Saturday, January 26, 2013

Known By Her Qualities

Sita holding flower“This is Sita, who is firmly dedicated to her husband and is the daughter of the great soul Janaka, who is the King of Mithila and strictly adherent to religious principles.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.15)

iyam sā dharma śīlasya janakasya mahātmanaḥ |
sutā maithilarājasya sītā bhartṛdṛḍha vratā ||

For those who are not familiar with the Ramayana and its characters, who are real-life historical personalities, from this verse they can learn about one of them: Sita Devi. The ancient scriptural texts of India were composed by sages out of a desire to spread the glories of the Supreme Lord to others. The act itself is known as kirtanam, or describing, and it is a way to simultaneously realize God at the personal level. Due to the influence of Kali Yuga, the dark age of quarrel and hypocrisy, fools and cheaters give their own interpretations to the texts while ignoring the authentic message. Here Shri Hanuman gives us another definitive truth from the Ramayana, leaving no room for doubt.

What are some of the misinterpretations?

The Ramayana gets its name from the lead character, Shri Rama. As a Sanskrit word, His name means one who gives transcendental pleasure or one who holds all transcendental pleasure. This word Rama is one way to address God, and Shri Rama the historical figure is a non-different expansion of the Supreme Lord. These facts aren’t concocted by the author. They are presented clearly in the Ramayana itself. Indeed, we only know of Rama’s existence from the Vedic texts, which all speak to His being God. Any other interpretation of Rama is therefore incorrect.

One of the bogus interpretations says that the Ramayana refers to the “Rama” within all of us. Following that, Sita, Rama’s wife, represents something else about us, and Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother, again something else. Shri Hanuman, the greatest servant of the trio, represents another personal aspect. This is the result of mental speculation, as nowhere in the Ramayana is any of this said, and indeed all the verses speak to real personalities, who travelled to real places that one can locate to this day inside of India and neighboring areas. In other Vedic texts the same pastimes are described in varying levels of detail, and in all of those texts Rama’s divinity is confirmed.

Sita RamaIn this verse from the Ramayana Shri Hanuman confirms to himself that he has spotted Sita. Hanuman is in a grove of Ashoka trees inside of the kingdom of Lanka, which was presided over at the time by the Rakshasa king Ravana. Hanuman doesn’t say that he has found the material body or the “Sita” within. He refers to Sita by her identifiable features, which are perceivable and understandable to the sober person who has no intention of twisting the truth to suit their personal needs.

It was custom in ancient times for a person to be identified by their parents. Today when someone asks for identification, they look at a government approved card that has our picture on it. The driver’s license and passport have our picture, our address, and our name. They also have our date of birth. The relationship to the parents is not required; as the approved form of id is enough for the authenticating party to verify identity.

In times past, the form of identification was the relationship to the parents. In this instance, Sita is identified through her relation to Janaka. And who is Janaka? Hanuman says that Janaka is a great-soul, or mahatma. The word “mahatma” is a compound word consisting of “maha” and “atma”. “Maha” means great and “atma” means soul. Atma can also mean body or mind, but in this context it means soul. Of course we can say that anyone is a great soul. No one has any real authority in this matter, as what we call someone else is completely up to us.

Hanuman gives evidence for why Janaka is a mahatma. Hanuman says that Janaka is strictly adherent to religious principles, or dharma. The material and subtle bodies are maintained through action in dharma, or religious principles, for the purpose of reaching the pinnacle of action, which is devotional service. Every soul’s constitutional position is lover of God, but in the conditioned state one is unaware of this fact. As Lord Krishna, the same Rama but in His original form, says in the Bhagavad-gita [7.19], it takes many, many lifetimes for a person to finally surrender to God in earnest and become a devotee.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.19“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.19)

In the meantime, the principles of dharma allow one to progress to that rare state of love for God in full surrender. The king is the upholder of dharma; he maintains adherence to religious principles in society by first following them himself. His occupational duties as a kshatriya, or one in the royal order, include protecting the innocent against aggressors, following the advice of the priestly class, and collecting taxes in order to maintain a good government. Janaka was known throughout the world as a king who followed dharma. He ruled over the kingdom of Mithila, a factual area that still exists to this day.

Sita is the daughter of that great-soul, giving us one way to identify her. The relationship to Janaka is one based on body, and next Hanuman identifies Sita based on action. She is unswerving in her devotion to her husband. This has double significance here. For a woman who follows Vedic principles, her primary duty in adult life is to serve her husband with dedication. This is her dharma, which is just below devotional service. Following dharma for the sake of abiding by duty is action in the mode of goodness, which eventually turns into bhakti, or love for God, when the attachment to the results is discarded. When lacking bhakti, the wife’s fate is tied to the husband; she goes wherever he goes in the afterlife.

In Sita’s case, however, the husband was the Supreme Lord. This automatically made her dharma fall into the category of bhakti. In devotional service, the end result is always association with God in some way. Sita is always with Rama, though the two might not always be within the same physical proximity. In this case Sita was separated from Rama, and Hanuman was sent to find her on Rama’s behalf. Upon first sight Hanuman accurately identified her for both himself and the future generations who would delight in the sacred nonfictional tale that is the Ramayana.

In Closing:

From Hanuman’s words get a feel,

For Sita, character from Ramayana real.


Not a figment of the imagination,

Or aspect of body representation.


By relationship to father Janaka she is identified,

With respect for dharma over kingdom he did preside.


Also known as Shri Rama’s beloved wife,

Service to Him her dharma in life.


From the speculating cheaters stay away,

And instead listen to what Hanuman does say.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Sita and Rama“If one had to compare sovereignty over the planetary systems and Sita, the daughter of Janaka, sovereignty over the three worlds would not even reach a fraction of Sita.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.14)

rājyam vā triṣu lokeṣu sītā vā janaka ātmajā |
trailokya rājyam sakalam sītāyā na āpnuyāt kalām ||

Mastercard, the credit card company, had a series of famous commercials that depicted various common experiences that people pay for. During the televised advertisement, each specific item within that experience is given a price tag, and at the end something whose price can’t be measured, such as the sharing of a laugh between friends and family, is deemed priceless. This reminds us that there are certain things that you can’t put a price on, which means that there is no way that a person can buy or sell it. The same concept applies to the favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead’s eternal consort, as not even sovereignty over the three worlds compares to it.

Let’s say that you love the house that you live in. You grew up in that house, you continue to live there, and you have no intention of moving. You like the neighborhood, and you are more less comfortable with your living situation. What if someone comes up to you and tries to buy the house? You will tell them that it’s not for sale, but what if they ask you to name your price? Is there some price at which you would sell the house? If they offer you a ridiculously high price, you could actually sell the house and buy two or three more. You could buy a mansion and find an even better living condition.

The same would hold true for every commodity, but relationships aren’t the same. No one can put a price on your children, and similarly your brothers and sisters are priceless. The parents are nature’s gift, people to protect you unconditionally. There is no real way to pay back the love of the parents; the best way is to follow in their footsteps, taking the love they give you and offering it multiple times over to the person who is most deserving of it.

There are common misconceptions about religious life that are created by nefarious characters who misunderstand it themselves. The terrorist who kills innocent women and children in the name of religion gives God a bad name, as does the person who gets in everyone’s face and tells them that they are going to hell if they don’t surrender to such and such personality. Then there are the men of the cloth who get caught in illicit sexual affairs with minors and others they shouldn’t have such relations with.

But genuine religious life is most worthwhile. A relationship is at its foundation. That relationship is one that defines all other relationships, and therefore it is also the most valuable. You cannot put a price tag on it. To those who have established that relationship, no amount of money can make them break out of it. They are so dedicated to it that they will risk everything to maintain it. They will not budge, not even if sovereignty over the entire land stretching to the oceans is offered.

We can use Shri Hanuman as an example in this regard. He established the relationship through a personal meeting, and his mood of exchange was direct service. God, the Supreme Lord, the author of all that is good in this world, the origin of matter and spirit, was on this earth during the Treta Yuga as a warrior prince named Rama. Hanuman lived in the forest with his other Vanara friends. They were like monkeys, but showed aspects of civilized life.

Rama gave Hanuman a task: find His missing wife Sita. Hanuman only knew Rama briefly up to this point, but he took the mission as his life and soul. Journeying across the vast ocean and into the enemy territory of Lanka, he eventually placed his eyes upon Sita. She was a short distance away, as Hanuman was perched on a tree in a grove of Ashoka trees in Lanka. Upon seeing Sita, Hanuman’s dedication was further strengthened. He realized that whatever Rama was doing to find her was indeed worth it. Rama had done so much already, and now through Hanuman He was doing even more. Hanuman’s work was for Rama, so his bravery was an extension of Rama’s dedication to Sita.

Based on her external appearance, Hanuman decided that sovereignty over the three worlds couldn’t measure up to Sita. This means that her association is priceless. You could offer anything to Rama in exchange for Sita and He wouldn’t take it. Moreover, no one else would either; such was the beauty of the daughter of King Janaka. No opulence could deflect Hanuman’s attention. He was going to tell Sita the message Rama gave no matter what. He was not going to rest until his mission was complete.

Rama DarbarSita is Rama’s eternal consort, so the two are forever related. Her association is priceless because she is always tied to Rama. If you get Sita, you get Rama. There is no way around it. In the same way, if you get Hanuman, you get Sita and Rama and also Lakshmana, Rama’s younger brother. Therefore, the truly wise souls have tremendous respect and affection for Hanuman. No amount of wealth can stop them from loving him.

And what gives Hanuman the greatest pleasure? Seeing others in devotional service, offering the same dedication to Sita and Rama that he has. Therefore, for the devotees their daily routine of chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is a priceless gift that they appreciate to no end. They’ll never sell what they have, but they’ll kindly give replicas to anyone who is wise enough to accept it. Since they distribute priceless gifts, such devotees automatically become dear to the world, like Shri Hanuman who offered the valuable gift of Shri Rama’s message to Sita.

In Closing:

Your price for exchange please name,

So that your house I can make my gain.


With the amount of money I’ll give,

In palatial building you can then live.


Association though to have inestimable value,

Forever dear are friends and family to you.


For Sita’s association there is no price,

Pleases Rama by acting as His beloved wife.


To give her husband’s priceless message Hanuman went,

Today his devotees to spread holy names are sent.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Uneven Scales

Sita Devi“If one had to compare sovereignty over the planetary systems and Sita, the daughter of Janaka, sovereignty over the three worlds would not even reach a fraction of Sita.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.14)

rājyam vā triṣu lokeṣu sītā vā janaka ātmajā |
trailokya rājyam sakalam sītāyā na āpnuyāt kalām ||

Here Shri Hanuman provides another way to describe the glories of Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. In this particular scene, he’s looking at her directly, and through him we are afforded the same vision. Though our eyes don’t directly see what he sees, based on the comparisons he makes we get an idea of how valuable her association is. And interestingly enough, through his words, we also get an idea of just how valuable Shri Hanuman is.

The comparison Hanuman makes here is to sovereignty over the three worlds. In the modern age, we usually think of power in terms of having control over a particular country. Even then the leader doesn’t have much power. For instance, in the United States the President garners much attention. Wherever he goes the band plays Hail to the Chief. He has a standing invitation to appear on any television talk show. He can appear on any show at any time and in essence make it a de facto campaign appearance, one that he doesn’t have to pay for. The show is benefitted by having a prestigious guest, and the President is benefitted by the exposure to the audience.

Yet in terms of governing, the President has little control. He is more or less a final vote. The Congress passes bills and the President can sign or veto them. He also decides where the military goes and who fills positions in the cabinet and judiciary, but again Congress has oversight. They control the purse strings, so the President can’t spend a dime without someone else’s approval first.

The control Hanuman mentions here has a much larger scope. If you are the real sovereign of an area, you can get whatever you want, whenever you want it. People respect you based on your position, and they are automatically nice to you. You can get whatever available beautiful woman you want as well, as who wouldn’t be attracted to awesome power? And Hanuman mentions sovereignty over the three worlds, which are the heavenly, earthly, and hellish planets. In the Vedas, the ancient scriptural tradition of India, there is mention of both heaven and hell, but more detail is provided about them than in other traditions. Residence in either area is not permanent, and once your term expires, you return to the earthly realm, which is situated in the middle.

Hanuman’s reference is to control over heaven, hell and the earth. Thus it represents the height of sovereign control. He says that even if a person had this power, its value would not compare to even a part of Sita. What does he mean by this? Why would it be more valuable to have Sita, the daughter of King Janaka?

When referencing sovereignty, it is understood that the scope of interest relates to material life. The summit of material existence is sex life, and so the more you can improve the quality of it the better situated you’ll be; at least that is the thought. The best way to increase the pleasure from sex life is to find a partner who is the most attractive. Thus for this comparison Sita is considered the most beautiful externally. Also, for a husband nothing compares to the feeling of knowing that your wife is devoted to you. Strength is an attractive feature in males and chastity in females. Sita is the most chaste woman, inheriting the dedication to piety found in her father. Thus her husband would have both the most beautiful woman and the most dedicated.

We don’t need to rely solely on a theoretical understanding to test Hanuman’s assertion. During this particular time period, the Treta Yuga, a fiendish character had sovereignty over a large portion of the world. Though officially he was just the king of Lanka, an island situated far away from any mainland, he was known throughout the three worlds. The celestials in heaven were afraid of him, and on earth no one wanted to fight him. From performing rigid austerities, he got the benediction of tremendous fighting prowess. As a result of his acquired strengths, he defeated many kings and then took their wives. Therefore he had so many beautiful princesses in his kingdom, and he enjoyed with them every night.

Despite his opulence in sovereignty, upon just hearing about Sita, he had to have her. He wasn’t satisfied until she became his wife. Unfortunately for him, that desire would continue to burn in him, eventually causing his entire kingdom to go up in flames. He took Sita away in secret and tried to make her his wife, but she refused to even look at him. He then kept her in a grove of Ashoka trees, threatening to kill her if she didn’t eventually capitulate. Female Rakshasas were ordered to harass her day and night, and she didn’t know if her husband Rama would ever come to rescue her.

Shri HanumanThis brings us to Hanuman. He was in Lanka to look for Sita, acting as Rama’s messenger. He noticed Sita from afar and immediately realized why Rama had worked so hard to try to find her. Hanuman also realized that his lengthy and difficult journey thus far had been worth it. As valuable as Sita is, she only belongs to Rama. She cannot be with any other man. This automatically makes Rama the most fortunate, or Bhagavan. The scriptures already reveal that Rama is the Supreme Lord as an incarnation, and from Hanuman’s comparison that fact is confirmed.

Though the valuable Sita belongs to Rama, Hanuman still got to see her. Unlike Ravana, he wasn’t interested in enjoying her as a wife. He looked at Sita as Rama’s wife, the person who gives the Supreme Lord the most pleasure. Hanuman was a devotee, and so he was able to derive the right kind of enjoyment from Sita’s company, which is the most valuable. What Hanuman doesn’t reveal in this section is that his company is equally as valuable. No amount of material opulence can compare to the words of praise Hanuman offers to Sita and Rama. No stock of gold can compare to the verses of the Ramayana that describe Hanuman’s heroic acts. And by the same token no amount of money can sway the devotees from pleasing Hanuman by regularly chanting the glories of his favorite two people, Sita and Rama.

In Closing:

If you took in one hand sovereignty,

Of the worlds numbering three,


Not to even a fraction would compare,

To Sita, Rama’s beloved wife so fair.


President is the ruler of the land,

But total power not in his hand.


Ravana too thought that he was strong,

But endlessly for Sita he would long.


Real value of Rama’s wife Hanuman knows,

Thus keeps her association wherever he goes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Moving Heaven and Earth

Sita Devi“If for her sake Rama were to turn upside down the entire land reaching to the oceans, or even the whole world itself, in my opinion that would be justified.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.13)

yadi rāmaḥ samudrāntām medinīm parivartayet |
asyāḥ kṛte jagat ca api yuktam iti eva me matiḥ ||

If there is an attack against the homeland, the citizens rightfully expect the government to properly respond. If there is an emergency situation created by a natural disaster, there is the same expectation. The response may be different in the latter situation, but if the leader of the country is seen playing golf, travelling to fundraisers, or just not having any concern at all, the citizens will be unhappy. The leader is supposed to lead after all. If they don’t take the helm during a time of crisis, who will? A long time back, the person leading a small family wasted no time in responding to an emergency situation. One of His servants, who went into battle first to gather intelligence, realized upon seeing the cause of the emergency that whatever would be done to respond to the situation, even up to the point of rotating the earth, would be proper.

We don’t have to use hypothetical scenarios to see why it’s important for leaders to respond to a crisis. The last decade or so has seen plenty of emergency situations in the United States alone. When a terrorist strikes, when they kill innocent people en masse, the citizens expect their government to get on top of things.

To begin, the government should investigate who committed the crime. Who was responsible for the attack? What was their underlying motive? Who were they working for? Are they going to strike again? The retaliation should be swift and uncompromising. If you have to invade another country to find the enemy, do it. Why waste time when the enemy has shown they will do whatever it takes to attack you? If you don’t have the same resolve, you are an open target for attack in the future. The government should make sure that these enemies never think of attacking again. Since the country was attacked first, the government is justified in going after the enemy, and whatever they have to do to find that enemy is worth it.

A long time back the enemy was a fiend of immense powers. He ruled over the island of Lanka, and due to austerities performed for the wrong reason, he acquired tremendous fighting abilities. An austerity or penance is meant to fulfill a tangible purpose. The valid purposes are revealed in scripture, especially in the Vedic texts, which are the oldest in the world. Animals don’t have the ability to acquire knowledge or practice renunciation. They don’t know any better. The valuable human form of life brings these abilities, and the potential exists for a reason. If we have the ability to acquire knowledge and restrain our senses to reach a better end, why not give it a shot?

The proper end is God consciousness. The spirit soul is the essence of identity. There is also a superior soul residing within the body of every living entity. Linking the inferior soul to the superior soul is known as yoga, and the human being has the best chance to practice this yoga. Real yoga is not related to acquiring wealth, developing abilities in strength, or removing distress. The conditions in duality exist regardless of our effort. Whatever we do, it is going to rain in the future. The weather will also get colder and then hotter again. We can pray all we want, try to alter our behavior to change the climate, but nothing can be done.

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

In the same way that winter and summer arrive like clockwork, so pain and pleasure come and go. Yoga transcends the dualities of the material world, which can be likened to a pendulum of attraction and repulsion. One minute we like ice cream and the next we don’t. One day we’re going to work out at the gym and the next we’re swearing off exercise. Connection to the Supreme Soul is meant to be permanent, and in that state there is pure bliss, or ananda.

This king of Lanka didn’t understand yoga. He exploited the tradition of austerity to bolster his position in material opulence. Strangely enough, when he was overtaken by lust for a married woman, he couldn’t use any of his strengths to get her. He had to rely on a ruse to steal her away, against her will, in secret. The lady’s husband then immediately commenced a search for her whereabouts. He was the most powerful fighter in the world, and so the culprit Ravana dared not go up against Him. The lady’s husband was also the most pious person, so He used His abilities for the right purposes.

The missing lady was Sita Devi, and the initial search party consisted of Vanaras with whom Sita’s husband had aligned. The heroic Hanuman finally found Sita in a grove of Ashoka trees in Lanka. He was all by himself at the time, and since he hadn’t met Sita before, he reviewed her external features prior to continuing. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, his initial assessment continues. He declares that Rama, Sita’s husband, would be justified in turning the entire world upside down for her sake.

Sita and RamaSita is compared to a territory which Rama had sovereignty over. She was like an innocent citizen whom Rama swore to protect. Since she was attacked, Rama had every right to find the perpetrator and kill him. In that search, Rama was justified in turning over the entire surface of the earth, which reached to the oceans, if necessary. He could flip the whole world if He wanted. Indeed, previously Rama Himself had remarked about taking such a tact, but His younger brother Lakshmana kindly talked Him out of it.

"O best of men, what is the use of Your destroying the entire world? After finding out Your sinful enemy, You should uproot him alone." (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 66.21)

Rama’s approach of sending Hanuman was the better option. This way Hanuman could offer wonderful service and reserve his spot in history as one of the all-time greatest heroes. Hanuman’s assessment of Sita gives us a better idea of how wonderful she is. We weren’t there in the Ashoka grove, but from Hanuman’s statements we get an idea of what Sita looked like. We also know that Rama had the best wife in the world, someone who was worth fighting for.

From the Vedas we learn that Rama is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His incarnation as a warrior prince and Sita His eternal consort. Therefore working for them, moving heaven and earth to please them, is also justifiable. Thanks to the order of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which has been kindly accepted by His followers, we aren’t asked to rotate the earth or search for enemies. Instead, chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and describing the Supreme Lord’s instructions, upadesha, wherever we go and to whomever we meet is a fit service. Devotional service is what pleases God, and bringing more devotees back into the devotional consciousness pleases Him even more.

In Closing:

The whole world in His hands to take,

And turn it over justified for Sita’s sake.


This was Shri Hanuman’s belief,

When he saw Sita sighing in grief.


Rama heaven and earth could shake,

For beloved wife Sita’s sake.


Instead Hanuman Rama’s instruction took,

In Lanka at Sita got a good look.


In working for Rama he never tires,

The world of devotees to act he inspires.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Who You Work For

Hanuman's heart“It was for her sake, she of wide eyes, that I crossed over the magnificent ocean, the lord of rivers and streams, and explored this city.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.12)

sāgaraḥ ca mayā krāntaḥ śrīmān nada nadī patiḥ |
asyā hetor viśāla akṣyāḥ purī ca iyam nirīkṣitā ||

Wouldn’t you want to work for someone that you like? If you’re going to put in so much time and effort at the office, in addition to getting paid, it would be nice if you respected the establishment. If you are doing good work, things that will help society at large, you’ll feel better about going to the office each day. If the person calling the shots, the leader, has a good character, you’ll also be more enthusiastic when working. For a spy sent on a reconnaissance mission a long time ago, the leaders were already of the best character, but when he saw the person who was to ultimately benefit from his work, he felt even better about the mission.

This mission wasn’t easy. It was reconnaissance, and it was risky. If you’re told to find someone who has gone missing in the neighborhood, you aren’t necessarily risking your life in trying to find them. You call around, put up flyers, go into local establishments, and continue your search that way. For Shri Hanuman, the missing person was the wife of the prince of the Raghu dynasty. She could have been anywhere in the world, and to make matters worse, the person who took her obviously didn’t want to be found.

This meant that the closer Hanuman got to finding her, the more danger he would be in. But such things didn’t deter him. His dedication to duty is what contributed to his being picked for the job. An entire army of eager soldiers went out for the search, but it was known to the leader Sugriva beforehand that Hanuman was the most capable. Rama, the husband of the missing princess, also trusted Hanuman from their initial meeting.

“O hero, your determination and sterling prowess, coupled with Sugriva’s words, tell Me certainly of success.” (Lord Rama speaking to Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.14)

The monkeys searched for a long time but to no avail. When Hanuman’s group was about to quit, they came upon valuable intelligence. They learned that Sita, the missing princess, was on an island ruled by the king of ogres, Ravana. Sure, it was good to know where she was, but how were they going to get to this island? It was far away and surrounded by the vast ocean. At this point, Hanuman stepped up and crossed the ocean by jumping from a mountaintop. This was no ordinary feat, and even the celestials in heaven watched with amazement.

As mentioned before, the closer Hanuman got, the more dangerous his situation became. When he reached Lanka, he had to contend with the inhabitants of the city. He was a Vanara, which is a human-like monkey. He would not fit in with the ogres living there. So he had to mask his figure and still continue his search. In a diminutive stature, he searched extensively throughout the city and still couldn’t find Sita. As a last resort, he entered a beautiful grove of ashoka trees, and while perched on a golden tree he could see a woman from a distance. After reviewing her features, he realized that she was Sita, Rama’s wife.

Police officers, firefighters, and military personnel voluntarily enter service to protect their fellow man. Though they are paid for their work, they are still risking their lives with what they do. And going in, they have to prepare to meet the worst possible people. Dedication is tested not in the best circumstances, but through the harshest conditions. For instance, if I say that I am a staunch supporter of freedom of speech, my claim is tested with my tolerance of statements that I most disagree with. If someone says the worst possible thing and I try to use the strong arm of government to stop them from speaking, I obviously don’t support freedom of speech.

Sita DeviSimilarly, if I am a sworn defender of the innocent, my allegiance to duty is tested when I have to defend someone of the worst character. Someone I don’t like at all needs my help, and if I don’t help them, I’m not really faithful to my duty. Nevertheless, it always helps when the people you’re working hard for are of the highest character. In the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, we see that Hanuman knows that his work has been worth it. He sees Sita from afar, and he can tell that she is something special; she is not an ordinary woman. Otherwise why would Rama have gone to such great lengths to try to find her? Rama defeated the most powerful Rakshasas in Ravana’s army on a prior occasion, and He did so to protect Sita.

Though Hanuman worked for Rama and Sugriva, since their purpose was to find Sita, Hanuman essentially worked for her also. He risked his life to find her. Crossing that ocean was not easy. If it were, any of the Vanaras would have done it. Searching through Lanka without being spotted was also difficult and risky. Yet it was all worth it since the beneficiary was of the highest character. From the Vedas we learn that Sita Devi is the goddess of fortune and Rama the Supreme Lord Himself. Therefore from Hanuman’s testimony we can take it as fact that working for God or one of His devotees is always worth the effort, no matter the risk or struggle. In the modern age, the dharma for every living entity is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and since the beneficiaries are Sita and Rama, any effort expended in chanting is well worth it.

In Closing:

For my dedication to duty to test,

Not only through conditions the best.


If even harshest opposition comes my way,

Towards the mission faithful I must stay.


If the character of beneficiary is high,

Easier to follow through on mission my.


Such was the case for Sugriva’s Hanuman,

Found Sita, beloved wife of Bhagavan.


The giant ocean with a leap he crossed,

And out of his way Lanka’s guard he tossed.


All the risky work coming to bear,

When at beautiful Sita he could stare.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Worthy Rebuke

Krishna speaking to Arjuna“The Supreme Person [Bhagavan] said: My dear Arjuna, how have these impurities come upon you? They are not at all befitting a man who knows the progressive values of life. They do not lead to higher planets, but to infamy. “ (Bhagavad-gita, 2.2)

Bhagavad-gita, 2.2It’s a big night. You’re going to a gathering where a famous personality will be there. They are known for being expert in the field that interests you. They are considered “senior” because they have been involved in that field for a number of years. They are old enough to be your father, and they started in the field when they were younger than you are now. They have spent an entire lifetime practicing. As you can gain valuable insight through their association, you are very excited.

The event is a small gathering, so you won’t be the only person there. There is anticipation nonetheless, as this kind of opportunity doesn’t come too often. Things start out well, as you make a basic introduction and then listen attentively as they give their talk. During the question and answer period, however, you ask what you think is a harmless question. Instead of giving a typical response, the speaker scoffs at the mere suggestion you make. It’s as if they think you’re antagonistic to the field, like you don’t respect them. But you indeed have just the opposite intention, so this stern rebuke shakes you. You can’t stop thinking about it for the next few hours.

Later on, however, you realize that the rebuke was to your benefit. Your question may have been innocent in your eyes, but it represented a lack of understanding. Rather than take the kind approach, the stern rebuke sends the correct message loud and clear. This is actually an act of kindness from the superior, as through this type of interaction they teach you a valuable lesson very quickly. A similar kind of rebuke was even shown by the greatest teacher of all, Lord Krishna.

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThe Bhagavad-gita documents this exchange. The setting was a battlefield, and the hesitant warrior Arjuna was the character of principal focus. His army was about to take on the aggressors known as the Kauravas. Arjuna’s side had a rightful claim to the disputed land, but the opposing side unjustly usurped it and refused to give back even an inch of it. Arjuna was famous for his fighting prowess using the bow and arrow, so his side, the Pandavas, expected to ride that strength to victory. More importantly, Arjuna had Krishna for his charioteer. Krishna is the ever well-wishing friend of the Pandavas. He also happens to be the expert teacher, as He is the origin of all knowledge.

Despite his superior fighting ability, Arjuna was initially hesitant to move forward. He didn’t want to win. If you don’t have a will, how are you going to put in the effort necessary for success? A head coach in the National Football League once famously said, “You play to win the game!” If you’re not in the competition to achieve victory, you’re not really competing. If Arjuna had any hesitancy whatsoever, his side was doomed.

Afraid of living a life devoid of the company of friends and family fighting for the opposing side, Arjuna created all sorts of excuses to justify his desire to quit. He presented his arguments to Krishna, who also happened to be related to him as a cousin. Once the concerns were presented, however, the relationship between the two changed. No longer were they friends or close family members. Krishna became the acknowledged superior and Arjuna the pupil requiring instruction.

Krishna was not unnecessarily mild in His initial reaction. He didn’t say, “O Arjuna, you are such a kind-hearted soul. You are truly wise for not wanting to harm anyone else. You have passed the test life has handed to you by choosing the more difficult path of nonviolence. You are to be commended for your intelligence.”

Instead, Krishna said that Arjuna’s attitude was not befitting someone of his intelligence. It also didn’t square with his role in society. In the Vedas, society is divided up into four general categories based on natural qualities within people. The kshatriyas are the second class; their duties involve military conflict for the purpose of protecting the innocent. The kshatriyas are not meant to be unnecessarily nonviolent, as the miscreant aggressors in society will not hesitate to use violence to get their way. If the criminals are going to steal, you better be ready to protect your stuff. If the enemy is going to attack, you better be prepared to fight them off, lest you risk losing your own life and the lives of others.

Krishna’s initial admonishment was beneficial because it got Arjuna’s attention. The doubtful warrior’s attitude did not suit the occasion. It’s not that he should have been overly concerned with victory, either. Rather, when one follows their duties, they should do so out of obligation. The fighting order exists for a reason, and if one does their best job in that occupation, it is better than accepting another occupation that one is not suited for.

Bhagavad-gita, 3.35“It is far better to discharge one's prescribed duties, even though they may be faulty, than another's duties. Destruction in the course of performing one's own duty is better than engaging in another's duties, for to follow another's path is dangerous.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.35)

Krishna immediately touched on the eternality of the spirit soul and how it is transcendental to the changes to the outer covering, which is more commonly known as the body. As the soul never dies, no one can really kill anyone else. The killing we see is the effect of material nature on the temporary covering. Not that one should go on a violent rampage, but it should be known that everyone will have to suffer death eventually through the influence of time and that no one can do anything without the compliance of the forces controlling the material nature. If Arjuna would act on his occupational duty without attachment for the result, he would not incur any sin from fighting.

The wise souls take rebuke from the spiritual master to be a great blessing. The teacher is in an acknowledged position of superiority after all, so if they only compliment us all the time, what is the benefit to their association? It is more helpful to me if the teacher points out my flaws so that I will have something to correct going forward. Krishna pushed Arjuna towards the right choice of fighting on. And it always was a choice. The instruction Krishna offered was not a command; He left the option up to Arjuna.

In the same way, all living entities have a choice in whether or not they want to follow dharma, or duty. The dharma for the present age is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” It is difficult to decipher material occupational duties due to the lack of qualified teachers and the underlying culture necessary to maintain adherence to religious principles. The most potent method of self-realization for the present age is the recitation of the holy names, which are non-different from God. And through self-realization, one learns how to properly direct their activities.

The spiritual master is the representative of Krishna, and they are an expert in practicing bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Since they accept the dharma of the present age as their primary occupation in life, they can offer the most valuable instruction to others. When they point out our flaws it is most beneficial to us, as it gives the guidance necessary to move forward on the path to transcendence.

In Closing:

A superior authority I want to meet,

Excited when taking my listening seat.


But after a harmless question I say,

A stern rebuke comes my way.


At the moment I don’t realize in mind,

That such act was a lesson very kind.


Arjuna too rebuke from a wise man received,

When plan to deviate from dharma he conceived.


Teacher of his was Shri Krishna who held chariot’s reins,

Told Arjuna to battle, caring not for losses or gains.


Same kindness the guru to us gives,

Correcting us so in transcendence we’ll live.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

No Distractions

Krishna's lotus feet“Yoga means concentration of the mind detached from all other subject matter. And actually such concentration is samadhi, or cent percent engagement in the service of the Lord. And one who concentrates his attention in that manner is called a yogi. “ (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.9.23 Purport)

In the advanced technological age, daily discussions, sometimes heated at that, occur over which new piece of technology is superior. The drive for profit in a free society ensures that there will be competition, which in turn gives the consumer choices in their retail purchasing. Oddly enough, one of the arguments used in favor of a popular piece of technology is that it has less features. Less is more in this viewpoint, as the lack of features means fewer distractions in using the gadget for its main purpose. The same argument has merits when applied to the realm of spirituality, where man’s overall lethargy prevents him from proceeding down a path that is guaranteed to provide him the most happiness.

E-readers are growing in popularity. This is not surprising. Rather than purchase a bulky book that you have to store somewhere after you read it one time, you can buy a single device that holds all of your books. The device remembers what page you left off on previously, and you can flip through multiple books at the same time. The books stay with you wherever you are. You can even switch between multiple devices to read the same book. Lighting is also no longer an issue. Whether in the daytime or night, whether you are in the perfect sitting position or not, you can read.

To facilitate the demand for e-reading, there are several devices available to the consumer. They each have different features. One device is strictly for reading. It hardly has any extraneous features. This device has several different versions, and most of them don’t have a color screen. The most popular competitor to this device is feature-rich. It can be used to check email, watch videos, surf the internet, and even do work through using business applications. It is almost as good as a desktop computer, and is in many ways superior to one.

Kindle PaperwhiteYet the proponents of the simpler device will say that the device’s lack of features makes it more conducive to reading. “There are less distractions. I’m not tempted to check my email. I don’t get the urge to thumb through pictures. I can’t surf the internet really, either. There aren’t tons of applications on it. When I pick up this device, I am more or less forced to read. And isn’t that what I want an e-reader for? Why should I pay more for a device that has features that I don’t really need?”

The obvious irony in this assessment is that the feature-rich device can also be used solely for reading. One has the choice. No one is forcing anyone to check email or watch videos on the feature-rich device. Nevertheless, the “less is more” argument resonates with many, as despite the ability to exercise discretion, sometimes we need to be forced into a particular activity. If the teacher in class gives us a take-home test that is due a week from today, we may not finish the test right away. We may wait until the night before it is due to start it. If the teacher gave the same test in class, where we had to complete it within a few hours, we would be forced to focus on the test, and thus be made to finish something that required completion.

In spiritual life practiced at the constitutional level, there are no hard and fast rules. This statement will be surprising to some, as the mere mention of religion brings to mind bombastic preachers boldly labeling all of us sinners who have gone against God’s will. But after all, isn’t a religious person supposed to be critical? If we were doing everything right already, why would we need God? The initial stages of spiritual life surely require restriction, regulation, and attention to principles, but the ultimate goal is love, or prema. Love is the universal language, and when it exists it cannot be checked. Similarly, Krishna-prema, or love for God, in its pure form is unmotivated and uninterrupted. Therefore it is not dependent on any specific situation.

Those who teach others how to attain this love and hold on to it are known as Vaishnavas. The Sanskrit word means a devotee of Vishnu, who is the personal form of God. The impersonal comes from the personal. The term “God” is impersonal; it refers to an abstract being casually referred to as the Supreme Controller or the Almighty. Everything is God after all, and if He is not clearly defined I can make Him out to be anything. Vishnu is the Supreme Lord with specific features. Vishnu is described in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. And Vishnu comes from Krishna, who is the original Lord. Krishna’s name appropriately means “all-attractive.”

The Vaishnavas give us nine methods for practicing bhakti-yoga, which is the original occupation of the spirit soul. Of the nine methods, the two best are hearing and chanting. Right away we see that these two activities can take place anywhere. To make it even easier, the Vaishnavas give us mantras to chant out loud, such as, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Hearing is simultaneously accounted for in this chanting. To increase the potency of the chanting, the Vaishnavas advise that we give up meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.

Seems simple enough, no? Ah, but this world can be likened to the greatest entertainment device there is. On the superior e-reader we have many choices for interaction, and similarly in this world we have unlimited choices in how to spend our time. Though we learn that hearing about God and chanting His names are most beneficial, we are driven towards those things which aren’t good for us in the end. In the Bhagavad-gita, Arjuna brings up this question to Krishna, as he understands that the mind is sometimes driven to sinful activities, almost like it doesn’t have a choice.

Bhagavad-gita, 3.36“Arjuna said: O descendant of Vrishni, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.36)

Krishna gives the answer: lust, which is prema in a perverted form. In devotional service, bhakti-yoga, lust is transformed back into its constitutional form of pure love for God. Nevertheless, in the material world we are bound by this lust, which drives us in all sorts of different directions, even after we get good instruction. How are we to find any success then?

Deities in the templeJust as the scaled down e-reader forces us to focus on the task that we want, namely reading, the temple environment, which is nothing more than a gathering of fellow practitioners of bhakti-yoga, compels us to hear and chant. From this fact we see the true purpose of the temple. It is a house of worship for sure, and one can see a deity representation of the Supreme Lord there. One can perform worship and offer prayers, which satisfy two of the other nine processes of devotional service, namely archanam and vandanam. But the real benefit is the association of the saintly class. In their presence it is much easier to focus on devotional activities. We can also take away lessons from them to be used when we are alone, worshiping at home.

Superior to the temple is the larger aggregate known as the holy place of pilgrimage, such as Vrindavana or Mayapura. In these places the devotional attitude continues throughout all hours of the day and in areas outside of the temple as well. For this reason the saints have ranked residence in a holy place very high in the list of beneficial activities.

Bhakti-yoga is so great that it can be practiced even if the situations are not ideal. Shri Hanuman practiced it while searching inside of an enemy territory. Prahlada Maharaja practiced it while being tortured by his father. Shrimati Radharani and her friends practiced it while tending to the household chores throughout the day. If the desire to be with God exists, nothing will stop the devotee, as the Supreme Lord Himself will offer a helping hand. His benevolence in this area is fully evident in the potency of the holy name, which carries His direct presence.

In Closing:

To read books anywhere I sought,

So this new e-reader I have bought.


Though my primary desire is to read,

Extraneous features to elsewhere will lead.


When using device that is not as feature rich,

Forced to read, beneficial is the switch.


Temples can act in the same way,

Through sadhu-sanga, holy names impelled to say.


From the lessons in their company learned,

More fruitful practice at home earned.