Saturday, November 10, 2012

Something’s Wrong With All You See

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

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

Hanuman was chosen for the reconnaissance mission because of his special qualifications. He needed to be brave, intelligent, dexterous, strong, and also perseverant. This last trait would be tested on many an occasion, even during the last phases, where it looked like he was about to succeed. The external conditions of this world can have a debilitating influence on consciousness, and only one who is firmly committed to the mission of bhakti-yoga can withstand such an influence. Hanuman is the most committed, so not even the sad vision of Rama’s wife in distress could stop him from continuing forward.

Think of the ambulance workers and the tasks they must complete on a daily basis. If we have an emergency in the home, we call the first responders, and they rush to the scene. From our perspective, we hope that they arrive on time and take the necessary steps to fix whatever the specific emergency situation is. But from their perspective, they must be ready to tackle any issue. A simple slip and fall in the home might not be a big deal. Sure, the injured person can’t stand up on their own and they may need to go to the hospital for treatment, but to the first responders there is nothing gruesome about the accident scene.

Then, of course, there are the really bad accidents. The first responders must be ready to look at the most gruesome scene, with blood everywhere and someone on the verge of dying. Sometimes they even see those who have been fatally wounded. Yet these extreme external visions cannot hamper their abilities. If the responders are susceptible to despondency over the scene of an accident, who will people turn to for help? The doctors must act in a similar manner, as they have to be ready to see the worst injury and then treat it. They must also be ready to deal with the fact that some of their patients may die despite treatment.

These helpers carry out their duties because they are qualified. If you’re grossed out by blood, you won’t make it through medical school. If you don’t have the qualifications, you will not be the right fit for the job. For a reconnaissance mission a long time ago, the people in charge chose a warrior who had very good judgment. He had actually brokered the deal that brought the two leading parties together, and in the past he had proven his worth to the leader of the Vanara community in Kishkindha.

“His [Hanuman’s] capabilities being well known from his past deeds and his having been specifically chosen by his master, the mission will certainly be completed successfully.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.10)

This mission was difficult. A princess had to be found. She could have been anywhere in the world. There also was a chance she wasn’t alive. Previously living peacefully by the side of her husband Rama in the forest, a fiend took her away in secret, leaving no trail of her whereabouts. Some of the Vanaras had seen her in the sky being taken away in an aerial car, and they found some of her ornaments as they fell to the ground, but other than that they had no clue about her situation.

Hanuman was the chosen messenger, and Rama informed him of Sita’s qualities. A whole band of Vanaras went to search for Sita, but it was understood that Hanuman would be the only one capable of persevering long enough to find her. That premonition proved correct, as Hanuman overcame obstacles relating to geography and enemy fighters. He even tackled the mental demon of self-doubt. Not finding Sita after so long, Hanuman grew despondent and started to doubt whether or not the mission would succeed. He contemplated quitting but decided to carry on because that was the only way there would be any chance for success.

Such a sincere worker sent by God Himself, Shri Rama, should have had everything handed to him, no? Why would Rama make Hanuman suffer in such a way? Of course there are many reasons for the outcomes we see in life. In Hanuman’s case the adversity served to shine the spotlight of glory on him for the eyes of the world to see. Future generations would also bask in his triumphs by reading the sacred Ramayana, an ancient poem that describes these events and more. Finally seeing Sita from afar, Hanuman’s troubles did not end. He had to overcome another obstacle, that of sadness over her condition.

He saw Sita, so he should have been happy, but there was definitely something wrong with all he saw. She was not in a pleasant condition. Her body was worn thin from fasting, she was seated on the ground, and there were female ogres surrounding her. They were ordered to harass Sita day and night by the King of Lanka, Ravana. He wanted Sita as a wife, but she refused him, as she was devoted to Rama. Hanuman’s eyes overflowed with tears, as he couldn’t believe that Sita had to face such hardships.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see Hanuman describing some of the reasons why Sita didn’t deserve this. She was dear to Rama, who was Lakshmana’s guru. Lakshmana is one of Rama’s younger brothers, and he is solely dedicated to Rama’s interests. Rama, for His part, is very respectful of His gurus, or authority figures. Therefore a chain of respectable personalities was tied to Sita, so there was nothing she did to deserve such punishment. And seeing all this, Hanuman concluded that the influence of destiny was insurmountable, that whatever time is slated to bring will arrive.

Sita DeviSo did this mean that Hanuman would give up? Feeling so bad for Sita, did he just end his life or retreat to a cave to curse God day and night for His work? Hanuman was chosen for the mission partly because of his perseverance, and that would be tested again when he first saw Sita. He had to overcome this mental hurdle, for if he was swayed by the circumstances, he wouldn’t succeed in telling her that Rama was ready to come and rescue her.

In devotional service, even such temporary mental setbacks are considered beneficial. Here Hanuman used his despondency to glorify Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, which is the aim of life. We are all meant to love, and in the ideal state love is directed at God. The Vedas give us many names for God and also many different incarnations to learn about. Though there are many forms, there is still only one God, and through devotion to Him, we can persevere through the difficult circumstances and events we see around us. Hanuman is our hero in this regard, and his glories continue to be chanted to this day.

In Closing:

First responders rush to the scene,

Wounds to heal and blood to clean.


To be affected by visions not allowed,

For to help the distressed they are avowed.


Tears come when at Sita’s condition staring,

Even to Hanuman, of heart full of caring.


Rama’s servant to be hero of the day,

To overcome his fear and his dismay.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dear to Rama

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

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

To be dear to Rama is not an ordinary thing. He is the Supreme Lord after all, so say the Vedas, which span many works. The Ramayana is one Vedic work which deals primarily with Rama’s life and pastimes. Even if one is hesitant to accept Rama’s divine nature, just His standing within society makes Him worthy of respect, and in turn whoever He holds in high esteem is also worthy of honor. This combination of attributes caused a powerful warrior to draw tears, being reminded of the influence of destiny in the process.

Rama’s standing is here established in a few different ways. It is said that Rama is the guru of Lakshmana. Rama is also respectful of His own gurus, which include the spiritual guides Vishvamitra and Vashishtha and also the elders like His father King Dasharatha. Lakshmana is famous around the world for his dedication to Rama. He is a powerful fighter himself, as are all the four sons of the king of Ayodhya. Yet when Rama was exiled to the forest for fourteen years, Lakshmana abruptly left home to keep Him company. Rama didn’t require this, but Lakshmana had no intention of enjoying life for himself while Rama suffered.

This kind of renunciation indicates the ideal position of the soul. Attachment to sense gratification results in bondage to the cycle of birth and death, which continues for as long as that attachment remains. It’s sort of like being put into a playpen by the parents and only let out when you’ve had enough. The material world is the largest playpen, and the toys never really go away; they only get replaced as one matures. Then, at the time of death the clock is reset and the living entity is given a new body to use in the playpen. Even with the lower species there is plenty of room for play, as with less intelligence it takes less to be pleased in the immediate term.

Renunciation from worldly pleasures is a precursor for attachment to God. To love is to offer service, and when the love is directed at the Supreme Lord, the service can continue without motivation and without interruption. This kind of love is known as bhakti, and since it involves connection to God, it is also yoga. Bhakti-yoga is the constitutional position of the soul, and divine figures like Lakshmana show how it can be practiced.

“The culmination of all kinds of yoga practices lies in bhakti-yoga. All other yogas are but means to come to the point of bhakti in bhakti-yoga. Yoga actually means bhakti-yoga; all other yogas are progressions toward the destination of bhakti-yoga.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 6.47 Purport)

Prowess in fighting risks inflating the ego, which would make one more materially attached. It is easier to be detached when you are not that capable. For instance, if I have no luck in the romance department, it is much easier for me to swear off women than it is for someone who is constantly sought out by attractive females. Lakshmana was expert at fighting and he had a beautiful wife at home, but he nevertheless had no attachment to temporary conditions. Devotion to Rama was his dharma, and it had an open-ended term.

“O Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)

Sita was dear to someone who accepted Lakshmana’s service. Herein we see how to please God. Only in devotion is there pleasure for both parties. In personal sense gratification, the party seeking the pleasure takes advantage of God’s gifts on this earth, but there is no joy for the Supreme Lord, as there is no love involved in the relationship. Moreover, there is no advancement in terms of consciousness for the living entity. So there is really no benefit at all in sense gratification.

Sita and RamaService to God is the way to please Him, and service flows through bhakti-yoga in one of its several implementations. Sita loves God as an eternal consort, and Lakshmana as a dedicated servant. Hanuman too offers service, once courageously crossing the vast ocean to look for Rama’s wife after she went missing. He recognized that Sita was dear to Rama, and so he felt sadness at seeing her sadness. He remarks in the above quoted verse from the Ramayana that destiny’s influence must be insurmountable, for even someone as spotless as Sita has to suffer. She was separated from Rama and daily harassed by female ogres working for the king of Lanka, Ravana.

Since Sita was dear to Rama, she was never really separated from Him. If Rama wasn’t by her side, He was at least in her thoughts. In this particular instance, Rama is about to meet Sita through the messenger Hanuman. For the living entity struggling through the cycle of birth and death, the Supreme Lord is available in the form of His servants, who always keep His interests at heart. They carry His words as well.

God’s primary interest is always to bring the lost souls back to His spiritual kingdom, back into the divine consciousness. Sita was dear to Rama through her service, as was Hanuman. Lakshmana too is forever dear to Rama, so from them know that anyone who practices devotion will never be bereft of the Lord’s company. He will send His trusted servants when the time is right, and in the meantime Lakshmana’s guru’s presence is still available through the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In Closing:

Seeing her suffer from separation’s fear,

Hanuman cried for wife to Rama so dear.


To be dear to God is not ordinary,

For servants have qualities extraordinary.


Wife and home Lakshmana quickly left,

So that in woods of his company Rama not bereft.


Sita thus dear to Lakshmana’s guru,

Who also has Hanuman working for Him too.


Destiny’s influence made Hanuman cry,

But for pleasing Rama he would continue to try.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Power of Austerity

Lord Krishna“I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.9)

The Vedas describe the material world to be a place filled with illusion, where things go opposite to how they should. One analogy used is to a mirror, wherein the image is reflected from the original but is inversely oriented. Therefore what is right is taken to be wrong, and vice versa. One manifestation of this truth can be seen in what is popularly determined to be heroic. Something that really demonstrates weakness is deemed to demonstrate strength. On the flip side, real strength, in the form of asceticism, can bring many powers, the greatest of which is the ability to think of the Supreme Lord in any and all situations.

We can use drinking as an example to see where a particular ability is considered an indication of strength when it really isn’t. In social drinking circles, to be able to consume a lot of alcohol in a short amount of time without being physically affected is considered noteworthy. “I can drink you under the table,” is the challenge presented to another drinker. You line up with your competitor, as if preparing for an arm-wrestling match, and then proceed to “down” shots of hard liquor.

One shot isn’t enough. “Hit me again,” you say to the bartender. You do shot after shot until one of you passes out or throws in the towel. Once a person taps out, the person that remains standing is declared the winner. They are the superior drinker. The same type of game is seen in eating, as there are even formal competitions relating to food consumption. The person who can eat the most number of hotdogs in an allotted period of time is considered superior. The person who can eat the most meat without quitting is the champion eater.

To the sober person who is aware of their true identity as spirit soul, such feats of strength are actually exercises in stupidity. For starters, if the aim of consuming alcohol is to get a temporary relief from the senses, why would the person who requires more alcohol to reach the state of inebriation be considered superior? It should actually be the other way around. Moreover, we eat and drink to maintain the body. To do it in excess shows a tendency not seen even in the animal. The fish may not be wise enough to know how much to eat, but other animals are. If a large stock of food suddenly drops into the middle of the road, the pigeons will not try to eat as much as they can. They will take what they need and then move on.

Gluttony is not an auspicious trait, and so to eat a lot for no reason represents a weakness, not a strength. The same goes for consuming alcohol in large quantities. What is actual strength, however, is austerity. A person who can go without engaging the senses too much achieves real powers. This should make sense if you think about it. The professional athlete is an expert at controlling their food intake. They don’t eat more than is required, for otherwise their performance would be hindered. They don’t show up to their competitions in a drunken state. If they did, they wouldn’t be very successful. The concept of a diet also affirms the potency of austerity. You limit your food intake so that you will be healthier, so that you will lose weight.

In ancient times, even miscreants who were after personal gain would take to austerity, living on basically nothing for months at a time. As a result they would please various divine figures and receive boons thereafter. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that He is, among many other things, the penances of ascetics. The particular passage where this is spoken gives the message that the Supreme Lord is the life of everything. To be an ascetic requires austerity and penance. If I say that I am a bus driver and I have never driven a bus in my life, my claim is meaningless. In a similar manner, to say that you are an ascetic and then not practice any austerity means that you are a cheater.

And why would Krishna mention the ascetic? Because asceticism leads to good things, and it can be practiced properly only in the human species. The greatest austerity measure is abstention from sex life. From this practice alone, one can stay sober in mind, and through that sobriety they can attain great things. The question then remains, “What should I aim to achieve? What should be the purpose to my asceticism?”

Sanatana GosvamiIn the human form of life we have the ability to shape consciousness. The properly situated consciousness thinks of God all the time. Krishna is that God, the detail to the abstract picture. He is not an old man or a vengeful figure eager to punish the sinners. Rather, He is the best friend, full of sweetness in His all-attractive form. His transcendental effulgence spreads to His words found in the Bhagavad-gita, and also to His holy names. Through asceticism there is the ability to constantly chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, in full sobriety. When sense engagement is limited, reciting this mantra makes one truly superior and worthy of the transcendental abode in the afterlife.

In Closing:

“To consume a lot I am capable,

I can surely drink you under the table.


So much in one sitting I can eat,

With ease to consume fistfuls of meat.”


But this is really not wise,

Better to control portion size.


Indication that penance and austerity,

Are the true mark of superiority.


The penances of ascetics is Shri Krishna,

Chant His name along with Hare and Rama.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Enemy Within

Krishna speaking to Arjuna“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)

It’s that time of the year again; time to visit your friends. They live far enough away that you have to take a plane to reach them. It’s a short flight, so you’re not that worried. Delays are common in air travel these days, but all in all there shouldn’t be a problem. Oh, but there are many things you will notice this time around, making you wonder what the purpose to our existence is. Why are we here, and why do we think that certain things will make us happy when they really won’t?

To board a commercial aircraft, you have to go through airport security screening. If you’re carrying a laptop computer, take it out of its bag. It must be by itself on the screening conveyor belt. Also, if you’re wearing shoes, take them off. And why wouldn’t you be wearing shoes? So of course you’ll have shoes to take off. Make sure nothing is in your pockets. Take out that wallet, cell phone, and keys. Anything that will set off the metal detector must be off of your person.

Mind you, you have to do all of this with other people around. Others have planes to catch as well, and they don’t want to miss them. They have to go through the same routine, so you have this pressure of time added on. After you’re done following these rules, you have to step into the scanning area and stand with your arms above your head. Then you wait nervously to see if the screening people want to talk to you further. You’re relieved when they waive you through, allowing you to grab all of your stuff from the screening belt.

This is only one part of the process. Now you have to board the plane. This flight doesn’t have assigned seats, but does have assigned boarding groups. You get up to the designated area and make sure that you are in the right line. Then you board. You have to place your larger carry-on item in one of the overhead bins. Then the smaller carry-on, like your laptop, can fit underneath the seat in front of you. You’re in one of the earlier boarding groups, so you’re able to find bin space without a problem. You get to your seat just fine, and watch everyone else board.

This is where things get interesting. You’re safe with your luggage, but now people are scrambling to find bin space for their bags. Sadly, the people in the last boarding group don’t have any space left for them. They have to check their bags with the flight crew, which means that they will have to wait longer to retrieve their bags when the flight lands. They have done nothing wrong. They are equally entitled to carry on their luggage, but due to the shortage of space, which is caused by the crowded flight, which is caused by the cheaper, more competitive fare, they are shut out from something they expected.

The sober person understands that none of these rules and regulations are ideal. You’re just one person who wants to take a flight to see their friends. Someone else wants to travel for business, and another for vacation. Why can’t all of them board the same flight together without any problems? Why should they have to go through such a hassle to get on the plane and then compete with one another for storage space?

“While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.62)

In the Bhagavad-gita, it is said that lust is the all-devouring enemy of this world. When it is not controlled, it leads to anger, greed, resentment and all sorts of other unpleasant feelings. It is this lust which is the root cause of the living entity’s descent to the material world, the land we presently inhabit. In the material world, resources are limited, which means that one person’s desire to enjoy will collide with another’s. The conflicts occur all the time, and though they shouldn’t, they continue on due to lust.

In the flight example, there is no reason for the competition, but it naturally occurs due to the propensity for cheating and the lording over resources. For instance, one person may bring more than two carry-on items. They may decide to fill up the entire overhead bin space with their luggage. This is discourteous to the other passengers, but they are simply trying to enjoy. In their mind, no one should object.

Then there are the miscreant characters who will use the flight as a means for terrorizing and stealing. Thus they will take dangerous items onto the plane. If not for these characters, there would be no need for security screening prior to the flight. Heightened security standards arose after problems were encountered. With each new problem, new prohibitive regulations are imposed.

The entire material creation is full of such issues, with many prohibitions imposed by the higher authorities. There is the mistaken notion that if somehow everyone were provided a modest amount of sense gratification, everyone would be happy. Yet we see this is not true, as lust creates dissatisfaction even in those who are considered materially well-off.

Yoga is the only real solution, and though there are many kinds, the culmination of all yoga practice is bhakti, which is divine love. Love God first, develop the divine consciousness, and then see how your life is positively affected. In pure bhakti-yoga, the personal God is approached not for money, material success, or the alleviation of distress. The connection itself is the source of pleasure, and with that connection the material creation becomes easier to deal with.

“The Blessed Lord said: Fearlessness, purification of one's existence, cultivation of spiritual knowledge, charity, self-control, performance of sacrifice, study of the Vedas, austerity and simplicity; nonviolence, truthfulness, freedom from anger; renunciation, tranquility, aversion to faultfinding, compassion and freedom from covetousness; gentleness, modesty and steady determination; vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, freedom from envy and the passion for honor—these transcendental qualities, O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.” (Bg. 16.1-3)

ArjunaThe yogi in devotion develops the divine qualities, which automatically makes him an upstanding citizen of the state. The tendency for lust is born of illusion, seeing the material energy for one’s personal enjoyment instead of God’s. In bhakti-yoga, the illusion is destroyed, as all energy is understood to be sourced in God. His property is then utilized for His pleasure, with the working potential of the living entity offered in sacrifice through activities like chanting, hearing, remembering and worshiping.

Bhakti-yoga brings the purification of all activity. Rather than compete with our fellow man over resources, the devotees compete over who can serve God the best. There are no winners and losers in this regard, as sincerity is the determining factor in the receiver’s pleasure. One of His opulences is complete wealth, so there is nothing of value anyone can offer to Him. As Krishna, He is all-attractive, so He receives pleasure through the company of His devotees who are attracted to Him. Nevertheless, the competitive fire in devotion has a purifying effect, as the desire for service only increases, keeping one securely away from the fever of material existence, which is fueled by lust.

In Closing:

An airplane should be easy to board,

No need for fight over where luggage stored.


But we see that there is heightened security,

For in man’s behavior no uniformity.


Competition rooted in lust,

Then others we don’t trust.


Know that Krishna is this world’s source,

Yoga in devotion the wiser course.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Wonderful Brain

Shrimad Bhagavatam“The scientist has to attain the knowledge of a thing already existing by means of the wonderful brain made by someone else. A scientist can work with the help of such an awarded brain, but it is not possible for the scientist to create his own or a similar brain. Therefore no one is independent in the matter of any creation, nor is such creation automatic.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.5.4 Purport)

To create something through your personal effort brings satisfaction for sure. “I have done this all by myself. I took the initiative, got up off my butt, and made it happen. It wasn’t so easy to figure out, either. Others tried, but they failed and I didn’t. I did it, and now I can bask in the glory of success.” The scientist especially has justification for feeling this way, as they can come up with groundbreaking research. Yet the research reaches a barrier with the material elements in existence. For some reason the inquisitiveness doesn’t go beyond that which is immediately visible. The material elements granted to the individual are taken as a given when in reality they had to be created.

What do we mean by this? I grow up in the house owned by my parents. They give me a room, which likely has a bed, a television, a dresser-drawer, and windows. Within this room I study for school, watch television, play games, and talk to my friends on the phone. I might even have a computer, which allows me to access the internet and thus expand my reach of communication. I can do all of this within my room, but the output of my work is still dependent on my parents. They give me the objects that I use. I don’t create them myself.

The scientist uses the brain given to them by nature, and rather than research who created that brain, the sole focus of attention remains on the material elements and how to manipulate them. If the scientist wants to outwardly deny the validity of the spiritual science for whatever reason, they can at least pay homage to their parents. Without the mother and father, the scientist never would have come into being. Worship is due the parents in this respect for the entire lifetime of the scientist.

And the parents also came from somewhere. They had their own parents, who had their own parents. Each of these sets of individuals had intelligence, for they made the conscious decision to get together and join to create children. The reasons for connecting may vary, but nevertheless the brain’s functioning causes the bodies to come together to produce life. The origin of all life would thus be the most intelligent person, and someone worthy of the greatest respect.

“Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.6)

The Bhagavad-gita describes that origin to be the Supreme Soul. He is also the Supreme Person, and the source of matter and spirit. The brain is described to be a product of the material nature and the individual the spiritual spark that temporarily resides within various coverings composed of elements of that nature. Since the supreme is all-attractive, He is known as Krishna. Since He is so intelligent, His teachings are flawless; they appeal to both devotee and empiricist alike. They make sense to the materially impoverished as well as the successful.

From the Bhagavad-gita, the scientist can take away the root cause of their intelligence. Mind, intelligence and ego are the elements of the subtle body of the individual, and they are shaped by past karma, or work. Our present disposition is due to past work, and the initial cause of birth is also due to work from the past. The parents came together to give birth to us, so this is a cause that is visible. The natural inclinations present at the time of birth were determined by our past karma. In the case of the scientist, their aptitude for math and science came from work done in previous lives.

“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna speaking to Arjuna, Bg. 2.12)

A life is only a measurement of time relative to residence in a specific body. The time continuum for the individual spirit soul is infinite. We divide up our time on earth by days, months and years, but this is also for reference purposes only. Our existence doesn’t suddenly change once the months overlap. Today might be November and tomorrow December, but there is no difference in my identity between the two days.

Since the scientist cannot create a brain, they are not independent in their abilities to create. The most powerful instruments in the world run off elements existing within nature, which didn’t just come from a chunk or a collision of elements. If such things are possible, why can’t they be duplicated? In actuality, everything comes from God, and in the right mindset the living entity, no matter what level of intelligence they possess, takes up service to God in the discipline known as bhakti-yoga.

chanting beadsBhakti is love directed to the personal aspect of God, and yoga is the linking of the individual soul with God. Thus the two terms together give us an endless engagement that is full of variety. The most effective processes of bhakti-yoga are chanting and hearing, which are simultaneously performed through the recitation of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

It is amazing that the scientist can create a giant ship that can travel to outer space, but it is more amazing that every individual can create a sound vibration to practice yoga. And what is more amazing is the sound’s ability to deliver the presence of the Supreme Lord, the original intelligent brain who created this and every other universe. Through bhakti-yoga, marvel every day at the Lord’s powers and take comfort in His personal protection.

In Closing:

With material elements take,

And big brain try to make.


Scientist can put rocket into space,

But their own brain they can’t create.


Parents are the first cause we can see,

From them the brain and body came to be.


Origin is from whom all elements came,

He is the most intelligent, biggest brain.


Use intelligence for His qualities to learn,

Chant His names and His presence earn.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Nature of Evidence

Krishna's lotus feet“Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.6)

Question: “Where is the empirical evidence to back up the claims of the Vedas? How can we test that reincarnation exists and that Krishna is a real person and not a mythological character?”

The difficulty with accepting truths presented in texts from an ancient time is that the perception is limited to only the documented words. We can’t see the people in question, and we can’t even approach one of their direct family members. Similar limitations in perception exist in our own lives, but we don’t apply as much skepticism to the words of authority figures due to the short time difference. As an example, we only know about our birth from the eyewitness accounts of our parents. They could be lying for all we know, but we trust them based on their track record of honesty. In a similar manner, the ancient truths of reincarnation, karma, and the properties of the spirit soul can be accepted on faith in the beginning and then confirmed through personal practice. In addition, the authority figures themselves back up the worthiness of the original claims.

Like oil and water, science and religion don’t mix; at least that is the common viewpoint. If someone tells me that the sun comes up at a certain time, I can run an experiment the next day to see if they are right. If they tell me that eating a specific food will have a specific effect on my body, I can run the test for myself. Easier than this is to hear the observations of others who have run the experiments. Easier than this is to hear the words of those who have heard the words of those who have conducted the experiments. Though there is a generational gap, a distance created between the original scientist and the eager listener, the information itself is not changed. If I notice today that the sun is out and I note my observation in a book, that observation’s validity does not change with time. Whether someone reads my observation tomorrow, in one week, or in one hundred years, the observation is still accurate. The people in the future will have to trust that my eyesight was clear and that I had no motives for lying.

The sum and substance of the Vedic science is presented in the Bhagavad-gita. Lord Krishna explains the concepts of reincarnation, karma, the individual soul, the Supreme Soul, and how they are all related. The practical application isn’t discussed as much, as Krishna lays the foundational principles and then says that one must approach a qualified spiritual master and then learn the art of transcendentalism from them. The qualification in this sense relates to the true understanding of the principles presented by Krishna. The first qualification is that one accept Krishna as God. God is defined in many ways to make the living entity properly understand. There is the individual soul, and God is the Supreme Soul. There is reincarnation for the individual living entity, while Krishna is always God and never has to take birth or die.

“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)

Then there are the Vedic principles of detachment, duty, aversion to like and dislike, and steadiness in the path of yoga, which is the linking of the individual soul to the Supreme Soul. Most importantly there is full devotion to God. The ideal implementation of that devotion can vary based on time and circumstance, but if the devotion is present then all good things will come to the individual. Sin is the wrong way to do something, bringing negative consequences, and since devotion to Krishna is the ultimate right way, there is no need to worry over sin.

“But how does this square with other religions. Why only Krishna? Why not devotion to someone else? Why not continue in scientific research and enjoy the life that we have?”

The issue of material enjoyment is also discussed in the Gita. The flaw with the “lord over material nature” mentality is that there is competition. Others also will try to be lord, and in that competition no one will win. Rather, there will only be temporary positions of prominence and destitution. The losers will try to unseat the winners, and the winners will try to hold on to their position no matter what. The winners thus have no peace of mind, and neither do the losers. You can look to so many aspects of life to see evidence of this. In professional sports, a team or a player may hold on to a record for a long time, but when someone is about to break it, they start to worry. Once their record is broken, they no longer hold the position of prominence for that specific statistical category. Hence even with victory one must live in fear.

Service to God is the ultimate occupation because it is the only one that correctly matches the constitutional position of the living entity. Lord Chaitanya, a famous saint and spiritual master who is non-different from Krishna, noted that jivera svarupa haya nitya krishna dasa, which means that the living entity is eternally a servant of Krishna, or God. Eternally means that at any point in time devotional service is the highest engagement. This also means that at any time if there is deviation from the original form, svarupa, only misery will result. Think of it like trying to eat soup with a fork. The living entity has abilities to do work, but if the work is improper, the result will not be ideal.

In the modern age the human species is more sophisticated in their education of material matters. Therefore blind faith alone will not cut it. People require more justification to turn their life over to a spiritual figure, and in this regard the Vedas are quite comprehensive. The theoretical is accounted for in the vast Vedic literature, and the practical is available through the tools offered by the spiritual master. In any age, and in any time period, the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is supremely effective. Try it for yourself to see how it makes a difference.

Lord KrishnaTo justify the path of devotion, we don’t even require theoretical or practical understanding. On the example of notable personalities alone we can understand that devotion to God is the ultimate occupation. Has there ever existed a more noble character than Shri Hanuman? Every virtuous quality exists in him, and such an exemplary personality only devotes himself to Sita and Rama, God and His eternal consort. There is only one God, though He has different spiritual forms that appeal to different devotees. Lord Chaitanya is also a spotless authority figure, having no flaws in His character. He only devotes Himself to Radha and Krishna, the same Sita and Rama. Similarly, many famous personalities both past and present follow the devotional line, and they are free of sin. They are kind, gentle, peaceful, knowledgeable, intelligent, fearless and charitable. By the material estimation they are without any flaws, which automatically earns them the highest standing. And from that perch they humbly ask everyone to be devoted to God to find the highest pleasure in life. If they say so, why not believe them?

In Closing:

Information of Vedas theoretical,

But how to find evidence empirical?


Events happened so long ago,

That they’re true how can we know?


In your own life principles implement,

Chant holy names as an experiment.


Easier way is to trust superior authority,

From their example take validity.


That Krishna is Supreme Lord know,

To hear Him to Bhagavad-gita go.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Without Dependency

Lord Krishna“The special qualification of the pure devotee is that he is always thinking of Krishna without considering the time or place. There should be no impediments. He should be able to carry out his service anywhere and at any time.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 8.14 Purport)

Go through the different scriptural works and you’ll find specific recommendations offered for receiving specific benefits. For instance, if someone has been giving you trouble, like a boss at work, there is a method for curtailing your anger and dealing with the belligerent party in a way that will neutralize them. If you’re down on your luck in personal affairs, wherein you’re trying to either find a spouse or beget children, there are rituals and regulations recommended. Each practice is specific to time and circumstance, and so we see the many different religions that are popular today. Yet the core foundational practice for the spirit soul, what it needs to find pleasure, cannot be checked by any condition. This practice can be implemented in any situation, a fact which reveals the supremacy of its original teacher, who also happens to be the beneficiary of that practice.

The original scriptural tradition of India is the Vedas, and its works are comprehensive and voluminous. There is no equivalent of a Bible in the Vedas because the entire purpose of the original books of knowledge is to glorify God. As one of the features of God is His possession of limitless, glorious attributes, how can He be described in just one or two works? There are original texts that are informative and concise, and then supplements are added on by future generations of learned men.

Each subsequent generation has their own worldview, which means they gain a new perspective to use in their glorification of God. In this way the Vedas constantly expand, with the original conclusion remaining the same. Combing through the vast Vedic literature, we see that there are recommendations for such things as finding wealth. “Do such and such ritual once a month in your home. Invite a brahmana [learned priest] or do the worship yourself. Gather specific paraphernalia, and chant specific mantras. Offer some food items, and at the end eat whatever is left over. By eating the remnants of sacrifice, you will get the boon you are looking for.”

“The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.13)

In the Bhagavad-gita it is explained that devotees eat the remnants of sacrifice, while non-devotees prepare food for only their own enjoyment. Sacrifice is borne of prescribed duties, so by performing them there is no sin incurred. A sin is a negative reaction, so the sacrifice thus avoids negative consequences. With the other route, you invite danger, and since the path is not sanctioned, the higher authorities cannot be blamed for the negative consequences that result.

But what if we reference one of these ancient religious texts and find that we don’t have the tools necessary to perform the sacrifice that we want? Say that we want a beautiful wife and we’re told to worship Lord Shiva. What if we don’t know how to worship him? What if we don’t have the items to conduct the worship? And what about the specific fasts? If I already don’t eat spinach, what will avoiding spinach during a specific month of the year do for me?

The rituals and regulations exist for a higher purpose. They are meant to purify our existence, to keep us on the regulated path of life. Nevertheless, attaining the highest benefit in life is not dependent on any specific ritual. Rather, only love is required. And since love is the universal language, it can be spoken by any person, of any age. In divine love, the heartfelt offerings are made directly to the Supreme Lord, the original person.

To love God properly, you should know how to address Him. To address Him properly, you should know some of His features. His all-attractiveness is His most inclusive feature, with a close second being His ability to give transcendental pleasure. Hence the names “Krishna” and “Rama” are most appropriate for Him. His energy is what carries out His work, so through chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, one addresses God perfectly.

This mantra can be chanted in a specific way, such as while seated in a sanctified area. But at the same time, it can also be chanted anywhere. The name is what makes the process effective. This name is learned through hearing, so anyone who is fortunate enough to hear the aforementioned mantra is very fortunate. Those names automatically satisfy every other sacrifice, as the boon of pure love for God is the final target, the objective of all objectives.

Question: Won’t general prayer do the same thing? Why do I have to chant?

Hints of devotional service are seen in all religious traditions. The weekly visit to the church and the daily prayers offered to the higher being indicate devotion. Yet again, these practices have some type of dependency. What if there is no house of worship? What if you can’t find an area for prayer? The name, on the other hand, can be chanted at any time, and at any place. It can be sung to melodies as well. Kirtana-yoga is thus a wonderful way to practice this chanting, wherein there is congregational singing of the holy names in a call-and-response fashion.

The holy name is everything, and through sole dependence on it in bhakti-yoga, one realizes God. Through avoiding sinful activities like meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex, the consciousness is cleared all the more, giving more sweetness from the transcendental chanting. The fact that a single sound vibration can deliver God’s personal presence shows His supreme benevolence and how He is the ultimate well-wisher for every single person.

In Closing:

Religious traditions there are many,

Rituals and regulations thus plenty.


Some help to get a beautiful wife,

Others remove obstacles from life.


But know that there is a final goal,

Rituals thus like spiritual bridge’s toll.


Highest system has no dependence,

Is practiced regardless of residence.


All practices satisfied through holy name,

Hear and chant it for God’s company to gain.