Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Big Brain

Vishnu creating the universes“The symmetry of creation and its regulative actions and reactions suggests the plan of an intelligent brain behind them, and by genuine inquiry one may find out the ultimate cause with the help of one who knows them factually.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.5.2 Purport)

“Scientists have proved with over ninety percent certainty that the universe came into being through the random collision of chemicals. This groundbreaking research stands religion on its head. Most of us already knew that religion was bogus. In the past the less intelligent society didn’t understand complex things like the sun and the moon, so they assigned personalities to them. They created stories to describe how the rivers came to be, and the seasons and the regular occurrences like thunder and rain were also explained in the same way. Gradually, over time, through scientific research man has debunked these myths. I stopped believing in fairy tales when I was younger, so the real pathway to an intelligent life, to a fulfilled existence, is to continue with scientific research.”

This sums up the mindset of the modern atheist. “Why believe in something you can’t see? You can’t see God, so He obviously doesn’t exist, right? These sectarian groups which each sport their own superior divine figure are relying on faith alone, as that is what gets them through tough times. But these figures were just ordinary people who were later elevated to divine status because of amazing things that they did. The aim of life is to enjoy, and through science man will find his enjoyment.” The problem with this thinking, however, is that there is intelligence to the workings of nature. The existence of scientific research itself proves that.

What do we mean by this? If I, as a mature human being, can figure out that the sun rises and sets at around the same times every day, it means that I have intelligence. If I can figure out that there is something like a year, wherein the sun remains at set positions in the sky and the climate of the earth is duly affected, I obviously have a brain. Though I have a brain, I am still limited in what I can do. At best, I can create an airplane that flies through the sky, but this isn’t that much of an achievement considering that smaller, less intelligent birds can already do this. I can consume loads of alcohol in one sitting to purposefully remove my intelligence for a brief period of time, but again this doesn’t make me all-powerful.

My brain is both limited and flawed. I can’t remember everything I experience, and neither can I apply my intelligence perfectly all the time. Yet the intelligence behind the more powerful nature that I study is flawless. The sun remains in its position, diffusing heat and light, without cessation. It doesn’t require an engineer or a fuel source. Nothing is propping it up, and nothing can be done to move it. In the same way, the seasons arrive and leave on schedule, and the law of gravity operates on all objects.

The brain behind nature is perfect, and so to think that everything randomly occurred in the beginning is quite ridiculous. Think about what happens when things explode. Since when does an explosion create anything? Rather, explosions are used to destroy, and on a massive scale as well. If a bomb blasts in someone’s home and the police arrive on the scene, is saying, “Sorry officer, I don’t know what happened. I think chemicals just randomly collided,” a viable explanation? Moreover, if chemicals did collide to make this universe, from where did they come? Who created the chemicals? If the answer is “no one”, then the chemicals are assigned the properties of eternality and full power. These same chemicals can then destroy us all. They are the equivalent of a God.

A genuine inquiry into the ultimate cause can be made with someone who actually knows the truth. They accept this truth on faith in the beginning and then they realize it through the practical application of principles passed down from the authority source. The original authority source is thus the root cause of both intelligence and the entire creation. In the Vedas, He is described through thousands of names, which speak to His unlimited features. It is impossible to know Him fully, as complete knowledge can only belong to Him. Only a person with flaws would have to do research to figure things out. Only a fallible living entity would have to try to discern the root cause to anything.

If you have to try to figure it out, it means that you can forget it. The original person never forgets and never has to learn. He is always God, and through humble submission to one of His servants, His properties can be learned to some extent. More importantly, how to serve Him properly is also learned, and this is the ideal occupation for every living entity. Regardless of one’s intelligence, service takes place, but in the right attitude the service is constitutional.

For instance, the staunch atheist serves God’s material energy through their research and defiance of religious principles. The external energy gives an illusion that there is no God, and so the person succumbing to that false vision in one sense pays homage to the creator of that energy. Residence in the land of illusion continues for as long as the defiance remains. To seek out the truth is to thus try to transcend the external energy.

Krishna bookThe intelligence of the individual is inherited from the intelligence of the original person, and it is meant to be used for understanding Him. Religious texts exist for this very purpose, and in the Vedas the most detail is provided both in terms of the history of the creation and the workings of the universe. To truly realize the truths of the soul and its travels through reincarnation driven by karma, one must follow a certain set of procedures, which have restriction as the foundation. Knowledge is best acquired in the sober state, and in renunciation the influence of the external energy lessens.

But in the modern age the strict austerity measures are difficult to follow, as just having a belief in God makes you unique. Therefore the most effective method of spiritual practice today is the chanting of the holy names. By saying, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, often and in the company of those who take shelter of this mantra, knowledge of the original creator is gradually revealed. And the more you get to know Him, the smarter you’ll be, as you’ll use your valuable gift of an intelligent brain to feel transcendental pleasure.

In Closing:

The sun, earth and all creatures of the land,

Started from the original big bang.


Religion the safety mechanism of the unwise,

Couldn’t understand things of infinite size.


But what do the scientists really know?

How to fly in sky, place where eagles already go?


Symmetry of creation suggests intelligent brain,

How else could seasons arrive at time the same?


Brain in you too, use it for right cause,

Learn of God and from ignorance take pause.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Free Wisdom

Shrila Prabhupada“Knowledge received by submissive inquiries and service is more effective than knowledge received in exchange for money.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.5.1 Purport)

What’s wrong with getting paid for teaching? A teacher has to earn a living after all. They have bills to pay. They likely have children of their own. The kids need clothes, shoes, equipment for soccer, supplies for school, dental braces, food, and so many other things. And the house doesn’t just pay for itself. In the modern age especially, taxes are very high, so even if you own your home outright, your monthly expenses to maintain it are a lot. Thus even the teacher must be rewarded with a handsome salary; otherwise they will leave the profession. With the highest knowledge, however, from the teacher’s perspective there is no explicit need for remuneration. And when the exchange of money is replaced with submissive inquiries made in full sincerity, the transfer of information is more fruitful.

To purchase something means to assign it a value. If a person were to knock on our door and offer us free mangoes, we might be a little skeptical. “Why are they here? Why are they just giving away their mangoes? Why aren’t they selling them? If they’re giving them away, the mangoes obviously must not be worth much. There must be something wrong with them. This person probably stole the mangoes from someone else.”

This is the pre-exchange assessment, and if the exchange goes through the interest in the product will not be so great. If someone gives us something for free, we might place it in the closet and never see it again. What are we losing? There was no investment made, so we don’t even have to think about it. If we purchase the same item, however, there is an investment. If the purchased object sits in the closet, it means that our hard-earned money went to waste. Thus in the case of a purchase we are more likely to give value to the item.

The same should hold true in the transfer of knowledge, as the more prestigious universities typically charge much higher tuition, which means that the degrees earned are of a higher value. Yet in the highest occupation for man, there is no requirement that one be of a certain age range, ethnicity, gender, or income class. This means that both the poor man and the rich man can take up devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, God in His personal form. Money is not a factor, as the necessary ingredient for success is sincerity kept safely within a blanket of enthusiasm.

The soul is the essence of identity, and its existence is constant. Whether in the body of a human being or a dog, the soul is still the soul. And the soul’s primary characteristic is service. To find the highest object of service is to thus make the best use of the primary characteristic. Service to God is the ideal use of the service propensity, and since God is everything, the origin of all matter and spirit, service to Him can take place in any circumstance.

Those who know the art of practicing this service teach others. They don’t charge a monetary fee for this service, but they do require sincerity from the student. Sincerity is the better price to pay for the student because this will also make the teacher more enthusiastic to reveal the information. When the wisdom is shared without a monetary fee, the teacher does it out of the goodness of their heart. Also, to work in such a way one must be enthusiastic themselves; they must believe in the cause.

Bhagavad-gita, As It IsThe best example of the ideal transfer of divine wisdom comes to us from the Bhagavad-gita. The setting for this classic Vedic text is a battlefield. Arjuna is the leading warrior for the Pandavas, and Krishna is his cousin. Krishna is also the chosen chariot driver on this particular day. Arjuna runs into trouble before the war’s commencement, as he is suddenly hesitant to fight against an opposing side that consists of family members and respectable personalities.

Arjuna was in a tough spot mentally, and so he could have paid someone to set him straight. The problem with that method is that the adviser wouldn’t have had his best interest at heart. The interest would have been rooted in money, and so the message itself would have lost its value to the recipient. If I hold valuable information on how to make the most out of life and I’ll only share it with you if you pay me, obviously my message would have to be related to making money, as that is what I value in life. Yet the highest dharma of the soul should never be dependent on any material condition, and especially not material wealth.

Krishna decided to step in to help Arjuna after He was approached. He turned into the teacher, and Arjuna became the student. What followed was a discourse on all aspects of spiritual and material life, including topics like reincarnation, piety and sin, charity, sacrifice, penance and yoga. Arjuna was submissive with his inquiries, and he was eager to listen to Krishna. The chariot driver turned spiritual guide, for His part, was pleased by Arjuna’s attitude. He knew that the hesitant warrior was not an enemy, and neither was he a customer. He was a genuine spiritual seeker looking for guidance in life.

Krishna provided that guidance, as He is the Supreme Lord Himself. That conversation was documented in the work known as the Bhagavad-gita, and those who follow Arjuna’s example of submissive devotion to Krishna kindly teach other sincere souls about the meaning of life and how to go about achieving it. This information is distributed to whoever is willing to listen, and even when they are not, the same spiritual potency arrives in the sounds of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, which have been kindly spread throughout the world through the efforts of Lord Chaitanya and His followers.

In Closing:

For a good college to attend,

A pretty penny have to spend.


For money high topics to learn,

Eventually a degree to earn.


But in spiritual life not the same,

For devotion to God is the highest gain.


If only for cash message I’ll share,

Means that of God I don’t really care.


To Arjuna Krishna highest wisdom taught,

For to discussion humble sincerity he brought.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Building To Stand The Test of Time

Radha Krishna altar"If someone gives up self-gratificatory pursuits and works in Krishna consciousness and then falls down on account of not completing his work, what loss is there on his part? And, what can one gain if one performs his material activities perfectly?" (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.5.17)

You get up in the morning at a specific time because you know you have to go to work. There is no compromise here. You must get to the office on time because otherwise things won’t get done, and you’ll get in trouble. Even if you are the boss of the establishment, your absence will cause you pain in the future. The problem with getting up, however, is that you are so tired. You got home at midnight the previous night, so you didn’t even have time to unwind. Right away you took off your clothes and fell into bed. You didn’t want to talk to anyone because why cut into the precious moments of alone time? Why put more pressure on yourself when you’re finally in a place where no one requires anything from you?

The pressure during that time is due to the fact that the cycle of work repeats itself, day after day, week after week. Either you really like what you do for a living or you must support your dependents. You refuse to be a freeloader. Rather than rely on the government or someone else to take care of you and your family, you’re going to do it yourself. You’ll work two jobs if you have to. Where there is a will, there is a way, and in this case your will is strong. It’s so strong that you’ve signed up for punishing yourself just to keep going.

But is it all worth it? Sure, your time is occupied, which means that you’re in a better position than if you were, say, sleeping throughout the day. The hard worker dreams of time off, but when that pressure does lessen, the moments of free time are difficult to occupy. What to do all day? Sleep? Watch television? These actually get boring rather quickly, and they do nothing positive for the psyche. They are considered leisurely activities for a reason; they are not meant to occupy the entire day.

There has to be more to life than just filling time, no? Shouldn’t we be working towards building something tangible, something that will bring real happiness in the future? In the Bhagavad-gita we learn that the consciousness is what stays with us from lifetime to lifetime. The consciousness is tied to the essence of individuality, the spirit soul. It is said that whatever consciousness one has at the time of death that type of being they attain in the next life.

“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)

The mind, intelligence and ego carry through the air like aromas, determining the internal qualities of the next life form. For instance, if we see someone who is particularly adept at sports from a young age, it should be known that these qualities were determined from the consciousness during the previous death. This is a positive aspect of the spiritual science, for it shows that destiny can be shaped. All we have to do is change our consciousness.

Consciousness is affected by what the mind thinks about throughout the day. If all the time is spent working to maintain a house and family, the consciousness will be altered accordingly. Yet we know that the house will eventually crumble, and typically the individual will leave this earth prior to that destruction. The hard work thus goes towards maintaining something temporary, and in the process the consciousness remains stuck on something temporary as well.

In Krishna consciousness, one shapes their activities in such a way that they always think about God. Starting in the morning with the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the mind is trained to do service to the Supreme Lord. This type of chanting qualifies as bhakti-yoga, or the mysticism of devotion. The full benefits of meditational yoga are still present, but the added bonus is that a higher entity helps you out. He is the beneficiary of the service, whereas in other yogas the individual is mainly working for personal pleasure.

Krishna is the name for God that means “all-attractive”. He is also the reservoir of pleasure, and since He is inherently connected to every spirit soul in a relationship described as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, or simultaneous oneness and difference, His pleasure brings pleasure to the devotee. Think of it like making an elaborate food preparation for your guests and then seeing smiles on their faces when they eat. Their pleasure in eating gives you pleasure. Now expand that same small practice to the largest scale and you get an idea of how bhakti-yoga works. Whether hearing, chanting, remembering, offering prayers, or surrendering everything, there is pleasure given to Krishna during the process, provided the service is genuine.

“Any work begun on the material plane has to be completed, otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure. But any work begun in Krishna consciousness has a permanent effect, even though not finished. The performer of such work is therefore not at a loss even if his work in Krishna consciousness is incomplete.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40 Purport)

PrabhupadaAlong the way a fixed consciousness develops. There is no loss on the yogi’s part, a fact confirmed by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita. Other kinds of development of consciousness can be erased, as the mind can travel elsewhere and develop new interests. In Krishna consciousness there is only a forward march, even if there are setbacks. The progress doesn’t go away, sort of like saving the spot you’re at in a particular video game and then resuming later on. The house of a consciousness connected in the yoga of love to the Supreme Lord is the only one worth building, making the many hours spent in devotional service worth the difficult effort.

In Closing:

“Nothing will get in my way,

On the path of work I will stay.


So much my body has perspired,

And from efforts I’m now so tired.


And will my building even stand?

Life is temporary I understand.”


Instead same effort in devotion take,

And permanent consciousness thus make.


Thinking of God never to go in vain,

Progress in devotion always to remain.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Will Write You a Song

Rama breaking Shiva's bow“Today Rama will definitely lift the bow, and the three worlds will sing of the supreme auspiciousness of the marriage with excitement.” (Janaki Mangala, 71)

ajahum̐ avasi raghunandana cāpa caḍhāuba |
byāha uchāha sumangala gāuba ||

If you really want to honor somebody, how would you do it? Would you praise them in front of others? This is the method employed by winners at awards ceremonies. They feel humbled by the honor of receiving the award, and so to show their gratitude they offer up praise to those people they feel are deserving of it. The champion athlete thanks the members of the team, which include the trainer, the coach, the spouse, and the parents. The actor will praise the cast and crew of the production and the winning politician the members of their campaign staff. Such honor lasts for but only a moment, so one way to continue the praise going forward is to use song.

It should make sense if you think about it. As Shakespeare says, brevity is the soul of wit, so the less words you can use to convey a point, the better the presentation will be. The message will also resonate better; it will be easier to recall to the mind. Say, for instance, we want to praise the brightness of the sky. We can either write a four-page dissertation on the inner-workings of the elements in the sky or we can write a short two-line poem describing the same. The dissertation provides a lot more information; it is obviously more detailed. But the defect is that it will only be read once or twice. The poem, on the other hand, can be committed to memory. This means that you could hear the same poem day after day and derive pleasure from it. The person offering the praise feels pleasure, and to hear something of value praised by others is also pleasurable.

An even better method is to turn the poem into a song. A melody is much easier to remember than specific lyrics. So many songs we have memorized, but we likely don’t know all the specific words. The melody is easier to recall, and thus the song is pleasing when we sing it from within. If the content is improved, that same tendency can be used to remember the glories of something that is noteworthy. No one is more noteworthy than the Supreme Lord, and so the exalted saints, those on the highest platform of transcendental knowledge, prefer the route of composing songs.

“While churning the butter, mother Yashoda was singing about the childhood activities of Krishna. It was formerly a custom that if one wanted to remember something constantly, he would transform it into poetry or have this done by a professional poet. It appears that mother Yashoda did not want to forget Krishna's activities at any time.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 10.9.1-2 Purport)

As an example, mother Yashoda a long time back would compose songs while she was working during the day. She was not a Vedic scholar or a poet by trade. She was a simple-hearted mother living in the farm community of Vrindavana. Her son happened to be the delight of the town and also the origin of the creation. As His enchanting form was all-attractive, He was known as Krishna. This is another name for God. There is no difference between any of the popular faiths with respect to the Supreme Deity. God is always the same; it’s just that sometimes His features aren’t described fully.

Krishna is considered the best name for God, because what can be better than supreme attractiveness? In Vrindavana this beauty shone through in the features of His tiny body and also in His activities. To better be able to remember those pastimes, Yashoda composed songs while churning butter in the daytime. The song is the highest honor to pay to someone, because it is a way to both give praise and ensure that the outputted item remains relevant into the future. Others can hear those songs, commit them to memory, and then sing them.

Many year’s prior to Krishna’s advent, the same Supreme Lord walked this earth in His incarnation as a warrior prince named Rama. There were many notable events in Rama’s life, with one of them being His marriage to the goddess of fortune, Sita Devi. Sita was Janaka’s daughter and her marriage ceremony was not ordinary in the least. She was an extraordinary princess, so the pious king decided to hold a contest to find a suitable husband for her. The rules of the contest were simple: lift an extremely heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. The first person to lift it wins.

There was some nervous conversation in the crowd on the day of the contest, however. One prince in particular caught everyone’s attention, and His features were so wonderful that people started to wonder whether the contest was a good idea. “This youth named Rama is the perfect match for Sita. He is beautiful, charming, kind, and a protector against the worst kinds of enemies. He is accompanied by His equally beautiful younger brother Lakshmana and the sage Vishvamitra. If Rama can protect the sages in the forest from the attacking night-rangers, then surely He will be able to protect Janaka’s precious daughter for the rest of her life.”

But what if Rama couldn’t lift the bow? Some in the crowd wanted Janaka to renounce his vow, while others knew that this wasn’t a good option. The king was famous throughout the world for his dedication to the truth. The only reason so many princes arrived for the contest was their faith in Janaka’s word, that he would indeed give Sita away to whoever could lift the bow. If he suddenly called off the contest and gave Sita to Rama, it would raise suspicions.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, one group in the crowd states that Rama will definitely raise the bow. With that amazing feat, the three worlds will sing of His glories with excitement. The three worlds are the heavenly planets, the earth, and the hellish planets. These areas are part of the material creation, meaning they go through the cycle of creation, maintenance, and annihilation. For fame to spread worldwide is certainly noteworthy, but as Rama is God and capable of out of this world feats, news of His lifting of the bow would reach the heavenly and hellish realms as well.

Lord RamaThis prediction would turn out to be true, as Rama’s glories are still sung to this day. The Janaki Mangala itself is a songbook authored by Goswami Tulsidas for the purpose of glorifying the occasion of Sita and Rama’s marriage. The central component of that marriage was the contest, which required the lifting of the bow by Rama. Thus the Supreme Lord offered help in the glorification process, as He knows that the soul’s dharma, or essential characteristic, is service to the Divine. In the conditioned state, the Divine aspect is absent, and there is just service. Since no target is as perfect as God, the service jumps from one area to another, in lifetime after lifetime, until finally there is service to God in what is known as bhakti-yoga.

Singing of Rama’s glories in pure love is bhakti-yoga; it never fails to bring pleasure to the singer. As the world today is full of diverse languages and cultures, a single mantra has been recommended for song. It can be spoken repeatedly on a set of japa beads or it can be sung out loud with others, in a call-and-response fashion. Whatever method preferred, the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, brings the soul the pleasure it craves.

In Closing:

Lifting bow, auspiciousness Rama to bring,

Of the glorious occasion three worlds will sing.


Earthly planet, and the ones on bottom and top,

Devotees everywhere to sing of glories without stop.


Too heavy the bow was considered,

But from Rama rivals’ hopes withered.


Occasion and deeds best glorified through song,

In bhakti chant holy names all day long.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Strange Are His Ways

Lord Brahma dropping flowers“If he now abandons his oath, after having announced it to the people, his infamy would spread throughout the world. No one knows the ways of the creator.” (Janaki Mangala, 70)

aba kari paija panca maham̐ jo pana tyāgai |
bidhi gati jāni na jāi ajasu jaga jāgai ||

The ways of the creator are a mystery. One baby is born completely healthy while another has defects. One child grows up to be just fine, escaping the dangers created by the threefold miseries of life, while another is constantly in trouble from disease, natural disasters, and the influence of other living entities. One king a long time ago had a particularly interesting life, especially in relation to his daughter. Coming to him under odd circumstances, the issue of her marriage would be equally as interesting. The anticipation reached a crescendo at the final moments, as it appeared that the king had made a mistake.

The daughter came to the king from the ground. We might tell our children that babies come from the mailman or the supermarket, but this is done to avoid the topic of the birds and the bees, sex life. King Janaka’s daughter was indeed found in the ground. She was still alive, amazingly enough. The king was in the process of cultivating the field for a religious sacrifice. Obviously an odd place to find a human being, the king couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He held her in his arms after wiping the dust from her face, and he immediately felt parental affection for her.

The next important moment in their lives was her marriage. She reached an appropriate age, and so the king had to decide who would protect her for the rest of her life. She was something special. He named her Sita because she came from the ground, and now it was time to part ways. In the Vedic tradition, the wife is considered to be part of the husband’s family. She essentially renounces her ties to her original family, as her occupational duty is to serve her husband. The good king and his wife taught these principles to Sita during childhood, so she was more than ready to accept her responsibility.

But the king felt like a rich man about to become poor. He decided that no ordinary prince was worthy of his exceptional daughter. Therefore he took a vow in front of everyone that the lifter of Lord Shiva’s bow would win Sita’s hand. News spread around the world and royal caravans arrived in King Janaka’s city for the contest. They did so on a matter of trust. The king took an oath, so there was no way he was going to break it. We board the airplane slated for an intended destination because we trust the airline. We believe that they will take us to the place they say they will. If we don’t trust them, why board the airplane?

In a similar manner, these royal families believed Janaka. He had a proven track record on the issue of virtue. Thus they knew all they had to do was lift this enormously heavy bow. Seemed simple enough, no? The residents of the town gathered and watched as one prince after another attempted to lift the bow and then failed. No big deal, as everything was going according to plan. But as we remember, the ways of the creator, who is responsible for the bodies we assume and the circumstances we end up in, are impossible to predict.

Suddenly, two handsome youths appeared on the scene. Their entourage consisted of a sage who called the forest his home. The boys were princes, so they were eligible for the contest, but they had arrived there at the sage’s direction. King Janaka was known to be hospitable to brahmanas, so he immediately welcomed the trio. Upon seeing the two brothers, Janaka’s mind was taken. He became lost in an ocean of transcendental bliss.

This was due to the fact that the brothers, Rama and Lakshmana, were God and His number one servant respectively. Janaka’s daughter Sita was the goddess of fortune, so unbeknownst to him, Janaka was involved in coordinating the reunion between God and His wife in the real-life play known as the Ramayana. Janaka’s reaction is natural for a pure-hearted person who sees God. Indeed, he also had the proper reaction when he found Sita as a baby.

There were a few problems, however. Janaka did not know the divine natures of the people involved; nor was he confident that Rama could lift the bow. This meant that the vow, which was responsible for this entire assembly, could turn out to harm him. This boy Rama, the elder of the two and thus the one eligible for the contest, was perfect for Sita. If Janaka had known of Him beforehand, he never would have drawn up the contest. He would have given Sita over to Him immediately.

The people of the town talked amongst themselves as this was going on, and Goswami Tulsidas kindly eavesdrops to let us know what they were saying. One group was cursing the king for his vow, while another was empathetic to his plight. In the above referenced verse, we see that someone is saying that the king would awaken infamy for himself throughout the world if he should go back on his word. Moreover, the king had no idea that Rama, the perfect match, would arrive. The ways of the creator are impossible to predict, so we can’t just change our mind later on to suit our whims.

Sita and Rama's weddingTime and circumstance play an important role in Vedic rituals. The king’s vow was also very important; it was in line with dharma, or virtue. To go off of sense impulses, without any consideration for the impact changes have on others, is not a very wise course. In this instance, Rama Himself coordinated the events, which meant that the last-minute dilemma served to enhance the fame of the event. If Janaka had just given Sita over to Rama, the marriage ceremony may not be as well remembered today. It was better for Rama, in a youthful and beautiful form, to lift an amazingly heavy bow without a problem, showing the world that He was the only match for the beautiful Sita Devi, the daughter of that virtuous king who held true to his vow and thus satisfied all the parties involved.

In Closing:

The ways of creator can’t predict,

Pain in some and others pleasure to sit.


King’s infamy with broken vow to spread,

Sticking with the truth better instead.


Arrangement by Supreme Lord set,

Hand of beautiful Sita He’d get.


Worry’s increase fame to contest brought,

Rama to win, Janaka’s word not to go for naught.

Monday, October 29, 2012

King’s Oath

Sita and Rama“If the king had first heard of Rama’s wonderful qualities and beauty, he would have called for Sita to marry Him, and nobody would have faulted him for it.” (Janaki Mangala, 69)

prathama sunata jo rāu rāma guna-rūpahiṃ |
boli byāli siya deta doṣa nahiṃ bhūpahiṃ ||

King Janaka was in the public eye. As the leader of a historic country, everyone watched his every move. This is the burden that accompanies leadership. If you’re the leader, everything that you do is scrutinized, and since you have authority, people will complain about you a lot. It’s only natural, for if something goes wrong you will get the blame. If things go well, then that is the norm, or at least the expected condition. Thus there is not as much attention given to the leader in good times, but when there is trouble, when there is doubt as to the proper course of action, all eyes turn to the leader to see if they can redress the situation. A long time ago the king was faced with a very difficult decision, a predicament that seemed to be of his own making.

Was there a foreign attack? Were the citizens suddenly without work? Was there a drought? These issues certainly are important, but for the group of spectators gathered at arguably the most famous event in history, the problem related to the future fortunes of the king’s daughter. Known as Sita, she was the cherished possession of King Janaka. He and his wife Sunayana were childless for a long time until one day when Janaka found a baby girl in the ground while ploughing a field.

The field was to serve as grounds for a sacrifice, which is intended to please the higher authorities. The highest authority is the Supreme Lord, who is known as the lord of all creatures. At the beginning of the creation, He advised man to perform sacrifices so that they would find all good things in life. It is easy to get distracted by temporary pursuits. You let go of an object from your hand and it falls to the ground. You pluck a flower from a plant and now you have control of it. You take a banana from a tree and enjoy the resulting taste. In this way you start to think that you are the ultimate controller of your own fortunes, that you and you alone steer the ship.

“In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacrifices for Vishnu, and blessed them by saying, ‘Be thou happy by this yajna [sacrifice] because its performance will bestow upon you all desirable things.’” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.10)

Of course lost in these sequences of action and reaction is the fact that these objects had to come from somewhere. Indeed, the body that we call home had to develop in someone else’s womb. That initial placement and then subsequent development occurred without our sanction. We had no say in where we took birth or even in how we’d be protected in the early years. These and many other facts that prove how little control we have are recognized through discipline in spiritual practice.

Yajna, or sacrifice, is one of the central components of the eternal occupation known as sanatana-dharma because it takes care of many issues simultaneously. You perform a ritual to bring auspiciousness from higher beings. This automatically takes time away from sensual pursuits that further the erroneous thinking that you are the sole cause of your fortunes and the only person worthy of enjoying the most. The sacrifice also allows you to hear the holy names of the higher beings, including the chief, who is called Narayana among many other names. He is also known as Prajapati, or the lord of all created living beings.

Janaka found auspiciousness before the sacrifice ever took place. That young baby girl in the ground was so precious that the king, who was known throughout the world for his dispassion, immediately had parental affection for her as he held her in his arms. The higher authorities, awaiting the sacrifice from Janaka, arrived on the scene to confirm that the discovered baby was indeed his daughter. She was Janaka’s in all righteousness, or dharma, which was something the king lived by.

“Since he was childless, and due to affection for me, he placed me on his lap and said, ‘This is my child.’ Thus he developed feelings of love and affection for me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Anasuya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 118.30)

Janaka named the girl Sita because she came from the ground, and with his wife he raised her to be just as pious as he was. She was not formally educated in the Vedas, but she knew all about dharma. Thus Sita was ready to be given away in marriage when the time was right. But Janaka couldn’t find a suitable match. The unique circumstances of Sita’s appearance in Janaka’s family precluded the king from giving her away to just anyone. She truly was a fortune wrapped up in a bundle of joy, so only someone deserving of that fortune should be graced with her company.

Janaka made a fateful decision, one that would lead to a story that pure hearted souls never tire of retelling. They already know how the story begins and ends, and yet they won’t miss an opportunity to hear about it again. If no one is around to act as an audience, the mind of the saint will go through the sequence of events again just to derive so much pleasure. And isn’t that what life is about, being happy? Know that from the divine sports documented in the Vedas, the consciousness can reach a blissful condition under any circumstance.

The decision was made that Sita would wed whoever could lift an extremely heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. Just to bring that bow to the middle of the arena in Janakpur required hundreds of men. Therefore only a person sent from above, who was chosen by the higher authorities, would be able to lift it.

Hearing of the king’s oath, princes from around the world came to Janaka’s capital city. They were from different kinds of families, but they all seemed up to the challenge. They would be bitterly disappointed, as one by one they approached the bow only to be humbled by it. They couldn’t even move it.

A trio arriving from the forest really caused a stir. They did not come with the usual fanfare of a royal assembly. In fact, they weren’t specifically there to take part in the contest. The group was led by Vishvamitra Muni, an ascetic who called the forest his home. With him were two youths, sons of King Dasharatha. They were beautiful in every way, and despite having delicate features, they were known to be wonderful protectors. Vishvamitra had chosen them to act as escorts in the forest, to give protection against the attacks of the evil night-rangers who feasted on human flesh.

Rama was the elder brother and Lakshmana the younger. Both were unmarried, so it was protocol that Rama would have to get married first. Hence He was eligible to participate in the contest. The residents began to gripe to themselves when they saw Rama. He was so beautiful that they instantly knew that their eyes were tasting the fruit of their existence. With such a wonderful jewel in front of them, focus turned towards protection. How were they going to secure the vision in front of them? How were they going to make sure that Rama never left their sights?

They all wanted Him to marry Sita, but that little thing known as the king’s oath was in the way. With such a strong affection for Rama, some of the residents took to giving the king dirty looks. The contest’s rules now jeopardized the marriage everyone wanted to see. Why had the king done that? And why now was he sticking to his promise? Why not just call the contest off and give Sita to Rama?

Lord RamaIn the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala we get a different viewpoint from within the crowd. Some of the people were understanding enough to know that the king hadn’t really done anything wrong. If he had seen Rama prior to the contest, if he had noticed the Lord’s wonderful divine qualities, he surely would have given Sita away to Him. And if Janaka had done that, no one would have faulted him at all. In fact, they would have praised him for making such a wise decision.

But you can’t turn back the clock. The contest was already set, and since the king lived by dharma, he wasn’t going to go back on his word. Not to fear, though, as his dedication to dharma is what initially brought the wonderful fortune of Sita Devi into his life, so now that same deference would bring her husband for life, Shri Rama, into the family. Sita is the goddess of fortune, and Rama is the person she serves without fail, the Supreme Lord. Thus the king’s contest served as a way to glorify the lord of creatures, who would step up and effortlessly lift the extremely heavy bow. Sita would place the garland of victory on Rama, and the previously worried spectators would taste even more transcendental bliss.

In Closing:

“Why King Janaka do you blame?

Never to family will he bring shame.


If of Rama’s qualities he knew before,

Sita to Him he’d give for sure.


The promise has already been made,

Best if to vow dedicated he stays.”


Spectators to stay worried not for long,

Soon to be singing glorious union’s song.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Sita Devi holding flower“Just as good deeds give people whatever their mind desires, so God will deliver to the people through the king’s protecting his vow.” (Janaki Mangala, 68)

asa sukṛtī naranāhu jo mana abhilāṣihi |
so puraihiṃ jagadīsa paraja pana rākhihi ||

The joke is sometimes made that no good deed goes unpunished, which can mean that once you do something nice for someone, you will likely be punished in the future by them approaching you to do something for them again. Either that or the good deed will go unappreciated, with the recipient complaining about what you did for them. If you had never stepped forward to offer your service out of kindness, you wouldn’t have had to deal with the future inconvenience. Real sukriti, however, does not go to waste. Good deeds bring meritorious credits that lead to one’s benefit. It’s difficult to remember this truth while you’re carrying out your good deed, but that is why it’s helpful to have others around to remind you.

When would you need to remember this? When your commitment to righteous behavior is threatened through some unforeseen circumstance, the tendency is to bail, to take shelter of your immediate emotions. For example, think of fasting on a particular day to gain some benefit. Fasting is part of religious traditions around the world, and in the Vedas there are many fasting regulations recommended. If you control your urges to eat on a specific auspicious occasion, your mind will be better geared towards focusing on the Supreme Lord. That remembrance is the real boon of the human form of life, as with conscious thought developed to the max you can choose where to focus your efforts. If they are shifted towards a transcendental realm governed by an all-powerful figure of unmatched benevolence, then you’re obviously making good use of your discrimination.

If the fast calls for total abstention from food, it is natural to get the urge to eat during the day. “What is it going to hurt me if I have one tiny thing to eat? Is God going to all of a sudden hate me? Will He punish me because I broke the rules of the fast out of intense hunger? I did make a vow this morning not to eat anything, but all this food around me is just too tempting to pass up.” To injure oneself to the point that you can’t function is never the intended aim of a fast, but at the same time, the original vow helps to bring one the auspicious merits they’re looking for. As best you can, if you can carry through on your vow, especially in the spiritual context, you will achieve a good result.

King Janaka always stayed true to his vow. Not only in relation to fasting, but in all aspects of occupational duty, or dharma. He was a king, but this didn’t mean that he was free of duties in righteousness. If anything, his enhanced stature made him a larger target. More people would scrutinize his behavior, so this meant that if he slipped from the pious path, his subjects would take that as license to break the rules in their own lives. The thief feels validated when they see higher authorities engage in theft. “If they are allowed to get away with stealing, why shouldn’t I? I’m not doing anything they aren’t doing.”

On the flip side, when the king follows his vow to uphold righteousness through his own conduct, so many benefits accumulate, which then trickle down to the rest of society. Think of it in terms of the policeman or firefighter. These public officials have vowed to protect the innocent and put out blazing fires. In times of emergency, if they do their job, the citizens are satisfied. If they fail to uphold their vow, then everyone gets hurt. This is the general rule with dharma. You follow it and you’re benefitted. If not, you’re harmed.

The gray areas are what make this dedication difficult. What if you’re in a situation that seems like it’s okay to break the rules just one time? This is what the pious Janaka faced one time. Indeed, many of his citizens were urging him to break his vow previously announced to the world. The king had a beautiful daughter who had recently reached an age appropriate for marriage. She was of such splendid character that Janaka couldn’t decide on a proper husband for her. After consulting with his royal priests, he decided to hold a contest.

Janaka vowed to give Sita away to whichever prince would be the first to lift an extremely heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. The king was famous throughout the world for his control over the senses and his dedication to piety, so everyone took his vow seriously. They packed up provisions, assembled the royal family members, and headed straight for Janaka’s city. They knew that the king wasn’t lying, so if a prince in their family could lift the bow, the beautiful Sita Devi would enter their family.

A chaste wife coming from a noble family is considered a great blessing. Through her own dedication to piety, the new wife ensures that the family life is supported and that the husband is happy in his daily affairs. The pious wife can even keep the husband on the straightened path, should he feel the desire to stray. Though the husband may feel like he’s getting nagged, the closeness in the relationship allows the wife to correct errant behavior that would otherwise go uncommented on. This puts her in a unique and powerful position.

As an example, it is considered rude to chew food with one’s mouth wide open. The sound that results is very annoying to others, and the behavior mimics that of animals like dogs, who are not civilized enough to know how to eat properly. A good wife who loves her husband will immediately correct this behavior, reminding him that eating in such a way is not good. The ability to chew is not hindered when the mouth is closed, so the annoying sounds from eating and sipping with the mouth open are not necessary.

Janaka made the vow, but things got really interesting when a beautiful youth with a bluish complexion entered the city. He wasn’t there for the contest. Vishvamitra Muni was using this young boy and His younger brother Lakshmana as protection in the forest against vile rangers of the night who had been harassing the innocent sages for too long. Though the kind youths were only following their spiritual master, they looked prime to participate in the contest. Neither of them were married, and since Rama was the elder, He could try to lift the bow to win Sita’s hand. Before any of these thoughts could enter the minds of the observers, the wonderful beauty of both Rama and Lakshmana was noticed. It was mesmerizing, and many of the people realized that they were tasting the fruit of their existence. At that very moment they were finally understanding why God gave them eyes.

Lord RamaWith the intense attachment that formed instantly and spontaneously, many people started to worry about the contest. The elder brother Rama was so beautiful and youthful, so how could He lift the bow? Sure, He had just killed attacking Rakshasas in the forest, but His immediate vision was sort of a paradox. Everyone wanted to protect Rama when seeing Him, instead of the other way around. Lakshmana was identical in appearance except for complexion. So such a beautiful sight lay before the eyes of the pure-hearted residents protected by King Janaka, and now they wanted to make sure to never lose that vision again. Their joy could only be enhanced if Rama were to win the contest and marry Sita.

Ah, but that was the issue. The king made a vow. If not for his promise, all these people wouldn’t have arrived in Janakpur. If not for the king’s dedication to piety, Vishvamitra wouldn’t have considered it necessary to visit him, taking Rama and Lakshmana with him. So many opinions thus circled, with some cursing the king for his vow and others standing up for him, saying that his vow is what brought Rama and Lakshmana to Janakpur.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala we get another viewpoint that is sympathetic to Janaka. It says that pious deeds, sukriti, bring whatever the mind desires, so in the same way God Himself will ensure that happiness will abound by Janaka protecting his vow. The vow was a kind of pious deed anyway, and all deeds rooted in legitimate piety are initially instituted by the Supreme Lord. Therefore He is the distributor of good fortune to those who follow sukriti.

This viewpoint was indeed correct, for more than one reason. Shri Rama is the very same Supreme Lord, so He would personally protect King Janaka’s vow. There was no need for concern, for even in a youthful figure Bhagavan exhibits immense strength. The youthful son of King Dasharatha would lift the extremely heavy bow without a problem, winning Sita’s hand in marriage. The people would get what they wanted, and it was originally arranged by Janaka’s vow. He stayed true to it in the presence of the Supreme Lord, and everyone was duly rewarded for it.

In Closing:

Through following deeds meritorious,

People to see beloved Rama victorious.


King had taken his vow,

Couldn’t go back on it now.


System of piety God first creates,

Sukriti’s results therefore He makes.


Rama is God, so fate of His deeds sealed,

In His mighty arms bow of Shiva to wield.