk, to owners thus leaving none.


Running away from their homes, with a smile Krishna goes,

That the angered cowherd men feel pleasure He knows.


Then their wives to Yashoda Krishna’s play relive,

To devoted mother supreme pleasure they give.


Krishna is Supreme Lord, so of scarcity no question,

Of devotion Vrindavana dhama a bastion.


Praise Him or complain, but think of Him you must,

In Krishna’s ability to give pleasure trust.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Accepting The Offer

Vasudeva and Devaki“There is no need of material qualifications for making progress on the path of spiritual realization. In the material world, when one accepts some particular type of service, he is required to possess some particular type of qualification also. Without this one is unfit for such service. But in the devotional service of the Lord the only qualification required is surrender.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.46 Purport)

It’s time to look for a new job. Either you’re no longer pleased at the place you currently work or necessity dictates that you must move on to somewhere else. Ah, but changing may not be so easy. You have to look for an open position and then interview for it. The employers aren’t necessarily seeking someone who is loyal, dependable, and can learn new things quickly. They’d rather have someone who is supremely skilled in the area of interest, someone who can take the ball and run with it on day one. Because of this requirement, they will grill prospective candidates, eliminating them based on any perceived flaw. Thus the positions sometimes remain unfilled due to the requirements. A lack of qualified candidates will be the reason given by the employers for the persistent vacancy, while the workers are left to keep looking in hopes of finding that perfect slot.

In devotional life, which features the purified version of everything, including work, there is one position that is always open. For each individual this spot is available, and just because one person takes it up doesn’t mean that others are eliminated from candidacy. If there is a single pizza pie laying on the kitchen table, should someone eat the entire thing, nothing will be left for anyone else. In the realm governed by the creator of spirit and matter, there are no such hard and fast rules. One minus one can equal three when it comes to His rules, and so a singular position becomes multiple through His will.

pizza pieYet the issue is that no one wants to fill the position. Its qualifications aren’t too stringent either. If you’re looking for a job in technology, you will likely get a technical interview prior to being added on. The questions can range from the basics on the subject to the deepest nuances of the programming language or piece of technology you are purportedly familiar with. You may have used that technology every day for the past many years, but if you don’t know the answers to the questions asked of you, the employer will think that you are not capable.

The screening process with the position offered by the wealthiest person in the world is not so stringent. He simply asks that you have a desire to offer time, to lend an ear to transcendental topics in a submissive mood. Who isn’t qualified for this? A child lends time to hearing by watching children’s television series like Sesame Street and Barney. The retired person also spends much time in front of the television, watching and hearing. Why then shouldn’t they take a position that pays the most in return, that allows you to work from home, in the car, on the road, or at the office? Why wouldn’t you want to take this wonderful job that is unbelievably rewarding at the same time?

So why does no one accept this position? The issue boils down to ownership. The living being would rather falsely think they are the owners of everything, including their fate. Though the flaw of this reasoning is exposed in every step in life, still the belief is there that through just enough manipulation of matter the proper conditions can be found. “Let me work for x number of years so that I can sit down and retire after that. Let me earn some more money so that I won’t have to worry about anything ever again.”

Yet to pursue those goals one must work for a living, which involves serving a higher entity. The person may not be any better than you are, but in the realm of business they are in the superior position and you are in the inferior one. Even the owner of the company has to provide service to the customers, be they people in a store or a large business interested in purchasing the product or service offered. Thus there is no question of full autonomy. Rather, there is complete reliance on the efforts of others. Through the illusion fostered by material nature, the living being doesn’t recognize this fact, that they are forced to accommodate the direction of other people who may or may not have their best interests at heart.

Lord KrishnaTaking the position with the highest living being is also difficult because not much is known about Him, at least in the beginning. There are competing and sometimes contradicting visions of the Supreme Lord, and they don’t all portray Him to be nice. Sometimes He is depicted as angry and vengeful, while other times His personality is denied. “If you do worship a God, perhaps you should dedicate your life to praying for things. Instead of relying on your bosses and customers to give you happiness, run to the house of worship and pray as sincerely as you can.”

Yet the true position of the Supreme Personality has no relation to these things. The job He has open is not for securing the necessities of life which are already provided to the lower species like the animals. The living entities are naturally prone to working. There is a vibrant spirit within each entity for a reason. With that active spirit comes a potential for action, which produces fruits. Instead of toiling to get temporary rewards that are short-lived in the happiness they provide, why not take to a lifetime engagement that you are already qualified for?

That full-time role is known as servant of God. One accepts the position by first hearing about it. Lend an ear to transcendental discourses about Bhagavan, whose original form is so attractive that He is addressed as Krishna. Krishna is the origin of life and matter, the supreme enjoyer, and the best friend of the living entities. Working with your friends is not always the best idea, as they can take advantage of your relationship, using it as an excuse to put in a lackluster effort. They might also get offended if you correct their mistakes using a stern tone.

Working for Krishna does not have these issues. In fact, the more you work for Him, the more your friendship with Him strengthens. In the highest state of service, the worshiper cannot be stopped from offering their love. Should Krishna desire you to cease and desist, you will continue anyway, in spite of what He says. The gopis of Vrindavana loved Krishna in this way, and He was forced to admit that there was no way for Him, the all-powerful Supreme Lord, to repay their kindness.

Gopis worshiping Radha and KrishnaHearing about Krishna plants the seed of devotion, which is then watered through actual practice of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. This is the work portion of the position. You get hired simply by hearing, and you maintain your status as an employed worker by regularly chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The hours of operation are flexible, but the recommendation of the hiring manager is that you chant this mantra at least sixteen rounds a day on a set of japa beads. You pick when you want to chant, but you should nevertheless make sure that the rounds are completed each day.

During the training period, perhaps you can’t do sixteen rounds a day, but you should at least do one or two, successively adding rounds to the routine as you progress. There are also some workplace rules that you should abide by. In the office establishment perhaps you’re not allowed to go on the internet or take breaks that are too long. This is to ensure optimal working conditions, where your productivity will not be hindered. Along similar lines, to get the true effect from chanting, one should refrain from meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.

Let’s say that you reach the threshold of sixteen rounds of chanting each day. Then what? Can you get promoted? Where do you go from there? Is there another job that you jump to? Actually, the more one practices bhakti the more they enjoy it. The more one gives service to Krishna, the more their love for Him grows. Isn’t that how an ideal job should operate? Shouldn’t you love going to work every day and miss it when you have a day off?

Shri Krishna keeps the position open, just waiting for you to fill it. A deluded consciousness stuck in an endless pit of sense gratification and fear over the temporary nature of things precludes one from voluntarily taking up service to Krishna, but at any time the necessary change in attitude can come. Therefore the exalted Vaishnava acharyas take up the difficult job of actively recruiting new employees, knowing full well that every person really wants to serve God, but they just may not be aware of it. Through the sound of the holy name, hearing about the Supreme Lord, the spark of devotion can be ignited, and an army of transcendentalists can soon take up their real occupational duty: devotional service.

In Closing:

To land a new job you may be hoping,

Have to then search for one that is open.


Candidate must be qualified for the position,

Thus grilled with questions like an inquisition.


To give right answers your hopes depend upon,

If you fail the test, chance for new job gone.


Shri Krishna keeps best job open for you,

Only requirement is hearing in right mood.


Though it’s open to all, no one seems to want it,

But take it when you’re ready, you won’t regret it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Worship In Peace

Rama and Lakshmana slaying Tataka“After Rama killed so many night-rangers, the yajnas were performed. Without fear the munis of the world sing of the fame and glories of the Lord.” (Janaki Mangala, 38)

māri nisācara nikara jagya karavāyau |
abhaya kie munibṛnda jagata jasu gāyau ||

The kind Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead who descended to earth to protect the innocent, does good with all of His activities, including His fighting. Normally violence is not welcomed, for why would one man want to kill another? Why should there ever be fighting between rational adults, people who should know better? Life is short after all, so there shouldn’t be a reason to raise hostilities. But from the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we get an idea of when violence is necessary and how when it is invoked properly it can bring the greatest benefit to man.

It is said that Lord Rama killed so many night-rangers. A nishachara is a sort of ghoulish creature that can change their shape at will. This species was especially prevalent on earth during the Treta Yuga, the second time period of creation. We know of their existence from the documented historical evidence of Vedic literature, which includes the original Vedas, Mahabharata, Puranas and Ramayana. The original Vedas are generally not read today because their content is very short and difficult to understand. The original hymns could long ago be understood by the highest class of men, whose intellect was so sharp that just by hearing information once it could be remembered fully. Reading a translation of the original Vedas today doesn’t really do much for us, as there is no underlying culture to complement the songs. If a particular hymn glorifies the Supreme Lord as being exquisitely beautiful and kind to His devotees, how is someone who never worships God and who is constantly worried over temporary ups and downs going to understand the meaning?

Lord RamaThe more detailed scriptures are thus targeted for the less intelligent. As the current age is the Kali Yuga, the dark period of quarrel and hypocrisy, every person is deemed unintelligent. The smartest people of the world today are still less fortunate than the people who lived in previous times. There is nothing wrong with connecting with the more detailed scriptures, for the same benefit of association with God is present within them. Along with the stories of the Supreme Lord’s exploits, you get information of what kinds of creatures were present on earth in ages past and what their behaviors were.

The night-rangers chose to attack at night because their victims would have less chance to spot them. Think of the prowler who waits until there is no light outside to commit crimes. What were the crimes committed by the night-rangers? They weren’t innocent by any means. They would attack human beings, kill them, and then eat their flesh. What was the motive for these attacks? After all, with every crime there is some type of motive. Perhaps the victims deserved what they were getting?

One would be surprised to learn that the victims were the most innocent members of society, as far as adults go anyway. Children don’t know any better, so they are not taken to be serious threats by anyone. The ascetics, who were adults, living in the forests had no ties to anyone. They were renounced from worldly life so they could concentrate on their spiritual duties. They didn’t have large plots of land or stockpiles of wealth in the bank. Rather, they lived in thatched huts, ate whatever berries were on the trees, and spent the rest of the time chanting the holy names of the Lord and performing formal rituals known as yajnas.

“In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Vishnu, and blessed them by saying, ‘Be thou happy by this yajna [sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you all desirable things.’”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.10)

Lord KrishnaIt was these yajnas, or sacrifices, that the night-rangers specifically didn’t like. In a formal sacrifice there is a beneficiary, and if that beneficiary is pleased, they grant rewards to the performers making the offerings. The brahmanas, the priestly class, dedicated to yajna wanted to please the Supreme Lord. They could have remained in the cities, but the forests provided limited distractions. In this sense, who were they really bothering? Yet the night-rangers were the embodiments of sin. They not only violated the laws of propriety, they thought that anyone who was pious was a threat to their way of life.

Lord Rama killed many of these night-rangers. They deserved that end because of what they were doing. Rama outwardly appeared in a family of princes that traced its ancestry back to one of the first kings on earth, Maharaja Ikshvaku. Therefore, as a matter of formality it was the Lord’s obligation to provide protection to the innocent. That one man could protect against the attacks of such fierce fighters was rather amazing. At the same time, the dedication shown by Rama revealed the purpose to His personal advents and His purpose for acting.

One should only have to live in fear if they are ignorant. Fear is rooted in the loss of life, which is not a valid thing to fear because the soul lives on after the current form is destroyed. Nevertheless, it is stated by Rama Himself that for the mature adult there is no greater fear than death. You mature through youth and make it into adulthood and take care of all your responsibilities. What else do you have to do after that except die? This process is likened to the mature fruit that hangs off a tree just waiting to fall.

“Just as the ripened fruit has no other fear than falling, the man who has taken birth has no other fear than death.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 105.17)

In spiritual life, however, there should not be any fear. Real religion maintains a connection with God that persists into the afterlife. The present life is just the afterlife from a previous existence, so in this sense the future life isn’t that big a deal, except for the fact that we’re not exactly sure where it will be and when it will start. The brahmanas in the forests were living in fear while worshiping God because of the attacks of the night-rangers. Therefore Rama came on the scene and eliminated that fear. Hence the Lord is known as Hari, or the remover of the fears of His devotees.

Lord RamaIn the above referenced verse it is also said that the munis of the world sang of the glories and fame of the Lord. Worship of God shouldn’t be an abstract concept. To use software development terms, it must have a class definition and an object instance. Without instantiation, the idea of dedicating your life to the origin of both matter and spirit will never manifest. For that worship to bear fruit, to really take hold in one’s life, knowledge of the Supreme Lord’s features and activities is helpful. To this end, just looking at Rama is enough to get plenty of material to work off of. Just think of His smiling face, His lotus-like hands holding His bow and arrow, the pitambara tied around His waist, and His dedicated brother Lakshmana following Him wherever He goes. The delight of the Raghu dynasty, Raghunandana, is so sweet and charming to look at that the mind wonders why it would ever choose to contemplate upon anything else.

As if Rama’s spiritual form isn't enough, there are His numerous activities. Picture Him effortlessly raising His bow and aiming His arrows at the night-rangers that are ready to pounce on the innocent sages. Picture Him kindly looking about to make sure that His devotees are no longer in fear. Picture Him never tiring of standing on guard to defend those who protect dharma, or religiosity. Hence it is no wonder that the world still sings the glories of that kind son of Dasharatha, whose name directly represents Him. Thus the most potent form of worship for the fallen souls of this age is the recitation of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, which brings the association of that dedicated bow-warrior, who will do anything to please His devotees.

Follow divine love, bhakti-yoga, without fear. Should impediments arise, know that not a single moment is wasted when connecting with the Supreme Lord. He promises to offer conditions for that worship to bear fruit, either in this life or in a future one. Singing of Rama’s glories never gets tiring, and so poets like Goswami Tulsidas compose wonderful songs like the Janaki Mangala to please the soul and give countless future generations a chance to keep the mind fixed on the lotus feet of the controller of the universe.

Question: Why didn’t other people take care of the night-rangers?

Rama and Lakshmana fighting TatakaOthers were certainly around at the time who could have dealt with the nishacharas attacking the sages. Even today there are many evil elements in society and we don’t see the Supreme Lord descending from His spiritual abode to deal with them. The purpose of Rama’s advent was special, and His personal intervention is more notable because of the many lessons it provides. Just from the one verse above we get so much knowledge about when violence is necessary and the purpose to sacrifice. Not for self-aggrandizement, the procurement of material rewards, or even the removal of distress, the real purpose of a yajna is to please the lord of sacrifice, Yajneshvara, which is another name for Rama.

Know also that from Rama’s personal protection the conditions conducive for the glorification of the Supreme Lord, which is man’s ideal occupation, are created. For the child, the most desired condition is placement in a playroom with many toys. For the adult male it might be the living room with the video game system and for the adult female the shopping mall. Yet if you took every living creature at their core, analyzed the properties of their souls, you’d see that the most ideal condition is one where the glories of the Supreme Lord are sung without fear and without interruption. From His dealings in the forest many thousands of years ago, we see that Rama personally offers the protection to keep that ideal situation a reality, and therefore His kindness knows no bounds.

In Closing:

Ghoulish creatures are the rangers of the night,

To innocent sages they present terrifying sight.


With Vishvamitra, to forest Shri Rama went,

With help of Lakshmana, demons to their death sent.


Now the attacks of the night-rangers to cease,

So forest sages could do their yajnas in peace.


Turned pleasurable a condition first horrifying,

So no wonder that sages to this day God glorifying.


Know that purpose of yajna is Shri Hari to please,

With that desire in mind your troubles He’ll ease.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

An Artist’s Inspiration

Krishna's lotus feet“Spiritual inspiration comes from within the heart, wherein the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His Paramatma feature, is always sitting with all His devotees and associates.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Concluding Words)

“If I can draw it, it’s not art. The piece should be something that exhibits talent; otherwise what is so special about it?” These sentiments point to how art is often recognized. Make something extraordinary, something creative. Your finished work should be something that no one had previously thought up, or if they did they at least didn’t think it would be easy to reproduce. Whether they’re making music, paintings, drawings, sculptures, or screenplays, the artist has the talent to produce work that others enjoy consuming. Ah, but the drawback with the reliance on the artist for artistic masterpieces is that they require inspiration. The artist can’t just sit down every day and produce wonderful imagery on the fly. They need to be inspired. Without the motivation to be creative, they can’t come up with what we consider to be so beautiful. In one area of endeavor, however, the rules are different. You follow routine work, almost like a member of an assembly line, and since the beneficiary is pure and the work itself the most fulfilling, inspiration comes naturally. Just producing anything with sincerity for the beneficiary’s pleasure makes the process pleasing to the producer.

Someone who is not an artist may not understand the need for inspiration in art. Ironically enough, artistic works can be used to illustrate the need for motivation within artists. The classic American television sitcom, Family Ties, had an episode that nicely painted the dichotomy among viewpoints. In this episode, the boyfriend of a leading female character on the show created a sculpture/work that sold for a good amount of money. The female’s older brother couldn’t help but laugh at the finished piece. To him it looked like a piece of junk. Indeed, it wasn’t a classic piece; more of the eclectic type. What astounded the older brother, who was more knowledgeable about finance than he was about art, was the fact that such an apparently simple piece could be sold for a handsome profit.

A light bulb went off in his head. What if the artist, whose character was named Nick, produced the exact same piece in mass? This way he could sell the items for a larger overall profit. Of course the older brother, Alex, would get a percentage of the profit, for it was his idea to turn the artistic talent into a business. The two would set up a shop where Nick could make many copies of the same artistic piece that he originally devoted so much time to. As a true artist, Nick was hesitant to go down this route, but since he was also desirous of saving up some money, he reluctantly agreed.

Nick and his Spirit of ColumbusAs the episode was from a comedy show, the end result wasn’t what was intended by the parties. Pretty soon customers started asking for customizations, different colors and variations to the finished sculpture. This, of course, ruined the uniqueness of the original piece, in the process squelching the motivation of the artist. If they are not motivated to work, what will their work mean to them? They pour heart and soul into their finished product, and if it is reproduced in mass quantities, it loses its uniqueness. Thus the episode showed that an artist needs inspiration to work. Without a fire to create, they cannot be creative; it goes against their nature. The assembly line model is not appropriate for art.

In the highest discipline for mankind, however, the routine work itself provides the motivation. In life there are variations of work and different corresponding disciplines based on the outcomes one hopes to achieve. If your desire is to earn money, you enter the realm of fruitive activity, which plays by the rules of competition. If you want higher knowledge, you get educated on certain topics. If you’re sick of it all and just want to have some peace, you accept the path of renunciation.

Holding these objectives together is the desire for ananda, or bliss. As everyone is looking for happiness, why not target the reservoir of pleasure directly? This is one way in which the Supreme Lord is described in the Vedas. He is the storehouse of virtues, and He gives pleasure to those who interact with Him in the proper mood. Because of these features He is known as Rama. Since He is the most attractive, He is also addressed as Krishna. As He has an accompanying energy that is separate from Him but at the same time fully engaged in His service, one way to call out the combination of the energy and the energetic is to say, “Hare Krishna”. Put all the names together and you get the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

Chanting this mantra regularly is part of the bhakti-yoga discipline. Bhakti is above fruitive activity, mental speculation, mystic perfection, and renunciation because it automatically incorporates the component objectives. The person struggling hard with material existence is really just looking for happiness, as is the person desirous of a mystic ability. Why not connect with Krishna and be in the company of the most fortunate person? He creates this and every other land, so He is automatically the wealthiest person. That creative power also makes Him the greatest mystic. As He is the most beautiful, His vision gives the eyes the visual nectar they deserve.

Lord KrishnaBut what if we are feverishly pursuing other objectives? What if we have no motivation to hear about Krishna? For these reasons a gradual approach is initially recommended. The instructions are offered by the spiritual master, or guru. The primary recommendation of the guru is that one chant the aforementioned mantra for at least sixteen rounds a day on a set of japa beads. Back in the days of attending grade school, perhaps we had to write a note of contrition over and over again on a blackboard as our punishment for having done something wrong. The idea is that by taking the time to write why we are sorry, the words will eventually sink in. This way, hopefully we won’t repeat the same transgression in the future.

Chanting Krishna’s names over and over again looks like a similar style of punishment, but it has a different effect. Coupled with the chanting routine is the abstention from meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. These restrictions are important because they help to fructify the chanting routine. You’re trying to make your favorite dish but you can’t seem to get rid of certain contaminants. With the foreign ingredients present, the dish will never taste just right. In a similar manner, if your chanting is distracted by the seeds of sinful activity within your mind, you won’t get the full benefit of Krishna’s association.

If there is no motivation to practice bhakti, one should still follow it. The reason is that through enough practice, motivation and inspiration will come on their own. You don’t know what you’re missing until you try it. You’ll never know what it’s like to be completely dependent on Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, unless you take His holy name to be your life and soul, the reason for living.

What results from chanting? What type of inspiration comes? So many historical examples show the endless possibilities for production from the devotees, but the life of Maharishi Valmiki is one of the more noteworthy examples. He was previously a highway robber, but he had the good fortune of one day trying to steal from Narada Muni, a favorite servant of God. Narada instructed the dacoit to sit down and just chant the name of Rama over and over again. The thief couldn’t do it, so Narada told him to chant the reverse word, “mara”, instead. By repeatedly saying this word fast enough, the same sound of “Rama” would be produced.

Maharishi ValmikiAfter chanting for so many years, eventually an anthill formed around the dacoit. Returning to the scene and seeing the transformation, Narada named the reformed man Valmiki, which means one who comes from an anthill. But chanting did more than just give birth to a sage named Valmiki. Through that routine work, exclusive chanting and hearing of the holy name, Valmiki got the inspiration to compose the Ramayana, a now sacred work describing the life and activities of the Supreme Lord during His descent to earth as Lord Rama, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty.

So many Vaishnavas of the past have been inspired to create wonderful poems, books, songs, paintings, and dramas relating to the Supreme Lord, sometimes through initially producing such works out of some type of feeling of obligation. A Vaishnava is a devotee of Krishna, and they are unique because they don’t have any desire in life except to follow bhakti. They didn’t follow bhakti initially because of an impulse or a sudden wave of inspiration. Rather, through good fortune and the grace of the spiritual master, they followed the instructions passed on since the beginning of time on how to practice devotion. Through their sincere efforts the consciousness was automatically cleansed, which opened the door to so many opportunities for service.

These Vaishnavas could have rescued the entire population of the world and written more books than you could consume in a lifetime, but they purposefully left their work incomplete. This way future generations could find their own inspiration through regular chanting, hearing and expressing. The factory model works in bhakti-yoga because it liberates one from the clutches of fearing and angst over the loss of temporary possessions. What need for worry is there for someone who knows that Krishna is kind enough to remain in their lives through the holy name? With the comfort of knowing that He is always by their side, the devotee finds renewed inspiration with each successive day, resulting in a fire of devotion that can never be extinguished.

In Closing:

When to create artist can’t pick and choose,

Only when inspired will they produce.


Follow a forced model of continuation,

And even most talented lose inspiration.


With bhakti, the factory model works,

Seed of devotion in heart it inserts.


Chant holy names even if there is no interest,

By routine, with inspiration be blessed.


Vaishnavas like Valmiki show us the way,

They glorify their beloved every day.