Saturday, October 6, 2012

Staying Afloat

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

Work hard all day, come home at night to eat something for dinner, and then try to relax before you have to do it all over again the next day. And why do you do it? To stay afloat of course. The monthly bills are too much to even fathom. There are payments due for the mortgage, car, insurance, credit card, and other expenses that may come up. Mind you, this is just to stay at neutral. Don’t even mention retirement or savings, as there can never possibly be enough money. All of this seems overwhelming, but in the higher planes of consciousness, it is understood that the purpose to an existence is not to struggle for maintenance. At the root of all activity is the desire for pleasure, and the highest pleasure is to be found through intelligence.

Another way to think of it is to consider being out at sea. If you’re out on a boat, you can go somewhere. You’ve got your friends, some food and drinks, and the open seas to navigate. The captain steers the ship, and the rest enjoy the ride. While this is happening, you don’t consciously think about how you’re staying afloat. You don’t wonder, “Gee, I’m glad I’m not sinking right now. I’m glad that this boat is keeping me from falling to the bottom of the ocean.” Instead, the focus is on what’s ahead, on how to enjoy the existence that you already have.

Should the boat develop a leak and everyone be forced to abandon ship, will you be happy just staying afloat? Is it really living if you’re barely staying above water and breathing? You will want to get back to land or to a place where you can do more than just stay afloat. Sitting around and breathing is not the summit of an existence. Activity within the mind, a vibrancy in spirit, is what gives pleasure. This secret is what makes the highest engagement in life so worthwhile. The secret and the engagement to which it belongs are known to the Vedic seers, who received the information from the reservoir of pleasure Himself.

In the Vedic tradition the Supreme Lord is known as Shri Krishna. He is also described as Rama, Narasimha, Vishnu, and a host of other names that speak to His features and pastimes. Irrespective of the name or form of choice, the attribute of pleasure exists within Him to the highest level. As He is beaming with transcendental bliss, anyone who connects with Him gets their share as well. In fact, the pleasure comes just from the method of connection, as the ideal route is through service. In simpler terms, you are happiest when you are serving God. This is the root to happiness, and all other pleasurable conditions descend from this constitutional state.

If we’re supposed to feel pleasure in God’s company, why are we so miserable all the time? Is not this creation an extension of His abilities? Are not God’s abilities the same as His personal self?

The connection to the divine requires only a proper consciousness. Service is what develops that consciousness when it is in an unrefined state, sort of like polishing a dusty block of gold. The gold never changes, but depending on how we treat the exterior its value can change.

When the spirit soul is forgetful of its constitutional position of servant of God, simple maintenance of the body can be mistaken to be the only worthwhile endeavor. The attention to maintenance is already present in the animals, but they don’t have to worry about mortgage payments or who is in positions of power. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending are accounted for the animals at no extra charge, and since they don’t know any better they have no concept of fearing over the loss of a comfortable lifestyle.

The human being knows that life is like an hourglass whose sand continuously falls. The duration of life is like a timer that keeps ticking down, until it eventually culminates with death. Therefore to fear is natural, and to worry over how one will survive in that short period of time is understandable. Yet from the Vedas, and especially the Bhagavad-gita, we learn that the spirit soul transcends birth and death. This should make sense after all, as we had to come from somewhere. We consider the time of birth to be the start of our existence, but the spark of life had to come from somewhere. The human beings cannot create life on their own; life must come from life.

“The total material substance, called Brahman, is the source of birth, and it is that Brahman that I impregnate, making possible the births of all living beings, O son of Bharata.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.3)

Lord KrishnaThe Supreme Lord is the source of that life, as He makes possible the birth of all living entities by impregnating the material energy. This means that the spirit souls aren’t originally part of this land. They come from somewhere else, a place where birth and death do not exist. The descent to the material creation occurs through desire, and so when desire is shifted towards the transcendental realm, the return ticket to spiritual freedom is granted.

To struggle for a material existence is not very wise. The better choice is to focus on trying to revive the connection to God. His names describe His attributes, and since Krishna and Rama are the most descriptive names, they form the bedrock of the greatest mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The tools necessary for the recitation of this mantra are the tongue and the ears. If the tongue is out of commission, one can still chant the words within their mind. Therefore the requirements for an existence in spiritual life, where the devotional consciousness is carefully nurtured until it reaches full maturity, are minimal. Moreover, Krishna Himself promises to give the devotees what they lack and preserve what they have.

Is the purpose to life just to chant? Isn’t reciting God’s names akin to remaining above water? Are not the two situations identical, wherein one simply lives and does nothing?

Chanting and hearing are the most basic and effective processes of the discipline known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Devotion springs forth new desires, giving renewed enthusiasm for service with each successive day. In bhakti-yoga, any area, either material or spiritual, is a field full of endless possibilities for pleasing Krishna, which is the only way by which to invite true ananda, or bliss, into one’s life. Thus to maintain the ability to chant the holy names proves to be the way to secure real enthusiasm to live life to the fullest.

In Closing:

When travelling on a boat,

Is goal only to remain afloat?


Mind filled with so many other thoughts,

To feel pleasure to seas I was brought.


Work not only for life to maintain,

A higher pleasure should be my aim.


In bhakti-yoga eternal engagement find,

Live to the fullest keeping Krishna in mind.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Divine Unity

Krishna's hands“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5)

Question: “Do you think that by worshipping a God figure, you're separating yourself from the single, divine-unity? Couldn't it be that the worshipping itself is the barrier to attaining that state of transcendence; because it - worshipping - is an action taken in attempt to attain that state of total-love, and thus, a non-pure form of being?”

Everything is God; a fact which should make sense. If we say that there is a divine controller who is the source of everything, both spiritual and material, then that must mean that every little fragment we see is part of the definition of that controller. Both the large and the small, the visible and the invisible, must be part of the singular energy, so shouldn’t understanding this force be the ultimate goal? Through worshiping a distinct entity known as God, or some name ascribed to the same personality, are we not separating ourselves from the total energy, and thereby making it harder to get in touch with transcendence? In actuality, just the opposite occurs. On the flip side, through ignoring the separate entity, it becomes nearly impossible to understand transcendence.

There is always worship, irrespective of the path you choose. If you don’t worship someone who is deemed to be God or the notable equivalent, you will pay homage to some other higher force. In any endeavor, in order to get ahead there is service paid to a superior authority. If I want to get ahead in business, I have to pay service to the customer, the loan officer, the government, the employees, and so many other entities. If I want to get ahead in sports, someone has to teach me how to play. I also need someone to train my body. If I am self-motivated, I still need corresponding parties, which represent nothing more than energy, to comply with my wishes.

At this point one might be tempted to think that they are worshiping the singular energy anyway through their personal endeavors. If I am part of the definition that is God, and I’m trying to find pleasure, am I not worshiping God? Actually, by focusing on myself, I am separating from the transcendence that I apparently want to find. If I try to help only a certain section of the population, taking shelter of the large umbrella that is “service to man”, I’m still ignoring other sections of the singular energy. By feeding the poor, I’m ignoring the wealthy. By fighting to stop disease, I’m ignoring social injustice. By being kind to others, I’m not teaching those who need instruction offered in a stern manner.

In the Vedic tradition the all-encompassing impersonal energy is known as Brahman. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is said that one who follows the path of impersonal worship has a very difficult time. This is due to the influence of the body. If I am embodied, meaning that I identify with a covering composed of the material elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, it will be very difficult for me to see the spiritual force within every other creature. One symptom of the limited sight is meat eating, wherein I rely on violence to innocent animals to feed my material senses. Another symptom is uncontrolled sex desire, wherein I base the identity of another person off of the attractiveness of their outward features, which are known to change.

The personal path of worship is far superior because it is in line with the properties of the individual. I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of Brahman. And higher than Brahman is Paramatma, or the localized aspect of the superior spiritual force. And higher than Brahman is Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Brahman is related to Bhagavan in a relationship described as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, or inconceivable and simultaneous oneness and difference. We are the same in quality as God but vastly inferior in the quantitative output of that quality.

With service to God’s personal aspect, rather than separate from the Brahman energy, I learn to appreciate it more. This is because I learn the proper relationship between objects. Rather than see differences between the species, I learn that everything is part and parcel of Krishna, who is the original personal form of the Supreme Lord. I learn that the souls that land in the material world due so out of ignorance, and through service directed to Krishna the ignorance dissipates.

Lord KrishnaWorship of Krishna aims to achieve a state of love, and this is actually the purest form of existence. Mundane love is known as kama, or lust, and it binds one to the cycle of birth and death. One continues in reincarnation for as long as they are not in transcendence. Love of God is different because it actually shakes off kama, eliminating lust and purifying the individual so that they feel pure love, or prema. Operating under kama, I compete with my fellow man for sense gratification and I feel envious when someone else starts to win. In prema, however, I hope for my fellow man to feel the same bliss from serving the Supreme Lord that I feel. I try to recruit others to take up devotional service to God, because in that service they will learn to see things properly.

Worship of the material nature creates exclusive relationships, wherein others are ignored in the pursuit to satisfy the senses. In worship of the impersonal Brahman, one must be completely renounced, free of the bodily designation, to have any chance at success. With worship of Bhagavan, however, there is automatic worship of everything else, as the Supreme Lord is the root of the tree of existence. In bhakti-yoga, the discipline that corresponds with the simultaneous oneness and difference relationship, one lives the ideal life, remaining peacefully disposed, acting kindly towards others, and giving the best example for others to follow. In the path of personal worship, conducted under authorized guidelines, the state of transcendence arrives for the individual very quickly, and in the highest state everything is seen as part and parcel of the Lord.

In Closing:

Should not we achieve divine unity?

Can worship make that a reality?


If the Supreme Lord with eyes I see,

Will not separated from world I be?


Actually, personal path is far superior,

Learn to see material energy as inferior.


Shri Krishna, the root of existence’s tree,

Worship Him and from duality be free.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Brought To You By

Rama Darbar“Being prayed for by the demigods, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Absolute Truth Himself, directly appeared with His expansion and expansions of the expansion. Their holy names were Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna. These celebrated incarnations thus appeared in four forms as the sons of Maharaja Dasharatha.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 9.10.2)

The fruit of the human existence is the ability to direct the mind towards the divine realm. Using the mind we can make good things happen without reliance on outside entities. In ventures relating to material happiness, everything must fall into place for the successful outcomes. The threefold miseries of life, which can rear their ugly head at any second, must agree to stay away during the time allotted for success, and there must also be the proper effort expended by the individual. Yet with the divine consciousness, the mind is so powerful that just remembering a number can bring so much happiness.

For instance, think of the number four. Why would we want to think of a number? Is this a guessing game? Is four the answer to a trivia question? Are we doing a math equation where there is the addition of two and two? Is this like the television show Sesame Street, where we’re told that the show is brought to us by a number? Four is only a number, but when immersed in bhakti-yoga, when one is connected to the divine realm in a mood of love, just hearing the word can bring to mind the beautiful sons of King Dasharatha.

A ruler in Ikshvaku’s line during an ancient time, Dasharatha had everything except sons, which was required in order for the family line of kings to continue. It was beneficial to both him and society for the throne to be passed on, as the proper guardianship of the citizens led to happiness for all the parties involved. Without peace there is no question of happiness, and there is no peace if lawbreakers are allowed to get away with their lawlessness. More than just punishment after the fact, there must be fear of a martial force in order to deter the lawless behavior from occurring in the first place.

Dasharatha proved his worth in fighting many times, as the celestials used him in their battles against the asuras. Every creature is a spirit soul at heart and therefore also an inherent lover of God, but in ignorance of the connection to the divine that is everyone’s birthright one can follow the wrong course with their actions. The pious stay on the proper course and they typically don’t bother anyone, but the impious will not be so kind. Rather than sit back and allow the miscreants to run rampant, the pious are required to defend the innocent, and for that to take place there must be able and willing soldiers ready to step up.

Dasharatha deserved to have children, as he was a noble warrior and king. Finally, through the advice of the priestly class, he performed a religious sacrifice, where remnants of offered food were then distributed to his three wives. From this sanctified food the women became pregnant, and pretty soon four children were born. Rama was the eldest, born to Queen Kausalya. Bharata was next, and he was born to Kaikeyi. Lakshmana and Shatrughna appeared next from Queen Sumitra.

Just reciting the names of the four brothers warms the heart. They are still celebrated to this day because they are expansions of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, who is the same God but more clearly defined. Rama is Vishnu directly, and the three brothers are partial expansions. In the spiritual world, the strict laws of mathematics do not apply. If I have a single pizza pie, I can divide it into sections, thereby breaking up the original. In the spiritual world, a pie can be broken up with the original remaining intact. This sort of explains how the material creation came to be. God simply expanded, using His external energy to create the material universe. The internal expansions are known as avataras, incarnations which appear in various places and accept various roles. Despite Vishnu coming as Rama, the Supreme Lord remained in the spiritual kingdom. This shows how God is all-pervading and still a singular entity.

Rama and familyGoswami Tulsidas, a famous Vaishnava poet and great devotee of Lord Rama, remarks that before undertaking any task one should remember Dasharatha’s four sons. This means that when you get up in the morning and get ready for work, remember Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. When you get to the office and start your day, remember them again. When times are good remember them, and also bring them to mind when times are bad. When it’s your birthday and everyone is offering you kind words, remember the four brothers. Keep them in mind also when you desire something very badly.

In the absence of such a remembrance, you may or may not get what you want. Yet what you get today is not guaranteed to stay relevant going forward. I may receive a nice shirt to wear as a gift today, but pretty soon I will want another one. Or perhaps the shirt will start to fade after continuous wear. In the reverse situation, where I don’t get what I want, the sting of defeat will eventually dissipate, like the sand washed away by the incoming waves of the ocean.

But remembrance of Dasharatha’s four sons brings permanent progress. Proof of the fact is that they are still remembered to this day. The Ramayana poem provides the most detail of their lives and pastimes, and since the time of its original composition many saints have added their own thoughts and prayers, glorifying the brothers even more. Rama is the well-wisher and protector of every living entity. Lakshmana is Rama’s staunch protector. Bharata is the devoted brother thrust into unfortunate circumstances due to the envy of his mother. Bharata’s devotion practiced through asceticism and renunciation of the throne is the example for all transcendentalists looking to remain connected to the divine. Shatrughna is the devoted brother who asks to battle the wicked Lavanasura. He is then asked by Rama to rule over the conquered kingdom, which means separating from his brothers. Following the example of the others, Shatrughna accepts his responsibility even though the separation pains him.

Know that in this journey through life there will come many periods of happiness and sadness, the association of friends and family and also separation from them, but through the mind one can remain connected to the divine realm. The number four is wonderful because it immediately brings to mind the four chivalrous sons of King Dasharatha, who continue to protect the surrendered souls who think of them.

In Closing:

Lakshmana and Shatrughna from Sumitra,

Bharata from Kaikeyi, Rama from Kausalya.


The sons of Dasharatha adore,

Think of them with the number four.


Those who are actually smart,

By keeping them in mind at the start,

Whether win or lose they still gain,

As Supreme Lord in the mind to remain.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Looking In All The Wrong Places

Krishna and Arjuna“You are air, fire, water, and You are the moon! You are the supreme controller and the grandfather. Thus I offer my respectful obeisances unto You a thousand times, and again and yet again!” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.39)

In the human being there is an inherent understanding of the existence of a higher force who has supremacy over all. The problem is that without the required approach towards a bona fide spiritual master, the search for the supreme force will lead us to all the wrong places. So many gods are then created, and when they fail to live up to their billing, as is guaranteed to happen, the search continues elsewhere, with the clock eventually running out at the time of death. Then the cycle begins anew, with the future circumstances uncertain because of the intricacies of karma.

“The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a certain type of ear, tongue, and nose and sense of touch, which are grouped about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.9)

Karma is fruitive work. The work has one or many outcomes. There is the intended result and also the unintended consequences. For instance, when we plant a seed, we hope to get a flower or a tree with fruits. What we don’t intend is to miss out on other work. We also don’t desire to be pricked by the many thorns on the trees. These thorns will get in the way of the harvest, mixing the pleasure of enjoying the fruit with the pain of the sides of our body being torn.

Karma’s effects continue into the afterlife, so depending on the state of being at the time of death, the next state can be anywhere. Think of it like getting on an elevator and not knowing to which floor it’s going. You could be going up or down, or possibly staying on the same floor. As the spirit soul has specific qualities inherent to it, there will be a push towards a specific type of activity. If the ideal target is not found, the search will continue, with more and more outcomes accumulated through karma.

And what exactly is it that we’re searching for? The dharma of the soul is service. Dharma is an essential characteristic. The dharma of fire is its heat and light, of water its wetness, of winter its cold conditions, and so on. The soul is the essence of identity, and in its constitutional position it is subordinate to the highest spirit soul, the person most of us refer to as God. In a conditioned state, where the individual soul is encased in material elements, the original dharma is covered up. The tendency towards service in the submissive attitude remains, but since there is a covering, the path towards knowledge is skewered. The light of wisdom is refracted and thus one drifts away from the ideal service instead of towards it.

As an example to illustrate the fact, think of the situation that occurs when gasoline prices rise. It is obvious to anyone who follows the stock market that there is volatility in commodities trading. You have thousands of people making thousands of decisions based on a host of different reasons. These decisions then affect the price of a commodity, as a price is nothing more than an indication of information, acting like a newspaper report or biography specific to a commodity or business. A rise in price reports specific information about a commodity and a fall something else.

And yet when oil prices rise suddenly, there is a clamor to find out how to change the momentum through a single person’s effort. “Who is it that is causing the price to rise so rapidly?” is the questioned asked. The mistaken notion is that one person controls the price. Even famous television news personalities make this error, completely ignoring the decisions of the aforementioned traders.

Obviously there is no single entity responsible for the price of a commodity that is bought and sold by so many people. Even the large oil companies have to bend to the demands of the buying public and the futures traders. The companies also compete with one another, so it is in their interest to sell gasoline for as low a price as possible, as this will drive the competitors into a loss scenario and hopefully out of business.

But the tendency towards thinking that one person is in charge of something as large as oil exists for a reason. Deep down the individual knows that they can’t influence much. Even the leader of a nation, who has the bully pulpit and can thus reach a wide audience with their public speeches, must rely on the confidence of the constituents to get anything meaningful done. Though we know that there are higher powers that be, to think that another human holds the post of “all-powerful” is incorrect.

“I am the goal, the sustainer, the master, the witness, the abode, the refuge and the most dear friend. I am the creation and the annihilation, the basis of everything, the resting place and the eternal seed.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 9.18)

Lord KrishnaThe highest living entity is really in charge, but He is not an ordinary person. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that He is responsible for the creation, its subsequent maintenance, and its eventual destruction. This takes place in a repeating cycle, and since no one can even fathom the full breadth and scope of the universe, Krishna is automatically the most powerful person. To deny Krishna’s supremacy is easy to do with words, but we know for a fact that the macrocosmic form does exist and that its interior elements operate on their own. We don’t control the sun. We don’t manage the revolution and rotation of the earth. And yet somehow we think that a man can be God?

We can test the idea that Krishna is the real God by seeing the benefits that result from acknowledging His supremacy. That acknowledgment can take place in many different moods, with love being the foremost. Love of God is the real meaning to surrender, as in that voluntarily accepted subordinate state there is vulnerability and full reliance on the more powerful force. This situation is ideal for the spirit soul, as it reawakens the original dharma. To feel that helplessness regularly the devotees chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

The manmade gods require constant attention simply to provide a reciprocal benefit. As they are not all-powerful, they cannot possibly distribute benefits without cessation. Meanwhile, in chanting the holy names in a humble mood of devotion, the benefit is the continued ability to chant in spite of what the outside conditions may be. Married or single, poverty stricken or wealthy, young or old, Hindu or Christian - devotional service can continue without interruption and without motivation. This paradoxical combination exists with the devotees, who show the way towards the real controller.

In Closing:

To find superior being inherent need,

Towards person after person search to lead.


But of these all-powerful are none,

Supreme Controller there is only one.


This the spirit soul inherently knows,

Intelligent person towards Krishna goes.


At start difficult for fact to believe,

So take confidence from divine gift to receive.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Research Scholars

Vedic scriptures“The research scholar finds out the cause and the effect of everything, but research scholars as great as Brahma, Shiva, Indra and many other demigods are sometimes bewildered by seeing the wonderful creative energy of the Lord, so what to speak of the tiny mundane scholars dealing in petty things.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.4.6 Purport)

Proper research involves investigating the cause and effect of the issue at hand. For the journalist, the research relates to a specific news story. Whether it is a murder, accident, or issue of politics, the investigator takes the facts into account and then figures out what happened to cause the result. Research is especially prominent in science because so much is unknown. Through years and years of research, new facts are discovered which will hopefully lead to even newer discoveries in the future. Yet from the Vedas we learn that exalted personalities, whose abilities are beyond belief, are unable to fully understand the complexities of the universe; a fact which should automatically lead to a higher realization.

Who are the personalities we speak of? For the material creation, there are three presiding deities. There is the creator, the maintainer, and the destroyer. Brahma is the creator. Known as chatur-mukha because of his four heads, Lord Brahma takes birth from the stem growing from the lotus-like navel of Lord Vishnu, who is considered the original Supreme Lord. There are actually several different Vishnus descending from the Personality of Godhead, but for all intents and purposes Vishnu is equivalent with God.

Brahma then takes charge of populating the material creation, thus making him the Creator. His title is a little deceiving. Brahma is the father, but the actual source of identity within the created creatures cannot be traced to him. In addition, it is learned in the Bhagavad-gita that Krishna is the seed-giving father. He impregnates the material energy, the mahat-tattva, with jiva souls who are desirous of living in a temporary land. Brahma is a figure who appears to be doing the creating, but the energies and the process of growth already exist beforehand, operating under rules established by Krishna, who is the same original Vishnu.

“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.4)

Lord Shiva appears from Lord Brahma’s forehead, but he is not a conditioned living entity. At the time of annihilation, Lord Shiva remains in his abode, as does Lord Vishnu. While the creation is manifest, Shiva’s role is to destroy when the time is right. So Vishnu takes the role of the maintainer, Brahma the creator, and Shiva the destroyer.

Brahma and Shiva are devotees of Vishnu. They have tremendous powers assigned to them as a result of their status. Brahma can live for thousands of years, and Lord Shiva can focus his mind on the lotus feet of Vishnu without cessation. Both personalities can grant material benedictions to those who please them, though they don’t require such benedictions for themselves. Both Brahma and Shiva are also authorities on bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Each has started a chain of disciplic succession, or parampara, which teaches bhakti-yoga to those who are willing to learn in the required attitude of humbleness.

The point of bringing up Brahma and Shiva is to show that no one can compare to them in stature and ability, especially not us mortal living beings. We assign fame based on greatness in a particular field. Someone who is great in terms of wealth is given more attention than someone who is poor. Someone who is famous for their beauty is remembered more than someone who is not so beautiful. Yet in terms of real greatness, no one can compare to Brahma, who lives for billions of years. And who can destroy on the level of Shiva, who is able to wipe out the entire creation?

These two figures conduct their own research, as they are autonomous living beings beaming with curiosity. “How do the material elements operate? Why does the sun rise and set at predictable times? Why are the seasons the way they are? Why must everyone die at a certain point? Why does the body go through changes? How is it possible to create a brand new life from the union of a man and a woman?” Just as time and space are infinite, so the questions that can be asked about the creation never end. There is not enough research that can be done to find the answer to every question. Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva are amazed by this, and so they humbly pray to Vishnu to have His favor, for God can never be fully understood.

Praying to GodThis attitude is indicative of real spiritual life. First there is the inquiry into the Absolute. This inquiry can be the result of an initial approach towards spiritual life or it can be the cause of the initial approach itself. Regardless, once that inquisitiveness is raised and a corresponding qualified teacher is found, the wonders of the creation can be slowly revealed to the point that one realizes that there is no such thing as complete knowledge. This is not a negative, as full knowledge is not required. Rather, what is needed is connection to the divine, which is known as yoga.

When that connection takes place in a mood of love, the resulting pleasure is unmatched. That is the real aim of human life - to approach God, understand Him to a certain degree, and then try to constantly stay in His association – all for the purpose of experiencing transcendental bliss. The research work in other areas actually leads the individual in the opposite direction. With each new discovery, the influence of God is apparently eliminated, though it is never pondered from where such amazing things come. Brahma and Shiva have done the research work for us, and they’ve found that God’s qualities are unlimited. His universe is unimaginably large, and so to try to conduct research into the matter is a futile attempt. As far as you think you can go, Vishnu can expand the reach of the creation, sort of like opening a box to only find another box, and continuing in the process until you get frustrated and give up.

Instead of continuing infinitely with research, Brahma and Shiva think of God and constantly offer Him prayers. The best prayer, which is also the easiest to recite on a regular basis, is the maha-mantra: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This mantra was made famous by God’s incarnation of Lord Chaitanya. Know that when the desire to connect with the Lord is sincere, He will Himself reveal enough knowledge to help you maintain the link to Him. Knowledge is only valuable if you know what to do with it, so Brahma and Shiva use their exalted status and their brainpower for deriving the pleasure that comes with connection to the divine.

In Closing :

What of this universe can you know?

For time and space infinitely grow.


Research you can conduct into the matter.

But with notion that you’re God don’t flatter.


More powerful than Brahma and Shiva there are none,

Research into the universe they’ve already done.


That God is wonderful they have concluded,

Worship Him and no longer be deluded.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Teaching from Experience

Worshiping Vishnu in Vaikuntha“Lord Brahma, Bhagavan Narada, Lord Shiva, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila [the son of Devahuti], Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, Janaka Maharaja, Grandfather Bhishma, Bali Maharaja, Shukadeva Gosvami and I myself know the real religious principle.” (Yamaraja, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.3.20)

Since we experience so many different things in our journey through life, from our thinking abilities we craft theories on how to succeed going forward. For unmarried men, the ideas relate to how to interact with women, i.e. potential girlfriends and wives. When to call them and when not to and when to be nice and when to be mean are some of the issues addressed. Single women trying to land the perfect guy play the same game. In business, the theories relate to succeeding in the goal of earning a profit. Those who consider themselves successful in these areas often write books about their experiences, wanting to share their wisdom with others. In the realm of spirituality, there are twelve figures deemed authorities in the practice of bhakti-yoga, or divine love. They have shared their experiences through written word and verbal instruction, and interestingly enough they did not start from nothing.

What do we mean by this? If you succeed in creating a profitable business, you likely didn’t know anything about the business world at the outset. You kind of had to learn the ropes on your own. If others did give you advice, it wasn’t entirely applicable. You had to take bits and pieces and then assemble the complete theory on your own. The same holds true in other ventures as well. If the successful were all-knowing from the beginning, they wouldn’t feel the need to share their thoughts later on in life. They want to share their wisdom because they think it will help others and that such information is not known to everyone.

With respect to spiritual life, the proper roadmap existed at the beginning of time. It doesn’t need to be created, as it comes from the chaitya-guru, the spiritual master in the heart. Within every living being there are two life forces. There is the individual soul and the Supersoul. The individual is the perceived enjoyer; he chooses in which direction to go. The Supersoul is like the driver, acting on the decisions made and then distributing the results fairly, but at the same time not taking sides. If the individual wants to place their hand into a fire, the Supersoul knows that it is a bad move, but He doesn’t interfere with the decision. The reaction of a burned hand is ultimately caused by the Supersoul, for He is the one who created the material elements and their properties.

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

The turn towards the proper path of spiritual life takes place when the individual listens to the Supersoul. Not surprisingly, the Supersoul is the person most of us refer to as God. He is not an old and angry man, and He isn’t looking to specifically punish anyone. If someone plays the game of American football and then gets seriously injured in a collision while playing, is it the fault of the game? Is the football to blame for the injury? The individual made the choice to play, and with that choice there was knowledge of every possible outcome going in.

Lord BrahmaIn special circumstances, one can take instruction directly from the Supersoul within the heart. This occurred with Lord Brahma, who is the original creator. Every creature in this universe can trace their ancestry back to Brahma. He was put in charge of populating the creation. He didn’t know what to do at first, so he meditated upon the Supersoul within the heart and received the proper direction. He pleased the Supreme Lord Vishnu in this way. We thus know that Brahma didn’t chart out his own course, though at first there was no one else around to tell him otherwise. He followed the original spiritual instruction of devotion to God, and he found a favorable situation as a result. Afterwards, Brahma went through so many experiences and continues to do so right now, as his duration of life is inconceivably long. His experiences are noted down in the Vedic literatures, and any person can consult them and take away valuable lessons on life.

Narada Muni is another authority on bhakti-yoga. He is Brahma’s son, and he travels the different worlds chanting the glories of Narayana, which is another name for Vishnu. Again, Narada did not chart out his own course, but through executing bhakti-yoga, he gathered so many valuable experiences that are shared with others for their benefit. He is the spiritual master of some of the most notable saints in history, including Valmiki Muni and Vyasadeva.

Lord Shiva is the destroyer. He is the worshipable figure for those in ignorance, who don’t know the difference between matter and spirit and how the aim of life is to be God conscious at the time of death. Lord Shiva prefers to only meditate on the lotus feet of God, but he carries out his other duties at the behest of the Supreme Lord. Lord Shiva has had many experiences to share, including one incident with Narada Muni, where he warned the saint not to be too puffed up from his mastery over the senses. Narada didn’t listen to Shiva at the time, and as a result he had to face the heartbreak of losing the association of a woman he fancied. Lord Shiva does not chalk out his own path, but one can follow his example of dedication to chanting the holy names.

In a similar manner, the four Kumaras, Lord Kapila, Svayambhuva Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, King Janaka, Grandfather Bhishma, Bali Maharaja, Shukadeva Gosvami and Yamaraja all followed devotional service, and in their unique circumstances they implemented them in specific ways. Rather than try to speculate as to the meaning of life or develop our own theories based on ignorance of the laws of the spiritual science, we can consult the life and teachings of these notable figures, who are saints in the true sense of the word.

In Closing:

If myself only of God I think,

Into ignorance's pit I’ll sink.


The entire creation I can never know,

For time and space are infinite so.


Look at the notable figures of the past,

Took up devotion to God as primary task.


Of Supreme Lord’s glories was their talk,

But never their own path did they chalk.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Good Embarrassment

Lord Rama“Those sweet forms melt your heart and steal your mind, so why don’t you respect it? Without accomplishing your work you come to this royal assembly, and renouncing shame you seek to ruin yourself.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 8.1)

manasija manohara madhura mūrati kasa na sādara jovahū |
binu kāja rāja samāja mahum̐ taji lāja āpu bigovahū ||

Embarrassment is obviously something we look to avoid, as who wants to feel small in front of others? Our false ego inflates our pride even if we have no reason to feel proud. The pauper has just as much pride in what they do as the wealthy celebrity, so whichever path supports that pride is the one generally taken. Therefore, when it is rhetorically asked, “Have you no shame?”, the implication is that shame exists for a reason, and when you abandon it, you are doing so for a reason that is not justifiable, or at least not understandable. A similar kind of question was put forth many thousands of years ago in relation to a famous royal assembly.

The kings were gathered to participate in a contest. They wanted to be the first one to lift up an extremely heavy bow. The bow was not to be used as a weapon, as it could hardly be moved. Getting it to the middle of the sacrificial arena must have been difficult enough, so trying to string it and shoot arrows off of it were not in the cards. Instead, any prince just had to lift it up. The bow was magical in a sense, as it originally came from Lord Shiva, the deity of the Vedic tradition who is charged with various tasks. He came from the forehead of Lord Brahma, the creator, but he is actually not an ordinary living entity. Lord Shiva is very easily pleased, as he would rather spend his time in meditation than on paying attention to requests for benedictions. A simple leaf offered to his deity form can make a person very wealthy quickly.

But Lord Shiva has a higher wealth, which he attains through his meditation. The object of his affection always stays with him, at least in consciousness. When objects relating to Lord Shiva are placed anywhere, there is still some relation to Mahadeva’s worshipable figure. Therefore it shouldn’t be surprising that this bow in Janaka’s kingdom would act as a sort of magnet to bring the delight of Raghu’s clan. The bow had a destiny, to be lifted by Lord Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His avatara as a warrior prince.

The kings assembled in Janakpur obviously didn’t know this, but they did get to see Rama in a youthful form, looking charming as ever. Though this wasn’t an official state visit, Rama was there nonetheless, escorting the exalted sage Vishvamitra. The muni was a forest-dweller in a sense, for he lived in the wilderness as a way to practice his penance and austerity. So many powers come through regulation, through controlling the senses and focusing the mind. The consciousness that sees clearly sees only God, and that divine vision provides the spiritual food necessary to remain alive. In a place where delights entice the senses at every moment, that vision can get blurry very quickly, so renunciation is a good way to go for a spiritualist looking to advance in consciousness.

Vishvamitra’s reward for his penance was the personal protection of Shri Rama, who was accompanied by His younger brother Lakshmana. Lakshmana was like a twin to Rama, except He had a fair complexion, while Rama was dark. The muni took his twin protectors with him to Janakpur, where the group received a warm welcome from the host of the ceremony, King Janaka. The boys and their preceptor were given royal thrones to sit on to watch the ceremony, and it was during this time that others started to notice them.

The kings looked to size up their competition, to see what they were up against. The different sentiments of the kings are reviewed in the Janaki Mangala, a poem authored by Goswami Tulsidas that glorifies the event . In the above referenced verse, we get one style of sentiment, wherein kings who have not changed their hearts after looking at the beautiful boys are being admonished.

The vision was so sweet that it stole the mind and melted the heart. This reaction was instant, and it can only take place when one sees God. But seeing Him is not enough. From that beautiful vision should come a change in consciousness, and thus a different way of thinking. The kings who did appreciate the vision of Rama and Lakshmana admonished the kings who didn’t. In their estimation, the people who weren’t instantly devoted to those beautiful forms were wasting their time. They had come to Janakpur for no reason, as they would never win the contest. In addition, they were abandoning shame by not having respect for God, and they were ruining themselves in the process.

Lord RamaSeems like a rather harsh assessment for a single moment’s transgression, no? Actually, our existence is meant for tasting the sweet fruit of the Supreme Lord’s association. If after seeing Rama, who would surely win the contest, the other kings still thought they were better, why were they living? They wouldn’t win because, as other kings noted, where there is fame, good family heritage, and beauty, strength will surely exist as well. So many princes had already tried to lift the bow, but none of them could even move it. If you know you’re going to lose, and you see that the person who will defeat you is so enchanting and wears a sweet and innocent smile, why wouldn’t you surrender and give up your competitive attitude?

In this situation, shame would have been a good thing. The embarrassment over the transgression of not appreciating Rama would lead to devotion to God. That is always a good thing, for if we can be defeated in our attempts to surpass the Supreme Lord’s strength, we will gain a better understanding of our actual position. As knowing is half the battle, if we know where we really stand, we will be better informed when making future decisions. These kings were renouncing their shame and continuing with their obstinance, which in turn would ruin them.

The sweet association of Shri Rama is available in so many different ways, but the stipulation is that one must desire to appreciate it. I can show someone the most beautiful painting in the world, but if their vision is clouded by hatred, jealousy, intoxication, or some other strong negative influence, they will never appreciate what is in front of them. Despite the most ardent persuasion, they will not budge from their position of defiance.

Sadly, everything will be ruined if this willful defiance continues with respect to devotional service, which is man’s real occupational duty. The objects of the senses are only temporarily manifest, and in the next life the cycle repeats itself. On the other hand, the Supreme Lord and His beauty and splendor never dissipate. Truth of this fact is seen in the Janaki Mangala itself, which continues to celebrate that wonderful day in King Janaka’s court, where Shri Rama lifted up Shiva’s bow and won the hand of the king’s daughter, Sita Devi. That mind-stealing vision of Rama and Lakshmana manifests before the eyes of the devoted soul who listens to the pastimes of the Supreme Lord with a guileless heart, showing respect for the sages who follow in the mood of devotion shown by Vishvamitra Muni.

In Closing:

Devotion to Supreme Lord keep,

For greatest reward to reap.


Wanted to win contest did every king,

But from Shiva’s bow all to feel defeat’s sting.


Vision of Rama and Lakshmana to appreciate,

Saintly kings having respect appropriate.


Rivals who stayed obstinate then admonished,

Abandoning shame, their lives needlessly finished.