Saturday, October 20, 2012

Something New

Lord Krishna“All glories to Kunja-vihari, whose garments surpass the splendor of gold, whose crown is decorated with a splendid peacock feather, and whose new, glistening youthfulness delights the women of Vraja.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 5)

rañjano jayati kuñja-vihārī

“Oh boy, I just got my brand new smartphone. Look at how wonderful it is. This is going to change my life. I just want to stare at it all the time. When I’m not staring at it, I’ll use every feature it has, discovering new ones along the way. I will go online to find out more about this device, to see what others are saying and learn what new things I can do with it. Perhaps I can spend an entire day on this device and find simple pleasure that way. Since it looks so beautiful, I must protect it. Therefore I need a new case, one that is both sturdy and attractive. I’m so excited to have this new purchase, and I hope that the excitement never goes away.”

Whether it’s a smartphone, a car, a television, or even a new addition to the family, having something new is nice. Its youth will only come around once, and through the inevitable passage of time the shine on the new object can only diminish. Therefore better it is to take advantage of the time when it first appears, to make the most out of the beautiful freshness. One person, however, is always youthful. His attractiveness is full at both the time He first appears before the eyes and many years later. This wonderful feature is praised by Shrila Rupa Gosvami in his Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam.

Rupa Gosvami is one of the famous saints of the Vaishnava tradition. A Vaishnava is a devotee of Vishnu, or God. If they worship God, why the special name? Why not just call yourself a worshiper of God? The term “God” is subject to debate, and since debates take place amongst peers, a viable conclusion never results. One person’s opinion is as good as another’s.

Yet the very definition of God says that He must be beyond mental speculation. He is also beyond the dualities of heat and cold, happiness and sadness, and life and death. When under the influence of these dualities, however, it is difficult to conjure up the accurate vision of the Absolute Truth. How can I know what God looks like when I can’t even get over the temporary loss of an object? If the traffic on the way to work in the morning gets me angry, how am I supposed to properly contemplate on something which generated this and every other planet?

In order to suffer from duality’s influence one must be embodied, which means that they are guided by a form that is ever-changing. While embodied it is very difficult to understand God, as He is believed to be an impersonal force at best. If somehow one gets passed the impersonal conception, God’s personality traits still aren’t known. One also doesn’t know how, when, and where to approach Him. Hence mental speculation kicks in, and one thinks that whatever their current problem is, God is meant to solve it. If I’m in need of money, look to the heavens for help. If I want a particular outcome in some event, again approach the Divine.

“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)

The path of personal worship is much easier because the speculation is eliminated, at least when the worship is performed under proper authority. The Vaishnava is one who knows how to conduct this worship, as they take up the process through the instructions of their spiritual master. The Vaishnava spiritual master’s chain of teachers ascends all the way up to God Himself, who is known as Vishnu because of His all-pervasiveness. He is also known as Krishna because of His all-attractiveness.

Krishna is a personality, the original form of Godhead in fact. He is the worshipable figure of many Vaishnavas, including Rupa Gosvami. As worship of God should not be a dry activity devoid of fun and excitement, Shri Krishna’s attractiveness is meant to spark an interest to serve in the devotee. Krishna has a glistening youthfulness that especially excites the women of Vrindavana, His sacred land where He always lives. In that town, Krishna is both a newcomer and a fixture. He is the newcomer when He appears as the son of Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda. He is a fixture through His daily pastimes, which include playing in the Vrindavana forest, Krishna’s favorite area.

Lord KrishnaThe excitement of the topmost devotees is sparked through Krishna’s attractive features. It’s always better to have something to look forward to than not. It’s nice to have plans to go out somewhere, a place where you can meet someone. Krishna creates such meetings with the gopis during the moonlit nights of the autumn season, when they can dance with each other in pure ecstasy in the quiet setting of the forest.

Krishna’s youthfulness attracts the mothers of Vrindavana during the day when He plays about with His male friends on the field. The boys tend to the calves, so they are essentially working and playing at the same time. Krishna wears garments that are golden colored, and His head is decorated with a beautiful peacock feather. The vision is so beautiful that just hearing about it is enough to stir up excitement. That excitement can continue ad infinitum for the devotee who is wise enough to take advantage of the works passed down by saints like Rupa Gosvami and his followers. Those with real knowledge can stir up excitement wherever they are by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Nice to have something new,

Can look at it and get excited too.


In Vrindavana Krishna always looks fresh,

Wears peacock feather and golden garments the best.


Despite the passage of time,

No sign of aging in Him you’ll find.


Youthfulness to women brings delight,

Chant holy names for your spirits to excite.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Colorfully Decorated

Lord Krishna“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who playfully announces Madanotsava (Cupid’s festival) with the melodies from His colorfully decorated flute, and whose pastimes are praised by a multitude of male and female parrots.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 4)

vibhrameṇa madanotsava-śaḿsī
stūyamāna-caritaḥ śuka-sārī
śreṇibhir jayati kuñja-vihārī

It is said that Shri Krishna’s flute is colorfully decorated, which means that it both looks and sounds beautiful. The Supreme Lord is the origin of all sound, and the best sound is that which comes from His flute, for it indicates His presence. A sound of the same potency has been passed on since time immemorial by the parrot-like saints of the Vaishnava tradition. The sound they pass on originally came from the same Krishna, and so it has the same effect as the beautiful melodies produced by His flute.

In the above referenced verse from the Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam of Shrila Rupa Gosvami, it is said that Krishna, who enjoys pastimes in the forest of Vrindavana, plays beautiful melodies on His wonderfully decorated flute to announce the festival of cupid, or Madanotsava. Cupid is known as Kamadeva in the Vedic tradition, and His name indicates that he is the deity in charge of lust or desire. The word kama also is sometimes taken to mean love, but in this context the meaning is the same, as the reference is to intimate relations between members of the opposite sex.

The Madanotsava celebrated by Krishna and His friends is not of the variety of mundane lust or love. To lust after something is not good because it takes you off target. For instance, to lust after an appealing cake is unwise because at the end of the day the cake is just food. And food is necessary to maintain the body. You can maintain the body with something simple like a banana. You can eat grains and some milk and live for a very long time. There is no reason to lust after any specific kind of food, for it is like being driven by a desire to have a specific type of gasoline. The gasoline is the fuel that pumps the engines of the automobile, so to give so much attention to one kind of gasoline from one particular station simply for the purpose of personal enjoyment is not very wise.

The festival of Cupid celebrated by Krishna and the gopis relates to divine love, which is intrinsically part of every spirit soul. It is in our constitution to love, only we’re not sure who to love and for how long. We know that we want to love, though, because love is what gives us the most pleasure. Love for God is ideal, as it does not have to be checked by any condition. In Krishna we see that God is the most attractive, and He is also all-pervading. This means that He can be loved anywhere and everywhere.

The gopis meet with Krishna when He plays His flute because personal contact with the original personality is all the more pleasurable. The gopis don’t have any hint of ordinary lust in them; they are actually the emblem of piety. It is because of this high moral standing that they become ideal candidates to serve the Supreme Lord in a mood of conjugal love, which is what they prefer. The sounds from Krishna’s colorful flute are enchanting to the ears, creating the proper mood for the exchange of transcendental bliss.

The parrots in the Vrindavana forest watch the pastimes of Krishna and the gopis and then discuss them amongst themselves. The pastimes are no different than the teachings of the Lord. Therefore the original Vedas, which are songs glorifying God and His notable associates, are meant to have the same effect as the sounds of Krishna’s flute, which accompany His amorous sports with the gopis. Krishna gave the Vedas to Lord Brahma, and from there Brahma acted as the original parrot, instructing his son Narada Muni and others.

Narada then instructed the exalted sage Vyasa, who then parroted the same message to his son Shuka. Shuka then passed on the same information to a dying king named Parikshit. Their conversation turned into the Shrimad Bhagavatam, which is considered the ripened fruit of Vedic literature. The fruit’s taste is made sweeter by the fact that it has been touched by the parrot Shuka, who behaves no differently than the parrots in the forest of Vrindavana who praise the activities of Krishna and the gopis.

Krishna playing His fluteThe subliminal message of the melodies from Krishna’s flute is, “Come play with Me. You are happiest when you are in My company, so why not abandon what you are doing and rendezvous with Me in the wonderful setting of the Vrindavana forest.” The message passed on by the Vaishnava saints is exactly the same, except in the beginning it may not be revealed in full. This is because through many births in a material existence, our desires have been tainted, keeping us firmly tied to the pursuit for personal sense enjoyment. In this endeavor there is stiff competition, and so we try to outdo our fellow man in many areas, which serves no viable purpose.

Surrender to the divine, sharanagati, is our ideal destiny, and through immersion into the ancient art of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, we gradually take steps towards meeting it. The beginning is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Service to the devotees, an eagerness to practice devotion, following regulative principles, and developing a firm faith subsequently follow. The culmination of devotion is the reception of the enchanting melodies from Krishna’s flute, which lures us into His web of ecstasy, keeping us anticipated and satisfied at the same time.

In Closing:

Their lives to Krishna they dedicate,

So the festival of Cupid the gopis celebrate.


With His flute Krishna announces the start,

So from their homes the gopis depart.


Not ordinary lust, love of a different face,

The pastimes in devotional surrender take place.


If with humility you hear what the parrot-like saints teach,

One day sounds of Lord’s flute your ears to reach.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Praised By Parrots

Parrots discussing Radha and Krishna“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who playfully announces Madanotsava (Cupid’s festival) with the melodies from His colorfully decorated flute, and whose pastimes are praised by a multitude of male and female parrots.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 4)

vibhrameṇa madanotsava-śaḿsī
stūyamāna-caritaḥ śuka-sārī
śreṇibhir jayati kuñja-vihārī

A notable behavior of the pet parrot is its ability to mimic what others say. Not that it can deliver a speech on the trade policy with China, but it can repeat words and phrases that it hears other say. This ability has made the word “parrot” into a verb, where it identifies the act of copying something else directly. In the chain of disciplic succession as it relates to Vedic teachings, the parroting is done on purpose, as the saints realize the Absolute Truth through their own practices and then reveal what they know. They start by accepting the words of their own spiritual masters. The object of their service is so wonderful that He can even get parrots to speak about His activities, giving a symbolic and practical example to follow.

The crack reporter rushes to the scene of a breaking story. If they are lucky, they are the ones to break it to the public. “Such and such went down at such and such place at such and such time.” A brief description of the participants and eyewitness accounts hopefully follow the lead in. The idea is that the reporter should ask themselves who, what, where, when, why and how. They are not to inject their own opinion or use mental speculation. “Just the facts ma’am.”

In practice this objectivity is very difficult to maintain. Each person has their own worldview, their opinion on things. For instance, if an alleged robbery has taken place where innocent victims were shot, is the reporter not supposed to feel sympathy for the victims? Are they supposed to be sympathetic to the thief’s plight? Bias also influences which stories are reported in the news and which ones aren’t. Through the modern day popular tool of the public poll, news organizations can shape public opinion with their stories rather than report on it.

Despite the low chances for the ideal condition of objectivity in reporting, it is nevertheless helpful to just describe what one sees. In the realm of spirituality this takes on an even greater importance. It is not as though we don’t have information about God. So many people have seen the Supreme Lord and then written down their experiences. Due to the nature of the events they witnessed and the amount of time that has elapsed since those observations were made, we doubt the authenticity of their words, but nevertheless the saints of high character don’t inject their own mental speculations when reporting on the factual occurrences relating to the Supreme Lord.

This is important in passing on information of the Divine to future generations. One person can theorize on the nature of the Absolute Truth, but due to the limitations imposed by the mind - which cannot think beyond time and space - a proper conclusion is never reached. Moreover, the human mind isn’t all-knowing, not even of its own experiences. We can’t remember every little detail from our life, so how can we theorize about that which is all-encompassing? Even if we could store all the recorded observations into our brain, we wouldn’t know what to do with the information.

In the above quoted verse from the Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, Shrila Rupa Gosvami says that Lord Krishna’s activities are praised by male and female parrots. The title of the poem praises Krishna’s attribute of preferring to enjoy in the Vrindavana forest. Krishna is the Sanskrit word for God that means all-attractive. Attractiveness is tied to a personality, and so Krishna is also a personality, the detailed image behind the abstract conception of a God.

Krishna’s preferred playing field is Vrindavana, and within that area the pleasure groves, the forests during the moonlit nights, are the scene for His rendezvous with the gopis, who are His greatest devotees. Krishna’s form is intoxicating to the eyes, and His playful sport is talked about even by the parrots. They can fly to different areas and speak of what they see, namely the enjoyment between Krishna and His friends.

The parrots don’t concoct anything. They describe through their own lens of course, but they don’t insert theories or false conceptions. The spiritual masters, the saints who follow devotion to the gopis, follow the behavior of the male and female parrots in praising Krishna’s activities. They describe what they and others have seen to other devotees in gathered assemblies. The idea is not to speak to the enemies of God, for what will they take away from the message? They are mired in a futile pursuit to surpass God in stature and strength, so if they hear that He enjoys with others, their vision will be tainted with envy. That will then lead them to describe the same events with their own incorrect twist inserted.

We see evidence of this with the commentaries on sacred Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita and Ramayana written using mental speculation. No genuine follower of the Vedas would take this tact, as the saints never make up anything on their own. Rather, they are always respectful of their own spiritual lineage, giving deference to the message they heard in a submissive attitude from their spiritual master.

Sometimes there are varying accounts of the pastimes of Krishna and His avataras, but this is due to the revolving cycle of creation and destruction for this and other universes. The pattern of behavior for the Supreme Lord is not always the same in each creation, so depending on the tradition that one enters, they repeat a certain set of accounts of the divine lila. For instance, Goswami Tulsidas wrote a famous poem called the Ramacharitamanasa, which describes the life of Lord Rama, an incarnation of God, in a slightly different way than the original Ramayana. Yet in the beginning of the work the author himself acknowledges this discrepancy, explaining that the version he presents is the one he first heard from his guru, whose chain of disciplic succession originated with Lord Shiva, an authority figure on devotion to Rama. It was thus out of deference to these personalities that the author presented the version that he did.

Radha and KrishnaThe most cherished pastimes are those which take place in the Vrindavana forest, where Krishna announces His presence with the sounds coming from His flute. The beautiful gopis meet Him to dance, and the devoted parrots watch the proceedings so that they can remember them and glorify them later on. In the same way, the saints like Vyasa, Shuka, Narada, and many others relish the pastimes of the Supreme Lord and present them to the devotees of the world for their pleasure. These pastimes simultaneously reveal the meaning of life. To hear about God and serve Him through hearing and chanting is the boon of a human existence, and this service can take place easily through chanting the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the best sequence of words to parrot on a daily basis.

In Closing:

While seated on a tree,

Male and female parrots see,

The divine pastimes of Krishna,

Who sports with gopis in Vrindavana.


Just what they saw they later repeat,

With truth are their words replete.


Saints then cherish these talks with their ears,

Purpose in life automatically becomes clear.


Those in this line with authority speak,

Hear from them and holy names repeat.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Destroyer of Family Traditions

Govardhana Puja“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who stopped His relatives from performing the famous sacrifice, who then took away Indra’s pride, and who in sport lifted Govardhana Hill to protect against the weapon of Indra.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 3)

sarvataḥ prathita-kaulika-parva
dhvaḿsanena hṛta-vāsava-garvaḥ
goṣṭha-rakṣaṇa-kṛte giridhārī
līlayā jayati kuñja-vihārī

In the Bhagavad-gita, the hesitant warrior Arjuna was so insistent on refraining from fighting that he presented several cleverly worded arguments to his teacher and charioteer, Lord Krishna. One of those arguments related to the destruction of family traditions, and using the slippery slope method of argument, from one act of violence Arjuna reached the destination of a society full of rogues and thieves. Family traditions especially focused on religious life help to maintain a sense of decency within the progeny, but strangely enough the origin of all virtue one time put a halt to a specific tradition, in the process creating a new one.

Arjuna was on one side of a war that was to see millions die. Right at the outset he was hesitant to fight due to affection for family members belonging to the opposing side. While his sentiment indicated kind-heartedness, the choice was not wise. It was his duty as a warrior to fight against aggressors, and the people on the opposing side had unjustly usurped control of the kingdom that belonged to his family. Now it was time to settle the matter through a war, and by fighting on religious principles Arjuna would not incur sin.

“O Krishna, maintainer of the people, I have heard by disciplic succession that those who destroy family traditions dwell always in hell.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.43)

One of the arguments Arjuna made was that by killing the members of the opposing army, family traditions would die with them. The subsequent generations would then grow up without culture, and so they would engage in illicit sexual affairs. This, in turn, would lead to unwanted progeny, which is the guaranteed way to get a society full of rogues and thieves. Stop and think about it for a moment. If in a society you have children who aren’t cared for, how will they learn right and wrong? If they are not taught values early on, they will think that stealing and cheating are okay. When, as a result, they regularly break the law, there will be no peace in society.

Though he was just trying to get out of fighting, taken by itself Arjuna’s argument is valid. The entire Vedic tradition is steeped in sacrifice, which is borne of prescribed duties, or karma. The sacrifices are performed by the elder generations, who pass on the tradition to their descendants. The same thing is seen in other spiritual traditions, and to follow these sacrifices is beneficial because the higher authorities know more than the younger generation. Prescribed duties lead to benefits both in the present life and in the distant beyond, the time period following death. On the other hand, acting on a whim, making up your own system of virtue, may only benefit you, and even then only slightly. The living entity doesn’t know any better due to the limitations on sight. The eyes of the scriptures, however, can see both in the light and in the dark, so the knowledge presented is always more valuable than that which is found through mental speculation alone.

At the same time every sacrifice has a higher purpose to fulfill. There is a singular thread that holds together all the beads that are the individual sacrifices. If the higher purpose is sought out directly, then the need for sacrifice goes away. A family tradition can even be broken for the right reason. How this works can be seen in the incident of the first Govardhana Puja. One year the residents in the farm community of Vrindavana were preparing for the annual Indra-yajna, the sacrifice performed to honor Lord Indra, the king of heaven. The motivation in the people was good. They knew that life could not continue without rain, and since the Vedas say that Indra is in charge of the rain, they would honor him with a sacrifice.

Sacrifice of this nature is always good, as whatever we can do to shed the mentalities of “I” an “Mine” will be to our benefit. Think of it like teaching children to share. It is not good to be selfish, and so the scriptures recommend sacrifice, charity and austerity as mechanisms for lifting the possessive mentality that is so harmful. Through sacrifice you pay thanks and also purify your consciousness.

Yet this one year Nanda Maharaja’s son insisted that they forgo the Indra-yajna. The boy wanted to instead worship the neighboring Govardhana Hill. There were ulterior motives, of course, but to convince the elder, the young Krishna said that the hill provided the cows the grass they needed, thereby making it worthy of worship. The father and the residents agreed, and they took their preparations for the Indra-yajna and transferred them to the first annual Govardhana Puja.

Lord KrishnaThe shift shouldn’t have been that big a deal, as it was not like there was no sacrifice. Only the beneficiary of the religious observance was shifted, but Lord Indra did not like this. He decided to punish the residents for stopping the family tradition. Shri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so under His sanction even something apparently irreligious like breaking a family tradition can fall in line with religious principles. Indra’s attack consisted of a torrential downpour that sought to flood all of Vrindavana and thus wash the people away. Krishna used Govardhana Hill as an umbrella and kept the residents safely underneath it.

The incident shows that worship of God under His direction is the ultimate objective, and in that endeavor there is full insulation from the negative reactions of skipping other sacrifices. Govardhana Hill is non-different from Krishna, so worshiping it is akin to worshiping the Lord. Arjuna would be urged to fight on through Krishna’s words, and by following the Lord he did not incur any sin. The residents of Vrindavana survived despite missing Indra’s sacrifice, and in the coming years they would worship Govardhana Hill instead.

And along the same lines, in the modern age, where family traditions have withered away and been replaced by the prominence of quarrel and hypocrisy, just by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, all other sacrifices are automatically satisfied. This sankirtana-yajna is instituted by Krishna Himself, so it carries the Lord’s protection to those who perform it.

In Closing:

Destroyer of family traditions dwell,

In hell is what Arjuna to Krishna did tell.


On this point he was actually right,

For without culture children to lose virtue’s sight.


But Lord Himself one tradition broke,

This a fiery rage in Indra did stoke.


As all-powerful the Lord gave protection,

His hill in Indra to cure pride’s infection.


In bhakti all traditions meant to culminate,

So from sankirtana-yajna no need to deviate.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Chain of Respectability

Shri Rama Darbar“If even the respectable Sita, who is dear to Lakshmana’s elder brother, who was trained well by His superiors, can be struck by distress, then the influence of time is indeed insurmountable.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.3)

mānyā guru vinītasya lakṣmaṇasya guru priyā |
yadi sītā api duhkha ārtā kālo hi duratikramaḥ ||

Herein Shri Hanuman establishes Sita’s spotless reputation based on a chain of respectability. From this comparison we also get a lesson on proper etiquette. To respect authority figures is beneficial in all areas of life, so it should make sense that in the pursuit for spiritual perfection, for real transcendence, one would need to approach a bona fide spiritual teacher and offer them the highest respect.

Humility is a noteworthy attribute because it is very easy to lose. When we accomplish a task through our own effort, we think that we are better than we actually are. Easily overlooked is the help of others and also the influence of the more powerful forces. As a simple example, planting a seed in the ground and then tending to the plant as it grows requires personal effort. However, from where did the elements required in this maintenance come? We need the sunlight, water, and the earth to harvest the fruit. No matter what effort we do or do not put in, these elements are not produced by us. We utilize them and take advantage of their properties, but never do we have control over how they operate.

“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)

The entire material creation has a superior influence over us, so humility is the wiser choice. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that to learn about the Absolute Truth one should approach a spiritual master, someone who knows what they are talking about. The spiritual master is honored every year on the occasion of Vyasa Puja in the Vaishnava tradition because they are a representative of Vyasadeva, a famous spiritual teacher. Though Vyasadeva wrote more transcendental literature than anyone in history, his ego was not inflated. He is considered a partial incarnation of God, but he simply passed on the message of Vedanta that originates from God. Therefore what need did he have to feel puffed up?

Vyasadeva created a tradition of spiritual teaching that was passed on to his disciples. That chain continues to this day, and so anyone who is desirous of knowing the real truth - how to transcend birth and death and how to connect with God in a mood of love and not one borne out of fear - should approach someone belonging to this spiritual chain.

Humility should be the attitude throughout life, not something offered only to the spiritual master. In Sanskrit the word “guru” also means heavy, and it can refer to authority figures in general. The child’s first authority figures are the parents, and for the younger siblings it is the elder brother. For the wife it is the husband, the king the brahmana, the disciples the teacher, and so on. Respect in these instances is beneficial for both parties. The respectful child earns the protection of the parents, and the respected parents offer protection to the child. The respected elder brother leads the siblings, and the respected teacher shares the highest wisdom with the students.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman is describing Sita’s supreme standing by pointing to the people to whom she is connected. Sita is in a distressed condition, so Hanuman has deduced that the influence of destiny is insurmountable. No matter how pious or impious we may be, in the material world the dualities of pain and pleasure will always exist. No one can escape the influence of destiny, even if they are related to spotless characters.

Sita’s relation was not superficial either. I may be married to a wonderful woman, but if I am not faithful to her and if she doesn’t offer affection to me, the relationship is in name only. Hanuman describes Sita as being very dear to Rama. And who is Rama? He is the respected elder brother of Lakshmana. And who is Lakshmana? He is one of the sons of King Dasharatha, one of the most respected kings in the world. And why is that? Dasharatha protects the citizens of Ayodhya from enemy attack by showing his fighting prowess. And he also defers to the brahmanas, the spiritual teachers, on all important matters. And who are the brahmanas? They give deference to the Supreme Lord and His guidebook known as the Vedas.

Sita, Rama, Lakshmana, HanumanRama is also described as being very respectful to His authority figures, being trained well by them. Rama is actually God, the same Krishna but in a different visible manifestation. Therefore no one is a higher authority figure than Rama, but to set the right example He offers respect to those who appear to be in higher positions. The point of all this is that Sita had done nothing to deserve her dreadful plight. She was in Lanka against her will, separated from her beloved. She was harassed day and night by female ogres, so it wasn’t as if she was living in peace.

As Hanuman is devoted to Sita, he belongs to the same chain of respectability. He showed his devotion by travelling to Lanka all alone, battling attacking ogres, and heroically reaching Sita to give the message sent to her by Rama. The Lord was coming to her rescue, provided that His camp find out where she was. Hanuman took care of that, and it wasn’t easy. Hanuman’s eyes overflowed with tears upon seeing Sita, bringing to mind the powerful influence of time.

Sita is a divine figure, so her suffering is not the same as ours. Time does not really affect her since she lives eternally with Rama in the spiritual sky, but the Ramayana and other sacred texts that document the Supreme Lord’s pastimes in this world teach us that permanence is found only in spirit and that the ideal home for spirit is God’s kingdom. Through the respectable Hanuman and his example, we learn that devotion in the proper mood of humility brings all good things.

In Closing:

To a worthy person respect give,

Who in humility towards superiors lives.


Follow the chain up link each,

Until Supreme Lord you reach.


Then validity of members you’ll know,

That with thoughts of God they go.


Sita respected, and Shri Lakshmana too,

His brother Rama kind to parents and guru.


For life Hanuman is devoted to them,

His actions in Ramayana a precious gem.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Insurmountable Destiny

Shri Hanuman“If even the respectable Sita, who is dear to Lakshmana’s elder brother, who was trained well by His superiors, can be struck by distress, then the influence of time is indeed insurmountable.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.3)

mānyā guru vinītasya lakṣmaṇasya guru priyā |
yadi sītā api duhkha ārtā kālo hi duratikramaḥ ||

Though it should really have no bearing on the fact, when we hear that someone was involved in nefarious activity prior to their untimely passing, we feel a little less sad. This is because it is understood that the punishment which arrived was due to a personal action, something wrong that they did. For instance, a tragic death due to drunken driving will make us think that the person could have avoided it. “They acted stupid, so what did they expect would happen?” Ah, but in this material world no one is totally safe from distress, no matter how pious they are. The true aim in life is transcendence, and from the thoughts of a dedicated servant a long time ago we get insight into what that means.

You do something bad, you reap the negative consequence. You run around with scissors, you invite danger. When the scissors cut your skin or someone else’s, the result could have been predicted beforehand; it’s not very surprising. But the Vedas describe this world as temporary and full of distresses. This means that whoever you are, whether you are of world prominence or relative obscurity, you will get both pain and pleasure. These will also arrive on their own, without you seeking them. If you don’t believe this, think of the pain and pleasure that relate to the weather. It’s really hot outside today, and so it makes the inside of the home quite uncomfortable. This is distress. The next day the temperature lowers and you automatically feel better. This is pleasure. Both came on their own, without you having to do anything. Sure the conditions are only temporary, but the pain and pleasure are real.

It is inherently understood that through pious behavior we will avoid pain, both in the short and long term. Piety and sin can be likened to following and disobeying an instruction manual. The instruction manual is for our benefit. By following it we are to get the intended outcome. If we ignore the manual, we may be able to figure out the right course, but if we don’t, the blame lies with us. We deserve the punishment that follows because we chose to ignore the guidance that was for our benefit.

“Regulated activities are prescribed in the Vedas, and the Vedas are directly manifested from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Consequently the all-pervading Transcendence is eternally situated in acts of sacrifice.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.15)

Prescribed duties are tied to sacrifice, both of which are fixed in transcendence. That which transcends rises above, and with respect to sacrifice and prescribed duties, it means that the living entities can rise above the dualities of pain and pleasure, heat and cold, and life and death through following regulations passed down by the origin of matter and spirit, the original person. Therefore real piety is automatically tied to God, and it exists for the end-goal of pleasure, and not of the temporary variety either. Real pleasure is ananda, and its origin is not in a realm governed by duality.

Even if you are the most pious person in the world and related to others who are pious, you are sure to get your share of distress. This fact was noted by Shri Hanuman when he first saw Sita Devi in Lanka. She was in terrible distress. Think of being separated from your loved one and left to wait for an uncertain future. You don’t know if they’re missing you, if they feel sad over your not being by their side. You don’t know if they want to reunite with you, if the separation pain they feel is as strong as yours. You also don’t know what will happen to you, if your terrible situation will persist.

This describes Sita’s situation, as she remained in Lanka against her will due to the wicked king Ravana. She was in a grove of Ashoka trees surrounded by female ogres ordered to harass her day and night. Hanuman saw her from a distance and immediately had tears fill his eyes. He also thought of Sita’s husband, Shri Rama, the person Hanuman previously met. Rama asked Hanuman to find Sita, so it was not surprising that Hanuman would think of Him at this time.

Hanuman worshiping RamaIn the above referenced verse from the Ramayana it is said that Sita is very dear to Lakshmana’s guru, which in this case refers to Rama. Rama was the elder brother of Lakshmana, but He was also a guru in the role of the most respected personality. Rama was also respectful to His gurus, or teachers and elders. This means that the entire chain was perfect. Sita was respectable. Her husband was the guru of Lakshmana, who is the most respectable brother. Lakshmana abandoned the comfortable life in Ayodhya to follow his brother Rama through the forest. Lakshmana was not required to do this, but he did not want Rama to suffer alone in the forest for fourteen years, an exile punishment handed down by their father.

Time is the great equalizer. It will take away everything eventually. In the Vedic literatures time is known as kalah, a word that can also be translated to mean death or destiny. From seeing Sita, Hanuman understood that every person must suffer distress at some point. If it is destined to arrive, nothing can be done to stop it. Nevertheless, both Sita and Hanuman are fixed in transcendence, so their pain and pleasure are not the same as ours. They only appear to be ordinary because that is one of the purposes served by the Ramayana, which is a real-life play enacted by the Supreme Lord and His dearest servants.

From their time on earth, we understand that Sita, Rama, Lakshmana and Hanuman underwent periods of distress, so that is a lesson to all that no one should think they can escape pain and pleasure in this world. The key is to remain fixed in devotional service, the bhakti-yoga practiced by Hanuman and Rama’s other close friends. In bhakti one acquires the ability to transcend duality, to remain fixed in loving thoughts of the Supreme Lord in any situation. This type of consciousness then brings residence in the spiritual kingdom after death.

In Closing:

Insurmountable the influence of destiny,

Brought to Sita a condition to pity.


Her vision this realization to Hanuman brought,

For of impiety never in her a thought.


Eternal time to deliver results to all,

Whether in stature large or tall.


Though we see Sita suffered pain,

As a divine figure for her not the same.


Nevertheless, from Ramayana lessons take,

Follow bhakti and life of transcendence make.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Grown Men Can Cry

Shri Hanuman“Having reflected for a moment, the powerful Hanuman, with eyes overflowing with tears, lamented over Sita.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.2)

sa muhūrtam iva dhyātvā bāṣpa paryākulekṣaṇaḥ |
sītām āśritya tejasvī hanumān vilalāpa ha ||

Is it okay for a grown man to cry? What about someone who is in a position of authority, who is a teacher to present and future generations because of the work they do that is in the brightest spotlight? What if they are still worshiped to this day and they were known to cry in previous times of difficulty? Crying is typically a sign of weakness, an indication that the external conditions have won out over good sense and logic. But crying also indicates a strong emotional bond, and when the corresponding party is the Supreme Lord or someone very close to Him, the bond is always beneficial.

First, let’s start with why it’s bad to cry. We know that babies cry. They don’t know how to communicate, so if they are unhappy with something, they will simply cry. Craving instant happiness is the constant condition of the child, who doesn’t know about discipline, time, and the reason for waiting for something to mature. “I want it all, I want it now, and I don’t care how.” The saying, “Good things come to those who wait,” doesn’t resonate with a child who hasn’t been in this world long enough to know what time means. A year to a child is a big deal, but to an adult-aged fruitive worker who has everything pretty much set in life, a year can pass like a day.

You’re not supposed to cry when you lose because you will lose so many more times in life. You’re not supposed to cry when someone says something mean to you because you will hear so many mean things throughout life. Using further intelligence, you should know that your external appearance and abilities have nothing to do with who you are. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” is the saying. This means that someone who says mean things to us without knowing us doesn’t really criticize who we are. If they are saying something about that which doesn’t relate to us, why should we cry?

Then there is the crying over another person’s plight. This is something we just can’t help. We may have felt the same pain previously and gotten over it in time, but when we see someone else in the same distress, we can’t imagine what they are going through. “How are they dealing with this? Why should they have to suffer? They haven’t done anything wrong.” The nature of the world is such that there are constant ups and downs, and even when there is a severe downward turn, the sun will always shine again, even if for that person it means they will have to wait until the next life for redemption.

All this being said, someone who is supremely learned, who knows how to use both physical and mental abilities at the right time and circumstance, had his eyes overflowing with tears when he saw a once beautiful princess from afar. She still had the core properties of beauty, sort of like a streak of the bright moon made out between dark clouds or like a line of a fire seen amidst thick smoke. This princess had done nothing wrong. She did not deserve to be in a distressed condition, but here she was, a prisoner in a foreign territory. In prison you get your own cell to think about what you’ve done, but here Sita was being harassed day and night by female ogres. They were not friendly, and they were ordered to scare her into submission.

The loving guardian thinks, “Let that pain fall upon me. I can handle it. I don’t want my children to suffer. I will take on the pain, so that they can live peacefully.” In this situation, Shri Hanuman thought along similar lines. He had already endured great mental distress over not having found the person he was sent to find. He also overcame obstacles in the form of people obstructing his path to Lanka. Sita was taken to this territory against her will by the Rakshasa king Ravana. He obviously did not want her to be found, as she was married to the prince of the Raghu dynasty, Lord Rama. The vast ocean offered protection to Ravana. There was also the Rakshasa force within Lanka that was ready to snuff out any intruders.

Shri HanumanHanuman was extremely courageous in leaping to Lanka all by himself. He did this out of love for Rama, whom he had only known for a short while. He didn’t know Sita at all, yet upon seeing her in distress, his eyes flooded with tears. A grown man like Hanuman, of tremendous power, can cry due to a strong emotional attachment. He did not set a bad example in this regard. On the contrary, his sign of emotion showed how committed he was to the mission and how strong his attachment to Rama and anyone dear to Him is.

This means that anyone who regularly chants the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is dear to Hanuman. The chanting of the holy names indicates a love for the Supreme Lord, a desire to be with Him. On the lower levels of worship, one asks for temporary rewards, and as they steadily climb, they may start to ask for things which relate less and less to their personal welfare. At the height of worship is the request to continue to associate with and serve the Supreme Lord. This kind of worship is known as bhakti-yoga, and Hanuman is the king of practicing it. He takes Rama’s servants to be dear to him, and more than just crying over their distresses, Hanuman does whatever he can to alleviate their condition, as he did with Sita. For this reason, one of his names is Sankat Mochan.

In Closing:

For a man that is grown,

Okay if tears are shown?


Better shouldn’t he know?

That pains like seasons come and go?


In affection one can shed a tear,

Their attachment then made clear.


Tears in the eyes when Sita he saw,

For Shri Hanuman anything but a flaw.


Affection for God and His servants he feels,

More than tears, their condition he heals.