Saturday, January 19, 2013

Krishna Is the Best

Radha Krishna“The Supreme Personality of Godhead is always inclined toward His pure devotees, and by His action it is clear that liberation is not very important for the devotees. Lord Krishna easily gives one liberation, but He does not so easily give one the facility to become a devotee.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.6.18 Purport)

“I love this restaurant. Why? Because it makes the best pizza in the world. The taste is unlike any other I’ve experienced. Every time I eat the pizza, I wonder what I have done to deserve such good fortune. It is not a stretch to say that I love this establishment and the food they make. But oh, if they ever stop making good pizza, I won’t come here anymore. If they change chefs, if they start serving other kinds of food, or for whatever reason the food no longer tastes the same, I will have to take my business, err I mean love, elsewhere.”

In this case the affection offered is with conditions, and it is also fleeting. It’s a drive-by kind of exchange, where I offer something, get what I want, and then move on. This hypothetical scenario deals with a restaurant, which is an inanimate object, but generally our conception of love refers to interactions with other human beings. Nevertheless, the drive-by concept still applies. If it didn’t, there would be no such thing as divorce. Musicians would have nothing to write about, as broken relationships wouldn’t exist. Every person would get together with the person they love and remain in their company until the end of life.

We feel the need to say that we love someone or something because that open profession gives special meaning to the relationship. For the other party, it is also an indication of exclusivity. How I treat you in comparison to how I treat others gives you an indication of how I feel about you. If I spend more time with you than with others, I obviously value your association more. I may not even be aware of this fact, perhaps on a subconscious level I am attached to your company, but nevertheless the special treatment indicates a noteworthy sentiment.

When I tell someone that I love them, they should know that I consider them to be very special. They are not ordinary to me. I don’t just go around saying “I love you” to anyone. Oh, but if I take my affection elsewhere later on, if I only utter the words in order to receive an immediate benefit, then the emotion isn’t really sincere. In fact, the statement is fraudulent; it shows that I am a deceiver.

Isn’t that a rather harsh indictment?

If we wanted to measure the genuineness of the original sentiment, we’d have to test how long one stays faithful to it, judging whether or not the corresponding party’s response has an influence. This same principle has special significance in our loving relationship with God. In the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, there is no equivalent term for what we call love. Our conception of love is described as kama, which can translate to lust, desire, or sense gratification. Real love only applies to God, and it is known as prema.

Why the special distinction? Why a different word for love offered to God?

Prema is not fleeting. It is not offered to get a benefit to be used in the immediate term, with the love dwindling after the fact. Material success, the removal of distress, mystic ability, and even liberation from the cycle of birth and death can be easily granted by God, but not prema. It is a special commodity that is so valuable that those who have it are reluctant to openly discuss it. If they see someone who is sincerely interested in loving God, then they will describe the steps necessary towards attaining prema, but they will not expose their prema so liberally that it might be misunderstood.

09a%20Nitai%20Gauranga%20in%20IrkutskLord Chaitanya is considered the most munificent form of Godhead because He freely distributed Krishna-prema, or love for Godhead. He offered this to everyone through the simple formula of chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” His distribution does not tarnish the relationship with God because one has to be sincere in the chanting of the holy names to get the real effect. Despite the fact that it is freely offered, it is rarely accepted.

Why chant a mantra over and over again just to experience love of God? Why not go for an immediate benefit through worship of a divine figure who promises benefits? Or better yet, why not continue in the current path, where material opulence seems to come through personal hard work alone?

The chanting of the holy names, when accepted with full sincerity and practiced under the guidelines offered by someone who has Krishna-prema, slowly fosters love for God, which is the original position of the spirit soul. Though chanting the holy names is a beginning step, it is also practiced by those who are in full maturity in the discipline known as bhakti-yoga, or the religion of love. The reason the mature and the neophyte alike are attracted to chanting is that the recitation of the Lord’s names is a direct profession of love. It is like saying “I love you” over and over again. If you really loved someone, you would never tire of telling them how much you love them.

Unlike kama, prema does not pass by quickly. Those who practice bhakti-yoga with sincerity do not give it up so easily. They chant the maha-mantra at least sixteen rounds a day on a set of japa beads, as per the instructions of the Vaishnava spiritual masters like His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. No amount of money can shake the devotee from this baseline practice, which means that no reward, manifest or otherwise, makes a dent in the loving relationship. This can only be the case if the loving party reciprocates to some degree. In the case of chanting, though there isn’t an explicit desire for reciprocation, the benefit is there anyway, as the holy name is the same as God. This means that to chant is to be in His company, where we enjoy a real loving relationship to stand the test of time.

In Closing:

As I’ve tried all of the rest,

I can say that this pizza is the best.


But if just one time pizza not up to par,

I will take my business away somewhere far.


Real love with longevity can test,

If not unbreakable present is defect.


With little effort liberation or opulence gained,

But prema for Krishna not so easily attained.


Chanting holy names is our way to say,

That Krishna is the best, our friend to stay.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why Ask For Surrender

Arjuna“Undoubtedly there is oneness of the living entity with the Lord in many respects, but ultimately the living entity is subordinate to the Lord, and he is constitutionally meant for satisfying the senses of the Lord. The Lord therefore asks the conditioned souls to surrender unto Him. Had the living entities not been subordinate to the supreme will, why would the living entity be asked to surrender? Had the living being been equal in all respects, then why was he put under the influence of maya?” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.3 Purport)

The oneness shared between the living entities and God is described in many sections of the Vedic literatures. The Vedas provide a truthful, scientific understanding, so the oneness aspect is not concealed. If we are the same as God in many respects, why would He or any of His followers deny the fact? No; the oneness is readily acknowledged. In fact, it is an axiomatic truth if the relationship between the two entities is to be considered valid. There is a constitutional position for the spirit soul, and that position is subordination in service. The service can’t take place unless there is some degree of similarity between the two entities. If the Supreme Lord were completely the same as us, however, why would He advise us to surrender unto Him?

Bhagavad-gita, 18.66“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)

Krishna and ArjunaIn the Bhagavad-gita the final instruction given to Arjuna is that he should surrender unto Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and be delivered from all sinful reaction. The Bhagavad-gita presents a conversation that took place a long time ago, but its content is nevertheless eternally relevant. The truths contained within were originally spoken to the deity of the solar planet at the beginning of time, and since then they were passed on from generation to generation. That we even know of the Bhagavad-gita today means that its teachings apply to more than just that one situation on the battlefield where Arjuna was hesitant as to what course of action to take.

The “surrender to God” recommendation is not exclusive to the Vedas. It is found in more or less every religion, but only in the Vedas is a thorough understanding of both surrender and God presented. According to how the word is commonly used, surrender is to give up in a fight, and it is also to hand over control of your wellbeing to another party. God is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or Bhagavan. He possesses the opulences of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, renunciation and wisdom to the fullest degree.

Apart from the translations of the Gita offered by devotees who follow in the line of Arjuna, practically all interpretations and commentaries on that sacred work gloss over the final instruction. Some use the Bhagavad-gita to derive pleasure from ordinary reading, some cherry-pick verses to suit their agenda, and some even go so far as to say that God is ultimately impersonal or formless. “We are all Brahman, or the complete spiritual energy. You follow the different paths of religious life in order to attain Brahman realization, which is oneness with God.”

Indeed, realization of Brahman is mentioned in many parts of the Vedas, including in the Bhagavad-gita. But the final instruction is what gives all the previous pieces of information meaning. All of the different paths of spiritual life, like karma, jnana and yoga, are meant to culminate in surrender to God, which is bhakti. Krishna does not advise Arjuna to continue in his occupational duties so that he can become God. Krishna does not tell Arjuna that he too will become God someday. Arjuna is not promised the ability to create and destroy universes, nor is he guaranteed a position as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has a nature that is always changeless.

An argument can be made that those who follow the bhakti tradition do advise surrender to the spiritual master, or guru, who is admittedly not the same Krishna. In this case the guru does not explicitly promise the disciple that they will become God, but there is the call for surrender nonetheless. Therefore Krishna’s recommendation for surrender must be along the same lines as the guru’s, no? In other words, Krishna is just an elevated guru, a Brahman realized soul who wants His disciple to reach the same status, which comes through surrender and following instructions, right?

Actually, the call for surrender to the guru is different than the call to surrender to Krishna. The guru who follows bhakti never claims to be God, though he is treated as being equal to Krishna. The reason for the treatment is that the guru knows how to realize God and how to surrender properly. He teaches the sincere disciple the same surrendering process, which establishes the relationship to Krishna in subordination. There are different mellows in pure bhakti-yoga, and they can only be tasted if one knows that they are subordinate to Krishna.

If there isn’t submission to the guru, they won’t divulge the necessary information. Even if you access only the guru’s instructions, if you are not faithful in hearing, you won’t get the full benefit. Indeed, there is the chance that the unworthy listener might take the guru’s teachings and twist them for his own purpose. It is said in the Vedas that the root cause of birth in the material existence is the competitive attitude towards God. That attitude manifests in all areas of material life, and is especially seen in the general hostility held towards religion. If I tell someone that I’m going to play a sport, visit a tourist destination, or walk into a nightclub, they will likely listen with attention to what I say. If I tell them that I’m going to a holy place to worship Shri Krishna in His deity form, the reaction will not be so positive in most cases.

Shrimati RadharaniOur teachers in school instruct us so that we can excel in the specific field of study. They don’t make claims that they are completely infallible or the source of the creation itself. Krishna does mention these things, though, and so the instruction He provides does not have anything to do with attaining a status equal to His. Rather, in bhakti-yoga, the devotee, by the grace of the Lord, actually becomes greater than God in many respects. For evidence of this just see how much Shrimati Radharani and Shri Hanuman, servants of God, are worshiped. We are one with God in quality but different in quantity of potency. Despite our inferior status, we are all intimately related to Him in a loving bond, and one who is wise enough to surrender unto Krishna and the guru will be blessed with the rekindling of that eternal relationship.

In Closing:

If I am equal to Him in every single way,

Why to surrender to Him will Shri Krishna say?


To follow bhakti is surrender to guru’s aim.

For to the guru, the Supreme Lord is not the same.


Arjuna not promised as God to become,

Not told to serve with desire to be one.


No more competitive attitude to feel,

When surrender to Him is real.


The examples of Radharani and Hanuman take.

To see how greater than Himself Krishna will make.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I and Mine

Srimad Bhagavatam“The karmi thinks of this world as ‘mine,’ and the jnani thinks ‘I am’ everything. The whole material conception of politics, sociology, philanthropy, altruism, etc., conceived by the conditioned souls is on the basis of this misconceived ‘I’ and ‘mine,’ which are products of a strong desire to enjoy material life.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.2 Purport)

Whether we follow the route of fruitive action or the path of mental speculation, the result of our choice is the same if there is no connection to the Divine. That connection is what ultimately defines us, and so when we reject it we lose sight of our true identity. An object used the wrong way never brings the best benefit, just like a fork shouldn’t be used to drink soup and a spoon shouldn’t be used to pierce through food. For the conditioned spirit soul, the tallest hurdle to cross over in the path towards the constitutional position is the flawed mindset, which manifests in the thinking of “I” and “mine.”

What is wrong with “I” and “mine?” Does not the word “I” identify who I am? When I speak to someone else about things in my life, should I not refer to myself as “I”? Also, those objects which I hold, are they not mine? Who else do they belong to? Indeed, if I say that they belong to someone else, for that other person the object is referred to as “mine.” Why, then, do I need to shed the mindset of “I” and “mine?”

In the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India, the concept of “I” and “mine” is mentioned quite frequently. The way “I” and “mine” are typically used shows that they are not properly understood. The fruitive worker thinks in terms of “mine.” “This object is mine; that object is mine.” This is a flawed mentality because the objects are temporary. Moreover, we didn’t possess anything at the time of birth. How, all of a sudden, can we just go up to something and claim complete ownership over it? It was there for someone else to take as well. It can also exist long after we have left this world.

Possessions leave us even during our time on earth. I may own a very nice house and fancy cars, but the pulsing flood waters caused by a hurricane can ruin everything in an instant. That which was previously mine no longer exists. Therefore to think solely in terms of “mine” is not wise. That which belongs to me eventually won’t; so it never should have been the source of my identity to begin with.

The empiricist thinks in terms of “I”, namely relying on “I am.” “I am white; I am black; I am a man; I am a woman; I am an American; I am a child; I am a philanthropist; I am a philosopher; I am a welfare worker.” These identifications are based on temporary association with the material energy. Today I might be a child, but tomorrow I will be an adult. My identity shouldn’t change, but in my mind I think it has. I also think that the person next to me is somehow different from me. This is flawed because they too undergo the same changes.  Even the most inclusive use, which is “I am everything,” is invalid, as I am not you and you are not me.

The “I” and “mine” mentioned here are flawed because they are based on the conception that the material energy is solely for the individual’s enjoyment. “I” and “mine”, which are used by the karmi and jnani respectively, are made right when there is real yoga. Yoga is the linking of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. The proper use of “I” is to say that I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of God. “Mine” is used properly when I say that the Supreme Lord is my best friend whom I will serve with all my thoughts, words and deeds. My possessions in this world are on temporary loan to help me maintain that connection to God. When the connection is in the mood of love, the yoga is known as bhakti, which is the constitutional engagement of the spirit soul.

The karmi thinks they are superior because the quantity of that which is identified as “mine” is quite large, or at least they think that amassing such a quantity is the ultimate goal. The jnani thinks they are superior because they think that whatever they identify with is the most important. “I am” means I am superior to everyone else. In the worst cases, the “I am” equates to God, wherein the individual thinks they are the Supreme Controller, a person immune to the dualities of heat and cold, light and darkness, and happiness and sadness.

If I don’t know how to identify myself and I don’t know the temporary nature of the objects I possess, naturally I will follow paths that don’t do much benefit. Think of it like working so hard to maintain the clothes that you wear. Ultimately your clothes don’t mean much. You could wear old and withered garments and still be the same person. If you take so much effort to maintain your clothes, your time is occupied but you haven’t made the best use of your potential for action.

If I base my identity on a temporary condition, I will think that others can be helped by reaching a temporary condition as well. Therefore I will direct my efforts towards helping others attain a position of material opulence. Or perhaps I will try to get others to identify as part of a political group or section of people that are deemed oppressed; this way they become ideal candidates to reach a higher temporary position.

Actually, everyone is in the same boat, so to speak. Every individual, including the lower species, is a spirit soul. The soul’s constitutional position is to serve God. In the conditioned state, the service still exists, but it gets directed towards other areas, those which have nothing to do with spirit. Worship of matter under the veil of a rubber-stamped religion is also not spirituality at all; it is maya, or illusion. The illusion is rooted in the misconception of “I” and “mine.”

The best way to shed the flawed mindset is to directly worship God. The procedures for that worship are kindly passed on by the spiritual masters, those who already worship God with thought, word and deed. They know that God is a person, someone who possesses opulences to the fullest degree and at the same time. They know that He can be addressed through sounds which speak to His features. They know that His energy plays an integral role in pleasing Him, so they regularly chant a mantra which addresses both God and His energy: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

Bhagavad-gita, 18.66“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)Bhagavad-gita As It Is

The spiritual master knows that they are a servant of God and that God belongs to them, residing within their heart. The Supreme Lord is not exclusive in this regard; He can be every person’s best friend. In the Bhagavad-gita He promises to deliver anyone who surrenders unto Him. Concomitant with that surrender is the release of the misconceptions previously generated through karma and jnana. The yogi in bhakti can follow any activity, fruitive work or philosophy, and not be led astray because they know the Truth.

In Closing:

Because always “mine” saying,

Karmi their ignorance displaying.


“I am” is term the jnani will use,

This, that and everything will include.


Temporary is the nature around,

Therefore neither logic is sound.


“God is my friend” is how “mine” to be known,

All objects of this world on temporary loan.


“I am a spirit soul, part of God”, is “I am” right,

From the Supreme Lord comes Brahman’s light.


For His service take all elements surrounding,

Reach pinnacle through holy names sounding.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Understanding My Fall From Grace

Lord Rama catching the moon in a mirror“The child cries to have the moon from the mother, and the mother gives the child a mirror to satisfy the crying and disturbing child with the reflection of the moon. Similarly, the crying child of the Lord is given over to the reflection, the material world, to lord it over as karmi and to give this up in frustration to become one with the Lord. Both these stages are dreaming illusions only. There is no necessity of tracing out the history of when the living entity desired this. But the fact is that as soon as he desired it, he was put under the control of atma-maya by the direction of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.1 Purport)

“Okay, so I’ve heard from many prominent teachers of bhakti-yoga, the science of self-realization that is devotional service, that every living entity, including myself, was originally with God. At some point or another, I desired to compete with Him, to become God on my own. At that time I fell down to the material world, which is temporary and full of miseries. But why did this happen? Why would God allow me to suffer in this way? If He really cared about me, He would have protected me from something that wasn’t good for me. Also, when did this fall actually take place? If I can figure that out, then I’ll never repeat the same mistake again.”

These concerns are certainly valid. It seems too simple to say that we left God at one point and now we have to return to Him. But actually, simplicity should work just fine for us. We accept a rudimentary understanding with so many other things. We don’t question how the smartphone works. Maybe some of us might, but the majority of the owners of the device simply utilize its features without being overly concerned with the nuts and bolts. In fact, one of the appeals of the smartphone and other popular electronic devices is the ease of use, which is more commonly known as user-friendliness.

Bhakti-yoga is very user-friendly because in the constitutional position the spirit soul is not overly concerned with how things happen. It’s strange to hear this, because the original push towards spiritual life may have been sparked by inquisitiveness to know more about the world. “Why do I live? Why do I ‘do’? Why do I grow old? Why do I contract diseases?” These are insightful questions, and the Vedas, the mouthpiece for the Supreme Lord in terms of instruction and knowledge dissemination, answer them to the best of the human being’s ability to understand.

Notice that the animals and other lower species can’t understand these concepts at all. Therefore the human birth is the most auspicious. From basic instruction borne of a little inquisitiveness one can get a rudimentary understanding of the spirit soul, the material nature, the changing bodies, and how to gain release from the cycle of birth and death. Although knowledge is available to help us go in the right direction, complete knowledge is impossible. In fact, the endeavor for complete knowledge, which would include information of when the initial fall from the spiritual world took place, is indicative of the desire to compete with God.

Shrila PrabhupadaHis Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gives a nice analogy to understand how the initial fall took place. He says a young child often likes to have the moon. They want it so bad that they start crying. The affectionate mother then gives the child a mirror so that they can think they have captured the moon. The moon in the mirror is just a reflection; it is not the real thing. The child is temporarily satisfied, though, so they think they have won. In the same way the material world is temporary; it is a land where one thinks they have become God. No one can ever become God, so the mindset is based on illusion. To expend much effort in trying to figure out when the mirror was given by the Supreme Lord represents a further challenge to His supremacy.

So what does this mean? We should just surrender to God without trying to tax our brain too much? We should take bhakti-yoga on its merits as they are explained by the acharyas and spiritual teachers following in a line of disciplic succession that originates with the Supreme Lord? There are other spiritual paths promoted by other prominent spiritual leaders. They don’t provide nearly as much information about life and death. Why shouldn’t we believe them? Sentiment is rather easy to adopt, so how do I know which sentiment is correct?

The claims of the Vaishnavas, devotees of the personal aspect of God, relating to the initial fall from grace for the jiva soul really make sense if you think about it; you don’t need to trace out the history to get validation. Let’s say that it’s a Sunday afternoon. You decide that you will travel to a local Krishna temple to chant the holy names, worship the deity, and eat food first offered to Krishna, who is God. How many will join you? Afterwards, how many will be interested in hearing about where you went? How many will immediately try to change the subject when you tell them? If you do any other activity, especially if it relates to personal sense gratification, that will garner more interest from others.

Bhakti-yoga is the way out of the illusion. No more pretending to be God. The real position of the soul, that of servant of God, is sought out using body, mind and speech. And based on the pleasure that results, which automatically brings detachment, which is itself an opulence, we gain more confidence in our understanding that the temporary material land is not our home. Our initial fall from the spiritual world took place at some time in the past that is unknown, but through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, our destination in the immediately succeeding life is known with certainty.

In Closing:

Away from God, I fell from grace,

But when did that descent take place?


As a jiva my history let me trace,

To see what caused residence in material space.


From His Divine Grace know,

That futile for deep into past to go.


Aversion to spirituality the truth of fall speaks,

So better for supreme destination to directly seek.


Your future right now you can make,

If holy names as your life and soul you take.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Catching the Reflection

Mother Kausalya with Lord Rama“The child cries to have the moon from the mother, and the mother gives the child a mirror to satisfy the crying and disturbing child with the reflection of the moon. Similarly, the crying child of the Lord is given over to the reflection, the material world, to lord it over as karmi and to give this up in frustration to become one with the Lord. Both these stages are dreaming illusions only. There is no necessity of tracing out the history of when the living entity desired this. But the fact is that as soon as he desired it, he was put under the control of atma-maya by the direction of the Lord. Therefore the living entity in his material condition is dreaming falsely that this is ‘mine’ and this is ‘I.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.1 Purport)

In the Ramayana, in one section a heroic warrior’s aerial path is obstructed because of what someone does to his shadow. The obstructing character had a mystic ability that allowed them to catch hold of someone through their shadow, and on this occasion they decided to use it to their advantage. The warrior was working for the Supreme Lord, so he was able to swat aside the obstruction. Thus even if the demon were able to catch hold of him for real, not relying on just the shadow, they couldn’t stop him. In the bigger picture, the living entity tries to catch hold of the reflection that is the material nature, and since the reflection isn’t the real thing, any triumph that results is only temporary, as it is based on illusion. The real thing can be found, however, but only through a different mentality.

What are we referring to here? The analogy to the reflection explains the jiva’s fall from grace. The jiva is the individual spirit soul. We can see an example of a jiva just by looking around. The tree is a jiva. So is the ant. The human being obviously is too. Though there are different outer coverings, each of the beings that we consider to be a life force is a jiva. In more technical terms, they are jivatmas, spirit souls that are individuals.

Jivatma is distinguished from Paramatma, which is the Supreme Soul. The jivatma’s consciousness is limited to the local area. I only know what is going on inside my head. I can guess what others are thinking, but this doesn’t mean that I experience what they experience. The Paramatma, on the other hand, is all-pervading. It lives inside of me and also you. Both presences represent the same person; hence this soul is not a jiva, or individual. This soul is in fact the source of the jivas; it is the spiritual storehouse.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.12“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)

Krishna speaking to ArjunaWhy the distinction? Why the separation between sparks of spirit? Actually, the separation exists eternally; though the relationships aren’t always the same. In the Bhagavad-gita, arguably the most important Vedic text, it is explained that both the individual soul and the Supreme Soul exist eternally. This profound truth is presented during a conversation between Lord Krishna, who is the personal manifestation, the original feature of the Supreme Lord, and Arjuna, a jivatma who temporarily descended from the highest plane of consciousness to teach invaluable lessons to the world.

We understand concepts using other concepts that we know. Just as we define words using other words, we grasp difficult truths based on other truths that we see. One way to understand the relationship between jivatma and Paramatma is to look at the parent-child relationship. The child comes from the parent, and ideally the parent is the guardian for life. The parent is always a well-wisher, no matter what happens to the child.

The child can reject the parent; but this isn’t usually a wise choice. Especially in the younger years, the child is dependent on the parent, who institutes a system of guidance aimed at allowing the child to live a peaceful and fulfilling life. Rejection of the parent’s love goes against the constitutional position of the child; as the child will need to be loved and protected by someone eventually.

For the Paramatma, the jivatmas are forever children. They aren’t raised to be independent. This doesn’t mean that they are meant to sit idly by and do nothing. Spirit is vibrant; it is always active. Prolonged bodily inactivity thus goes against the constitutional position of the soul; it is part of the mode of ignorance. The spirit soul can use its independence to serve the Supreme Soul and thus be happy.

This brings us to the fall to the material world. Whenever the jiva wants to break away from the natural relationship and branch out on its own, in an attempt to equal or surpass the Paramatma in stature, it is granted residence in a temporary realm. In that realm, the very mention of God, a higher being, invites consternation. This is especially true as more time passes from the beginning of the creation. Such is the situation today, as real religion has been replaced with so many other causes based in attachment to the material nature.

That nature is like the reflection of the moon in a mirror. The young child wants to catch the moon, and so the mother gives the child the mirror so that they can think they have gotten hold of the moon. In the same way, the jiva thinks they have become God by rising to a temporary position of prominence in the material world; but in fact they are not anywhere near God in stature. They may have everything available for material comfort, but in an instant a natural disaster like a hurricane can wipe everything away. And nothing can be done to stop the hurricane; one can only try to avoid its path. The jiva is not even dominant over the material nature; what then to speak of that nature’s creator.

It is natural to ponder when the initial fall from the spiritual realm occurred, but it is wiser to focus on getting away from the reflection. This is the purpose to religion after all, and in the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic texts real religion is provided. Since it is the system that applies to the spirit soul’s essential characteristic, that of servant of God, real religion is known as sanatana-dharma. This system is always applicable. In any time period, rekindling the original dharma of the soul is the best option.

So is the pathway towards liberation surrender? Seems too easy, no? And plus, so many other religious traditions tell me to surrender, so how do I know which one to follow?

The surrender in this case refers to relinquishing the scheme to compete with God for supremacy. The Supreme Lord is all-attractive, so He is known as Krishna. The most attractive Krishna is also the supreme enjoyer, Rama. He also has an energy that serves at His direction. So the best way to surrender is to chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, thinking oneself to be humbler than the grass and more tolerant than the trees.

Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 17.26“To chant the holy name always, one should be humbler than the grass in the street and devoid of all desire for personal honor, but one should offer others all respectful obeisances.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 17.26)

Chanting and hearing are two processes of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, easily available in the beginning stages. A step forward in bhakti-yoga is a step away from material attachment. And the more one is materially detached, the more they stay away from the spiritual world’s reflection. Krishna is the real thing, and His divine stature is validated through steady practice in bhakti-yoga under authorized guidance, namely that offered by those who practice bhakti-yoga themselves. Ironically enough, the pure devotees reach a status higher than Krishna, because He makes sure of it. The liberated souls don’t think they are practicing devotion; they only know love for God. They act on that love at all times, and so they are able to catch hold of the real treasure, the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord.

In Closing:

Young child wants to catch hold of the moon,

In giving mirror, mother hopes pacification to come soon.


But this isn’t the thing real,

Only fake control to feel.


Material world a reflection in the same way,

We feel like kings though temporary is our stay.


In service to the Supreme Lord our ideal seat,

Highest gain to have devotion to His lotus feet.

Monday, January 14, 2013

On Your Best Behavior

Lord Chaitanya with associates“The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment's association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.54)

Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 22.54“I’m in the clear. The boss just stepped out for the day. Time to party. No one to look over my shoulder now. No more pressure for the rest of the day. I’m at work, so I still have a job to do, but if I take a little extra time for lunch, no one will be the wiser. If I surf the internet a little longer, unless they are monitoring my outbound traffic, how will they ever find out?”

Sure, the absence of the boss brings some relief from the pressure of strict oversight, but if this is the norm rather than the aberration, is that good? Is not there a purpose to the business? In the larger picture, the presence of the boss is actually helpful, provided they know what they are doing.

We can understand the same concept using the example of a school. For the young child, hearing that school is closed is like music to the ears. You don’t have to get up early the next morning. You don’t have to worry about your homework assignment or that big test. At least the pressure is off for one day. It’s an unexpected day off to be used as a vacation. A similar feeling exists when the teacher is out for a specific class. The substitute teacher isn’t as strict, and they’re only there to make sure nothing goes wrong in the class. They’re not really there to apply any pressure to learn.

school closingBut if the teacher were absent all the time, it wouldn’t be a good thing. You’re in school to learn after all. And to learn you need a teacher and you need a school that is open. The office exists to sell a good or service for a profit. If it is not open, there is no profit earned. Without profit there are no jobs. If the boss isn’t there, the workers aren’t as diligent, which means that the end product will suffer. The presence of the authority figures is thus ultimately beneficial.

If this is true in work and in school, it is most certainly true in spiritual life. The human mind is incapable of conjuring up the nature of the Absolute Truth on its own. This is because we are illusioned by the external world. The pursuit for sense enjoyment is sort of like dreaming of becoming a king. If you are a king in your dreams, you have all the enjoyment of regal life, but only for a brief period. Once the dream ends, your crown gets taken away. You’re back to being an ordinary person, someone who isn’t a king.

The stay within a material body is like the same dream because it can end at any second. Moreover, it definitely will end. No one can be king forever. While they are king, the range of their sovereignty isn’t that great. I may be the king of one country, but another country has their own leader. Even if I should conquer them, I will have to constantly worry about holding on to my power. Consolidated power is as fragile as localized power; they are both relegated to temporary status based on the nature of the world.

Spiritual life is the way out of the dream. To permanently escape, one should know the cause of their illusion. You enter the dream at night from sleeping, so if you don’t sleep, you won’t dream. As sleeping is required to maintain the body, there is nothing that can be done to stop dreaming altogether. With the dream that is the stay in the material world, the sleeping component is the ignorance of the true nature of the self. This ignorance can be permanently avoided. Aham brahmasmi, which means I am spirit soul, part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. To say that I am spirit is to say that I am not matter. My body is composed of matter, and so my body does not represent my identity.

In ignorance I think that I am my body and that my body is to be used for becoming king. This is considered ignorance because there is only one true king: God. Acknowledgment of this fact keeps one away from the dream; free from the sleep. As soon as there is forgetfulness, the jiva soul falls into the material creation, where the dream begins.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.34

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

To realize the self is not easy, and so in the Vedas it is advised that one approach a spiritual master who knows the self and learn from them. While this opens the door for many cheaters to pose as spiritual guides when they actually don’t know anything, the requirement to learn from someone else makes sense. We learn from authority figures in all other areas of life, so why would it be any different when trying to learn something that is the most difficult to comprehend?

Shrila PrabhupadaThe spiritual master is also a sadhu, or devotee, and in the Vedas it is said that it is most beneficial to have the association of devotees, sadhu-sanga. A real sadhu knows that they are spirit soul. They also act off of that knowledge by engaging in devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. The bona fide spiritual master is one who follows bhakti-yoga as a way of life. Their presence alone makes a huge difference. If the spiritual master is around to teach, the students pay more attention to their work, which starts and ends with the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”.

More beneficial than the guru’s presence is his instructions, which other sadhus, or devotees, follow. So if you’re around sadhus, you’re essentially around the guru as well. They are his proxy, and while they may not always be in an acknowledged position of authority, their association is enough to bring a positive influence. With the combination of sadhu, shastra and guru, the sleeping jiva soul ignorant of his position as servant of God can awaken from his slumber and be inspired to serve the Supreme Lord, the king of kings. As bhakti is an eternal engagement, when it is fully rekindled the nightmare of the material existence never has to be experienced again.

In Closing:

Quitting time for boss is here,

No more his presence to fear.


The pressures now start to come undone,

In surfing the internet I will have fun.


That absence of authority better is the thought,

But forgotten is the discipline the chief brought.


In spiritual life find a guru bona fide,

Along the proper path he will guide.


Sadhu is devotee who follows guru’s instructions,

With their association begin ignorance’s destruction.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Eyes For Each Other

Sita Devi holding flower“When Rama looks at Sita, Sita sees Rama. Looking at both of them, Kamadeva sharpens his arrows.” (Janaki Mangala, 84)

rāma dīkha jaba sīya sīya raghunāyaka |
dou tana taki taki mayana sudhārata sāyaka ||

There was no need for Cupid to sharpen his arrows and release them on two parties who were simultaneously interested in each other. As if it were serendipity, Rama looked at Sita and Sita looked at Rama. Neither party had met before, and they weren’t officially betrothed. Rama was there as a guest, and He was soon to participate in the contest, the winner of which would get Sita’s hand in marriage. Yet seeing one another before Rama’s try at lifting the bow created the seed of desire within each, as they wanted to be with each other. Rama was no ordinary competitor, and Sita was no ordinary prize.

Rama is God. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His avatara as a warrior prince. Any person can claim to be God, and we can also tag any notable historical personality as an incarnation of God. Authenticity is required, though, and it is determined by the revealed scriptures and those who follow them. No people are more respected throughout history than the famous acharyas and saints like Narada Muni, Vyasadeva, Lord Chaitanya, Ramanujacharya, Shankaracharya, Shrila Rupa Gosvami, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and Goswami Tulsidas. All of these personalities accept Rama as God, though they might not worship Him specifically. Some choose to worship God as Krishna or Vishnu, but both of them are the same Rama.

Tulsidas with Lakshmana and RamaThese personalities follow the authority of the Vedas, the oldest scriptures in existence. The Vedas discuss Rama’s divine nature at length and also reveal that Sita is the goddess of fortune, who is the energy of God. The energy and the energetic are always linked, a singular entity in a sense. For this reason God in the Vedic tradition is always worshiped alongside His energy. There is Lakshmi and Vishnu, Radha and Krishna, and Sita and Rama.

If God is always with His energy, why were Sita and Rama involved in a marriage yet to be determined? The events that take place on this planet are sort of like a real-life play directed by the Supreme Lord, who kindly casts Himself in the leading role. Sita and Rama marry in the most amazing event, one talked about for thousands of years into the future. It becomes famous even during their time, where word is spread through stories from village to village rather than through newspapers or radio or television broadcast. The word travels all around, keeping others excited in anticipation each time they get to hear about the event.

In the verse quoted above from the Janaki Mangala of Goswami Tulsidas, the reference is made to Kamadeva, the god of love, to show that Sita and Rama had eyes for each other. Rama only wanted Sita as a wife, and Sita only wanted Rama as a husband. Sita’s marriage was to be determined by a pious king, her father King Janaka. He decided that a contest was the way to go, as the show of strength required in lifting Lord Shiva’s amazingly heavy bow would be an indication from above that a perfect match was found.

A match is important for the father because the daughter must be protected in marriage. A weak husband would not do justice to Sita, especially considering that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Other princes would try to take her for themselves, and so the husband had to be able to fend off such villains. Indeed, Sita would be taken from Rama’s side later on through a backhanded plot executed by the purported most powerful man in the world, Ravana. Yet his powers were overestimated, and simultaneously he underestimated Rama’s. The Lord would defeat him and get back His dear wife.

Sita and RamaAt the occasion of the svayamvara, there was anticipation, as no one knew who was going to win the contest. Upon seeing Rama, who was a handsome youth who entered the city accompanying Vishvamitra Muni, the residents who loved Sita wanted Rama to win. The eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya was there with His younger brother Lakshmana also. Lakshmana could have participated in the contest, but as Rama was the eldest, he would not violate etiquette. In addition, he would never want to defeat Rama in a contest even if he were asked to.

Kamadeva operates on the mortals, instilling lusty desires in them by shooting his arrows. As God, Rama is obviously not susceptible to the influence of mundane lust, but the symbolic reference to Kamadeva is used to show that there was mutual attraction between Sita and Rama. Kamadeva gets ready to shoot his arrows when he sees there is a potential relationship between two parties. The arrows in this instance would have had to have been fired at both Sita and Rama, as it couldn’t be determined who was more desirous of the match.

As Hari, God is one who can take away. He excels at taking away the fears of His devotees, and on this occasion He would not fail to live up to His name. Shri Hari would win the contest by easily lifting up the bow, making the desired union a reality. A feast for the eyes followed, and the match made in heaven would etch its mark in history. The divine couple is still celebrated and worshiped to this day, with Lakshmana and Hanuman, Rama’s dearest servant, included in the picture. Just as Sita and Rama are meant for each other, all living entities are meant for worshiping the Supreme Lord. Through hearing about Sita and Rama’s marriage, we take one step closer to reawakening our dormant love for God.

In Closing:

Looking at the contest’s prize,

Towards her go His eyes.


Him at the same time she sees,

Made for each other are Sita and He.


When into love rush fools,

Kamadeva starts to sharpen his tools.


With Sita and Rama the same it looked,

He glanced at her, His glance too she took.


Shows that love for each other was strong,

Only to Shri Rama does Sita belong.