Saturday, July 14, 2012

Affinity For Lotuses

Sita Devi“Dressed in a single yellow garment, made of the best cloth, but which was in a bad condition, covered with dirt and without any ornaments, she resembled a lotus pond devoid of lotuses.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.21)

pītena ekena samvītām kliṣṭena uttama vāsasā |
sapankām analamkārām vipadmām iva padminīm ||

Ordinarily, to roll around in the dirt is considered strange behavior, as unless you are a child and don’t know any better, what reason would you have for soiling your clothes and getting clay all over your hair and such? But for devotees swooning in the ecstasy of separation from their beloved, the practice is not out of the ordinary. For one woman in particular, the separation anxiety was too much to bear, so even though she had the most beautiful piece of clothing for a dress, at one time it was not spotless in its appearance. The comparison was made to a lotus pond that is devoid of lotuses. The setting seemed ideal for lotus flowers to bloom, but for some reason they were not there.

In this case, the lotuses were missing because the beloved daughter of King Janaka was without her husband, Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sita Devi is the very same Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune. In the Vedic tradition, the abstract figure known as God is defined with attributes and features, among which are His decorations in terms of eternal consorts. God has the most pleasure, and to receive that He enjoys the company of people who love Him more than anyone can possibly love another person. Unconditional love brings so much happiness and comfort in our own lives, so if you have that by your side all the time, would you not be in a perpetual state of pleasure?

Narayana is one of the visions of God; He has four hands and is opulently adorned. Narayana, which means the source of men, is always with Lakshmi, who is a devoted wife. Narayana is likened to a king-swan, which is known for swimming in a pond amidst lotus flowers. The lotus is the symbol of purity, and the swan is known for extracting goodness from a mixture filled with impurities. Thus it is not surprising that the swan would choose to be around lotus flowers and that devotees of Narayana would worship Him with profuse offerings of flowers on a daily basis.

Lakshmi DeviLakshmi is known as Padmini because she is seated on a lotus flower that floats on the same pond. She is with the king of swans in an ideal relationship, so she is always around purity. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, the comparison to a padmini is not accidental. The Sanskrit word can refer to a lotus flower, a lotus stalk, or a pond of lotuses. Padmini is used along with the word vipadmam, which means without lotus flowers. So in this case Sita’s vision that Hanuman saw was like looking at a lotus stalk or a lotus pond without any lotuses.

The cause of the missing lotuses was the absence of Lakshmi’s consort. The ogre-king Ravana had taken Sita away from Rama’s side through a backhanded plot. Sita and Rama are the same Narayana and Lakshmi. They come to earth in visible forms to enact the real-life play known as the Ramayana. From the thousands of verses in that sacred work we get not only a narration of events but also symbolism incorporated into the actions of the divine actors.

“How can that female swan who is accustomed to sporting with the king of swans amidst lotus flowers ever cast her eyes on a water-crow that stays amidst bunches of grass?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.20)

Sita herself referenced her life amidst lotus flowers when Ravana first tried to win her over. She sternly rebuked him, noting that she was already accustomed to living with Rama, who was like the king of swans that swam in a lotus pond. How could she now go over to the side of the crows which rummage through weeds, grass and garbage? This meant that even if she didn’t detest Ravana and wasn’t religiously wedded to Rama, she still couldn’t accept Ravana and his life based on the fact that she would find it miserable. It is akin to growing up in luxury and comfort and then being forced to move to an area that lacks basic amenities. There is nothing against the new area per se; it’s just that the person has grown accustomed to finer living.

Now separated from Rama for such a long time, Sita made sure that she didn’t look overly presentable. She had the best clothing on, as she was a king’s daughter and a prince’s wife. Yet this one dress was now in a bad condition, covered with dirt and divested of ornaments. Women are known for having an affinity for beautiful jewelry, and so in the Vedic tradition the pious husband tries his best to provide his devoted wife with beautiful bangles, earrings and necklaces to wear. She is happy wearing these ornaments, and through enhancing her appearance she gives pleasure to her husband.

Sita and RamaIn Sita’s case there was no need for such ornaments because her husband was not with her. She would never give in to the vile creature Ravana, who didn’t have the courage to stand up and fight against Rama. Instead, he created a ruse which allowed him to steal Sita away when no one was looking. Now Sita refused to look at him, and she made sure to worsen her appearance as much as possible. That served the purpose of showing devotion to her husband, but it would also make matters difficult for one particular person.

Shri Hanuman, Rama’s faithful servant, was sent to find Sita, to let her know that Rama was intent on rescuing her. But Sita was covered with dirt and in an emaciated state, so how was Hanuman going to spot her? He had heard descriptions of her qualities, but it wasn’t as if her vision was burned into his mind. Instead, he had to go off of outward indications, features that would point to a woman married to Rama and separated from Him.

From his perch atop a tree in the Ashoka grove next to Ravana’s palace, Hanuman saw this woman up ahead around the area of a temple. He could tell that she was beautiful, but at the time her features were masked by a dress in a bad condition and a body worn thin from fasting. She was also sighing heavily. It was like looking at a lotus pond which had no lotuses. Thus Hanuman could tell that this was Sita, the person he fought so hard to find. He braved the elements along the aerial path to Lanka. He even conquered the mental demons of doubt and fear over failure. Now, at this critical moment, Rama’s wife didn’t appear in front of him in the way that he expected.

He thought that this grove would be to her liking due to its natural beauty. He figured she might walk by his tree on the way to the nearby pond of pure water. She was accustomed to roaming in the forests, so it wouldn’t be far fetched for her to walk around longing for her husband. This is how the devotees on the highest state of devotional ecstasy behave. Lord Chaitanya, the combined incarnation of Radha and Krishna, the same Lakshmi and Narayana, often fell to the ground and longed for the association of Shri Krishna. This spontaneous reaction borne of deep attachment is only natural, as the spirit soul is a lover of God at the core.

But Sita was seen in a more distressed condition, surrounded by female ogres ordered to harass her. Nevertheless, despite the unpleasantness enveloping her, Hanuman could tell that she was Rama’s wife. He knew that such spotless beauty, which was able to withstand the cloud of smoke surrounding it, could only exist in Rama’s beloved. Now it was time for Hanuman to meet her and give her the joyous news that Rama was indeed coming for her.

In Closing:

King of swans lives in the pond,

Of lotuses he is very fond.


Same goes for His wife,

Devotion to Him her life.


Sita this comparison did make,

When Ravana’s advances she wouldn’t take.


Now Hanuman could see her from afar,

Soiled cloth her beauty couldn’t tar.


Looked like lotus pond without the flowers,

Thanks to him, approaching was her rescue’s hour.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Come Again Some Other Day

Worshiping Radha and Krishna“During the rainy season, all living entities, in the land, sky and water, become very refreshed, exactly like one who engages in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 20)

To feel fatigue after intense work is only natural; thus the living being requires constant replenishment from food and drink. When someone is in desperate need of nutrients, the fresh feeling that comes after eating is unique; it is unlike any other feeling. If one is not so hungry or thirsty, partaking of food and drink as a routine effort may not be so noteworthy, but when someone has expended a lot of effort, the nourishment is appreciated more. And so to the devoted soul who has become reacquainted with their lost engagement, the holy names of the Lord found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, are like the desperately needed rainy season.

In India, there is a specific portion of the year marked by rain. Aside from its practical significance to the crops on the earth, this period of time serves as a wonderful literary comparison tool. The reason for this is quite obvious: since the crops are only fed during one particular two-month stretch, they have a sole reliance on those two months. To them the months of the rainy season are like no other, so there is an automatic attachment and also a sense of loyalty to that period of time. For someone to properly describe a loving attachment, one where there is full vulnerability and reliance, the rainy season and its affected crops serve as a wonderful comparison.

“Devotion to Shri Rama is like the rainy season, the wonderful devotees the paddy fields, and the two syllables in Rama’s name the months of Sawan and Bhadon [rainy season], says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 25)

Goswami Tulsidas often references the rainy season because of its sparkling effect on crops. Just when the plants are about to die, they are suddenly invigorated again. Without that rain coming at the right time, life would not continue in that manner. And so for the devoted soul, the sounds of the holy name are like the rainy season. The devotees are like the parched fields. For Tulsidas, the holy name of preference is Rama, which represents Shri Ramachandra, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty. The name Rama can also represent Lord Krishna’s elder brother Balarama. Rama is also a description for the Supreme Lord that says that He is a provider of transcendental pleasure to His devotees.

Lord RamaGod is one. There is not one God for a particular section of society and a different God for another. The less intelligent think in these terms; like “my religion” and “your God”. Are there such distinctions in other areas of life? With the sun’s energy, there is not preference based on the recipient’s temporary features. The same holds true with the rain and the electricity coursing through the house. They don’t play favorites. In the same way someone who is above both matter and spirit, who is unborn, undecaying, and with full knowledge cannot possibly be bound by sectarian designations.

To break this tendency in the human being, to give him a faint glimmer of understanding of the true nature of Supreme Spirit, there are thousands of names assigned to the Supreme Lord. In the Vedic literatures, the thousand names of Vishnu are often referenced, as they specifically address the personal aspect to God. There is the impersonal aspect that is marked by the presence of spirit within all creatures, and there is also a plenary expansion residing within each living entity as the Supersoul, but beyond these realizations there is Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vishnu-worship specifically touches on the personal aspect, and the many names are recited to honor and respect specific functions that Vishnu performs.

It is said that chanting Shri Rama’s holy name is more beneficial than the thousand names of Vishnu, and that chanting Krishna’s name is more beneficial than Rama’s name. Regardless of the specific name of choice, in worship in devotion, the holy name is the life-giving source. The devoted souls are considered the parched fields because they are in desperate need of the holy name. In one sense they are responsible for the condition, where there is full reliance. Other sources of energy are available, but for the devoted soul they don’t provide the ingredients necessary for spiritual growth. For instance, there is fruitive activity, mysticism, and study of general philosophy. Every human being follows one of these three paths by default, but without full worship of Bhagavan, true spiritual life is missing.

And why would we want spiritual life? The crops are in the best condition when they are alive and vibrant. In the same way, the living entity never flourishes more than when they are fully connected to Krishna in consciousness. Any other condition is considered diseased, or not constitutional. With fruitive activity, there are two possible outcomes. One is success and the other is failure. Both conditions are identical because neither is permanent. The successful person can lose all that they have at any moment. And the distressed person, who doesn’t purposefully seek out pain and misery, will eventually feel relief, though it may arrive in a future life.

Mysticism and study of philosophy have similar defects. The mystic is above loss and gain, but the fruit of their mysticism is an amazing ability. But with an ability one must have an ideal use. Whatever valuable object I have, I must be able to use it for something in order for it to be worth having. If I can fly through the sky, hold my breath for hours on end, or bend my body in a certain way, I need a tangible goal to fulfill. The yogi and the philosopher can merge into the impersonal energy of the Absolute Truth, but the spirit soul is not meant to be frozen in this way. If this were the case, there would be no purpose to living, to having an existence.

The devoted soul replenished by the rainy season known as the holy name lives to serve their beloved Krishna, who is with them at all times through His sound vibrations, His pastimes described in ancient texts, and His teachings presented through the mouths of other devoted souls, who are elevated in their consciousness. Devotional service also provides temporary rewards, but the effect on consciousness is permanent. And from that consciousness fixed in transcendence, there is full knowledge on how to make proper use of the body. And though that body may change, and even be replaced in the future, the knowledge of how to use it for Krishna’s service does not vanish, thus making the devotee a versatile living entity capable of feeling transcendental pleasure in any situation.

What is so great about devotional service? Why is there such a drastic difference between the time prior to the arrival of the holy name and the time following it?

The bhakta finally knows what to do with their life. As the saying goes, “he who hesitates is lost”, with so much time on the hands of the living entity the vital question is, “what should I do with my life?” Is working at the office five days a week for upwards of forty years the purpose to our existence? Should we just have fun all the time, wherein fun is defined as meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex? Should we just sit quietly and meditate, and thus be free of anger, vice and greed?

Radha and KrishnaIn bhakti-yoga, these doubts are dispelled because the jewel of knowledge that devotion to God can take place at any second is uncovered. While arising early in the morning, the wide awake individual can chant the holy names, listen to discourses about Krishna and His kindness, and worship the deity manifestation, which is the gift to the eyes that are susceptible to illusion. The stated prohibition on carving statues and making pictures of God by spiritual leaders is quite illogical, regardless of where they claim the prohibition comes from. If there is a God and we are to worship Him, what is the harm in making a statue representation of His features and honoring it every day? If God is the Supreme Lord, He must be everywhere, so He must be in the deity as well.

Those who vehemently protest the practice of deity worship already honor so many statues of famous personalities and celebrities. They keep pictures of their friends and family around as well. Thus there is already worship of idols, as to contemplate in a specific mood is to worship. Men bow down to girlfriends when proposing marriage and owners reach down to pick up the waste deposits of their pets. And yet while all this is going on, it is somehow sacrilegious to make a beautiful statue of Shri Krishna’s features and bow down in front of Him.

Whether worshiping the deity, reading a sacred text, or travelling to a place of pilgrimage, the key ingredient is the holy name, which pours forth the spiritual shower of nourishment to the souls who have full reliance on it. Just as the rainy season replenishes, the holy name gives life back to the devoted soul, who was previously lost in the cycle of birth and death, accepting one form after another, just waiting for their reunion with the precious Krishna, who is standing by just waiting to associate with His children once again.

In Closing:

Life to crops rainy season gives,

Makes sure that on they can live.


In vulnerability enhanced is pleasure,

Arriving sustenance then fully treasured.


Devotee has a similar reliance,

Against maya they are in defiance.


Life-giver is the holy name,

Its sound gives vibrancy again.


Make devotion to God your only desire,

And through holy name remain inspired.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Embarrassing The Moon

Lord Rama“The nose, chin, forehead, lips, and teeth are beautiful. The entire body is so beautiful and enchanting that it embarrasses the full moon of the autumn season.” (Janaki Mangala, 52)

nāsā cibuka kapola adhara rada sundara |
basana sarada bidhu nindaka sahaja manohara ||

Shri Ramachandra, the hero of Raghu’s clan, is so kind and sweet that He doesn’t intend to harm anyone. He walks the virtuous path, and if there are any doubts, He relies on the advice and consent of the brahmanas, who are dedicated to Him in thought, word and deed. As God Himself, Rama doesn’t need to abide by any laws, but only to set a good example, to reveal His true nature of kindness and compassion, does He show the world that He is dedicated to virtue. In spite of His humble attitude and reserved demeanor, He serves to embarrass those things in life which are at the top of their respective fields.

The truly great ones don’t speak much. Only when one is unsure of themselves do they talk excessively, as their words of self-praise serve to buck up their own spirits more than anything else. If you see an athlete excessively celebrate or constantly pump themselves up, it should be taken as a sign of hesitancy, an indication of self-doubt. Those who are truly confident in their abilities have no need to pound their chest.

“My dear King Jarasandha, those who are heroes do not talk much. Rather, they show their prowess. Because you are talking much, it appears that you are assured of your death in this battle.” (Lord Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 49)

As the Supreme Lord is the greatest at everything, He in particular has no need to assert His dominance. He is already the owner of this and every land created, so what need is there to remind people? If, on the other hand, the dependents by constitutional position realize where they fit in and what line of work will give them the most lasting happiness, then only will they derive true pleasure. And from that happiness, the served entity, the one person constitutionally fit to accept an endless amount of affection from an unlimited number of people, feels pleasure as well.

Lord RamaThough Rama owns everything, He allows His children to borrow sections of His property for their own use. The sanctioned freedom is so great that the conditioned souls can even mistakenly believe that the property belongs to them, though they never did anything to create it. Though it’s expected that maybe God would be forgotten at the time of birth, at the very least the parents should get the credit for the hard work required to create the circumstances that exist when we emerge from the womb. Therefore the pitrs, or forefathers, are immediately owed a debt upon birth. With a proper understanding, the living entity can hopefully realize that all property belongs to God. Using our possessions for the Lord’s pleasure makes the temporary ownership fruitful.

Rama is also the strongest. With His impersonal energy He holds afloat the numerous planets. The sun is His creation, and it gives off so much heat and light that people are affected from thousands of miles away. Should the sun not be visible on a particular day, life on that specific section of the earth is drastically affected. Yet Rama never boasts about His strength, though He is stronger than anyone else. After much effort in the gym and a difficult to follow eating regimen, a human being may be able to lift a car or do something else physically extraordinary, yet Rama as a young child in the form of Krishna can lift up a hill without a problem. He can hold it up for seven consecutive days without breaking a sweat, though He ordinarily chooses to mask His strength to allow the offering of innocent affection from others.

Rama is the most famous. During His time on earth He was known throughout the world. His activities were so splendid that Maharishi Valmiki wrote about them before they took place. The sages of the time lived in the forests and thus they were not privy to the day-to-day news of the famous people around the world. There were no nightly celebrity shows or paparazzi to take pictures, yet everyone still knew about Rama and His wife Sita Devi. How their marriage was arranged became so famous that exalted personalities delighted in hearing the story again and again. Anasuya, the wife of Atri Rishi, asked to hear about the accounts directly from Sita, though the sage’s wife already knew what had happened.

“I have heard, O Sita, that your hand in marriage was won by the renowned Raghava on the occasion of the self-choice ceremony [svayamvara]. O Maithili, I wish to hear that story in detail. Therefore please narrate to me the entire sequence of events as you experienced them.” (Anasuya speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.24-25)

Sita meeting AnasuyaThough Rama is the most knowledgeable, He still bows down and pays obeisance to the respected elders. Rama kindly offered service to Vishvamitra Muni in the forest, though He had no need to take any instruction from anyone. As Krishna, the Supreme Lord accepted the loving affection from the parents Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda. A parent best offers their service when they think the child is dependent. As God is the embodiment of independence, who is there who can properly attend to His needs? Yet Krishna played the role of a dependent child to enhance the loving exchanges with His most cherished devotees.

On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Krishna sung the famous Bhagavad-gita only after Arjuna, the hesitant warrior, asked the Lord to settle his doubts. One could say that Krishna sat on that information for too long, but then again one has to be eager to listen to the highest truths of life in order to understand them. Krishna is the most knowledgeable, but He will not waste His time distributing knowledge to those who have no desire to act upon it. Arjuna was the perfect candidate, so the Lord kindly dispelled his doubts.

Rama is also the most renounced. During His time on earth, He gave up the throne of Ayodhya without any reservation. The order came from His father, but Rama was the rightful heir. The Lord’s younger brother Lakshmana even suggested taking over the throne by force, but Rama has no need for a high position. In the garb of an ascetic, roaming the forests Rama retained His resplendence. His two favorite companions, Sita and Lakshmana, were also extremely beautiful. That is the test to see if one is truly divine. Rama shines in all His glory wherever He is. He possesses renunciation to the fullest degree, so when stripped down from a higher post, the Lord is still Bhagavan, or the possessor of all opulences.

Rama’s beauty is His feature which He arguably downplays the most. The fruitive worker, mystic, and mental speculator are all searching for Rama, as they are attracted by His beauty. Yet the Lord doesn’t let this position affect His behavior. He is comfortable with who He is, so He doesn’t need to flaunt any of His gifts. With this humility, His beauty increases all the more, embarrassing those other objects in life that are considered naturally beautiful.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Goswami Tulsidas is again making a comparison to the Sharad Purnima, or the full moon of the autumn season. This moon is especially auspicious, as it shines bright in the night sky. It is the emblem of natural beauty, but Rama’s facial features and entire body seated in a throne in King Janaka’s kingdom were so beautiful that they embarrassed that full moon of the autumn.

Lord RamaRama was seated in a guest’s throne, as Vishvamitra had brought the brothers to Janaka’s kingdom to observe a ceremony. Janaka’s daughter Sita was to be given away in marriage to the first person who could lift Lord Shiva’s extremely heavy bow. Again, Rama is the strongest person, but out of humility, staying in line with His character, He did not volunteer to step up. He had no desire to embarrass the other kings who were confident in their ability to lift the bow and win Sita as a wife.

As reserved as Rama was, seated alongside His brother Lakshmana His distinguishable features could not be fully masked. The onlookers started to notice His beauty and how it defeated the pride of millions of cupids. The god of desire, Kamadeva, is the Vedic equivalent of cupid. The arrows he shoots instill desire for sense gratification in the struck targets. Rama is more powerful than cupid, and His beauty defeats anyone else’s.

Rama’s strength would soon defeat the pride of the invited princes, who had previously tried but failed to lift Shiva’s bow. In a swift motion, Rama would lift, string and then break Mahadeva’s bow, showing the world that only He was fit to marry Janaka’s daughter. That sort of humbling was good for everyone involved, as the more one learns about the Supreme Lord and their own position respective to Him, the better chance they will have to take up devotional service, the soul’s constitutional engagement.

In Closing:

Perfect were lips, forehead and chin,

Of Rama, who every contest does win.


This would be a strength test,

Lifter of bow to be declared the best.


His beauty Shri Rama first to show,

Enchanting vision onlookers to know.


More beautiful than the autumn moon,

That handsome youth to wed Sita soon.


Defeat from God is always good,

Position to Him better understood.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Real God

Lord Krishna“Those who know Me as the Supreme Lord, as the governing principle of the material manifestation, who know Me as the one underlying all the demigods and as the one sustaining all sacrifices, can, with steadfast mind, understand and know Me even at the time of death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.30)

The advaita property of the Supreme Absolute Truth says that no matter what we do or where we go, we are not separated from our beloved spiritual counterpart, who happens to be the origin of all matter and spirit. In that position He offers unflinching kindness, support for returning to His eternal land. His hand is always outstretched for our rescue, but unless there is a sober decision made to accept that aid, the rocky waters of the material ocean will continue to toss us around. The Vedic scriptures, especially its Bhagavad-gita, are meant to help even those who are not consciously aware of their need for rescue. But when understood in the wrong light, when heard from an unqualified presenter, even the Gita can have little positive influence.

How can this happen? If the equivalent of the Bible in the Vedic tradition has such profound information, why wouldn’t its presentation be universally applicable?

Though the Gita is a song sung by Lord Krishna on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, in its written form it comes down to words. And words mean things, so when they are twisted and said to mean something else, the entire presentation changes. For the honest souls who know the true purpose of Krishna’s teachings there is the added benefit that many of the same truths are presented elsewhere in Vedic literature. Indeed, every famous scripture, including the many Puranas, take the form of question and answer between an inquisitive disciple and an authority figure who teaches.

Bhagavad-gitaThe Bhagavad-gita is unique in that the teacher later reveals Himself to be the fountainhead of all knowledge. He is the origin of matter and spirit who can be realized in three different ways by the living entity, as He has expansions that are non-different from Him due to the advaita property. As Brahman, Krishna is understood to be an impersonal light. Brahman is the undivided nature that pervades space. It is very difficult to perceive because its outer covering is maya, which is illusion. Through maya’s influence alone we take ourselves to be superior to someone else or we think that we will never die. When maya’s influence is shed, when the cloud of nescience is removed, the true nature of the individual as Brahman is revealed. That same fragment of Brahman exists within all life forms; hence there is a oneness shared by all creatures.

The realization of Paramatma, or Supersoul, is next. In this understanding, the individual learns that there is a superior spiritual force within every living being that ensures that results to action can appear. The individual souls are all sparks of Brahman, and they take the impetus for action, but the rules of the game are not in their control. Think of the law of gravity. We know that gravity exists, and we can predict its influence, but we have no say so in the law itself. It operated before we were born and it will continue to function after we die. To say that we create or effect gravity is silly. That role is assigned to the Paramatma, which is the divine consciousness that directs the living beings, who are seated as on a machine.

“The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 18.61)

The highest realization is of Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is both Brahman and Paramatma, and He retains a separate spiritual identity. He has identifiable features that are not limiting. Bhagavan has no eyes but He can see everything. He has no ears but He can hear every prayer. He has no mouth but He can accept every food item offered in loving devotion. Bhagavan is the very same God most of the world knows as an abstract concept, but His features are more clearly drawn out. Shri Krishna is Bhagavan, and so His speaking of the Bhagavad-gita represents one of the most notable events in history. In all other Vedic texts, one of Bhagavan’s representatives delivers the information, which is flawless in its own right. But only in the Gita is the fact revealed that the speaker is the same God, the object of worship in sanatana-dharma, or the eternal occupation of man.

Krishna speaking to ArjunaThat uniqueness is worth mentioning because the Bhagavad-gita today is the most popular and widely translated Vedic text. The fact that it is read by non-devotees is another indication of Krishna’s opulence, as He is the most famous. At the same time, the original presentation was intended for a specific audience, namely a devotee named Arjuna. That conversation was recorded by Vyasadeva, a literary incarnation of Bhagavan, in the Mahabharata, which is a much lengthier work commonly referred to as the fifth branch of the original Veda. The Mahabharata is intended for the ears of the pious souls, who are not jealous of God. The Bhagavad-gita can thus be thought of as a confidential letter from teacher to student, or friend to friend due to the relationship between Krishna and Arjuna at the time. That letter was made public but only for the right kind of recipient.

A person outside the mood of devotion would never be able to understand the essence of the Gita, as people who are not privy to our relationships with our friends and family would never understand the intimate communication we have with them. The unscrupulous cheaters and pseudo gurus of the modern age love to teach from the Bhagavad-gita, and because they don’t have the same level of devotion as Arjuna, the Gita’s original recipient, they fail to understand the essence of the work: that devotion to God, who is a separate entity who is always related to us because of His property of non-duality, is the highest occupation for man.

In their erroneous commentaries they will say that the living entities are all God, that the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, Paramatma, are one and the same. “Through enough renunciation and knowledge, vairagya and jnana, the individual can merge with the supreme and thus achieve oneness.” Some of the teachers claim to be God themselves, which is quite interesting. Krishna presented the Gita in such a way that many of the commonly known Vedic truths were first offered to Arjuna. This means that descriptions of the principles of detachment, duty, reincarnation, and modes of nature can be found elsewhere in Vedic literature.

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

Yet in the other famous Vedic texts, why don’t the teachers claim to be God? Why don’t they show the universal form, the virat-rupa, to their students when offering instruction? Why don’t they claim to be the origin of life and matter, the essence of every object? Krishna says that He is the taste in water, the fragrance of the earth, the penance of the ascetic, and the life of all living beings. Why can’t we find other authority figures on the Vedas, like Lord Shiva, King Janaka, Prahlada Maharaja, and Lord Brahma, saying the same things? Indeed, we know that Brahma is the creator, that every creature can trace their ancestry back to him. If anyone has a right to claim a high standing, it would be Brahma, but he never does this. His son Narada Muni is likely the greatest reformer in history, a saint who teaches bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, so vigorously and fearlessly that sometimes parents are angered by his words, for they fear that their children will give up worldly life and take to devotion at a young age. Yet Narada never claims to be God, so how dare anyone else, especially someone who expounds on the Gita without being a devotee of Krishna?

The validity resulting from implementation of accepted principles establishes a teacher’s status as an authority figure. From the effectiveness of the foundational principle of the Bhagavad-gita, namely devotion to God, we can understand that Krishna is an authority figure, and through the bliss that repeatedly comes from connecting with Him in a mood of love, we know that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That kind chariot driver helped Arjuna dispel his doubts on that famous day on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, and He can remove all our doubts as to the position of God and our relationship to Him. Krishna’s instructions are all we need to find enlightenment in life, and His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, are all we need for happiness.

In Closing:

Ancient Vedic teachers there were many,

But claimed to be God there were not any.


Only Krishna this did say,

To Arjuna that fateful day.


Same truths in other texts found,

Of Vedanta philosophy, knowledge profound.


But Krishna is God and thus unique,

Teacher who gives knowledge we seek.


Non-devoted commentators others do cheat,

Know that devotion to Krishna their claims to defeat.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If You Look Close Enough

Sita Devi“She had a beautiful splendor that was barely discernible, like a flame of a fire enveloped in smoke.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.20)

manda prakhyāyamānena rūpeṇa rucira prabhām |
pinaddhām dhūma jālena śikhām iva vibhāvasoḥ ||

Such is the nature of the world we live in that the immaculate radiance indicative of the divine presence is purposefully clouded in order to further the flawed notion of the individual being supreme, ignoring the spotless opulence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and His closest associates. Yet despite the best efforts of the most crafty cheaters, who will even resort to using the Lord’s scriptures to prove their fatally flawed theories, the blissful association with God that is every soul’s birthright can be had. Using his vision in a manner akin to the supreme swan separating milk from a mixture of milk and water, Shri Hanuman spotted Lord Rama’s beautiful wife in the Ashoka garden. The female Rakshasas nobly tried to mask her beautiful radiance, but to Shri Hanuman the divine presence never goes unnoticed.

Why would anyone purposefully try to cover the influence of the Supreme Lord? The default position is actually one based in ignorance, so there is an uphill climb starting from the time the individual emerges from the womb. We know that there is ignorance with regards to moving, walking, talking, and reading and writing as well. These abilities have to be learned through experience and explicit instruction. In the absence of that training, the individual will not reach their true potential for intelligence.

The instruction typically relates to surviving in the world, being able to provide for basic necessities. You go to school to get an education to get a good job later on in life, which will enable you to put food on the table, have a roof over your head, and enjoy with your friends and family. But instruction is supposed to go one step further. The truly wise person questions the purpose of their birth, the reason they have to follow the pattern of education and work. Why should we have to work so hard to eat, sleep, mate and defend when the lower animals do the same things but don’t work nearly as hard? They don’t go to school and they don’t have to worry about marriage. For them children are loved automatically and housing is found in the wilderness. That being the case, why should the human being be burdened with so much?

Through asking enough questions, one eventually reaches the defining issue: identity. “Who am I? Did my existence start at birth and will it cease at death? Why do I have to die? Where do people go after death?” These questions and more are answered in the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India. There is information about divine figures and rituals and regulations in the Vedic texts, as is quite common in any tradition of spirituality. But there is also an in-depth presentation on the identity of the individual and the reason for the various shifts. The many species are also accounted for, as the pure spirit soul, the jiva, accepts different combinations of matter based on past desires and work.

We know that there is a soul because we see that the hands, legs and other body parts move at the direction of the owner of the body. The different parts can stop working, but the living entity continues to exist. Therefore identity cannot be sourced in the body parts. There is also the ability to act unintelligently, i.e. do stupid things. Thus there is also some reliance on intelligence, which must come from a superior being. We get knowledge from our teachers, but there is a higher force that resides within that has more influence than we do. He is known as the Supersoul, or Paramatma, and it is through His sanction that results manifest.

“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.23)

Krishna speaking to ArjunaMore complete and powerful than Paramatma is Bhagavan, who is the original controller. Everything comes from Bhagavan, including Paramatma and Brahman, the sum collection of spirit that pervades the many universes. The living entities are sparks of Brahman, so they are all constitutionally equal. This is a lot to digest in one sitting, so in the Vedic tradition the principles are learned through steady practice that ideally begins at a young age. The life of a student is known as brahmacharya because the realization of Brahman is supposed to result from the instructional period.

These truths seem logical enough and they are presented nicely in the Vedic texts, with the most thorough discussion found in the Bhagavad-gita, which happens to be spoken by Bhagavan Himself, Shri Krishna. He is the same God that everyone else worships, except since He is all-attractive, He is described as such by the people who love Him. Despite the availability of this information, the tendency is to ignore God, to eliminate His influence from life. Indeed, without education on the nature of spirit and its position above matter, the living entity will take himself to be God. Seems rather silly just based on the fact that man is mortal, but knowledge of danger doesn’t always prevent someone from following a particular path. The drunkard knows that intoxication leads to negative consequences, but they follow through with their drinking nonetheless. The temptations for illicit sex are known to produce illegitimate children - which can be an unwelcome responsibility for those who aren’t ready for it - but the forbidden conjugal relations take place anyway.

The tendency for ignoring God is so strong that even amongst so-called followers of the Vedas there is every attempt made to deny the Supreme Lord’s influence. The last snare of the material energy known as maya is the philosophy of Mayavada, which takes everything in the world to be false. This includes the bodies of the incarnations of Bhagavan, who are known as avataras. Under the Mayavada philosophy, Brahman is the highest realization and since everyone is a part of Brahman, every person is God. The whole collection just broke up to make the different individuals, and through merging back together everything will be okay again.

There is no doubting that every one of us is part of Brahman, but there is still a higher being. Bhagavan’s advaita property reveals that He is non-different from His energies, but at the same time we can never be God. We are part of His definition, but never are we the supreme controllers. The Mayavada philosophy and its imitators tragically rob their followers of the chance to associate with Bhagavan and His devotees. Such an association brings the bliss, or ananda, that every spirit soul is looking for. Indeed, true oneness with the Absolute Truth means merging into an ocean transcendental nectar created through divine service, wherein both parties assume their ideal roles.

And what are those roles? Bhagavan is to be served and the fragmental sparks emanating from Him are meant to provide the service. Whether we like it or not, this is the ideal situation and the further one deviates from the constitutional position, the more pain and misery they will find. To show how the ideal service manifests, the pleasure potency expansions and the most beloved servants take up that service in front of the eyes of the souls conditioned by material nature. Their implementation of service is kindly noted down by pure-hearted onlookers, who then pass that information down in the scriptures.

“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.”  (Lord Krishna, Bg. 15.7)

Shri Hanuman is such a wonderful servant that in many ways he is honored more than God. The same is true with Sita Devi, the beloved wife of Lord Rama. Hanuman was tasked with finding Sita by Rama Himself. The courageous Vanara made it into the enemy territory of Lanka, but he still couldn’t find Rama’s wife. She was taken away from her husband’s side against her will by the ogre-king of Lanka, Ravana. Hanuman anticipated Sita not being in a pleasant state of mind, but he did not expect her to be so withered.

He finally spotted her in a beautiful park of trees situated next to Ravana’s palace. She was in bad shape, but through the external distractions Hanuman could find divine beauty. And from what he could see, he could tell that the woman was Sita. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we get further information on what Sita looked like at the time. Her clothes were soiled, she was sighing repeatedly, and she was surrounded by female ogres ordered to intimidate her. They were acting at Ravana’s command, as the king was upset that Sita refused to give in to him.

It is said that Sita did have a beautiful radiance, but it was barely discernible, like the flame of a fire surrounded by thick smoke. The smoke in this case refers to the soiled garment worn by the princess, along with her withered body due to fasting and, of course, the hideous looking flesh-eating female ogres that surrounded her. In this picture, everything was trying to cloud the beauty of Rama’s wife. The situation at hand was conducive to forgetting God, to moving on to another area to continue in the search.

But Hanuman is a paramahamsa, which is the word used to describe the highest transcendentalist. The word translates to “supreme swan”, and it references the swan’s ability to extract what it needs from a mixture. In this case the mixture was the combination of the unpleasant conditions and the goddess of fortune herself, Sita Devi. From that mixture, Hanuman could extract the splendorous daughter of King Janaka, so accurate was his vision. Everything else about the park made it conducive for Sita’s residence there, as she loved to live in the pristine forest. It was because of this that Hanuman was certain he’d finally find her. He did, but he would have to cut through the thick smoke surrounding her first.

Know that despite the tendency towards forgetting God and the undesirable influence of the cheating spiritualists, God’s presence can be felt and taken full advantage of within this very lifetime. Just the fact that we can hear about Hanuman and Sita means that there is supreme nectar to be tasted within this world full of polluted mixtures. To keep the company of the saints and their cherished objects of worship, the real paramahamsas of today chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Know that through hearing and chanting, which serve as the bedrock of bhakti-yoga, Bhagavan can be realized and the eternal occupational duty of the soul reinstated.

In Closing:

Water and milk together are mixed,

But the swan has the problem fixed.


The milky portion it can take,

The unwanted water to forsake.


With life Paramahamsa does the same thing,

Can see the divine presence in everything.


Inauspicious signs all around,

For Sita sitting on bare ground.


But through the smoke Hanuman to see,

Rama’s wife, like beautiful fire was she.

Monday, July 9, 2012

No Ordinary Liar

Lord Krishna“Krishna presented Himself as an innocent child to increase the transcendental ecstasy of maternal affection. As described in the shastra, tadana-bhayan mithyoktir vatsalya-rasa-poshika. This means that sometimes a small child speaks lies. For example, he may have stolen something or eaten something and yet deny that he has done so.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.8.35)

“Mom, look into My mouth. That way you’ll know that My friends are lying to you. Why would I eat dirt? That’s not something I’m fond of doing.” Everyone knows that Krishna likes to eat butter, for He has no problem taking it from places that are off-limits. The refrigerator is the place to store food items to be used in the preparation of dishes later on, but sometimes you will open it up to grab something quick to eat. But the pantry filled with flour, spices and other items not to be consumed raw is a different story. Those items are only used in prepared ingredients; they’re not meant to satisfy immediate hunger.

In Vrindavana several thousands of years ago, butter was kept safely in rooms so that it wouldn’t go bad. The butter was very important to the dishes prepared in this farm community, and since the cows provided this item, so much care and attention was given to them. The term “sacred cow” is now used to describe something that can’t be touched or something very important to a particular person, but the reference to the cow protection offered by followers of the Vedic tradition needn’t be considered strange.

In civilized nations dogs and cats are not killed and eaten. So many other varieties of animals are sent to slaughterhouses to retrieve meat to be cooked for both elaborate and not so elaborate meals. But if a cat or dog is killed without cause, the owners will take the act to be equivalent to murder. A famous athlete in recent times went to jail for hosting fighting events with dogs, but the real cause of the subsequent public outcry was the treatment of the dogs after they would lose a fight.

Is “sacred dog” or “sacred cat” a term? These animals run around the house like they live there, and the owners gladly reach down to the ground to pick up the remnants of their trips to the bathroom. So there is certainly special treatment offered, but the behavior is only considered odd when it is offered to cows, who provide so much to humankind.

Krishna and Balarama with cowThe precious cows of Vrindavana were pleased when they would see their calves, and since they knew they were in peaceful circumstances they would produce so much milk as a result. There was plenty to go around, enough to feed the calves and the residents of the town. The cows also were delighted whenever they saw the beautiful boy of mother Yashoda and Maharaja Nanda. They produced milk immediately upon seeing Him, such was their love for Him.

This young child too was fond of the cows, and since He gave them pleasure, He was sometimes addressed as Govinda. He liked not only the cows but also their products, especially their milk and butter. He would raid the supplies of butter in the homes of the neighbors because the butter tasted so good. It gave Him pleasure, so why not take some? The child is known, after all, for searching after preyas, or immediate satisfaction. Maturity is the prerequisite for putting in the hard work necessary for shreyas, or long term benefit.

Yashoda’s son was also known as Krishna because of His unique attractiveness. A bluish complexion looked just right for this young child, who was so beautiful that no one wanted to take their eyes off of Him. His friends also watched His every move, so one day they approached His mother with an interesting story. In front of a higher authority, they accused Krishna of eating dirt, thinking that the naughty boy who had gotten away with so much before was now finally going to get punished for real. If not punished, at least He’d get admonished, told that what He did was wrong.

When put into this situation that He purposefully created, Krishna could have confessed to the accusation. “Yes, I ate dirt. Sorry. I didn’t know what I was doing.” But that would have served little purpose. Maybe it would have created another way to interact with the loving mother, but Krishna wanted to increase her transcendental affection even more. It is known that children sometimes lie when they get in trouble, and when they are so innocent in that way, not knowing that their lie will be exposed quickly, the parents derive so much happiness.

The ultimate reservoir of pleasure and the origin of knowledge knew this, so He carefully orchestrated events in such a way that the loving mother would feel tremendous pleasure watching her son apparently lie to get His way out of trouble. It was not known whether Krishna had actually eaten dirt; the boys could have fabricated the entire event to get Him into trouble. Regardless, Krishna’s denial of the accusation would lead Yashoda towards a divine vision, one which she deserved to see. If He had admitted to the act, the excuse for revealing that unique vision would not have come.

Krishna2It’s not like Krishna was going around inviting everyone to come and look into His mouth. Why draw attention in that way? Why not let everyone love Him in their mood of choice? If there is awe and reverence, there is some veil of separation. You will likely want to keep your distance with someone that you respect so much. What if they don’t respect you back? What if they disappoint you with their words? Or worse, what if you offend them with your behavior? Better to just play it safe and worship from afar.

But the object of pleasure derives more happiness when the interaction is close. When the person offering the service does so without inhibition, the exchange of emotions is more meaningful. The innocent child apparently telling a small fib brought the mother closer, inviting her to see an enchanting vision. Krishna caused Yashoda to look into His mouth to see if He was telling the truth. When she looked inside, she saw the entire universe, with its many planets and stars. She couldn’t believe the depths of the creation. How could all this be seen inside the mouth of a tiny boy?

Krishna’s lying and Krishna’s telling the truth are on the same level. They both serve a purpose. When they are directed at the devotees, those who love the Lord, the aim is to always bring them closer, to break down the walls of politeness and etiquette and reach a new level of closeness. The vision of the universal form shook the mother for a second, reminding her that her son was not normal. At the same time, her concern for Him only increased, and she had more reasons to think about Him.

The more we can think of her beloved son, the better off we’ll be. The Vedic literatures exist to facilitate this opportunity, but even if we don’t have a Shrimad Bhagavatam or Bhagavad-gita handy, we can bring to mind that delight of Vrindavana by regularly chanting His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In Closing:

Was Krishna telling the truth or lying?

To get Him in trouble were His friends trying?


No matter whether He ate dirt or not,

Even for lying Krishna reasons has got.


This time for an enchanting vision to see,

The universal form, all that ever will be.


Mother Yashoda this gift was granted,

Always by Krishna’s play enchanted.


Pleasure He gives even when He’s a liar,

Devotional service His love does inspire.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Weapon of Prema

Lord Rama“On His forehead, situated between the eyebrows, there is the beautiful tilaka which looks like an arrow from Kamadeva’s bow. His earrings are so beautiful that when looking at them the mind becomes very happy.” (Janaki Mangala, 51)

tilaku lalita sara bhrukuṭī kāma kamānai |
śravana bibhūṣana rūcira dekhi mana mānai ||

When the warrior releases his weapon, the intent is usually to cause pain to someone else. Though the release of the weapon defeats an enemy of the innocent, and thereby does an overall good, the act itself still belongs to the category of violence. With the god of love, the weapon released from his bow causes the target to develop amorous feelings, which are enhanced by the onset of the spring season. The same type of weapon exists on the forehead of the Supreme Lord, except what is instilled is loving devotion furthered by a captivating beauty that one never wants to forget.

In the Vedic tradition the god of love, or desire, is known as Kamadeva. He is the equivalent to the commonly known cupid. It should be noted that though cupid can be called the matchmaker in love, the word kama itself is not exactly related to love. In Sanskrit prema is the closest equivalent to love, but it has a specific connotation. The affection in prema must be directed in a pure mood, where there is no expectation of reciprocation. Moreover, it must not be hinged upon some benefit to be received later on.

Kama is different in this regard. Kama can be translated to mean desire, sense gratification, or lust. Thus the conjugal affairs between members of the various species are based strictly on personal sense gratification. What satisfies us today may not do the trick in the future. Today I may crave a few slices of pizza from my favorite shop, but were I to eat that same food day after day, after a while I’d probably want something else.

pizzaTaste changes with maturation as well. In childhood perhaps we liked sugar drinks and junk food. As you get older, you have different tastes and concerns. Through the experiences accumulated in life, you get a new way of thinking, and your priorities shift as well. Dieting is introduced in adulthood because there is concern paid to the intake of food. The pleasure aspect of eating expands to incorporate the effect had on energy and the level of comfort within the stomach.

The same principle of changing tastes applies to amorous relationships. Therefore it is not surprising that there are common “break ups” and divorces. You may love someone today, but if they anger you enough, show you enough disrespect, you will want to break that relationship off. Divorce should be a rare occurrence, as the relationship was previously codified through marriage, where vows were made to honor, protect, defend, and serve until death did part you. The definition of death gets humorously broadened when the relationship can be severed many years before you actually depart this earth.

The break ups are difficult to deal with, as there are even feature length movies made about them. But despite the relationship ending, the same desire for conjugal affairs continues. The spirit of kama does not abate; it just shifts its target. Kamadeva, as the deity presiding over sense gratification, can shoot his arrows and arouse those strong feelings within people. When the lusty desires strengthen, one can go about trying to satisfy them with whatever is in close proximity. Thus Kama’s influence is quite strong.

It takes a dedicated renunciate to defeat Kama. Lord Shiva, the deity in charge of the mode of ignorance, once had an encounter with Kama’s shafts. Cupid tried to instill passion in Lord Shiva so that a child could be born, as this was the request of the demigods. Though a deity who can grant benedictions to others, Lord Shiva is not interested in kama or artha, which is economic development. His pleasure comes from hearing the name of Rama, so He regularly chants that name, over and over again as if his life depended on it.

From that chanting a deep meditational trance develops. If you’re secured in a “happy zone”, will you not be angered if someone tries to break you out of it? This is what happened with Lord Shiva when he was attacked by Kamadeva. In retaliation, Lord Shiva glanced at cupid and burned him instantly with his look. As he was only doing the bidding of the demigods, Kamadeva was granted reprieve by being allowed to take birth in the future as Pradyumna, the son of Lord Krishna. Krishna is the same Rama that Shankara Bhagavan cherishes. The Lord appeared on earth many years after Rama did, and with Pradyumna, Kamadeva’s wife Rati was reunited with her husband. The story of Pradyumna’s birth and his reunion with Rati is nicely described in the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, with a highly readable version of the entire canto presented in the book, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead,  by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Krishna bookPrema is different from kama, but the comparison to Kamadeva is made by Goswami Tulsidas in the above quoted verse from the Janaki Mangala to show the effect Rama has on people. The Supreme Lord is with a form, though there is polymorphism with His avataras. The incarnations are expansions from the original personality, so they retain the same divine qualities, but their visible manifestations and functions may vary. As Rama, the Supreme Lord is in the beautiful form of a warrior prince, whose vision enchants the devoted souls.

When Kamadeva shoots his arrows, unless one is as strong as Lord Shiva in dedication to devotional service, they will be instilled with amorous feelings and ready to act upon them. Shri Rama, through His facial features, shoots similar types of arrows, but the poison these weapons carry is prema. Once infected, you cannot be cured, as you belong to God for the rest of your life. You can’t help but be enchanted by His beautiful figure, His activities, and His names. The disease of prema is the best one to have because it doesn’t lead you astray. Instead, it brings you the happiness you have been searching after for many lifetimes.

“Let Krishna tightly embrace this maidservant who has fallen at His lotus feet, or let Him trample Me or break My heart by never being visible to Me. He is a debauchee, after all, and can do whatever He likes, but still He alone, and no one else, is the worshipable Lord of My heart.”  (Lord Chaitanya quoting Shrimati Radharani, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.47)

Even if you should forget about Rama after being shot by His arrows, you will never be totally away from Him. Prema works unconditionally, so whether Bhagavan reciprocates on the affection shown to Him is of no concern. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the preacher incarnation of Godhead, offered a nice set of prayers once in the mood of Krishna’s consort Radharani, where she stated that Krishna, her cherished Lord, could do with her what He wanted. Mahaprabhu’s only desire was to continue in His service, similar to how Lord Shiva continues to mutter the sacred syllables that make up Rama’s holy name.

What kinds of arrows does Rama shoot at His devotees? In the above referenced verse, Tulsidas compares the tilaka mark on the Lord’s forehead to an arrow. The curved eyebrows give the appearance of a bow that has just released the tilaka arrow. Since these features are on the face of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the effect they have is the spreading of prema. Only the devoted soul can pick up on these comparisons, as they take supreme delight in the divine vision.

Lord RamaRama’s earrings are beautiful as well. One who looks at them becomes so happy within the mind. Though the earrings are ornaments, their beauty is enhanced by Rama, and not the other way around. Typically we dress something nicely to increase its outward beauty. You put on a nice suit and people will notice you more than if you were to wear a sweatshirt and shorts. With Rama, when you put ornaments on His body, the ornaments become more beautiful. A similar description was given in the Shrimad Bhagavatam with respect to Lord Krishna’s body.

“My dear sir, Krishna's form was most wonderful when He appeared on this planet and exhibited the potency of His internal energy. His wonderfully attractive form was present during His pastimes on this planet, and by His internal potency He exhibited His opulences, which are striking to everyone. His personal beauty was so great that there was no necessity for His wearing ornaments on His body. In fact, instead of the ornaments' beautifying Krishna, Krishna's beauty enhanced the ornaments.” (Uddhava speaking to Vidura, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.2.12)

The arrow that was the tilaka was shot at the pure hearted onlookers in King Janaka’s assembly. Kings from around the world were gathered in Janaka’s city to attempt to lift Lord Shiva’s bow. Whoever was first to lift it would win Sita’s hand in marriage. Sita Devi was Janaka’s beloved daughter, the goddess of fortune herself. Through their interest in seeing who Sita was going to marry, so many people were infused with prema. Rama, a youth at the time, stood out amidst all the other princes. Rama was there with His younger brother Lakshmana and their preceptor Vishvamitra. It was Vishvamitra who had brought them there, so he deserved some of the credit for so many people rekindling the bhakti spirit through the vision of Rama and Lakshmana.

Just by imagining Rama’s tilaka and thinking of it as an arrow of prema shot from the bow of the enchanter of cupid, one can receive the same effect. If you see that your friend is sick with a cold and that his mother is tending to him nicely with hearty food preparations and a comfortable resting place, you almost wish that you were sick yourself, so that you could get the same treatment. In the same way, by hearing of the fortune of the residents of Janakpur one almost hopes to find dire circumstances so that the Supreme Lord, as He promises to do in the Bhagavad-gita, will come to the scene and protect the innocent who are being harassed.

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

Whether we know it or not, that helpless condition already exists, and so does the soothing presence of the delight of Maharaja Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya. The vision of Rama’s tilaka is needed because without such spiritual nectar, the mind is left vulnerable to the attacks of Kamadeva and his arrows. Lord Shiva showed the way by constantly chanting the holy names, and Lord Chaitanya taught the world the proper mood in which to chant those names. Thus by chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, repeatedly and in a humble state, Rama’s arrows of love will surely come to our rescue.

In Closing:

Eyebrows combined with sacred mark,

Looked like arrow from bow ready to dart.


This symbolic shaft on Rama’s head,

Not like kama, to shoot prema instead.


Good it is by this arrow to be hit,

Disease of unending devotion it inflicts.


This vision seen by all who were present,

In Janaka’s court, well-wishing residents.


Same Rama can come to the rescue today,

Think of Him and His names always say.