Saturday, November 17, 2012

Beautifully Scented

Krishna's golden belt“All glories to Kunja-vihari, who has fragrant sandal paste smeared on His body, whose hips are adorned with a beautiful golden belt, and who is like an elephant tied by the ropes of the raised breasts of Shri Radhika.” (Shrila Rupa Gosvami, Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam, 6)

kuñjaro jayati kuñja-vihārī

Shri Krishna’s body has a wonderful aroma; a fact which shouldn’t surprise us. The word Krishna means “all-attractive”, and the attractiveness is not limited to the visual. There are five senses, and so with each of them Krishna’s attractiveness can be experienced. The experience is through a transcendental mellow, or rasa, and the devotees who cherish Krishna’s association greedily look to experience that transcendental taste as much as possible. Shrila Rupa Gosvami, a noted scholar, poet, and Vaishnava leader, composed his Shri Kunja-vihary-astakam to further relish the taste of God’s association.

Krishna’s attractiveness reaches the ears through the sounds of His flute. According to the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, God’s original form is a two-handed youth who playfully enjoys in the forest of Vrindavana. He carries a flute with Him when He walks about, and the sounds from that flute are out of this world. Any book can be authored by any person, and within such a book anything can be written. I can go up to a tree, take a picture of it, put the picture in a book, and then tell everyone that the tree is God. I could create a system of worship, describing how the tree is the Supreme Lord, the possessor of all fortunes.

Yet others will be able to test the validity of my assertion through experience in practice. If what I say doesn’t add up, as it most certainly won’t, then the tree will no longer be worshiped by others. Shri Krishna is not a concocted God in this way; He continues to be worshiped to this day, as some of the most celebrated spiritual leaders in history have vouched for His divine standing. The most respected person in society would have to be one who is free of vice. If they could avoid overeating, working too hard for money, and indulgence in sex life altogether, then who could ever stand next to them in reputation? Saints like Ramanuja, Chaitanya, Rupa Gosvami, Narada Muni and many others of the Vedic tradition possess such a lofty standing, and they all say that worship of God as Krishna is the ultimate occupation in life.

You can also experience Krishna’s attractiveness through sound by hearing His holy names, especially when they are chanted congregationally. The maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is best suited for the call-and-response song format, which is more commonly known as kirtana. The Vedas, the scriptures containing hymns and descriptions of Krishna, are also kirtana, as they describe the glories of God.

Sight is one of the more obvious ways to experience attractiveness, and in Krishna you have the most beautiful vision. He has a bluish complexion, which seems odd but fitting at the same time. The color of His body resembles the dark raincloud, and thus His body has a nourishing effect to the eyes that have gone dry from exhaustion in the hot material existence. We know what Krishna looks like because saints have kindly described His image to us. Indeed, the above referenced verse is an example of descriptions of the transcendental form of Krishna passed on to future generations.

Krishna’s body is also very soft; which explains how His attractiveness can be experienced through touch. The earth of Vrindavana is very fortunate because Krishna’s soft lotus feet walk upon it. Those feet are very dear to the saints, and devotion to those feet is the summit of existence. If you are devoted to someone’s feet, which act as their servant, then you are devoted to them. Krishna’s feet are His servants who kindly take Him wherever He likes. Those who are devoted to those feet experience the softness in touch just through thought. They also stay humble, knowing that God is the supreme and all living entities His subordinates.

You can taste Krishna’s attractiveness through eating the remnants of His foodstuff. Why would we eat food that someone has left? We don’t ask to eat the sandwich that our friend has bitten into, but with Krishna such a food item has a divine taste. As a regular part of devotional service, devotees offer food in the mode of goodness [vegetarian minus onions, garlic and mushrooms] to a picture or deity of Krishna. Reciting a few mantras, the food is eaten by Krishna, who then leaves everything there for the devotee. The resultant food is very tasty, a fact to which many can attest.

Flower offered at Krishna's lotus feetYou can smell Krishna’s attractiveness in the same manner, by offering a flower to His picture or deity. The remnants, both the food and the flowers, are known as prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy. In this verse from Rupa Gosvami, we see that you can smell Krishna directly if you are so fortunate. His body is smeared with sandal paste, creating a wonderful fragrance. In the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that He is the original fragrance of the earth, so this means that you can experience Krishna’s attractive aroma in an indirect way just by smelling the wonderful aromas the earth has to offer.

“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)

To experience God is to taste His transcendental sweetness, and that taste isn’t exclusive to any particular sense. Any of the senses can be used to taste the attractiveness of the origin of matter and spirit, the savior of the surrendered souls. His play in the Vrindavana forest is also attractive, and so saints like Rupa Gosvami enjoy glorifying it in song.

In Closing:

His body smeared with sandalwood paste,

Gives one indication of transcendental taste.


In Krishna full attractiveness sits,

Experience it before this body you quit.


When offered in a devotional mood,

Spiritual becomes left over food.


By the offered flower you smell,

Krishna’s fragrance you can tell.


Descriptions of the Lord of Rupa hear,

And taste His attractiveness with your ears.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Guru’s Influence

Shri Rama's lotus feet“This lady knows the resolve of Rama and the intelligent Lakshmana, so she is not very agitated, like Mother Ganga at the onset of the rainy season.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.4)

rāmasya vyavasāyajñā lakṣmaṇasya ca dhīmataḥ |
na atyartham kṣubhyate devī gangā iva jalada āgame ||

In the Bhagavad-gita it is recommended that one approach a spiritual master and learn the truth from him. The relationship is between a student and a teacher. In friendship there is equality, so it is difficult to accept wisdom from the other party. As a friend, the other person knows you pretty well, and they’ve seen you at your weakest moments. How then can you provide effective instruction to them? If they respect you so much, then you’re not really their friend, but more someone they admire. To approach a spiritual master is a serious business, and due to their influence not only do you gain sublime wisdom, but you remain steady even in the face of a terrible storm.

In the verse quoted above, the reference is made to the rainy season hitting the Ganges River, who is also known as Ganga Devi in the Vedic tradition. The monsoon is more than just a passing rainstorm. It is a steady downpour of rain accompanying wind, and it causes the water levels in the rivers to rise. Ganga Devi knows that the monsoon season comes every year, and yet she is not overly agitated. She remains steady, regardless of the temporary rise in her water level.

Sita Devi is said to be just as calm, as she relies on the intelligence of Lakshmana and the resolve of his elder brother Rama. Rama is Sita’s husband, and she is separated from Him in this instance, forced to live in a dangerous place filled with ogres. Rama’s servant Hanuman is inside of the enemy territory of Lanka looking at Sita from afar. He notices her resolve even though she is disturbed in mind over separation. If she didn’t have faith in Rama and Lakshmana, she would have quit her body already.

Lakshmana is the original spiritual master; illustrating the guru’s role with his behavior. The guru is the number one defender of the Supreme Lord. He acts only for the Lord’s interests; nothing else. He doesn’t take joy from punishing himself either; as God’s pleasure is his pleasure. We don’t ask the good parents why they spend so much time at work to support their family. We don’t ask parents of newborns why they get so little sleep because of waking up in the middle of the night to take care of their child. Rather, these behaviors are expected because the parents will derive pleasure from the child’s wellbeing.

In a similar manner, the spiritual master gets so much pleasure from serving God that they don’t need anything else in life. If there is any cause for fear, it is when the ability to serve is jeopardized. If our primary method of service is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, then only if we lose our ability to chant do we have something to worry about.

Sita’s service is as a wife. Separated from Rama she could not offer the service in the manner she preferred. But because of reliance on Rama, the all-powerful, and Lakshmana, the representative of the all-powerful, she had hope that she would one day offer that service again. In the process, as an added bonus, she had the ability to remain calm in a circumstance that warranted panic. Hanuman noticed this and appreciated it very much.

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

In our present circumstances, there is so much doubt that we don’t even know who God is, let alone how to worship Him. Without reliance on Lakshmana or one who follows in his line, how can there be any real intelligence? How can we take comfort in the resolve of the Supreme Lord to deliver us when we don’t know anything about Him? Thus the spiritual master is the only person who can give us protection from fear.

LakshmanaAnd why would Rama have resolve in saving us? Why save us and not someone else? Sita is devoted in thought, word and deed to her husband. She is just like Lakshmana in that she does not derive pleasure from any personal interest. The material land gives ample opportunity for both personal pleasure and pain. As such the Supreme Lord’s direct influence is not required; His energies do the work for Him. But the surrendered soul is different; Rama takes a direct interest in their welfare.

The guru teaches us how to surrender, sharanagati. There is tremendous bliss that results from full surrender, and through following bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, surrendering becomes a reality. Shravanam and kirtanam, hearing and chanting, are the beginning, and so by hearing about Hanuman’s exploits in Lanka, and listening to his glorification of Sita’s calmness through reliance on Rama and Lakshmana, devotion blossoms within the heart. And where there is Hanuman, there is Sita. And where there is Sita, there is Rama and Lakshmana, who give solace to the devotee who may be unfortunately placed in a distressful situation.

In Closing:

Monsoon season like never-ending storm,

Of its arrival Ganga Devi is warned.


Knows her level of water it will raise,

And yet calm in its face she stays.


In this world guru in service like a rock,

For in God’s words they take stock.


Lakshmana with Rama, like wind aiding a fire,

Intelligence coupled with resolve never to tire.


Hanuman from vision a lesson to take,

That circumstances never Sita to shake.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Staying Detached

Sita and Rama“This lady knows the resolve of Rama and the intelligent Lakshmana, so she is not very agitated, like Mother Ganga at the onset of the rainy season.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.4)

rāmasya vyavasāyajñā lakṣmaṇasya ca dhīmataḥ |
na atyartham kṣubhyate devī gangā iva jalada āgame ||

“How do I stay detached? I know that I shouldn’t worry so much about what goes on at work, but I can’t help it. When I’m playing a game, I get very angry if I start to lose. In the end it doesn’t matter if I lose, but I’d like to be able to remain cool under pressure. I’d like to stay detached from the outcome, as Shri Krishna recommends in the Bhagavad-gita.”

The Bhagavad-gita is one of the most famous texts in the world, and since it presents spirituality as a science, it transcends the bounds of religion. It is a philosophical work which relies upon an underlying sentiment to hold everything together. Without that proper sentiment, the philosophy will not work as applied, sort of like trying to use nuts and bolts to build a house without having a foundation. When that underlying sentiment is present, however, even some of the more difficult philosophical points become very easy to implement, without conscious attention even. We get an example of this from the behavior of Sita Devi in the Ashoka grove in Lanka.

“Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty; for by working without attachment, one attains the Supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.19)

Shri Krishna, who is Bhagavan, or the Supreme Lord who is full of opulences, recommends that we stay detached from the outcome to events. “Do your duty and don’t worry so much about the fruits. Follow obligation for the sake of obligation, to stay virtuous.” This begs the question as to what exactly our duty is. If while reading the Gita I am a professional athlete, is it my duty to win? So does this mean that I should use the Gita to help boost my performance? Krishna will be my coach? Is that the purpose to His teachings?

The true meaning of the detachment mentioned is a firm faith in the ability of Krishna to deliver all good things. To have faith in Krishna, or God, means to know His qualities and one’s relationship to Him. Krishna is the name for God which means all-attractive. So in this sense connection to Him doesn’t have to be dull. It doesn’t have to be forced, either. Go to the Lord because He is attractive. Follow devotion to Him because He is the reservoir of pleasure, like a treasure house of good qualities.

Devotion to Krishna is also ideal because of the qualities of the individual. There is an inherent relationship between the individual and the Supreme Absolute Truth that is described in the philosophy of achintya-bhedabheda-tattva. There is simultaneous oneness and difference between us and God. Also, that combination is beyond the thinking of the mind; it is achintya. No need to tax your brain trying to figure it out. Just accept that you are the same as Krishna in quality but vastly inferior in the quantitative measurement of that quality. We are meant to serve and He is meant to accept our service.

The ideal service is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, and those who follow it automatically get the detachment to the outcome of events that Krishna recommends. Otherwise, such detachment will be very difficult to achieve, and even when it exists it won’t lead to the highest benefit. On the other hand, within bhakti-yoga the detachment will exist even in situations where you likely wouldn’t think to see it. Such was the case with Sita when she separated from her husband Rama.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman sees Sita from afar. As a Vanara, he is capable of climbing trees, so he is perched on one while surveying the situation in this grove. Thus far he has searched all of Lanka for Rama’s missing wife but to no avail. Finally, in this grove he knows that he has spotted her. She is sighing repeatedly and is surrounded by female ogres ordered to harass her. He feels tremendous pity seeing her, but at the same time he knows that she is not overly agitated.

The comparison is made to Ganga Devi, who is more commonly known as the Ganges River. She is not agitated at the onset of the rainy season, though she knows that her water levels will rise rapidly. This season comes every year, so the level of the river is slated to rise and fall at set intervals. Sita is also not overly agitated, and the reason is that she knows Rama’s resolve and the intelligent Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother. Rama is the same Krishna but in a different form, an avatara to act out a wonderful real life play known as the Ramayana. Sita is Rama’s eternal consort, so she is intimately familiar with the Lord’s qualities.

Sita DeviTypically, someone in Sita’s situation would have no reason to remain calm. Wouldn’t you be scared if you were taken away somewhere and no one knew where you were? Wouldn’t you be worried about never seeing your beloved again? But Sita knew that Rama is resolute, that He doesn’t give up easily. As God, Rama can do anything, but He chooses to remain with the devotees, to serve their interests. Their interests always relate to serving Him, so why wouldn’t Rama reciprocate?

Lakshmana is the number one servant of God, so his intelligence is flawless as well. Relying on these two individuals, Sita could find some comfort in an otherwise difficult situation. Following Sita’s behavior, the devotee stuck in a material land that is conducive to forgetfulness of God can stay firm to the path of devotion by relying upon the resolve of the Supreme Lord and the intelligence of the spiritual master. Hanuman himself relied on this combination and it gave him success in a mission that was extremely difficult.

In Closing:

To be so concerned I know is not good,

Lessons from Bhagavad-gita understood.


Always worried about tomorrow and now,

Stay detached from outcomes how?


Just look at Rama’s wife’s resolve,

To learn how this problem to solve.


Ganga Devi not agitated by monsoon’s wave,

And so Sita knew that Rama would come to save.


That intelligence in Lakshmana and Rama resolute,

Known to Hanuman, an observer most astute.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Not So Worried

Lakshmana holding his bow“This lady knows the resolve of Rama and the intelligent Lakshmana, so she is not very agitated, like Mother Ganga at the onset of the rainy season.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.4)

rāmasya vyavasāyajñā lakṣmaṇasya ca dhīmataḥ |
na atyartham kṣubhyate devī gangā iva jalada āgame ||

We should be worried over our future, no? It is an uncertain world out there. The nightly news reminds us of this fact. Someone could get shot just going to see a movie, so how safe are we really? Should we not relish every moment we have on this earth? Should we not try to spend as much time as possible with our family? Why waste time over needless things when the time we have is so short? Actually, under the Vedic model it is understood that every individual is eternal, and yet there is still an urgency within the human species. When the proper mission is targeted and sought out, the worry somewhat subsides, as there is comfort in knowing the prowess of the higher being.

We are eternal because of the properties of our identifying aspect, the soul. The soul is never born, so it can never die. It cannot be cut up, made wet, burned up, or extinguished. It has the property of eternality, so nothing can be done to end its existence. What the soul can do, though, is travel to different places. Just as in order to travel to outer space we require a special suit, for the soul to go to different areas requires specific dresses. Those dresses are temporary, but due to illusion alone the individual within them thinks that the dresses are the source of identification; hence the urgency to enjoy as much as possible with respect to imminent death.

“My life will be finished at the time of death, so let me enjoy as much as possible,” is the thought. Under intelligence the same sentiment is adjusted slightly. “Let me make the most of this valuable human form of body. I will continue to live on after death, but it is not guaranteed where I will end up. In the body of a monkey or a dog, I cannot understand the imminence of death. I cannot do anything intelligent really. My life will revolve around eating, sleeping, mating and defending. In this human body I can take steps to understand God, cognizance of whom puts an end to the cycle of birth and death.”

“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)

That reincarnation exists and stops through a particular kind of consciousness is understood through consultation of Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, learning them through those who follow the teachings faithfully. Any person can pick up any book and start rambling on about what it means, but only one who has respect for the bona fide teacher, who learned the essence of the instruction from their own teacher who had respect, will get anything out of the work. The Vedas represent confidential information to be understood by the sober human being sincerely interested in making a positive difference in their lives. If I am still swayed by the false notion of material sense enjoyment being the summit of existence, I will not understand the Bhagavad-gita properly. I will take the verses and try to change the meanings to suit my needs, instead of changing my behavior to suit the needs of the instructor, Shri Krishna.

Though there can be a lot of steps involved in devotion to God, in understanding Him and in changing our disposition, let’s assume that we’ve made the necessary changes. We’ve given up the hope for material enjoyment, and now we daily take pleasure in bhakti-yoga, devotional service. Aside from the promise to be delivered at the time of death, there is also a newfound calmness with respect to troublesome situations. This is a lesson to be taken away from the above referenced verse from the Ramayana.

Here Shri Hanuman is observing Sita Devi from afar. To briefly explain the situation, Sita is an abducted princess and Hanuman a person sent to find her. Sita is the wife of the prince of the Raghu dynasty, Lord Rama. Rama is an incarnation of God and Sita an incarnation of God’s wife, or eternal consort. Hanuman is a messenger of the Vanara-king Sugriva. Through the alliance between Rama and Sugriva, Hanuman became a messenger/servant of Rama as well.

Sita looks distressed to Hanuman, as she is all alone and pained through the separation. She is surrounded by female Rakshasas, ogres who eat human flesh. The king of this land wants Sita for a wife, but she will not even look at him. Therefore he has resorted to threats to try to win her over. Though he sees that Sita is distressed, which is entirely understandable, Hanuman notices that she is not overly agitated. The comparison is made to Mother Ganga at the onset of the monsoon season.

In India every year there is a period of a few months which brings tremendous rainfall. Mother Ganga is commonly known as the Ganges River, and her water level rises as a result of the rain. Yet she remains calm throughout, as she does not cease to be holy. She continues to exist despite the many years of rainy seasons, where her water level rises rapidly. Ganga Devi emanates from the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord, so her water is considered sacred. The rainy season comes every year, and every year Ganga Devi remains in her position of purity.

The source of Sita’s calmness is also revealed. She knows the resolve of her husband and she also knows the intelligent Lakshmana, who is Rama’s younger brother. The two were previously living with Sita in the forest when she was abducted through a backhanded plot. Rama is resolute because that is one of the qualities of the Supreme Lord. He is not swayed by anything. Rama was asked to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya for fourteen years on the day He was to take over the throne, and the sudden change in plans did not phase Him a bit. Though Sita was taken in secret, that should not have changed His resolve either. He would be determined to find her and uphold justice.

Rama and LakshmanaLakshmana is Rama’s protector, and so he is very wise. Knowing Rama’s desire to be with Sita, Lakshmana will use his intelligence to help his brother. The same resolve and intelligence are passed on to the devotees of the Lord, including to Hanuman himself, who relied on both determination and intelligence to get to where he was. Through the strength of devotion to Lakshmana and Rama, Hanuman found Sita, setting the wheels in motion for her eventual rescue. Similarly, the devotee has firm faith in the resolve of the Supreme Lord and the intelligence of the spiritual master to keep them safe regardless of circumstance. This attitude assures that devotion will be practiced in whatever situations arise, in both this life and the next.

In Closing:

“Should I not worry over imminent death,

Of my possessions and family to be bereft?


Let me enjoy all of life right now,

Before to death take my bow.”


Vedas give another kind of urgency,

For human life most unique residency.


In it of God you can learn,

And highest state thus to earn.


But of a hidden secret devotees know,

That God with them wherever they go.


Resolve in Rama and Lakshmana intelligent,

Sita to circumstance thus indifferent.


Like Mother Ganga at rainy season not agitated,

Sita Rama’s eventual arrival anticipated.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Govardhana Puja 2012

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill“Upon hearing their prayer, Krishna could also understand that Indra, being bereft of his sacrificial honor, was pouring down rain that was accompanied by heavy pieces of ice and strong winds, although all this was out of season. Krishna understood that this was a deliberate exhibition of anger by Indra.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 25)

Worship of the Supreme Lord in the mood of bhakti, or divine love, is not like any other kind of interaction. There are benefits for both parties involved, and there is no expectation of reciprocation. The activity falls into a unique category of spirituality, where the temporary conditions fixed in duality are nonexistent. All other varieties of worship can be abandoned in favor of pure, unmotivated and uninterrupted love for God. Aside from the security blanket of unending nectar in the form of the Supreme Lord’s association, there is also insulation from the obstruction of outside forces, which include those managed by the higher authorities. Govardhana Puja reminds us of this security, and it also serves to glorify the protector Himself, Shri Krishna.

The miseries of life are threefold. There are those rooted in the body and mind. I know that I shouldn’t be sad that my cheating wife has left me, but I can’t help it. I can’t help but feel inferior, that I’m not good enough. I also know that I shouldn’t worry about the outcome to the test I just took, because what can worrying really do? I already took the test, so I either passed or failed. What I think now doesn’t matter, yet I can’t stop thinking about it. Add diseases to the body and you get the full scope of the miseries the Vedas describe as adhyatmika.

Then there are the adhibautika miseries, those caused by other living entities. Not everyone is nice. Some people are kind and gentle, while others don’t mind committing the worst crimes to get what they want. Sometimes they are so mired in a life of ignorance that they don’t understand that what they’re doing is bad. Such miscreants are a great source of trouble in society.

The adhidaivika miseries are those that we seemingly can’t explain. Who causes earthquakes? What about the heat wave that sweeps across the country? And don’t forget the torrential downpours which lead to massive flooding. According to the Vedic tradition, the divine figures residing in the heavenly realm are in charge of these forces, and so to keep the resultant miseries at bay one is advised to perform sacrifice. A long time ago, however, the annual sacrifice in honor of the king of heaven, who is in charge of the rain, was skipped. Only for one moment was the sacrifice neglected, and the superior party instantly turned from a friend to an enemy.

Such occurrences are common outside the realm of spirituality as well. We pay homage to the utilities company so that they will provide us electricity. We pay the cable bill so that we’ll get the channels we want on our television set. The people we deal with may even be very friendly to us, acting as if our company is enjoyable to them. When we sit down in a restaurant and order food the waiter or waitress may try to act as if we’re not there as a customer. The car dealership salesman can also try to act as our friend.

But what if we were to say that we couldn’t pay?

“Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just sitting here. I’m actually very hungry. Can you bring me some food? I’ll have this and that off the menu. And, by the way, I don’t have any money with me. I can’t afford the prices for these items.”

Would the cordial relationship continue? Would not the restaurant owner tell us to leave? Would not the car salesman immediately turn away? In many instances our dealings with divine figures follow the same line, and though we think we are acting in a pious way, we are more or less conducting a business transaction. The desire to earn a profit is there in both parties. The seller wants to make some money on the sale and the buyer doesn’t want to spend more than they think the product is worth. The seller a long time back got so angry when a group of innocent people voluntarily decided to take their business elsewhere. They had no need to worry, as their director was the Supreme Lord Himself, the owner of this and every other creation in existence.

In Vrindavana Lord Indra was worshiped annually by the residents. They would gather items for sacrifice and then have a formal worship ceremony, where a priest would consecrate the area and carefully offer each item for Indra’s enjoyment. In return Indra would provide the rain necessary to sustain the farm community. One year, Nanda’s son decided that the neighboring Govardhana Hill should be worshiped instead of Indra. Nanda was the leader of the community, and his son the jewel of it. Though only a young boy, His attractiveness captivated the hearts and minds of all the residents. Through clever logic and a charming smile, Krishna was able to convince Nanda to shift the preparations towards Govardhana Hill instead.

Lord KrishnaSpiritual life relates to the spirit soul, which is the essence of identity. This soul is not tied to a material form, nor to any governing commission. In real connection to the Divine, there is no requirement that one follow this behavior or that, or belong to this institution or that. To teach this lesson to Vrindavana’s population and to future generations, Krishna purposefully stoked Indra’s wrath. The residents didn’t have to worship Indra, even if it was standard tradition. Worship of the demigods is a legitimate practice that is mentioned by Krishna Himself in the Bhagavad-gita.

“All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rain. Rains are produced by performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born of prescribed duties.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.14)

Though a recommended practice for one trying to elevate to a higher consciousness, demigod worship is in essence a business transaction, which means that there is a temporary result, a kind of profit, that comes to both parties. However, the ultimate system of spirituality can never be dependent on a ritual involving personal profit. As soon as the residents changed their mind and worshiped something else, Indra became angry. This means that he wasn’t really in it for the benefit of the devotees. He wanted his share, his moment in the spotlight. Once that was gone, envy took over, and instead of leaving the citizens alone, he decided to try to harm them.

Indra instigated a terrible rainstorm upon Vrindavana. Krishna knew that it was Indra’s work because the heavy pieces of ice and strong wind were not in season. This was an adhidaivika misery, but since Krishna is the Supreme Lord, it would have no effect on Him or His devotees. The Lord decided to hold up the just worshiped Govardhana Hill using His pinky finger. He held it above His head for seven consecutive days, giving the innocent residents shelter from Indra’s wrath.

If the car salesman runs after you with a hammer when you say that you won’t buy a car from him, was it worth going to him in the first place? Would you recommend him to others? Worship of Krishna at the highest level is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. It is a voluntary effort, and the only pain that results from neglecting it is the missed opportunity to associate with the reservoir of sweetness, Shri Krishna. The association is the reward in bhakti, and for this reason the truly wise souls abandon all varieties of motivated religious behavior in favor of surrender to God, which they carry out daily by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. And as a way to further honor Shri Krishna, the protector of the surrendered souls, they also perform the Govardhana Puja each year on the day after Diwali.

In Closing:

Indra, in a playful pastime involved,

In which Krishna deadly problem solved.


Offerings to king of heaven annually went,

In return vital rain to Vrindavana was sent.


One year the residents worship skipped,

Switch of rage in Indra then flipped.


Devotion to Krishna they all had,

So able to survive Indra’s rage mad.


With Govardhana held up in the air,

Krishna removed flooding’s scare.


All other varieties of religion forget,

And on loving Krishna keep your heart set.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Diwali 2012

Sugriva and freinds returning to Ayodhya with Sita and Rama“O Sugriva, you are a fifth brother to us four, for a friend is born of affection, while maleficence is the symptom of an enemy.” (Bharata, Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 127.45)

tvamasmākaṃ caturṇāṃ vaibhrātā sugrīva pañcamaḥ ||
sauhārdājjāyate mitramapakāro'rilakṣaṇam |

Diwali is an ancient Hindu tradition whose origin is in a blessed event from a long time ago. The first Diwali, or festival of lights, marked a triumph of an unlikely group of individuals who were previously cast into strange and unexpected circumstances. The celebration involved both the victorious and those who were joyous of their victory. In honor of their return to their home, an arrival which included many guests never before seen, the residents of the town of Ayodhya lit many lamps, filling the city with welcoming light. The leader of the city for the period preceding the arrival was likely the happiest person there, and his goodwill extended to the friends of the arriving party.

As a quick background, King Dasharatha was the ruler of the kingdom of Ayodhya. His family history dated back to the beginning of the creation, when King Ikshvaku ruled over the same area. Ikshvaku was a king of the utmost character. He did not have any sin in him, and for this he was worthy of the post of ruler of the earth. Several generations down the line Dasharatha took over. He proved his fighting ability on the battlefield, and so under his leadership the citizens felt safe from enemy attack.

In the fourth stage of his life Dasharatha finally had sons, four of them in fact. The eldest Rama was the most beloved of all. He was to succeed the father, but on the day slated for His coronation, events took a dramatic turn in the opposite direction. Due to the influence of the youngest wife Kaikeyi, Dasharatha’s commitment to the truth was used against him. He was forced to pass over Rama and give the throne to Kaikeyi’s son Bharata. Rama was okay with this, as He held tremendous affection for His three younger brothers. But then Kaikeyi also demanded that Rama be banished from the kingdom for fourteen years. Again, Rama took this in stride, but the rest of the town did not. They were sad to see Him leave, and so through the subsequent fourteen years they waited with great anticipation for His return.

Just imagine living in royal opulence one day and complete squalor the next. And mind you, the squalor is not for just a day or two. It is to last for fourteen years. Rama was accompanied by His beautiful wife Sita in the forest. The younger brother Lakshmana also came. Rama didn’t ask them to come along; they insisted. So the forest wasn’t so bad for the trio, as they had each other. Sita’s company is the most preferable for Rama, and who wouldn’t want a powerful and dedicated brother like Lakshmana around?

This stay in the forest was not to be without hiccups, however. Hardship came when Sita was kidnapped by the Rakshasa fiend Ravana, the king of the island of Lanka. Though without His royal army to support Him, Rama still fought ahead to find His missing wife. He aligned with Vanaras in the Kishkindha forest through the help of a minister named Hanuman. Vanaras are similar to monkeys except they have human-like features as well. These events took place in the Treta Yuga, which is the second time period of creation. During that time even the forest dwellers with tails had some semblance of civilized behavior in them.

Sugriva and Vali fightingHanuman worked for Sugriva, who was the leader of the monkeys stationed on Mount Rishyamukha. Sugriva had his own issues, separated from his family due to a feud with his more powerful brother Vali. Since Sugriva was now a friend, and since Hanuman was trusted as an ally upon initial meeting, Rama agreed to help Sugriva regain his kingdom. Later on Sugriva repaid the favor, first sending Hanuman to look for Sita and then joining the Vanara army in the march to Lanka to rescue her. They would emerge victorious, as the Vanaras had devotion to Rama, which was all that was required. The opponents fought with jaw-dropping illusion and mighty weapons, but with their trees and rocks Sugriva’s army countered them. Rama and Lakshmana took care of the rest.

The trio of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita were set to triumphantly return home to Ayodhya, taking an aerial car originally belonging to the treasurer of the demigods, Kuvera. Of course Rama was not going to return home without His friends who had helped Him. Sugriva, Hanuman and the leading Vanaras from the army were invited on to the aerial car to return to Ayodhya. Sita also made sure that the wives of these Vanaras were picked up along the way so that they could enjoy the celebration as well.

Meanwhile, on the other side of things the younger brother Bharata eagerly awaited the return of Rama. He felt terrible for what his mother had done, and so he ruled the kingdom in Rama’s absence through a life of asceticism. Rama’s sandals were symbolically ruling over the kingdom, and Bharata worshiped those sandals day and night. Before finally arriving home, Hanuman was sent to meet with Bharata, to see what his mindset was. Perhaps he wouldn’t want to give the kingdom back to Rama.

Hanuman learned that Bharata had no intention of keeping the kingdom he never wanted. The devoted brother was delighted to see Rama return. He paid his respects to Rama, and then offered respect to Sita and Lakshmana. Bharata then embraced Sugriva and the Vanaras. He kindly told Sugriva that he considered him to be like a fifth brother in their family of four brothers. He said that friends are made through affection and enemies through ill will. Sugriva had affection for Rama, and so he was automatically a friend to Bharata.

This was the same principle adopted by the residents of Ayodhya, as they were thrilled to see Rama’s new friends. They loved Rama so much, so they naturally loved anyone who was dear to Him. The Vanaras are forever dear to Rama, who is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince. It is certainly beneficial to harbor affection for God, but to meet and honor the devotee is considered more beneficial. Through honoring the devotee the Supreme Lord is pleased even more. Bharata didn’t require this instruction; he immediately felt affection for Rama’s newest devotees, who were headed by Sugriva. Sugriva risked his life and wellbeing for Rama’s sake, and his efforts helped the group successfully return to Ayodhya. On Diwali we remember the Supreme Lord and His closest friends and how they joyfully celebrated in the wonderful homecoming.

In Closing:

“We are brothers numbering four,

Shri Rama all of us adore.


You, Sugriva, hold the same affection too,

Thus as a fifth brother we consider you.


Through affection a friend is born,

And enemies through ill will and scorn.”


When the triumphant to Ayodhya returned,

Sight of Rama’s new friends residents earned.


Diwali celebration our spirits to uplift,

Meeting with devotee most precious gift.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Discouraging Lies

Hanuman worshiping“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 ||

The material world is such that what you see is not always what it is. Like the magician who uses slight of hand and illusion to fool the audience, our immediate perception does not always tell us the way things really are. The most obvious indication of this is the false identity taken from the body. We know that bodies change, and that the form we had as a youth no longer exists, yet we nevertheless identify with the body we currently occupy. This illusion helps to keep us away from God, but from the behavior of Shri Hanuman we see that with the devotional consciousness even external illusions can’t successfully attack our intelligence.

You see the wreckage from a natural disaster on television and you start to think. “How could God allow this to happen? Isn’t He supposed to love all of us? Why would He allow for such devastation to people who are helpless? And what about the innocent women who get raped and the children that are killed in the womb? Why do we suffer from horrible diseases like cancer? God must not exist. If He did, no way would such things be allowed.”

To one who is in the know, however, such disasters are merely shifts to the external surroundings. The changes are the influence of kalah, which can translate to destiny, time, or death. Whichever translation we choose, the effect is the same. Time is the great equalizer. No matter how high we may be, eventually we will have to fall down. The complete descent occurs at the time of death, where the present body is renounced in favor of another one. This transmigration is commonly known as reincarnation.

“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)

A student of the Vedas learns to see these changes even when they are difficult to perceive. Shri Hanuman is a learned scholar of the Vedas, and we see evidence of his wisdom from many incidents. One time, the wife of the Vanara warrior Vali was sad over the death of her husband. Tara saw her husband’s corpse on the ground and thought that he was still there. This is only natural, as the same body just moments earlier had a life in it. Now that life force is gone, but the body remains, so it’s understandable to feel sad.

"Whom are you lamenting for when you yourself are pitiable? Why do you pity the poor when you yourself have now been made poor? While in this body that is like a bubble, how can anyone look at anyone else as being worthy of lamentation?" (Hanuman speaking to Tara, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 21.3)

Shri Hanuman counseled Tara on this occasion by rhetorically asking why she was lamenting for someone when she herself was poor. He also said that the body is like a bubble, which means that it can burst at any moment. Mature human beings know this, yet it is difficult to realize. Hanuman also remembered the same fact, that the influence of destiny is inevitable, when he saw the plight of Sita Devi in the Ashoka grove.

Sita is Rama’s wife. She is dear to Rama, and Rama is dear to Lakshmana. Rama is also respectful of His elders, all of which makes Sita that much more respectable. Since she is sinless, she does not deserve pain and discomfort. The criminals get sent to jail, while the pious get to live in freedom. The thieves live in constant agony of getting caught while the charitable are always satisfied with whatever they have got. In the bigger picture, the pious are not supposed to suffer pain because they do everything the right way. Yet here was Sita in a very distressful situation, forced to remain in a foreign territory against her will. She was surrounded by female ogres who harassed her day and night. She did not know if her husband Rama was going to come to save her, and she did not know if she would live another day.

Hanuman, who was sent by Rama to look for Sita, saw her from a distance. He easily could have lost his cool. He could have cursed God for having done such a thing or he could have concluded that God mustn’t exist. Yet the reality is that Rama is God Himself, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord as stipulated by the Vedas and the Ramayana itself. Here was God’s wife in deep trouble, in more distress than any person could imagine.

HanumanHanuman rightfully concluded that destiny’s influence applies to all. This is one of the principles taught by the Supreme Lord during His descents to the earth. Rama is not under the sway of maya, or the illusory material energy, and neither is Sita. Yet they go through the cycle of birth to death to show how to live peacefully and to let others know what to expect in a material existence. If even the sinless Sita has to outwardly suffer distress, it means that every person should know that their time in the material world will be filled with both pain and pleasure.

The external vision is like a discouraging lie, as the temporary changes and the pitiable situations give the appearance that there is no God. This is the point to maya after all, for we are illusioned into thinking that there is no God because that is our flawed desire. Persons like Hanuman are pure in their desires, as they only want to serve God, so the external nature does not have the same influence on them. Know that through bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, no vision can deter one from the ultimate mission of pleasing God. To chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, is the highest occupation for man in the present age of Kali. Hearing is believing in the Vedas, so to hear about Hanuman and Sita is to know that through devotion one can transcend the effects of the temporary world that is full of misery.

In Closing:

Maya works off of illusion,

Throws mind into confusion.


This body I think is mine,

But to be destroyed in time.


Both will come, good and bad,

Sometimes happy and sometimes sad.


Yet against devotees illusion to lose,

For devotion to God they happily choose.


Sita’s condition almost a lie discouraging,

To saints Hanuman’s perseverance encouraging.