Saturday, September 8, 2012

Putting The Pieces Together

Shri Hanuman“Though they have gone black due to a long period of use, the well-made earrings and well-fitting Svadamstras, as well as the ornaments on her hands, set with gems and coral, are all in the proper places, and thus must be the ones that Rama described.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 15.42-43)

sukṛtau karṇa veṣṭau ca śva damṣṭrau ca susamsthitau |
maṇi vidruma citrāṇi hasteṣv ābharaṇāni ca ||
śyāmāni cira yuktatvāt tathā samsthānavanti ca |
tāni eva etāni manye aham yāni rāmo anvakīrtayat ||

Though in a renounced state, Janaka’s daughter was still beautifully adorned. She wore precious earrings and had wonderful jewels and coral in the ornaments on her hands. The hands look so beautiful on the innocent wife of the Supreme Lord, and just by seeing them the heart is won over. For Hanuman and other devoted souls, the heartwarming image of the Supreme Lord’s wife evokes both sympathy and an undying spirit of devotion, the desire to offer service without reciprocation. Hanuman risked his life to offer service to that sweetheart daughter of the pious king, a lady whom the Vanara had not previously met.

Think about that for a second. Someone asks you to do them a favor. “Hey, can you find this missing princess? She was taken by a fiend who is so low that he will change his shape at will. He is a vile creature at heart, but due to his abilities acquired through austerity and penance he can give off a benign shape. He doesn’t do this to make friends or acquire knowledge from others. Rather, treachery is his trademark, and he’ll use whatever abilities he has to exploit others, to cheat them into handing over what he wants.

“On one occasion, this fiend masked his shape by assuming the garb of a mendicant. He then took advantage of this princess’s deference to the saintly class. She is the goddess of fortune herself, and though she was living in the wilderness, an area devoid of material opulence, she was still ready, willing and able to offer this faux-mendicant whatever he wanted. Moreover, she was ready to wait for her dear husband to return, as He had sworn to uphold the truth, to protect the saintly class with His fighting prowess.

“Rama always gives in charity but never takes any. He always speaks the truth and never tells a lie. O brahmana, this is Rama’s highest vow and He is incapable of deviating from it.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.17)

“But this wretched Rakshasa dressed as a brahmana wanted to have the princess for himself, though she was already married at the time. Unable to win her over with flattering words, he finally had to show his hideous form, which sported ten ugly heads. He then forcefully took the innocent princess away. Now, we need to find her. Can you take care of that?”

This is essentially what was asked of Hanuman, except not all of the details of the abduction were known. He hadn’t even met the princess in question, nor the fiend who could assume different shapes at will. As the seasoned adults know, the key ingredient to success is desire. The champions in sport don’t just have the most ability; they also have the strongest drive for success. They want it more than the other guy. This only makes sense. If you don’t have a burning desire to achieve something, how will you put forth the effort? Why will you go the extra mile when you don’t care?

Hanuman's task was almost impossible. The Vanaras in Kishkindha teamed up with the missing princess’s husband. They were monkey-like figures with human-like attributes. Their king was Sugriva, and he ordered his massive army to scour the earth to find Sita. Nevertheless, it was assumed that only Hanuman was capable of success, for he had the necessary attributes. He was well versed in the different creatures of the earth, and he could make use of mystic abilities, such as masking his shape and becoming lighter than air. He also had a keen intellect, which meant he would know how and when to invoke his various powers.

“All the worlds - which consist of asuras, Gandharvas, Nagas, human beings, devatas, oceans, earth, and mountains - are known to you.” (Sugriva speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.4)

HanumanBut most of all, Hanuman had the most eagerness for success. This is quite remarkable if you think about it. He had not known the princess’s husband for long. He first met the prince of Ayodhya and His younger brother Lakshmana in Kishkindha and then brokered the alliance with Sugriva. This meant that just by meeting the kind prince, Shri Rama, Hanuman developed an attachment to Him. The liking was strong enough for Hanuman to risk everything to please Rama. This type of devotion again proves that Hanuman is supremely intelligent, as he could recognize the signs of divinity in Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince.

In the above referenced verses from the Ramayana, Hanuman has just spotted the princess he was ordered to find. At least he thinks he has spotted her, as there are some troubling signs. She has been worn thin due to fasting. She is surrounded by female ogres inside of this grove of Ashoka trees next to the head palace in Lanka, the city that the vile creature named Ravana rules over. Obviously the king had brought Sita here and kept her in this beautiful grove. She refused his advances, and so he ordered his female attendants to harass her day and night.

Hanuman remembered what Rama described about Sita. The devoted warrior then began to match the various signs. He noticed that the princess wore well-made earrings and had beautiful ornaments on her hands. They had turned black due to a long period of use, as she had no means to maintain them. And neither was she interested in looking overly appealing. She was not in the company of her husband, so for whom did she have to look good? It is better for the wife to look unappealing when separated from her husband; this way she can ward off advances from other men.

“The ornaments were all in the right places, so they must be the ones Rama described,” thought Hanuman. It’s amazing that he remembered all of this information after having travelled for such a long time. This shows the power of hearing with the proper attitude. Rama was like a spiritual master, or guru, and Hanuman the qualified disciple. Though the backdrop was information relating to a reconnaissance mission, Rama’s words were really a way to glorify the goddess of fortune. Rama is God, who is the energetic, and Sita is His energy. All the living entities are energy expansions of God, and the pleasure potency expansions show how the energy is supposed to act. Devotion is the individual’s dharma, and in Sita and Hanuman we see the same devotion but in different transcendental mellows. Sita gives pleasure as a wife and Hanuman as a servant. And in devotion there is not only affection for the Supreme Lord but also His many devotees. Thus Hanuman took Sita’s welfare to be as important as Rama’s.

This enthusiasm would eventually bring Hanuman success. He had nothing else to rely on at this critical moment except the descriptions Rama previously gave him. As a devoted soul eager to serve God, Hanuman remembered those words and knew when to reference them. In the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy, man’s memory isn’t as good, so the instructions from God and His devoted servants have been written down in shastra, or scripture. And easier than consulting those works is chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, which are the best words to remember that both come from God and glorify Him.

In Closing:

“Now that divine image to gain,

I see the ornaments look the same.


Though through use some have gone black,

They match what Rama said in Kishkindha back.”


Sita’s ornaments to the eyes most pleasurable,

That Hanuman could recognize them most remarkable.


Pattern matched because of his devotion strong,

Chant holy names to get company for which you long.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Special Delivery

Lord Chaitanya and associates“The Lord delivered the fallen souls in some places by meeting them directly, in other places by empowering a pure devotee, and in still other places by appearing before someone Himself.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 2.4)

If there’s a fire in the kitchen, you need the extinguisher to save the day. If you’re feeling hungry, you need food in front of you to change the situation. If you can’t figure out how to spell a certain word, you need a dictionary on hand, either an online version or the book form, to settle your doubts. It is not surprising, therefore, that when there are questions as to the purpose to our existence, inquiries into why people die and why we must separate from our loved ones, there is a natural turn towards the heavens. We ask God to solve our problems, and since we don’t see Him, we think that we are left in the dark. But through the life of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu know that the Lord works in many ways to deliver the fallen souls and that we are never alone in our struggle for existence.

Lord Chaitanya was a holy savior whose presence was isolated to the area today known as India. This identified range was with respect to His physical presence, though we know that today His names and glories are chanted around the world. This is all due to the tireless efforts of His followers, who accepted His teachings either directly or through the mouths of His devotees. A single man can have such a lasting influence, as we know that famous businesses of today were once started in meager settings by a few passionate individuals. If the owner does things right, his company survives after his passing, and so with Lord Chaitanya, since the preaching method was flawless, His followers ensured that the message of divine love would continue to be propagated going forward.

It seems like it would be easy to break the tradition. Indeed, with Lord Chaitanya, who rose to prominence in the 15th century in Bengal, the immediate followers sometimes diverged, shaping His teachings to mean something else. Nevertheless, as long as there is one moon, the entire night sky can be lit up. Famous acharyas in His line revived the sankirtana movement and kept it going. As the revival came about long after Lord Chaitanya’s passing, we see one way in which God delivers people: His message.

The words are more powerful than the physical presence. This isn’t so with the fire extinguisher or the food to feed our stomach. These are aspects of material life, so without physical contact there is no benefit. God is the Supreme Spirit, so His influence is absolute. The name of God and God Himself are not different. There is no specific name, but there are thousands of names assigned by those who love Him. The purpose is to find ways to address, mechanisms for remembering and honoring Him throughout the day. Thinking of God is known as Krishna consciousness, and the practice is the equivalent of being with God.

His instructions are found in many sacred texts. In the Vedic tradition, the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam are considered the literary jewels because they contain Krishna’s instructions and pastimes. If you like philosophy, consult Krishna’s teachings offered to a hesitant warrior named Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. If you’re a little more inquisitive, find out how the same Krishna creates this and innumerable other universes with a single exhalation and then absorbs them back into His transcendental body with a single inhalation. If you don’t like philosophy at all, listen to how Krishna as a young child stole butter from the neighbors in Vrindavana. Hear about how He delivered His parents Devaki and Vasudeva from the evil king Kamsa, how He thwarted the attacks of wicked creatures in Vrindavana, and how He delighted all of His devotees with His childish play.

Through Lord Chaitanya’s life and pastimes, we receive yet another wonderful scripture to consult: the Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita. This work is the nectar of the activities of Lord Chaitanya, who is the same Krishna but in the guise of a humble preacher. He has no possessions, no earnings, and no steady home. He is like a homeless person who relies solely on the grace of God for His sustenance. He travels extensively to beg others to simply chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. He lives in the renounced order to make sure that His message carries the most weight. No sane person can find a flaw in Lord Chaitanya because no one is equal to Him based on societal stature alone. The constant practice of bhakti-yoga puts Him in the superior position with respect to activities.

Lord Chaitanya revealing His identityNaturally, since He is God Himself, the pious souls enjoyed Lord Chaitanya’s company, but this isn’t the only way that God can deliver people. It is said that sometimes Lord Chaitanya met with people and other times He sent His representative. And in some cases Lord Chaitanya would even meet someone personally and reveal that He was God. This was not to support His position or make others worship Him. Rather, this was to convince others that the message of divine love was true, and by perceiving God through a direct vision the affected people would believe strongly in the message.

Can we see God today? Are His representatives available to save us? Devotees who follow Lord Chaitanya’s example of humility and fearless preaching are around today, and thanks to their influence we have the sacred maha-mantra available to us. There is also a lifetime’s worth of literature available from His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Read his books, chant the holy names, worship the deity in the temple, offer service to those who serve Krishna, and in this way never feel alone. As Lord Chaitanya proved, Krishna will come to deliver the fallen souls in one way or another, but one must be ready to accept that favor.

In Closing:

For doubts over existence to mend,

His representative Chaitanya would send.


As sannyasi He was offered many a humble seat,

So sometimes personally with others He’d meet.


On other occasions His identity as God to show,

So that bhakti’s authenticity they would know.


Though aimlessly through the world you may roam,

Know that never do you have to be alone.


Chant the holy names and Vedic literature read,

Supreme Lord to deliver all of your needs.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Personal Relationships

Radha and Krishna“Although one has affection for many persons, different types of ecstatic love awaken according to the nature of one's personal relationships.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 4.171)

According to the Vedas, the core properties of the individual are eternality, knowledge and blissfulness. The individual in this respect is the self, or atma. The self is distinguished from the visible features, which are sort of like a covering. One woman wears a thousand dollar handbag while another wears one that is fifty dollars, but this discrepancy does not make one person different from the other. At the core they are both spirit soul, transcendental to their outer coverings. Though there is the core property of blissfulness, how it manifests can vary, which ultimately means that the relationship to the Supreme Soul is not always the same. The relationship is nevertheless personal, and thus a source of the highest pleasure.

Lord Chaitanya, a preacher incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, displayed supreme wisdom on practically every subject. He was God Himself appearing on earth to distribute the nectar that is divine love, bhakti-yoga. This is the original occupational duty, that which awakens and maintains the original consciousness. Therefore it is not surprising that one who practices bhakti, free of any impure motives, can speak eloquently and accurately on a variety of subjects.

One time Lord Chaitanya noted to His dear disciple Sanatana Gosvami that a person may have affection for a variety of people, but that the love awakens based on the nature of the personal relationship. As an example, I might hold affection for several important people in my life. I love my parents automatically. To me, they are the people I have known the longest. I don’t know when I started loving them, but it’s not something I think about. Loving them means that when they are in distress, I am in distress. If I can do anything to remove their distress, I will feel better. It also means that when they are happy, I am happy.

I also love my wife. She is a paramour, the “love of my life” so to speak. I enjoy her company, as we connect on an emotional level. Whether I am sitting with her in a religious function, watching a program on television, or just taking a walk and holding hands, I feel comforted knowing that I am in a loving relationship. Obviously my affection manifests differently with her than it does with my parents. I may purchase a luxury car for my parents to drive, whereas I will purchase an expensive necklace for my wife. Love exists in both instances, but the activities are dependent on the nature of the relationship, which in either case is personal.

This information applies to the realm of divine love as well. Without knowledge of the properties of the soul and the existence of the Supreme Soul, the mind will speculate as to the nature of the Absolute Truth. Whether it be at a marriage reception or just a simple get-together, you’ll see a variety of speculation on all topics when a group of people assemble. There is no definite conclusion reached, as each person’s opinion is as valid as another’s. When the topic turns to spirituality, the conclusions can run the gamut of thought. “God is an angry man who will punish the sinners for ignoring Him. God wants you to do good to others. God is a formless energy. Every person is God, so service to man is the highest occupation. The path to heaven goes through just one man, so anyone who doesn’t believe in Him is destined for hell.”

In the Vedic tradition, the truth about the Absolute Truth is passed down through a chain of disciplic succession which, not surprisingly, originates with God. The information is not accepted through casual arguments, where mental speculation is the cover charge. Rather, in a state of humility, by kindly approaching a bona fide spiritual master and attentively listening to what he says is the truth, life’s mysteries are solved. Even when God Himself speaks, the same conditions must exist for the information to be transferred properly. This is what occurred one time on a battlefield, where two people briefly changed roles, going from friends to teacher and student.

“I have in the past addressed You as ‘O Krishna,’ ‘O Yadava,’ ‘O my friend,’ without knowing Your glories. Please forgive whatever I may have done in madness or in love. I have dishonored You many times while relaxing or while lying on the same bed or eating together, sometimes alone and sometimes in front of many friends. Please excuse me for all my offenses.”  (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.41-42)

Arjuna and Krishna were friends, so good friends in fact that Krishna agreed to be Arjuna’s chariot driver for an upcoming war. This was the war to end all wars, and it would see the deaths of hundreds of millions. But prior to the war’s commencement, Arjuna grew hesitant to fight due to misplaced affection. Krishna is God Himself, so after being asked, He assumed the role of teacher to dispel Arjuna’s doubts. There was no arguing on Arjuna’s side. He didn’t present his own theories and claim that Krishna’s were bogus. Rather, he submissively heard from the Lord, processed the information, and then decided for himself whether or not Krishna was correct.

What did Arjuna learn? Devotion to God in full surrender is the ultimate path in life. It is so perfect that it guarantees to provide the proper result in any situation. It proved successful for Arjuna during a fight, and prior to this it helped a troubled princess avoid nudity in public. Draupadi was being disrobed in an assembly by wicked-minded kings, as her husband Yudhishthira had lost her in a game of dice. No one else was helping her, so Draupadi finally called out to Krishna, who rescued her by assuming the form of a cloth and making sure that it never came off of the beautiful princess in the assembly.

Arjuna and Draupadi represent but two examples of surrender in devotion. In both cases there was affection, but it manifested according to the nature of the relationship. After accepting Krishna’s instruction, Arjuna returned to being the Lord’s friend. Draupadi was a dedicated servant in mind, as was the exalted Shri Hanuman during Krishna’s time on earth as Lord Ramachandra, the valiant prince of the Raghu dynasty. Shrimati Radharani serves Krishna in the mood of conjugal love, while Yashoda and Nanda offer parental affection.

Krishna saving DraupadiIn each of these instances we see there is a personal relationship, which means that God is not impersonal. He is not an aged, angry man either. He is all-pervading, so even one who denies His existence is still serving Him in some way. Hatred rooted in envy is the inverse of the loving spirit, sort of like looking at an image in a mirror. Though the image is reversed, it doesn’t mean that the original image is invalid. In a similar way, just because someone hates God or claims that the Lord doesn’t exist doesn’t mean that they are not offering service. The personal relationship in these instances is with the external energy, the material nature. God’s personal presence is absent in the external energy, so the relationship is not fruitful for the living entity, who is left with pain and misery sprinkled with brief bouts of pleasure.

The personal relationships of bhakti-yoga can be awakened instantly by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The various processes of religion, the rituals and regulations, the do’s and don’ts of spiritual life presented by respected teachers, are all meant to bring one to the platform of divine love, which then creates a relationship that is deeply personal. The devoted soul connects with God whether in a crowded assembly or in a solitary room, whether wide awake or fast asleep. In that personal relationship of choice the Supreme Lord’s association is relished, and the devotee’s protection is fully accounted for.

In Closing:

To beloved children life’s lessons are told,

With the paramour her hand you will hold.


To parents service you will give,

With friends in equality to live.


Relationships there are all kinds,

But always personal touch you’ll find.


Spiritual life to operate in the same way,

With Supreme Lord Krishna you can play.


Draupadi as servant, Arjuna as friend,

Bhakti-rasa spiritually lonely heart to mend.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Glass Half Empty

Chaitanya Charitamrita“Even where there are hundreds of good qualities, a critic does not consider them. Rather, he attempts by some trick to point out a fault in those attributes.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 8.81)

Are you a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” kind of person? When you see a glass that has half part liquid and half part air, which way do you lean? What is your perception? With the critic, even if in mathematical terms the majority of the container is liquid, they will point out the empty portion and lament the situation. If the glass can be blamed for the perceived deficiency then all sorts of criticism will be leveled. Never mind the good qualities, just the bad will be pointed out. This is a misguided use of the verbal capabilities of the living spirit, who in the human form has the potential to acquire the highest intelligence. With that sharp brain an endless amount of words can be strung together to offer praise to the person whose divine qualities are impossible to fully enumerate.

Think about it for a second. In whichever field of endeavor you are interested, the person at the top has some type of flaw. For instance, in the sports world, there are athletes who are considered the “greatest of all time”. Yet there are still dissenters who will disagree with the claim. They will point to flaws, deficiencies in the athletes in question. The boundaries are not limited to the field of play either. If it should be discovered that a famous athlete has been excessively unfaithful to his wife, he will be ridiculed in public. He will lose his lofty status, and his personal shortcomings will be used to attack his standing in the sport.

Nothing is easier than criticizing. You can be sitting on a park bench and watching people go by and find endless things to criticize. “Oh look at that person walking their dog. Why do they even have a dog? Are they that lonely? They worship a dog instead of God? They’re too low to attract the companionship of the opposite sex? And why are they bringing that dog towards me? Can’t they just leave me and everyone else alone?”

Even a saintly man can be criticized for no reason. A long time back Lord Chaitanya was criticized by someone for eating too much. The Lord was in the renounced order of life, which meant that nothing He did was for sense gratification. A sannyasi gives up connection to family and home, and voluntarily takes up the life of a mendicant. There are several purposes fulfilled with this. Detachment automatically develops, as the true aim of life is to think of God at the time of death. This thinking leads to the highest end in the afterlife.

A sannyasi is also free to travel, which means that he can disseminate Vedic wisdom to a large number of people. Since he has no possessions, he doesn’t have to worry about ego. Materially speaking, everyone is superior to the sannyasi, so there is no question of jealousy. Ah, that is with the exception of those who are competitors in spiritual life. The competitor who is unsure of their standing will look for ways to criticize another sannyasi’s behavior. Lord Chaitanya always limited His eating, not taking too much food and not seeking out areas where He knew He could get food without a problem.

Since He was God Himself, others had a spontaneous love for Him. And what can we really offer God anyway, as He has everything? Using Mahaprabhu’s sannyasa position to their advantage, devotees would often give so many nice food preparations to Lord Chaitanya to eat. Is God so rude as to refuse such offerings made with love? If we visit someone’s home and they keep giving us palatable food to eat, will we not feel bad saying ‘no’? Thus sometimes Lord Chaitanya would eat a lot just to satisfy His devotees.

A person named Ramachandra Puri once criticized Him because of this eating, and Lord Chaitanya’s associates did not like this. Lord Chaitanya was full of good qualities. He spread the glories of bhakti-yoga throughout India, and in due course of time that divine influence would extend to the entire world. He was kind, sweet, respectful, and never committed sin. Even His apparent overeating on occasion was an indication of His unmatched kindness. Yet the critic, who is so insecure of their own abilities and practices, will always find some kind of fault, even with God.

The behavior is a symptom of a tainted consciousness, one which is still materially attached, falsely thinking the self to be the only enjoyer. When operating under a pure ego, the individual knows that they are a servant of God and that the faults in others are but a result of the influence of the material energy. The true paramahamsa extracts the divine influence even in areas where it is apparently absent. The devotee finds millions of ways to praise God and His children, and thus the tendency to criticize gets reversed, pointed in the right direction.

Lord ChaitanyaHow to bring about that transformation? Lord Chaitanya, the person unfairly criticized on that one occasion, showed the way, as He constantly chanted the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This one prayer offers praise perfectly to God and His energy, which represents the height of the devotional attitude in full humility.

Even if the devotee should offer criticism, it is done with the right purpose. Every person’s birthright is to love God without motivation and without interruption, and so if the mind is leading us down the wrong path, if someone rightly points out our flaws and then offers viable solutions, the criticism is actually a kind of praising of the devotional spirit. To denounce the mindsets of “I” and “Mine” is to praise the attitude of full surrender, which is known as sharanagati. There is real bliss with this attitude, and through the example of Lord Chaitanya we are shown just how to reach that platform of surrender.

In Closing:

Though water there is plenty,

Critic sees glass half empty.


Despite perfect balance of sweet and salt,

Critic always to find some kind of fault.


Lord Chaitanya criticized once for what He ate,

Consumed devotional offerings, plate after plate.


Tendency to criticize can be turned around,

By producing and hearing transcendental sound.


In devotional attitude find always something to praise,

Innumerable glories of Lord who with devotees always stays.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Lord Krishna“Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu considered, ‘Where has such a taste in this prasada come from? Certainly it is due to its having been touched by the nectar of Krishna's lips.’” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 16.94)

One of the benefits of visiting a temple where Shri Krishna or one of His non-different expansions is worshiped is the prasadam distribution. The deity is non-different from the worshiped personality, as the process is authorized since time immemorial. At the end of the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Krishna Himself briefly touches on the principles behind deity worship and how it is to be performed. Even prior to that time, the tradition of worshiping a statue made of wood, stone, or resin existed, and when performed properly the worshipers derived tremendous transcendental benefits. The combination of sincerity and purity in items offered returns a potent potion to feed the spiritual hunger that everyone has inside of them.

How do we know there is a spiritual hunger? Material hunger can never bring full satisfaction. This is because our identity does not come from the material elements that surround the soul. The eyes, ears, legs and hands are body parts, so they help us to act, feel and will, but they do not determine our existence. Any one of these parts can go out of commission, either temporarily or permanently, and that automatically doesn’t stop our existence. Relying solely on sense satisfaction fails to bring real pleasure, as the soul inside is what craves ananda, or bliss.

Spiritual hunger is fed through yoga, or connection of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. As this connection is difficult to maintain in a land where the inferior energy known as material nature is mistakenly assumed to be superior, there are various tools of implementation to help the suffering individual. Deity worship is one such tool, and when it is utilized as part of an overall discipline of bhakti-yoga, it alone can lead to perfection.

Can you have deity worship outside of bhakti? Bhakti is love of the divine variety. It is different from what we normally consider to be love, which is usually lust or some emotion tied to the ego. For instance, we think we love someone else, but usually the sentiment is tied to an emotional response we receive. Our significant other makes us feel good. They act in a way that brings pleasure to the heart; hence we think we love them. But when they cease to behave in such a manner, the loving sentiment changes. Therefore the original emotion can not be classified as real love, which cannot depend on reciprocation.

Real love exists only in bhakti, which is devotion to God. You can have devotion to many other divine figures, but that sort of relationship is similar to the friendships we form in everyday life. Worshiping a deity of a divine personality who provides temporary material rewards is akin to conducting a business transaction; so bhakti in this case is absent.

In the deity worship authorized by the respected figures who take charge in teaching bhakti-yoga, the sole desire is to love God. Even if there is impurity mixed in at the beginning, since the object of worship is God Himself, the original Personality, eventually the impurities will be removed, provided the worship continues in sincerity and in an authorized manner.

To stand in front of the deity and stare at it is one way to worship. Another way is to offer obeisances, such as bowing down in front. Another way is to offer prayers, sort of like talking to God. Part of this worshiping process, which is known as archanam, is offering pure items to the deity’s liking. In the Vedic tradition the Supreme Lord in His original form is known as Krishna, and He has kindly told us what items He prefers.

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

In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that if someone offers Him a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or some water with love, He will accept the offering. Krishna doesn’t require food to eat, as He is entirely self-sufficient. If He so desires, He can create thousands of fruit bearing trees in an instant. He can also create a mechanism to pick the fruits and bring them to Him. With the offerings from the devotees, Krishna does not consume everything. In fact, to the worshiper, it appears that Krishna doesn’t eat at all, as the food remains right where it is.

But in reality, the Supreme Lord puts His glance on the food, and it is considered eaten by Him. What gets returned to the worshiper can be considered leftovers. Normally, such a practice is quite repugnant, akin to getting back a sandwich that is half-eaten by someone else. The food has been in someone else’s mouth and it has their saliva on it, so why would we want to touch it?

IMG_0192But with Krishna prasadam, the same contact has a purifying effect. Indeed, such remnants are available from the spiritual master’s food as well, offering the disciple a wonderful chance to make rapid progress in their devotional practices. The anchor that keeps one firmly fixed to the material creation is the false ego, which takes the individual self to be the enjoyer and the material elements to be a vehicle for that enjoyment. Under a pure ego, the individual rightfully identifies as a servant of God and then uses the same material nature for the Lord’s pleasure. The spiritual master is God’s representative, so he is to be treated as good as the Lord, though he is never actually equal to Him.

When Krishna appeared on earth as Lord Chaitanya, He relished the role of servant of God. He would take the prasadam of Lord Jagannatha at the temple in Puri. Due to the intoxicating taste, Lord Chaitanya would know that the food had indeed touched Krishna’s lips. This is the magic that exists in all aspects of bhakti-yoga, as the names of the Supreme Lord also originally descend from the Lord’s lips. So, by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, one can relish a similar taste, except this time the tongue produces the nectar and the ears then consume it. This mantra is regularly heard in Krishna temples, where sumptuous prasadam is also available, allowing any person to rapidly progress in meeting life’s ultimate aim.

In Closing:

The gift of the tongue let me not waste,

Krishna’s prasadam daily let me taste.


Food that Krishna’s lips have touched,

Carries transcendental potency much.


The Lord glances and then leaves behind the rest,

Acquiring taste then that is the best.


Not a tale, this explanation with sincerity buy,

Visit Krishna temple and for yourself try.


Same potency in holy names to hear,

Chant often and bring nectar to the ear.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hallowed Are The Names

maha-mantra“Because people vary in their desires, You have distributed various holy names by Your mercy.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 20.17)

The Supreme Lord has different names assigned to Him by people who wish to connect with Him. The desires in each person are different, and from those desires a certain type of worldview arises. Based on that worldview there is a way to look at the Supreme Lord, as He is the superior entity in the respective comparison. As He is the holy father for every single person, no one is excluded from worshiping Him. And the more inclusive the name is, the more people there are who can benefit from its recitation.

Say, for instance, that my present goal is to get a member of the opposite sex to like me. Unrequited love does a number on the ego, and in that helpless condition the cherished desire is to have the person you adore love you back. “If only I could go back in time and change what I said. If only I could have behaved differently. Then maybe they would have fallen for me. If I just said the right thing, offered heartwarming compliments and provided the kindest treatment known to man, then perhaps my heart wouldn’t be broken today.”

In this distressed condition, one can address the Supreme Lord as Madhava, which means the husband of the goddess of fortune. A similar name is Lakshmipati, which means the husband of Lakshmi Devi, who is the goddess of fortune. These names are significant because no one is more beautiful than Lakshmi. In her original form, she is Shrimati Radharani, and she is so beautiful that she can even enchant Krishna, who is God. Krishna is known as the enchanter of the beautiful cupid, and Radha is the enchanter of the enchanter of cupid. Thus God is known for His ability to be with the most beautiful women, to never be scorned in love. In fact, everyone loves Him at the core, but in a state of ignorance that love is directed elsewhere.

Let’s say that your desire is to become very smart. You read the newspapers every day, study philosophy, and tax your brain pondering the unexplainable phenomena that are time and space. You value intelligence in others, so you try to hang around people who are smart. You value the ability to do things efficiently and to solve problems in a short amount of time. In this mindset you can worship Krishna as the original orator of the Bhagavad-gita, which is known as the Song of God. This short work packs a powerful punch. It is filled with mind-blowing facts about the soul and material nature, and how the living entity is meant to serve God. It is an intellectual work, though it was offered to a member of the warrior caste. Its message resounds with the devotees, who love God without motive. Nevertheless, its pearls of wisdom also satisfy the itch for higher knowledge.

Then there are those who pride themselves on strength and chivalry. To be strong is one thing, but to use that strength for the right purposes is another. The military men and police officers must combine these two facets together in their work. A person of these vocations can worship God as Lord Rama, who is the prince of the Raghu dynasty. Rama once defeated 14,000 ghoulish attacking creatures singlehandedly. These man-eating ogres could change shapes at will, and they showed no mercy on the battlefield. Yet Rama, using just a bow and arrow set, did away with them, killing their most powerful leader Ravana later on. He did all of this to protect the innocent members of society.

Lord Chaitanya worshiping Radha and KrishnaWhat if you take pride in charity? You want to do good unto others. “Service to man” is your motto in life, so you try to do whatever you can to raise the human condition, especially in those who are struggling. In this case you can worship Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, an incarnation of God who took to the renounced order of life to save the fallen souls of the Kali Yuga, the present age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Lord Chaitanya did not earn money for a living. He lived like a homeless beggar, having no possessions except His devotion to Radha and Krishna. Yet He freely distributed the most valuable gem, that same devotion, to others, by asking everyone He met to chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

If you are in a position where you can’t accept a personal aspect to God, where you think the highest state of life is a formless energy, a sort of void, you can still worship the Supreme Lord. His impersonal aspect of Brahman equates to this formless entity. Every living entity is part of Brahman, and so one who wishes to cease all activity, finding pleasure in statelessness, can concentrate on Brahman and hopefully merge into the impersonal effulgence at the time of death.

If you are a lover of children, you can worship Krishna as Gopala, the beloved son of Maharaja Nanda and mother Yashoda. Just as you love your children with all your heart, you can show the same parental affection to the Supreme Lord in His childhood form that roams the sacred land of Vrindavana. Gopala is the protector of the calves owned by Nanda, and He takes pleasure in playing pranks on others. His behavior is so endearing that people still worship Him to this day, offering up their sweetmeat preparations to Him for His enjoyment. The remnants are then returned as the Lord’s mercy, or prasadam, and distributed to others to sanctify the eating process.

In this way know that there are countless names for God, so no one should go without worship in their life. Rather than make it a once a week process performed out of obligation, accept that worship as a daily task, a way to remind yourself that the world doesn’t revolve around you. In that worship you will find the peace and comfort you are looking for, and in the process Krishna comes closer and closer to you, creating a bond that cannot break even after death.

In Closing:

From worshiping God none are shut out,

Connection to the divine none should live without.


If with the sting of scorned love you reside,

Worship Madhava who has Lakshmi by His side.


If you desire to reach knowledge’s highest wrung,

Worship Shri Krishna, who Bhagavad-gita sung.


If what you value most is virtue,

Worship Shri Rama of bluish hue.


If to the betterment of man you wish to contribute,

Worship Chaitanya, who holy names did distribute.


If on your children love you offer heaps,

Worship Gopala, who calves of Nanda keeps.


So many names, so why the wait?

Reach God today, whatever your state.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Send and Receive

Lord Krishna“Let others worship the Vedas and the Upanishads, and let others worship the Mahabharata if they are afraid of material existence and want to become liberated from that condition. But as far as I am concerned, I wish only to worship Maharaj Nanda, because the supreme absolute Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is crawling in his courtyard as his own child.” (Prayer by a brahmana, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 43)

There are different avenues available to reach transcendental enlightenment. Not all paths have the same procedures, but nevertheless the ultimate aim is the same. Just as the different grades of an elementary school may teach specific things pertaining to the academic level of the students, the various paths of spiritual life are tailored to meet the specific qualities of the participants. The elementary school’s objective is still to push through all the students, from the first grade all the way up until the last. In the same manner, the study of Vedanta, the absorption of Vedic history, and the steps taken to bring about the Brahman realization are all meant to lead to an eventual goal, a resting place where there is nothing but pleasure.

What is study of Vedanta? Try to picture the ultimate system of knowledge. In school you learn your ABCs, and then you add on to that with mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, and other subjects. As an adult, you will have to earn a living, so the little pieces of information are intended to form the fortified structure that is the intelligent brain. The mature human being relies on this brain to carry it through the rest of life, as in childhood the guidance of the authority figures was there.

Vedanta is the summit of knowledge. It is the highest education because its principles penetrate to the lowest level as far as relevance goes. For instance, learning a specific alphabet can help you form words to use in communication and it can also help you to understand what others are saying in communication. Thus the alphabet itself is a fundamental tool, a foundation for something larger.

Vedanta studies the difference between matter and spirit. As all the things we see around us are a combination of these two factors, Vedanta has applicability to all aspects of life. The unexplainable is even addressed. Life and death, time and space - these mysteries are studied in great detail by the philosopher who approaches one who knows the essence of the individual’s identity, the atma, or soul. Spirit is the core unit of all autonomous life, and whatever is not spirit is known as matter. Matter is also considered maya, or an energy. When the knowledge of the spirit’s presence is absent, that maya is illusion; it erroneously becomes the basis of identity.

Study of Vedanta through consulting the Vedas, the Upanishads, and historical texts like the Mahabharata helps the individual to become Brahman realized. Brahman is the sum collection of all particles of spirit. Each one of us is Brahman, but in delusion we think that we are maya. We think that the material elements surrounding our soul represent our identity, when in fact we are nothing but pure spirit.

Though Vedanta means the ultimate knowledge, it is not the end of understanding. Knowledge should bring a shift in activities. The core property of the soul is blissfulness, and in the individual soul that bliss is awakened through service. There is a higher soul, who is the source of all the individuals in fact. His core property is also blissfulness, but He feels it through accepting service. Thus there is a sender and a receiver. When the sender mistakenly thinks they are the receiver, they live in delusion.

The bhaktas, or devotees, don’t shun Vedanta philosophy. They may well be aware of their identity as Brahman, but to them real pleasure comes from directly offering service to the higher soul, the original receiver. In addition, the bhaktas offer worship to other servants, who send so much love to the same receiver. An example of one such servant is Nanda Maharaja, the king of Gokula.

Nanda Maharaja with Yashoda and KrishnaNanda is both a historical personality and a person who resides eternally in the spiritual sky of Goloka Vrindavana. The higher soul is known as Krishna in the Vedic tradition because of His all-attractiveness. He accepts service from others through situations that He creates. In order to receive, He must have a physical location. For a physical location He must have a perceivable form. This stands the principles of Vedanta on their head, for we are taught that spirit is formless. The spirit soul inside the body does not have a form; it only looks like it does because of the outer covering, which is maya.

Yet the highest soul does have a form, though He is not limited to only one. This paradox is understood only by the devotees; mere logic and mental speculation will never solve this puzzle. Nanda Maharaja is Krishna’s foster-father, and in Vrindavana Krishna rolls around on the ground, like an innocent child. Nanda offers devotion in the mood of parental affection, so there is some fear involved. There is the fear that Krishna will be in danger, that if intervention from the parents doesn’t arrive the young boy will be harmed.

But we know that God can never be harmed. He is always full of bliss and knowledge, sach-chid-ananda. The seemingly helpless condition is created by Krishna on purpose to allow the senders to be confident in their position. If they were to view God with a reverential attitude, the tendency towards adopting the receiver attitude would strengthen, thereby leading to an unhappy state. Know that Vedanta philosophy, or any religious study for that matter, is meant to culminate in a state of devotion similar to that seen in the pleasure-land of Vrindavana-dhama. As Nanda is the king of that wonderful place, he is forever worthy of honor.

In Closing:

Vedanta knowledge certainly is great,

Takes intelligence to a higher state.


Upanishads and sankhya also wonderful,

Full of philosophy and truths meaningful.


But only one person does it for me,

He plays in Vrindavana for parents to see.


Just a tiny child, not very tall,

In the courtyard of father He crawls.


Worthy of honor is King Nanda,

Daily he gets to see son Krishna.