Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gems On Earth

Rama and Lakshmana“Now happy in the heart, the king compliments the good qualities of the ocean of material existence: ‘The creator is very smart, for such gems like this grow here’.” (Janaki Mangala, 42)

pramudita hṛdayan sarāhata bhala bhavasāgara|
jahan upajahiṃ asa mānika bidhi baḍa nāgara ||

While superbly informative, this verse from the Janaki Mangala is also quite humorous. Through a pronounced shift in emotion that happens suddenly the audience can’t help but question the reason for the change. If it occurs abruptly due to an unexpected reversal of fortune the new sentiment from the actor evokes laughter from the audience members. In this particular instance, the king had gone from staying strictly detached from a world deemed false and full of ignorance to all of a sudden praising it. A gem is something beautiful and worth having. Without connection to the Supreme Lord, the many objects floating in the ocean of material existence are temporary, a cause of misery and pain, and detrimental towards one’s spiritual advancement. Once that connection is made, however, that same ocean becomes pleasurable, where the person who originally placed everything into it is praised for their cleverness.

As a pious king well versed in the philosophy of Vedanta, Janaka knew that the material creation operates off of an energy known as maya. At the root meaning of the word, maya is “that which is not”. Just like the magician performing his tricks which rely on illusion, the material nature has an influence that causes us to take things to be one thing when they are really something else. The magician’s assistant on the stage isn’t really sawed in half and neither can a rabbit emerge from a hat from out of nowhere. In the same way, the material bodies that we take to be our identities are actually just temporary coverings that will vanish at some point in the future; they are guaranteed to vanish like a bubble coming off the water that eventually bursts.

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

Lord KrishnaThe illusion is so strong that even after we see others lose their temporary forms, we still think that the same fate doesn’t await us. In the off chance that we are aware of the reality of impending death, we will take every step possible to forget about it. The audience member doesn’t view the television show or movie as a scripted performance, for that would take the fun out of viewing. In the same way, why should I worry about the inevitable end to my life if my desire is to enjoy right now?

Ah, but there is a purpose to knowing what maya is and why her influence exists. Taking things for what they aren’t may help children to enjoy their make-believe play in the sandbox, but adults can’t follow the same behavior. If they did, they couldn’t care for anyone else, let alone themselves. The spirit soul is the identifying agent within every form of body, and since it has the potential for action it has a say in where it will end up in the future.

Does this mean that we chose the womb that we emerged from in the present life? The choice is made between association in the material ocean and life in the spiritual planets. Once that “yes” or “no” vote is tallied at the time of death, a suitable home is prepared for the next life. At the same time, there are millions of other creatures who are making the same choice; they also have results due to arrive based on their past actions. Thus living entities are placed into just the right circumstances to fulfill so many other rightfully planned occurrences.

King Janaka knew that maya is the cause of bondage, for it ensures that rebirth occurs at the end of life. Rebirth is guaranteed for every living entity that is not God conscious at the time of death. As only the human being has the opportunity to know what death is and how consciousness influences the future, they have the most auspicious form of body. The aim of the human form is thus quite obvious: tailor your activities in such a way that you’ll always remember God. Remembering God today will help you remember Him at the end of life, which will in turn grant you an auspicious residence.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.6)

Lord KrishnaIf my objective is to think about God all the time, anything that I see in front of me that will put that goal in jeopardy will be rejected. Hence it is quite common for a serious spiritualist to renounce much of material existence, choosing a life of austerity and penance instead of the fast-paced world of fruitive activity centered on sense gratification. King Janaka had larger responsibilities, so he couldn’t just give up the throne and move to the forest. Nevertheless, his mental attitude was such that he might as well have been living in a thatched hut with no connections to the outside world.

The pious king showed the way, how to find transcendental enlightenment while not abruptly giving up occupational duties. Yet there is more to life than just rejecting everything in the ocean of material existence. The land where maya rules is likened to an ocean because it is very difficult to cross over. The length of the ocean is quite large, and the current flows in the direction opposite of where you want to go. If you don’t believe this, ask yourself why it is so difficult to wake up in the morning? Why is it easier to quit than continue trying? Why is procrastination easier than perseverance and why are negative thoughts more commonplace than positive ones?

The conditions in maya’s land are such that just endeavoring for spiritual emancipation is difficult. It is thus rarer to find someone out of that group who succeeds. With the odds stacked in maya’s favor, the more you can renounce things and the more detached you can become, the better off you’ll be. Ah, but there is a catch, which is so nicely pointed out in this pleasant verse from the Janaki Mangala. Maya has a boss, someone from whom she receives orders. Her influence only applies to the living entities desirous of residence in the material existence. When the Supreme Lord descends to earth or when He sends a representative who acts above the influence of maya, there is no question of suffering or receiving harmful effects on the consciousness on the part of the affected parties.

Lord RamaIn this instance, King Janaka viewed the transcendental form of the Supreme Lord in His manifestation as the warrior prince of Ayodhya named Rama. It must be said that this wasn’t the first time that Janaka broke away from his position of videha, or bodiless. When he found a baby girl in the ground many years prior while ploughing a field, he felt attachment to her right away. He wanted to take her home and raise her as his daughter, but he was a little hesitant. For starters, a transcendentalist shouldn’t be overly attached to any living entity. At the same time, what if this girl belonged to someone else? A king lives off of piety, which includes respecting the property rights of others.

“Then a voice, sounding like a human being, was heard from the sky which said, ‘O king, this child is rightfully your daughter.’” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.31)

A voice from the sky appeared on the scene and told Janaka that the girl was his daughter in all righteousness. This hinted at the fact that the girl, to be named Sita, was not part of this world. Her form was transcendental as well. This meant that Sita’s body and spirit were identical. The same held true for Shri Rama, who arrived in Janakpur with His younger brother Lakshmana and the sage Vishvamitra. Janaka at the time was holding a bow-lifting contest to determine who would marry Sita.

Janaka’s reaction upon seeing Rama and Lakshmana, who was basically identical to Rama in appearance except for a lighter skin color, is quite interesting. In a material existence, a person constantly swings on the pendulum of acceptance and rejection. One day we like someone and the next day we hate them. One day we love a certain ice cream flavor and later on we think it is disgusting. If there is a slow period for sense gratification, we’ll binge on a certain activity. Then when we suffer the aftereffects, we’ll swear off that behavior and assure ourselves of renunciation in the future.

For the spiritualist trying to realize Brahman, or God’s impersonal effulgence, the material existence is viewed as being a place of only misery. Thus Janaka, as a full renunciate in mind, did not like anything in the world. He was not attracted by anything, with the notable exception of his daughter Sita. When he saw Rama and Lakshmana, however, their beauty was so out of this world that Janaka changed his tune. The ocean of material existence that was previously miserable and hard to cross over was now warm and inviting. It deserved to be praised, for in it were found gems like Rama and Lakshmana.

Lakshmana and Rama with VishvamitraSince the divine brothers were gems to the eyes, Janaka praised the creator for his handiwork. In one sense maya was still acting on Janaka, but it was of a different nature. The Supreme Lord’s personal energy sometimes clouds the intelligence of the sincere souls in order to enhance the pleasure they feel through interaction. Janaka here is thinking that Rama and His brother are part of the material world, even though they aren’t. The king is presuming that the creator, Lord Brahma, was responsible for crafting their bodies, even though he wasn’t. The material bodies consist of combinations of the three modes of nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has a body which is completely in pure goodness, and His form never leaves Him. Hence He is always spiritual. The same goes for Lakshmana, as he is practically identical to the Supreme Lord, a part of Bhagavan.

This verse shows us that the transcendental touch can turn anything previously considered material into an object of spiritual value. Just by seeing Rama, Janaka changed his outlook on life, on how he viewed the objects of the world. In a similar manner, if we take ordinary things which were previously detrimental to our spiritual evolution and dovetail them with service to the same Shri Rama, the place we live in can be considered a storehouse of gems. The eyes that previously sunk into despair upon seeing another’s good fortune can delight in the wondrous beauty of Rama’s creation. The ears that used to get annoyed at the miserable sounds produced all around can hear the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and feel God’s presence. The tongue that previously tasted unpalatable foods that led to ignorance and laziness can now relish food first offered to Bhagavan. The prasadam, the Lord’s mercy, spiritualizes the eating process, which then positively influences other activity.

Renunciation in the true sense of the term means to have attachment to God. From that disposition, the illusory effect of maya vanishes, leading to a condition where nothing needs to be rejected outright. Rather, the same material ocean can be used for finding delights in the form of endless opportunities to serve God. Ordinary poems and books can lead the consciousness astray and thus be considered maya, but sacred works like the Janaki Mangala and Ramayana remind us that there are gems to be found in literature which can change our outlook on life for the better.

In Closing:

The objects of material world king did not like,

Knew that illusion only grew from their sight.


From attachment to maya the king to stay away,

This way avoid influence of ignorance’s sway.


Yet this all to change in just one instant,

Upon seeing beautiful forms for eyes so pleasant.


Now the creator had to be praised,

For these two lovely youths he had made.


Of course no one created Rama and Lakshmana,

But sublime lesson to take from incident’s fun.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Notice God

Krishna's lotus feet“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is greater than all, is attainable by unalloyed devotion. Although He is present in His abode, He is all-pervading, and everything is situated within Him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.22)

There’s a restaurant that you frequent because of the combination of good food and low cost. Granted, you’re not enjoying a gourmet meal or anything, but for the price and the speed in which the food arrives, you’re getting a good deal, a bargain worth entertaining. There is a difference this time you patronize the place, however. The inside of the establishment has changed. The food items on the menu are identical, but the ambiance inside is ramped up to make the place look more stylish. This way a patron won’t think that they’re eating at a low-end establishment. In essence, by consuming the same food but in a better looking place, the hope is to appreciate the experience more, as ambiance is an important factor in getting repeat customers. Taking the same principle but to the largest scale, by sanctifying the areas around us, especially the place of worship, we can begin to better appreciate and notice the Supreme Lord, who is all-pervasive.

God is within every living being and every atom. There is not one inch of space where His presence is absent. Though personally He may not be inside of everything, His influence through His energies expands to every sphere. Indeed, just the ability to make that assertion represents God’s energy. To make an assertion, one must be able to think, and to think one requires a mind. The mind is then cased inside of a form composed of earth, water, fire, air and ether. The subtle element of the mind is coupled with intelligence and ego, and finer than those elements is the spirit soul. The original storehouse of spirit is the Supreme Spirit, who we know to be God.

Lord KrishnaAs everything begins from the original spiritual energy, all manifestations, all beings, both moving and nonmoving, come from Him. The concept of an existence is an indication of His influence, so there is no denying the Supreme Lord’s existence and standing. But during the course of dealings with the material elements, and operating under the influence of a deluded ego, the human mind can erroneously believe that there is no God. The mistaken notion is that visual manifestations occur on their own, through either random collisions or the actions of autonomous beings endowed with free will. The concept of a “God” is something concocted by the mind to help cope with the inevitable and unexplainable death.

In this deluded mindset, temporary enjoyments are sought out through fruitive activity. The flaw with this pursuit is that the enjoyment will be short-lived and require much effort. To help fuel the illusion is the false ego’s best friend known as forgetfulness. Think of the cycle through fruitive activity, which is also known as karma, to be like the soap opera on television. At the end of every episode, there is a cliffhanger or some sort of unresolved issue. The issue is intriguing enough to make you want to watch the next episode, where it is promised that everything will be resolved.

There is illusion, of course, because once the issue is dealt with, a new one will come up. When the new episode ends, the previous issues are forgotten, as if they never happened. But at the same time, you, as the viewer, were previously quite interested in the outcome, in seeing how the affair would settle itself. Another way to think of it is to observe the pattern of behavior in watching sports or a reality television series that features a contest. You’ll notice that the reality shows based on contests typically don’t release DVD sets of their seasons. That is because once the season is over and a winner is announced, all concern for the episodes vanishes. Perhaps the old episodes are used for reference purposes in subsequent seasons, but there is no thrill derived from watching the episodes again because the interest was entirely rooted in the outcome, which was unknown at the time. Once that outcome occurred, it was soon forgotten and replaced with a new uncertain future outcome. The same principle applies to watching sports, as each new season erases the memory of the previous season.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

Lord KrishnaThe concept of fruitive activity, or karma, represents the largest abstraction of the same pattern. Within the umbrella of karma, so many decisions are made and so many past issues are forgotten, repeatedly, in lifetime after lifetime. The aim of the human life is to use the advanced intelligence to notice God, as that cognizance brings an end to the cycle of birth and death. Remembering the Supreme Lord is the only issue worth resolving, as it strengthens one’s attachment to Him as time goes on. Instead of forgetting that connection, the devotee suddenly feels more invigorated to take part in divine life, to further purify their devotional consciousness.

Of course the primary issue is getting to that stage where God is noticed. If the mind is consumed with thoughts of pursuing temporary rewards through fruitive activity, the divine presence goes unnoticed. But just as we saw with the restaurant that changed its ambience, if we can purify our surroundings and associate with godly people and qualities, we will better appreciate the same experience through the environment composed of material nature.

The temple is the ideal example to show how the transformation can take place. The house of worship is no different from any other house. It has a worshipable statue made of wood, stone, or resin, but these elements can be found anywhere. The difference, of course, is in the environment, the purification of the scene. There are flowers around the deity, with food in the mode of goodness offered to hopefully become prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy. There is constant chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, accompanying the worship.

Deity worship in the templeThe best gift is the association of the saintly class, which spends so much time in the temple to both worship God and spread the science of self-realization to those who are sincerely interested in learning and practicing it. Just as we visit a local business society to connect with fellow businessmen of the community, to know about God, His transcendental features, the meaning to life, and why consciousness should be purified, the association of people already in the know and who already practice bona fide religious principles is extremely helpful.

The deity is the chief resident of the temple and is an authorized non-different representation of the Supreme Lord and His transcendental features. We don’t possess the eyes to properly see God, sort of like how we can’t make out an extremely large number without the help of commas. The entire material creation, with its inconceivable complexities, is but just one aspect of the Supreme Lord. We can’t even fathom the universal creation, so how can we see God? We have difficulty noticing that we are spirit and not matter, so how are we going to be able to see the Supreme Spirit through the giant collection of matter?

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

We can take the difficult route of studying Vedanta or meditating in yoga to properly understand God, but the easier approach is to just chant the holy names. To chant, hear and dance in devotional ecstasy, the ambiance should be conducive to devotional life; hence the purpose of the temple. God resides everywhere, but by visiting a house of worship where the holy names are chanted, one can learn to better appreciate the nature around them, noticing the divine influence. The same aspects of the creation that were previously ignored or thought to operate on their own are noticed by the devotee to be benefits granted by God. The sun that may have been previously despised for its intense heat turns into an object of affection for supplying the limited human eyesight with the ability to see the deity and to draw pictures of the transcendental features of the Supreme Lord Krishna as they are described in sacred texts like the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Mahabharata. The inanimate matter that was previously the cause of bondage turns into a wonderful benediction that allows the human being to write books about Krishna, build houses of worship, and travel to holy places of pilgrimage.

In the restaurant with the improved ambiance, you get the same food, but you notice it more clearly. In the same way, through practicing the devotional principles in the association of devoted souls you notice God’s influence that already surrounded you before. Through enough observation and association, you will eventually love God’s influence and never want to leave it. As the Supreme Controller, Krishna ensures that the desired connection is then never broken.

In Closing:

God is all around you, don’t you see?

Without Him none of this could ever be.


But what with your limited powers do you know?

Only aim is for sense pleasure, bank balance to grow.


But think of how you like to eat food in a nice place,

The experience enhanced by ambience’s grace.


Temple valuable because within the deity resides,

Same matter but divine influence presides.


Chant holy names and temple atmosphere create,

Always think of God and fruitful your life make.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Shower of Flowers

Hanuman thinking of Rama“Being hit by the wings of the flocks of birds flying upwards, the trees released a shower of flowers of many colors and varieties.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 14.10)

utpatadbhir dvija gaṇaiḥ pakṣaiḥ sālāḥ samāhatāḥ |
aneka varṇā vividhā mumucuḥ puṣpa vṛṣṭayaḥ ||

Shri Rama’s dearest servant was assigned a herculean task, one too difficult for anyone else to attempt. As the experts will warn, “Don’t try this at home”, the infiltration into Lanka successfully carried out by Hanuman could not be done by just anyone. You needed tremendous ability, both physical and mental, and also the humble deference to time and circumstance in order to remain unseen while conducting this search. Because of his courageousness, his daring attitude in trying to please the eldest son of King Dasharatha, Hanuman deserved to be praised by the saintly class. Because of the situation at hand, an outside acknowledgement of his bravery would have jeopardized the mission, but the highest authority arranged for Hanuman to be praised nonetheless.

If you’re given the task of searching for someone, perhaps there isn’t much difficulty involved. If your mom tells you, “Hey, can you find your brother for me? I keep calling downstairs but no one is answering. Call him up to eat dinner.” In this instance you just go downstairs and probably notice that the television set is on at a high volume or your brother is listening to music with headphones on. Thus the search isn’t that difficult.

When it comes to a missing person of the community, the circumstances are more grave. The stakes are higher, and time is of the essence. Still, you can rely on trusted methodologies of reconnaissance, such as contacting friends and family and putting out alerts to locations where people might see the missing person. You can get a lot done when other people help you in your search.

Now just imagine if your search involved an area from which you were prohibited. You are not allowed to enter this place, though you are supposed to conduct a search. For a search, you need to observe, and to observe you need to fix your eyes on so many different things. Thus there has to be movement, which immediately places at risk the first condition, that of not being spotted. If you’re not allowed somewhere and you have to go there to conduct your search, obviously you will have to infiltrate the area without being noticed. You will have to conduct your search without anyone seeing you.

Hanuman holding Rama and LakshmanaHanuman had this kind of daunting task assigned to him, with the added bonus of a vast ocean surrounding the area in question. Sita Devi, Shri Rama’s wife, was taken against her will to the island of Lanka, where the ogres of cruel deeds lived, headed by their leader Ravana. Hanuman was in the reconnaissance group that had the most capable warriors. He was sent out by the Vanara king Sugriva, who lived in Kishkindha. Lord Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana joined forces with Sugriva through an initial meeting with Hanuman, so throughout these events Hanuman was a key player. It wasn’t enough that he forged the alliance; now he had to handle the most difficult part of the assignment all by himself. No one else in his group could reach Lanka due to the distance of separation. Thus Hanuman had to overcome geographical hurdles just to reach the place he had to search.

Once he entered the heavily protected city, Hanuman had to conduct his search unnoticed. For this, he relied on his ability to mask his true monkey nature. He assumed the size of a cat and moved around Lanka looking for Sita. No one noticed him, even when he entered the inner apartments of the Rakshasa king. The celestials from above watched with rapt attention, but they could not do anything to disclose Hanuman’s presence to any of the residents of Lanka.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that everything was coordinated in such a way that the honor was paid to Hanuman regardless. After searching all throughout the city, Hanuman thought he had hit a wall. What if Sita were no longer living? What if she wasn’t in Lanka anymore? These thoughts crept into the devoted warrior’s mind, but he cast them aside when he remembered that he had to continue searching. Without giving his full effort, he would not be satisfied with himself.

By good fortune there was a grove of Ashoka trees situated next to Ravana’s palace. Thus Hanuman decided to enter this pristine area to see if perhaps Sita was there. He first entered the grove by leaping off of the outside walls of Ravana’s palace onto a group of trees. For monkeys to jump onto trees like this isn’t too difficult, but due to his size Hanuman caused the birds sleeping on the branches to awake. Not a big deal, since they were alerted to the presence of the beautiful Shri Hanuman, whose vision is always worth seeing.

As the now awake birds flew away, they clipped the branches of the trees with their wings. This caused a shower of flowers to descend upon Hanuman. The flowers were of many colors and varieties. The flower is a living entity that blossoms at the appropriate time. It is naturally beautiful, and it is symbolic of the divine master’s creative abilities. No human being could imagine something as beautiful as the flower, but since the Supreme Lord is the original creator, we don’t have to worry about this issue. The flower is already there to be enjoyed by the eyes and nose. In all cultures, flowers are used as decorations, and they are given to people as gifts.

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

Flowers offered at Krishna's lotus feetThe Vedic tradition is no different in this regard, as one of the common methods of worship is offering a flower to a divine figure. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, states that if one offers Him a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water with devotion, He accepts the offering. Thus one of the simplest ways to worship God is to take a nice flower and offer it to the Lord. If you feel that He is not personally in front of you, make the offering to His deity manifestation. If an authorized statue representation is not in your vicinity, take a physical picture of Krishna and offer the same flower. In ancient times the ascetics would make worshipable figures out of coconuts and golden pots, showing that it is the emotional mood and purity of the worshiper which count and not necessarily the artistic value of the physical object used as the deity.

During the divine descents, the saints and heavenly figures from above sometimes drop showers of flowers to the ground in celebration of a wonderful act performed by the Supreme Lord. During Shri Rama’s time such occurrences were commonplace, and the same worship often extends to His devotees. Hanuman is considered Rama’s dearmost servant, so he was also deserving of the offering of flowers. The celestials couldn’t make that offering in Lanka due to the nature of the mission, but the birds with their wings took care of that. They were part of a chain reaction that dropped so many wonderful flowers on Hanuman.

Shri HanumanRama’s servant is already beautiful, but when he acts to please the Supreme Lord through a difficult task, his beauty increases all the more. Add to that the devotion of the trees and the birds, and you get a wonderful sight of Hanuman on his perch in a tree in the Ashoka grove inside of Lanka. That worshipable figure would increase his fame and glory by finding Sita, allaying her fears, and then returning to Kishkindha with the critical information of her location.

The power of worship is so strong that if you just mentally offer flowers to Hanuman, the effect is the same. He is pleased with a little devotion, and in return he shows the way to Shri Rama’s spiritual abode. Through devotion only is God caught, and the best way to practice devotion is to regularly chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The flowers dropped on Hanuman remind us why this particular section of the Ramayana is so aptly named the Sundara-kanda, the book of beauty.

In Closing:

Celestials from above flowers could not drop,

For that would cause Hanuman’s mission to stop.


A known person’s location not hard to figure out,

Just think of places they may go on a daily route.


Search more difficult in area where presence prohibited,

Thus Hanuman extreme bravery in Lanka exhibited.


Assignment of finding Sita Devi Rama’s servant got,

Thus no one in Lanka his presence could spot.


But divine master recognized Hanuman’s courage tall,

Organized birds to clip trees so that on him flowers would fall.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Understanding Context

Krishna dancing with the gopis“Dear Krishna, You are known as Hari. You destroy all the miseries of all living entities, specifically of those who have left their homes and family attachment and have completely taken to You. We have left our homes with the hope that we shall completely devote and dedicate our lives to Your service.” (Gopis speaking to Lord Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 29)

Though the most pleasurable of Shri Krishna’s pastimes, the rasa-lila is generally not discussed in public forums, even amongst devotees. The most intimate of the Lord’s interactions with His pleasure potency expansions depict divine love in its highest form. To the outsider accustomed to material attachment and the pursuit of temporary rewards, which vanish at the time of death, the interactions between Krishna and the gopis of Vrindavana seem like ordinary dealings between boys and girls. In fact, under this mindset Krishna is taken to be a defiler of women, someone who enjoyed in a way that went against the standard codes of conduct. But through enough education on the subject, especially on the real position of the hero of the situation, the purpose of the interaction is learned. In addition, that which was previously considered sinful or to be imitated gets understood to be a beautiful exchange indicative of how the Supreme Lord will grant anything to His dearest servants.

The fact that Krishna is the Supreme Lord is the most important, the point from which to begin learning about the highly confidential subject matter. Without this knowledge the rest of the analysis is academic. We would not be talking about a young boy dancing with young girls if the boy in question wasn’t someone special. Men and women meet together all the time, sometimes through proper channels and sometimes through illicit means. The rasa-lila is famous because it involves someone who previously had lifted an entire hill from the ground and held it up above His head for seven days. Many years later, He would deliver the essence of Vedic wisdom to a despondent warrior on the eve of a war to end all wars. Thus His intermediate pastimes became equally as noteworthy, worth hearing about and remembering.

Krishna lifting Govardhana HillBy the way, Krishna held up that hill as a young child. Not to be confused with the mother who suddenly finds the strength to lift a car in an emergency situation to protect her child, Krishna can do anything while in any of His forms. Through His impersonal energy which pervades through the material nature He holds all of the massive planets in orbit and controls the heat and the rain. Through His deputies the system of fairness known as karma is instituted, which fuels the engine of reincarnation, or the changing of bodies.

In Vrindavana as a young child some five thousand years ago Krishna held up the mighty Govardhana Hill after there was an onslaught of rain instigated by a vengeful Lord Indra, the deity in charge of the clouds and the thunder. The residents of Vrindavana were not overly powerful, and they were not prepared for the flash flood. They were set to be washed away until Krishna stepped in and remedied the situation. He took the neighboring hill that was just worshiped at His insistence and held it up above His head to act as an umbrella. Everyone gathered around and took shelter under Krishna and His hill, and thus Indra’s plot was foiled.

Krishna, as an adult in terms of years passed since His initial arrival in Vrindavana, delivered the essence of Vedic wisdom to His cousin Arjuna. The Pandavas were looking to regain a kingdom that rightfully belonged to them. In order for that to happen, they had to defeat the opposing army consisting of their cousins, spiritual guide and other close friends and family members. Arjuna, the best fighter for the Pandavas, was hesitant to fight, not wanting to cause harm to people he cared about. Krishna used this uncertainty borne of misplaced affection as an opportunity to speak on the glories of action without attachment, on the need for following prescribed duties without giving attention to the result. Most importantly, Krishna revealed that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and that worship of Him is the highest dharma, or system of religion. Arjuna would go on to fight under Krishna’s direction and not only succeed but remain free of sinful reaction at the same time.

To understand the rasa-lila, the interested party is advised to first study the first nine cantos of the sacred Shrimad Bhagavatam, which explain in detail Krishna’s superior position, which is presented scientifically and also through accounts of historical events. The idea is not to accept Krishna on a whim or a matter of blind faith. Rather, the intelligence and corresponding reasoning ability of the sincere listener are appealed to. The mind of the listener is asked to ponder the meaning of life and what should actually be accomplished between the time of birth and the time of death.

So many analogies can be used to understand the importance of context with respect to learning about foreign concepts. Think of an ice hockey game where there is a fight. In ice hockey, the fights are a little strange to see because, for starters, they are actually allowed. In other professional sports, if you fight you get kicked out of the game and likely suspended for subsequent games. In hockey, a fight is meant to occur fairly, with both participants willing to drop the gloves. There are codes to the fisticuffs as well, such as only punching someone when they are up to the challenge and looking directly at you. Also, once the fight is over, there should be no cheap shots or any other type of ill will harbored. Sometimes the fighters will even acknowledge the opponent’s fighting prowess after the bout is over.

To the casual spectator watching all of this going on, the fighting seems ridiculous. Why would people settle their disputes in this barbaric way? But to those who know and follow the game, the fighting serves a viable purpose. There are the star players, who are more skilled than they are physical. This means that if someone should take a run at them or check them with intensity, they will have no way to defend themselves. The designated enforcers on the team serve as a sort of protection, a way to guard against aggressors on the opponent’s side taking runs at the star players. It is also believed that sanctioning fighting helps to prevent other types of illegal attacks, such as those made with the hockey stick, which can be more violent in nature.

gopis of VrindavanaKrishna is intimately linked to the cowherd damsels of Vrajubhumi. They are considered His greatest devotees because they follow devotion to Him unflinchingly and through the most difficult circumstances. It is one thing to excel in a particular endeavor when your environment is conducive to that success. For instance, if you become an expert lawyer after having attended a prestigious law school, the feat is not that surprising. If, on the other hand, you grew up in circles where education was limited, where you basically had to teach yourself, and you still reach the same end, the achievement is more noteworthy.

The gopis of Vrindavana did not have time to sit in quiet meditation or study Vedanta philosophy. They were not formally educated, as the tradition of the time called for girls to get married at a young age. After marriage they would tend to the household affairs. It is said that many of the gopis were brahmanas in a previous life. They desired the intimate association of Lord Rama, an incarnation of the same Krishna, but the Lord’s vow in that appearance was to have only one wife. Thus the brahmanas were granted the benediction of taking birth in Vrindavana and gaining Rama’s association in His original form of Shri Krishna, whose name references the Lord’s all-attractiveness.

Though the gopis were married and involved in household affairs throughout the day, they never could stop thinking about Krishna. They didn’t care about the law codes of society. Their only objective was to stay connected with Krishna through love. That being the case, how could Shyamasundara ever deny their requests? If they wanted to dance with Him, Yashoda’s son would not only dance, but He’d expand Himself into so many identical forms so that each gopi could dance with Him individually.

“But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form - to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.22)

In the progressive march towards enlightenment, there is no pressing need to understand the rasa-lila right away. Rather, the beginning period is better spent learning about Krishna, an understanding best accelerated through hearing. That hearing is created by the constant chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Chanting is the authorized method of worship for the modern age because it calls to Krishna in a mood of love and it also references the gopis and their leader, Shrimati Radharani. Thus one gets the association of the same participants of the dances that took place on the moonlit nights in Vrindavana, but in a purified way. To the surrendered soul sincerely desirous of learning about the Supreme Lord and His real position, all the knowledge necessary for attaining the highest end is gradually revealed.

In Closing:

To enjoy with Krishna gopis never to miss a chance,

Into the forest on a moonlit night they go to dance.


Enjoying with Him they together move hand in hand,

By mundane wisdom these pastimes we can never understand.


That same Krishna previously Govardhana Hill lifted,

And then later on sublime Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna gifted.


Sacred Shrimad Bhagavatam dedicates cantos numbering nine,

To explain Krishna’s position as Supreme Lord, both yours and mine.


To study details of rasa-dance no need to be eager,

Krishna to reveal all knowledge to divine pleasure seeker.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Renouncing Renunciation

Shri Rama's lotus feet“Seeing Shri Rama’s enchanting form, in mind the king felt ecstatic love and affection. Bound up in love, the King of Videha renounced his renunciation.” (Janaki Mangala, 41)

dekhi manohara mūrati mana anurāgeu |

bandheu saneha bideha birāga birāgeu ||

The good poet uses license every now and then to get their point across. Perhaps they throw in an extra word or two for emphasis or they insert superlatives and adjectives to emphasize a specific trait or feature. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Goswami Tulsidas carefully uses just the right words to bring home the point that renunciation is only meant for fulfilling a higher purpose. It is not the end by itself. You give up sweets to improve your health. You give up fatty foods to lower your cholesterol, and you give up drinking to stay sober. Once that healthy condition is reached, however, your activity doesn’t stop. King Janaka, who was known as Videha, renounced his world famous renunciation when the jewel of the Raghu dynasty appeared in front of him.

Why was Janaka known as Videha? “Deha” refers to the body, and the prefix “vi” says that King Janaka was without a body. What was he then, a ghost? If he’s a ghost how is he going to do anything? Ghosts can haunt us and maybe serve as enchanting figures to star in motion pictures, but in reality they are not capable of much. Did a ghost rule over the kingdom of Janakpur many thousands of years ago?

A body is defined by what it can do, and also what it can inhibit. For instance, a glass container prevents the liquid inside from pouring onto the surface that the glass is resting on. In this way the container inhibits the motion of the entity within. At the same time, it provides the function of allowing liquids to be consumed easily. It has both a restrictive element and a functional purpose.

$(KGrHqN,!hsE3,H)57rtBN9j) )nRw~~0_3With the form of body granted the living entity residing in the material world, the inhibiting aspects may not be so easily discernible. The fact that we have to sleep every night is a notable example of an inhibition. Why can’t we just stay awake perpetually? We know that everyone sleeps, but why? Also, why do we sometimes get indigestion from eating foods that we like? Shouldn’t we all be allowed to eat whatever we want, whenever we want? Children can eat fatty foods and sugar-rich delights such as laddus and not feel the aftereffects. Why do the harmful consequences have to accompany maturation of the body?

The inhibitions are automatically imposed from the time of birth, but the functional purpose of the body is not easily known. For instance, with the body we can make the choice to place our hand into a fire. Picture a raging fire that has large flames that don’t seem to lessen in intensity. As an adult, you wouldn’t dare think of placing your hand into that intense heat, for you know what the consequences will be. But what if you are intoxicated and not thinking straight? What if you’re an ignorant child and just don’t know any better?

The individual residing within, the spirit soul, has a choice in how they use their body. In an arena sporting a full range of possible actions and corresponding outcomes, there is the option to choose activities which are harmful. Hence someone could easily decide to place their hand into the fire. The result will be pain. The burn can be so severe that it takes a long time to heal. The wise person will not repeat the same activity, but the ignorant, who don’t know any better, might require more evidence before reaching an assertive conclusion. “Will my hand burn every time I place it into the fire? Will I get hurt from this again? I know I was in severe pain the last time, but maybe that was a fluke. Perhaps all fires don’t have the same properties.”

Hence the repeated action can take place, and the wise can guess what the reaction will be. Over and over again, you follow behavior that you know is not good for you, but you somehow think you’ll see a different outcome. The hand in the fire is just one example out of countless others where a negative reaction comes as the result of ignorance. At the same time, the activities themselves show the range of motion of the body, how it can be a very powerful instrument. That the same body which places the hand into the fire can do complex mathematics equations and run marathons is quite amazing.

If all we see are the negative aspects of having a body, we might be tempted to renounce activity. In one sense this is not a bad option, for if we avoid something harmful we will obviously prevent the negative outcome from occurring. In the spiritual tradition of the Vedas, renunciation is referred to as vairagya, and it is an important tool that is coupled with jnana, or knowledge. Use the knowledge of the spirit soul to your advantage. Follow action that will keep you in knowledge, not wasting your time in areas where there are pain and misery awaiting you.

Bhagavad-gitaBut where to get knowledge? Though we could figure out that the fire will burn us if we place our hand into it, it is better to learn to prevent that behavior by taking instruction from someone else. If the instructor is presenting perfect information to us, they are an authority source on that particular subject matter. We know that the teachers in school are authority figures based on the fact that we learn to read and write from their guidance. If we learn to become doctors by listening to our instructors in medical school, we know that their teachings are valid.

Similarly, the acharyas of the Vedic tradition prove their high standing and the validity of their knowledge by the effects resulting from the application of their recommended principles. Learn from the spiritual master that you are spirit soul, aham brahmasmi. You are Brahman and not maya. Brahman is spirit; it is truth. Maya is material nature; it is illusory. Only through the influence of maya can you possibly think that a fire will not burn your hand upon contact. Through maya’s influence you can mistake a rope for a snake and your body for your identity. You are Brahman; learn what this means and act off of that knowledge.

The jnana acquired by learning about Brahman and the workings of reincarnation can reinforce the dedication to vairagya. If I know that I am spirit, why am I going to follow a path that will make that realization harder to keep? For instance, if I know that drinking is bad for me and that I shouldn’t be intoxicated, am I going to want to hang around a bar all the time, where people are constantly consuming adult beverages? I will instead want to follow behavior that is conducive to experiencing the knowledge that I am taking in.

Renunciation helps to keep the Brahman realization, the awareness that you are spirit. Renunciation from attachment to maya is the key. If I identify only with my body, I will feel negative effects, either immediately or in the future. The person who remains attached to maya all the way up until the time of death is guaranteed of rebirth in the ocean of material suffering. On the other hand, knowledge of Brahman at the time of death indicates a desire to retain a spiritual existence in the next birth.

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

Lord Krishna's lotus feetIf renunciation is helpful, should I just cease all activity? To experience bliss, should I give up even moving my body? The key is to remain detached from the external energy, or maya. You are compelled to work in order to both set a good example and maintain the life force within the body. However, you should not work in such a way that you will become attached to the fruits of your labor or the body that performs the work.

King Janaka was exemplary in this area. He earned the title of Videha because of his realization of Brahman. Nothing could phase him because he was not under the influence of maya. Maya could not touch him. He was equal in both happiness and distress. He ruled over a kingdom, so it would be expected that the mode of passion would run through him. In the material world there are three modes governing activity. In goodness one acts in a way that they retain knowledge of Brahman, understanding the differences between spirit and matter. In ignorance one follows a path where they are only hurt in the end, not reaching a tangible goal or enjoying a cherished fruit.

In the mode of passion, hard work is applied to enjoy a fruit that is temporary in its manifestation. Thus the mode of passion leads to a neutral state, sort of like pushing a rock up the hill only to have it fall back down after you’re done. During Janaka’s time, the kings were expected to live in the mode of passion, for they had to provide protection to the innocent, using violence when the time and circumstance called for it. But Janaka was a pious king who followed the advice and consent of the priestly class, the brahmanas. Thus through proper instruction, he performed his work without attachment and thus remained Brahman realized.

Janaka had a body, but he was considered bodiless because it had no inhibiting influence. It did not lead him towards disaster or misery. Rather, the body was there as a formality, but the spirit inside was what guided all actions in the proper direction. Because he was famous for his renunciation, Janaka was known as Videha.

With his exalted position in renunciation established, the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala becomes all the more puzzling. It is said that when Janaka saw the form of Lord Rama, which was enchanting to the mind, loving attachment, or anuraga, immediately formed. The king became bound up in love, and because of that his vairagya ran away.

King Janaka watches Sita declare Rama the winnerFrom this verse so carefully crafted by Tulsidas we see that jnana and vairagya are not the end. Renunciation can be renounced when there are feelings of love directed at the Supreme Lord. Shri Rama was God Himself appearing on earth in the most enchanting form of a warrior prince. Janaka was above excitement and attachment, and this position was not broken when looking at Rama. Attachment to God has no relation to attachment to anything material. Matter is inhibiting and damaging to one’s future fortunes when taken to be one’s identity or source of pleasure. When that same matter is seen on the form of the Personality of Godhead, it becomes spiritual in nature.

How could Janaka love Rama instantly? The question should be how could someone who was Brahman realized and pious in every way not have spontaneous attraction to the beautiful form of the Supreme Lord? Jnana and vairagya are tools to help learn how to use the body properly. The individual soul within the body is very powerful. Through the vehicle of the temporary form the spirit soul can do amazing things which don’t have to be harmful. It was Janaka’s body which decided to hold the grand sacrifice in Janakpur, which would determine the husband for his daughter Sita.

In the spiritual world, Sita and Rama are always together. They are the combination of God and His pleasure potency. Janaka played a hand in reuniting them during their play in the phenomenal world. His formal renunciation went away as soon as it was no longer needed. Attachment to Shri Rama’s form and name never proves detrimental, and King Janaka is the authority figure in this regard. No one is more renounced than he is, and no one was quicker to abandon that renunciation when seeing the Supreme Lord. From that spontaneous affection he would soon gain Rama as a son-in-law and the world would be better off for it.

In Closing:

With knowledge wise decision you make,

No longer identity from body you’ll take.


From material attachment you’ll stay renounced,

Absorbing knowledge of Brahman, attain stature pronounced.


From this King Janaka attained worldwide fame,

Through detachment lived up to his Videha name.


But as soon as King Dasharatha’s son eyes to gaze upon,

His hard acquired level of renunciation was gone.


Be not puzzled, for this is how it’s supposed to be,

Feel unbreakable love when Supreme Lord’s vision you see.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Crying Babies

Lord Krishna“If in any house He could not find any butter or curd to steal, He would go into a room and agitate the small children sleeping there by pinching them, and when they cried He would go away.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.29 Purport)

Parents know how difficult it is to get young children to remain steady and calm. Depending on the demeanor of the child, just getting them to behave properly is difficult enough. You’re basically walking a tightrope the whole time. Sometimes all it takes is a visitor coming into the house and making strange faces in front of the child. They mean well, for they are delighted at the vision of pure innocence. But from the youngster’s perspective, the visitor is a stranger whose motives aren’t known. And since they have no way of communicating their fears with words, the baby starts to cry. Feeding, putting them to sleep, and a host of other pacification options are tried by the parents to get their children to stop crying. Should someone come and foil that effort, especially if they do it on purpose, the parents are justified in their intense dissatisfaction. In a small village many thousands of years ago one person took great fun in making calm babies cry, and because of His divine nature that nuisance is celebrated and honored to this day.

Why would He do what He did? What did the children do wrong? What was the fault of the parents that He would torture them like this? You see the young boy was the owner of everything in the sacred land of Vrindavana. Though only a small child under the care of Yashoda and her husband Nanda, Krishna was the very Personality of Godhead worshiped by all the householders through their daily routines. The mornings began with worship of Vishnu in the homes, and then as the day progressed, the fruits of labor were meant for the benefit of the same Vishnu.

“Mother Yashoda was firmly convinced of the Vedic injunctions about the importance of cows and the holy name of Vishnu; therefore she took all shelter in the cows and the name of Vishnu just to protect her child Krishna. She recited all the holy names of Vishnu so that He might save the child.”  (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)

Lord VishnuIf a dangerous situation arose, the prayers would go out to Vishnu for protection. Indeed, Yashoda herself recited the many names of Vishnu after her son Krishna would somehow escape from danger. In the Vedic tradition, Vishnu is the name given to the Supreme Lord that addresses His position of all-opulence. Vishnu is everywhere. Simply by exhaling He creates this and many other universes, and by inhaling the same immeasurably large collections of matter come back into Him. He is not an angry God or someone who demands that others worship Him. Just as the SDK provided by a software manufacturer allows the end-user to make whatever programs they like, the universe with its many small and large playing fields gives the occupants free rein when deciding which tasks to take up.

Vishnu is the object of worship for those who know how to use the playing fields properly. In some religious traditions He is referred to by a more generic name, such as God or the Almighty. The Vedic scriptures give more details because with more information the end-user can make a better decision on how to move forward. The living entities are users of the material elements, capable of dominating matter, which is dull and lifeless. When you know that there is a supreme controller who has a personality and intelligence to go with it, you can use your position superior to matter to utilize everything around you for the controller’s benefit.

This is how the residents of Vrindavana behaved. Their days were spent working on the farms, taking care of the cows and growing crops, but their purpose was always Vishnu worship. Thus it was not surprising that the very same object of worship would appear in their midst as a seemingly ordinary human being. The human goes through a typical life cycle, and the infant years are the most conducive to accepting love from others. The young child is the essence of innocence and they look so cute that even the hardest heart is melted upon seeing them. Think of how people smile and act nice to a baby who is a stranger, but when the same child grows up into an adult the same treatment will not be offered. The individual hasn’t changed; just their visible manifestation is different. From the difference in treatments, we can conclude that the childhood form is the most conducive to accepting the kind sentiments of the living entity. That kindness is within all of us; it just takes the right target to extract the feelings fully.

Lord KrishnaVishnu as young Krishna was the emblem of attractiveness, so His vision would delight everyone. What good is having a delightful vision if no one gets to see it? Therefore Yashoda’s adorable child would roam through Vrindavana and do different naughty things. Sometimes He would break into the cowsheds and release the calves. They would then drink the milk from their mothers before anyone could extract the milk. The cow is so nice because it provides enough milk for both its children and the human population. But if the calves drink the milk first, there will be nothing left for the owners to consume. Thus the general procedure is to first milk the cows and then let the calves feed.

The milk production relies only on one ingredient: love. When the mother is able to love her child she will provide more than enough milk. That love flows fully when the cows and the children are protected. It’s interesting to note that the cows loved Krishna just as much as they loved their calves. Thus simply by seeing Krishna their milk bags would become full. The delight of Nanda Maharaja took great pleasure in angering the cowherd men and women with His naughty behavior. Seeing what Krishna had done, they would chase after Him in anger but they couldn’t catch Him. On the off chance they were fortunate enough to catch up with Krishna, from seeing His charming face they would forget about what made them angry.

Krishna’s favorite activity was eating butter. He wouldn’t eat only the butter that was at home either. He would visit the homes of the neighbors, with or without their permission, and eat the butter they had saved up. If the butter ran out, He would break the pots in anger. If there was excess butter, He would distribute it to the monkeys of Vrindavana. Again, this is typically considered rude behavior. You shouldn’t steal what belongs to others. Yet as Vishnu, Krishna had a right to enjoy His property. What were the neighbors saving their butter for anyway? Everything in this world is meant for Vishnu’s enjoyment. Since the best use of the materials is to sacrifice them to the Supreme Lord, Vishnu is also known as Yajna.

If your heart is pure, even if you’re not explicitly performing a ritualistic sacrifice, Krishna will come and enjoy what you have anyway, accepting it as an offering. If there was no butter, Krishna would sometimes pinch the young children of the house. Pinching would then make the children cry, and Krishna would then run away, as if He had no part in the act. Of all of Krishna’s pastimes, this is likely the most amusing. One can connect with the Supreme Lord in a variety of ways. Sight is one way, but a vision doesn’t stay in front of us for too long. Physical sight lingers through mental sight, which can be recalled to memory at any moment.

Lord KrishnaBetter than seeing God is hearing Him, and so the most potent method of religious practice is the chanting of the holy names, something which the residents of Vrindavana were quite accustomed to. As Krishna is actually the origin of Vishnu, just by saying His name the residents were already calling out to Vishnu. The name of Rama represents the same Vishnu as well,  and since the maha-mantra contains both of these names, reciting it is the best way to connect with God. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is a direct call to the butter thief of Vrindavana, and it can be repeated over and over again. Just as the cow produces so much milk when her calf cries, the Supreme Lord runs to the scene whenever He hears a devotee chanting His holy names without any motive for personal gain.

The holy name is the direct representation of Krishna, and in Vrindavana the crying of the babies pinched by the Lord was the indirect representation. That crying sound, though normally annoying, ended up being pleasurable for the parents because it indicated that young Krishna had been in their home. He didn’t ignore His devotees, even if they were preoccupied with household work. The parents had taken great effort to care for their children, but they also needed to spend just as much time thinking about Krishna. Why else are we given an existence? Why do we have ears if not to hear the liberating sound of Krishna’s names? These pastimes relating to Krishna are included in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which is meant to be heard from the mouth of a devotee who loves Krishna as much as the residents of Vrindavana did.

The neighbors complained about Krishna’s antics to His mother, but when they were finished complaining, they realized that they really enjoyed Krishna’s favor. They liked that He would come to their homes and cause mischief. Better to put up with the antics than be ignored by the delight of Vrindavana. He was Yashoda and Nanda’s son and Balarama’s younger brother, but He was also the entire community’s reason for living. Remember His activities every day and He will favor you with the same interruptions.

In Closing:

After much time sleeping baby placed on bed,

That they’ll wake up too soon and cry parents dread.


Crying is way for babies to parents to communicate,

To say if they’re hungry or something they don’t appreciate.


If their child made to cry on purpose parents don’t like,

Delicate balance broken for no reason, anger it ignites.


But Krishna would pinch babies to make them cry,

That sound notified that Yashoda’s son came by.


Ran after Him and then to Yashoda to lodge complaint,

Krishna took great fun, smiled as if He acted like a saint.


As the Vishnu they worshiped Krishna was the same,

Thus for their pleasure to Vrindavana He came.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Time To Wake Up

Hanuman's club“While searching for the highly qualified, very beautiful and irreproachable daughter of the king, that monkey awakened the birds that were sleeping peacefully.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 14.9)

mārgamāṇo vara ārohām rāja putrīm aninditām |
sukha prasuptān vihagān bodhayām āsa vānaraḥ ||

The birds were peacefully asleep in this wonderfully beautiful grove of Ashoka trees. The one area in Lanka where there was peace, quiet, and hints of the mode of goodness was this tucked away park, which was filled with creepers and many kinds of fruit-bearing trees. There were delectable mangos growing on some of these trees, and the flowers produced were quite beautiful as well. The scene didn’t match with the rest of Lanka, which was mired in the modes of passion and ignorance, following the lead of their king Ravana. But there was a reason for the goodness in the Ashoka garden, and that was what led a kind warrior, who himself was enveloped in the mode of pure goodness, to that area.

The three modes manifest in many ways, including lifestyles. The famous Vaishnava acharya, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, likened the modes of nature to different classes, such as first, second and third. We know of these classes on airline flights and other modes of paid transportation. The first class treatment usually equates to more spacious seating arrangements and better food to eat. There is also better service. The middle class fares get you a normal seat that is crammed next to other normal seats. The treatment is the same for everyone and there is nothing special about the class.

The lowest class is something most people wouldn’t want. Perhaps it’s a makeshift seating arrangement that comes to be at the last minute to accommodate an overbooked trip. When sending packages through the mail, the class delineated as “media mail” is very inexpensive, but at the same time it can take much longer to travel. There is no tracking on the package nor is there any guarantee that it will arrive at the intended destination in a set amount of time. The lowest class is an option not too appealing, but it is still available for those who want it.

“Those who are in the mode of ignorance are called rakshasas, those in the mode of passion are called asuras, and those in the mode of goodness are called suras, or demigods. Under the direction of the Supreme Lord, these three classes of men are created by material nature, but those who are in the mode of goodness have a greater chance to be elevated to the spiritual world, back home, back to Godhead.”  (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 34)

When it comes to the modes of nature, the lowest class is extremely harmful because the person mired in it thinks that the bad is actually good. You may have a lower class ticket on an airline flight, but if you considered the arrangement to be superior to first class, you obviously wouldn’t be viewing things correctly. In the mode of ignorance, the effect on consciousness is deep, and in the wrong direction. What is pious you take to be sinful, and what is sinful becomes your way of life, something of which you are proud.

In the middle class, the mode of passion, there is a pursuit for temporary rewards. The chase involves tough labor and the reward itself doesn’t last very long, but you nevertheless follow through with your behavior, thinking that you have nothing else to do with your time. Games, sports and general fruitive pursuit fall into the mode of passion category. The game is pretty much meaningless, because whether you win or lose doesn’t matter that much. Even if you are a professional athlete and victory to you means more compensation, when your career is over you have to find something else to do. That money may buy you financial security but the issue of mental peace is not addressed.

The mode of goodness is conducive to the advancement of consciousness, being able to see things as they are. Thus quiet surroundings are generally equated with this mode, as fewer distractions and overall external pleasantness help in thinking rationally and properly understanding the point of life. In Lanka, an opulent city ruled by ogres a long time ago, the people were mostly in the mode of ignorance. Their leader was in passion long enough to request material benedictions from figures who could grant them, but then the use of those newfound abilities caused him to further descend in consciousness. The residents would regularly eat animal flesh, drink wine, and cavort with women into the wee hours of the night.

There’s a reason that such partying is these days typically reserved for young, college-aged students. It’s not a lifestyle that produces anything tangible. It is based on ignorance of the real aim, not knowing the purpose to having a brain that can think rationally. An adult going on a college-style Spring Break vacation is rare, for why would a mature person want to waste their time in that way? Yet this is how Ravana and his band enjoyed their days.

It would have been one thing if they kept this mode of ignorance locally confined. But the detriment to consciousness has far reaching effects. The polluted mind caused Ravana to forcibly take away a beautiful princess who was already married to a suitable husband. Ravana didn’t win this woman in a fair fight either; he took her away in secret. As she didn’t mix well with the mode of ignorance of Lanka, this princess was held in an Ashoka park, which was very beautiful and gave hints of the mode of goodness.

Shri HanumanThe princess’s husband set about to find her. He aligned with a band of Vanaras living in the Kishkindha forest. The Vanaras were monkey-like but at the same time had human tendencies. Their best fighter was Hanuman, who would make it to Lanka all by himself to look for Sita. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, he is entering the Ashoka garden after having surveyed the situation. He thought that Sita might be there, as she couldn’t be found anywhere else in Lanka.

The birds were sleeping peacefully in these trees. Nobody was there to bother them, and so they could rest without disruption. Then, all of a sudden, a huge jolt came to the branches, which broke the peaceful slumber of the birds. If we invoke projection, we can assume that the birds must not have been happy. Do we like it when someone wakes us up like that? It’s more distressful when the interruption comes during a period of deep sleep. The first few moments after waking up are a little strange, as we might not know where we are.

But in the end, we know that too much sleep is not good for us. In the Vedic definition, oversleeping is in the category of the mode of ignorance, as it is not conducive to any good. Even people in the mode of passion don’t oversleep, as you need to be awake to chase after your material desires. To break our sleep for the right cause is always beneficial. Though we may not like the interruption at first, it turns out to be to our benefit later on. If we just slept the day away, we wouldn’t be able to do what we needed.

These birds got the ultimate boon of seeing Hanuman when they woke up. If they had remained asleep, they would have missed that once in a lifetime opportunity. The spirit soul never glows brighter than when it is enthusiastically engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord. The princess whom Hanuman was searching for was the daughter of King Janaka. Named Sita, she was unimaginably beautiful and highly qualified. She was irreproachable, as she followed in her father’s footsteps with respect to character. Janaka was known for his high moral standing, and Sita took on all the good qualities of her father.

That made Ravana’s act all the more deplorable. But now Hanuman was there to fix things. Sita Devi is the goddess of fortune and her husband Rama is the Supreme Lord Narayana. Thus Hanuman was on a mission to directly please Narayana. The birds that were awakened got the chance to see Hanuman, so they were fortunate that their sleep was interrupted. Moving forward, they could sleep more peacefully by keeping the delightful vision of Rama’s messenger within the mind.

In Closing:

In the bed just a few minutes longer let me stay,

But I know I must get up, not waste away the day.


In Vedas in mode of ignorance is too much sleep,

Underdeveloped your consciousness it will keep.


Should rise to mode of goodness, the first class,

Hankerings for passionate rewards surpass.


Hanuman in pure goodness, so auspicious was his sight,

To the minds of awoken birds brought delight.


On his way to find Sita Devi, Hanuman to carry on,

Awakened mind always his deeds to contemplate upon.