Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Make of Me What You Will

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill“Revealed knowledge may in the beginning be unbelievable because of our paradoxical desire to verify everything with our tiny brains, but the speculative means of attaining knowledge is always imperfect. The perfect knowledge propounded in the revealed scriptures is confirmed by the great acharyas, who have left ample commentations upon them; none of these acharyas has disbelieved in the shastras.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 5.14 Purport)


When you worship a personal God, there are identifiable attributes that are subject to question, review, and critical analysis. The same is not true when there is no form ascribed to the Supreme Absolute Truth. When we study those features, as they are delineated in the purportedly authorized sacred texts, we may have trouble believing that they can exist in someone. The unbelievable is easily made believable, however, when we study the attributes of the people who are devoted to such a God.

“O Lakshmana, do you rule this earth with Me. You are like My second self, so this glorious opportunity has been presented to you as well. O Saumitra, do you enjoy all the pleasures you desire and the fruits of the regal life. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, 4.43-44)

Rama and Lakshmana“Okay, so I’ve heard that Lord Rama was the ideal man. He was respectful to His parents throughout His life. He took care of His three younger brothers, and all three of His mothers loved Him so much. The birth mother, Kausalya, was particularly fond of Him, but this didn’t mean that Rama treated Kaikeyi or Sumitra, His father’s other queens, any differently. When Rama was older, He was magnanimous when the throne was to be passed down to Him, declaring that the honor had been presented to Lakshmana as well.

“Afterwards, the same throne was snatched away from Him at the last moment by a suddenly envious Kaikeyi. Rama took it all in stride, though. He accepted the punishment of exile without batting an eye. He even asked His wife Sita to stay home, where she would be safe. He asked Lakshmana to stay at home to take care of their father. He thus did the right thing, though neither Sita nor Lakshmana would listen to Him.

“While in exile, His wife Sita was kidnapped, and to find her He aligned with monkeys who called the wild jungle their home. He was so honored by their bravery and dedication in service to Him that He took the principal monkeys and their wives back home with Him when the exile period expired. Rama also accepted Vibhishana into His camp. Vibhishana was the brother of the fiend who kidnapped Sita. Rama easily could have told him to get lost, but such is not the nature of the Lord. He accepts anyone who surrenders to Him in earnest.

“It is My vow that if one only once seriously surrenders unto Me, saying, ‘My dear Lord, from this day I am Yours,’ and prays to Me for courage, I shall immediately award courage to that person, and he will always remain safe from that time on.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 18.33)

“After Ravana was defeated and killed in a fair fight, Rama’s enmity with him ended. He told Vibhishana to perform the funeral rites without hesitation. Rama also reserved a special place in His heart for Hanuman, the chief of the monkeys who helped Him find Sita. Many years later, after a citizen in His kingdom complained, Rama abandoned His faultless wife. As a king He did this to remove all hints of suspicion, even though Sita had done nothing wrong. In every way Rama was pious. He set the best example anyone could.

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill“We hear similar good things about the same Rama in His original form of Krishna. He lifted the mighty Govardhana Hill while in the body of a young child. He did this to protect the innocent residents of Vrajabhumi from a torrential rainstorm. He defeated wicked creature after wicked creature who came to Vrindavana to try to kill Him. Later on, He delivered the famous Bhagavad-gita on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to a troubled Arjuna, His cousin.

“We hear that Krishna is the best of everything, the source of all that is material and spiritual. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which means that all forms of the divine emanate from Him. He never falls down, so He is known as Achyuta. He is the husband of the goddess of fortune, so He is known as Madhava. Since He possesses the opulences of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, renunciation, and wisdom to the fullest degree and simultaneously, He is known as Bhagavan. The uncontaminated spiritual energy that is the sum collection of the individual living entities is known as Brahman, and Krishna is Parabrahman, or the superior spiritual energy.

“Hearing all of this, doesn’t it seem a little too good to be true? Wouldn’t the sober mind question some of these descriptions? How can one person be so great? Isn’t it more plausible that personalities from the past put into God whatever they wanted. They liked chivalry and bravery, so they made God a heroic bow warrior named Rama. They liked beauty, so they made God Shri Krishna. They liked high philosophy and wisdom, so they made Krishna the author of the Bhagavad-gita, which automatically incorporates Vedanta philosophy, which is known as the summit of knowledge.

“Being unhappy with their existence in this world, they created a parallel universe where everything looks the same but has a different nature. In that realm Shri Krishna lives, and everyone is eternally happy. The residents engage in His service in a variety of ways, and they never lose their transcendental bodies. Doesn’t this seem a little far out? People write fictional tales all the time, so who is to say that the Vedic seers of the past didn’t just make up all of this stuff as a way of coping with the harsh realities of birth, old age, disease and death?”

These are certainly understandable points of curiosity. People do make things up all the time, and that is a reason to be skeptical of claims others make relating to the afterlife and how one should live their life today. With science, we have observation and experiment, and in a bona fide religion you can have the same thing. Religion should be scientifically based, wherein you can test some of the hypotheses and see for yourself if they are valid.

If we take this approach with the teachings of the Vedas, many claims are validated fairly quickly. For instance, the claim that the spirit soul is not the body is easily confirmed by looking back on our own life. We are different in size today than we were when we first emerged from the womb, and yet our identity has not changed. The complete exterior covering is different, but we don’t go by a different name now. We don’t identify as someone else just because some time has passed. In this way we can see that the concept of reincarnation, which is the fancier term for describing the changing of bodies, has merits.

The Vedic assertion is that the individual spirit souls fell to this temporary and miserable world when they desired to be God. As long as that desire remains, reincarnation continues. Once the desire ceases, residence in the original, constitutional realm is granted. The more one studies human behavior, the more their eyes open to this reality that the Vedas gave us so long ago. Think of how many people you know who talk about God, think about Him, or desire to serve Him. Think of how many people would be willing to attend a gathering with you where the aim is only to love God. There is no other purpose to this hypothetical event. There is no promise of money, a beautiful spouse, a big house, or residence in a heavenly realm in the afterlife. Those things may or may not come, but the real purpose is to simply have fun in singing the glories of the Lord, whose aforementioned attributes are limitless in their brilliance. As you can obviously get more people to go to the movies with you than you can to attend this gathering, you can deduce that the desire to compete with God is very strong in the material world.

Shri HanumanYou can continue conducting experiments like these for the rest of your life and keep on increasing your faith in the words of the oldest scriptures in existence, but a much easier way to tell that Krishna is real is to study His devotees. Perhaps you don’t believe that Rama existed or that He is divine, but you can still look to Hanuman. He is Rama’s greatest servant. It is said that he has mastery over all mystic perfections. This means that he can pretty much do anything any expert yogi can do. The difference with him is that he only uses his abilities to please Rama. It’s like having a bank account reserved only for emergencies. The account can have millions of dollars in it, but you don’t care since it is only to be used when absolutely necessary. Hanuman has this fund in his mystic abilities, and he has no desire to use it for any other reason except serving Rama. Hanuman is unlike any other person who has ever walked this earth. He is unbelievable in himself, and from his existence we can confirm that Rama is real and that He is the Supreme Lord.

Hanuman is a divine figure in the body of a monkey-like human, so perhaps you’ll be tempted to discount him as a mythological character also. Not to worry, though, as we can look to Hanuman’s devotees to see the same amazing feature set. In recent times, Goswami Tulsidas was one of the more famous devotees of Hanuman. His song in praise of Hanuman is uttered daily by millions. While the motives of the reciters may not be completely pure, the purpose of the song, which is known as the Hanuman Chalisa, is not ambiguous. What better way to ensure that Hanuman gets honored by as many people as possible than to write a Sanskrit poem about him that can be sung? Tulsidas had nothing in his life starting from childhood. All he had was devotion to Rama, and through Hanuman that devotion was strengthened. Therefore, ever the grateful and respectful soul, Tulsidas made sure to properly honor Shri Hanuman with his God-given poetic ability.

Shrila PrabhupadaTulsidas was on this planet during the medieval period in India, so perhaps you want to discount the many legends associated with his life. Not to fear, though, for we can also rely on the example of Vaishnavas of more recent times. A Vaishnava is a devotee of Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, or any other non-different personal form of Godhead. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada made Krishna famous throughout the world. Prior to that Krishna was known primarily just in India, but following in the line of instruction started by Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krishna Himself in the external guise of a spiritual master, Shrila Prabhupada introduced Krishna to people around the world, making countless devotees in the process. In a short amount of time, starting very late in life, Prabhupada authored books, delivered lectures, and opened temples at such an alarming rate that nobody would believe it. Yet we have the documented evidence that attests to his accomplishments.

We don’t even need to rely on the example of a famous Vaishnava to see an unbelievable set of qualities in an individual. Meet any genuine devotee of the Lord and you will find someone who is kind, humble, generous, perseverant, intelligent, non-envious, dedicated, and, most of all, firmly devoted to serving God. The presence of the devotees confirms that God is real and that His association can be enjoyed within this lifetime. As the devotees serve as evidence in this regard, they are just as worshipable as the Supreme Lord. Krishna is worshiped with Radha, Rama with Sita, and Lakshmi with Narayana. Hanuman is worshiped as well, and so are countless other devoted souls who possess every virtuous quality imaginable.

In Closing:

“Supreme Lord possesses so many qualities good,

That He is the best of everything understood.

 

But doesn’t all seem too good to be true,

Perhaps we created Him, me and you?

 

This good quality and that we take,

And ideal person thus we make.”

 

If you want real proof the devotees see,

And know that of vice and envy one can be free.

 

Like Hanuman who can accomplish the amazing,

The devotional path for others trailblazing.

 

Prabhupada who so many books authored,

By such daunting tasks not troubled.

 

Evidence from visual experiment receive,

And in truth of the Vedas firmly believe.

www.krishnasmercy.org