Tuesday, December 31, 2013

With Limits With Laws

Nature“There are many scientists and great workers in this material world who have wonderful creative force, but they act and create only according to the direction of the Supreme Lord. A scientist may create many wonderful inventions by the direction of the Lord, but it is not possible for him to overcome the stringent laws of material nature by his intelligence, nor is it possible to acquire such intelligence from the Lord, for the Lord's supremacy would then be hampered.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.20.17 Purport)

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The wise person doesn’t try to fight the laws that have governed man’s behavior since time immemorial. In fact, those laws are for all species and were not crafted by a blue-ribbon panel or commission of experts. The laws don’t change; they operate like clockwork. The less intelligent animals don’t try to fight them, but the supposedly more intelligent man, who has the ability to conduct experiments and thus expand his knowledge pertaining to the external, dedicates so many years to trying to skirt these laws. This pursuit only takes place when the most important knowledge is lacking.

Baseball batThe child finds ways to pass the time that are baffling to the adult. As an example, if no one else is around, the child may play baseball alone in the backyard. He pretends that he is the different hitters on a team, for he has memorized their lineup. He can mimic the different batting stances as well. With his left arm he generates the pitches, quickly transitioning to the bat in order to hit the pitch. Where the ball lands determines the result of the at-bat. In this way, playing pretend, an entire game completes.

The child hasn’t really played baseball. It is merely pretend, a way to pass a few hours on a sunny afternoon. For the adult, playing baseball would involve a real game, with other players around. The child hasn’t accomplished anything in this regard; they have merely found a way to survive on a day when there is nothing better to do.

In a similar manner, when an adult spends billions of dollars to create a spacesuit to be used in outer space, they haven’t really accomplished much. Surely intelligence is required in the construction. Indeed, the smartest scientists are needed to figure out how to get the spacecraft into outer space, beyond the earth’s atmosphere. This isn’t like adding two plus two or doing long division. This involves strong command of physics and mathematics. There is a reason that the rocket scientist is invoked when playfully deriding someone’s lack of intelligence.

Outer spaceIn outer space, the astronaut subverts gravity. In the home with the air conditioner, the occupant temporarily escapes the heat of the summer. With the automobile, the driver finds a way to increase the speed of travel against what can be done by using a horse and buggy. With the television the eyes can witness events taking place thousands of miles away. With a video recording device, one can relive events that took place long ago. With the internet, one can witness events that were recorded in someone else’s home.

Despite all these accomplishments in getting around the laws of nature, there is no permanent escape. Eventually the astronaut must return back home. Eventually the heat will have to be tolerated, as well as the cold of the winter. Eventually the individual must exit the automobile and figure out something to do at their destination. The same with the person who watches television and surfs the internet.

Nature’s laws apply to all. Gravity cannot be stopped. Perhaps one can escape its influence after much effort, but that escape is only temporary. The birds are made to fly and the fish to live in the water, so for the humans to try to follow similar behavior is not very wise. The advanced intelligence in the human species exists for a reason, and it is not to figure out a way to defeat the material nature. That nature has never lost, as it has a closer which comes out of the bullpen. This closer has never blown a save and always wins the game. It is known as death, and it has yet to be defeated.

The wise souls use their intelligence to understand why the nature exists. Mere speculation alone will not solve the mystery. There is no dearth of individuals who have attempted this route. Philosophy books that line the shelves of libraries and bookstores show how much time has been spent in trying to figure out why there is life, why there is nature, and why there is death.

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThe wise souls accept the explanations from the Bhagavad-gita. Like anything else, this work can be discounted as mythology, mental speculation, religious sectarianism, and so forth. But from actually understanding the work through someone who knows it themselves, a new perspective comes. In this work it is said that the individuals, found in the animals and other species as well, are part of a superior energy. This is in comparison with the energy of matter, which is what nature is. Earth, water, fire, air and ether don’t have brains of their own. They have no individuality. They are dull and lifeless. They combine to subdue us through the forces of nature.

There are controllers of that nature, with an original controller who created the nature in the first place. Only He can escape its influence. Indeed, for Him there is no need to work to get away from anything, as the nature operates under His command. Not directly all the time, as He has managers handling life and death and the results to action, but if He should happen to appear in an area governed by that nature, He is not subject to its influence.

The living entities can get the same immunity, provided they take the shelter of the original controller. This is the sticking point. For one who does not know about the Supreme Controller, how will they know where to find His shelter? Others are naturally inclined towards figuring things out for themselves, trying to become the greatest controller there is. The wealthy person thinks they have reached such a point, but even they are frustrated in so many endeavors. The person who seems to always get what they want eventually reaches a point where they are denied a desire. Thus life without shelter from the Divine ultimately leads to frustration.

Lord KrishnaThe wise souls seek shelter through the words of the Bhagavad-gita. These words emanate from the original controller, who is known as Krishna because of His all-attractiveness. Though Krishna discusses many different ways towards transcendence in this famous work, His final recommendation is to surrender everything. Dedicate all words, actions and thoughts to Him. Everything that one does should be dedicated to the Lord. Since He only accepts certain kinds of actions, the devotee’s behavior naturally adjusts into piety, so as to please Krishna.

Absent service to God, there is no way to control the material nature. Despite long hours in the laboratory and expedition after expedition into outer space, man is no closer to figuring out the mystery of life and death on their own. The person who accepts Krishna’s instructions and recommendations knows a little more, and with just a little knowledge they find a way to escape birth and death permanently, landing in the realm of no miseries, Vaikuntha.

In Closing:

In rocket ship lifting from the ground,

Into space gravity to go around.


But escape to last for how long?

After all, man to earth belongs.


Nature dull, controlled by superior,

Man to higher forces remains inferior.


Just some knowledge of supreme controller get,

And in Vaikuntha all of nature’s forces forget.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Which Bias To Take

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

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Bhagavad-gita, 15.15“I don’t like too much editorializing in my news coverage. Just give me the facts. Don’t have a bias, please. I don’t want your opinion on what happened in Washington. I don’t want to hear why certain politicians are bad. I don’t want to hear your stance on a particular issue. Keep these things to yourself at least during the news portion of your coverage. If I want opinions, I will go to the editorial page. There at least your bias is clear. Then I can judge things accordingly.”

NYT editorial pageThis sentiment is popular enough to warrant a separate section for opinion in newspapers and on news websites. In dissecting the matter further, however, we see that there is no such thing as objective journalism. The concept cannot exist for the mere fact that billions of events take place on a daily basis. Even if the focus is limited to the realm of politics, sports, weather, current events, health and lifestyle, there is too much going on every day to report on. Therefore bias exists in the very choice of the stories themselves.

For instance, today we see a story on a new technological gadget. There are already so many gadgets in the marketplace. The company releasing the gadget obviously wants their product covered in the news. The person reporting on the release will be favorable or unfavorable to it. Depending on their opinion, they will choose to highlight certain features and omit others. The same goes for the latest hot-button issue in the nation’s capital. There is filtering, especially in news segments that are limited by time. The journalist votes as well. They have an idea on how government should act. Therefore they will choose which arguments to present and which ones to mask. Indeed, they may be so steeped in their position that they don’t even cover the other side of the story.

Steve Jobs presenting iPhoneNews is a business after all. Their business is presentation, which is no different than what the salesman does with their business plan or product presentation. If you’re getting a pitch from a salesman, you know they are biased. You know that they want you to invest in their idea. The same holds true for the news, as they often have the action line set up going in. They then choose those stories which fit their action line. “Never let facts get in the way of a good story,” is how the famous saying goes. If the journalist has an agenda to uphold, facts aren’t always helpful.

As there is bias in all presentation, the question then becomes whose bias to choose. Which person has the ideas that are the best to follow? An easy way to judge is to see which bias benefits the most people. The news anchorperson in favor of pushing a certain health product obviously has a limited scope of interest. Their organization may have the manufacturing company as a sponsor, and therefore promoting that particular product helps their bottom line. The self-help guru wants to sell books. The politician wants to get elected and stay in office so that they can distribute the hard-earned money of the tax-payers to citizens who will then vote for them. Even the religious leader has an interest; they want others to join their institution.

Choosing a pathThe saints of the bhakti tradition can also be thrown into the discussion, for they have a bias as well. Their goal is to make everyone happy. That’s easy for any person to say, but how do we test the claim? Well, how is it that one becomes happy? Is it through earning a lot of money? Is it through marrying the person of their dreams? Is it through raising a family? Is it through playing a particular sport on a professional level? Is it through enjoying succulent food dishes and intoxicants?

In studying those who have experienced such things, we see that the achievements themselves don’t bring lasting happiness. The romance quickly fades in a marriage if focus is lacking. The children eventually leave the home. Food and drink cause so much pain, first physically and then mentally. Gambling and sports are in the mode of passion, which leads to a neutral result. The memory of the championship victory is quickly erased when the next season starts. The same goes for the devastating defeat.

Bhagavad-gita, 14.7“The mode of passion is born of unlimited desires and longings, O son of Kunti, and because of this one is bound to material fruitive activities.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.7)

The saints of the bhakti tradition say that everyone is happiest when serving God. Not that one necessarily has to join a particular institution, becoming a sworn defender to it. Not that one has to always chastise others who are not loving God for their sinful ways. Service to God is known as bhakti-yoga, and it has nine basic implementations. Any or all suffice for bhakti, which is also known as divine love.

The saints of the bhakti tradition say that all varieties of love and affection are derived from the natural desire to love God. In simpler terms, bhakti is at everyone’s core, but in the present circumstances most don’t know it. Therefore they try to love everything else, all the while not knowing that their desire to love stems from their inherent link to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is seen that even the hardest heart can be melted by the pet dog in the home. There is no other reason to get a pet other than to offer love. That same affection is meant for God, and when it is offered to Him the love naturally extends to others, even to so-called enemies.

Six Gosvamis of VrindavanaThe saints of the bhakti tradition do not want money. They believe so much in the happiness that devotional service brings that they dedicate all of their efforts towards getting others to practice it. This sometimes means even giving up everything for others. The famous bhakti saints of the past lived on practically nothing. They voluntarily became homeless, jobless, and penniless in order to strengthen their religious practice and help others in the process.

It’s difficult to be envious of someone who lives underneath a tree and wears torn rags for clothing. It’s hard to have hatred for someone who has not a penny to their name. It’s difficult to find fault with someone who has no desire for money, fame, women, or enjoyment. The heart then completely melts when seeing the dedication these saints show in helping others to find bhakti-yoga.

These saints are biased for sure, and their favor is for the Supreme Lord, who is within everyone’s heart as the Supersoul. Only with bhakti-yoga does that supreme soul become visible, revealing its transcendental features to be contemplated on, remembered, worshiped and served. Only in bhakti-yoga does such a form have accompanying names which can be sung and glorified without end: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

Bias in news I don’t like,

Keep your opinions out of my sight.


Just describe the events straight,

Your opinion for the editorial page wait.


But in truth with bias all to live,

Filtering facts the news they give.


Issue then of which bias to take,

Which interest happy all to make?


Bhakti saints bias for God maintain,

Know that devotion life’s highest gain.


In full humility transcendental light to spread,

For real benefit choose their bias instead.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lowest Among Man-Eaters

Lord Rama“Since you have spoken such sinful words to the wife of the immeasurably resplendent Rama, to what place will you go to be free, O lowest of the Rakshasas?” (Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.15)

rākṣasādhama rāmasya bhāryāmamitatejasaḥ |
uktavānasi yatpāpaṃ kva gatastasya mokṣyase ||

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In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna describes how the naradhama, or the lowest among mankind, do not surrender unto Him. Even if they hear that He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the detail behind the abstract conception of a supreme being, they choose to find their own path towards transcendence. They fail miserably in this endeavor, and since they received the chance to know Krishna and serve Him, they are considered worse than the middle tier class of men, who may not know any better. In this verse from the Ramayana, Sita addresses Ravana as the lowest among the Rakshasas, which is a pretty strong indictment considering the fact that Rakshasas eat human beings.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.15“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15)

In the modern world eating meat is very commonplace. It is such a staple of the many societies and communities that those who eat only vegetables, fruits, milk and grains are given a special title. They are known by such terms as “vegetarian” and “vegan.” They are out of the mainstream, though all they are doing is choosing to eat living beings that don’t eat, sleep, mate or defend. They choose to eat plants and vegetables, a choice which doesn’t require violence towards other creatures. While the meat eaters carefully protect their pet cats and dogs, the non-meat-eating population chooses to extend that compassion to all animals, especially the cow, which produces milk out of love for its calves.

Lord Krishna with cowsIf you kill your dog you are a criminal, but if you kill a cow it is no issue. Eating cats and dogs makes you an oddball, while eating other kinds of meat is acceptable. Eating other human beings earns you the title of cannibal. Cannibals are considered the lowest among men. They are very hard to find in the world, as a civilized person would choose to eat other meat first.

The Rakshasa is a species of living entities that generally has bad qualities. A person can be a Rakshasa in behavior also. While the human being is supposed to be more intelligent than the animals, you can still find human beings who behave like animals. You can also have human beings who behave like Rakshasas, though they may not be born into the species.

So, based on their habit of man-eating alone, a Rakshasa is pretty low. To be the lowest among the Rakshasas means you must be really bad. This is the point made by Sita here, as Ravana had addressed her in a sinful way. He first behaved sinfully towards her, taking her away from the side of her husband in secret. A wife is a dependent of the husband, at least under ideal circumstances. If a husband is dependent on a wife, it means that he is weak. Weakness in a man is not meritorious, like promiscuity in a woman.

Ravana then used sinful words against Sita after she repeatedly refused his advances. She had no desire to be with him. He didn’t even fight for her fairly. If Ravana had taken on Rama, a fellow warrior, in battle, Rama would have defeated him soundly. Here Rama is described as immeasurably resplendent. Tejas can also mean strength, so Rama’s strength cannot be measured by any instrument. This is a feature found only in the Supreme Lord. Rama is the same Krishna but in a different manifestation, an incarnation specific to the time period in the Treta Yuga when Ravana roamed the earth. God has beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation at immeasurable levels. Since His transcendental features cannot be measured by blunt instruments, one name for Him is Adhokshaja.

Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.19“Being beyond the range of limited sense perception [adhokshaja], You are the eternally irreproachable factor covered by the curtain of deluding energy. You are invisible to the foolish observer, exactly as an actor dressed as a player is not recognized.” (Queen Kunti speaking to Lord Krishna, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.19)

Lord RamaWith that immeasurable resplendence, Rama can distribute His energies anywhere. If I can speak very loudly, it means that someone across the room can hear me. If I can teach very well, it means that even the person with the least intelligence in the classroom can understand what I am saying. If I have more renunciation than anyone else, it means that I can live without friends, family, fine food, water, a fancy home, and so many other things for a very long time.

Rama’s strength can penetrate any area. This means that Ravana had no place to find comfort. Sita asks the rhetorical question of where he will go to escape Rama’s wrath. There indeed will be wrath since Ravana behaved sinfully towards Rama’s beloved wife. Other Rakshasas simply ate human flesh, drank wine, and sunk further into ignorance. They were low in terms of the spiritual evolutionary scale, but they still weren’t the lowest. Their leader in Lanka had exclusive claim to that title, and the reward for his behavior would be the swiftly coursing, well-jointed arrows of Rama’s penetrating his body.

In Closing:

More than just any kind of meat,

Flesh of man Rakshasas specifically eat.


Of carnivores this makes them low,

With Ravana we see further can go.


First took her and then spoke in sinful way,

Forcing her away from her husband to stay.


Sita on Rama having full dependence,

Soon to arrive in all His resplendence.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Misunderstanding Dharma

Sita and Rama“Other than you, who in the three worlds would even think of desiring me, for I am the wife of that pious-soul, as Shachi is to Indra?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.14)

māṃ hi dharmātmanaḥ patnīṃ śacīmiva śacīpateḥ |
tvadanyastriṣu lokeṣu prārthayenmanasāpi kaḥ ||

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Householder life embodies a material existence. Though ideally this stage of life is meant to be an ashrama, one where spiritual realization is furthered, it is a time where enjoyments for the senses are available in the largest quantities. The householder lacking a spiritual consciousness is always contemplating how to enjoy eating. “Where will I eat tonight? What will I cook for dinner?” The hosting area is also of tremendous importance. This is the headquarters for enjoyment. So naturally other questions are, “What kind of house can I find? How many rooms is enough? Can I get a bigger house than my friend?”

Interior decoratingAside from the possible rise of a host of negative emotions, such as envy and hostility towards others, there is the danger of misunderstanding dharma. The original definition of the Sanskrit term is “an essential quality.” Since the essence of everything is life, dharma also applies to the essence of the living spirit. The procedures and policies used to reawaken that essence and maintain it are also known as dharma.

If I know nothing of spirit due to the fact that I am illusioned by the temporary manifestation covering myself today, I’ll mistake dharma for a system used to gain material benefits. “I worship God so that I can get stuff. The goal is to get stuff, not really to worship. I worship every now and then, but not too much. I don’t want to make it a fulltime thing. I think that eating, sleeping, and mating are the most important things in life. Since I can only enjoy in this life, defending is also essential.”

This is a misunderstanding because the purpose to following dharma is to regain one’s essence. In that pure consciousness, there is hardly any desire to enjoy the senses. Therefore renunciation is a natural byproduct of following dharma. In the pure state, there is devotion to the Almighty, the source of all matter and spirit. His association is the ultimate reward of dharma; it is the fruit of all mysticism, work, and study. His association is then maintained through devotion. There is no other way to keep Him by one’s side.

Bright flame and shadowRenunciation and knowledge follow the devotee like the shadow that trails behind a bright flame from a lamp. They are aftereffects, comparatively insignificant to the object of interest. In the devotional consciousness one naturally loses taste for material opulence. They don’t really care about eating the finest dishes. They don’t worry too much about intoxicating beverages. They enjoy eating spiritually, so to speak. They drink up the visual nectar of the transcendental form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Their ears bask in the sound vibrations glorifying the Supreme Lord. They feel the touch of sacred garments presented on the altar and smell the fragrance of the lotus flower offered at the lotus feet of the deity on the same altar.

Lord KrishnaThe materially attached person cannot understand such practices. They don’t know that there is a higher taste. They may even engage in dharma, but they still don’t know the ultimate reward. This was the case with Ravana, who is addressed in the verse referenced above. He is being rebuked here by the wife of a pious soul, dharma-atma. Everyone in the world knew her staunch devotion to her husband Rama. They also knew of Rama’s qualities, which were all good.

Ravana couldn’t understand Sita’s consciousness. He took her by force back to his kingdom of Lanka, hoping she would agree to become his chief queen. She kept refusing him, and so he kept upping the offer. He thought that maybe she was playing hard to get. Perhaps she was negotiating for a better deal. Ravana considered eating succulent meats, drinking fine wine, and enjoying with many women to be the summit of an existence, the best it has to offer. He had previously engaged in rigorous austerities in what appeared to be part of a life in dharma. He had a specific purpose in mind, however. He wanted strength which he could then use to rule the world. Thus his understanding of dharma was not right.

He couldn’t understand why Sita kept rejecting him. She tried her best to explain it to him. Rama was a dharma-atma, a soul who knew the principles of righteousness. If she was His wife, it meant she knew those principles as well. In the material sense, the guiding principle for a wife is devotion to her husband. At least this is the case in ideal circumstances. The husband and wife share in spiritual merits, so if the wife can support the husband in following dharma, she benefits tremendously.

Sita compares her situation to Shachi Devi’s. Shachi is the wife of Lord Indra, the king of heaven. No one would think of taking her, since everyone knows that her heart is given over to Indra. What enjoyment would you get from someone who doesn’t want anything to do with you? Using force in such a case would be a waste of time.

Sita and RamaRavana proceeded anyway, for he couldn’t understand the devotee’s heart. He didn’t realize that Sita would never be enticed by material opulence if it came at the price of Rama’s association. Rama is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince. He is the goal of dharma, and on earth He plays the part of a righteous son, brother, husband and leader to show everyone the proper path in life. Sita teams with Him to make the perfect couple, an object for devotion. Ravana saw her as an object of personal enjoyment, and this faulty vision would ruin him.

In Closing:

Having husband of pious soul,

She too righteous in wife’s role.


Only when one in depths to sink,

That to have as wife they’d think.


Dharma not for my material gain,

Or simply to ease unwanted pain.


Love for Rama Sita’s only way to be,

Deluded soul Ravana fact could not see.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Of Unsound Mind

Sita and Rama“Other than you, who in the three worlds would even think of desiring me, for I am the wife of that pious-soul, as Shachi is to Indra?” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.14)

māṃ hi dharmātmanaḥ patnīṃ śacīmiva śacīpateḥ |
tvadanyastriṣu lokeṣu prārthayenmanasāpi kaḥ ||

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If you’ve spent enough time around drunk people, or have been one yourself on occasion, you surely have a few stories featuring stupid behavior. The internet is full of videos of drunkards making fools of themselves. Perhaps they mistook an area of an outdoor restroom for a sink. Maybe they tried to eat something that wasn’t meant for human consumption. Maybe they tried to talk to something that wasn’t animate. In all such cases there wasn’t sound thinking. The mind was somewhere else. Kama, which is the Sanskrit word for lust, can also have the same effect, as noted above by the beloved wife of the pious-souled Rama.

PizzaKama can also mean desire. “I want ice cream. I want pizza. I want a pony.” These are desires. If you fulfill them, your kama is temporarily satisfied. Kama turns into lust when the desire is intense enough to take you off the righteous path. If I want ice cream enough to rob a store, I am under the influence of lust. If I want pizza so badly that I will eat it every day for an entire year, lust controls me.

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

Lust’s strongest influence is in the area of romance. From the ancient Sanskrit texts of India, we learn that there is a direct correlation between the control of lust and sobriety. The more you can control your temptations, the more soundly situated your mind will be. And who wouldn’t want to be of sound mind? Would we rather be stupid all the time? With intelligence we can do things that are good for us, even if they don’t seem to be so at the outset. School is an example of this. To the child school seems like a waste of time. It may even seem that way to the adult. With a sound mind, however, one can look past the immediate hardship and see the ultimate benefit an education has to offer.

Lust in romance is so strong that it can make you do ridiculous things. Case in point Ravana with Sita. At the time she graced this earth there was no internet. There was no printing press. Newspapers weren’t circulated around the world on a daily basis. And yet everyone still knew her. The word of mouth was very powerful. In order to remember a sacred event, poets would compose songs. Songs are easier to remember than paragraphs and books.

Marriage of Sita and RamaThrough glorification of her wedding to the prince of Ayodhya, Sita was known throughout the world. She got the name Sita from having been found in the ground as a baby by King Janaka of Mithila. From marrying her, Rama too earned so many new names, which referenced His relationship to her. He became known as Sitapati and Janakinatha, both meaning “the lord of Sita,” who was Janaka’s daughter.

When she followed Rama to the forest for fourteen years, Sita’s fame increased. She became known as the most chaste wife. In modern terms she would be considered the most devoted lover. We say that we love someone today, but would we stay with that person after they rejected us strongly? Probably not. Sita’s love for Rama defined her. She would not leave His side, even if He kindly asked her to. She knew better than Rama what was good for Him, so Rama could do nothing to stop her from loving Him.

Though the world was well aware of her character, Ravana still tried to take her away and make her his wife. Sita was a little perplexed by this. She knew that no one else in the world would try this. Only Ravana, whose lust consumed him, would attempt something so foolish. It was the equivalent of taking the key to the office and trying to use it to open the front door of your house. It was like putting a USB cable into a Firewire port. Any example of trying to use something in a way that is not intended applies here.

Fortunately, the unsound mind can be very easily fixed. Rather than try to enjoy Sita for himself, if Ravana would have returned her to Rama, today there would be no end to his fortunes. Sita is the goddess of fortune and Rama the Supreme Lord. God appears in transcendental forms many times over the course of a creation. These appearances give a glimpse into His transcendental features, into the true meaning of nirguna, or without material attributes.

Hanuman with Sita and Rama in his heartSita stays in the heart of a devotee like Hanuman, whose mind is totally pure. Hanuman once accidentally saw Ravana’s many wives in their inner chambers of Ravana’s palace. This accident occurred during his search for Sita in Lanka, where the fiend Ravana had taken her. Though he saw these beautiful women, Hanuman’s mind did not change. He did not desire them, for he knew they were married to Ravana.

Alongside her husband Rama, Sita lives in Hanuman’s heart. This makes Hanuman very happy. Ravana could have roamed the world with impunity had he purified his heart. Instead, steered by lust he was headed for ruin, illustrating to everyone the destruction that uncontrolled kama brings. The wise souls know the secret in defeating this eternal enemy: devotion to God. By remembering Sita and Rama forever, lust loses all its power.

In Closing:

When in drunken stupor to sink,

To do oddest things you think.


Ketchup on ice cream to drop,

Calling all friends on phone nonstop.


King of Lanka’s actions just as dumb,

For world knew Sita of husband only one.


Lust even the strongest mind to steer,

In devotion this enemy never again to fear.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pioneers Take the Arrows

Lord Rama holding bow“Indeed, there is no person here who desires your welfare, no one to stop you from these reprehensible acts.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.13)

nūnam na te janaḥ kaścidasti niḥśreyase sthitaḥ |
nivārayati yo na tvāṃ karmaṇo.asmādvigarhitāt ||

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Devotion to God is at the very core of the living being. It is part of their constitution. For this reason real religion goes by the term “sanatana-dharma.” To serve God with full vim and vigor is the essential characteristic of every fragment of spirit for all of eternity. Both backwards and forwards in the time continuum, the individual feels happiest when serving. When assuming the constitutional position in full, devoid of impurities, that service can be practiced in even the most adverse conditions.

MoviesIf you spend an entire day watching movies, the next day you will likely talk about it with others. There is the off chance that you won’t see anyone on a particular day, but your mind still works. It will contemplate on what was observed the previous day. If there is conversation, you can’t help but talk about the movies. If the other person isn’t so receptive, you may halt for a little bit, but if you immerse yourself in the film culture for long enough, you can’t really avoid talking about it.

In the same way, if one is fixed in serving God, they can’t talk about anyone or anything else. As a shadow following a bright lamp, knowledge accompanies that pure devotion. This means that the person consumed with loving thoughts of the Supreme Personality of Godhead will automatically be knowledgeable. Therefore if they see injustice, they will not only know how to right the wrong, but they will not be afraid to speak the truth; it will be second nature to behave this way.

Their words of wisdom will be forthcoming even if the circumstances are not ideal. We can think of it like doing basic things such as taking a shower and cooking. You need to bathe in order to clean your body every day. In the summer months this isn’t really a problem. The temperature is more in line with the body’s. The winter is a different story. It’s hard to get out of bed on a very cold morning. Leaving the safety of the covers immediately invites a cold front. Then the first few minutes of taking a shower are difficult, as are the moments immediately after.

WinterIn the winter months it might not be so difficult to cook. After all, the appliances in the kitchen provide heat. The warm soup and the carefully nursed beverage are ways to get comfort from the chilling cold. In the summer, things aren’t as easy. Who wants to stand in front of a raging fire when it is already hot inside the house? Who wants to sweat even more just so they can eat a certain kind of food?

In both situations the “show must go on,” as they say. You have to get out of bed and take a shower in the winter. You have to prepare food in the summer. The weather is no excuse. In Lanka a long time ago, the weather in terms of conditions and association was always bad for the princess of Videha. She was taken away from the side of her husband through trickery and force. Her new residence was a land where everyone despised her husband.

If one is not so religiously inclined, they may not be able to relate to having to stay at a place where everyone hates God. Still, we can use the loving relationship as a reference for understanding. Imagine if you were at some place where everyone hated your significant other and that significant other meant the world to you. Would you not be unhappy? If you were forced to remain there, would you not worry about the future?

Sita, the daughter of King Janaka, faced such conditions. Though she was worried, she did not stop speaking the truth. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, she notes how no one in Lanka is a true well-wisher to Ravana, the king of the land. This is because no one seems to be stopping him from his despicable actions. First he took Sita away in secret, and now he is threatening to kill her if she doesn’t come over to his side.

Sita DeviThey say that the pioneers take the arrows. If you are the first person to discover something or succeed in it, so many others will attack you. You become a prime target due to your notoriety. Here Sita is a pioneer in the sense that she is the first one to offer wise advice to Ravana without reservation. Love for God is what defines her. Her husband is the Supreme Lord in His avatara as a warrior prince. She cannot act any other way. Her knowledge is secondary to her bhakti. If she sees someone doing the wrong thing, she will speak the truth to them.

In Ravana’s case the truth had to be delivered straight, without any apologies. Sita took all the arrows in the form of the torture directed by Ravana’s grim-visaged female attendants. Rama’s fearless servant, Shri Hanuman, was watching all of this perched on a tree in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. He saw Sita’s resolve amidst the trying circumstances, and he used it as further motivation to succeed in the mission handed to him by Rama. He too was a pioneer in infiltrating Lanka and going against the authority of its king. Since they had devotion on their side, both Sita and Hanuman emerged successful.

In Closing:

In prime discovery to make,

Pioneers then arrows to take.


Others their position to see,

To criticize and target they’re free.


Giving real wisdom to king of deeds worst,

Sita wise counselor of Lanka’s first.


Despite shots Sita on righteous path to stay,

Rama’s messenger with help soon on the way.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wishing You the Best

Sita Devi“Indeed, there is no person here who desires your welfare, no one to stop you from these reprehensible acts.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.13)

nūnam na te janaḥ kaścidasti niḥśreyase sthitaḥ |
nivārayati yo na tvāṃ karmaṇo.asmādvigarhitāt ||

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If you really care about someone, you will give it to them straight. If you know they are heading down the wrong path, instead of turning a blind eye, you will deliver the cold, hard facts to them. Since you wish only the best for them, you correct them when they veer off the righteous path. In Lanka a long time ago, it was obvious that there was no one who was a real well-wisher of the king, as no one prevented him from following the road to peril.

If you have a young child and you see them about to stick their finger into an electrical socket, will you just sit idly by? Will you allow them to drink a poisonous chemical that is kept safely underneath the sink in the kitchen? Will you encourage their drinking and smoking at a young age? Will you not say something when they fail to do their homework on time?

These questions are worth asking because of the expected resistance in opposition. If you prevent the child from touching the electrical socket, the child will not be happy. They will try to do the same thing again, and you will have to prevent them again. Pretty soon you are viewed as a tyrant, someone who prohibits fun. The same goes for taking steps to prevent underage drinking, smoking, and neglect of school responsibilities.

When you really care about someone, you will not let the reception deter you. After all, what does it matter if someone doesn’t like you for speaking the truth? Especially if you are speaking true words for the other person’s benefit, there is no reason to be upset by any harsh rebuke you receive in the aftermath.

Shrila PrabhupadaThe bona fide guru desires only the best for everyone. Their mercy is not expensive, and anyone can take advantage of it. Those who aim to get the real benefit are then known as disciples, either formal or informal. To be a disciple one must have discipline, and this entails following the instructions of the spiritual master. The guru’s guidance here is for achieving the highest end in life. The guru is interested in the true welfare of their dependents.

The welfare does not relate to money. Any person can do well in business after applying a little work. The welfare is not for furthering relations with the opposite sex. Some are able to attract beautiful partners and others are not. The welfare does not relate to having a life full of enjoyments, both at home and at work. Those enjoyments come about on their own. Like the onset of summer and winter, each individual goes through ups and downs. One second we are successful and the next we are not. One day we are happy and the next we are sad.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.14“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)

Winter and summer seasonsThe highest welfare is consciousness of God. He is the sum total, the origin of everything we can think of. If He is everything, then He would have to be capable of granting any material reward to any of His dependents. These rewards pale in comparison to God’s association itself, however. Therefore the guru targets the reward of association for his disciples. He knows that associating with God is the best thing for any person. That association can be in various moods, but devotion is the common thread. The devotion is what maintains that association once it is gained.

In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Sita wonders whether there is anyone who wishes the highest welfare for Ravana, the king. This relates to both spiritual and material. Since Ravana had taken Sita away from her husband and refused to give her back, he was obviously inimical towards God. Rather than desire God’s association, he wanted to compete with Him. Since no one can defeat God, Ravana thought he could enjoy with His wife. This will ruin anyone’s chance at association. And, as mentioned previously, that association is the highest gain.

Lord RamaRavana’s reprehensible act also damaged his material fortunes. If his advisers in his kingdom were averse to devotional service, they still should have prevented Ravana based on Rama’s strength alone. As the husband of the goddess of fortune, Shri Rama is full of opulences, with one of them being strength. As Ravana took His wife away, Rama was surely to come and exact revenge. He would destroy Ravana’s opulent kingdom in Lanka.

There were a few counselors in Lanka who advised against Ravana’s plan of taking Sita in secret. Ravana didn’t listen to them, and so there was nothing they could do. In front of Sita no such protest was present, and so she had no choice but to think that the city was devoid of genuine well-wishers. In this present age, thankfully there is the timeless vani, or instruction, of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to take advantage of. His sincere disciples and well-wishers continue to spread his teachings throughout the world, giving us words of wisdom that provide the ultimate benediction in life, God’s association.

In Closing:

From king’s actions Sita could tell,

That none in kingdom wished him well.


Others why allowed Maricha to be sent,

Why secret action not to prevent?


Desires the well-wisher real,

That association with God to feel.


Since enmity with Rama to keep,

Punishment his kingdom to reap.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Snake Oil Salesman

Sita Devi“The more sweet a man is towards a woman, the more agreeable she becomes. Yet in this case the more dear words the speaker has used, the more disregarded he has been.” (Ravana speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.2)

yathā yathā sāntvayitā vaśyaḥ strīṇāṃ tathā tathā |
yathā yathā priyam vaktā paribhūtastathā tahā ||

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“Listen pal, I’m not buying what you’re selling. You can keep doing your pitch, but the more you talk the more convinced I am of my stance. If what you are selling is so great, it shouldn’t take so much convincing, should it? If a person is thirsty after walking through the desert, they don’t need to be convinced to purchase a drink of water. The initial glimpse alone is enough to make the sale. Since you’re talking so much, I’m only becoming more skeptical.”

Indeed, if a highly anticipated electronics gadget is released, customers flock to the store in droves to purchase them. Sometimes they will camp outside of the store for days just to be the first in line. The same goes for movie releases and concert tickets. The customers understand what they are getting. They don’t need to be convinced further to make the purchase.

Line outside apple storeIn the scene of the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, a person was selling something that didn’t appeal to the potential buyer. The more the seller made their pitch, the more the buyer was turned off. This makes sense to us in the exchange of goods and services, but here the offer was for material opulence at a very high level. Think of it like someone offering you millions of dollars. Here there was more than just money. The buyer would get comfort, protection, jewels, riches, housing, and above all else, control. She would be in control of the king of Lanka, who was feared throughout the world.

Yet to her this was the equivalent of snake oil. “Snake oil” is an expression used to describe something that lacks authenticity or that is not really needed. The seller knows that the product is bogus, but in their desire to earn a profit, they go ahead with their pitch. Here Ravana didn’t necessarily know that material opulence was unnecessary. Since he cherished it so much, he figured everyone else did as well.

The stereotype is that women can be persuaded with flattering words and expensive gifts. Actually, who isn’t softened by kind words offered their way? It is certainly preferable to hear someone say nice things about us than not. Here Ravana is perplexed that Sita has bucked the trend. The kinder he is to her, the harsher her rebuke of him becomes. She cannot be bought off with expensive jewels. Flattering words will not soften her stance.

Sita DeviThis is the behavior of the wise souls. They analyze what is being offered to them to see if it can be utilized for the highest purpose in life. That purpose is serving God. Real progressive values are those which help the consciousness stay fixed in thoughts of the all-attractive Personality of Godhead. Sita is the eternal consort of that personality, so she is incapable of straying from the devotional path. During her earthly pastimes, through her behavior in different situations she shows how the devotee’s behavior is unique.

It is easy to say that such and such person is devoted to God, but that doesn’t give a complete understanding. If we say that the same person rejects material opulence if it comes at the expense of association of the beautiful Lord, then we have a better understanding. If we say that the same person becomes more opposed to the idea of separating from God the more it is presented to them, we pay them an even higher compliment.

Therefore Ravana here flatters Sita, though he doesn’t know it. He might as well be saying, “For some reason you are really devoted to this Rama, your husband. I’ve basically offered you the post of queen of the world, and you have rejected it. I thought that maybe you didn’t understand me at first, so I went into further detail about exactly what I was offering you. And who would ever think of turning down such an offer? A woman is attracted to beauty, strength and riches. Any of my other queens would have jumped at the chance. For some reason, you only seem to be getting more upset with me.”

Sita and RamaOf course the actual nature of the offer is what determined Sita’s stance. Ravana wanted her to forget her husband Rama. Ravana wanted her for himself; which is not possible. Therefore the opulence he offered was really an illusion; something not what it appeared to be. It was like snake-oil to someone who already had the real medicine. When in the pure devotional consciousness no amount of money can make the devotee abandon the lord of their life breath, their prana-natha. This staunch resolve indicates real strength, which can be found in any person, even a beautiful princess. Sita appeared weak to Ravana, but she was stronger than any person he had ever met.

In Closing:

With persuasion thought to his side could get,

But Sita stronger than any person he’d met.


Her intense rebuke his grand plan to foil,

Knew his offer for power just like snake oil.


Devotion to Rama the only opulence real,

To wise nothing else comes close in appeal.


Take Sita’s example as life’s lesson gift,

And to maya’s allures give rejection swift.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Not After A Thousand Months

Sita Devi“The more sweet a man is towards a woman, the more agreeable she becomes. Yet in this case the more dear words the speaker has used, the more disregarded he has been.” (Ravana speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 22.2)

yathā yathā sāntvayitā vaśyaḥ strīṇāṃ tathā tathā |
yathā yathā priyam vaktā paribhūtastathā tahā ||

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You are a reflection of your association. At least this is the general rule. If you want to become a first class drunkard, frequent bars and nightclubs. Just as you would go to the gym every day to get your body into shape, make an appointment to sit on a bar stool for hours on end as the bartender continues to hand you drinks. Tell them that you never want to be empty-handed; as soon as a drink is finished a new one should be there waiting as a replacement. This rule on association is especially noted by spiritualists looking to advance to the state of pure consciousness, which is rarely achieved. For truly exalted individuals, who are always liberated from the influence of the material nature, even prolonged association of nefarious characters can’t change them. In fact, the more time they spend with such characters, the more they are repulsed by them.

A successful entrepreneur eventually has to work with others. Perhaps there are sales to make or the company grows to the point that extra help is required. If you really want to get someone to come to your company, what will you do? Let’s say that the coveted member finally becomes available. Previously they were locked up with another organization. They weren’t looking to move. In some cases, it might even be illegal to talk to such candidates. When they become free, the interested parties start what is commonly referred to as a “charm offensive.”

You send your best pitchman out to meet the candidate. You offer whatever gifts are allowed. You “wine and dine” the coveted candidate. If you had previously hurt them, you try your best to make that transgression a distant memory. Obviously you will use kind and gentle words. You will praise them. You will speak of so many good things to come in the future. You will promise all sorts of enjoyment. Whatever you think the person wants, that is what you will put on the table.

The charm offensive is especially employed by men seeking to enjoy with women. The male is viewed as the stronger party, so it is typically expected of them to be the seekers. The women, being generally weaker, are meant to be chased. If a woman is averse at first, the man just tries harder. He increases the charm. If he is strong-willed, he will not be deterred by countless rejections. Eventually, he might succeed, as who can keep turning down someone who is so nice to them?

Bouqet of rosesOne may even be aware that they are being charmed. They may know that the words sent in an email to them were crafted specifically to persuade them in a certain direction. They may know that it is all an act, and yet still there is a softening of the stance. It is only natural to be pleased by such kind words. You think, “Maybe I am being a little cruel. Perhaps I should give this person a chance. They might be sincere.”

In the case of an infamous king a long time back, the more charm he tried to apply, the stronger he was rejected. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana he says as much. His object of desire was the wife of another man. Previously that hadn’t been a problem for the king, who was named Ravana. He had plenty to use in his charm offensive. His arsenal consisted of personal achievements, physical strength, and tremendous opulence in the home.

The desired person, Sita Devi, was offered the post of chief queen. Ravana made his pitch stronger every time she rebuked him. He promised to be her servant, which is the opposite of the way marriages of that time typically went. Indeed, if a husband was too consumed with passion and was thus led by the wife instead of leading her, he was considered weak. Ravana didn’t care about how he appeared, however. He just wanted Sita, and he would do anything to move her to his side.

Sita DeviInadvertently, he pays Sita a very nice compliment here. His observation is also a testimony to his vile nature. Sita is like a beautiful swan who prefers to remain amidst lotus flowers floating on the pristine pond. Ravana is like a crow, which stays amidst rubbish. The more time she spent with Ravana, the more she saw his crow-like nature. If we enter a room with a foul odor, if we stay in the room long enough eventually we stop noticing the smell. Though the area is unpleasant, there is gradual assimilation.

This did not occur with Sita. The more she heard from Ravana, the more repulsed she was by him. The reason was not necessarily due to Ravana’s presence, either. She was separated from her dear husband Rama. The separation was due to Ravana’s shameful act of stealing her away in secret. As the time spent in separation from Rama increased, the more her devotion to Him grew. The more one is devoted to Rama, the more they are repulsed by anything not devoted to Him. Ravana is the quintessential atheist; he thinks there is no God and that Rama is just an ordinary man.

Therefore Sita did not want his association in the least. Ravana gave her two more months to change her mind. But he could have given her a thousand more months and her dislike for him would have only increased further. He had no shot of turning her around. The words he used had no effect, since whatever he offered only meant further separation from Rama. This was a deal she would never accept.

In Closing:

Striking beauty of female to alarm,

Lusty man then to apply the charm.


Constant rejection no issue,

In attempts only to continue.


Eventually might soften the hardened stance,

Thus kind words for success increase the chance.


Ravana despite concerted effort long,

Rebuke of Sita only became more strong.


From side of beloved Rama he took,

Thus Janaka’s daughter never to give a look.