Saturday, August 25, 2012

Alert the Authorities

Lord Rama“One person is saying: ‘This person is an unmarried youth, while Lord Shiva’s great bow is heavy and hard. How can a childlike swan carry a mountain? Why hasn’t anyone told the king about this?’” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 7.2)

eka kahahiṃ kunvarū kisora kulisa kaṭhora siva dhanu hai mahā |
kimi lehiṃ bāla marāla mandara nṛpahiṃ asa kāhum̐ na kahā ||

“It’s David versus Goliath. This bow is as hard as steel and so heavy that the most powerful princes in the world can’t even move it. They have come from far and wide to participate in the contest, but the bow is besting them, like a formidable foe whose strength is too great to overcome. Now this beautiful prince, who is of a tender age and unmarried, is expected to try His hand at lifting the bow? He will get embarrassed. Can a young swan move a mountain? That is pretty much what the king expects this youth to do. Why hasn’t anyone notified the king? He should not allow this to happen.”

Some of the onlookers at the contest were so much in love with the jewel of the Raghu dynasty that they worried over His embarrassment and also His suffering. We would never expect a child to lift up an automobile. Forget the fact that they won’t be able to move the car, the primary concern is over their safety. Why should they risk getting hurt doing something that is impossible? The Supreme Personality of Godhead gives off the innocence of a young helpless child, yet even within that form He can do wonders. The entire universe can be seen within His mouth, so why should He have difficulty lifting up a bow?

Though He was a youth during the time of this incident, before this event, when He was even younger, Lord Rama, King Dasharatha’s eldest son, played happily in the royal courtyard in Ayodhya. Just as in Janaka’s kingdom, the onlookers in Ayodhya were amazed at the sight of Rama. So beautiful, delicate, handsome and charming was He that none could believe that a human being could assume such a form. The devoted bird Kakabhushundi once came close to the young Rama. After being chased he was eventually swallowed by the boy. Rama did this both for His own fun and the bird’s.

What the bird saw within Rama’s mouth was astounding: the entire cosmos, the universal form - at least a version of it. The eyes can’t properly fathom the length and breadth of the entire creation. Picture looking at the world’s largest number and trying to decipher its value. With commas placed in the right positions the number would still be impossible to understand. As another exercise, try looking at a container of straws and then guessing how many are in there. Look at a box of jellybeans and try to come up with an accurate count. You could put forth a guess, but your eyes have really no way of ascertaining the count of unique items.

If that limitation exists with something in our immediate vicinity, imagine then how paltry our understanding of the universe is. The universe is far more complex than we think. A few automobiles driven in a particular area may have an impact on the surrounding environment, but climate as a whole operates on a much larger scale. More formidable than the earth is the galaxy, and larger than a galaxy is the universe. That entire creation is but one representation of the Supreme Lord, who appeared in Ayodhya as the young prince named Rama.

Many thousands of years later, the same Rama would return to earth in His manifestation of Shyamasundara, the beautiful Lord Krishna, the son of Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja. Similar loving feelings were directed at God this time around, and again the youthful appearance did not prevent the Supreme Lord from performing miraculous feats. There were the attacks by the Putana witch, the demon using the whirlwind, and the asura who took the form of a bull. These were but a few of the wicked characters who tried to kill Krishna while He was still a young child, but even in that form the Lord was able to defend Himself.

In Janakpur on this famous day, the people watching over the festivities worried that the young Rama, accompanied by His younger brother Lakshmana, would fail in the contest and maybe get hurt in the process. The delicate features of the youthful delight of mother Kausalya masked the known fact that the exalted sage Vishvamitra had previously insisted on Rama to be his protector. The sage was very powerful from his austerity. He knew very well of Rama’s abilities, and he also knew that there were others around to protect him. King Dasharatha insisted on bringing his entire royal army into the forest to protect the munis, but Vishvamitra said that he only needed Rama. Lakshmana came along as well, for if you get Rama you get Lakshmana always. The two are like twins, with Lakshmana fair in skin color and Rama dark.

Some residents of Janakpur were so afraid of Rama failing to lift the bow that they wondered why no one had alerted King Janaka to the potential trouble. The contest was to determine the husband for his beautiful daughter, Sita Devi. A king is a protector first and foremost. If he were true to his role, Janaka would protect Rama from the heavy bow, which would overcome His strength. At least this was the feeling of the kind-hearted devotees observing the scene.

They hadn’t been acknowledged devotees for long. Upon first sight of Rama and Lakshmana entering the kingdom with Vishvamitra the viewers could tell there was something special about them. These youths were so beautiful in appearance that they couldn’t be of this earth. Rama was the perfect match for Sita, and for this match to materialize He had to win the contest. But if He lost, if Lord Shiva’s bow bested Him, He would automatically become ineligible to wed the goddess of fortune.

Rama lifting Shiva's bowThe youthful form with its delicate features made the ensuing act of the Supreme Personality of Godhead all the more pleasurable to the eyes. Rama would calmly step into the arena and easily lift the bow. In the process of stringing the bow, He would break it. Has anyone heard of a swan breaking a mountain? With the Supreme Lord, these seemingly impossible feats are child’s play. He can break things with His youthful figure, and He can smile gently while fighting with the enemy.

Rama’s most remarkable strength is found within His name. Just by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the sweetheart who won Janaki’s hand in marriage arrives on the scene to give pleasure. Those names form the subject matter of the couplets and verses which describe the original event. Hearing those verses paints the picture of the original scene within the mind, giving the eyes a feast of deserved delights.

How does Rama do it? How does His name carry His personal presence? Hearing is believing in the Vedic tradition. The ancient scriptures of India pass on sublime wisdom to be used in achieving the highest end. Through sound connect with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Though to us the sound of the Absolute Truth is absent form, since it addresses a personality with divine features it can carry out the same miraculous feats that the original person can. Rama is always destined to be with Sita, despite what the external circumstances may portend. In the same way, no matter our plight or personal condition, the holy name can rescue us from the ocean of material suffering.

In Closing:

The youth who from Ayodhya was sent,

To be always together with Sita is meant.


What external conditions portend don’t bother,

Youthful form to the Supreme Lord no matter.


As a delicate swan people of Janakpur Rama saw,

Lifting mountain-like bow would break nature’s law.


But for God in any form all He can do,

Can kill demons while smiling too.


Within His holy name the same power exists,

Chant it for despair and dismay to resist.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Grant Our Wish

Sita and Rama's marriage“Everyone is getting the fruit of their eyes for having taken birth. They all pray to Lord Shiva, ‘May that beautiful, dark youth marry Sita so that I can happily sing about the auspiciousness.’” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 7.1)

jaga janami loyana lāhu pāe sakala sivahi manāvahiṃ |
barū milau sītahi sānvaro hama haraṣi mangala gāvahīṃ ||

The women can’t believe what they are seeing. “Where has such a beautiful youth come from? He looks so innocent. He is completely different from the other princes gathered here today. He possesses features in paradoxical combinations. He is kind and sweet, and yet it appears that He can rid the entire world of the demon race. He is in such a youthful figure, but His long arms show signs of immense strength. He is dark in complexion, but this has done nothing to take away from His beauty. He is seated on a throne as a welcomed guest, but He is unmarried, so He is most certainly eligible to marry Sita, which is the reason we are all gathered here today. He has a younger brother who looks like an identical twin except for the skin color. Therefore there is something unique about this boy. He must win this contest and wed our beloved Janaki.”

The women received the fruit of their eyes; a benefit that results from taking birth. The bodily features exist for a reason and they develop after one exits the womb. It is difficult to keep track of this fact, that we have a higher purpose to fulfill, because life in a material existence involves constant fear. “Am I going to do well in school? Will I pass the test? Will I get a good job when I get older? What about my position relative to others? They look like they are so happy making the amount of money they do. I’m equally as smart, if not smarter, so why shouldn’t I make as much money? But then what about my other priorities? How can I balance the need to provide for my family with actually spending time with them?”

As every living being who takes birth is headed for the same destination, that of eventual death, all that happens in between must have a tangible purpose, something which provides a lasting effect. As a mental exercise, think of yourself on your deathbed, knowing that you don’t have much longer to live. What would you want to think about? No more concerns over work, money, school, or the pressing needs of the day. Instead, this is a time for retrospection, to look back on what you did, to see if you maximized the time you spent on this earth.

For the people in Janakpur on this famous day, they realized immediately why they had been given eyes and why those eyes were a blessing from the time of birth. The pleasure from seeing Rama and Lakshmana was so strong that these revelations naturally awoke. The delight to the eyes was heavenly and humbling at the same time. The women wanted to see the two youths every day for the rest of their lives, and just as the people in Ayodhya had previously prayed for the boys’ welfare, the women here wanted the elder to emerge victorious in the contest.

The youths left home at the request of Vishvamitra Muni, who was being harassed in the forests by ghoulish creatures who changed shapes at will. Sort of like terrorists who don civilian clothes to lure in innocent people for attack, these night-rangers had no scruples. They would target the innocent, renounced sages of the forest, kill them, and then eat their flesh. King Dasharatha was a world famous fighter at the time, so he was ready to help Vishvamitra when asked.

Ah, but the sage wanted Dasharatha’s eldest son Rama. No need for the entire army, just the jewel of the Raghu dynasty would suffice. If you get Rama, you get Lakshmana too. There is no way to avoid it. Lakshmana will not leave the side of his brother unless absolutely ordered to do so, and even then he will put up a fight. Not that he interacts with Rama in a spirit of friendship or that they spend hours on end talking with each other. Just Rama’s company alone makes Lakshmana happy, as it does for the entire creation.

Rama is the Supreme Lord, the Absolute Truth in a personal form. The original feature of God is always personal, in spite of what may be taught by less intelligent spiritualists. That same original personal form kindly expands into the Supersoul to accompany every living entity in their travels through a material existence. The recognition of the Supersoul and the effort taken to connect with Him bring transcendental pleasure. Sometimes that same Supersoul appears in a personal form to give the eyes an idea of what God looks like and what results from that recognition.

The love offered to Rama and Lakshmana was innocent and heartfelt; the sentiments were genuine and not rooted in an awe-inspired viewpoint. As the brothers left for the forest, the people of the town of Ayodhya prayed for their welfare, that not a single hair from their heads would fall while bathing. They also prayed that they would return successful, as that would enhance the fame of the family.

Rama and Lakshmana fighting TatakaAfter defeating many Rakshasas in the forest at the direction of Vishvamitra, the boys made it to Janakpur, where a contest was taking place. Vishvamitra brought them there, and King Janaka, the host of the ceremony, gave the trio a warm welcome and provided thrones for them to sit on and watch. The attention was on the extremely heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. It had to be lifted by someone if Sita were to be married. First come, first serve. Sudden death, if you will. The first person to lift the bow would win the contest and Sita’s hand in marriage.

Lord Shiva is a primary divine figure of the Vedic tradition, and he takes on several different roles. For his own identification, he is a Vaishnava first, a devotee of the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord. Then there is his assigned role as the demigod in charge of the mode of ignorance, granting benedictions to those who don’t know any other religion except asking for boons to carry out their wicked plots. He is also the worshipable figure for others looking for benedictions. Unmarried women worship him to get a good husband.

The women at the ceremony were so kind that they prayed to Lord Shiva to give Sita Devi, Janaka’s daughter, a good husband. They wanted Rama to marry Sita for their own satisfaction as well. They prayed to be able to happily sing of the auspiciousness should the blessed event take place. The prayer to Lord Shiva was also significant because it was his bow that was to serve as the determining factor. These types of deals with divine figures are always nice to see, because they attempt to put the order suppliers in a sort of checkmate situation. “If you let Rama marry Sita, we will happily sing of the auspicious occasion. That is certainly a good thing, as who wants to live in misery? Everyone here will be happy as well.” By phrasing the request in this way, the pressure was put on Lord Shiva to come through. If he didn’t, it would almost be his fault for the situation turning from auspicious to inauspicious.

What would the result be? Upon seeing Rama the fruit of their eyes was tasted just slightly, and that pleasure would increase exponentially when the sweetheart son of mother Kausalya would try His hand at the contest. Lakshmana was the younger brother, so he was not eligible for the contest in Rama’s presence. The youth with a dark complexion arose from His throne and easily lifted Mahadeva’s bow, subsequently announcing to the world His victory by breaking the bow while stringing it. The women got what they wanted, as did Lord Shiva. The wish granted, that joyous occasion has been happily sung about ever since.

In Closing:

Why should in misery I be living?

Should not of felicity be singing?


The Supreme Lord’s glories are the most joyous,

Sung since time immemorial by Vedas’ chorus.


In Janakpur, prize of Sita was on the line,

Women prayed to Shiva in this tense time.


First belonged to him this bow of heavy weight,

So he could determine Sita’s ultimate fate.


To give Janaki best husband Shiva agreed,

By marriage of Sita and Rama he was pleased.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Purpose to Our Existence

Rama and Lakshmana“The ladies say to each other, ‘Look at those two brothers. They brought with them the fruit of our existence today, the reason for our coming to this earth.’” (Janaki Mangala, 56)

nāri paraspara kahahiṃ dekhi dou bhāinha |
laheu janama phala āju janami jaga āinha ||

The women look upon the two brothers seated on beautiful thrones in the assembly. Rama and Lakshmana are special guests of King Janaka, the host of this ceremony. The sage Vishvamitra brought the brothers, two sons of King Dasharatha, to Janakpur to witness the ceremony, and Janaka, seeing an exalted brahmana accompanied by two beautiful youths, gave them a warm reception. The attention was supposed to be on the contest relating to a bow, but the onlookers, which included the women who were talking amongst themselves, couldn’t take their eyes off of the enemies of the enemies of the demigods.

Why the attention on Rama and Lakshmana? What was so special about them? Why not focus on the contest? Ah, but the contest was very important; it was the context for the talking within the crowd. Janaka’s beloved daughter Sita was to be given away in marriage on this day. But since she came from the earth and thus didn’t have biological parents, the foster-father Janaka needed another way to find a suitable match for a husband. He decided to hold a bow-lifting contest, where the first person to raise Lord Shiva’s bow in the air would win his daughter as a wife.

The contest seemed pretty fair. This bow was rather heavy, proof of which was seen in the many princes who arrived in Janakpur who couldn’t even move the bow. They stepped up to the plate, ready to show their strength to the massive gathering, only to be humbled in the end. They would bow down to the bow, bested by its immense weight. After a while it seemed like no one would win Sita as a wife. If that were the case Janaka would be off the hook, as he hadn’t purposefully tried to keep his daughter unmarried.

With such an amazing contest going on, it would take something extraordinary for the attention to be diverted elsewhere. But with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, regardless of the external circumstances He can enchant anyone. In the Vedas the embodiment of lust is known as Kamadeva, who is the equivalent of a cupid. Kamadeva is very beautiful and he can enchant others with his beauty. Yet the Supreme Lord’s beauty is so great that He is known as the enchanter of cupid, or Madana-Mohana.

Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune, the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord in any of His personal forms, is so beautiful that she enchants Bhagavan Himself. Bhagavan is another name for God and it references the full possession of the attributes of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, renunciation and wisdom found within the original Divine Being. In this famous ceremony you had both Madana-Mohana and Madana-Mohana-Mohini.

Ah, but there was another player there as well. Rama is the same Lord Vishnu, the opulently adorned, four-armed form of Bhagavan, and Lakshmana is Vishnu’s protector and dedicated servant. Lakshmana is identical in qualities to Rama, except his complexion is fair while Rama’s is dark. Think of twin versions of the Supreme Lord in front of you in forms that are innocent, beautiful, and powerful at the same time. This sort of explains the image of Rama and Lakshmana in Janaka’s court.

They were known to be powerful because they were escorting Vishvamitra through the forests. Though they were quite young, the boys assumed the occupational duty of warriors, protecting the innocent from attack. In the adult human society, no one is more innocent than the brahmana, or priest. They don’t participate in the feverish competition of fruitive activity; they don’t try to best anyone in terms of opulence. They are strictly focused on religious activities, helping others, regardless of their specific position, aiming to attain the ultimate goal of life, that of becoming God conscious by the time of death. The brahmanas require extra protection because their presence adds the most value to society.

Okay, so Vishvamitra was an important character, but why didn’t he get King Dasharatha’s direct protection or the entourage that was the royal army in Ayodhya?

If you held an exalted position that enabled you to get whatever you wanted and you had the chance to have the Supreme Lord personally protect you, wouldn’t you take it? It wasn’t as if Vishvamitra was taking Rama away from home forever. He just needed some protection against the Rakshasas, who were headed at the time by a fiendish character named Maricha.

“Please allow Rama to protect me during those times when I am observing religious functions and trying to keep my concentration. O chief of mankind, a terrible fear has befallen me on account of this Rakshasa Maricha.” (Vishvamitra speaking to Maharaja Dasharatha, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.4)

Lord RamaDasharatha didn’t want to part with Rama, but the pious kings never turn down the requests of the brahmanas. Lakshmana came along because he never leaves Rama alone. The two brothers together would fight off powerful Rakshasas and externally earn the favor and trust of both Vishvamitra and the entire brahmana community living in the forests.

In the scene referenced above, the brothers are in the middle of the assembly on the day of the svayamvara, and the people can’t keep their eyes off of them. This verse from the Janaki Mangala shows that the women in the town weren’t idly gossiping about trivial matters. They were delighted by what they were seeing, and at the same time they knew that the boys weren’t ordinary.

When looking at something beautiful, to say that you have received the fruit of your existence, the reason for your coming to the earth, is likely the highest compliment you can pay to the object in question. Implied in the statement is that all the previous days of your life have basically not amounted to much. You didn’t realize this until today, when you saw the object in question that is so beautiful.

Two beautiful youths created this impression in the observant women, whose opinion was spot on. The women hadn’t studied Vedanta extensively, and neither had they performed rigorous austerities in the forest. They were household women after all, so they weren’t expected to be great scholars. But since they harbored spontaneous loving affection for the Supreme Lord and His direct expansion, they received the most wonderful benediction. They fulfilled life’s purpose through a simple glance.

We are here on this earth to experience the same pleasure, to see the same youths kindly looking over the festivities. Their innocence made them even more endearing. Rama and Lakshmana were in simple clothes and they hadn’t arrived on the scene with the royal pomp of the other guests. Surely they were accustomed to that lifestyle back home, but on this occasion their aura was subdued. Yet the divine qualities can never remain hidden to those who know how to recognize them.

How does one recognize divine qualities? The entire scope of religious activity is aimed at bringing about this recognition. Every authorized rule and guiding behavior that seems foolish or unnecessarily annoying is aimed at purifying consciousness, to help move the pure spirit soul towards a state of mind where they can see the two sons of Dasharatha seated together. More importantly, one should bask in that vision after reaching it, as everything one could ever need is found in those two princes. They protect, they defend, they give pleasure with their playful sport, and they rescue the fallen souls from the cycle of birth and death.

With laundry, the clothes remain in the dryer, spinning around, until they are completely dried out. In a similar manner, the spirit soul spins around the cycle of birth and death until it no longer desires a material body. The up or down vote is taken at the time of death by polling the mood of the consciousness. To make sure that the proper vote is cast, follow bhakti-yoga, whose principal activity is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Simultaneously, avoid the dangerous pitfalls concentrated in the activities of meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.

The women in Janakpur talking amongst themselves were correct. There was no argument that the fruit of their existence was met on this blessed day. At the same time, the tasting of that fruit only marked the beginning of many more wonderful things to come. The elder brother would win the contest and join the family by marrying Sita. Though He would take Lakshmana and Sita back to Ayodhya with Him, the residents would never forget that scene. Whether in happiness, danger, or distress, they would remember that scene and relive the same pleasure.

In Closing:

Days we have lived so many,

But real meaning not found any.


Until this one special day,

When two brothers came our way.


Eyes given to us so we can see,

Delightful vision for worries to set free.


For a reason to this earth we came,

That fruit of existence we’d gain.


From sight of these boys blessed we have been,

Now hopefully the elder contest will win.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Transcendental Escapism

Krishna's activities“Hearing is an opportunity to associate with the Lord; to hear His activities is to evolve to the transcendental nature — simply by hearing. The conditioned soul has a natural aptitude to hear something about other conditioned souls in the form of fiction, drama and novel. That inclination to hear something about others may be utilized in hearing the pastimes of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 7)

If a famous personality releases an autobiography, or even if another writer decides to publish a biography about them, there is some interest garnered. If someone was successful at turning around a company, at bringing it back from the brink of disaster, not only is it nice to relive the story of their triumph, but it is also interesting to find out what makes them tick, what their philosophy on life is, and how their life lessons can be replicated by others. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that there is a natural aptitude for hearing about others, and so if that hearing is applied towards the pastimes of the Supreme Lord Krishna, a transcendental awakening can occur.

Think about it for a second. Krishna created this and every other universe. If you are not too keen on accepting a version of God you think the Hindus created, you can still contemplate on the abstract concept. There is certainly an original controller. You can’t think beyond time and space. Try to contemplate the beginning of time and you will run out of time before you can reach it. Keep moving until you find the end of space and you will never stop.

These aspects of life are unexplainable, indicating that you are fallible. Other living entities similarly can’t explain the same phenomena, so they are just as fallible as you. They emerged from the womb to start life and they will quit their body to end life. In the meantime they may become more successful than you or find worse off conditions, but they can’t control things like the weather. We have no ability to create a sun. We just know a limited amount about how to use its energy for our benefit. We operate around the law of gravity, but never did we create it. If we didn’t create it, we can’t eliminate it.

Someone had to make these things. The seasons appear on schedule, the sun rises and sets at predictable times, and the planets follow a set pattern of revolution. Through all the chaotic randomness there is order, which is an indication of intelligence. The computer operates off of the inputted instructions of the end-user because there is intelligence. The machine itself has no thinking ability, but the programmer who engineered it does. Thus for randomness to be absent, there must be a force that is more intelligent.

In this way we can understand that there is a God. In the Vedas He is described to us through thousands of names, with Krishna being one of them. Krishna has the complexion of an indranila-mani, or a sapphire. What a wonderful color to have on a body. Just as you can’t take your eyes off of the beautiful sapphire, once you see Krishna’s body your eyes will swim in the vision, as if it were an inviting ocean. Krishna wears a peacock feather in His hair and plays a flute that He holds in His hands. Every aspect to Him is attractive, and so the name Krishna befits Him.

These features come with activities, which are nicely described in the Vedic scriptures. Krishna teaches when necessary, but at the heart of His activities is enjoyment. Not an angry God sent to punish the sinners, nor a strict teacher looking to test the devotion of His children, Krishna simply plays with those who love Him. Like the innocence from childhood, where we set foot outside to see if our friends wanted to play with us, for Krishna every day has this fun, even in adulthood. The enjoyment is enhanced with friendly company, with no one friendlier than the gopis of Vrindavana, cowherd women who adore Krishna throughout every moment of the day.

Radha and Krishna with the gopisIt is only the false perception that the enjoyment is off-limits to us. We see others playing outside and we may not want to interrupt their game, but we don’t know for sure if they’d be unhappy with our inclusion. With Krishna there is no need for such worry, as He will create many versions of Vrindavana, His personal home, for our enjoyment. The cover charge is devotion, a desire to play. If that payment can’t be made, a shadow copy of that enjoyment is available in a temporary land.

The generated version isn’t so great, so we’re left to rely upon the activity of others to satisfy our tendency for enjoyment through escape. Watching movies, television shows, and plays is a great way to step away from your daily mindset, to sit back without any pressure and watch others as they live. Thankfully, Krishna has given us so many of His own such incidents to contemplate upon, and since the actions are of the divine nature, they have a more lasting effect on the hearer. Consciousness is what we’re trying to change, and when it is pointed to the divine, it becomes our best friend.

“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)

In Vedic philosophy the motto is, “you become what you think”. At the time of death, whatever state of being you remember, that state you will attain without fail in the next life. The thoughts at any given moment are difficult to predict, so if we focus on something for a while beforehand, we’ll increase the likelihood of remembering going forward. If the hearing propensity is directed towards Krishna’s play, the heroic acts of His incarnations like Lord Rama, or His words of wisdom found in texts like the Bhagavad-gita, then certainly there will be remembrance of God on a regular basis. And the more regular that remembrance is, the greater the chances that desire will change to the point that entry into the eternal pastimes of the Lord will be granted, indicating a successful conclusion to life.

In Closing:

For away from present life to steer,

The activities of others you’ll hear.


Interesting is the famous personality,

Then worth reading is their biography.


To Krishna take this same propensity,

Hear His names and pastimes relentlessly.


To Lord’s realm of Vrindavana escape,

In this way divine consciousness shape.


In life you become whatever you think,

So sweetness of Krishna’s play let your ears drink.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Backstage Passes

Narada Muni“If someone is able, by chance, to see a great saintly person like Narada face to face, who is always serene and merciful to everyone, then immediately that conditioned soul becomes liberated. This is exactly like being situated in the full light of the sun: there cannot be any visionary impediment.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 10)

You’re going to a concert of your favorite band. Sure, you listen to their music and derive enjoyment from it, but the music moves you so much that you follow other aspects to the people that make it. You read every interview they give, watch every live performance, and follow their daily movements. In this way the connection to them grows, and so by going to the concert, you hope to get even closer to them. The all-access backstage pass is the true boon in this regard, as you get to meet the band members face to face. You get to tell them what their music has meant to you.

Indeed, this tendency towards desiring personal meetings extends to all kinds of celebrities and famous personalities. These people touch so many lives, so it is only natural to try to want to meet them, to get a closer encounter where emotions can be exchanged. The hope is that the fateful meeting will be remembered going forward and that the interaction will further strengthen the bond of attachment. When that same tendency is applied towards the spiritual realm, where there are personalities famous for their ability to heal, the effects can last well beyond the current lifetime.

The saint dedicates their life to serving God. As both “service” and “God” can be vague terms, the saint knows the true definition of both due to their submissive attitude in hearing. They first heard the authorized information from their own teachers, and without a challenging attitude they accepted the principles and carried them out. Through both hearing and the practical application of the principles they reached a state known as God consciousness, wherein the mind constantly focuses on how to please the beloved Supreme Lord.

And He is indeed beloved. To develop that affection for Him, one should know His transcendental features. Another name for God is Bhagavan, which means one who possesses the attributes of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge, wisdom and renunciation to the fullest degree and at the same time. God is also Krishna, or He who is all-attractive. He is also Rama, or one who gives transcendental pleasure to others. He is Shyamasundara, or the beautiful youth with a blackish complexion. He is Ajita, or one who is unconquerable. He is Vishnu, or all-pervading. He is Achyuta, or one who never falls down. He is Parameshvara, or the supreme controller. He is Govinda, or one who gives pleasure to the cows and the senses. He is Gopala, or the protector of the cows. He is Madhava, or the husband of the goddess of fortune.

There are so many ways to describe God, and notice that the features described point to a personality. These features also never exhaust, so the personality in question must exist eternally. He must have a body and that body cannot be the same as ours. Our features change over time. The male loses hair on the head as they age, and the female develops wrinkles on the face very quickly. At an advanced age, organs that we previously counted on start to fail. The diminishing accelerates to the point that the body itself ceases to be useful, indicating that a new body is required. The changing of the bodies is known as reincarnation.

“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)

God’s body does not change like this. His vigraha, or form, is described as sach-chid-ananda, or eternally full of bliss and knowledge. The saint knows these facts from first accepting them from their spiritual master. They later become firm believers through executing bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. The service is directed at Bhagavan, and it manifests in different activities. There can be hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping, serving the lotus feet, or simply honoring. Just as there is variety in the activities we undertake, in the pursuit to change consciousness for the better there are many avenues for travel.

To meet someone who practices bhakti-yoga is considered a great boon. The most exalted saints are so powerful that just by meeting them face to face one’s life can be turned around forever. This has happened many times with people who met Narada Muni, who is a sort of space-traveller who doesn’t do anything but sing the glories of Narayana, which is another name for God that means the source of all men.

Does Narada distribute an electrical charge? Is there something magical about his face that causes a change in others? Actually, it is his position with respect to occupation that brings the change. He exclusively follows bhakti-yoga, which is a unique discipline of spirituality because it seeks nothing but continued devotion to God. In pure bhakti, there is no desire for a temporary reward, a removal of distress, a mystic ability, or the cessation of activity. Rather, the humble prayer is that whatever state Shri Krishna places the devotee in, they still be allowed to practice their devotion.

Shrila PrabhupadaSomeone who follows this line of work is automatically in a superior position, making a meeting with them slightly nerve-racking. Imagine meeting someone who is considered flawless. They are respected by everyone else, so you’re a little hesitant to act in an impious manner in front of them. You also have heard about their past good deeds, so you can’t help but be won over by their presence. When you meet them face to face, if they should offer you any kind instruction, you will likely follow through on it, lest you run the risk of offending them.

The saints of the present age of Kali have been kind enough to extend their influence using recorded words. Instead of having to travel far and wide to meet them, we can consult their books and recorded lectures to get a similar benefit. Their words carry the same weight as their physical presence, if not greater, and those words are easier to consult on a regular basis. Thus spiritual masters like His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada continue to rescue fallen souls to this day, with their influence only growing in the future, increasing their fame and glory all the more.

In Closing:

Rock band that you like so much,

From their music your life touched.


Wonderful for at concert to have front row seat,

Even better with backstage pass, members to meet.


When face to face they are seen,

Can tell them what to you they mean.


Use this tendency for devotee’s presence to get,

Icons of devotion, on pleasing Krishna their minds set.


From this meeting ideal example take away,

Follow instruction and in bhakti always stay.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Travelling Tendencies

Temple for Sita, Rama and Lakshmana“The moving tendency of the human being is misused by visiting places for sightseeing. The best purpose of such traveling tendencies could be fulfilled by visiting the holy places established by great acharyas and thereby not being misled by the atheistic propaganda of moneymaking men who have no knowledge of spiritual matters.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.22 Purport)

The serious transcendentalist of the Vedic tradition faces so many rules and regulations. No eating meat. No gambling. No intoxication. No illicit sex. No mental speculation. No talking about matters that don’t pertain to spiritual life. No disrespecting others. No eating food that is not first offered to the deity. No inattentiveness during the chanting of the holy names. No excessive sleeping. No excessive eating. No eating for sense pleasure. No reading just for the sake of reading. No watching rubbish programs that will take your mind away from spiritual life. Add to this list “no sightseeing.”

“So I can’t sightsee either? What the heck? I’m just supposed to sit around like a robot all day? Why don’t I place myself in a quiet room and just stare at the wall the entire time. I won’t tell anyone else where I am; this way I can avoid the offense of trying to give the appearance of being a holy man when I am not one. Let me just stay in the same state, day after day, week after week, month after month. This way I’ll avoid all the don’ts and not offend anyone.”

Sightseeing is a pleasurable activity because the mind craves variety. Variety is the mother of enjoyment, and so to get a chance to escape from the daily routine every now and then is healthy. Why would you want to do the exact same thing every day? Imagine if you only got one type of food to eat. After a while you’d probably get sick of it. With the exact same routine each day, you start to notice the patterns, and pretty soon every moment loses its uniqueness. A long time can pass in this cycle, and you can go crazy in the process, feeling like you are in a prison.

“A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.”  (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.5)

With sightseeing, you get to explore new places and things. You break away from the daily grind and travel to an exotic destination. With all that there is to see in the new place, you’re constantly filled with anticipation. You always have something to look forward to. And the “something new” keeps your mind fresh; it keeps your mind actively engaged. And when the mind is engaged, you will feel better. The mind can be the best friend, but also the worst enemy. If it is situated properly, you will have a wonderful friend within close proximity to help you out.

External surroundings can be used to help the mind reach the right place, a fact which indicates yet another area where bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, excels. The mind is a product of consciousness, and bhakti-yoga can also be translated to mean Krishna consciousness, where Krishna is synonymous with God. Have a consciousness focused on God and your mind will turn into the best friend you could ever ask for. Just as with sightseeing, use your external surroundings to foster the divine consciousness. Use your room as a place to sit and chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Use your car as a place to hear musical variations of the same mantra. Use your job as a place to earn money to support your living that is focused on bhakti-yoga.

The same tendency for travelling can be applied to bhakti-yoga. In India, the famous sages who taught by example, and were thus known as acharyas, established so many pilgrimage sites. These areas first became significant when Krishna or one of His notable avataras visited them. The Supreme Lord makes descents to earth every now and then. He is free to do this, as He is the original proprietor of everything. His travels are documented in sacred texts, which are then passed down through disciplic succession by acharyas, who are devoted to Krishna in thought, word and deed.

Radha Krishna deities in Vrindavana templeFrom consulting scripture, we know where the sacred places are, and though the passage of time has made these areas harder to find, the notable saints of the past have found them again and established a spiritual culture there. The true benefit of visiting a sacred place is the association of the saintly men, as they prefer to live in areas important to the Supreme Lord. Everywhere is God’s home, but in the pilgrimage sites there is added significance due to the related history. For instance, Vrindavana is important because Shri Krishna spent His childhood years there. Ayodhya is important because Krishna’s incarnation of Lord Rama appeared there. Chitrakuta is where Rama lived in exile with His wife Sita Devi and younger brother Lakshmana. Mathura is where Krishna first appeared, and Mayapura is where Lord Chaitanya, Krishna’s incarnation as a preacher, appeared.

The tendency for travelling can be applied to areas such as these or even to the many temples established around the world by celebrated acharyas. In the absence of the relation to bhakti-yoga, sightseeing will not have a lasting positive effect on the consciousness. We may visit one area for a period of time, but then soon after we must return to the previous routine. Either that or we’ll have nothing to do in these areas except enjoy the senses, something which can take place anywhere. If I’m going to spend my nights drinking alcohol, why not just go to the local pub instead of flying thousands of miles away?

All activities in bhakti-yoga aim to make a permanent, positive impression on consciousness. They bring the mind closer to God. So in this way visiting the sacred places has a much longer lasting effect. There is constant chanting of the holy names and discourses on the glories of the Supreme Lord at these places, and so when these sounds penetrate through the ears, the mind can get altered for the better, hopefully leading to a desire to further practice bhakti. And when that desire exists at the highest levels at the time of death, a trip is booked to the best vacation destination, the spiritual sky, where Krishna’s lila is enjoyed every day.

In Closing:

Enjoying the senses can be done at home,

Whether at local pub or in room all alone.


In sightseeing at new places can marvel,

But for sense pleasure no need to travel.


Yet from monotony it is important to break,

Variety necessary for mental health’s sake.


In devotional life to new places you can go,

From pilgrimage sights more of God to know.


Make best use of travelling tendency with bhakti,

In travel or at home, devoted soul God always to see.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Given For a Reason

Krishna and Arjuna“The Lord is the Supreme with all senses, and the servitor, who is part and parcel of the Lord, also has the same senses. Service to the Lord is the completely purified use of the senses, as described in the Bhagavad-gita. The Lord imparted instructions with full senses, and Arjuna received them with full senses, and thus there was a perfect exchange of sensible and logical understanding between the master and the disciple.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.3.20 Purport)

You’re really excited. You finally purchased this brand new piece of furniture that goes perfect with the décor of your living room. You go to the store, pick it up, and then rush home to put it together. The piece is a little complex, so there is assembly required. Not to fear, though, as there are instructions provided. You open up the manual to notice that the instructions are not in English. “Oh wait, let me turn to the other side. Here we go. Okay, now let me follow these instructions and I’ll be all set.”

When you’re finished, however, you have a few nuts and bolts left over. What could these be for? Why weren’t they utilized? Will the finished piece be sturdy enough without them? Ah, but there must be a problem because there would be no reason for extra nuts and bolts to be packaged. They must be there to be used. Thus something went awry during the construction, and though you may not notice the mistake right away, eventually some damage might occur. The problem is that you don’t know when or how severe. If only you had used all of the pieces properly.

This scenario can be used to illustrate a matter of greater importance: namely what to do with our life. The various body parts and their accompanying senses were provided to us for a reason. We use the senses for interaction in every aspect of life already. For eating we use the tongue and the stomach. For watching movies we use the eyes and the ears. For relations with members of the opposite sex we use touch. In fact, just one of these senses diminishing in its capacity to function fully causes a major hindrance to life. Therefore we know that the senses are vital to our existence; they are provided to us for a reason.

The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, say that the point of human life is to know, understand, and then love God. There is no other purpose to the existence, in any species for that matter. The difference, though, is that the non-human species cannot make the vital inquiry, athato brahma-jijnasa, which is the opening to the Vedanta-sutra. “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth.” “Now that I have received the precious human form of body, which has the ability to sharpen intelligence and then act off of it, I must meet my true destiny: the spiritual sky.”

That realm is not a void. It is full of variety and nuance. The qualities are transcendental, however, so they don’t have the same inhibiting effect that the matter currently around us does. The matter of our present land is known as maya, or illusion, and it purposefully clouds our intelligence, making us forgetful of our inferior position with respect to the Supreme Soul, the person most of us refer to as God. The spiritual sky does not have the same maya; its energy is of a different nature. In the divine realm, the qualities help to further devotion to God, which is not a fixed pie. Just because you are devoted today doesn’t mean that you can’t be more devoted tomorrow. Just because you take pleasure from the Lord’s association today doesn’t mean that you can’t find more ways to serve Him tomorrow. The more you serve, the more pleasure you feel, and the reservoir for transcendental pleasure can never be filled.

In the material land, the situation is reversed. You try something once or twice and you get sick of it. Pizza today, pasta tomorrow. Beer tonight, wine tomorrow. Exercise this week, parked on the couch the next. All the while there is no progress made in terms of the disposition of the consciousness. The mind can be the best friend or the worst enemy. If you think about it, the pain you feel after being scorned by a paramour is only related to the mind. If you could just make yourself think that you’re not in a troubled state, that everything will work out in the future, you will be just fine.

Devotional service, which is also known as bhakti-yoga, trains the mind in this way, except there is no deception. The focus of attention is on chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, and constantly hearing the sound vibrations that represent God. Through this method the mind learns to stay fixed in the transcendental realm, and thus there is automatic renunciation of negative thoughts pertaining to temporary outcomes. In addition, there is the excitement of knowing that there will be more opportunities to connect with God and serve Him.

Prabhupada thinking of Krishna and ArjunaThese techniques and more are learned from the qualified spiritual master. The real guru does not tell the disciple to give up using their senses. In fact, the transfer of information from teacher to student takes place through the use of all the senses, so what sense would it make to give up interaction once enlightenment is reached? If the guru, who is supposed to be enlightened, gave up using their senses, how would they teach anyone?

Not surprisingly, the best guru is God Himself, who reminded us of this fact one time on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. In His original form of Krishna, the Lord imparted the wisest words of instruction to a hesitant warrior named Arjuna. The transfer of information took place through the use of Krishna’s senses and also Arjuna’s. Krishna is known as the master of all senses, Hrishikesha, so this means that He has transcendental senses that He utilizes when necessary. Arjuna accepted that information with his ears and then used his entire body to act upon the wisdom he took in.

This same type of transfer occurs with all bona fide gurus and their students. The chanting of the holy names is the way to use the ears and the tongue, the worship of the deity the body, the offering and smelling of flowers the nose, and the viewing of the deity the eyes. Morning until night all the senses can be engaged in devotional service, ensuring that all the body parts required for assembly given to us at the time of birth get utilized in constructing the final piece of a perfectly God conscious soul that is ready to return to the spiritual land, the original home.

In Closing:

Finished piece picture on box should resemble,

Must follow instructions for item to assemble.


Problem when at end some pieces remain unused,

All seems okay, but then why pieces in box include?


Problem to occur eventually, maybe not today,

All pieces vital in construction’s proper way.


Know that all senses for utilization meant,

As human to God’s world make the ascent.


Guru with his disciples uses senses to interact,

With all your senses bhakti-yoga practice enact.