Saturday, May 5, 2012

Body Mind Intelligence

Shri Hanuman“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 ||

A yogi is known for their control over the senses. “Don’t eat as much as you are inclined to. Don’t sleep whenever you get tired, and don’t scratch that nagging itch for sex life. In that controlled state, you can be very powerful, capable of doing things you otherwise thought impossible”. But the real purpose of yoga is not simple renunciation nor mystic ability. From giving up attachment to maya, or “that which is not”, the yogi is better situated to use body, mind, intelligence, and even the senses for purposes that bring and maintain purification.

“The yogis, abandoning attachment, act with body, mind, intelligence, and even with the senses, only for the purpose of purification.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.11)

To see how this works we can look to the example of Shri Hanuman. Arguably the most important events of his life unfolded during his initial visit to the city of Lanka. He wasn’t a formal visitor, as there was no announcement made of his arrival. That wasn’t required, as no one had asked the daughter of King Janaka if she would like to live in Lanka. The delight of Maharaja Janaka and Queen Sunayana was already married, with her husband alive and providing her so much pleasure through His association.

She wasn’t afforded a choice when going to Lanka because the king of that city forcibly took her back to his home. He didn’t have the courage to fight her husband out in the open. Though he was certainly boastful of his fighting prowess, having previously conquered so many notable fighters, this king heard from his advisers that Sita’s husband was unconquerable in battle.

Rama with wife, brothers and HanumanRavana’s first encounter with the couple occurred through the visit of his sister, Shurpanakha. She went to the Dandaka forest where Sita and Rama were staying with Lakshmana. The trio were there due to an order imposed by the youngest queen of Ayodhya. King Dasharatha had four beautiful sons that were like to Vishnu Himself, the Supreme Lord. Rama was a direct incarnation of that very Vishnu, and the younger brothers Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna were partial incarnations of the origin of spirit and matter.

As was customary, the eldest son was to inherit the throne from his father. Dasharatha loved Rama so much that he was ready to pass over the torch as soon as possible. On the eve of the would-be transfer of power, inspired by jealousy and the goddess of speech, Mother Sarasvati, Dasharatha’s youngest wife Kaikeyi asked that her son, Bharata, be placed on the throne instead. That was okay with Dasharatha, as the brothers loved each other very much, but it was Kaikeyi’s second request that was like a dagger to the king’s heart. She insisted that Rama be banished to the forest for fourteen years, just in case He would have thoughts of overthrowing the new king.

The final blow to Dasharatha came when Kaikeyi reminded him that he had previously promised to grant any two wishes she would ask for at a future time. This meant that the king had to agree to both of Kaikeyi’s demands. Taking the news in stride, Rama was ready to depart for the forest. He didn’t even bat an eye; as no one is more renounced than Bhagavan, who possesses the six major opulences to the fullest degree and at the same time.

Sita and Lakshmana insisted on coming with Rama,, so the group eventually travelled through the forests and set up a cottage in Dandaka. They were threats to no one, except to perhaps the night-rangers who were harassing the sages at the time. Lanka was the home of these creatures, and not surprisingly Ravana was one of them. Shurpanakha propositioned Rama, but the Lord jokingly pointed her in Lakshmana’s direction. When the hideous creature saw that Sita was her competition, she rushed at her. At this Lakshmana responded by lopping off her nose and ears. She then ran home to tell Ravana what had happened.

The leader of Lanka, he of cruel deeds, sent fourteen thousand of his men to the forest of Dandaka, also known as Janasthana, to do away with Rama. Seeing the attack coming, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty told Lakshmana to take Sita to a nearby cave. He would win this battle alone. And emerge victorious He would, showing that this world has never seen a better fighter than Shri Ramachandra.

“Rama is like a mad elephant in battle. He has a purified and unblemished family lineage for His trunk, brilliance and splendor for His excitement, and two powerful arms for tusks. O Ravana, you are not even qualified to look at Him.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 31.46)

Lord RamaOne of the creatures, Akampana, somehow managed to return home with his life intact. He reported to Ravana what he saw. He said that Rama was like fire and Lakshmana the wind. Combined together, no one could defeat them, but in this instance Rama acted alone. No celestial helped Him either. Akampana advised Ravana to try to take Sita if he wanted to defeat Rama. The demon king then approached his adviser Maricha, who warned Ravana not to go through with his plan. Maricha had seen what Rama could do many years earlier when the Lord protected Vishvamitra’s sacrifice.

Has lust ever lost against someone who was completely devoted to their senses? Could a vile creature like Ravana, who regularly ate human flesh, feasted on wine, and cavorted with countless women, ever control his lusty urges, despite the best advice from others? He went through with his plan and took Sita back by creating a ruse that temporarily lured Rama and Lakshmana away from the group’s cottage.

Now it was Hanuman’s turn to enter Lanka. At the beginning of his journey he didn’t know that was where he would end up. The Vanaras in Kishkindha teamed up with Rama to help the Lord find Sita. Sugriva was the king of the monkeys and Hanuman was his chief minister. Hanuman’s group came upon valuable intelligence that the daughter of Janaka was in Lanka, and then the dedicated servant leaped across the massive ocean alone to enter the city.

Hanuman’s actions during his search for Sita embodied yoga, as there was not a hint of personal sense gratification sought. Hanuman was completely attached to pleasing Rama, ready to punish himself if he failed. Hanuman used his body to expand his size and then leap off of a mountaintop. This launched him through the air, using the wind to his advantage to reach the distant island. He used his mind to stay committed to the mission and his intelligence to devise the proper strategy moving forward.

In the above referenced verse, we see Hanuman entering the Ashoka garden that was situated next to Ravana’s palace. Hanuman had searched through all of Lanka thus far to no avail. He saw this park of Ashoka trees that he had yet to search, so he decided to first enter it mentally. This way he could estimate what he would be up against and decide if physical entry would be a good idea. We see that the yogi Hanuman is not sitting in a posture conducive for meditation nor is he concentrating the mind on a specific object and repeating a certain sound.

Shri HanumanYet he was in yoga all the same, for he was using his body, mind, intelligence and senses to remain pure. The height of purity is the connection to the Supreme Lord, and since that wonderful Personality is full of transcendental features, one can work directly for His interest. This was Hanuman’s business, as he was the perfect servant, in Lanka engaged in dasya-rasa, or the transcendental mellow of servitude.

Hanuman would eventually find Sita and calm her initial trepidation with sweet words about her husband. The distressed wife of Rama was so pleased with Hanuman and the news he brought that to this day she is still his greatest well-wisher. Sita Devi is the goddess of fortune, so whoever has her favor is never bereft of materials necessary for continuing in worship of her husband. Moving forward, Hanuman would again use all of his senses and abilities to please Rama. On the way out of Lanka, he would fight many of Ravana’s clan and then set fire to the city to let the evil king know what was coming his way. Whether in war, peace, action, or inaction, Hanuman is always connected to Rama in yoga, so he is always in a pure condition. Whoever is fortunate enough to think of him similarly finds a wonderful object of contemplation for the mind, someone who shows how the bhakti spirit brings everything favorable in life.

In Closing:

For spirit of yoga stay totally renounced,

Attain peace and abilities pronounced.


But real aim is to find internal purification,

To become situated for constant glorification.


To God body, mind and intelligence direct,

The hankerings for material rewards forget.


Hanuman the full picture of yoga showed,

Sprung into action from walls of king’s abode.


Brought life-giving news to Sita distressed,

Since then by her always is he blessed.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Narasimha Chaturdashi 2012

Prahlada Maharaja with Narasimhadeva“Thereafter Lord Brahma requested Prahlada Maharaja, who was standing very near him: My dear son, Lord Narasimhadeva is extremely angry at your demoniac father. Please go forward and appease the Lord.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.9.3)

As peacefulness and anger are concepts only borne of duality, they are at an equivalent level when associated with true transcendence. The living being is at peace when they think they are in a comfortable situation of life and they are in anger when their pride is hurt or when there is frustration in meeting a desired end. As these are only temporary conditions, to be washed away as quickly as the sand by the next oncoming wave from the ocean, they are not to be overly emphasized within the grander scheme. With the Supreme Lord, whether He is in wonderful peace or extreme anger, the benefit to the affected parties is there all the same. A long time back He was seen by many exalted persons in a terrifying form which had an accompanying angry mood. He looked so fierce that so many powerful personalities, innocent in their own right, dared not approach Him. Yet a young child, who was directly responsible for that form appearing, was brave enough to come forward, not fearing who He knew to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That incident which took place eons ago is still celebrated to this day on the occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi.

Ferocious NarasimhadevaWhy would God ever get angry? Doesn’t that represent a defect to His nature? Anger is not something we strive after. It arises when we lose control of our emotions, so it’s usually not a welcomed feeling. Anger is due to frustration, so if the Supreme Lord exhibits this trait does this mean that He is somehow not able to get His way? Actually, the intense emotions shown by the lord of all creatures is for His own pleasure, and once He is pleased naturally those connected to Him in a bond of affection feel supreme delight as well. This fact reinforces the ultimate truth of achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which says that the living entities are simultaneously one with and different from God.

God is spirit and so are the living entities. The quality of that spirit is the same, as the subordinate group is an expansion of the superior entity. At the same time, the quantitative aspects are vastly different; hence the distinction between the dominant and the dominated. Since the qualitative aspects are equivalent, there is an inherent link between the two groups. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who kindly revealed achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, says that the link can be revived through loving devotion, which is best awakened and maintained through the regular chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

When that link is reestablished, every notable action of the Supreme Lord, whether it is occurring in the present or took place many thousands of years ago, gives so much pleasure to the devotee that they feel like they can’t get enough. Think of a reservoir of water that constantly gets filled with incoming tributaries but at the same time never overflows. This is how Maharishi Valmiki describes the mood of the devotee with respect to hearing of the qualities and pastimes of their beloved Supreme Lord.

The mood of anger shown a long time ago related to the actions of a demoniac king. Named Hiranyakashipu, the ruler actually appeared in a family of demons, thereby following in the ancestral line with his behavior. Birth in a Daitya family was not considered auspicious because of the lack of potential for developing the devotional consciousness within that race. In the Vedic philosophy there are gradations assigned to birth. These are only from the perspective of potential for achieving the ultimate aim of devotion to the lotus feet of Shri Hari, for the living sparks are the same in quality regardless of the form they adopt. The trees that produce no fruits are considered sinful, while those that do are considered pious. Similarly, within the human species if you take birth in a family of transcendentalists, it is considered a boon because of the spiritual environment that you can grow up in, which in turn increases the chances of a fruitful life.

HiranyakashipuBirth in a family of demons is very unfortunate because not only is spiritual culture lacking, but the tendency is to take to sinful life - stealing, cheating, killing and the like. By following these behaviors the spirit soul actually goes backward in the chain of reincarnation, sort of like travelling in the wrong direction in a race. Hiranyakashipu lived up to his family’s reputation and then some. He developed tremendous powers as a result of asking for boons from those who can grant them. Any ability can be exercised in one of two ways: correctly or incorrectly. The ability itself is not to blame, but rather the person who invokes it incorrectly.

Hiranyakashipu took his boons received from Lord Brahma as an opportunity to take over the world. He defeated so many powerful rulers that no one dared fight him in battle. The world lived in fear of him, and he thought that he was the supreme being. In his mind, there was no God, and if the person who everyone thought was God really were, He would descend to earth and put up a challenge to the king’s authority. The king’s eventual demise was set in motion with the birth of his son Prahlada. Though born in a Daitya family, the young child heard about devotional service while within the womb of his mother. The great servant of Narayana, Narada Muni, instructed the pregnant woman on devotion, and the unborn Prahlada heard and remembered those instructions. Thus he was born a devotee.

Hiranyakashipu hated this trait in his son so much that after a while the boy’s stubbornness became too much to bear. Despite his best efforts, Hiranyakashipu couldn’t convince Prahlada to give up his devotion to Vishnu, which is the name for God that addresses His all-pervasiveness. Vishnu was the king’s enemy, so seeing this devotion in his son was like getting a dagger through the heart. Unable to accept it any longer, Hiranyakashipu ordered his assistants to kill the five-year old boy.

One slight problem though. Prahlada was unbreakable. He was thrown off a cliff, put into a pit of snakes, taken into a raging fire, and dropped to the bottom of an ocean. The successive attempts were only necessary because the previous ones didn’t work. Prahlada couldn’t be harmed because during every attack he thought of his Vishnu in a mood of love. The child had no other protection. He didn’t have fighting ability or strength. No one intervened from the outside due to fear of Hiranyakashipu. Thus it was only Vishnu who saved the boy each time.

The anger from the Supreme Lord came when He had enough of Hiranyakashipu’s attempts. Vishnu took on the form of a half-man/half-lion to respect the boons of safety previously offered to Hiranyakashipu by Lord Brahma. This ferocious and unique form appeared on the scene and quickly killed all of Hiranyakashipu’s guards. Then the demon-king himself would be snatched by Narasimhadeva and placed on His lap, just as Garuda, the king of birds, grabs a snake to eat. Hiranyakashipu would be bifurcated by Narasimhadeva’s nails, thus dying in a most gruesome way.

Narasimhadeva killing HiranyakashipuAfter the demon king was killed, Narasimhadeva was still seething with rage. Many demigods tried to pacify Him with prayers, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, Lord Brahma asked Prahlada to approach Narasimhadeva. Prahlada was a young boy after all, and Vishnu was there specifically to save him. Thus He couldn’t keep that angry mood when talking to the young, innocent child.

Prahlada did as he was asked, and he wasn’t afraid at all. Rather, he was so delighted to see the Supreme Lord come to his rescue. He knew that the angry mood was for Vishnu’s own pleasure, which in turn pleased those who are devoted to Him. Prahlada then offered a wonderful set of prayers, which pleased Narasimhadeva so much that He offered Prahlada many material benedictions in return. Prahlada only wanted devotion, being afraid of material entanglement. Hearing this pleased Narasimhadeva even more, so He guaranteed Prahlada that he would get conditions auspicious for devotional service despite remaining in material association.

That wonderful event from ancient times is celebrated annually on the occasion of Narasimha Chaturdashi. Though there was tremendous violence involved, since it related to Bhagavan and His protection of the saintly Prahlada, it is as pleasurable to hear about as a more peaceful event. Prahlada knew there was nothing to fear with that ferocious form, as its anger was directed only at the miscreant Hiranyakashipu and his supporters. In this life the real cause of fear is the continuation of a life not devoted to God, one where temporary pleasures are mistakenly taken to be permanent. Know from Prahlada that devotional service is the life’s mission and that it can be adopted by any person, from any place. Whether in an outwardly angry or peaceful mood, the Supreme Lord will accept sincere devotional offerings and be pleased to the heart by them.

In Closing:

In a rage after killing Prahlada’s father,

Thus no one dared Narasimhadeva to bother.


“Dear Prahlada, so that the Lord’s anger can be eased,

Please approach Him, with your prayers He’ll be pleased.”


Brahma these instructions to young boy gave,

Because knew Narasimha came for Prahlada to save.


From prayers supreme favor of God did earn,

Received material benedictions in return.


But to Prahlada material life a great fear,

Away from lotus feet of God it would steer.


Narasimha explained and dispelled any doubts,

Prahlada, never divine love to live without.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Deliverance of Ahalya

Delivering Ahalya“After the wife of Gautama Rishi was liberated and sent to the abode of her saintly husband, Vishvamitra continued on towards Janaka’s city, taking Rama with him.” (Janaki Mangala, 40)

gautama nāri udhāri paṭhai pati dhāmahi |
janaka nagara lai gayau mahāmuni rāmahiṃ ||

Goswami Tulsidas herein briefly touches on a famous incident from the life of Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead who roamed the earth in the guise of a warrior prince many thousands of years ago. The Janaki Mangala poem focuses on Rama’s marriage to Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka, so many of the events that led up to that occasion are only touched on in one or two verses. The accounts of the incident with Ahalya vary, but the general story is the same. The Ramayana of Valmiki likely provides the most details, and it gives so much insight into the glory of Rama and how Vishvamitra played an integral role in saving others and bringing Sita and Rama together.

From the variation in accounts a misconception arises that the event never really happened. You see, we’re supposed to take Rama’s life and pastimes for their symbolic meaning. Ahalya was a woman who was absolved of her sins by the touch of God, so from the story we are to learn that God is great and that contact with Him leads to our benefit. While this kind of lesson can be taken away from so many past incidents, the story of Ahalya is not fabricated nor is it a mythological tradition. The authors of the Vedic literature sometimes used metaphors and stories with personification, but when they did there was full disclosure. The incidents of the Ramayana are real history, and since the creation goes through cycles of manifestation and annihilation, sometimes the events don’t follow the exact same sequence. Rama, as the Supreme Lord, appears in other universes as well, thus allowing for many more versions of His acts to be distributed between the members of the numerous creations.

Lakshmana and Rama with VishvamitraThe accounts from the original Ramayana say that the incident took place as the trio of Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshmana entered the outskirts of the city of Mithila. Vishvamitra was a renounced brahmana, which is a sort of priest who lives in austerity. Why would someone want to live in the forest away from everyone else? Why do we need to shut people off to practice religion? The purpose to all the rules and regulations of the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, is to foster God consciousness at the individual level. Once that exists at full maturity, the same benefit can be gifted to others. The brahmanas are the class that has the best opportunity to reach this purified consciousness, so whatever they can do to make the goal a reality is considered worthwhile. Sort of like the message the flight attendant tells you about securing your oxygen mask first before assisting a child, when the brahmanas are true to their vows and always thinking about God, they can do tremendous good for the rest of society.

The brahmanas in the forest at the time were being harassed by night-rangers. By harassed we mean getting attacked during the times of sacrifice and then fearing for their lives. The brahmanas accumulate tremendous spiritual merits through their work, so they can cast curses in response to threats of violence. The problem with this practice is that the spiritual merits diminish with each curse thrown. It’s similar to accepting a diet and exercise routine to become fitter, and then going on an eating binge that erases some of your accumulated fitness gains. The more effort you put into reaching the fit condition, the less likely you will be to overeat and erase some of your progress.

Vishvamitra did the right thing by approaching the King of Ayodhya, Maharaja Dasharatha, for help. While the brahmanas are generally nonviolent and focused on religious duties, the kshatriyas, the warriors/administrators, are charged with protecting the innocent. If violence is required in this endeavor the warriors must not be hesitant to use it. Dasharatha had no problem protecting the brahmanas. He was ready to send the entire royal army into the forest to protect the exalted muni. Ah, but Vishvamitra was doing the work of the sadhus and the celestials, who needed Dasharatha’s eldest son Rama to be at certain places at certain times.

Through asking nicely, Vishvamitra was able to gain Rama’s protection in the forest. If you get Rama, you get Lakshmana too. The Lord’s younger brother will never leave Him alone. While it may seem like Lakshmana is the equivalent of the annoying younger brother, such a glorious personality who is full of fraternal affection and the eagerness to serve and accompany Rama only enhances the Lord’s stature as the best friend of every living entity and the one person whose attributes cannot be properly measured. Thus the trio roamed the forests, with the brothers providing protection from the attacking night-rangers.

Delivering AhalyaAt one point during their travels, the group made its way into Mithila. At this time Rama noticed a beautiful asylum, which appeared to be vacated. Like a kind disciple, Rama nicely put the question before the knowledgeable Vishvamitra to explain what this beautiful place was. Vishvamitra, pleased to hear the inquiry, took the opportunity to narrate the story of Ahalya, the wife of Gautama Muni. A long time back Gautama was engaged in penance and austerity, living with his beautiful wife in this asylum. One day, he happened to leave the hermitage for a little bit. Whenever a brahmana starts to advance in asceticism, the celestials in the heavens can get jealous over their progress. Through austerities and penance one can attain great powers, even surpassing those of the demigods.

To knock Gautama down a peg, the celestials petitioned Indra to descend to earth and enter the hermitage. The lord of celestials took on the guise of Gautama and petitioned the sage’s wife for conjugal relations. The wife hesitatingly agreed, and on the way out Indra ran into Gautama. The sage could tell what had happened, so he immediately cursed Indra to become castrated. Ahalya, for her part, was cursed to remain in that asylum alone, unseen for many, many years. Gautama then retreated to the Himalayas to continue his penance. He told his wife that she would be reunited with him when she would see the eldest son of King Dasharatha and treat Him hospitably.

When Vishvamitra finished his narration, Rama and Lakshmana followed him into the hermitage. There they saw the most beautiful woman, who could not be seen by anyone else up until that time. The brothers went to pay their respects to her feet, and she in response gave water for washing their feet. She treated the brothers hospitably and got their blessings in return. She was then able to reunite with her husband.

In other places in Vedic literature, the story is very similar, except Ahalya is instead cursed to be a stone. She gets her form revived when Rama places His foot upon the stone. After honoring Him, she gets to return to the abode of her husband. In either case, the general outline is the same, for the most beneficial end is to see Rama’s lotus feet. Contact with the Supreme Lord in a mood of devotion fulfills all desires for the pious souls. Ahalya desired to keep her husband happy and to remain in his company, and thanks to Gautama’s curse the wife was able to meet the Supreme Lord.

There is a famous incident relating to Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu which similarly reveals the benefit of contact with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One of Mahaprabhu’s associates had once offended Him. Because of that transgression, that person was not able to see the Lord anymore. Begging and begging, the person finally was able to get someone else to ask Mahaprabhu when that anger would subside. Lord Chaitanya replied that only after a million births would that person again get to see Him. Instead of being dejected over the long duration, the person was excited at the heart to hear that they would again get to see Lord Chaitanya, even if it should take many years.

Delivering AhalyaIn a similar manner, though Ahalya was cursed for a long time, she was guaranteed of seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His most charming form as Lord Rama. Therefore the acts of Indra and the instigation of the celestials, and even the curse offered by Gautama, were all purified through the simple contact with Rama. Just as Rama’s foot liberated Ahalya, the sound vibrations of the Vedic literature describing His forms, names, qualities and pastimes liberate the conditioned soul mired in a cycle of birth and death. Through contact with wonderful works like the Janaki Mangala, Ramayana and Puranas, the ears get the much needed nectar to restart spiritual life. And when those narrations aren’t readily available, just chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, to mentally clasp the beautiful lotus feet of the delight of the Raghu dynasty.

In Closing:

The group stopped when Mithila within reach,

Vishvamitra of Ahalya’s history did speak.


Gautama Muni had the most beautiful wife,

She served him well in his spiritual life.


Lord Indra came and her chastity did break,

Gautama cursed him and wife unseen form to take.


Only when hospitably Rama and Lakshmana received,

Would from the curse beautiful woman be relieved.


Following sage, two brothers in her asylum they went,

Liberated Ahalya, to husband’s side she was sent.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Late Beginner

Lord Krishna's lotus feet“When love of God deteriorates into lust, it is very difficult to return to the normal condition. Nonetheless, Krishna consciousness is so powerful that even a late beginner can become a lover of God by following the regulative principles of devotional service.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.41 Purport)

You show up to the class late. Everyone else already heard the instruction for the day. Teams have broken out to work on the exercises assigned, so you really have no idea what is going on. You approach the teacher to see if you can join in, but they tell you that it’s too late. “You should have been here on time. I don’t even know what team to place you in. You’ll be lost. You’ll be as valuable to any team by just sitting on the sidelines and watching what they are doing.” The critical components necessary for carrying forward in a particular discipline indicate that the education must start from a beginning point. In the human being’s progression in consciousness, the proper restraints in the beginning of life are necessary; otherwise the tendency towards activities driven by illusion will strengthen. Nevertheless, the constitutional engagement is so strong that the latecomers can still save themselves, learning what they need to in order to find the right condition.

Is there something specific to be learned for the constitutional engagement to be successfully found? The Bhagavad-gita sums up the basic plight of the living entity. Through some sort of delusion the mature human mind thinks that one particular loss will greatly affect them when it actually won’t. From that fear there is hesitation over the proper course, a nagging itch to deviate from the righteous path in hopes that the future outcome can be affected. Of course there is nothing wrong with trying to find a positive condition, but when one knows what they have to do and then doesn’t do it based on the thought that they can control events that are out of their control, they fall from the righteous path.

Bhagavad-gita As It IsWhat is the big deal in falling off of the train of righteousness? Piety exists for a reason. Honesty, cleanliness, austerity and mercy provide benefits to the living entity who practices them. Typically, we’d view these characteristics as benefitting others. If we are truthful in our dealings, others can rely on us. If we are clean both inside and out, others will want to associate with us. Through austerity, others can have ample resources to use to sustain the vital force within their body. Through mercy, we offer compassion to our fellow man, forgiving his mistakes and at the same time protecting his right to live.

But these principles are more helpful to the individual who practices them. They are the beginning steps in the purification of consciousness, which is the birthright of every living entity. The human species is the most auspicious because it carries the highest potential for achieving that goal. In a purified consciousness you can get through pretty much any situation. A righteously situated consciousness is similar to having no feelings at all through numbness, except the immunity is real and beneficial versus fake and harmful.

As an example, an alcoholic gets drunk to temporarily escape the influence of the senses. In the inebriated state, one is less likely to suppress their emotions. A negative reaction, either physical or emotional, may not have an immediate effect either. On the surface this appears to be a good thing. “Get drunk so that you won’t feel the pain, so that you can survive through a tough situation.” But in reality, the inebriation only presents a false sense of escape, as the crash back down to reality will be hard. Moreover, the next time there is a reach towards intoxication, the effect won’t be as strong, and you’ll need more consumption to find a state devoid of feeling.

With a properly situated consciousness, you get the benefit of immunity from the reactions to work along with the added bonus of knowing how to act righteously. If you have the choice to act in the right way or the wrong way, and you don’t really care either way because your mind is fixed on the Absolute Truth, the better option is to act the right way. With this path, at least others get an example to follow, and at the same time the responsibility for the results gets shifted to someone else.

The lessons of the Bhagavad-gita prove this fact. The hesitant warrior Arjuna was taught about the meaning of life and how the soul is transcendental to matter. Reincarnation is like a machine that operates at every second, and it is especially noticed at the time of death, when the entire body is replaced in favor of another one. To lament over one’s personal bodily condition or the condition of others is not very wise. Arjuna was wrong to avoid fighting out of fear for the welfare of the fighters on the opposing side.

“The Supreme Person [Bhagavan] said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy.”  (Bhagavad-gita, 2.2)

Lord KrishnaThrough the discussion on Vedanta presented by Arjuna’s teacher, Lord Krishna, the warrior was able to become immune to the influence of profit and loss, victory and defeat. Did this mean that he would just give up and go home? On the contrary, as a warrior, it was Arjuna’s occupational duty to fight to protect the innocent. With a properly situated consciousness, however, the burden for the outcome rested with Krishna, who is the origin of life and matter. The Supreme Lord created righteousness for the mature human beings to follow, and one who does abide by these principles does not have to worry about the outcome to events. If, on the other hand, you take matters into your own hands, you become responsible for whatever comes next. The human being, who is limited in abilities, is not capable of handling this responsibility because they can never mentally concoct a system of righteousness that rivals what is presented by the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India first instituted by Krishna.

The principles of religion are best learned at a young age because it is during this time that habits are formed. If you can practice austerity as a habit, you will have a much easier time coping with changes to financial conditions in adult life. If you can practice mercy by avoiding meat eating at a young age, you will not be tempted to eat animal flesh when you get older. Practicing the principles of religion from the start of life gives you a better opportunity to purify consciousness and follow the path laid down by Arjuna with full confidence.

A nice feature of the highest system of religion is that it is not exclusive to a specific type of person or age group. At the heart of the spirit soul’s qualities is a deep love and affection for the Supreme Spirit, who is the same Krishna. Love is the universal language, and it can thus be spoken by any person, regardless of their prior training or lack thereof. Surely it is more difficult to accept the need to love God when you have developed so many bad habits, but if the motivation is sincere, the ignorance strengthened through years of impiety can be dispelled in an instant.

Lord KrishnaSo what is the latecomer to do? How can they catch up? What is the crash course for divine love, bhakti-yoga? The best method is to simply hear the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. To hear these sacred sounds anywhere, produce them regularly by chanting. Follow the recommendation of chanting this mantra as often as possible, keeping in mind the ideal daily routine of sixteen rounds per day on a set of japa beads. If you like, pay no concern at the beginning to right and wrong, life and death, reincarnation and heaven. Austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness are built into this sacred mantra, empowered by the most merciful preacher, Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

God consciousness is the normal condition. Every other condition represents some sort of disease, which is triggered by contact with material nature. The all-devouring enemy of the person lacking God consciousness is lust, which drives them to covet things that won’t provide any lasting happiness. The cure for lust is a purification of desire. Use the same spirit of competition and desire for victory to try to please the Supreme Lord Krishna in every way possible. Use whatever tools you have at your disposal, whatever natural talents you possess, to offer service to the smiling youth of Vrindavana, who holds a flute in His hands and wears a peacock feather in His hair. This spirit benefitted the powerful warrior Arjuna and it can save the latecomer to devotional service as well.

In Closing:

In old age to find salvation you’re in a hurry,

Latecomer to devotional service is no worry.


Show up late to class and lesson you’ll miss,

Have to sit in ignorance until class dismissed.


But unmotivated love for God at the soul’s core,

Ecstasy in divine love destiny is your.


To get up to speed fast you need to hear,

Chant the holy names always without fear.


Like Arjuna become immune to ups and downs,

With Krishna’s company pure consciousness found.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Working and Thinking

Hanuman springing into action“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 ||

Should I stay put or should I work? Should I study things as they are or should I apply myself to a particular activity and learn through practical application? In the realm of spirituality, both paths can lead to the same destination, provided the intent is correct. Study alone coupled with renunciation can bring one to the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as can work without attachment, with the results dedicated to the same person. In Hanuman’s travels through Lanka, we get an idea of how both processes can be effective.

“Only the ignorant speak of karma-yoga and devotional service as being different from the analytical study of the material world [sankhya]. Those who are actually learned say that he who applies himself well to one of these paths achieves the results of both.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.4)

Sankhya is the analytical study of the material world with respect to matter and spirit. This is a difficult philosophy to grasp at first because you have to go beyond what you see in your immediate vicinity. At the time of birth the discovery process starts. Take a look at the way infants behave and you’ll see that they’re constantly looking at new things and assessing what can be done with them. “Can I crawl through this space? What if I place this object in my mouth? What happens when I cry for help?”

Lord Krishna as a babyThey are mesmerized by the images shown on the television and they enjoy hearing different kinds of music. The discovery process turns formal once education starts, and throughout that maturation process the individual may think that they have figured everything out only to learn something new shortly thereafter. Through a particular experience they can maybe better predict how something will pan out for them going forward. “No way I’m doing that again. I don’t want the same thing to happen.”

Sankhya philosophy goes beyond the standard discovery process by dissecting the material elements and what causes action in the first place. Therefore, to understand this higher philosophy one must consult authorized information, knowledge first to be accepted on faith. This shouldn’t be that difficult for us to do, as we’re accustomed to accepting knowledge this way. What did we know about the alphabet, grammar, or math at the beginning? These things were told to us by teachers in school, and if we challenged them right away we wouldn’t have learned anything. We accepted the information on faith, applied the principles, and then saw for ourselves the validity to them.

In the same way, to learn about the real nature of things, one must consult a set of information that is flawless. Sankhya philosophy is purported to be without defects because it comes from the Supreme Lord. The greatest expounder on sankhya is the original Personality Himself in His incarnation as Kapiladeva. His discussion on sankhya is found in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, but there is also a review provided by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.

“Lord Krishna made an analytical description of the soul just to bring Arjuna to the point of buddhi-yoga, or bhakti-yoga. Therefore, Lord Krishna's sankhya and Lord Kapila's sankhya, as described in the Bhagavatam; are one and the same. They are all bhakti-yoga.”  (Shrila Prabhupada, Bg. 2.39 Purport)

As a quick overview, there are five gross elements and three subtle elements. Earth, water, fire, air and ether make up the gross coverings of the living entities, and mind, intelligence and ego are the subtle coverings. Finer than even the ego is the atma, or soul. The soul is impossible to see with our conditioned eyes, for we are capable of mistaking a rope for a snake. How then can we understand that the person we’re looking at in the mirror is really spirit and not matter?

Through enough mental effort coupled with exposure to the philosophy, we can learn to remember that the bodies of the living entities always change. We look in the mirror and see ourselves today, but if we should take a picture right now and then look at it ten years later, we’ll wonder, “Wow, look at me. Who was that person? I wonder what he was thinking back then.” But of course you are the same person, just in a different outward manifestation. Nothing has happened to you except outward changes brought on by the influence of time.

“Not by merely abstaining from work can one achieve freedom from reaction, nor by renunciation alone can one attain perfection.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 3.4)

Lord KrishnaStudying philosophy does not involve outside work. It is a mental exercise, so through a style of renunciation you find enlightenment. The other option is to work. Forget about the philosophical approach if that’s not your cup of tea. Instead, do work without attachment to the result. Follow your duty and then give up the rewards for a higher purpose. But one must know what work to do and what work to avoid. This valuable information is provided by the Vedas, which give prescribed duties to every type of person based on their inherent characteristics. The teachers of the Vedic science help to explain the ins and outs, and the devoted soul then implements the procedures. In the process they gradually increase their awareness of the self, the spirit soul.

So which path is better? Which one is more dangerous? When the end-goal is the lotus feet of the origin of both sankhya-yoga and karma-yoga, there is no difference. We can see an example of this from Shri Hanuman. While in Lanka, he stopped for a brief moment to ponder over things, to figure out what was what. Though he wasn’t explicitly involved in study of sankhya, his brief halt from action showed a dedication to mental effort. He was working to please the Supreme Lord Rama, God’s incarnation as a warrior prince, so he had to decide what to do.

What did his thinking lead to? What was Hanuman thinking about? Rama had tasked Hanuman with finding the princess of Videha, Sita Devi. She was Rama’s wife and had gone missing while the couple was in the forest of Dandaka. Through many trials and tribulations, Hanuman eventually learned that Sita was staying on an island called Lanka. It was ruled over by the king of ogres, Ravana, who had taken her there against her will. Hanuman made it to Lanka by leaping across the massive ocean, and then he searched through the city and its many palaces while masking his natural monkey form.

The time for contemplation arrived after Hanuman exhausted his efforts. He conducted a very thorough and intense search for Sita, but he had yet to find her. He decided then to think things over, to contemplate what was ahead of him and what should be the best course of action. Notice that the thoughts had a purpose with relation to action. That is the whole point to mental effort after all. The vibrant spirit soul is provided a body which has limbs that give capability in movement. Just because in the ignorant state the hands and legs lead us to misery doesn’t mean that they are useless.

HanumanHanuman spent time in thought, but in the end he decided on a course of action. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see him taking his first step, leaping from the outside walls of Ravana’s palace. Hanuman decided to enter an adjacent grove of Ashoka trees, a place he had yet to search. He first mentally entered the area to predict what conditions he would face. After the mental journey, he was ready to make the physical entry.

In either condition, thinking or doing, Hanuman’s goal was the same: to please Rama. Therefore in both situations he was in complete yoga, or connection with the divine. He would go on to succeed and please Sita and Rama so much that they still love and think of him to this day. Sometimes Hanuman is flying through the air and sometimes he is chanting the glories of Sita and Rama to himself in a secluded area, but never does he deviate from God consciousness.

So what should we do? Sit down and study or work for the Supreme Lord? Through the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, we can do both. By applying oneself in study of the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, Ramayana and other sacred Vedic texts, one can achieve the same results as from working without attachment, sacrificing the fruits of action to the Supreme Lord and His interests. Similarly, by applying oneself to work in devotion, there is no need for explicit study. When the ultimate goal is to connect with the Supreme Lord, faithful indulgence in any one of His paths kindly bestowed upon the living entities travelling through a cycle of birth and death will lead to the same auspicious destination.

In Closing:

Should I work hard or should I sit and study?

I want to gain knowledge, but for action I’m ready.


Know that sankhya and karma in yoga are the same,

Bring connection with Krishna, life’s ultimate gain.


Can trust the words of Krishna found in the Gita,

Or follow Hanuman’s journey to find Sita.


In tough times, spent periods in deep contemplation,

But then acted again, to please Rama his motivation.


In either case, to Supreme Lord there was connection,

Chant holy names so in work or thought achieve perfection.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Looking Out For You

Vyasadeva“The Vedic literatures composed by the omniscient Mahamuni Vyasadeva are evidence of all spiritual existence. Only through these revealed scriptures can all conditioned souls attain knowledge.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 20.353)

“Did I make the most out of my life? What did my actions really amount to in the end? What was the purpose to my living? Where will I go from here?” These are the most important questions in life which the fortunate person will one day look to answer. The true saints of the earth, who were brave enough to share their sentiments with others regardless of the reception they received, thankfully have addressed these issues for us. In this sense they have looked out for everyone, including yourself, even if they have not met you personally.

How can someone answer an intimate question relating to my life if I have never met them? Ah, there are patterns to the human life cycle. Every person goes through birth, old age, disease and death. The living person hearing these facts obviously has not undergone death yet, but this doesn’t mean that it won’t happen eventually for them. The force of all-devouring time, known as kala in Sanskrit, has yet to lose. When it arrives, nothing can be done to send it away. No amount of begging or pleading can extend the predestined lifespan for the individual.

Since every living entity must die, we know that all the people of the past suffered death. They also went through the full cycle of birth to death, wherein if they had the fortune of maturing into adulthood they likely reached a position where they eventually pondered over the meaning of life and why they were put on the earth. These are valuable pieces of information to know because if someone else has already studied an issue that perplexes us today, we can consult their findings to see if anything tangible can be made of them. We can perhaps get an answer before we run any tests ourselves.

But which people should we consult? There are the mental speculators who have devised the scheme to enjoy life as much as possible. If you are destined to die, why worry at all about sin and good behavior? If the pious person meets the same fate as the miscreant, why the attention to following law codes? Shouldn’t every person just be out for themselves? Compete for resources and may the strongest person survive, no?

Lord KrishnaThe best combination is when you have an inquisitive person of a saintly character who meets the right set of information. That information must date back to the beginning of time and be presented through the mouth of a flawless person. The only being that cannot fall down is the Supreme Lord, who is thus known as Achyuta in the Vedic tradition. He has thousands of names which try to address His specific features, though there are too many glorious attributes to describe.

The Vedas are His talking points, His vital pieces of information passed on to the bewildered spirit souls unaware of their true position in the larger scheme. If you don’t know your defining position, which also represents your identity, how will you know how to act? A student acts by following the guidelines of the teacher, the worker the boss, and the citizen the government. In each case there is a specific identification leading the way.

But at the time of birth, these designations don’t exist; thus we know that they are temporary. They change throughout the course of one’s lifetime, and at death’s calling, the body itself is renounced. Therefore there must be more to life. There must be more to having an existence than struggling through temporary ups and downs that the animals experience as well.

The information originally passed on by God at the beginning of time has taken on a variety of forms with the passing of ages. In some forms brevity is the distinguishing factor, while in other forms there is more comprehensiveness attached. Thankfully for the world, the same speaker periodically comes to earth and repeats the information He originally presented at the beginning of time. Considering time and circumstance, He tailors His message accordingly.

“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)

Arjuna's chariot on the battlefieldArjuna’s chariot lay stationary on the battlefield. The war was about to begin, but the leading fighter for the Pandava side was hesitant. If you’re not ready to go full speed ahead, you won’t stand a chance in a violent conflict. Desire is as contributing a factor to victory as ability in the game itself. Arjuna had the ability. He could shoot arrows with the best of them. His marksmanship was so perfect that he once pierced the eye of a fish just by seeing its reflection in water. That feat earned him the hand of the beautiful queen Draupadi, but now the stakes were a little higher. A fight to the death would determine the control over a kingdom, one which rightfully belonged to Arjuna and his brothers.

To settle the doubts in His cousin and dear friend, Krishna stepped in and offered some sound words of advice. Ironically enough, the same lessons were imparted at the beginning of the creation. Krishna Himself revealed this cogent fact during the talk with Arjuna. He previously spoke these words to the sun-god, Vivasvan, who in turn passed it on to his son Manu, who then gave it to his son Ikshvaku. The saintly kings thus held on to the tradition of the essence of Vedic wisdom, but since the chain of disciplic succession had broken, Krishna was there to reinstate the tradition, to pass it on to another saintly fighter.

But the fighters weren’t the only ones familiar with this information. In fact, it was the saintly class of renounced mendicants who best understood this information and remained firmly convinced of its validity. You see, through sitting in their hermitages and steering clear of material attachment, the saints of the past had plenty of time to contemplate on both the meaning of life and the essence of the Vedas. They did all the heavy lifting for us, and the conclusions they produced were flawless.

They didn’t keep these secrets to themselves, though they didn’t openly proclaim them to every single person either. If I have a specific piece of information relevant to the field of computer science, I’m not going to walk into a doctor’s office and start sharing that with the doctor. They may or may not be interested in hearing what I have to say, but the office is not the proper venue. The constitutional position of the doctor’s office or the hospital is to heal sick patients.

Maharishi ValmikiIf the patients aren’t willing to take the medicine, then no amount of treatment can save them. In a similar manner, if the hearts and minds of the listeners are not attuned to learning about the meaning of life and the way to properly act, no amount of instruction will do them good. Ah, though qualified recipients are rare to find, the saints couldn’t keep all of this information bottled up. They documented their sense perceptions, their mental conclusions based on the original fact of God and His divine presence, into written form to be passed on to future generations.

So what was the conclusion they reached? The same one that Arjuna did, of course. The hesitant warrior, through heeding Krishna’s advice, threw away his doubts and decided to fight ahead. He was no longer concerned with victory or defeat or whether the friends and family fighting for the opposing side would continue to live. He followed through because Krishna asked him to. The relational link to the Supreme Lord is what serves as our guiding force. Knowledge of the link is the first step, and following through on the steps necessary to revive that link represent the next leap forward.

“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.”  (Bg. 10.12-13)

A life lived in devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, dispels all doubts as to the reason for existence. There is no regret at the time of death if much time was spent chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, during one’s days on earth. The purpose to the existence is solved through devotional practices, as one tastes the sweet fruit of Krishna’s association. His name is as good as His personal self, and His activities are equally as representative of Him.

These names, forms, activities and attributes are passed on in the Vedic literature, and simply hearing about them from someone who follows the same mood of devotion as Arjuna can eliminate all doubts. The saints look out for us, often before we are even born. The spiritual masters of the Vaishnava tradition, who devote their thoughts, words and deeds to Vishnu, or Krishna, know what is best for every single person. They know the answers to problems before they are encountered, and because of this prescience their association is always the most wonderful boon in life.

In Closing:

At death’s call, your body about to quit,

Ponder your time on earth, was it worth it?


What did it all mean, what did I really do?

Life after death, is it real, can it be true?


Saints of the past on this did all the heavy lifting,

Their conclusions profound wisdom to mankind gifting.


Ultimate truth of devotion to Krishna they did reach,

How to find that same path to others they do teach.


Arjuna followed devotion and saints do the same,

Live a life devoted to God, chant always His name.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Integral Player

Vishvamitra with Rama and Lakshmana“Keeping in mind the work that needed to be done for the demigods, sadhus and vipras, bringing Rama with him the mahamuni proceeded ahead towards the bow sacrifice.” (Janaki Mangala, 39)

bipra sādhu sura kāju mahāmuni mana dhari |
rāmahiṃ cale livāi dhanuṣa makha misu kari ||

The saintly class, which includes both the celestials in the heavenly realm and the devoted souls living on earth, a long time back needed a specific job to be completed. They were being harassed by a miscreant class that was tremendously powerful, capable and willing to assert their dominance. With strength comes responsibility. Just because one entity is superior in both wisdom and physical dexterity doesn’t mean that their influence should be negatively exercised. Parents are the best example in this regard. They can do whatever they want to the innocent child, especially to the newborn that just emerged from the womb. Yet with a proper mindset the good parent uses all of their mature abilities to protect the child, granting guidance and imparting wisdom. This particular miscreant class that roamed the earth many thousands of years ago lacked sobriety of mind. They thought their powers were products of their own work, so they decided to wreak havoc around the world and try to eliminate the pious class altogether. Not surprisingly, they were wrong in thinking that they could continue in this path without opposition.

"Day after day countless living entities in this world go to the kingdom of death. Still, those who remain aspire for a permanent situation here. What could be more amazing than this?" (Maharaja Yudhishthira speaking to Yamaraja, Mahabharata, Vana-parva, 313.116)

Maharaja YudhishthiraWhy would someone think they can dominate everyone and never have to suffer the consequences? Well, why does someone mistake a rope for a snake? Why does someone think that they will live forever? Maharaja Yudhishthira, a famous king, when once asked by Yamaraja, the god of justice, what he thought the most amazing thing in the world was, responded that nothing could be more amazing than the fact that people think they are not going to die when they have seen everyone they know from previous times pass away. This is quite a relevant and accurate assessment by the famous Pandava king. We know that our ancestors have died. Sometimes the deaths didn’t occur in old age. The news shows us that people can die at any time, but somehow we still don’t apply that knowledge to our own lives. Either that or we just try to forget it as a way of avoiding despair.

It is fine to not dwell at every second on the reality of imminent death, but to act as if we are completely ignorant of it is not wise in the least. If you’re working at a company that is about to shut down its doors in a week, what is the use in taking on a new project? Perhaps you can keep your mind engaged throughout that time, but in the end your hard work will go for naught. The living being similarly creates so many temporary structures during their particular stint within a body, but at the time of death the relationship to those objects vanishes. With the passage of time, everything will eventually dissipate, with the exception of the spirit soul within.

The wise take the knowledge of impending death as a wakeup call for finding the real purpose to life. Is there something beyond the temporary ups and downs? What happens to the soul after death? Where does it go? Where was the soul prior to birth? These questions and more are answered in the Vedic literatures, whose most concise and complete work is the Bhagavad-gita. Not surprisingly, the author of the Gita’s verses is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. Not a mere sectarian work calling for blind worship of a particular personality, the Gita covers all aspects of philosophy and thought. In the beginning, Krishna addresses the issues of life and death and the temporary nature of the body. Only through understanding the many concepts and applying the principles in everyday practice does the final step of surrender unto God really mean something to the sincere soul.

Lord KrishnaThe saintly class follows the Bhagavad-gita’s principles, which are immortal. Though the specific discussion held between Krishna and Arjuna took place on a battlefield some five thousand years ago, the core concepts of Vedic culture have been around since the beginning of time. Even in the Treta Yuga, an era prior to the time of the Gita’s most famous delivery, there were men on earth dedicated to worshiping God, to fulfilling the true purpose of life. They had a problem, however, with the miscreant class. The night-rangers concentrated on the island of Lanka had no clue about the meaning of life. If they ever gave a thought to impending death, they would use it as impetus for finding more sense gratification, at any cost. If the city you live in is burning down, being destroyed, will you go into store after store and loot or will you try to make sure that everyone safely evacuates? The night-rangers during this particular time were of the looter variety, trying to get whatever they could through any means possible.

They particularly enjoyed eating human flesh; hence the sages living in the forests were ripe targets. The powerful celestials residing in the heavenly planets also couldn’t do much. Ravana, the leader of the night-rangers in Lanka, was so strong that the demigods were afraid of him. Impotent against Ravana’s clan, the demigods decided to petition the Supreme Lord directly, to have Him appear on the scene to protect the innocent. Krishna states in the Gita that He comes to earth to protect the sadhus, or pious men, and reinstitute the principles of religion.

“In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.8)

The dramatic real-life play that is the Ramayana chronicles the life of Lord Rama and His pastimes, which included His eventual killing of Ravana. There were many pivotal actors in the play, with Vishvamitra Muni being one of them. He was one of the sadhus being harassed in his daily religious practices. The Supreme Lord had appeared as the eldest son of the King of Ayodhya. When Rama was still under the protection of His parents, Vishvamitra petitioned the king to have the Lord accompany him in the forest, which Rama kindly did, taking His younger brother Lakshmana with Him.

Rama and Lakshmana slaying TatakaTo prove that He was worthy of Vishvamitra’s trust, Rama slew a powerful female Rakshasa name Tataka, who had been harassing many of the saints. After this incident, both Rama and Lakshmana were given special mantras by Vishvamitra to be used in fighting against enemies. The sages and onlookers were quite pleased with Rama when he stayed with Vishvamitra at the muni’s hermitage. They could once again live peacefully and follow their prescribed duties without a problem.

It would have been great for Vishvamitra to keep Rama and Lakshmana with him in his ashrama indefinitely, but there was a higher purpose to fulfill. Ravana needed to be slain, and for that to happen Rama needed an excuse to take him on in a fair fight. The Supreme Lord never has to justify His actions, but He sets a good example by the work He follows. Ravana deserved to be attacked simply off his previous acts, but Rama had not had any direct hostilities with him yet. Therefore, to attack Lanka would not have been appropriate under the circumstances.

The matrimonial bond between Sita and Rama gave birth to the trap that would do Ravana in. Sita Devi was the precious daughter of King Janaka of Mithila. To find the appropriate husband for his daughter, the king decided to hold a contest, where the person who could lift Lord Shiva’s heavy bow would be the winner. Vishvamitra needed to get Rama to this contest in order for the work of the demigods and the sadhus to be complete. Keeping this in mind, the muni left his ashrama and took Rama and Lakshmana with him.

In this way Vishvamitra played an integral role in both bringing Sita and Rama together and ending Ravana’s reign of terror. The surrendered souls only look to the Supreme Lord for sustenance, for they know there is nothing wrong with asking God to help them in their sincere worship. That devotion to Rama continues for life after life for the spirit soul who is not entangled in the web of karma. The impending death that was previously feared or ignored becomes a welcomed end that will signal the return to the spiritual sky, where the Supreme Lord’s company is enjoyed without cessation.

Question: Why didn’t the sadhus and demigods just ask Rama to go and kill Ravana directly? Why did they have to arrange His marriage to Sita first?

Marriage of Sita and RamaThe Supreme Lord’s acts are enjoyed by the surrendered souls. In fact, it is seen that in every person there is a desire to hear about the activities of others. The daily news websites are visited for this very reason, as are the latest news feeds posted on the now-popular social media websites. With topics relating to Krishna, the process of hearing gets purified. If I remain in contact with purity, naturally my thoughts will start to become pure as well. If I only think good thoughts, naturally my disposition will be better and I will be a more pleasant person to be around.

With Rama’s many activities documented in the Ramayana, the soul desirous of hearing about others gets a trusted supply of audible nectar that can be tasted over and over again without the reservoir ever depleting. If Rama had gone directly to Lanka, we would have missed out on the wonderful protection He offered to Vishvamitra. We’d also be denied the chance to hear about how He delivered Ahalya from a curse and how He defended the innocent sages from the wicked night-rangers. Getting to know Vishvamitra too is a benefit, for the Lord is never alone. His trusted entourage is always with Him, and contact with any of the component members is just as beneficial as contact with Rama. It is for this reason that Rama is worshiped alongside Sita, Lakshmana and Shri Hanuman. Vishvamitra too, a key player in bringing Sita and Rama together in Mithila, is always with Rama in thought, word and deed.

In Closing:

Rama, with His arrows demons chased away,

Would be great if with munis He’d always stay.


But Vishvamitra knew that higher work there was to do,

Took Rama to sacrifice in Tirahuta, brought Lakshmana too.


Demigods by the night-rangers always harassed,

Needed someone who in strength them surpassed.


Rama came for this reason, and also to delight,

By on Rakshasas imposing His will and might.


Vishvamitra thus in Ramayana had integral role,

Brought Rama to Sita, demons’ demise to unfold.