Saturday, January 5, 2013

Prema Magnetic

Lord Rama“Hearing those words with faith, the queen became happy in the heart. Staring at Rama’s face so much, her mind is drawn to him in affection.” (Janaki Mangala, 79)

Prema, or pure love, for the Supreme Lord is not like any type of love we have encountered. And neither is it something we will ever feel for another human being, as the relationships in the material world are contingent upon some level of reciprocation. We are friends with someone based on what they can give to us. If they cease to provide companionship or a helping hand, we will stop being friends with them. This only makes sense, for who would want to be around an acrimonious individual? The characteristic of “friendly” should mean something. With the Supreme Lord, however, the feeling of prema is not based on any reciprocation, because in fact He has been the individual’s friend since time immemorial.

How can He be our friend if we have only come to know of Him recently?

Even if you knew about God since you were very little, that still is not a long time in the grand scheme. In the situation from the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, the queen of Janakpur has only known the Supreme Lord’s incarnation of Shri Ramachandra for a few brief moments. In that time she developed the same attraction to Him that exists within all of us.

But where was Rama before this?

In the Ramayana and other Vedic scriptures it is described that Rama holds a bow in His hands and wears a quiver tied around His waist. This is His garb while roaming the forests to protect the innocent sages. He is most famous as a warrior, the prince of the Raghu dynasty, so this vision of Rama is the one preferred by the devotees. But in other parts of Vedic literature, the same Supreme Lord is described as the four-armed Vishnu, the two-armed Krishna, or the half-man/half-lion Narasimhadeva. In other religious traditions He is not given a form or it is speculated that He is an old man who is vindictive.

plate16To make light of the seemingly disparate pieces of information one should be familiar with their own identity. Actually, learning about the Supreme Lord’s transcendental features enables one to know their own identity as well, but in the chance that the descriptions found in the Vedas are too much to take or are dismissed due to sectarian considerations, we can still learn about the difference between spirit and matter to increase our knowledge. This difference is at the core of spirituality. The spirit soul is not the body. Every individual life force is spirit at the core; the material covering is like a temporary set of clothes that gets put on and then taken off later.

The basic truth of the existence of the soul debunks any theories relating to a big bang of chemicals creating the universe. No matter what research is made or to whatever degree of certainty scientists may claim to have proven the “big bang”, there is nothing they can do to reproduce their purported explosion. Where do we see an explosion create things? It always destroys. The terrorist bomber can’t plead innocent and say that chemicals randomly collided to create the destruction of the blast attributed to them. No one will buy this excuse. If chemicals did collide to create the universe, from where did the chemicals come? No answer to this is forthcoming, as saying, “They were just there,” is equivalent to saying that there is a God. If chemicals can create all of life, why can’t human beings create something as simple as the sun? Not a giant solar body like the one we rely upon so much; just anything minute in scope that has an endless capacity to give heat and light without requiring an external source of energy will suffice.

The truth of the soul’s existence makes a lot more sense, and the soul’s properties are further discussed in the Bhagavad-gita. From that text we learn that each individual has two souls within them. One is the individual soul, or jivatma, and the other is the Supreme Soul, or Paramatma, who is God. The Supreme Soul is all-pervading, whereas the individual soul is localized. This means that God is always with us. He has always been with us in the past and will continue to be with us going forward. He is always our well-wishing friend, but through forgetfulness we search out other deities, descending to the point that we’ll give deity status to chemicals that we’ve never seen.

Awareness of the Supreme Soul can come about through different paths, most of which are rather difficult to follow. The easiest path to follow, but also the most difficult to accept, is bhakti-yoga, or divine love. The bhakti process is accelerated when there is the direct audience of the Supreme Soul in a manifested form, as was the case with the queen of Janakpur. She saw Shri Rama, an incarnation of Bhagavan, who is the person most of the world refers to as God. Bhagavan is the origin of the Supersoul, and He is the same person that resides simultaneously within all of us.

The queen on this occasion was set to marry off her daughter Sita. There was a contest to determine her daughter’s future husband. The queen’s husband, King Janaka, drew up the contest. Now the queen saw Lord Rama and wanted Him to win. She was worried that He wouldn’t be able to lift Lord Shiva’s bow due to His youthfulness, but her friends assured her that Rama could do amazing things. Moreover, the sage Vishvamitra had full faith in Rama’s ability; otherwise he wouldn’t have brought the Lord to the contest.

The queen took faith in those words and she became happy in the heart as a result. She then stared at Rama, drawn to Him like a magnet due to affection she felt in the mind. When the outside distractions are removed, one is free to worship God without impediment. And that worship is tied to prema, or pure love. There is no question of reciprocation or a sought out state of maturity. There is just uninterrupted affection offered through the mind, which is an indication of consciousness. To purify our consciousness in this way is the aim of the human form of life, and Sita’s mother reached that pinnacle of existence that famous day when she saw Shri Rama, who was on the precipice of lifting Shiva’s bow.

In Closing:

Like a friend from a time long gone,

Immediately to Him eyes are drawn.


Though only recently eyes on Him laid,

With us since time immemorial He’s stayed.


The Supreme Lord, the friend who is the best,

Ready to win Sita through bow-lifting contest.


In prema-bhakti for reciprocation there is no need,

Presence of eternal best friend our satisfaction to feed.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Slaying Subahu

Rama_Deities“Hearing of the muni’s greatness, patience came to the queen. Then her friends told her of Rama’s feat of slaying Subahu.” (Janaki Mangala, 78)

Okay, so you’ve been working on something for a while now. This something can be anything, but for this example, we can pretend that it is some type of structure. It is complex in nature, so you had to be really careful while you were building it. The pieces had to be inserted in just the right sequence and spacing in order for the structure to remain sturdy and safe. There is one final piece, one last obstacle towards completion. Just as you are about to lay the last “brick” so to speak, an enemy comes to the scene and ruins everything. They knock down your building and take great delight in it, laughing in your face. They could have attacked at the beginning, but it is more demoralizing to the victim to wait until the very end. Something similar was a regular occurrence in the quiet forests of Dandaka many thousands of years ago, that is until the eldest son of King Dasharatha came to the scene.

The sage Vishvamitra knew of Rama’s divine nature. That is why he specifically asked for Him from the King of Ayodhya. Maharaja Dasharatha was reluctant to part with Rama, who was his most cherished son. But the pious kings of those times never refused the requests of the priestly class, and so Rama, though young at the time, went off to the forest with Vishvamitra. Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana came along as well, and in this way the sage had two great protectors with him.

It didn’t seem that way to outside observers. It looked like the elder sage was walking around with young students who were full of exuberance. It is said in the Janaki Mangala that Rama would chase after deer in fun and pluck flowers to make garlands. His excitement would temper when He would remember the presence of the sage, who was to be treated like a father.

Though they were young, the brothers would nevertheless be called upon to provide protection that was not available anywhere else in the world. The first test was the female Rakshasa named Tataka. She had been harassing the sages in the forests for a long time, but since she was a woman Rama was reluctant to take up arms against her. He finally gave up His reluctance at the insistence of Vishvamitra. In tandem with Lakshmana, Rama killed the female demon in a fair fight. As a reward the brothers received powerful weapons as boons. These weapons were special arrows that had potent effects when used properly.

Killing Tataka earned Rama more than enough fame, but His stature would increase after the next episode. In Vedic culture, there are so many styles of religion and sacrifice, all depending on what your aim is. The ultimate aim is to have love and devotion to God, but as this is a difficult platform to reach, one requiring millions of births just to become aware of, there are other processes recommended for gradual advancement. The yajna, or sacrifice, is a central practice that helps one purify their consciousness. The sages during this ancient time would regularly perform these sacrifices in the quiet wilderness.

The issue was that the yajnas required a certain amount of time for maturation, sort of like planting a tree and waiting for the fruit to grow. Just because you plant a seed doesn’t mean that the desired outcome will manifest immediately. You have to see the entire process through in order to taste the fruit. In a similar manner, in a formal Vedic ritual you have to recite the mantras properly and wait for the proper amount of time in order to get the desired benefit.

On one occasion Vishvamitra initiated himself for a sacrifice. He required concentration for six days and nights; no disturbances. Rama and Lakshmana were there to ensure that there were no interruptions. Sure enough, everything went smoothly until almost the very end, when two wicked creatures were ready to mount an attack from the sky. Vishvamitra could not break away from the sacrifice; otherwise the entire effort would have been for naught.

“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra's ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)

LordRamaWithout blinking an eye, Rama strung His bow and fired a powerful weapon at the demon Maricha. The force of the blow sent the night-ranger flying one hundred yojanas away into an ocean. Rama next took up another weapon and shot it at Subahu, Maricha’s partner in crime. Subahu wasn’t as fortunate, as this weapon killed him. Rama then killed the rest of the night-rangers that were part of the pack, allowing Vishvamitra to successfully complete his sacrifice. The sage was very pleased with Rama, telling the Lord that He had upheld the faith of Dasharatha and himself, both of whom believed in Rama’s fighting ability.

This incident was related to the mother of Sita Devi during a time of grave doubt. Later on Vishvamitra would lead Rama and Lakshmana to the kingdom of Janakpur, where a contest was being held to determine Sita’s husband. Whoever would lift the enormously heavy bow in the assembly of gathered princes would immediately be proclaimed the victor and win the hand of the beautiful princess, the daughter of King Janaka.

So many princes came and tried, but none of them could even move the bow. Then Sita’s mother saw Rama and she immediately thought that He should marry her daughter. She worried over the outcome of the contest, however, as Rama appeared to be very youthful, possessing delicate features. How was He going to lift such a heavy bow? “He might even get hurt while trying,” is what the mother thought.

The sakhis, the friends of the queen, reminded her of Vishvamitra’s knowledge of past, present and future, and also of Rama’s glory of slaying Subahu. The contest of the bow was also a kind of sacrifice, and Rama’s presence was required for its successful completion. He would once again uphold the honor of the sage Vishvamitra by lifting the bow, thereby ensuring that Janaka’s effort in preparing the sacrifice did not go to waste. The successful outcome arrived again, due to the grace of Shri Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

In Closing:

To erect large building effort taking,

Put in days and nights painstaking.


What if suddenly an enemy to come,

To knock down your building, all work undone?


This certainly would be very bad,

That on precipice of success to make you sad.


For yajnas in forest sages on time did count,

Threatened by attacks that night-rangers did mount.


But Rama there to string His bow fast,

Sent away Subahu and Maricha with a blast.


The same Rama to protect Janaka’s vow,

To go for naught He would not allow.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Doubting Soul

Arjuna“But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.40)

Bhagavad-gita, 4.40In the realm of debate, reaching a point of void is very easy. You just cancel out everything that is presented in the arena of ideas. Like swatting away a series of flies that enter into an area, each idea presented with passion can be easily put down with skepticism, which is supported by apparent flaws and failures. Past examples of where misleading figures took advantage of trust from others to do them harm are cited to discount all future arguments. Yet if all viewpoints are swatted away, you’re left with nothing. The individual must act after all, and in the absence of real guidance the senses carry one towards all sorts of danger. Real trust is necessary when one is sincere about achieving the highest aim. And when that trust is wholeheartedly offered to the bona fide teacher, all past misgivings vanish like the riven cloud.

Skepticism certainly isn’t universally harmful. There is the famous saying, “If you believe that, then I have a bridge I want to sell you”, which points to the ability to exploit gullibility in others. I obviously don’t have a bridge to sell you, but since you are so quick to believe in what others say, it should be no problem for me to trick you into doing something stupid. If someone else tells us to jump off a bridge, we shouldn’t blindly follow their advice. Even if they tell us to trust them, our better judgment tells us that there is no good that can come from leaping off a bridge into water.

In a similar manner, when a spiritual leader tells us to send them money in order to receive a good seat in heaven, it is good to be skeptical. Why should the donation be tied to my spiritual future? Businessmen also solicit donations in return for services, and they don’t dare claim that there is any religious merit to the exchange. The spiritual leader in this case offers no tangible proof of the better life; as I will have to trust them that in the future I will be better off. It is therefore wiser for me to steer clear of such charlatans.

In the Vedas, religion, which can be likened to an ultimate guiding philosophy, is presented as a science. As in other sciences, there are laws that can be understood through experiment and observation. The law of gravity says that an object will fall when released. You can test the law by letting go of a pencil from your grip and seeing what happens.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.22“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)

In the spiritual science, it is said that the soul is the identifying agent within each life force. This point is stressed because the first inclination is to think otherwise. I identify someone else by their physical manifestation, so why wouldn’t that form represent their identity? It is because of this illusion that instruction is required. It is not easy to see the presence of the soul, but if you look at the bigger picture, taking before and after shots in between significant gaps of time, you’ll see that the outer covering does change, while the individual does not. We are the same person today as we were when we emerged from the womb. We may think that the infant was a different person, but then we weren’t a different person five minutes ago, were we? Not even yesterday were we a different person, so why when we add up more increments of time do we suddenly change identity?

The changing bodies are visual evidence of the existence of the soul and its position transcendental to matter. That the soul changes into a completely new body at the time of death is not as easily visible, but then again we know that new living beings manifest all the time. The question remains: from where do they come? Do they manifest on their own? Can we create life using matter? Actually, we can’t even maintain a life just by manipulating matter. If we could, no one would ever die. More importantly, no one would ever grow old. Real immortality is to stay in the same body. If we are helpless in stopping the decaying of the body, then there is no use in addressing death, as the changing of bodies already marks a kind of death.

There is more to the spiritual science than just understanding the difference between body and soul. I may tell you that the key in the ignition starts the car, but that knowledge isn’t sufficient to know exactly how the car works. You have to study all the parts and gain an understanding of the bigger picture to have complete awareness. It is also better to see these parts in action to really gain an understanding. In the same way, one has to realize the existence of the soul and its position with respect to matter. This is where religious practice, or a spiritual discipline, comes into play. The real spiritual science is a discipline that guides action. If I know that I am soul and not body, my actions should reflect that understanding.

Identifying how one acts in ignorance is easy. Who actually knows that they are spirit and not matter? The majority don’t, as we are born into ignorance. So basically any actions that we see are based on the perception that we are our body. Anger, lust, greed, pride, resentment, hatred, disappointment, sadness, and a host of other emotions are rooted in ignorance of the soul. On the other hand, one who knows who they really are will follow action that addresses their real needs.

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThe spiritual science is best presented in the Bhagavad-gita, a famous scriptural work of the Vedic tradition. In that work the teacher is Lord Krishna and the student Arjuna, but the instruction is for the benefit of all mankind. While the spiritual science is described in detail, there is still a requirement of faith from the listener. We can sit in a math class and hear about the multiplication tables, but unless we have faith in what the teacher says, we won’t really learn anything. The teacher may tell me over and over again that four times four equals sixteen, but unless I believe them I won’t be able to multiply those numbers correctly later on in life when I need to.

The skeptic will say that the Bhagavad-gita is another religious text like the Bible or the Koran. “It is just part of religion, and the history of the world has shown how damaging religion is. Therefore why should we take any stock in Krishna’s words?” The final instruction given to Arjuna is to take shelter in the Lord and thus be safe from all sinful reaction. This principal is the foundation of all the other truths. Without devotion to Krishna, the other truths are like individual pearls scattered about because they have fallen off of their thread. The thread can hold all the pearls together to form a wonderful necklace. If we are devoted to Krishna in thought, word and deed, following the methods of bhakti-yoga as they are described by the acharyas, then the true meaning behind reincarnation, the material nature, the spirit soul, and the goal of life is revealed.

Krishna is the name for God that says that He is all-attractive. If you are devoted to something that is all-attractive, you have the greatest gift in the world. If you reject that gift, then you are the biggest loser. It’s akin to being offered a million dollars and then tossing it away because you think it’s insignificant. The person who rejects the greatest wealth is more unfortunate than the person who never had it offered to them. Therefore one who hears the Bhagavad-gita from a devotee of Krishna is very fortunate, and if they listen without doubts, they will have everything to gain.

Skepticism is itself a guiding principle, one that leads to a position of void. We already know that void, an absence of an authorized guiding principle, does not lead to happiness. If it did, there would be no need for people to continuously write new books about positive thinking and offer their self-help services. If we already have a desire to accept a way of life, why not take what Krishna has to offer? It worked for Arjuna a long time ago and it has worked for countless others spanning many generations. The nature of the soul is to serve God, and through Krishna’s recommendation for surrender in bhakti-yoga, which is easily carried out by chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, the individual finds their true calling, one which brings a confidence that no skeptic can shake.

In Closing:

Because flaws no one is without,

Every claim of truth I will doubt.


All the pitfalls I can thus avoid,

In skepticism reach a point of void.


Yet supreme bliss I still need to find,

Material nature to me isn’t so kind.


In any endeavor some faith must apply,

Determine validity after giving a try.


No happiness for doubter in life current or the next,

Says Shri Krishna in Bhagavad-gita, ancient Vedic text.


To find meaning of life is a must,

So to bhakti-yoga offer your trust.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Subduing Kaliya

Krishna dancing on Kaliya“Then also when the cowherd boys and their animals drank the poisoned water of the River Yamuna, and after the Lord [in His childhood] revived them by His merciful glance, just to purify the water of the River Yamuna He jumped into it as if playing and chastised the venomous Kaliya snake, which was lurking there, its tongue emitting waves of poison. Who can perform such herculean tasks but the Supreme Lord?” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.28)

Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.7.28To liken an individual human being to a snake is to say that the person is dangerous. An openly declared enemy is easy to identify with respect to interaction. You know where they are and what their moves will be, but the person posing to be your friend only to desire to bite you in the back later on is more dangerous. As the snake-like human being is the vilest of the vile, so the species of the snake itself represents a result of sinful activity, punishment for harboring negative emotions. The Supreme Lord’s mercy, however, extends to all, including the snake. This fact was proven during the famous incident where Shri Krishna danced on the head of the Kaliya serpent.

Bhagavad-gita, 15.9“The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a certain type of ear, tongue, and nose and sense of touch, which are grouped about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.9)

The bodies of the species are made from the three modes of material nature. You can think of the modes like first, second, and third grade materials. The first grade is the best; it is the premium. The second grade is the compromise, not too bad but not overly great. The third grade is the lowest; it is not of high quality. The serpent is a living entity whose body is composed mostly of the mode of ignorance. The snake sneaks up on people and then bites them. The venom from its bite can be deadly. It is a stealth killer that attacks just for the sake of attacking.

In the body of a snake the chance of purifying consciousness is not very high. The human being, who has a mix of the three modes of nature, can purify consciousness by following dharma, or the occupational duty tied to the spirit soul. The animals and lower species are not intelligent enough to make the voluntary turn towards dharma. For this reason an animal birth is not considered auspicious. It can be the result of evolutionary upward mobility from a lower species or it can be the painful reaction to sinful activity while within a higher species.

Yet even one with the qualities of a snake, whether in human or reptile form, can be purified by the direct intervention of the Supreme Lord. He is the father of all creatures after all, so if He couldn’t deliver everyone, He wouldn’t be God. In the Vedas God is known by many names, with Krishna considered the topmost because of its meaning. The word “Krishna” says that the Supreme Lord is all-attractive; He is not deficient in any feature.

To show those features He sometimes descends to the earthly plane in transcendental bodies. Some five thousand years ago, He appeared as Himself, Shri Krishna, in Vrindavana. There He was the charming son of mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja. Though He roamed the land as a seemingly ordinary child, He performed amazing feats. His direct presence was enough to bring transcendental bliss and all the rest that comes with interaction with God.

Vrindavana was a farm community that focused on cow protection. One time young Krishna went out to the pasturing grounds with the calves and His male friends. The boys went to the sacred Yamuna river and started drinking some of its water. They became ill as a result and fainted as if almost dead. Krishna revived them with His glance and then went to investigate further. He saw that the river’s water was now poisonous due to the presence of a serpent named Kaliya. Krishna then dove into the river by jumping off a tree. He battled with the Kaliya serpent, who initially got the upper hand.

The elders in Vrindavana rushed to the scene, reaching by following the sacred footprints left by Krishna. They saw Him in the Yamuna river in the serpent’s clutches. Mother Yashoda nearly died from the fear. She couldn’t take watching her precious young child in such danger. The elder brother Balarama knew there wasn’t any danger, but the others were very worried. When Krishna saw their fear, He freed Himself from the shackles and started dancing on top of the serpent’s hoods.

kaliya_daman_QJ81_lKaliya started to fatigue and vomit blood, at which point his wives, known as the Nagapatnis, started to offer prayers to Krishna. They addressed Him as the Supreme Lord, and offered all sorts of compliments. They remarked how amazing it was that Kaliya, a sinful snake, was getting the benediction of contact with the lotus feet of the Lord. Not everyone is so lucky, and who would have thought a snake could get such a benediction? The wives asked Krishna to forgive the snake and to not kill him. This way they wouldn’t become widows.

The protector of the surrendered souls let go of Kaliya after the snake himself offered some kind prayers. Krishna told him to return to the ocean and to never pollute the Yamuna river again with his poison. Kaliya originally came to this area due to fear of Garuda, the eagle-carrier of Lord Vishnu. Garuda is a devotee of God, and he is known as the greatest enemy of snakes. Krishna informed Kaliya that Garuda would not bother him anymore since his head had marks from Krishna’s feet on it.

Endless lessons can be taken away from this incident, with one of them being that God is for everyone. He even gives salvation and protection to the snakes. The mark of that protection was Krishna’s footprints on the head. This would indicate to Garuda that Kaliya was now a devotee and thus a friend. In the same way, any person, regardless of their country of origin, religious background, or sinful nature, can immediately be protected by God if they adopt the same attitude of surrender.

Vedic literature is filled with such incidents where souls surrendered unto Krishna and then received His blessings. The surrender wasn’t only to gain relief from distress. There was always genuine love towards God, though the manner in which that love finally manifested may not have always been the same. The devotees of the Lord in this world, who wear the mark of His lotus feet on their head, bring the same protection to anyone who is willing to receive it. They chant out loud, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, to bring the all-attractive Krishna, the subduer of the Kaliya serpent, to the immediate vicinity. One who hears this mantra and then keeps it on their tongue will be relieved of all past sinful reactions, and in that surrendered state they will taste the sweetness of Krishna’s presence going forward.

In Closing:

To drink water from Yamuna boys went,

By poison to unconscious state sent.


Krishna by glance His friends revived,

Into river from tree He then dived.


By the beautiful boy with a bluish hue,

The Kaliya serpent was subdued.


Having on his head Krishna’s footprint mark,

From the Yamuna Kaliya then did depart,


This mark Garuda would then see,

So from danger Kaliya would be free.


Devotees wear the same mark and protection give,

Distribute holy names so that in pleasure we’ll live.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Pain of Disease

Krishna-the-reservoir-of-Pleasure“The material pains are birth, death, old age and disease. Even if I am a rich man, a beautiful man, an educated man, born in an aristocratic family, etc., I still cannot avoid death, old age, and disease.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Reservoir of Pleasure)

Without a consciousness focused on the Supreme Spirit, who is the origin of both matter and spirit, the mind will be drawn to dichotomies in condition. And from there develop anger, resentment, envy, and a host of other negative emotions. These emotions then lead to activism to address the apparent imbalances, and so the living entity is further thrown into illusion. With a little applied thought, however, instigated by the teachings of the acharyas, who know the equality shared amongst all sparks of spirit, the illusion can be dispelled. In that higher state of consciousness, the true pitiable condition of all living entities devoid of God consciousness is seen.

A classic example of the illusion is the apparent difference in condition between the rich man and the poor man. The rich man has it all. He’s got the house, the car, the high income, and the ability to get whatever he wants. He’s not suffering in any way, right? If he suffers, such as through addiction to alcohol or gambling, it is his own doing. He deserves the punishment he gets because he is unwisely utilizing the precious gift of opulence that life handed to him.

On the other side, the poor man is struggling. He’s not sure about the future. He doesn’t know if he’ll have a job tomorrow, and with that uncertainty he’s not sure he can pay for the apartment that he lives in. What if a calamity befalls him, such as a health issue? How is he going to pay the bills? He doesn’t have it easy like the rich man. He can’t just buy his way out of trouble. He lives in poverty, and so future generations springing from him will also bear the burden of a life of financial uncertainty.

This doesn’t seem fair. Why should one person be rich and another poor? Something must be done to address the inequity. Why should greed win out? Does the rich person really need all of those cars? Just one car donated to a person in need can do so much. Does the rich person need all of their money for themselves? If they donated some of that wealth to pay for the medical bills of the poor, we could prevent so many tragic deaths. Therefore let us try to fix the inequities. Let’s end poverty altogether.

What’s immediately forgotten in this push is that actions have reactions. There are consequences to the way someone behaves, and those consequences manifest in life conditions. You can’t completely attribute a person’s good financial fortune to luck, and by the same token you can’t say that someone is completely unlucky to fall into poverty. Statistics in America at least show that illicit sex is the primary contributing factor to remaining in poverty. Simply graduating high school and waiting until you are married to have children greatly reduces your risk of being poor. Along the same lines, being responsible with family life, working hard, developing a product or service that other people like, and putting in the necessary effort to get the word out about your work will do wonders for improving your economic condition. The wealthy companies of the world are primarily those which sell products and services that appeal to the masses. The more people who will buy what you are selling, the wealthier you will be.

Even if you are wealthy, does this mean that your problems end? Take a look at some common reactions to action and test for yourself whether or not they apply universally. If I place my hand into a fire, will it not burn? Does the fire care if I have a lot of money? Does the fire react differently based on my income? The miseries of material life affect all; they do not discriminate. A person may own a lavish home, but a hurricane can wipe it out within hours. A disease can strike any person, and the pain of that disease is the same regardless of one’s disposition. One may say that the rich man has a better chance of getting medical treatment, but treatment itself is not guaranteed to remove the disease. You can have the best medical treatment in the world, but sometimes nothing can save you.

If the pain of disease can strike any person, shouldn’t the focus be on stopping disease altogether? Shouldn’t I try to figure out who I am and why I contract disease? The Vedic seers focus on spirit, which is above the dualities of the material nature. The material nature creates temporary conditions like rich and poor, healthy and diseased, happy and sad, etc. The spirit soul is above these conditions, and through the help of the gifts of material nature, the individual who is that soul can remain above the material conditions as well.

Birth, old age, disease and death will strike everyone, regardless of country of origin, age, gender, or religion. In the Bhagavad-gita, the focus is on how to become free of these miseries. It is said that one who knows the nature of Shri Krishna, and how He appears and disappears transcendentally, never has to take birth again. Without rebirth, there is no chance for experiencing the miseries of material life.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.9“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)

And who is Krishna? He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the same God vaguely known by others. He is all-attractive; so His features are described in more detail in the Vedas, which include the sacred work called the Bhagavad-gita. The saints who follow the conclusion of the Gita, which is surrender to Krishna in a mood of love, remain above the illusion caused by contact with material nature. They also teach others how to reach the same elevated status.

Their teaching applies to rich and poor alike. The pizza pie fresh out of the oven is the same for every person, so the rich person doesn’t really have an advantage here. They essentially eat the same food, though they may dine at a fancier restaurant. The taste is the same regardless, so there is really no distinction in grades of material enjoyment.

Real life is Krishna consciousness, which is known as bhakti-rasa. In bhakti, or devotion, there is a rasa, or taste. Anyone who is without this taste is considered poor, and so the devotees of Krishna accept the thankless task of distributing this nectar to anyone who is willing to accept it. The cost for this most valuable gift is sincerity, which any person can offer, provided they are wise enough.

In Closing:

No one insulated from material pain,

Disease hurts for rich and poor the same.


Actions never without consequence,

Dichotomies in condition thus make sense.


If material condition from birth to all applies,

Would not escaping rebirth be more wise?


This is the conclusion the Vedas make,

Liberation to all who devotion to Krishna take.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Concealing Information

image“’Have you seen Krishna coming this way? Kindly tell us which way He has gone and save our lives.’” (Lord Chaitanya in the mood of the gopis, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya 15.36)

Is remaining silent when you know vital information about something the same as lying? If nobody asks you, and you don’t tell, are you to blame if something bad happens? The devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna don’t take any chances in this regard. Why risk getting caught in a moral gray area when you can take the safer route, which will in turn give you tremendous pleasure at the same time?

If there is a fugitive on the loose and the authorities come to your home, they may ask you if you have seen the missing person. “Excuse me sir, we’re looking for such and such person. They are implicated in quite a terrible crime and have fled the scene to escape punishment. We need to bring them to justice, for that is our job. Also, by apprehending the suspect we can make sure that they don’t commit any more crimes in the near future. Have you seen such and such person? We’ve heard whisperings that the suspect may have come through your neighborhood.”

If you know where the suspect is, or if you have seen them personally, you are obligated to tell the truth, at least in the eyes of the law. More importantly, saying anything but the truth here is considered a lie, and you are in essence aiding the fugitive in their crime. But what if this question wasn’t asked of you directly? Let’s say it was asked of your neighbor, and you were in the vicinity when the question was asked. Are you still obligated to tell the truth? Is remaining silent here the same as lying?

Though you weren’t asked directly, you can decipher the proper course by seeing the consequences to the different options. If you remain silent, the fugitive will continue to remain at large. Depending on the crime they supposedly committed, this may mean that others will be put into grave danger. If you speak up, however, you’re ratting out the suspect, but at the same time you’re no longer guilty of concealing information. There is no worry over the ethical gray area. More importantly, the burden is off of you. It is up to the authorities to then act off of the information you gave them. If they fail in their search, you are not to blame at all.

In the grander scheme every person is looking for ananda, or bliss. The problem with their search, however, is that they look in all the wrong places. As the human being is no wiser than an animal at the time of birth, the natural inclination is to scratch the itching for sense gratification. Look for bliss in beer, wine, and illegal drugs. Look for pleasure in intimate relations with the opposite sex. When the mind is bored, stimulate it through gambling, and when the stomach starts to growl, feed it with animal flesh.

None of these avenues deals with the soul. In fact, they tie directly to the opposite of spirit: matter. The human being can understand that they are spirit and not matter just by looking at the constant shifts to their own body. The concept of “you only get one life” doesn’t hold if you really think about it. You only get one childhood too then, right? But when you’re an adult your childhood is gone forever. You’ll never get that youthful form back. Does this mean that you cease to exist? Is not the consciousness that allows you to realize that your childhood is gone indication enough that you’re still alive?

That consciousness never leaves, even during times of rest. At the time of death that consciousness accompanies us to a new form, which is again composed of material elements. The consciousness is tied to the soul, which is the essence of our identity. Real ananda is found through addressing the needs of the soul. To address the needs, you have to know more about the soul. In the Vedas, the atma, or soul, is described as blissful, knowledgeable and eternal. It also has a core property, or dharma, which is service. The service is ideally directed at the Supreme Soul, who is the same in quality as the individual soul but vastly superior in the quantitative measurement of that quality.

How can we quantify knowledge, bliss and eternality?

Some people have a little knowledge while others have a lot. The same applies for happiness. As far as eternality goes, the quantitative measurement is drawn from the Supreme Soul’s ability to remain within the same form for all of time. We are also eternal, but we accept and reject different bodies through reincarnation, which is ultimately our choice.

In service to God there is no need to change bodies, as the original consciousness is God consciousness. Service to God is ideal because God is all-attractive; hence one of His names is Krishna. The devotees of the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord, which is His original feature, thus hold vital information. They first gathered it from a spiritual teacher who follows devotion themselves. They learned it from their own spiritual teacher, and if you ascend the chain of succession you eventually reach the Supreme Lord Himself.

Lord KrishnaThe Vaishnavas, devotees of Vishnu [Krishna], don’t take any chances with respect to concealing vital information. They will gladly share information about Krishna, provided that one is receptive to the message. I can explain the trade policy with China to my friend during dinner, but if they are focused on something else, my talk will fall on deaf ears. Yet devotees in this age of Kali are so kind that they constantly look for people who are interested, rather than wait for others to approach them. And to catch the attention of the world, they always chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

This chanting actually delivers Krishna, as the Lord is not different from His holy name. And when one is offered Krishna, the Lord’s presence saves their life. This was shown by the gopis of Vrindavana, who are considered the topmost devotees. Lord Chaitanya, who is Krishna Himself, inaugurated the sankirtana-yajna, the congregational chanting of the holy names. During His time on earth He often exhibited the mood of the gopis, sometimes asking the trees if they had seen Krishna. If they told Him where the Lord was, that information would be a lifesaver. And so the kind preacher following in Lord Chaitanya’s line looks to save everyone by revealing Krishna’s location. And more importantly, they teach us how to keep Krishna’s association through following bhakti-yoga.

In Closing:

Authorities may question if you know,

Where the suspected fugitive did go.


If within the vicinity of question you hear,

Whether to tell the truth or not is unclear.


If the location to them not told,

Future crimes possibly to unfold.


Similarly, God’s location Chaitanya gave,

So that countless souls He could save.


His followers take up the same task,

So that “Where is God?” we won’t have to ask.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

United in Peace

Chanting the holy names“Free from all contaminations of material desires, the distressed, the inquisitive, the penniless, and the seeker after supreme knowledge can all become pure devotees. But out of them, he who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth and free from all material desires becomes a really pure devotee of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.17 Purport)

“I don’t want any more war. Why should one country send soldiers to fight soldiers of another country? We don’t fight to the death with our neighbor, and the country is just a collection of communities, or large groups of neighbors, so why should there be conflict? It would be great if the entire world were united in peace. No more fighting; just sharing and caring.”

To want world peace is certainly noble, but how does one actually go about achieving it? Many organizations have been formed, but instead of increasing the peace, there is only more division, which automatically leads to more strife. If I think that I am constitutionally different from someone else, how are my desires ever going to square with theirs? And if desires clash, then surely someone will get frustrated. If someone is frustrated, they are bound to get angry, and as a response to that anger they may take to violence. Only when I and others know that everyone is equal constitutionally is there any chance for peace.

Let’s look at a practical example of where a peace solution goes wrong. There is the United Nations, which was formed in response to World War II. Never do we want a repeat to the second world war, which saw millions die in a struggle for sovereignty over various lands. In the United Nations, the many nations around the world come together to talk things out, to resolve their disputes diplomatically, in a peaceful way.

But what kinds of disputes are there? One country wants to take over another country. They believe that the land in question belongs to them and not the current occupiers. How do you settle this dispute? Do you just hand over the land to the country that wants it? What about the people that currently live there? Well, you can always ship them off to somewhere else, but as soon as you do this, you are setting the precedent that one governing body, an authority figure if you will, has the ability to decide who can live where.

If an authority figure can determine that land belongs to a specific country, why can’t it do the same for my country? Who is to say that I can’t have the entire world as my playground? Why should I listen to this authority figure anyway? Who are they? Are they beyond vice? Do they not have flaws? Just because they earn majority support in an election doesn’t automatically make them infallible. In an election the primary objective is to receive the most votes, which can be accomplished in many ways that are not admirable. The victorious party could have used every fallacy of argument in the book. It could have purchased votes by promising certain favors once elected. Actually, these things take place all the time already in democratic elections.

As long as there are conflicting interests, there will always be division, which in turn makes peace unstable. The more nations you add means that you’re only creating more points for conflict. However, the human race can unite under a common thread: knowledge of the individual’s constitutional position. This position is hinted at in the Vedic aphorism athato brahma-jijnasa, which means “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman.”

What time does this refer to and what is Brahman?

This aphorism applies to the human birth. This means that as soon as we emerge from the womb, our time has come for inquiring about Brahman, which is the Supreme Absolute Truth. In the United Nations and other governing bodies there are relative truths. What one country wants isn’t necessarily in the interests of another. What brings peace today may not tomorrow. These truths are based in duality; they have two sides. The Absolute Truth is that which is beyond duality.

Can such a truth exist?

Only the human being can make the inquiry into this. Notice that the aphorism doesn’t say, “Now is the time for surrendering to such and such personality.” It also doesn’t say, “Now is the time for adopting this faith so that you’ll avoid eternal damnation.” For real surrender to take place, one has to have full faith in the object being surrendered to. And real faith only exists when there are no doubts. And the easiest way to dispel doubts is to be confident from knowledge.

The human being learns about Brahman to dispel doubts. The learning ideally begins at an early age, in the same way that we learn the alphabet, grammar and mathematics while still under the age of ten. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, exist for the purpose of understanding Brahman, and one who knows Brahman fully is known as a brahmana. By occupation the brahmana can be likened to a priest, but from their position in knowledge they are more than just a figure dressed in religious garb. From their knowledge of Brahman, they can impart wisdom to any person in society, whether that person is Brahman realized or not.

“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)Bhagavad-gita As It Is

The person who is realized in Brahman no longer hankers or laments. In that superior position, they take up devotional service to the Personality of Godhead. Again, this figure is not sectarian and neither is He an abstract concept conjured up by the speculative mind. He is the very source of Brahman, which can be likened to a collection of individual spiritual fragments. Spiritual means not material, which means that it is not riddled with the defects of mutability and impermanence. That which is spiritual is immutable, unchanging, and ever-existing. The individual thus does not die at the time of death and does not come into existence at the time of birth.

“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.20)

I am Brahman and so are you. In fact, so is the dog and the cat, but due to their material coverings they are not able to understand Brahman. If I know that every person is equal on a spiritual level, I will treat them better. I will not unnecessarily be violent towards innocent creatures, both human and nonhuman alike. I will not need to collect more than I should because I know that my true identity is as spirit. All spirit emanates from the Supreme Spirit, or God, and so there is an inherent relationship we all have to Him.

Krishna with cowA Brahman realized soul takes the next step into devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. In this discipline, there is still desire and relevant activity, but they are dovetailed with the interests of the Supreme Lord. Just as we are above the dualities of the material nature, so is God. If my identity is not rooted in place of birth, bank balance, or physical relationship to another object, the same holds true for God. As a result the many temporary problems we create are not in His scope of interest.

What does interest Him, however, is connecting with the Brahman sparks, the individual spirit souls. Thus one who is in full knowledge of Brahman and the source of Brahman takes to activity that is pleasing to the highest authority figure. His gifts in the form of material opulence, whether large or small, are enough to continue on in life with peace. In bhakti-yoga, division between the living entities, at least in thought, is eliminated. Thus desires no longer clash as well.

As long as I continue to think that I am different from someone else at a constitutional level, I will have desires that are sure to clash with another person’s. In bhakti-yoga, the uniform goal is pleasing the Supreme Lord, whose qualities and instructions are described in the ancient Vedic text, the Bhagavad-gita. The devotees of God unite in peace by chanting together the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The supreme authority figure gives each person their allotment, and whatever is provided is fair for continuing on in service, which unites others who are around in the mission of serving God in a peaceful way.

In Closing:

World peace is what we seek,

But conflict when nations meet.


Desiring to take over a certain land,

With ease they’ll raise conflict’s hand.


Desires guaranteed to collide,

When in ignorance of spirit we reside.


From the Vedas Brahman know,

And straight to enlightened state go.


Worship of universal Lord from there,

And automatically for all creatures care.


To find God for every person is the plight,

In chanting the holy names let the world unite.