Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Good Deed

Rama and Lakshmana“I know that the king, the lord of the people, has done a very good thing, for his vow has brought the pleasing vision, the fruit of the eyes, to everyone here.” (Janaki Mangala, 67)

hamareṃ jāna janesa bahuta bhala kīnheu |
pana misa locana lāhu sabanhiṃ kaham̐ dīnheu ||

Something previously thought to be unwise turns out to be a blessing when there is a benefit received. “If such and such had never happened, then I never would have met such and such person.” Fill in the blanks with many such occurrences and outcomes to create variations of the same sentiment, but the general idea is pretty easy to understand. What you thought was harmful to you ended up to be in your favor, so the initial act itself was not bad. When that final outcome is the best one possible, then all past mistakes and experiences that were thought to be unpleasant turn out to be great blessings.

The ultimate benefit is to receive the fruit of your existence. A fruit is the result of work, the manifestation of the reward intended for a specific task. For instance, a plant is considered pious if it bears fruits. Strange to think, but in the Vedic tradition the trees that don’t produce any fruits are considered sinful. This is because they serve no higher purpose. Perhaps they provide shade and oxygen to the world, but in general these trees don’t make good use of their existence.

An existence is marked by the presence of spirit, which is a vibrant force that cannot be killed. You can’t remove spirit, take away its existence, make it wet, cut it up, or change any of its properties. However, the spirit soul can travel into different forms, which in turn can limit the exercise of ability. This is only true of individual fragments of spirit, not of the original storehouse.

How can there be a difference between the two? If I have a clay pot and suddenly it breaks into thousands of pieces, is not the pot’s existence removed? Don’t I need to merge all the pieces together to get the whole again? Such laws exist in the material world, as the drop of ocean water is a sample of the entire ocean. At the same time, you take enough drops away and you no longer have an ocean.

With the storehouse of spiritual energy, every expansion does nothing to diminish its original size. In fact, that size is infinite, so there is no way to measure its aura. Since the fragments come from it, they are part of its definition, but they are still separate. Hence the true relationship between the individual fragments and the whole is described as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, or the truth that there is a simultaneous oneness and difference between the spirit souls and the origin of spirit, a oneness that is inconceivable to the mind.

The fragments inherit the properties of the original, but to a smaller degree. There is also the defect in that the natural properties of blissfulness, eternality and full knowledge can be masked by the form accepted, sort of like how a shade can dampen the light emitted by a burning bulb. Nevertheless, the properties of the spiritual spark indicate a penchant towards activity, with an ultimate desire for happiness. To receive the fruit of one’s existence is to taste transcendental sweetness through abilities given by nature.

Just as the tree that produces fruits shows that its ability to exist can create something that is enjoyable, the human being who is given eyes with which to see can produce transcendental sweetness internally by looking upon something out of this world. This is what occurred in a kingdom a long time ago, and some of the residents were keen to pick up on what was going on. There were differing opinions on the situation because of the nature of the day. A king’s daughter was to be given away in marriage, but there was one particular person attending the event that everyone was focused on. They wanted Him to marry the precious daughter Sita, but due to the king’s vow the desired result wasn’t guaranteed.

Lord RamaThe contest ultimately rested on the word of the king. Janaka said he would give Sita away to whoever could lift an amazingly heavy bow, one that took hundreds of men just to carry into the sacrificial arena. The problem was that King Dasharatha’s son Rama entered the assembly accompanied by His younger brother Lakshmana and spiritual guide Vishvamitra. The brothers were identical in appearance except for bodily complexion. Rama was dark, while Lakshmana was fair, but both were extraordinarily beautiful. In youthful forms, they captured the attention of the pure-hearted citizens who had gathered to witness history.

As is understandable in a large gathering, there were murmurs in the crowd. Some people started to curse the king for having made the contest. What if Rama couldn’t lift the bow? Then it would be Janaka’s fault for preventing the marriage everyone wanted to see. If Janaka hadn’t remained so truthful to his promise all his life, the contest could be called off and Rama could marry Sita. Even Janaka wanted this, showing how beautiful Rama was. The young prince of Ayodhya had every good quality imaginable, including chivalry and the ability to protect the saintly class from the vilest creatures of the world.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we get a different opinion from some of the people in the crowd. This group says that King Janaka has done a very wonderful thing, for his contest created the condition that brought Rama and Lakshmana there. In reality, the boys were just following the direction of the forest-dwelling spiritual master, Vishvamitra, but if there wasn’t something major going down, the sage would not have brought the boys to Janakpur that day.

The sight of the two brothers was so pleasing that it was like receiving the fruit of the eyes, tasting transcendental nectar in the form of a wonderful vision. Whoever was responsible for creating the situation deserved credit, whether they did it intentionally or not. Since it was Janaka’s vow that allowed so many people to be gathered in one place and receive the fruit of their existence, the king could be thought of as a saintly character who spread the message of divine love inadvertently. There are many ways to find that transcendental connection, with one of the easiest being sight. Since there were so many people there, the reason for living got to show off His transcendental features to many people at one time.

In the same vein, if we should taste the fruit of our existence one day, we should know that whatever conditions that led to that auspicious end turned out to be beneficial. This means that the many days spent in misery and turmoil can be turned into a positive if they bring us to the lotus feet of a devotee of the same Shri Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in His manifestation as a warrior prince. We also know from the Vedas that the spirit soul travels through many bodies in what is known as reincarnation. This process continues for as long as the fruit of existence isn’t tasted, so by having the divine connection we can also make the many previous births worth it. Going forward, in whatever womb we accept, in whatever land we call home, the divine connection remains.

The fortunate residents of Janakpur and the gathered attendees got to keep the divine vision of Rama in their minds by staring at Him. The happiness would increase further when Rama would lift and break the bow in question and win Sita’s hand in marriage. To relive that wonderful experience in the mind, the wise souls regularly chant the names of Sita’s husband found in the sacred maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The tongue, the eyes and the ears are all put to good use with this chanting, and the mind stays positively situated by tasting the fruit of existence in the form of God’s vision.

In Closing:

In past lived through so much pain,

Where did it lead, where was the gain?


A pious plant when watered at root,

Will yield many a sweet-tasting fruit.


Past actions were bad you may have thought,

But good when to Supreme Lord they brought.


Uncertain future to come from Janaka’s vow,

But fortunate residents looking at God now.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Complementary Objects

People watching bow contest“One group is saying: ‘The king is good and shouldn’t be spoken of poorly. Just as a nose does not look good without a ring, so the king does not look good when his word has no meaning.’” (Janaki Mangala, 66)

eka kahahiṃ bhala bhūpa dehu jani dūṣana |
nṛpa na soha binu nāka binu bhūṣana ||

The clothes go with the person wearing them. For a king the clothes correspond with his leadership, with the way that he administers the kingdom. The clothes are an ornament to complete the picture. Just like their integral paraphernalia, the word of the king is what establishes his high standing. Breaking that word is never good, and therefore the king shouldn’t be overly criticized when he holds firm to his vow.

Many thousands of years ago King Janaka held firm to a particular vow, and this resulted in so many different opinions. The controversy first arose with the arrival of an enchanting figure, who was accompanied by His younger brother and His preceptor. The disciple in this case is actually the spiritual master of the three worlds, the original truth. He is the source of the ultimate system of knowledge known as Vedanta, which has truths not found in any other discipline.

The supremacy of Vedanta is rooted in its founder, who didn’t concoct any information. He didn’t have to learn anything, so whatever He first spoke was automatically flawless. Those who accepted Vedanta from Him or through someone in that chain of disciplic succession thus accepted conclusions to be utilized for finding the summit of happiness. In this sense Vedanta is all-encompassing; it covers every aspect of life. Whether one is large or small, young or old, or male or female is of no concern, because each individual is represented by their spirit soul, their basis for identity.

“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

This kind youth accepted a spiritual master as a formality, to show others that high knowledge comes not from mental speculation but from intentional and humble submission before a bona fide teacher. This kind attention to the saintly class was one reason He was dear to the inhabitants of the city He entered.

There were also many more features to increase the transcendental delight of the onlookers. The youth was escorting the venerable Vishvamitra Muni because the sage required protection from nishacharas, or night-rangers. If you fight in the night it’s difficult for your opponent to see you. Also, the nighttime is generally reserved for sinful activity and those who live by it. Thus the peaceful sages had the odds stacked against them in the forest that was suddenly infiltrated by these ghoulish creatures of the night.

Though of a young age, Shri Rama, the jewel of the Raghu dynasty, could still defeat these demons. Vishvamitra knew this, so that is why he went to Ayodhya to specifically request the king to part with Rama’s company for a short while. The younger brother Lakshmana accompanied Rama, making for a sweet picture when the trio entered Janakpur, where a grand contest was taking place.

The contest was the source of the controversy amongst some in the assembly. The contest related to who would marry the daughter of King Janaka, the host of the ceremony. The first person to lift a massively heavy bow would be crowned the victor and be garlanded by Sita Devi, the precious daughter of the king. Therefore so many royal families traveled to Janakpur to try to win the contest and enhance the fame of their dynasty.

Yet when people saw Rama, His ability to defend, and His kind attention to the guru, they were taken with Him immediately. Add to the fact that Rama’s beauty was out of this world and you can understand why so many started to worry over the outcome of the contest. “What if Rama doesn’t win? What if King Janaka’s vow results in Rama becoming ineligible to marry Sita?” Some in the crowd started giving Janaka a negative look, in a sense shooting daggers at him with their eyes.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, some are stepping up to say that Janaka doesn’t deserve blame. He should not be spoken about negatively because he was virtuous. Prior to this event he was famous around the world for having a renounced attitude, carrying out his obligations without attachment. If it weren’t for his fame and high standing, the many people who were there that day would never have bothered to show up. One person’s arrival shouldn’t change Janaka’s standing. Whoever did or didn’t come to the ceremony shouldn’t figure in the character of the king.

It is said that a king without his word is like a nose without a ring. The ring in the nose gives special beauty to that part of the face, acting as an integral ornament, especially for women. If the king went back on his promise, it would be like losing part of his clothes, like being embarrassed in front of everyone. It is important for the leader to avoid embarrassment because he must be respected by the subjects. If an authority figure is not respected, they lose their authority and subsequently their ability to administer justice.

Sita and RamaIf Janaka suspended the rules and gave Sita away to Rama, his word would have been broken. It was his dedication to piety that caused him to hold the contest in the first place. That contest brought Rama, the Supreme Lord, to his kingdom, so in this sense his vow is what led to the potential for the transcendental bliss of having God’s association. Therefore upholding his word and staying true to the rules of the contest was the right way to go.

Shri Rama would validate that decision by lifting the enormously heavy bow and winning Sita’s hand. The symbolic ring of truth got to stay in the nose of the king, whose stature was enhanced by welcoming Shri Rama to his family. The devoted souls bask in the Supreme Lord’s association, and so for them Shri Rama upholds their vows while carrying out His own desires in the process.

In Closing:

To the truth a pious king is deferent,

Like a nose decorated with ring ornament.


If the emperor to lose his clothes,

Then in embarrassment he goes.


King Janaka previously had a vow,

To which he should hold steadfast now.


For Sita Rama was surely right,

Known just from first sight.


Rama to validate the king’s decision,

Lifted bow in His hands a wonderful vision.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shooting Daggers

Lord Rama holding His bow“The men and women of the city are staring at the lamp of Raghu’s family with love, while they give a bad look to the king of Videha.” (Janaki Mangala, 65)

pura nara nāri nihārahiṃ raghukula dīpahiṃ |
doṣu nehabasa dehiṃ bideha mahīpahiṃ ||

On one side there is love, and on the other strong disappointment. One vision gives so much joy and happiness that the person opposing that pleasant vision is instantly blamed for his mistake. Of course there was no mistake, but due to strong affection the people of the town began to worry over what might happen. What if their newfound visitor, who became the joy of their life, emerged a failure due to the king’s stubbornness? In that case the fault would lie with the king and not anyone else. Seeing this handsome youth, the king should have immediately taken back his word, and no one would have minded.

The word in this case was the vow to give away his daughter to whoever could lift an extremely heavy bow. King Janaka was the host of the ceremony in the kingdom of Videha, and aside from being known for his mastery over the senses, the famous ruler was known to never tell a lie. He lived by his word, so when it was declared that his beautiful daughter Sita would wed whoever would first lift a bow belonging to Lord Shiva, it was understood that the contest was legitimate. A simple measure of strength was all it would take; nothing else.

All seemed well and good until Shri Rama arrived on the scene. He is described through so many terms because He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Can one name suffice for the person who has limitless transcendental features? How can we only pick one way to describe Him, for through experiences our mind’s preoccupation changes all the time? One second we are worried about finishing an assignment for school and the next we’re concerned over the future of our financial situation.

The changes occur rapidly, and depending on how those changes manifest, we can take the same periods of time to be either long or short. For instance, four years spent in college seem a lot longer than four years spent at the same job as an adult. Expanding to an even larger scale, twelve years of schooling prior to college seem much longer than twelve years of working. The difference, of course, is in perspective, as the maturation process brings a more marked change in the individual when they are younger.

If you work at the same company or the same occupation for a long time, there aren’t many external changes that allow you to gauge progress, or even notice it. In school there is always the beginning of the subsequent year, where you take new classes and interact with new people. That might not be the case with your occupation in adult life; thus making time go by a lot faster.

So depending on where you are in life, you may have particular things that interest you, items and issues that you take to be of paramount importance. As God is the supreme everything, He can be worshiped at any point in one’s life. To the residents of the town hosting this ceremony, the focus was particularly on strength and qualities conducive to being a good ruler. Sita would be given away to a prince after all, and his duty would be to protect Janaka’s precious gem.

Sita was just as qualified in truthfulness, austerity, cleanliness and mercy as her father. She is never bereft of these qualities because she is eternally the goddess of fortune, the consort of the Supreme Lord. She gives Him more pleasure than anyone else can, and as a byproduct of her position, she has all glorious attributes. Janaka was the right match to have as a father for Sita, who was found one day in the ground while Janaka was preparing for a sacrifice.

She was thus technically his adopted daughter, but that did not get in the way of his fatherly duties. If anything, the manner in which he found Sita made Janaka even more affectionate. It is one thing to love your biological offspring, for it is nature’s way to have a bond with people who are connected to you in blood. But the adopted son or daughter didn’t automatically belong to your family, so when you show them the same affection, the love is actually stronger.

Janaka didn’t want to give Sita away, but the age was right for her marriage, and if he kept her unmarried he’d invite scorn to his family. The princes arriving in Janakpur were fully capable, but none of them could even move the bow. Then came Shri Rama, who in the above referenced verse is described as the light of the Raghu family. This is a significant statement because Raghu’s family was already splendorous, as the dynasty originated from the sun-god, Vivasvan. His son was Manu, and his son was Ikshvaku, who in turn set the standard for good government.

Rama was considered the light of the Raghu family because He made it even more famous. His brightness spread through His transcendental features, which were all splendorous. When the sun shines bright in the sky, it’s influence is impossible to miss. Even if you’re not in direct contact with the sunlight, you know that the sun has an effect based on the heat that results.

In a similar manner, Rama’s splendor was shown off immediately upon His arrival in Janaka’s city. The residents with pure eyes could not get enough of the Supreme Lord, who was accompanied by His younger brother Lakshmana. The two were escorting Vishvamitra Muni, who outwardly acted as their preceptor. Their youth made the brothers more charming to look at, and since Rama was the elder of the two, He was eligible to take part in the contest and marry Sita.

In the course of day-to-day affairs, if someone really angers us, if they behave badly or insult us in some way, our dislike of them makes us automatically treat others better. This is just part of human nature, as the disliked’s association creates a noticeable contrast with the people who don’t behave poorly towards us. It’s like tasting something really bitter one second and then something sweet the next. The sweetness of the second item is a constant, but since the bitter taste was just there, it feels like the sweetness is stronger while tasting.

For the residents in Janakpur, the situation was sort of reversed. The sweetness of Rama’s vision was so nice that when looking at Janaka next they immediately felt dismay. They were angry that he had created a situation where this delightful youth could possibly lose the contest. Or worse yet, what if Rama got hurt trying to lift the heavy bow? His bodily features were so delicate that no one wanted any harm to come to them.

“They pray to God to grant them blessings: ‘May You garner fame and return victorious. May You not lose a single hair while bathing.’” (Janaki Mangala, 29)

The residents of Ayodhya had a similar affection for Rama, whom they knew since His initial appearance on earth. When the delight of mother Kausalya left Ayodhya with Lakshmana and Vishvamitra, the people of the town gathered by the road and prayed for their welfare. They prayed to God to protect the two boys and allow them to return successful. They did not want a single strand of hair to fall off them while bathing.

The brothers left with Vishvamitra for the forest to protect the sages against the attacks of the night-rangers, who used illusion as their strongest weapon. They would change shapes at will and sometimes become unseen, making it easier to pounce on the sacrifices of the sages, who were looking for a quiet setting that was more conducive to spiritual advancement.

Lord RamaRama would prove His ability by defeating the female demon Tataka. Though she tried her tricks of illusion, becoming invisible and then visible, just by using sound Rama was able to locate her and shoot her with His arrows. Though He was reluctant to fight with a female, at the insistence of Vishvamitra He ended her life and thus gave the sages the protection they desired.

In Janakpur, lifting the bow of Lord Shiva would be no problem for Rama, but the residents didn’t know this. His beauty mesmerized them, and so they didn’t want Him to leave their sight. “Let Him win the contest so that He can enter our extended family. This will make us happy.”

Any strong leader will regularly take criticism, for that is part of life at the top. Sharp criticism from dependents is part of the league in which the leaders play, and it’s an indication of the authority they wield. If these leaders weren’t important, there would be no need for anyone to complain.

Janaka absorbed these daggers shot by the eyes of the residents who loved Rama so much upon first glance. He decided to continue on with the contest, though he was kicking himself a little too. Shri Rama, the savior of the fallen souls, who remains by the side of the devotees who cherish His association, would not disappoint. He would win the contest, marry Sita, and live happily in the hearts of the residents who looked upon Him with love. The same king who was previously cursed suddenly became the most celebrated person for having been the instrument to bring the light of Raghu’s family together with Sita.

In Closing:

If Rama lost then the contest to be moot,

Loving Him, daggers at king people shoot.


From his vow king should have taken a pause,

If Sita not to wed Rama he would be the cause.


Such love for God was very nice,

No need for worry, contest to suffice.


Shiva’s bow in His hand Rama held,

A victorious Lord devotees then beheld.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When The Night Has Fallen

Lord Rama“Having given that advice, the saintly kings started to look at that unique picture of the moon of the lily-like Raghu dynasty, making their eyes like a Chakora bird looking at the moon.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 8.2)

siṣa dei bhūpati sādhu bhūpa anūpa chabi dekhana lage |
raghubansa kairava canda citai cakora jimi locana lage ||

The kairava flower is the white lotus, which is unique because it opens up at the sight of the moon. The lotus flower commonly invoked by poets of the bhakti school symbolizes spontaneous and dependent devotion to the Supreme Lord. During the day the sunshine causes the lotus flower to open up, and then at night, when the sun falls, the lotus closes up, as if to say it only lives for its beautiful sun, the giver of life.

In the dark night, it is the moon to provide the soothing rays of hope. The kairava, the white lotus, opens up at the sight of the bright moon, showing that nothing else in the night can give it happiness. In the dark night the Chakora bird also fixes its gaze upon the moon, not looking at anything else. In this way there is strict dependency and also loyalty. If we tell someone else that we can’t live without them, to back up our statement, we will not look anywhere else for happiness. The exclusive devotion shows the object of affection that the attention they get is special, and at the same time that style of worship gives the worshiper pleasure, for they know that they are honoring the relationship they hold so dear.

A long time ago, a gathering of saintly kings made their eyes like the Chakora bird, except the moon they were looking at was a person. Since He was the moon of His dynasty, He was known as Ramachandra. Since He was the Supreme Personality of Godhead manifesting Himself in a seemingly human form, His activities were celebrated during His time. He continues to be remembered and honored to this day through the devotees who sing of His glories and chant His holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

The Raghu dynasty itself was like the kairava flower, or water-lily, spreading its beauty throughout the world. In the above referenced verse, Goswami Tulsidas compares Rama to the moon of that lily-like dynasty because the glory, fame, strength, prestige, and protection of that dynasty opened up and spread with the appearance of Shri Rama, who was the moon of that dynasty, which happened to originate with the sun.

The kings looking at the beautiful son of King Dasharatha were gathered in Janakpur to take part in a contest. King Janaka was hosting the event and he promised to give away his beautiful daughter Sita to whoever could lift a very heavy bow. Some of the assembled kings viewed Rama as part of the competition, but then others developed a spontaneous attraction to Him, harboring love for both He and His younger brother Lakshmana, who were both there accompanied by the sage Vishvamitra.

Rama and Lakshmana must have presented a unique picture at which to look for the natural competitive attitude to subside in the kings. The royal dynasties from around the world were there for one reason: to win the contest. Think of competing in a sporting event that you’ve prepared for quite a while beforehand. You’re ready to compete, you’ve trained hard, and you know that victory will prove that you are very capable in your particular sport.

The need to show off his strength is more important in a king. The winner of this contest would show that he was uniquely strong and that with that strength he could protect the new wife, who had delicate features and feminine beauty that was unmatched. For that competitive attitude focused on victory to vanish at the mere sight of something, that object had to have unique features.

The brothers had this effect on people, with Rama garnering more attention because He was to participate in the contest. Some of the kings advised other kings to give up their opposition and surrender to the beautiful image. They were admonished for abandoning their shame and not worshiping Rama, who was God standing right before them.

The saintly kings not only abandoned their competitive attitude, they kept looking at Rama with devotion. Their eyes were like the Chakora bird, which has no other source of sustenance than the moon. That dedication would not harm them in the end, though Rama would raise the bow and win Sita’s hand. His accomplishment was more pleasurable to the saintly kings than winning for themselves. The unique picture of the Supreme Lord reuniting with His pleasure potency expansion is for the pleasure of the eyes, whose lens is cleared by devotion.

Sita and Rama marriageIn the degraded state, the eyes can’t see the influence of the Divine. Though not a single blade of grass can move without Rama’s influence, the stubborn mind thinks that the individual is responsible for all the results seen in life. Because of this defective mindset, there can only be misery, as man cannot control every outcome. Try as hard as you can, but you can never get a complete handle on things. The kings assembled in Janakpur are an example to prove this fact. They thought they were strong enough to lift the bow, but none of them could even move it. Then along came this youth with His even more youthful younger brother. The brothers were not supposed to participate, as they only arrived there following the sage’s lead.

The kings kept their eyes fixed on the brothers, considering the external surroundings to be like darkness. Can you stare at something that you can’t see? In the dark night there are many other objects around, but they cannot be seen because of the absence of light. The Chakora bird points its eyes only towards the soothing light of the moon, ignoring the objects in the darkness. Even those things which are illuminated by the moon are considered unimportant by the devoted Chakora.

The eyes of the saintly kings were like a magnet naturally attracted to the beautiful form of Lord Rama, who was seated next to Lakshmana and Vishvamitra. The area of interest was packed with so many people, so it wasn’t as if the kings were seated in a serene setting where concentration is easier to establish. But the vision of Shri Rama has that effect, creating a connection in consciousness with those who are pure of heart.

Where there is fame, beauty, and splendor, there is likely strength as well. Shri Rama is the greatest coordinator, and He planned this event to curb the false pride of the rival kings and delight the hearts and minds of the sincere souls gathered there that day. He continues to shine His bright rays to the population of this and many other planets through His holy names, the saints which chant them, and the pastimes recorded in Vedic literature.

In Closing:

When the moon rises at night,

Water-lily to open up at its light.


Kairava also known as the lotus white,

Rama like this, in assembly shining bright.


Was the moon of King Raghu’s line,

Which opened up at His shine.


Eyes of the rivals like the Chakora bird,

By Rama’s presence their emotions stirred.


Lord contest to win, pleasure to give,

With devotion in your heart He’ll always live.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dussehra 2012

Vanaras fighting for Rama“The Vanaras, who fought using trees, attacked the demons from all sides. Seeing the ten-necked leader killed, the Vanaras assumed a triumphant attitude.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 108.24)

sarvataścābhipetustān vānarā drumayodhinaḥ |
daśagrīvavadhaṃ dṛṣṭvā vānarā jitakāśinaḥ ||

If your enemy fights with state of the art weaponry that they are skilled in maneuvering, and you are using basic objects found in nature like trees and rocks, how on earth will you win? You’re basically kidding yourself, as you may fight the gallant fight for a while, but eventually the sheer force of the opposition’s weaponry will defeat you. Ah, but when you have the Supreme Lord as your leader, you don’t need any outside help. You don’t even have to be very strong or capable. Just the desire to serve Him is enough, and on the occasion of Dussehra we remember the service of some of the most valiant warriors in history.

Lord Ramachandra is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation as a warrior prince. There have been many famous princes in history, but none has been more talked about and celebrated than the eldest son of King Dasharatha of the Ikshvaku dynasty. His glories are sung in the Vedas, which are the oldest scriptures in existence. The ancient Vedic texts like the Ramayana and Shrimad Bhagavatam describe God’s qualities in both His incarnations such as Rama and His personal form, and to this day the glorification continues through the saints who have inherited the spiritual tradition of bhakti-yoga from their spiritual masters, who belong to an instructional lineage that originates with the Supreme Lord Himself.

“The Lord descends on this earth and acts like others in connection with the activities of the world just to create subject matters for hearing about Him; otherwise the Lord has nothing to do in this world, nor has He any obligation to do anything.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.15 Purport)

From Shri Rama’s life so many lessons can be taken away, including on topics such as administration, defense, pious principles, deference to one’s preceptors and parents, and brotherly love. But a higher purpose for coming to earth and gracing the population with His vision is to give the saints something to talk about, something to relish. The mind works all the time, even while we are asleep. Think about that for a second. From the time of your birth up until this very moment your mind has never stopped. It will keep going in the future as well, which means that you’ll always have to think about something. It stands to reason then that if the quality of the subject matter of that thought increases, the pleasure from the thinking will increase as well.

God’s qualities are inconceivably wonderful, so He is described as nirguna, or without qualities. The nirguna tag is also sometimes used to describe the Lord’s unmanifest feature, His presence which is not perceptible to the eye. Conversely, the saguna form is the personal incarnation, but nirguna in a different context means that the gunas, or qualities, belonging to the Lord are all spiritual. They are not binding to the cycle of birth and death as they are with ordinary living entities.

A major act of the real-life play directed by Lord Rama took place in Lanka, an island ruled over by a wicked king named Ravana at the time. Rama didn’t just come to earth to go on a killing spree. In fact, His demeanor was the opposite of aggressive. He was very kind and polite and didn’t speak much. He followed the direction of His parents and His spiritual guides, which is humorous in a sense, as God doesn’t need instruction from anyone. Yet just to set a good example He followed the wishes of the father Dasharatha and the gurus Vishvamitra and Vashishtha. Rama also couldn’t help but listen to His wife Sita and His younger brother Lakshmana, who insisted on accompanying Him wherever He went.

When Rama had to live in the forest for fourteen years, they both came along as well, and later on Sita was taken away to Lanka behind Rama’s back. Ravana perpetrated this deed, and for this he was worthy of punishment. A mentality opposite of that of Sita and Lakshmana, Ravana had no desire to serve God or even acknowledge His supremacy. Rather, Ravana would amass wealth using his strength and then enjoy his lofty position. But all his hard-earned gains would come crashing down as soon as he decided to try to enjoy the person who is always off-limits. Sita is Lakshmi Devi, the goddess of fortune, and she serves her husband, Narayana, all the time. Narayana is another name for God, and Rama is the same Narayana.

Ravana wasn’t alone in Lanka. He had fellow ogres there with him. They were expert in black magic, similar to witches. They looked ghoulish, and they fought dirty. Previous to Sita’s abduction, Ravana’s friends had harassed many a sage in the forest. They would attack at night when it was difficult to see, and they would first assume an innocent guise. Just when they got close, they would reveal their true forms and then kill the sages and eat their flesh. These vile creatures were man-eaters who preyed on the most innocent members of society.

Rama one time singlehandedly defeated 14,000 of Ravana’s cohorts that were sent towards Him. When the time came for Sita’s rescue, Rama teamed up with Vanaras, who are like an advanced race of monkeys. Rama had a more conventional army back home, but due to the stipulations of the exile set by His father’s youngest wife Kaikeyi, Rama wouldn’t return to Ayodhya for help. No matter, as the Vanaras were sufficiently capable for the job; they possessed the one attribute necessary for victory: devotion.

Shri HanumanIn the final battle, the Rakshasas used every trick they had, but the monkeys, who were led by Hanuman, held their own. Finally, there was the battle between Rama and Ravana, and when the Lord released the arrow bestowed by Lord Brahma, Ravana was killed. Seeing this, the Vanaras, who were fighting with trees, swarmed the enemy Rakshasas. Rama’s army assumed the triumphant attitude because their spirits were uplifted by the Lord’s victory. With such high spirits there was nothing the Rakshasas could do.

When you know you are on the side of good and you have the leader of that goodness there to support you, there is no chance of defeat, no matter what the external conditions portend. In the present day and age the enemies live both within and without. Lust, anger and greed attack us on the inside, and the forces intent on denying God’s existence ruin society on the outside. Yet weapons of the same potency as the arrows shot by Rama are available to us in the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This mantra is the battle hymn of the bhakti army, and chanting it regularly gives the troops the same confidence that the Vanaras had back on that first Dussehra.

In Closing:

Shri Rama, Supreme Lord, has won,

Ravana’s reign of terror now done.


Vanaras in victory shout,

Enemy forces they begin to route.


Relying on black magic the demons fought,

Mind-bending illusions to battle they brought.


Rama’s army used only rocks and trees,

But on opportunity for service they seized.


From devotion to Rama assured was their victory,

On Dussehra day with smiles we remember their story.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Greatest Gain

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

“Why not worship Krishna? He is such a beautiful youth, possessing an attractiveness that is intoxicating to the eyes. So much time is spent in other pursuits, where there is not really as much attractiveness. The dull material existence forces us to jump from one pursuit to another, with the activities repeated within, until the cruel destiny that is death approaches and takes everything away. Why not spend that valuable time in contemplation of the Supreme Absolute Truth, with the meditation helped through the chanting of the holy names, ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare’?

“Tulsi emphatically says, ‘O mind, hear what I am saying and always take it to heart, for this will benefit you. Remembering Shri Rama’s holy name is the greatest profit, and forgetting Him is the worst loss.’” (Dohavali, 21)

In his Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas says that the greatest loss in the world is to forget Shri Rama, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Dohavali is a collection of dohas, or poetic couplets. Tulsidas is a famous Vaishnava saint from the medieval period in India, and Rama is both an incarnation of the Supreme Lord and a word that describes God’s possession of transcendental pleasure. That pleasure is shared with others, sort of like the sunshine coming from the sun. If we remain in the dark, we can’t take advantage of the sun’s rays. The sun cannot be blamed for our misfortune, as it is our choice to remain in the dark.

The living entity reaching the human form has the potential to understand God, to realize His presence. That rekindling with the original spirit is the greatest gain, so naturally one who fails to take advantage of it has suffered the greatest loss. God is for everyone; He is not only for the Hindus. He is described in both detailed and abstract terms, allowing for understanding through both science and devotion. He can be known through His pastimes and transcendental body, both of which are described in the verse quoted above from the Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam of Shrila Rupa Gosvami.

This work celebrates the Supreme Lord as Krishna, who enjoys pastimes in the Vrindavana forest. Rupa Gosvami is a saint of the Vedic tradition, and though His specific object of worship is Krishna, He is worshiping God all the same. The Supreme Lord is ananta-rupam, or possessing unlimited forms. He is also adyam, or the original. He is also without a beginning, or anadi. We have no way of conceptualizing something that is sanatana, or without beginning and without end, so in this sense God defies logic.

The beauty of His features is similarly inconceivable. In Vrindavana, the sacred land preferred by the Lord in His original form of Krishna, He is dressed in a certain way. He wears golden colored garments, sports a peacock feather on His crown, and delights the women with His glistening youthfulness. From this vision the abstract picture is clarified, sort of like having the numeral representation of a number written out. If we see the number “one” written in numeral form, it is a straight vertical line. That line viewed from afar could be mistaken for a seven. Someone could also easily add adjoining lines to change the number to something else.

But when the number is written out in word form, the chances for misidentification greatly diminish. The incarnations of the Supreme Lord have a similar effect. Rama shows that God is a handsome youth with an unblemished record in defending the saintly class that relies solely upon Him. Krishna shows the Lord’s original form, as derived from the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. Krishna is the detail behind the abstract conception of an Absolute Truth. And, not surprisingly, that detail is splendid to the eyes of the immediate observer.

The women of Vrindavana have the greatest gain in Krishna’s association and they take full advantage of it. They get to see Krishna every day in a beautiful, youthful form, and they drink up the spiritual nectar with their eyes. Spiritual life should be this kind of positive effort, wherein a personal relationship is established with the object of worship. If there is a God, He must be for everyone. If He is for everyone, He must be for me too. If He is for me, I should always stay with Him, at least in consciousness.

Lord KrishnaAll the women of Vrindavana think that Krishna is theirs, though He is the son of Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda. They keep Him within their hearts during the day while they tend to family chores. The select gopis who travel to the forest at night get to dance with Krishna, but the pleasure they feel in separation is actually greater. In that mood the consciousness is more strongly tied to the beautiful youth who holds a flute in His hands. This kind of meditation falls under the category of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, and it is available for everyone to practice.

Shrila Rupa Gosvami enjoys the greatest gain by authoring such wonderful poetry praising Kunja-vihari. Thinking of God is as good as being with Him, and though we are doubtful of this, through enough practice of bhakti-yoga, the greatest gain is not only appreciated, but held on to as the valuable gem that it is. To the devotee who always thinks of Krishna, there is no amount of money in the world that can stop their dedication. Since they are so kind, they try to gift the same valuable gem to others, taking all risks in the process.

In Closing:

In Vrindavana’s forests Krishna walks around,

Smiling happily with peacock feather on His crown.


That vision life’s greatest gain,

Bring to mind through spiritual chain.


From Rupa Gosvami hear,

Of Yashoda’s son so dear.


In human form don’t pass on this asset,

On Krishna’s beauty keep your mind set.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Always Something To Look At

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

“With Krishna there is always something wonderful to gaze upon. This began with His initial arrival into our town. The splendid youth belonging to Nanda Maharaja and mother Yashoda delighted us with His vision as an infant. To see Him grow up, try to crawl and walk alongside His elder brother Balarama was a true gift. He delighted us with His muffled speech, and He would kindly grab whatever things we asked of Him. He would bring the father’s slippers when requested and would also try to trade grains for fruit with the vendor. Not to mention the many times He survived the attacks of wicked characters, He is always exciting us in some way or another. Even when He is not involved in any specific action, just looking at Him is enough to bring pleasure. There are so many attractive aspects to His personal self.”

In his Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, Shrila Rupa Gosvami remembers some of these features and kindly praises them. In the verse quoted above, the feather worn on Krishna’s crown is mentioned. The feather is from a peacock, and it has since become a symbol to remind devotees of their beloved, the lord of their life breath. To have a lord of your thoughts is only natural, as we all must think of something or someone. But to have that controller be God Himself is most worthwhile.

But what about other divine figures? Why can’t someone think of Jesus instead of Krishna? How about the formless energy known as Brahman? What about their significant other, like a wife? How about the beloved children? Didn’t Yashoda and Nanda always think of their son? So why shouldn’t we do the same with our children?

The tendency to devote thoughts to someone else is already there, and so in the Vedic tradition the recommendation to focus on the Supreme Lord in His personal form is not to simply introduce another item of focus. The fact is the objects around us are temporary, as are the relationships we have to them. Think of the person who gets divorced and then finds another person to marry. They once focused on one person, but then later on they focused on someone else. The divorce may not even have been their fault; they could have been completely faithful. Yet due to the workings of nature, the influence of destiny, they couldn’t stay with their first spouse; thus requiring a change of focus. The same holds true for parents attached to their children, as eventually the children will have to grow up and provide for themselves. They might also have their own children to take care of.

With respect to other religious traditions and their specific divine figures, the Vedas are not contradictory in this regard. Rather, the same spiritual force is described in greater detail. It is also revealed that according to time and place, the Almighty will send a representative or personally appear Himself to deliver the appropriate message. Hence we see the many different spiritual traditions in existence, including the many subdivisions to the Vedic tradition. Despite the variation, there is still only one God, and according to the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, His original form is Shyamasundara, the beautiful youth with a dark complexion. He is also known as Krishna because He is all-attractive. This means that He attracts anyone and everyone, irrespective of sectarian boundaries.

The same Krishna is also known as Kunja-vihari, or one who enjoys play in the forest. Krishna’s preferred forest is Vrindavana, a land where there are only devotees. Imagine gathering together all of your friends in one place. It’s sometimes difficult to say who is your best friend, as you have different relationships with different people. Some person may be your friend in the workplace, while another is your friend from school. One person enjoys playing the same sport that you do, while another is your preferred confidante. If you could have a party with all of them invited, you would never get bored. You would always have something fun to do.

Vrindavana is like that for Krishna, and the relationships to Him are not identical. The young cowherd boys enjoy playing with Krishna during the day. The young gopis enjoy dancing with Him at night, and the mothers enjoy just looking at Him. The peacock feather on His crown is the perfect accompaniment. The Lord also has a youthfulness that delights all of the women. The golden garments add to the charm, and so the women always have something to contemplate on, even while they are working.

Through their example, we see that real yoga does not require residence in a remote area, where everything else is given up. A yogi has a consciousness linked to the divine, so whichever situation is ideal for creating and maintaining that link is the best. Vrindavana is filled with devotees, so any place the gopis and gopas travel to is a pilgrimage site, for if they don’t see Kunja-vihari, they can at least remember Him.

Lord KrishnaThat same remembrance is available to us today through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. This most potent method of bhakti-yoga creates a replica of the Vrindavana atmosphere within the mind. If one is serious in their chanting, and in their hearing and remembering of the Supreme Lord, then the external conditions automatically become auspicious as well.

How does this work exactly? Think about if you really wanted to watch the big game that’s on television this upcoming Sunday. You will automatically find ways to make it happen, won’t you? You might need to adjust your schedule, upgrade your television set, and complete all of your other tasks beforehand. This way there won’t be any distractions when you watch the game.

In a similar manner, if your desire is to connect with God on a daily basis, anything that gets in the way will turn into an unwanted hindrance. The Vaishnava saints like Shrila Rupa Gosvami and his followers have kindly pointed out some of the common anarthas, or non-profitable things, so that we won’t have to discover them on our own. Meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex are the most unprofitable activities, and if they are removed when practicing bhakti-yoga, the chances of remembering Krishna increase all the more. And since there is so much to look at on the Lord’s wonderful transcendental body, there is no need to fear bhakti-yoga ever becoming a boring activity.

In Closing:

What will I look at today?

Perhaps His forest play?


With gopas to the fields He goes,

Fun with Him always everyone knows.


From His youthfulness mothers take delight,

Peacock feather on crown a splendid sight.


In Vrindavana His pastimes unfold,

Krishna, who wears garments colored gold.