Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saving This Life

Lord Vishnu“If one could achieve success without the sanction of the Lord then no medical practitioner would fail to cure a patient. Despite the most advanced treatment of a suffering patient by the most up-to-date medical practitioner, there is death, and even in the most hopeless case, without medical treatment, a patient is cured astonishingly. Therefore the conclusion is that God's sanction is the immediate cause for all happenings, good or bad.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.14.9 Purport)

For all we know, we’ve had only this one life. The memory of the experiences within this life isn’t complete either, as we don’t remember emerging from the womb nor being unable to crawl or walk. These experiences are accepted on the authority of the parents, but nevertheless, once there is conscious thought and the ability to plan the future, the natural inclination is towards protecting the vital force within the body, for maintaining the ability to live. Forgotten in this mindset, however, is the hand of the divine, by whose influence life and death take place. No adjustment in either direction can guarantee a prolonged life or an immediate death. Thus the sanction of the divine master is the primary cause for outcomes, putting Him in a superior and worshipable position.

Typically, the focus is not on bringing about death at a specific time, for we first try our best to save our life or the lives of others. But an infamous king a long time ago saw exactly how difficult it can be to force death. His five-year old son made the mistake of worshiping Lord Vishnu, the Supreme Lord in His manifestation as an opulent and beautiful four-armed figure. Vishnu is the personal aspect of God; from that feature one can stay connected in a mood of worship known as bhakti-yoga, which is devotion. For devotion to be strong, there has to be some sort of attachment to the attributes of the Personality of Godhead; hence requiring the attributes to be attractive.

“Having obtained the mercy of his spiritual master, who reveals to the disciple the injunctions of Vedic scriptures, the devotee should worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the particular personal form of the Lord the devotee finds most attractive.”  (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.3.48)

Lord VishnuIn the gradual progression towards bhava, or transcendental ecstasy, the devoted soul finds a non-different expansion of Vishnu they prefer and then dedicates their life to worshiping Him. There are choices available because there are natural tendencies within every person. Some will be automatically attracted to Shri Krishna, who is considered the original personality, the source of even Vishnu Himself. Krishna’s name says that He is all-attractive, and both the mental and physical portraits created from the descriptions found in sacred texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Mahabharata support that assertion.

Nevertheless, some devoted souls will be more attracted to Lord Rama and His entourage. Rama is the same Krishna, the same Vishnu, but in a slightly different manifestation and with a series of acts and behavioral traits discussed and documented in the famous Ramayana poem and its derivative literatures. The devotion to any one of these Vishnu forms can occur spontaneously, as it did with Goswami Tulsidas. In his entire life, he had nothing but his devotion to Lord Rama. “Rama” was the first word the famous poet said as a child and it continued to be the word he would repeat up until the time of his death. Nothing could break that devotion, and no other form of Godhead could give the poet the same pleasure, though he never treated any of the other various Vishnu forms as lesser in importance. Though a Rama-bhakta, from Tulsidas you will find heartwarming poetry praising Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu as Bindu Madhava, and Narasimhadeva as well.

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

Narasimhadeva relates to the five-year old son of that famous king. The boy was named Prahlada, and he had spontaneous devotion to Vishnu from the time of birth. The seed of the creeper of devotional service is planted by the spiritual master, who is sent by Krishna Himself. For Prahlada, the spiritual master was Narada Muni, who strangely enough provided instruction to the boy’s mother while she was pregnant with him. If there is any doubt as to the power of the holy name and its ability to positively affect consciousness, take the example of Prahlada and know for certain that the divine message from the spiritual realm can break through any boundary and influence even those we believe to be lacking a developed consciousness.

Prahlada MaharajaHiranyakashipu took Vishnu to be his number one enemy, someone only purported to be God by the foolish people of the world. Thinking himself to be the master of his fate and the fate of others, the king tried to kill Prahlada in so many ways. Should have been easy work, no? Prahlada was just a boy, so how could he protect himself? During the attacks instigated by his father the devoted soul thought of Vishnu and was thus saved each and every time. Throwing him off a cliff, placing him in a raging fire, feeding him to a pack of snakes, and leaving him at the bottom of the ocean could not kill Prahlada. The boy wasn’t a Houdini-type magician either; Vishnu just protected him every time.

In the end, it would be Hiranyakashipu to lose his life. Though he had so many boons previously granted to him that made him immune to seemingly every type of attack, Vishnu appeared on the scene at just the right time and place and in the perfect form to do away with the king; keeping the boons intact. Thus from that one series of incidents we see that with the divine sanction birth and death take place, and not otherwise. Through patterns we may appear to get a grasp on what can influence birth and death, but even then it is the laws of nature instituted by the Supreme Person which allow the predictable patterns to take effect.

With respect to protecting our own life, the natural inclination is to try our best to seek out top of the line medical treatment. Just read a newspaper or internet news site on any given day. There are always stories on how to prolong your life through eating certain foods or avoiding specific kinds of behavior. But forgotten in this analysis is the divine sanction. If someone could be successful completely without the aid of the heavenly father, then there would be a way to absolutely stop death. Yet we know that this is not possible.

We can look at it another way. There is the push by health experts and well-meaning politicians to get people to seek preventive care. That is, they urge citizens to visit the doctor regularly. And to support that practice, they insist on every person having health insurance, which is either purchased individually or provided by the government through a national health insurance system. The problem is that the underlying assumption is flawed. People that have health insurance die. In fact, it is a one hundred percent success rate in that area. Or flipping it around, there is a one hundred percent failure rate with respect to health insurance saving lives. Even when describing the effectiveness of certain treatments, the analysis is given in terms of a survival rate spanning a certain number of years. You can’t say that any treatment is one hundred percent effective because eventually every patient must die.

Surely you can be healthier if you can pay for your medical treatment when you need it, but the idea that you will automatically die if you don’t have health insurance is ludicrous, as is the idea that doctors are universally correct in their treatment methodologies. If you went to the doctor every single day for your entire life and you did whatever they said, would you live forever? The answer is ‘No’. You could detect cancer at the earliest stages, recognize illnesses and follow the proper treatment, and even keep track of your risk factors, but never will you be able to stop death. The end of life is concomitant with its beginning.

NarasimhadevaAs the sanction from the Supreme Lord is required for either extending or ending life, He naturally becomes the object of appreciation. If the life we have must end anyway, why not spend it worshiping the person who is in control? From that worship followed in the highest mood of devotion you actually gain intelligence about birth and death and how it repeats in a cycle. Just from the proper type of worship you reach a point where the artificial prolonging of life is no longer desired. As the spirit soul is eternal, the devotee asks only to be allowed to continue their devotional efforts in life after life, wherever they may end up. As Narasimhadeva showed with Prahlada, the Supreme Personality of Godhead comes to the rescue of the surrendered souls and grants them that highest benediction of achieving a consciousness that is eternally pure.

In Closing:

So many possessions you have got,

But death to come, like it or not.


To extend stay within body you can try,

With healthy routine many days to pass by.


But without divine sanction nothing possible,

To thwart His influence is impossible.


His son Prahlada Hiranyakashipu tried to kill,

But after so many attempts the boy living still.


Then Supreme Lord to king painful death gave,

Not even Brahma’s boons the ruler could save.


From that incident most important lesson take,

Follow devotion to God for life fruitful to make.

Friday, May 11, 2012

More Than Brahma-Sukha

King Janaka“The king went and received blessings and then paid so much honor and respect after that. When he saw Rama, he experienced a happiness one hundred times that of Brahman realization.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 5.2)

nṛpa gahe pāya asīsa pāī māna ādara ati kiem̐ |
avaloki rāmahi anubhavata manu brahmasukha sauguna kiem̐ ||

There is happiness when one realizes Brahman, or the all-pervading spirit. With maya, which is not Brahman, there is perpetual misery. The resulting happiness felt only arrives in short bursts and then vanishes very quickly thereafter. The next time the same experience will not bring as much happiness, for the living being gets accustomed to sense satisfaction, in effect raising the threshold for sense pleasure. The concept of a “proper perspective” can only apply in a realm where ignorance reigns supreme. Though the happiness of association with Brahman is everlasting and different from temporary sense pleasure, the source of Brahman is the real reservoir of pleasure. For a famous king a long time ago, the thrill felt from seeing the Supreme Personality of Godhead gave him a happiness he never experienced before.

How do we know that the senses spoil us into requiring more for gratification? Think about why athletes and celebrities involve themselves in children’s charities and other philanthropic ventures. If you’re worried about performing well in the big game, the mental toil will have an impact on your psyche, on your overall happiness. At the same time, when you see a young child suffering from cancer, your problems don’t seem to be as big. One side is worried about how to succeed in a life where living is taken for granted, while the other side is struggling for existence at a young age. Because of the influence of the senses it is easy to lose sight of the proper perspective.

In the larger scheme, even death itself isn’t that big a deal. Sure we don’t know what lays ahead in the future, but the uncertainty of upcoming time doesn’t mean that our existence will cease. The present moment is the culmination of much past thought and struggle. Ten years ago we likely worried about the immediate future, and yet somehow we managed to make it through. Prior to our birth we had no say in the circumstances of our upcoming life, but everything worked itself out anyway.

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

Krishna speaking to ArjunaThe Vedas reveal that everything in life that we know about is temporary in its manifestation. Those who are illusioned by the temporary easily lose perspective, both in the short and long term. That which is permanent, knowledgeable and blissful is the opposite of the material nature. The Vedas refer to this force as Brahman, and its realization is the main objective of the living entity gifted with a human birth. Within a human body the dichotomy between Brahman and maya can be studied. The most mature living entity can follow instruction and guidance to train the senses to cope with hardship. The marathon runner can run for long distances without any discomfort, while the person new to running finds one mile difficult to complete. The difference between the two individuals is in the training of the body.

In the larger picture, if the body is trained to rely only on limited sense interaction, the realization of Brahman can be attained. The entire breadth and scope of religion is meant for this connection with Brahman, the understanding that I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. Though the ultimate realization may not be disclosed immediately to the sincere spiritualist, the purpose of austerity, sacrifice, and religious practice is the knowledge of the Absolute Truth.

From that knowledge comes happiness. And why shouldn’t there be happiness? If I know that I am an eternal spiritual force, will I get distracted with temporary ups and downs? The greatest fear for the mature human being is death, similar to how the ripened fruit on the tree has nothing left to do but fall. With a fear of death gone, so many other fears are eliminated. Absorbing the authorized information of the Vedas, which reveal the process of transmigration of the soul, which is better known as reincarnation, the living being understands that there is no reason to lament the loss of the temporary body. Neither is a temporary gain a cause for excessive celebration.

“He who is without attachment, who does not rejoice when he obtains good, nor lament when he obtains evil, is firmly fixed in perfect knowledge.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.57)

Krishna speaking to ArjunaBrahman realization is meant to continue uninterrupted. You can know theoretically that you are spirit soul and not body, but practically every activity you are inclined towards from birth follows the realization of maya, which requires no effort. Thus to attain and stay on the Brahman platform is quite difficult. King Janaka a long time ago mastered the art of real yoga to keep the Brahman vision within his mind at all times. He still followed work. He did not become a robot or give up his obligations without cause. Brahman realization can occur through any type of activity, provided it is authorized and the worker keeps the proper vision within the mind.

King Janaka had a kingdom to rule over, but he carried out his responsibilities with detachment. He did the work because that was his duty, but he had no concern for the result, success or failure. Through his equipoised condition he realized Brahman. He knew what brahma-sukha, or the happiness of realizing Brahman, felt like. Nevertheless, when he saw one young man in particular, the immediate happiness he felt was like no other.

By the very nature of the reaction we can understand that the object viewed was not maya. Thus in the above referenced verse Goswami Tulsidas has affirmed Lord Rama’s position as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. King Janaka saw the eldest son of King Dasharatha enter his kingdom alongside Vishvamitra and Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. As a good king, Janaka kindly welcomed the arriving party. Their entrance wasn’t as pronounced as the others, but Janaka nevertheless followed protocol.

Who were the others that arrived? At the time, Janaka was holding a bow-lifting contest to determine the husband for his daughter Sita Devi. Interestingly enough, when Janaka found Sita as a baby girl one day on the field, he immediately felt tremendous affection for her. He loved her so much that he took her in as his daughter. Again, this happiness was not related to maya, for it did not distract from his religious duties. If anything, having Sita as a daughter only made Janaka more committed to the righteous path.

Seeing Rama now Janaka felt a happiness that was one hundred times that of brahma-sukha. The Personality of Godhead has this effect on the pure souls who cherish His company. Janaka didn’t know that Rama was God appearing on earth in the guise of a human being to do the work of the demigods in eliminating the nefarious character Ravana, but he didn’t have to. The purity of the Brahman realization made Janaka eligible for appreciating the transcendental form of the Lord.

Lord RamaThat form is meant to provide happiness to the observer. The eyes have a purpose. Through fulfilling that purpose they provide a fruit that can be enjoyed. More than anything the eyes exist to gaze upon the sweet, charming, lovely, and beautiful vision of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who so innocently goes about His business, caring for the welfare of His devotees at every step. It should be noted that seeing Rama is not dependent on Brahman realization. The reference to brahma-sukha made by Tulsidas is only for comparison purposes. One seeking the happiness of merging into the spiritual light of Brahman does not get the same happiness that the devotees do.

Why did Janaka ever bother with Brahman then? Why didn’t he just go straight for God realization at the start? It is said in the scriptures that one who sincerely follows the devotional path, bhakti-yoga, has already performed so many religious sacrifices and penances. In this way we see that the other methods of yoga do have a purpose. The target aim of the human form of life, the fruit of the eyes, is not reached when personal interaction with Shri Rama is absent, but there are still benefits to be gained with disciplines such as jnana-yoga, karma-yoga and hatha-yoga.

If one has the good fortune to hear about bhakti, they should take to it right away, bypassing Brahman realization altogether. Know it for certain that if you have the rare chance to bask in the sweet vision of Shri Rama entering Janakpur to lift Lord Shiva’s bow, you have certainly performed all the necessary rituals and regulations in a previous time. The soul’s reward for pious behavior is the company of the person whom Janaka so delighted in welcoming as a guest. In a short amount of time, that same guest would formally join the king’s family.

In Closing:

Maya, with her illusory visions deceives,

Allows not the eyes the fruit of existence to receive.


Brahman is truth, with maya nothing to do,

Above karma, victory and defeat too.


To feel brahma-sukha is surely a great chore,

But know that happiness can have even more.


The supreme pleasure of seeing God Janaka felt,

Knew brahma-sukha, but this time his heart did melt.


Supreme Lord is wherefrom Brahman has come,

Follow bhakti and know your ascension done.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

When No One Is Looking

Krishna with cows“Exploitation of the weaker living being by the stronger is the natural law of existence; there is always an attempt to devour the weak in different kingdoms of living beings. There is no possibility of checking this tendency by any artificial means under material conditions; it can be checked only by awakening the spiritual sense of the human being by practice of spiritual regulations.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.47)

It’s just you and this other creature. No one else is around. In size you are likely multiple times larger than this creature. You could kill it without any effort. Accidentally making a sudden move, turning your foot one way, swatting your hand in the air to remove particles of dust - any of these motions could end the life of this creature that stands before you. What will you do? Will you show mercy or will you kill? The choice is yours.

As there is no one else around to see this, only you will know what decision you made. If you should happen to show mercy, there is no extra credit given. No one will pat you on the back. By the same token no one will know if you decide to kill the creature. It takes one swift motion; the deed is done in a second. What harm is there to you? There is no effort expended. No one will know what you did.

To find out which path to take, try imagining that it’s a larger creature. If it’s not a spider or a bug, what if it’s a cat or a dog? Does that change how you will act? The dog can move on its own, listen to basic commands, eat when it’s hungry, and sleep when it is tired. At the same time, it is not as intelligent as you are. It is not capable of carefully crafting a plot for your demise. As the stronger entity, you have this choice. You can take it upon yourself to do away with the dog, though the effort will be a little more strenuous than it would be with an insect.

Krishna with mother YashodaNow let’s go one step further. What if it’s a more intelligent creature, like another human being? The newborn child is still innocent, as it is completely dependent on the elders. The child emerging from the womb needs its head supported, otherwise a terrible injury could occur. The child can’t feed itself or move to anywhere important. All of this is taken care of by the elders. Yet in the majority of cases, there is no question as to whether or not to provide support. Naturally, based on the loving feelings directed towards the innocent child, the elders will offer help. This includes people not directly related to the child, such as friends and neighbors.

Think of another scenario. What if there is a large creature next to you, but they don’t have the same intelligence. They are thus inferior to you as a species, but in this instance you know that their flesh tastes good. If the animal should be killed for the purpose of eating, maybe the act isn’t so bad? But what if the same logic was applied to the dependent child? Should what is done with the slain life be a factor in determining whether or not they deserve to live? Should anything besides their right to exist or their threat to your life be a factor in influencing behavior?

Your merciful attitude is tested not on how you treat those who are obvious candidates for love and affection. Rather, it is on how you treat the most innocent members of the community, who have no ability to provide for themselves and whose deaths won’t make much of a difference to others. It is how you act when no one is looking, when there is no visible benefit to your kindness, that shows whether or not you value mercifulness.

The same kind of principle is applicable in other areas. For instance, with governments there is sometimes the issue of free speech. In the Constitution of the United State of America, the stipulation is made that the Congress, the governing body that creates legislation, shall make no law infringing upon the freedom of speech. This means that private institutions can filter what is said or heard in their areas of jurisdiction, but the government can’t institute laws that stifle speech.

There is a reason for this stipulation. The most rhetorically charged speech is directed at the government, who institutes laws and regulations using force. As the government can use force, it has the most authority, and authority figures are the ripest targets for complaint. If the citizens couldn’t complain about the actions of government, there would be really no weight behind any type of public speech. In one’s commitment to free speech, it is their defense of those they disagree with that determines their level of honesty. I may say that I am all for the freedom to express oneself, but once a dissenting viewpoint arises, if I try to stifle that speech through the arm of government my commitment to free speech means nothing.

It is important for the human being to be merciful because at the end of the day they are not the ultimate arbiters of fortune. Just because we get up when we tell our body to doesn’t mean that we have total control. The body can be stricken with disease, the nature around us can cause a catastrophe, or someone else can get in the way and pin us to the bed. These factors influence the outcome of our decision, showing that the intended result happens because of the simultaneous absence of external inhibiting forces.

“Unseen and indefinite are the good and bad reactions of fruitive work. And without taking action, the desired fruits of such work cannot manifest.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.17)

Shri LakshmanaThere is a science to how those factors interact with us. For instance, if I steal from someone today and get away with it, this doesn’t mean that I am insulated from pain in the future. At some point in time, the same fate will await me, i.e. I will be a victim of theft. This is only fair after all. The system of karma handles these issues, and sometimes the results don’t have to come in the present life. They may only manifest for a short while, but the results will come all the same.

Therefore virtue is its own reward. The commitment to mercifulness, towards harboring compassion for other creatures, is important in the grand scheme because it shows a valued dedication to religious life, which is the aim of the human form of birth. The rubberstamp method of religion doesn’t do much because the resulting behavior can be the same as if that acknowledgment were never made. For instance, if one person says they believe in such and such person as their lord and savior and they then go on to lie, cheat and steal, their profession of faith is meaningless. The person who doesn’t make the same profession and yet takes to the same nefarious activity is on an equal level.

For religiosity to have teeth, there must be qualities that develop within the individual that then manifest through activity. Mercifulness and tolerance are two of the qualities that indicate a godly nature. The living beings can become godly but they cannot become God. The difference may seem subtle, but it is stark enough to take note of. I am the ruler of my own body, deciding which actions to take and what thoughts to think, but I cannot extend that influence to other living entities. Someone residing halfway across the world has to get up the next morning, and there is no way for me to enter their mind and force them to move. I can give them persuasion through communications channels, but the decision is ultimately theirs.

Mercifulness begins with treatment towards the most vulnerable creatures and then works its way up. Harboring compassion for family members is something even the most brutal dictators do. Therefore that alone doesn’t show a high level of intelligence or affection. The more that fraternal feeling is extended, the more one shows the divine qualities. In the highest state of existence, the smallest creature, the indragopa, is regarded as equal to the most powerful person.

The equality is based on the constitutional position, not the relative conditioned positions. The difference is that the constitutional position will always stay the same, while the conditioned state is a sort of disease. One person may have a cold and another may not, but this doesn’t mean that the sick person will always have a cold. There is a unifying attribute in all life forms. It is the identification with Brahman, or pure spirit.

The differences in outer coverings relate to maya, or that which is not Brahman. It is due to the influence of maya that we see differences in the species, though in reality all life forms are the same in quality. The differences, the relative positions of inferiority and superiority, result in the tendency to exploit, to hurt the weaker because of spite, jealousy, greed, or the desire to satisfy the taste buds. None of these reasons are valid, and there are negative consequences to the behavior.

There are movements in place to stop the exploitation of the lower animals, the less powerful gender, and the underrepresented ethnic groups, but none of these movements succeed in the end because the identification with Brahman is absent. In the discipline of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, the proper identification as Brahman is known from the outset, as Parabrahman, the Supreme Lord, is identified and served.

Krishna with cowsMore than just an acknowledgment, bhakti-yoga changes the way a person lives, giving meaning to their claim of religiosity. The term “spirituality” works as well, as there is nothing material about the bedrock activities of devotion such as the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Devotion is targeted at the Supreme Personality, who is known as Krishna in the Vedic tradition because He is all-attractive. As Govinda, Krishna personally sets the example of mercifulness by protecting and giving pleasure to the cows of Vrindavana.

“The cows, being fed by new grasses, became very healthy, and their milk bags were all very full. When Lord Krishna called them by name, they immediately came to Him out of affection, and in their joyful condition the milk flowed from their bags.”  (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 20)

The most innocent members of society deserve the protection of the most intelligent species, the elder brother known as the human being. Through devotion to God as the primary activity, mercifulness is automatically extended to the lower species. If that kindness is shown to the least powerful, the attitude will extend upwards towards other species as well. The equality of vision that comes to the devoted soul ensures that the attitude of exploitation ceases to be.

In Closing:

Humans, deer, insects, cows and trees,

With vision of Govinda all creatures pleased.


As Supreme Lord He is the most powerful,

And yet to all His children He is most merciful.


How will you act when no one else will know,

Whether you gave protection or life-ending blow?


Right to life of most innocent you must defend,

Otherwise your mercifulness is just pretend.


Follow bhakti principles to get proper vision,

Learn that all souls equal in quality, no division.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Flying Like An Arrow

Shri Hanuman“Then, like a naracha arrow released from a bowstring, he flew quickly towards the garden of trees, which was surrounded by mango trees and had hundreds of creepers intertwined.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 14.4)

atha āmra vaṇa samcannām latā śata samāvṛtām |
jyā mukta iva nārācaḥ pupluve vṛkṣa vāṭikām ||

When there is tremendous excitement in an observed situation, it is difficult to accurately convey that level of enthusiasm to a third party. “Wow, they were really excited. They moved so fast, you wouldn’t believe it.” In the Vedic literatures, the poetic ability of the kind composers is so wonderful that they can find just the perfect comparison to get the right point across. There is symbolism wrapped into the imagery, but at the same time the event itself is forever real and the characterization used by the poet completely accurate.

“Faster than a speeding bullet”, is a phrase used to express unimaginable speed. The bullet released from a gun travel so fast that you can’t even see it, so in order to describe something else that goes just as fast, you compare its movement to the bullet’s. Similarly, the train, airplane and automobile are used as reference points to describe speed. A long time back such things weren’t around, so the poet describing the movements of a noble warrior inside of an enemy territory had to revert to objects known in nature already. Not surprisingly, he’d pick a comparison that had significant relevance to the task at hand, incorporating the mood of the worker at the same time.

Armed conflict during this particular time period, the Treta Yuga, took place with bows and arrows. The recent blockbuster Hollywood movie, The Hunger Games, showed what you can do with a simple bow and arrow set, and how valuable a weapon it can be. In ancient times, the efficacy of the arrows was augmented by sacred chants, mantras repeated to perfection by the warriors releasing the arrows. The mantras were passed on since time immemorial by the origin of sound vibrations, the Supreme Lord. The mantras had to be recited perfectly in order for the desired effect to manifest. In addition, the secret combination of words wasn’t known to everyone. You had to get it from a spiritual master, a grand teacher who himself wasn’t involved in armed conflict.

Lord Rama aiming His arrowIf the teachers didn’t fight, why did they know the mantras? Just because someone teaches doesn’t mean that they actually do. The proprietor of the business establishment knows the duties of the workers in the various departments, but this doesn’t mean that they know how to do everyone’s job. For instance, if suddenly the boss were to be placed in front of the reception desk, he may not know how to answer the phones, how to figure out which buttons to press to put people on hold, transfer calls, and so forth. At the same time, he still knows the occupational duties of every worker because that knowledge is necessary for the establishment to function smoothly.

The spiritual masters of the Vedic tradition are similar in this respect, except they can teach any person on their occupational duties, which are determined by gunas, or material qualities. Just as we see that a newborn child has a certain set of eyes, ears, and other facial features which are reminiscent of those belonging to various family members, every living being has inherent characteristics they take on at the time of birth. In Sanskrit these features are known as gunas. Depending on your exact makeup of material qualities, you will be best suited for a specific type of work. Generally the categories of work are four: 1) priestly duties, which involve acquiring high knowledge 2) administration and defense 3) business and food production, and 4) general service.

The spiritual master belongs to the first division, which is the equivalent of an intelligentsia. You can think of the guru as the single teacher in the school who is capable of teaching any subject. The warrior caste would take care of defense, but they would still approach a member of the priestly class to learn how to fight. Thus the mantras were known to the guru and if he was pleased with the behavior of the disciple, he would pass them on.

There was a world class fighter during this time who appeared in King Dasharatha’s family, whose ancestry dated back to King Ikshvaku. Named Rama, this child was a divine incarnation, the Supreme Lord in a visible manifestation, where His spiritual attributes could be noticed even by the limited vision of the human being. Despite His divine nature, Rama assumed the outward role of a warrior, accepting instruction from Vishvamitra.

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

Lord RamaRama and His younger brother Lakshmana showed how to please the guru by following his advice and killing a wicked female Rakshasa named Tataka. She had been a plague on the society of peaceful ascetics living in the forests, and so they were glad that Rama with His brother eliminated her influence. Pleased with the two youths, the guru Vishvamitra gave them secret mantras to be used while fighting with the bow and arrow.

Fast forward several years into the future and we have Rama’s dearest servant inside of an enemy territory. He was in Lanka, the land of ogres at the time, looking for Rama’s missing wife Sita. At a crossroads in his journey, Hanuman spotted a grove of Ashoka trees nearby that he had yet to search. At the time he was on the outskirts of the palace of the king of Lanka, Ravana, so he was ready to leap into this network of trees.

He first surveyed the situation with tremendous excitement. He was thrilled at the prospect of having another chance to try to please Rama. Thus far Hanuman had not found Sita, and he began to worry that maybe he would fail in his assigned task. Seeing the beauty of the trees nearby, Hanuman was excited to move to the next part of his mission. Jumping from tree to tree would not be difficult for him, as he was in the form of a monkey since birth. Though Hanuman is capable of assuming any shape, it is through this monkey form that he best serves Rama, which in turn means that the Vanara guise is what Hanuman prefers.

You put on the clothes that make you feel the best, not necessarily those which will look good to others. For an important event you may have to wear a suit or a tuxedo, but unless you feel comfortable in these clothes, you will not be at your best in terms of performance. For the living entity, whichever form best enables them to serve the Supreme Lord without motivation and without interruption is considered the most auspicious. In general, the human form is the best fit because of the potential it carries for the purification of consciousness fostered through real intelligence, but for select exalted figures, sometimes other forms are preferred. Hanuman as a monkey shows that devotion to God is not bound to any body type, place of birth, or level of academic intelligence. It is the enthusiasm to serve which matters most.

Shri HanumanThat very enthusiasm is conveyed in the above quoted verse from the Ramayana. We see that Hanuman flew quickly into the park of trees, which had mango trees and creepers surrounding it. Mangoes are a delicacy in the world of fruits, so we can tell that this park adjacent to Ravana’s palace was auspicious. It was different from the rest of Lanka, as it had Rama’s beloved wife Sita Devi as a resident.

Hanuman’s withdrawal from the walls of Ravana’s palace to the trees is compared to the action of a naracha arrow being released from a bowstring. “Naracha” can refer to any arrow or to one made of iron. Rama and Lakshmana were known to shoot naracha arrows; a fact revealed by Hanuman himself in a conversation he previously had with the monkey-warrior Angada.

“Lakshmana has many naracha arrows that are just like the thunderbolt hurled by Indra and lightning in the potency of their impact, as they can even split mountains.” (Hanuman speaking to Angada, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 54.15)

Thus the comparison made by Valmiki is both accurate and symbolic. Hanuman was Rama’s servant, so he was in a sense an arrow released from Rama’s bowstring. This arrow would penetrate deep into Lanka and find the whereabouts of Rama’s wife. Rama’s arrows were known to come back to His quiver, so the arrow that was Hanuman would return to Rama, laying to waste the city of Lanka with a devastating fire on its way out.

When Rama shoots an arrow, the weapon acts directly in the interest of the Supreme Lord, thus there is a tremendous velocity associated with its flight. It hits its intended target because that is the will of the son of Dasharatha. And His will can never be denied, as He is infallible, or Achyuta. In a similar manner, Hanuman eagerly sprung forth into action to please his beloved Rama, and he would move both quickly and accurately, eventually finding Sita and temporarily allaying her fears.

That beautiful arrow in the form of a divine monkey continues to this day to travel swiftly to do Rama’s business. He finds comfort in areas where the Supreme Lord’s glories are sung. Thus by chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, Rama’s dearest servant becomes pleased and notes that a successful hit as been made.

In Closing:

Amazing fighting ability Rama has got,

Arrows made of iron from His bow are shot.


In ancient times bow and arrow warfare’s device,

As expert warrior, Rama never missed, aim is precise.


In Lanka, Shri Hanuman sprung forth like an arrow,

Sent there by Rama, like a shaft released from His bow.


The target was a missing princess, the Lord’s wife,

Sita Devi, hopefully in Lanka had maintained her life.


Finding Sita, Hanuman’s news to her a life giver.

Then returned to Rama, like arrow back to quiver.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Helping The Little Guy

Shrila Prabhupada“Exploitation of the weaker living being by the stronger is the natural law of existence; there is always an attempt to devour the weak in different kingdoms of living beings. There is no possibility of checking this tendency by any artificial means under material conditions; it can be checked only by awakening the spiritual sense of the human being by practice of spiritual regulations.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.47 Purport)

“The little guy is in trouble. It’s time to help him. He’s suffering more than we are, so why not do something that will fix his condition, bring him to a higher place? Now that you mention it, there are so many other people in the same position. The teams in the sports leagues that are always at the bottom of the standings, what can we do to help them? What about the victims of discrimination? There should be something in the law codes to address their plight. In fact, all the injustices and inequities of life need to be fixed, and I will dedicate my life to enacting and distributing the necessary fairness.”

The sad case is that these issues will always exist. In a specific region of the world, one group of citizens, perhaps of a specific skin color, is exploited, while in another part of the world that same group is in the majority that exploits. Through the passage of time the positions can change, with one group dominant for a period and then the same group exploited later on. Those with a firm understanding of the purpose of this creation know how its conditions foster the attitude of exploitation. Therefore they don’t give much attention to temporary highs and lows, because in all species and at all intelligence levels the same exploitation takes place. Through following the religious principles, which are geared towards man and his higher potential for intelligence, every type of social issue is addressed, including exploitation.

But aren’t religious principles dogmatic in nature? One politician says that I shouldn’t use contraception, but what business is it of his? Should the same recommendation come from a spiritual leader, what is its significance? Shouldn’t I be allowed to live my life the way that I want to? Under bona fide religious principles, the proper end goal is what drives all activity. Think of what it takes to complete a marathon. Obviously you need to practice running. But you also need to prepare mentally, not distracting yourself with too many other stressful obligations. You also need to sleep on time the night prior to the race and eat the right kinds of food.

MarathonThe marathon is but one short activity in a list of many that will take place in the journey through a single lifetime. That same vibrant force for action flows through the cycle of birth and death perpetually until desire is purified. The nature of the land of residence is such that it fosters attachment to temporary objects. It keeps the otherwise knowledgeable living entity in ignorance of his real position, that of servant of God. The playing field exists to facilitate the pursuit for equaling or even surpassing the Supreme Lord in the areas of beauty, wealth, knowledge, renunciation, strength and fame.

Ah, but this pursuit is fatally flawed. To begin with, no one can be more opulent than God; hence He is known as Bhagavan in the Vedas. He is the most fortunate, and also the most attractive; hence another way to address Him is Krishna. He is also Rama because He gives more transcendental pleasure to others than any person possibly could. His direct energy serves at His pleasure, and since that energy is so intimately tied to Him, both He and His energy are called in the famous maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

Only when I am ignorant of God’s position and the constitutional nature of His energy expansions will I feverishly pursue material gain in a temporary body. Every other conditioned soul has the right to follow the same pursuit as well. As no one can be God, the competition that results is similar to the fighting that goes on between animals. To further a specific aim, one person comes up with a system of rules and regulations, but those are regularly violated by the competitors looking to gain an edge.

Discrimination against a specific race, gender, ethnicity, or income group helps to advance in the competition to become God. Hence the practice will continue, regardless of the efforts made to curb it. Recognition of the problem isn’t enough; there has to be a tangible reason provided for its root cause. Also, the proper end goal must be uncovered; otherwise man is left in the dark.

The pursuit that removes the harmful competitive spirit entirely will solve the problem, at least on the local level. The starting point is recognition of God’s supreme standing and His intimate relationship to every living entity. From that knowledge one can take up devotional service with firm faith, love and determination. Chant the holy names, devote yourself to God, always think of Him, and you will gradually come to Him.

“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.34)

Radha KrishnaHow will this style of worship curb exploitation? The purification of desire is what does the trick. For instance, instead of harboring jealously for the rich, the devoted soul knows that no amount of material wealth can make one happy. True happiness comes from having the ability to stay in Krishna’s company, to be able to chant His name and remember His sweet smile. The ears are gifts from God that allow us to hear the sweet pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who protects His devotees and continues to show His mercy through the deity form, which is authorized for worship by the spiritual master, who is sent from heaven to rescue us from the ocean of material suffering.

If my guiding desire is to connect with Krishna, instead of having a competitive attitude, my mindset will be to forgive as many people as possible for their exploitative attitude, for they don’t know any better. At the same time, the message of divine love, which is so nicely presented in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, can be distributed and discussed widely, as it is the only cure for the venom injected by the serpent-like fangs of competition, which then fuels the attitude of exploitation.

“By remembering Shri Rama’s holy name, even those who are born into a low caste become worthy of fame, just as the wild trees that line the roads in heaven are famous throughout the three worlds.” (Dohavali, 16)

Krishna’s land is worshipable, as are the foodstuff and flowers offered to Him in love and devotion. If that is the case, it shouldn’t surprise us that His devotee who regularly chants His name is also worshipable. The holy name is what removes any specific defining negative condition. This fact is nicely pointed out by Goswami Tulsidas in his Vinai Patrika. The poet says that among many other things, the holy name is the high birth for one who is low born. If I am born in a family that doesn’t have a rich spiritual culture, the odds of me turning to devotional life are very slim. Following religious principles alone will be difficult for me.

Shrila PrabhupadaBut if I should chant the holy names of Krishna and Rama, all of a sudden my low birth turns into a high birth, wherein I am deserving of honor and respect from others. That status results from the ability to shed transcendental light on others. Therefore the devotee is a saint at heart and always above useless competition. The true saint knows what is best for everyone and tries to distribute that knowledge freely, without concern for the reception. The devotee saint knows how to extract the loving sentiments from every single person, giving them the greatest gift of all: the ability to practice divine love.

The primary principles instituted in the beginning stages of religious life are austerity, cleanliness, mercy and truthfulness. These four principles are absent in society when there is a lack of true God consciousness. From these practices the root of exploitation is removed. Dedication to these principles is strengthened by full devotion to God. In fact, bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, is so powerful that one can start chanting the holy names and worshiping the Lord even from the contaminated state. The holy name is so powerful that it will automatically bring the aforementioned primary principles to the sincere worshiper.

A life dedicated to redressing a specific social ill will have temporary effects, but eventually the exploitative attitude will continue in some way or another. The weak and the strong can trade places, either in the current life or in a future one. Regardless, rebirth indicates a restart to the fierce competitive race that is destined to end with death. The devoted soul, on the other hand, finds a cure to birth and death, and reaches the supreme abode at the end of life. Giving that same gift to others through their example, the saint shows how to stop the onset of the disease of exploitation.

In Closing:

A fierce competitive advantage to seek,

Leads to the strong exploiting the weak.


One group is up while the other is down,

Though in other places it’s turned around.


To fix the issue is a daunting task you face,

Solve one and another you’ll soon have to chase.


Root of the problem is inability to see,

Know the Vedas for from ignorance to be free.


Saint chants holy names and thus passes on highest gift.

Follow bhakti and from competitive fire yourself lift.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Welcoming King

King Janaka“Taking Rama with him, the son of Gadhi became happy in the heart when he saw the city. Hearing the news of their arrival, the king, bringing his advisers, guru and priests, comes to welcome them.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 5.1)

lai gayau rāmahi gādhi suvana biloki pura haraṣe hiem̐ |
suni rāu āge lena āyau saciva gura bhūsura liem̐ ||

The pattern of behavior exhibited by the noble characters stays consistent throughout these meetings from an ancient time. First there was the dilemma faced by King Janaka. Having found his most beautiful daughter while she was in the earth as a baby, the king had to arrange for her marriage to a suitable husband when she reached the appropriate age. The astrological charts could not be made because of the circumstances of her birth, thus the king couldn’t settle upon the right way to ensure that she got the husband that she deserved. So he decided to ask his chief counselors, the brahmanas, to devise a plan to settle the situation. As this was going on, in another place King Dasharatha greeted the brahmana Vishvamitra very nicely when he came to Ayodhya to borrow Lord Rama as an escort. The king hesitatingly agreed to allow his eldest son Rama to leave, who took the younger brother Lakshmana with Him. Now the story returns to Janakpur, with the same deference to the priestly class again shown by Janaka.

Why so much attention to members of society who practice religion? Don’t we see so many stories in the news today detailing the faults of priests and how they are cheating the system to get what they want? The key in determining the genuineness of a man of the cloth is to see how their recommendations affect your life. The kings of ancient times earned their high standing through sometimes exercising violence. Through force, or at least the threat of it, peace, law and order could be maintained. But there is more to life than just having food to eat and a roof over the head. The animals find the creature comforts without requiring education or university degrees. They eat without a problem, sleep when necessary, and get ample sex life whenever they desire it.

“As a boat on the water is swept away by a strong wind, even one of the senses on which the mind focuses can carry away a man's intelligence.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.67)

Krishna speaking to ArjunaThe human being needs more, especially due to the influence of the mind and the senses. The mind focused on just one of the senses will carry away the intelligence of even the most sober thinking individual. Therefore, in order to control the mind, to keep it in a good place, pure activities should be adopted. If I want to stay happy all the time and someone recommends that I watch the television news channels throughout the day, obviously my pleasant mental disposition will not last very long. If I want to take a long drive somewhere, carrying passengers and important cargo, drinking heavily will not be a wise preparatory step.

In a similar manner, if the human being wants to make the most out of the human form of life, seeking out basic sense gratification is not the proper path to follow. The brahmanas remove the doubt in this area through their good counsel. The king has so many responsibilities, so without advisers they wouldn’t know what to do. By acting properly, by following guiding principles that lead to better conditions, righteous behavior becomes almost automatic.

Because of their value, the brahmanas were treated very nicely during the Treta Yuga by the kings. When Janaka saw that Vishvamitra, Rama and Lakshmana had arrived, he happily greeted them, taking the brahmanas of the court with him. Janaka wasn’t sitting at home bored either. The compromise previously reached relating to his daughter’s wedding was that a contest would be held. All the famous princes from around the world would bring their families to Janakpur to witness the contest of Lord Shiva’s bow.

Whoever could lift that bow would win the daughter Sita’s hand in marriage. Previously in the Janaki Mangala, which is a wonderful poem authored by Goswami Tulsidas that describes these events, it was said that the line of kings entering Janakpur for the contest was tremendous. Lord Shiva’s bow was extremely heavy, so no one was getting anywhere in the contest. One after another, the princes were coming and then sitting back down as failures. While this was going on, King Janaka was welcoming so many people that other kings were jealous of how popular he was.

As would be expected, Janaka took the time to properly greet the sons of Dasharatha and their spiritual guide Vishvamitra. It is said in the above referenced verse that Vishvamitra was also very happy in the heart upon seeing Janaka’s capital city. Just as everything about God is wonderful, so is everything related to His dearmost servants and companions. Sita is together with Rama always. During the performance of the real-life play known as the Ramayana, the two spend some time apart physically, but mentally and emotionally they are always together.

Sita and RamaThe Supreme Lord’s energy pervades through space. He is absolute, so with Him close personal proximity and physical separation are the same. To the affected conditioned individual there is a distinction, but this is due to a poor fund of knowledge, illusion strengthened by attachment to a form that is temporary. Since God is capable of granting His association even when not personally present, chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, can bring to mind the sweetheart son of King Dasharatha who was set to marry Sita.

Sita Devi is just as glorious as Rama. The daughter of King Janaka deserved the grand ceremony and the contest to determine her nuptials. With that event so many people of the time got to witness history and receive the fruit of their eyes. The eyes are meant to look at beautiful things and derive pleasure from those visions. No woman on earth has ever been more beautiful than Sita, and no one was more qualified for marrying her than Rama. Thus the meeting of the two was a feast for the eyes. That joyousness also extended to the moments prior to the actual lifting of Shiva’s bow by Rama.

The dichotomy in arrival fanfares made the above referenced situation unique. The many princes that had come to lift the bow arrived in style, for they were royal families. They packed up the caravans with royal paraphernalia and brought along so many members of their family. In King Dasharatha’s case, his eldest son, the one first eligible for marriage, was away from home defending the forest-dwelling sages from attacking night-rangers. These vile creatures had harassed the brahmanas for too long, and with Rama and Lakshmana by his side, Vishvamitra and the other sadhus were safe. The sadhus could once again peacefully carry out their prescribed duties once Rama arrived on the scene. Seeing Him enter the ashrama of the great muni brought so much delight to the residents of the forest.

Vishvamitra was already in a renounced garb, and Rama and Lakshmana didn’t have much with them except their weapons. Yet Janaka greeted them so nicely anyway, for Vishvamitra was famous throughout the world for his austerities and spiritual strength. Seeing Rama and Lakshmana, Janaka would be mesmerized. He was dedicated to his occupational duties, but he was not attached to the outcome of actions. It is said in the Bhagavad-gita that one has a right to carry out their prescribed duties, but they are not entitled to enjoy the fruits that result.

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

Lord KrishnaAn extension of this truth is that one should not be attached to the outcome of events, for the higher forces are responsible for distributing results in a fair and timely manner. All that you can control is the effort you put in and the attention you give to righteousness. Even if you do everything the right way, the outcome will not always be what is expected. From the proper attitude, one learns how to stay above attraction and aversion. Janaka was in this exalted position, and he was famous throughout the world for being an expert yogi. Yet seeing Rama and Lakshmana broke his neutral stance, as had also previously happened when Sita as a baby was found in the ground.

This shows that the spiritual qualities are not void. They are full of variety and can elicit positive emotional responses within the target recipients. At the same time, the beneficiaries must be worthy of that association. We can look at the same flower every day and not appreciate it if our mind is elsewhere, if we are distracted by obligations that don’t really mean much. But with a sober mind, with a proper understanding of the beauty of nature and how wonderful this creation is, the flower can all of a sudden be appreciated and used to please the eyes.

Janaka’s neutral disposition and high moral standing made him eligible for enjoying the transcendental sweetness of the visions of Sita, Rama and Lakshmana. Though this entering party did not have the fanfare of the other royal families, Janaka knew they were something special. At the request of the son of Gadhi, Rama would be allowed to attempt to lift the bow and thereby change the course of history. That divine couple, Sita and Rama, married in the company of Janaka, Vishvamitra, Lakshmana and so many other worshipable personalities, resides in the hearts of the sincere devotees who never want to forget them for even a second. Sita and Rama also stay in the heart of the poet Tulsidas, who sings their glories and helps to make sure others know of them too.

In Closing:

Historic union of Sita and Rama not to miss,

Fortunate who could see start of their wedded bliss.


To take place, so many events had to unfold,

Vishvamitra to Ayodhya, Janaka a contest to hold.


Regardless of place, behavior followed same pattern,

Respect shown to brahmanas, who fire of yajna burn.


With Rama and Lakshmana to Janakpur came Gadhi’s son,

With his priests and advisers, Janaka gave them a welcome.


Soon eldest son of Dasharatha Shiva’s bow to lift,

His marriage to Sita to eyes of attendees priceless gift.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mischief Maker

Krishna_eating_butter“Sometimes, in their presence, He would begin eating the curd and butter. There was no need for Krishna to eat butter, since His belly was always full, but He would try to eat it, or else He would break the pots and distribute the contents to the monkeys. In this way, Krishna was always engaged in mischief-making.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.29 Purport)

In the holy land of Vrindavana, the delight of mother Yashoda and Maharaja Nanda has such a charming presence that simply by smiling He can make others forget what they are angry about. Whether He is stealing butter, letting loose the calves so that they can run towards their mothers, or pinching young children to make them cry, Krishna does not get into trouble for His misdeeds. The elders chase Him and accuse Him of being a thief, but when He smiles back at them they forget what they were angry about. The pleasure that comes after anger is superior to that which arrives on its own. Since the dear Lord knows this, He creates situations where there is first danger followed by the calming relief of the happiness in bhakti.

Bhakti is love of the divine variety. Prema is another Sanskrit term to describe the same concept. Bhakti stands out from ordinary love because there is nothing that can get in its way. If we say that we love our friends and family, should they anger us with their thoughts, words, or deeds, that love will be tested. In the industrialized nations especially, it is quite common now for families to feud with one another. Just because someone lives close by doesn’t mean that you will see them regularly.

How does that happen? If my aunt or uncle lives a few blocks away, why wouldn’t I want to visit them all the time? Wouldn’t I invite them to my get-togethers? With the material existence fueled by competition, boundaries are erected, which are seen as rewards for working hard and acquiring possessions. “My house is bigger than yours” is the thought. Or perhaps there is the pride that comes from knowing that you make more money than others do. Whatever the cause may be, if you live in an isolated area, it’s easy to have tunnel-vision, where you only focus on the work that you have to do. When you get home, you just want to relax and not force yourself to interact if you don’t have to.

If you see your friends and family periodically, it means that the majority of the time you don’t see them. Therefore, should the tiniest argument arise, the path of least resistance is to avoid their association for the immediate future. “If I don’t see these people most of the time anyway, what harm is it going to do to have a feud with them?” And what causes the arguments? Perhaps someone hasn’t called you in a while. Maybe you invited them to your home for a party but they didn’t invite you to theirs. Maybe you saw them spending time with another family, and they kept it a secret from you. Perhaps when they were over the last time, they stirred up some controversy that upset you.

Lord KrishnaIn this way what we call “love” proves to be affection with conditions. The paramour’s affection is tested when the loved object decides to break off the relationship. If there were true love, no outside influence could break the bond, and neither could anything the corresponding party do sever the relationship. Only in bhakti does the love spring forth without motivation and continue without interruption. This paradoxical combination exists because the beneficiary is the only entity truly deserving of unadulterated love. As He is the root of existence, affection offered to Him redounds to every other aspect of life.

Of course the person we speak of is God. That He is a person should not surprise us. We have an identity, as do others. We may look different than someone else, but that doesn’t mean that our identity is of any lesser or greater value. God is a distinct person in the same way, except He is the Supreme Person. His transcendental qualities are described in the many sacred texts of the world, with the Vedas presenting the most detail. We are told that God is the most beautiful, the wisest, the smartest, the strongest, the most famous and the most renounced. Since He possesses these features simultaneously, He is known as Bhagavan.

How to interact with Bhagavan is also presented through the real-life accounts preserved in the sacred pages of the Vedic texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam. The young child of mother Yashoda is the very same Bhagavan, meant to charm the hearts and minds of the pious souls. The requirement that one be free of sin is there because with a distracted consciousness the divine presence will go unnoticed. God is all around us right now, but since we are accustomed to material interaction, the consciousness is distracted by so many other things. Therefore the divine presence goes unnoticed and unappreciated, though it is still there right in front of us.

Under a purified consciousness, God is noticed, honored, adored and constantly sought out. Why would we seek out someone we already notice? The pleasure that comes through the interaction, through meeting again with the person we were thinking about, is the reason for the separation the Lord periodically creates. In Vrindavana, the separation was through physical distance, such as when Krishna would do something bad and then get chased around by the elders. The uniqueness of the residents of Vrindavana was that they were able to catch Krishna. The Lord allowed this to happen because they enjoyed His company.

Lord KrishnaVrindavana was a farm community five thousand years ago, so there were many cows around. Krishna’s foster father, Maharaja Nanda, had many cows in his possession and thus a large supply of milk products as well. Nevertheless, Krishna also liked to eat the butter stored in the homes of the neighbors. The neighbors were keeping the butter in stock for their own use, but as Krishna is the origin of matte rand spirit, everything in this world is meant to be used for His benefit.

The butter was quite tasty, and if there was any left over, Krishna would distribute it to monkeys, the unscrupulous thieves of the animal community. The butter is kept hidden to ensure that the monkeys don’t steal it, and now here is Krishna giving it away freely. Of course there was no loss on the part of the owners. The cows loved the jewel of Vrindavana so much that their milk bags were always full. The cow produces milk based on love for her children, thus a properly protected cow will provide heaps of milk products to be used for personal sustenance. There is no need to kill such animals unnecessarily, as through protecting them you get a better idea of how to love your fellow man. At the same time, the protection you offer ends up benefitting you and your community economically.

Krishna’s mischief-making was intentional. It forced others to interact with Him. This is a kind benefit of the Supreme Lord distributed to those who will appreciate it. It’s so easy to put off practicing devotional principles. We think that it’s more important to worry about work or home, to just take care of some other things before actually taking the time to sit and meditate on God. The Supreme Lord is so kind that if He knows that you are sincere in your desire to have His association, He will purposefully coordinate things to make sure that the desired meeting takes place. The residents of Vrindavana were busy in their daily chores, but through Krishna’s antics, they were forced to look at God and even chase after Him. They would get angry at Him, but ultimately they would delight in His activities.

Krishna and mother YashodaIf Krishna had just sat quietly in His home and done nothing, these opportunities would have been absent. That would have meant that fruitive activity was the primary aim of life and not the happiness that comes through seeing and thinking about God. As this is never the case, Krishna happily roamed around His hometown of Vrindavana, where everyone knew who He was and how delightful His childish sports were.

For the troubled soul living in the present age, make your mind an inviting home for Krishna. Let His childish play take place repeatedly, and keep that vision of the sweetheart grabbing fistfuls of butter with His beautiful hands in front of you. If you should happen to forget for a moment, chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Follow the devotional principles as a matter of duty at first, for you know the tendency towards complacency will take hold otherwise. With a little attention paid to the pastimes of Krishna and the words of the spiritual master, the supreme mischief-maker will daily captivate you with His antics, drawing you towards your ideal home, the spiritual sky.

In Closing:

Constant worries are mental distraction,

From what really needs your attention.


If your desire is pure, Krishna to you will come,

With His antics in front of you He will run.


In Vrindavana regularly butter He would steal,

Running from angry neighbors happy He would feel.


From seeing His face, their anger soon to subside,

Glad they were that in their community He did reside.


In your consciousness give Shri Krishna residence,

That happiness will come know with confidence.