Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Unique Combination

Sita Devi's hand“Sometimes the people are looking at Sita and sometimes at Rama. Having beauty and respected ancestries, the people are praising the unique combination.” (Janaki Mangala, 83)

chinu sītahiṃ chinu rāmahi purajana dekhahiṃ |
rūpa sīla baya bansa biseṣa biseṣahiṃ ||

The tendency to get excited over the prospect of two perfect people meeting together in holy matrimony, to enjoy each other’s company for life, is quite natural. It was even exhibited many thousands of years ago in the kingdom of Janakpur. The people were excited on an occasion where a match was to be determined for the daughter of the king. She could marry anyone, provided they could lift the extremely heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. One youth in particular looked like a perfect match, and so when He was visible at the same time as the princess in question, the eyes kept moving back and forth, like watching a rally in a tennis match.

When you watch tennis on television, the principal camera is situated behind one of the baselines. This provides for an optimal viewing angle, as you get a view similar to one of the players. They see north and south primarily, and they move left and right when they have to, but the opponent is still in front of them. By keeping the main camera behind the baseline, the camera doesn’t have to move much, which means that the sightline for the spectators is easier to maintain.

When attending a live match, however, sometimes the seats are situated on the sides. In fact, due to the nature of the setup of the arenas, the majority of the seats are on the sides. The seats behind the baseline are more expensive precisely because they provide a more comfortable viewpoint. When you’re seated on the sides, during the points you will have to move your head back and forth, left and right, in order to see the ball. As a spectator, you’re not consciously aware of what you’re doing, but to someone else it looks a little strange to keep moving the head back and forth, over and over again, for a few hours in fact. It is the attention which drives the movement. Without an interest in the point, there would be no reason to keep moving the head.

In a similar manner, in Janakpur a long time ago it was the attention garnered by two beautiful personalities that caused a momentary pendulum effect, wherein the heads toggled between looking at Lord Rama and looking at Sita Devi. The people sized up each of their qualities, and everything appeared to be a perfect match. To think of it in modern terms, it’s like comparing two celebrities who have just started dating. The gossip columnists and the readers of the celebrity-focused magazines get excited when two beautiful people start a romantic relationship. “What will their children look like? How long will they stay together? Can they make it last?”

In Janakpur, the attention was similar, and the anticipation was heightened by the fact that Sita’s husband was to be determined in this assembly. So many kings were there, so it was only natural for the spectators to choose favorites. Rama was the overwhelming consensus choice, as His beauty, ancestry and behavior were ideal. His beauty was unmatched. Though He was a fighter, a protector of the brahmana Vishvamitra in fact, His features were still delicate. His beauty defeated the pride of millions of cupids, and His shyama complexion was intoxicating to the eyes.

Sita and RamaHis ancestry was spotless as well. He was a descendant of the famous King Ikshvaku. Men in this line were known for their fighting ability, their deference to dharma, and their courageousness. These factors were well-suited for marriage, as a woman takes protection from her husband. Interestingly enough, Sita’s features were comparable to Rama’s. Her beauty was impeccable, and her family line went through King Janaka, who was famous throughout the world for his piety. She was also very polite just like Rama. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana were there as escorts to Vishvamitra, who as a renounced ascetic required aide in protecting his religious sacrifices from the attacks of miscreant night-rangers in the forest. The two brothers left their home and nobly protected the sage.

!BlRh0h!B2k~$(KGrHqEH-EEEtreV8RbVBLb! DTE9g~~_3Sita was deferent to brahmanas as well. Through such piety one acquires tremendous spiritual merits. This also meant that she was ready to be the ideal wife, to serve her husband without hesitation. A pious husband who can protect and a wife who is faithful create a potent combination that brings one closer to meeting the ultimate aim in life, becoming God conscious. The husband is pious and the wife supports him, which means that both share in the fruit of an existence, devotion to God.

Of course in this instance there was no need to meet life’s aim for the participants, as Sita and Rama are the object of religious practice. Rama is the definition to the abstract conception of God. He is an incarnation of the original Lord, a worshipable figure capable of granting His association to anyone simply through His name. Sita is Rama’s energy, His eternal consort. Therefore just by saying their names, one is in their company. The fortunate attendees of the svayamvara in Janaka’s court got to focus their eyes on those two beautiful forms, basking in the sweetness of the vision. We can create that same unique combination within our minds by always chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

In Closing:

Look this way for vision of Rama to get,

Turn the other way and on Sita eyes set.


Keep swinging forth and back around,

And marvel at how ideal qualities are found.


Character and ancestry line,

For both perfectly align.


Sita and Rama, unique is their combination,

In divine love serve them with determination.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Following Sita

Sita Devi holding flower“Wherever Sita’s beautiful form goes, others follow with their eyes, like blue-lotus arrows flying from Kamadeva’s bow.” (Janaki Mangala, 82)

rūpa rāsi jehi ora subhāyam̐ nihārai |
nīla kamala sara śreni mayana janu ḍārai ||

One of the many names for God provided in the Vedas is Madana-mohana. This has special significance beyond the basic translation. Madana is the god of love, or the equivalent of a cupid. Mohana is an enchanter, so as Madana-mohana God is the enchanter of cupid. The common understanding of this name is that the Supreme Lord enchants cupid, who can enchant others. If one person is so beautiful that they can cast a spell on others, whoever can cast a spell on them is obviously more beautiful. But another name for Madana is Kamadeva, and kama can translate to lust. An enchanter is one who can defeat someone, so the Supreme Lord is thus also a conqueror of lust.

Why is this important to know? Lust is not a good thing. Even in the basic understanding, to lust after something shows a weakness of mind. If, for instance, I am lusting after a slice of pizza, the behavior is not justified. Pizza is just food after all. Sure it tastes great. The combination of cheese, sauce and dough is unique and flavorful. The one slice isn’t enough either, as a few slices really hit the spot. Some like their pizza well done, while others prefer the softer crust, wherein the ingredients are not too hot. In either case, the pizza tastes great to the person lusting after it.

PizzaBut why should I lust after pizza? I need food for survival and no other reason. I could get the same nutrients, in likely a healthier combination, from other dishes. Moreover, the satisfaction from eating the pizza, from giving in to the lusty demands, is short-lived. Pretty soon thereafter I will crave pizza again, and if I can satisfy my itches so easily this way, I will start eating pizza on a regular basis, which was not my original intention.

Lust after food is one thing, but in its more dangerous form lust targets illicit sexual connections. To achieve this connection requires more effort, and the consequences are more harmful as a result. You could end up with an eighteen year responsibility in the form of an unwanted child. You could end up with a relationship with a person of the opposite sex whom you don’t like. You could end up doing something gravely sinful like killing an innocent child within the womb. You could be depleted of money while supporting your habit, and you could start running from partner to partner to satisfy your lust that never seems to go away. Indeed, studies in America have shown that one of the easiest ways to prevent poverty is to graduate from high school and wait until you are married to have children. These are both difficult to do when you are ruled over by lust.

As the enchanter of cupid, God is above the influence of kama, or lust. He also defeats the lust in others, whether they prefer it or not. This is the result of connection with Him, proving that yoga, or the link to the supreme consciousness, is never harmful. It is worthwhile in every case, as even with an improper attitude in the neophyte stage the divine influence itself will purify you of things that are bad for you. Case in point the lusty kings in Janakpur many thousands of years ago. They were not interested in yoga, but due to the divine vision consisting of both the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort, their lust led them towards purity.

The scene was a contest. Princes and rulers from around the world gathered in Janakpur to try to lift an extremely heavy bow originally belonging to Lord Shiva. The winner of the contest would win the hand of Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka, who was the host of this contest. Madana-mohana was there in His incarnation of Lord Rama, the prince of the Raghu dynasty. He appeared so beautiful that others could tell that He could defeat the pride of millions of cupids. The pious wanted Him to lift the bow and win the contest, while the impious were jealous of His beauty and the attention others gave to Him.

Sita and RamaThen came Sita. Janaka called for her, and she walked through the assembly. The lusty kings kept staring at her. Wherever she went, their eyes followed. Goswami Tulsidas likens the situation to Kamadeva constantly shooting his blue-lotus arrows. Their lust was targeted at her, and yet they had to keep shooting because Sita was not affected by their attraction. She is eternally Rama’s. She is the pleasure potency of the Supreme Lord, and so she can never be with any other man. She is never swayed by lust, and she is so beautiful that she enchants even Madana-mohana.

The lust of the kings would lead to purification because their eyes would next focus on the lifting and breaking of the bow by Rama. Because of their lust for the most beautiful woman in the world, they were led to the vision of one of the most famous incidents in history. Though their intentions were not pure to start, they received a wonderful benediction, one rarely achieved. Their arrows of lust had no effect on Sita and Rama, and in this way know that through the divine consciousness, through focusing on the Supreme Lord, all negative attributes we possess will lose their strength, sort of like a serpent losing its fangs.

The senses remain, but in real yoga they are used for continuous glorification of the wonderful couple, Sita and Rama. If in enmity the rival kings in Janakpur got the benediction of seeing Sita and Rama wed, imagine what reward awaits the yogi in devotion, who harbors love and affection for the Supreme Lord instead of envy. Through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, practice the yoga of devotion and defeat the dreaded enemy known as lust.

In Closing:

At Janaka’s daughter lusty kings take their aim,

With arrows shot hope her hand to gain.


But these glances on her have no effect,

Devoted to Rama, off her these arrows deflect.


Their lust towards divine vision she draws,

Rama’s lifting of bow they then saw.


If such reward given to those with enmity,

Imagine the gain for those free of hostility.


As Madana-mohana God holds sway over lust,

Same power to those who bhakti-yoga trust.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Foolish Viewpoint

Sita Devi's hand“With auspicious jewelry and beautiful clothes on the body she is looking beautiful. Looking at her, the foolish kings are illusioned by the illusion.” (Janaki Mangala, 81)

mangala bhūṣana basana manju tana sohahīṃ |
dekhi mūḍha mahipāla moha basa mohahiṃ ||

To believe that the nature around you exists solely for your personal enjoyment is the root cause of the initial descent and subsequent stay in the material world. The elements of nature, including those possessed by the temporary body, give off an illusion. For instance, we look in the mirror and think that the vision identifies us, but in reality the vision is constantly changing. We don’t notice the change until a longer period of time has elapsed, but the shifts are subtly going on regardless. The embodiment of that illusion in its most mature state is described to us in the verse quoted above, which references a famous incident.

Bhagavad-gita, 14.4“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.4)

The material elements come from somewhere. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is explained that the Supreme Absolute Truth, the original personality, impregnated the material energy to populate the creation with creatures. The same distinction is visible at the local level within each individual. For instance, in my body there is an owner and a field. The local field is the body and the external field the material elements. The soul, myself, is the owner. It was the injection of the soul that led to the development of the body, not the other way around. There is no possible way to gather a collection of material elements, mix them together, and then get them to grow without outside intervention. The initial seed of existence must be present, and that seed is the purusha, or spirit. The matter that develops because of the presence of the purusha is known as prakriti.

In the larger view, the injector of the spiritual force is the father and the nature it enters the mother. But even before that there is a larger abstraction. There is the original Lord Himself and His accompanying energy. The energy belongs to Him; it is meant for His enjoyment. The energy has some independence, however, so there is a choice in behavior. The purified form of that energy is known as the hladini-shakti, or pleasure potency. Every living entity is part of God’s energy, but not all choose to please God. The wayward spirit souls, who want to enjoy other aspects of the energy for themselves, are granted residence in a temporary land governed by illusion.

The illusion was on full display in Janaka’s kingdom many thousands of years ago. The Supreme Lord had descended to earth as the warrior prince Rama, and His pleasure potency as Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka. At the svayamvara in Janaka’s kingdom, many princes had assembled, wanting to marry the king’s precious daughter. It was a contest; whoever could lift the bow first would win.

Towards the latter stages, when the contest was about to be decided, Janaka called to have Sita enter the assembly. She was wearing auspicious ornaments and a beautiful dress on her body. The pious people received the fruit of their eyes when they saw her. This is because they saw her properly, as someone meant to serve and please Shri Rama, the youthful son of King Dasharatha who was an attendee and a potential participant in the contest.

The foolish kings, however, were struck by illusion. They are described here by Goswami Tulsidas as mudhas, or fools. They saw Sita as a vehicle for enjoyment, someone they would get to keep. This illusion is the same as looking at the material energy as being solely for one’s enjoyment. The eyes are given to us for a reason. In the verse previous to this one in the Janaki Mangala, it is said that the kings received the fruit of their eyes when they saw Sita; meaning that their eyes were used properly. These were obviously the saintly kings. The collection of material elements that formed their eyes was provided to them for the purpose of viewing God and His closest associates in the proper mood.

Sita and RamaWhen the eyes are used for other purposes, such as for personal enjoyment alone, the fruit of the eyes is not tasted. Only in illusion would we take something for what it is not, and hence the material nature is often referred to as maya. But maya is God’s maidservant, so the illusion exists intentionally. On this occasion, the foolish kings gave a wonderful example of how not to view God and His eternal consort. Sita was always meant for Rama, and the pious people in Janakpur hoped for their reunion.

That would eventually take place through Rama’s lifting of the bow, but later on another foolish king would succumb to illusion. He would try to take Sita for himself, though he was already married to so many beautiful queens. It is said in the Kurma Purana that the version of Sita taken by the evil king Ravana was an illusory version. The effect was similar for the assembled princes in Janakpur, who didn’t really see Sita as she is. The real Sita is always with Rama, and she can never be touched by the miscreants.

To receive the fruit of the eyes, and all the body parts for that matter, engage in devotional service, which begins and ends with reliance on the holy names, such as those found in the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. For the foolish kings their hopes created through illusion would break simultaneously with the bow of Shiva in Rama’s hands, marking the triumph of God and His devotees.

In Closing:

Auspicious jewelry on her body Sita brought,

But in illusion foolish kings were caught.


Didn’t see her in the right way,

Thought that with them she’d stay.


Same illusion with material nature made,

With ignorance into further despair we fade.


Despite what our senses make us feel,

Know that spirit is our identity real.


As energy of God, Him we’re meant to please,

Like Sita, who waited for Rama the bow to seize.


Fruit of the eyes from her auspicious vision,

Not given to fools dominated by illusion.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Storehouse of Beauty

Sita holding flower“Then Janaka came and asked the family guru to bring Sita. As she is a storehouse of beauty, the people received the fruit of their eyes.” (Janaki Mangala, 10.2)

Shri Ramachandra’s wife is the most beautiful. As they say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, the eyes that gaze upon her lovely form make an instant decision. The beauty is so striking that the observer realizes that they have just then received the fruit of their eyes. Previously, the eyes were used to look at this thing and that, but nothing was so beautiful that it gave meaning to having eyes, making one thankful for them. This beauty in Sita is used to please her beloved, who is the Supreme Lord. Thus she is the best devotee, practicing devotion in the proper way.

Is there a wrong way to practice devotion?

Sure there is, though in those cases the word “devotion” may not be entirely appropriate. Let’s say that I am devoted to my diet, which came to me from a fitness guru. I liked what they said initially, so I decided to listen to them. Whatever the diet, they all work. The health benefits may not be equal, but in any case one who follows a diet, wherein they limit their intake of food, will see the desired benefit of a shedding of weight, provided they are faithful.

This faithfulness is a kind of devotion, but what is the intention? What if the diet didn’t work? Would I still follow it? Would I still give attention to the fitness guru who came up with it? Obviously my attention would go elsewhere, to someone with a valid message. Thus the original devotion wasn’t really devotion; it was more of a bargain, an agreement. “I’ll scratch your back and you’ll scratch mine.” There is nothing inherently evil with this arrangement, as the fitness guru has the same purpose. “You give me money and attention and I’ll give you something in return.”

Real devotion, which is known by terms such as bhakti and prema in Sanskrit, is not dependent on the object of attention’s reciprocation. Then the obvious question is, “Why be devoted? If the corresponding party is not obliged to offer you anything in return, why waste your time?” These are indeed relevant issues, and they are kindly resolved by the qualities found in the corresponding object. Since only one person is capable of reciprocating properly through their qualities, of giving a benefit regardless of what the servicing party is expecting, bhakti can only be offered to them.

Not surprisingly, that person is God. Devotion to Him is never a waste. If we take the same diet example, if we should choose to only eat prasadam, or food first offered to God, as our diet, we may not lose weight. We may not get the specific health benefits that we want, but nevertheless there is still a benefit to us. How is this? The fruit of an existence is devotion to God. No matter what route is taken to reach that fruit, the taste at the end is so sweet that the past miseries are forgotten.

“The many past births you spoiled can be rectified right now, today, if you start chanting Shri Rama’s holy name and renounce bad association, says Tulsi.” (Dohavali, 22)

In his Dohavali, Goswami Tulsidas notes that the mistakes of so many past lives can be rectified immediately through devotion to Rama, or God. The fact that we took birth from a womb indicates past mistakes. The original sin for every person is the desire to challenge God, to compete with Him for supremacy and enjoyment. We may not remember having made this choice, but through our present efforts the original sin is validated. The competitive race in karma, or fruitive activity, indicates a desire to reach a state of full material satisfaction, where it is believed that enjoyment will be available without a problem. But in fact just the opposite happens. With no worries over money, there is nothing to do. With no job, left to sit around at home all day, there is a deep void to fill. One needs some way to find enjoyment, though previously they worked so hard to secure it.

In bhakti, the desire is to please God rather than compete with Him. This puts a stop to the cycle of birth and death, and it means that the past mistakes get erased. If I eventually reach the treasure, I may not dwell so much on the many hours of searching from the past. In the same manner, whether it takes me one or many lifetimes, indulgence in all the different yogas or excessive drinking and material sense gratification, if I reach devotional service and practice it in earnest, I will taste the sweet fruit of my existence.

Sita and RamaIn Janakpur a long time ago, the people assembled on a particular day got the fruit of their eyes a few times. First, they saw Rama and Lakshmana, two sons of King Dasharatha. Rama is the Supreme Lord in a personal form and Lakshmana is His younger brother, almost God Himself. The boys were in Janakpur following their guru Vishvamitra. The occasion was a svayamvara, a self-choice ceremony to determine the husband for the daughter of King Janaka.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Janaka is asking his guru to call Sita, the princess whose hand will be given away. She would choose her husband based on a contest. Whoever would lift Lord Shiva’s heavy bow first would win. When Sita arrived in the assembly, the princes got to see who they would be marrying. This added to the suspense, as the people of the town wanted Rama to win. The assembled kings this time got the fruit of their eyes when they saw Sita. They may not have felt the same way when they saw Rama, as He was their competitor. Many kings surely did notice the divine presence in Him, but the envious rivals only thought about how their chances had diminished. Some of them worried that Janaka would hand Sita over to Rama without even bothering with the contest.

Sita’s beauty is used for Rama’s pleasure, and so she is the best devotee. We too have various gifts given to us by God, talents and abilities that can be used for His pleasure. In that devotion there is no need to expect reciprocation, as just being able to practice bhakti is reward enough. Fortunate we are to have ears to hear about that wonderful incident in Janaka’s kingdom, which saw the union in matrimony of Sita and Rama. More fortunate it is to have the works of Goswami Tulsidas to recreate that scene over and over again.

In Closing:

Devotion is the best you say,

Can I practice it the wrong way?


Think of the fitness guru that you choose,

To help you in excess weight to lose.


If their plans fail you know,

Why to them will you go?


In bhakti for reciprocation no need,

Chance to glorify God happiness to feed.


In Janakpur princes got fruit of their eyes two,

When seeing Sita after called by family guru.


Her beauty for the Supreme Lord, her soul mate,

Thanks to Tulsidas wonderful scene can recreate.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Shiva’s Bow

IMG_0164“Emptying and filling the pitcher, looking again and again at the bow and Rama they are thinking. The men and women are both happy and sad, and so with all their hearts they are praying to Lord Shiva.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 10.1)

“This is Lord Shiva’s bow after all. He originally gave it to the family ruling over Janakpur, and it has since made its way down the succession of kings, now in King Janaka’s possession. Such a pious ruler is worthy of such a wonderful bow belonging to a divine figure of a sterling character. Lord Shiva can make anything happen, as it is said that at the end of the creation he will ignite the fire to destroy everything. In Vedic literature references are often made to this fire of devastation as a way to describe a fiery onslaught of gigantic proportion. Now it is Shiva’s bow to determine the husband for Janaka’s beautiful daughter Sita. He must save us today, for our worry is too much.

“Why are we worrying, you ask? This beautiful youth from Ayodhya has captured our hearts. This contest is a test of strength, so naturally many princes from around the world have arrived. They brought their friends, family and priests with them. They wanted their close ones to be with them should they win the contest and marry Sita. Who could blame them for their presumptiveness? A king these days is determined by their strength in fighting more so than their ancestral link. If the king can’t protect his citizens from foreign attack, he isn’t much of a ruler. If he can’t weed out the evil elements of society and bring them to justice, he isn’t much of a protector.

“These are the best kings in the world, and they surely think that they can lift the bow. But thus far not one of them has been able to move the bow an inch. This must be Shiva’s doing, as no one but he can understand the reason for its immense weight. It is like a giant mountain made of iron, and this youth from Ayodhya is like a delicate swan. He is so beautiful, and His innocence is further enhanced by the bow and arrow set that He dutifully carries. His equally as beautiful younger brother Lakshmana is with Him, and so we are hoping that both brothers will soon be united with Janaka’s family.

“Normally, we wouldn’t think there was any hope. We’ve never heard of a swan lifting a mountain. On the contrary, the swan would be greatly overpowered by the mountain, so much so that it wouldn’t survive the clash. Thus even by Rama attempting to lift this bow there is the chance of harm. Yet there is one thing that gives us hope. Rama and His brother are accompanied by Vishvamitra Muni. This venerable rishi, the son of Gadhi, is their spiritual master at this time, and though he has taught them much, he has also relied upon them for protection.

Rama and Lakshmana slaying Tataka“We have heard that Rama, with the help of Lakshmana, killed the wicked demon Subahu. He has also protected the sacrifice of the sage from the fiend Maricha, who as a Rakshasa is known for his affinity for disrupting sacrifices. Rama also killed the female Rakshasa Tataka who had been harassing the sages in the forest. This means that He possesses strength as well. This contest is also a kind of sacrifice, as it is to determine the religiously wedded husband for Janaki, our beloved princess. Rama must also protect this sacrifice and thereby ensure that Janaki receives the proper husband.

“As Rama is so beautiful, we can’t help but stare at Him. One second we are confident that He will win, but then the next we look at the bow and fall back into despair. Our hopes fill into a kalasha, which then empties as soon as we look at the bow. We didn’t have this worry before Rama arrived. We were actually eager to watch the contest, to see who could win. But now we have a vested interest. Rama must win. It cannot be any other way. But what if He loses? Then the perfect match will be foiled. Some will say that it is Janaka’s fault for making the contest, while others will blame the creator for having made such a pitiable situation.

“At this time what else can we do but pray to Lord Shiva. He is a devotee of Shri Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This means that whatever Shiva asks for he will get. Others are known to worship Shiva as well, and since he is easily pleased he is known as Ashutosha. We’re not asking for material opulence. We don’t want to rule the world through some power to be used for evil. We don’t ask for a long life or the elimination of distress. We simply pray for the bow to be made as light as a feather when Rama tries to lift it. He is the proper husband for Sita, and without Shiva’s help we don’t think the match can materialize.

“If Mahadeva grants us this wish, we will sing of the glorious occasion in all felicity. We think that the occasion will be so famous that sages, housewives and kings alike will fondly remember it going forward. Fruitive workers, mental speculators, yogis and devotees will all look back to this day and immediately get a smile on their face. As the bow will be a key instrument in the making of the marriage of Sita and Rama, Lord Shiva will be honored as well. Therefore it is in his interest to help us on this day, one we hope to never forget.”

In Closing:

A small leaf at his deity’s feet drop,

And soon material opulence you have got.


As Ashutosha easily he gives what is desired,

Destroys the creation at end with universal fire.


His life spent in divine contemplation,

Chanting Rama’s name is his meditation.


That same Rama towards his bow came near,

In watchers drew both excitement and fear.


Unable to bear internal tug of war fight,

They prayed to Shiva to make the bow light.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Filling and Spilling

Lord Rama's lotus hand“The king, queen and people of the city are staring at Rama’s beautiful body, with their hopes like a pitcher constantly filled and emptied.” (Janaki Mangala, 80)

To stare at a picture with rapt attention is not to stop your thoughts altogether. Rather, the thoughts flood into the mind anew, like rushing waves to constantly replenish that which has just departed. The more beautiful the picture, the more thoughts will come to the mind. There is the amazement, the awe in seeing something out of this world. Then there are the questions relating to the origin, such as wherefrom the image came. Then there is the fear, that at one time such an image might cease to please the eyes or that it will vanish from the scene. In a famous incident in the city of Janakpur a long time ago, such thoughts rushed to the minds of the people looking upon a handsome youth. Since He was the Supreme Lord Himself, the constant toggling between fear and safety did not hurt them.

What do we mean by this? To have a material existence means to lament and hanker. One day I want this, and the next day I’m lamenting that I don’t have something else. I win today and lose tomorrow. This all stems from taking birth and then dying later on. That is the definition of material, after all, to have an existence tied to matter, which is mutable, transient, and ultimately not the source of identity.

Bhagavad-gita, 18.54“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)

In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that the Brahman realized soul does not hanker or lament. To realize Brahman means to know the spiritual nature, to understand that the individual is a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. If I know that I am not my shirt, why will I worry so much over what happens to it? If I tear my favorite shirt, I can just get a new one. Moreover, I usually don’t wear the same shirt every day, so perhaps the loss of a single shirt will only affect me for one day out of each week. Nevertheless, I can easily get another one. Along similar lines, the decay and ultimate loss of the body is not that important, as a new one will be provided. We already know that this is true in our present dealings based on the shedding of skin. We are constantly losing skin cells, though we can’t see it. If we get a cut on the skin, eventually the wound will heal. Thus there must be constant regeneration of the cells.

At the time of death, the entire skin covering is left behind, and a new one is accepted somewhere else. Although we can’t see this it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. We couldn’t see the spirit soul injected into the womb, but we know it happened based on the end result. In the same way, we can understand reincarnation, believing more in its validity through accepting the authorized instruction of Lord Krishna and those who follow devotion to Him. Krishna is a personality, but it is also a word which describes God, the same divine figure worshiped in all faiths.

In the brahma-bhuta state, hankering and lamenting cease from the point of view of its effect on the state of mind. Think of it like getting pricked by a pin but not having it take you off your game. You might hear the annoying car alarm outside, but if you stay concentrated on what you’re doing, it’s as if the alarm isn’t even blaring. Through realization of Brahman, you can stay immune to the swinging pendulum of hankering and lamenting. From there you can take up devotional service to God, which is the soul’s constitutional engagement.

But these facts seem to contradict what occurred in Janakpur a long time ago. Rama is the same Krishna, a personal incarnation of the Supreme Lord who descended to earth to delight His devotees. On one occasion, He appeared in the capital city of the kingdom of Videha to take part in a contest to determine the marriage for Sita Devi, the king’s daughter. Whoever could first lift Lord Shiva’s heavy bow would win the contest. The people of the town were taken by Rama when they first saw Him. He was in a youthful figure, so His features were delicate and beautiful. This flooded the mind with thoughts of amazement, keeping the eyes attracted to the enchanting vision.

Lord RamaThat meditation eventually led to fear. “What if Rama doesn’t win the contest? How is He going to lift this bow? He is like a delicate swan and this bow like a mountain. They don’t mix well together. If He doesn’t win, then He won’t marry Sita, and we will all be devastated.” When these thoughts would arrive, they would vanish soon after, replaced by loving attraction to Rama. “This boy is not of this world. He must have been sent by the creator himself for our benefit. If He is here, then He must also win the contest. There is no doubt.”

Then thoughts would later return to fear. This constant swinging between hope and despair is likened to a pitcher that is constantly filled and then emptied. This captive audience consisted of devotees, which meant that they were already Brahman realized.

If so, why were they lamenting? Also, why were they hankering for Rama to win? Isn’t marriage a temporary thing, an aspect of the material existence?

Actually, offering rapt attention to God is the pinnacle achievement in a human birth. The sentiments of the people were pure, as the mood was one of support. The people wanted Rama to win because they loved Him. Fear also brings a kind of thrill, as we know patrons flock to the amusement parks with rollercoasters for this very reason. Horror movies are also popular because of the thrills they provide. With the thrills created by Rama, the outcome is always beneficial, as the attachment to Him only increases. On this occasion, hankering and lamenting were on the spiritual platform, ensuring that the mind’s racing would not bring negative consequences. In fact, the event was so wonderful to behold that it is still talked about to this day. The devotees sing of that glorious occasion, and through their retelling the sincere listeners get a glimpse of the thrill of anticipation felt by the fortunate witnesses that day.

In Closing:

With nectar a pitcher constantly filled,

And then with fear everything spilled.


By Rama’s vision the residents amazed,

But then worry as the more at Him they gazed.


A boy of such beauty and delicate charm,

Will not Shiva’s massive bow to Him cause harm?


To normal hankering and lamenting was not the same,

To worry over Supreme Lord part of reaching highest aim.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Protector of Sacrifice

Shri Rama's lotus hand“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)

A justifiable fear for a person starting out in devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, is that through surrendering, or sharanagati, other aspects of life will go unattended. To worship without attachment for material gain is the highest form of sacrifice, and to sacrifice something means to give it up, all for a purpose. Therefore if one is to give up something, are they not going to lose it? What if they don’t want to lose it? More importantly, what if the sacrifice isn’t successful? What if it gets destroyed at the last moment, leaving the worshiper with nothing? The incident of the slaying of the demon Subahu shows how the Supreme Lord is not only the enjoyer of sacrifice, but also its protector.

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

In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that at the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures instituted the process of sacrifice and said to man to be happy through its implementation. “All good things will come to you if you sacrifice,” which implies that the opposite behavior leads to all bad things. This should make sense. If you are completely selfish all the time, after a while people aren’t going to be so nice to you. You have to compromise a little in order to get along with others.

In the higher scheme, the elements we receive for our personal use were not created by us, so to completely ignore the power of the higher authorities is not very wise. We use the sun’s light and heat, but to say that we created them is silly. It is even sillier to say that a few chemicals just collided to make the sun, for if that were the case then why not repeat the same process today? Just create a tiny sun, one that stays in your closet. It doesn’t have to heat that large of an area, just the few feet inside of your room. Ah, but this is impossible to create, as every source of light and heat that we generate requires some sort of energy. That source will never burn in perpetuity without requiring some outside help. Yet the sun has been autonomous since the beginning of time and it will continue to burn well into the foreseeable future.

Sacrifice helps to curb the ego, which falsely tells us that we are everything and that everything is in our control. The exact implementation of sacrifice varies based on time and circumstance. In some traditions, the sacrifice is to give up eating meat for a certain period of time. In others it is to stay awake for a certain number of hours on a specific day. In the Treta Yuga, the sacrifices of the sages required completion in order to deliver the desired benefit. These sages took refuge in the forest because there were less distractions there. No one to bother them, and so hopefully nothing to interrupt their concentration once they initiated themselves for the yajna.

But there was a problem during a particular period of time. Night-rangers, creatures who could also change their shapes at will, would pounce on these sacrifices just as they were about to finish. This meant that all the effort went to waste. Who would do such a thing on purpose? What harm were the sages causing? Ah, but to one who thinks that there is no God, that man is meant to enjoy fully on this earth without consequence, the resources are finite. Therefore it’s every person for himself, sort of like in The Hunger Games book but to the largest scale. These sages were pious and renounced, and therefore they didn’t possess much. Through their sacrifices, however, the celestials, the demigods in charge of distributing life’s essentials, were fed. The demigods were the enemies of the night-rangers, so the best way for the enemies to attack would be to go after the source, i.e. disrupt the sacrifices.

Vishvamitra was a different kind of sage. He would perform these sacrifices in the forest, but his primary aim was devotion to God. Thus it was not surprising that the Supreme Lord would arrive on the scene to personally protect his yajnas. In His incarnation as Lord Ramachandra, God once protected Vishvamitra’s yajna as two notorious night-rangers prepared to attack at the last minute. Maricha and Subahu and their associates appeared just when the sacrifice was about to finish. They started raining down blood on the scene. Rama, though a youth at the time, prepared His bow and arrow for combat. His younger brother Lakshmana was with Him, and as if to predict what He was going to do, Rama explained His tactics to Lakshmana prior to enacting them.

Rama_PortraitMaricha was struck with an arrow from Rama that thrust him hundreds of miles away into the ocean. Subahu was then slain by Rama’s arrows, as were the other night-rangers who attacked. In this way Vishvamitra’s confidence in Rama was affirmed, as it was his idea to go to Ayodhya and ask the king for Rama’s protection. This incident also proved that the devotees need not worry over losing out on other things when there is full dedication to sacrifice. If there is a desire for a personal reward, the yajna may not always complete successfully. This is the way of karma, as so many past results go into influencing future outcomes. The desire for personal enjoyment makes the sacrifice impure to a degree as well, and with impurity there is the chance of failure.

In pure bhakti, the only desire is to be able to continue to serve God. That service can take place in practically any situation, and the Supreme Lord makes sure that the tools and conditions necessary for that worship are provided to the devotee. In this present age of Kali, which is marked by quarrel and hypocrisy, the prescribed sacrifice is the sankirtana-yajna, or the chanting of the holy names. Anyone can chant, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, as a sacrifice to God and be assured of all good things. Shri Rama is always standing by with His bow upraised to protect the devotee from foreign attack.

In Closing:

If devotional service I take up with care,

That other obligations missed I’m scared.


And what if after taking my seat,

The sacrifice doesn’t complete?


Will it all be in vain?

What will have been my gain?


Look at when muni’s sacrifice Shri Rama did guard,

Hurled attacking Maricha away many hundred a yard.


By Rama’s presence fears went away,

In this age with confidence holy names say.