Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Sun of the Sun Family

Lord Rama“Vishvamitra then instructed Janaka, telling him to allow the sun of the sun family to look at Lord Shiva’s bow.” (Janaki Mangala, 90)

kausika janakahiṃ kaheu dehu anusāsana |
dekhi bhānu kula bhānu isānu sarāsana ||

There are many ways to describe the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and from each way a new path for glorification is found. It’s like having a magic wand that can be waived to create endless discussions that warm the heart and inform the mind. In this particular instance, Goswami Tulsidas nicely set the table by first mentioning that the failure of many princes in a contest was like watching a forest full of the best lotus flowers killed by a chilling frost. And after the onset of that winter chill, the sun of the sun family was to have His chance, to show that someone could indeed lift this amazingly heavy bow.

Shri Ramachandra is a historical personality and also an incarnation of God. We are informed of this by the Vedas. His name says that He is the moon that gives full transcendental pleasure. His appearance took place in a dynasty that originated with the sun-god, Vivasvan. When hearing such facts, the tendency is to think that in a primitive era man didn’t know much about things out of their grasp, so they just personified such things as the sun, the moon, and the rain. This seems plausible enough, but we also know that despite the wealth of material science and research over millions of years there is still no explanation given for the sun’s origin. If there was a big bang of chemicals to create life, why can’t we repeat the same explosion? Are chemicals more intelligent than us? How can chemicals randomly create an object that burns brightly without cessation, while we can’t even keep a light bulb burning for as long as we want?

the sunThe ancient scriptures of India assign personalities to the sun and the moon not out of sheer conjecture, but as an accurate way to describe how all material bodies operate. There are three modes of material nature: goodness, passion and ignorance. Think of goodness as knowledge, passion as a neutral state, and ignorance as just that, stupidity, lack of knowledge. The elements belonging to these modes can then be combined into so many different proportions, resulting in 8,400,000 species. The sun is a divine figure, so it is mostly in the mode of goodness. It is a giver of life, and so it is to be honored.

The sun’s body is composed mostly of the element of fire, whereas in some creatures fire is almost absent. The sun’s family lineage is described in books like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. The sun’s son was Manu, and his son was Ikshvaku, who took charge of government. These were not sense-gratifiers; they operated off of religious principles, or dharma. The princes who took birth in this line upheld the standard of government set by Ikshvaku. Yet Rama is described as the sun of this line because He was the brightest figure. He made it even more famous than it already was.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Vishvamitra Muni is not exaggerating when He refers to Rama as the sun of the sun race. Prior to this, Rama was used as protection in the forest against wicked ogres who were attacking the sages. Think of retreating to the wilderness to find peace and quiet. You want to get away from the hustle and bustle of civilized life and just take it easy for a while. These sages took this attitude to the extreme and decided to make the forest their home. They just wanted to worship God, and the Vedas gave them plenty of rituals and regulations to follow. There would be fewer distractions in the forest, or so they thought.

Rakshasas, creatures who were mostly in the mode of ignorance, purposefully attacked these sages because of their respect for religious principles. If I live in ignorance I can’t really successfully debate someone who lives in knowledge. My arguments will always fail, for deep down I know that I am engaged in the wrong activities. The only way I can emerge victorious is if I destroy my opponent. This is a principal tool of the politician who doesn’t stand for anything in his campaign. Rather than tell people the truth, that he wants to stay in power so that he can distribute taxpayer dollars to his specific interest groups of choice, he will try to slander the opposition, using every fallacy of argument there is in order to sway voters.

Rama and Lakshmana fighting off TatakaThese Rakshasas couldn’t argue, so they just attacked. Therefore the sages required protection and so Vishvamitra went to Ayodhya to get the help of Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. Though they were very young at the time, they still defeated the Rakshasas. The forest was previously chilled by these vile creatures, but the sun of the solar dynasty was there to bring the lotus-like sages back to life.

On this occasion in Janakpur, Rama would not revive the princes who had failed to lift the bow. They were trying to win the hand of Sita Devi in marriage. She was King Janaka’s beloved daughter. Rama’s transcendental warmth would revive the hopes of the people of the town, who wanted Him to win. They saw His beauty and were enamored by it. They had never seen anyone like Rama before. This is what happens when you see God, and in order to see Him right you must be pure at heart. Only then will your eyes notice the Divine when it is standing in front of you.

As a pious king himself, Janaka respected the priestly class, and so Vishvamitra was not out of place in instructing Janaka. It was at the sage’s direction that the brothers went to Janakpur, for they were otherwise content staying in the forest and protecting him. Vishvamitra was doing the work of the demigods, the celestials who wanted Rama to rid the world of the head of the Rakshasas, Ravana. Through lifting the bow of Lord Shiva, the wheels were set in motion for the demon’s demise.

In Closing:

Chill of the frost on the forest goes upon,

Life of the beautiful lotuses thus gone.


With a most powerful sun to arrive,

Petals open up, life of the lotuses to revive.


Shri Rama was solar dynasty’s sun,

Ready to lift bow that others could none.


Vishvamitra instruction to Janaka gave,

Lifting bow, Rama dreams of residents to save.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Like the Coldest Winter Chill

Lotus flowers“With the people of the town and their families, Janaka was disappointed in the heart at seeing this. It was like a forest of the best lotuses being killed by a frost.” (Janaki Mangala, 89)

dekhi sapura parivāra janaka hiya hāreu |
nṛpa samāja janu tuhina banaja bana māreu ||

The farmer’s worst nightmare is the frost. If you have a garden in the backyard, you probably don’t rely on its output for sustenance. It’s nice to see tomatoes and squash growing, but you still get the majority of your food from the supermarket. The farmers are the ones who supply these markets, and so their harvest is a lot larger. When the frost comes and wreaks its havoc, the toll it takes on the farmer can be devastating. This is what it looked like to King Janaka a long time ago when he saw the best princes in the world defeated by an amazingly heavy bow.

The chill was the bow. It was as hard as adamant; it could not be moved. It would just take one prince lifting it to end the contest. They would be declared the winner immediately. No more worry over what to do. No more sadness over seeing defeat. Even if it’s your worst enemy, seeing them fail miserably in front of the world evokes some feelings of pity. Imagine then a host of proud kings bested by a bow while others watched. Janaka felt sad in the heart seeing this.

The princes were the lotuses. They were the best flowers to grow in the forest that was Janakpur. The host Janaka wanted the best princes to come to his city to try their hand at the contest. The winner would get to marry Janaka’s daughter Sita. She was worth the effort. A good wife from a good family is a great fortune for the husband and his family. Through her support the man is energized, and then he is better equipped to carry out his obligations.

The frost of the bow was too formidable a force for these kings, so it looked like Sita would have to stay unmarried. But one person could handle the frost without a problem. He was a special flower in the forest, and for Him whether there was weight or not in the bow was of no concern. He is self-illuminating, so if you compare Him to a lotus, He acts as if the sun is always shining bright in the sky.

Bhagavad-gita, 15.6“That abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by electricity. One who reaches it never returns to this material world.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.6)

In the Bhagavad-gita, the same lotus in His original form of Krishna says that in His realm there is no need for electricity. We know that the source of light within this planetary sphere is the sun. The further you get away from the sun in outer space, the darker it becomes. When the earth rotates temporarily out of the vision of the sun, there is darkness for the inhabitants. So the sun is the source of illumination, but in the spiritual world there is no need of a sun. The proprietor Himself, the king of the spiritual world, is so effulgent that there is no need for external light. Therefore one who reaches that realm never has to live in darkness.

Lord RamaThat proprietor was there in Janakpur that day, ready to take a shot at lifting the bow. His splendor was evident in His facial and bodily features, and that splendor spread to His limbs as well. There was immense strength in Him, and so lifting the bow would not be a problem. Shri Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha, at the request of the sage Vishvamitra, stepped up and raised the bow without issue.

Why allow the frost to set in? Why didn’t Rama lift the bow immediately? The sun’s brightness is appreciated more after the dark night. The spring is welcomed after a harsh winter. On this occasion, the cold winter of defeat affected both the participants and the host. The lotus-like princes tried their best to lift the bow, but the chill was too much to bear. Janaka’s hopes were sinking slowly with each successive defeated prince, and so it looked like all hope was lost.

And then came God to save the day. Rama is the Supreme Lord, the same person other faiths worship. In Rama the features are more clearly drawn out. He is Bhagavan, which means one who possesses beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation to the fullest degree and at the same time. The defeated princes were embarrassed by the bow, but in seeing Rama victorious, it was known that the proper result occurred. The miscreant princes who were still upset at their failure at least had their false pride checked.

Because of the preceding frost, the sun of the solar dynasty shone so bright that He is still remembered to this day. Word spread quickly of Rama’s victory. The female sage Anasuya even once asked to hear about the event from Sita herself. The saints always delight in hearing about Rama, and since they are like lotuses as well, they look to Him as their sun. In the harsh winter of Kali Yuga, the sunshine is available through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Hopes of princes dashed by bow standing still,

Like forest of lotuses killed by frost’s chill.


With friends and family Janaka sad in heart,

Hopes of finding ideal match ready to depart.


For the lotus flower life comes from sight,

Of the sun, opens immediately at its light.


Sun of solar dynasty, Shri Rama hope again brought,

That God is self-effulgent through example He taught.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Vishvamitra and Lakshmana“Some were excited, but the bow was immovable, like the word of a saint. Looking at the bow, their strength and intelligence were forcefully stolen, like with King Nahusha.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 11.2)

eka karahiṃ dāpa na cāpa sajjana bacana jimi ṭāreṃ ṭarai |
nṛpa nahuṣa jyoṃ saba keṃ bilokata buddhi bala barabasa harai ||

Goswami Tulsidas here makes a few references to Vedic history to describe what happened to the rival princes as they tried to lift the famous bow of Lord Shiva. The setting was a kingdom hosting an event with thousands in attendance. The main attraction, the final act on the bill if you will, was the lifting of the bow. Whoever could do it first would win. The fight would be declared over as soon as that bow went in a prince’s hand and was raised to the sky. As destiny’s will is impossible to subvert, on this day only one person was set to win, someone who has never lost anything in His life.

Do we know of anyone who has never lost? Famous political figures may have won the big election when they were on the ballot, but they definitely lost something prior to that. No one goes completely undefeated. Death is the greatest champion in this regard, as it defeats every single person, regardless of the effort they make to send it back from where it came.

To say that God is undefeated seems a bit obvious. “Oh sure, go the God route. You can just say that about anything. ‘I will never win this. Only God could do this. It is hopeless for me. No one but God could succeed in these trying circumstances.’” The Vedas give more than just an abstract or utopian idea of God. There are concrete details provided which are easy to remember, provided that one wants to remember them.

And why wouldn’t we want to remember someone who is undefeated? To aid in the remembrance we get God’s name of Achyuta. Just saying the name “Achyuta” over and over again brings God to the mind, allowing us to remember that He is undefeated. If that remembrance isn’t giving enough pleasure, go back to an incident that proved that He is the strongest person in the world. For such an incident to take place, the undefeated figure known as God must have a form that is visible to the eyes.

There are debates among transcendentalists as to whether God is with form or without, whether He is a personality or just an energy. On a higher level, the arguments are a waste of time because we only think in terms of form and formlessness because of our limited abilities. On a cloudy day we say that the sun is not out, but the sun hasn’t gone anywhere. We say that a person is gone after they die, but their soul still exists. They are still alive, though we can’t see them.

To make an entity distinct, we refer to them as a person. A person possesses features but a person is also flawed. Therefore we think God can’t be a person because that would mean He’s flawed. He must also be without form because we can’t see Him. Both of these are indeed not the case; His personality and form are different than how we know personalities and forms. He is the Supreme Person, and His attributes are divine. He can lift an extremely heavy bow while in the visible manifestation of a young prince.

Lord RamaBefore that victory took place, other princes tried their hand. King Janaka hosted this contest to find a groom for the bride, his daughter Sita Devi. What better way to find a good protector than to hold a contest relating to strength? But this bow was originally Shiva’s, and Sita is eternally Rama’s. Rama is the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince. Rama appears before the eyes, but He is not an ordinary person. He possesses the attributes of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation to the fullest degree and at the same time.

Shiva is a great devotee of Rama, and Sita, as Rama’s wife for life, can only be with Rama and no one else. Janaka is also a famous devotee today, so we see that based on the players alone, the result of the contest was set. Of course no one knew this outwardly, as this is the fun the Supreme Lord likes to have. If all knew what was going to happen, why show up? And if everyone knew beforehand, why would we want to hear details of the event today? Why celebrate Achyuta’s marvelous feat of lifting the bow if everyone there already understood what was going to happen?

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Goswami Tulsidas continues his description of the kings who tried to win the contest. Prior to this, some just stared at the bow and walked away, making an excuse. They were like monkeys looking at a coconut, not trying to open it because they were too afraid of the shame of losing. The kings mentioned above were so excited that they actually tried to lift the bow. But it is said that the bow was immovable, like the word of a saint.

A saint in the Vedic tradition is known as a brahmana, which can be likened to a priest. A brahmana lives by austerity and penance, and through their good deeds they acquire tremendous spiritual merits. As a result, when they say something, it must come to be. For instance, if they curse someone, the results of the curse must manifest. If they are supplicated after the fact, they can proclaim something else which will also come to be, but they will never take back their word of the original curse. This is a power granted to brahmanas by the Supreme Lord, who holds His devotees in very high esteem.

It is also said that by looking at the bow, the strength and intelligence of the kings were forcefully stolen, like with what happened to King Nahusha. Nahusha was a famous king during ancient times, and through his pious deeds he ascended to the heavenly realm. The three worlds are the earth, the heavenly planets, and the hellish planets. As they are all part of the material world, residence is not permanent for the wandering soul. You go to heaven if you are good in this life, but you don’t stay there forever. Similarly, being condemned to hell doesn’t mean that you are stuck there without any hope.

King Nahusha was in heaven, but while there he had lusty desires towards the wife of King Indra. Indra is the king of heaven and he cursed Nahusha to fall from heaven and be born as a snake for his impious thoughts. Material life is thus very tenuous; there is no certainty for anyone. These kings were previously considered to be very powerful and intelligent, but since this bow was destined to be lifted by Rama, they seemingly lost all their strength just by looking at it.

Fortunately, there is one discipline that is above the material nature, that brings permanent results in a permanent realm. Devotional service, also known as bhakti-yoga, is the soul’s eternal occupation, and one of its primary methods of implementation is hearing. Just hearing about Rama’s eventual victory in the contest, and how all the other kings were bested by the bow He was to lift, brings the consciousness closer to the transcendental realm. While the curse of a saint cannot be reversed and accumulated merits can vanish with a single transgression, know that through loving God spiritual strength increases in a manner that is irreversible. The undefeated Shri Rama makes sure of it.

In Closing:

Through piety Nahusha to heaven went,

With lusty desires back to earth sent.


Once a curse upon you a saint does make,

Can’t go back, their word never to break.


Comparisons the bow contest help to describe,

Excited kings failed though with effort they tried.


Strength with one look stolen, move the bow would not,

Rama destined to win, beautiful Sita as wife He got.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fear of Failure

Kings watching the contest“Unable to get the desired result, some made an excuse and stayed where they were, while others went to see the bow. Like a monkey examining a coconut, they each sat back down with their heads hanging down.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 11.1)

nahiṃ saguna pāyau rahe misu kari eka dhanu dekhana gae |
ṭakaṭori kapi jyoṃ nāriyalu sirū nāi saba baiṭhata bhae ||

This bow was so intimidating that some were afraid to even try to lift it. The bow was the reason they were there in the first place. The princes came to try to win the hand of the most beautiful princess in the world. And to do that required lifting a bow in front of so many other people. But some were intimidated by the bow to the point that they wouldn’t try to lift it. Their behavior set the table nicely for the ultimate triumph of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

The famous fable relating to the fox and the grapes gave rise to the popular expression, “sour grapes.” The fox tries to reach for grapes that are up high on a vine. After a failed attempt, the fox changes his tune, saying that the grapes are probably sour anyway. The fox doesn’t know that for sure, but in order to massage its ego, to feel better about the failure, it dismisses the grapes as being poor in taste and thereby not worth attaining.

Some of the princes assembled in Janakpur took a similar attitude, except they didn’t necessarily speak ill of the item in question. This bow originally belonged to Lord Shiva, a famous figure of the Vedic tradition. If the name Shiva is unknown to you, at least know that during this time period everyone knew who Shiva was. He was highly respected, even by those who didn’t worship him specifically. This bow originally came from him, and since it was the centerpiece of the event in Janakpur, people knew that it wasn’t ordinary.

King Janaka didn’t call people to his kingdom to lift a grain of rice. Why would people even come for that? If they did, then they’d fight with each other to be the first in line. The lifting of the rice would be a given, as even an infant can pick up something as light as rice. This bow was not ordinary, and people knew that it wouldn’t be easy to lift. Many princes came to Janaka’s city because the winner would be a true gem, a tower of strength to be known throughout the world.

Some were too afraid to try to lift the bow, though, knowing its strength and wanting to avoid public shame. If you fail on the grand stage, it is sometimes worse than not trying at all. If in sports you consistently lose in the final round of a big tournament, it’s worse than actually losing in the first round. No one remembers who played in the earlier rounds, but the finals are viewed by a larger audience. A perennial failure in the important moments then gets labeled a choker, which is worse than being known as incapable.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.34“People will always speak of your infamy, and for one who has been honored, dishonor is worse than death.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.34)

Krishna and ArjunaIn the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that for a celebrated warrior, dishonor is worse than death. This is because they were previously honored. They were known for some reason or another. Through dishonor, they tarnish their reputation. The eager journalists pay close attention to scandal for this very reason. If they can take down a celebrated figure through reporting their flaws, their story will be very popular. The dishonor will draw much attention because it is focused on someone who was previously honored. Dishonor to someone who was never honored isn’t as important.

From the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see that some of the princes made an excuse and stayed where they were. Think of it like the football player refusing to go into the game by faking an injury. “Oh my knee hurts. I don’t think I can play, coach.” Others got up and examined the bow, but they sat back down with their heads hanging low. Their behavior is compared to monkeys looking at coconuts. The inside of the coconut is what matters. It takes some effort to open the coconut too; it’s not an easy business, even for human beings. Unless you make the effort, however, you will never taste the fruit that is inside, namely the water and the coconut meat.

Comparing these princes to monkeys is humorous and also harsh in a sense, but it is done to paint the right picture. This event is talked about to this day because Shri Rama would eventually lift the bow. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead in an apparently human form. He performs superhuman acts witnessed by the parrot-like saints, who then document what they see and repeat the information to others, passing on the descriptions of the pastimes to future generations.

Whether they tried or not, these princes did not have the ability to lift the bow. The bow was like a coconut that no monkey could crack. It was destined to be lifted by Rama, who is Sita’s husband for life. Janaka’s daughter, the beloved Sita Devi, was fit for the most powerful prince in the world, and since no one is more powerful than God, only He is worthy of Sita.

In Closing:

At a coconut monkey has a look,

By its presence alone confidence shook.


To open it won’t even try,

Sour grapes, tell itself a lie.


Many princes also not wanting to attempt,

Looking at bow, back to their seats they went.


Bow only for Rama’s hand meant,

Lifted it without any effort spent.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Not Meant to Be

Shiva's bow“Then Janaka’s vow was announced to the people. The kings arose excited, but none could get the desired result of lifting the bow.” (Janaki Mangala, 88)

taba bideha pana bandinha pragaṭa sunāyau |
uṭhe bhūpa āmaraṣi saguna nahiṃ pāyau ||

At the end of each week in the National Football League season, there is extensive analysis of all the games that just completed. This is one of the contributing factors to the profitability of the league. Since most of the games are played on a single day, and each team plays only one game per week, there is ample buildup for each upcoming game. The rest of the time is spent in contemplation of the previous week’s games, increasing the anticipation over what lies ahead. An inevitable part of the review process is looking at the missed opportunities. What could have been done differently to receive a better outcome? From an incident a long time ago, we get another reminder of a harsh reality of life. If your desired outcome is not in the cards, if it is not meant to happen, nothing can be done to reverse the fortune. By the same token, that which is meant to occur by the divine will can never be prevented.

For the sports fan, a well-known indication of the ability of a single event to shape destiny is the last minute field-goal kick. In American football a field-goal is worth three points, and since the games are played under the direction of a sixty-minute game clock, you can ostensibly kick a field-goal as the last play of the game. If the addition of the three points puts your team in the lead, the kick essentially wins the game for you. On the flip side, if you’re trailing and your team misses the last second kick, you lose the game.

In the postgame review, you can tell yourself, “Oh, if only we would have made that kick. It was so easy too. Our kicker never misses from such short distances. Man, if the kick was good we would have won, and with that win our record would be better.” That win can shape the fortunes of the team going forward, and so you can analyze the kick forever and ever. Other plays from the game can be similarly analyzed. Perhaps something went your way at a pivotal moment. Perhaps the other team made a costly error at an inopportune time.

These close encounters show that preparation and ability are not the sole determining factors in victory. A victory is nothing more than a desired result, a successful end to the output of energy. There are all kinds of victories; they are not limited to sports. The same principle applies to those outcomes, wherein personal effort alone is not a guarantee for success. I can try as hard as I want in a particular endeavor, doing everything right, and still not get the desired outcome. On the flip side, sometimes I can do everything wrong and still end up on top.

Many thousands of years ago, famous royal dynasties from around the world assembled in a city known as Janakpur. They knew why they were there; they wanted to win the hand in marriage of the king’s eldest daughter. News had gone out that the king was to hold a bow-lifting contest. The most powerful princes in the world were gathered there that day, but there was a brief distraction when Shri Rama from the kingdom of Ayodhya arrived. He wasn’t there specifically for the contest, but His arrival was nonetheless noteworthy. His beautiful features indicated a divine presence, one so strong that people forgot about the contest for a moment. When they returned to normal consciousness, they still couldn’t forget Rama. They tied the contest to Him, wanting Him to win it.

But a contest is a contest. After the visual attention paid to Rama, who was there with His younger brother Lakshmana and the sage Vishvamitra, King Janaka, the host of the ceremony, had the rules of the contest announced. It was an oath. The king vowed to give Sita, his daughter, to whoever would first lift the bow. Janaka was known around the world for his virtue, and Sita followed in his line. Therefore she was considered a great prize, a tremendous fortune to whoever would welcome her to their family.

The princes assembled there that day arose with excitement upon hearing the king’s vow. It was “go time.” This was akin to the gun in a race going off. No more sitting around and waiting. Here was their chance to prove to thousands of people that they were the strongest person in the world. The bow in the middle of the sacrificial arena was not ordinary. It originally belonged to Lord Shiva, a heavenly figure in charge of the mode of ignorance. The three modes of material nature are described in detail in the famous Vedic scripture, the Bhagavad-gita, which is also known as the Gitopanishad. In summary, living entities can adopt bodies belonging to the modes of goodness, passion, or ignorance. Sometimes the modes are mixed together in varying proportions, and so you have the many different species. People in each mode have a corresponding deity, and Lord Shiva is the worshipable figure of those in the lowest mode, wherein real knowledge is completely lacking.

Lord ShivaBut Shiva’s actual position is devotee of the Supreme Lord, who is the worshipable figure of those in the modes of goodness and pure goodness. Therefore this bow couldn’t be lifted by just anyone. It was, in a sense, Lord Shiva’s representative at the contest. He could make the bow extremely heavy or light at a moment’s notice. Though the princes assembled there wanted very badly to win, they couldn’t even move the bow. All that anticipation, all that excitement on the way to Janakpur, was for naught, as they walked away defeated.

Rama was meant to lift the bow. He is the Supreme Lord, the worshipable deity for Lord Shiva. Sita is Rama’s wife for life, the eternal consort of God. She is His energy, and He is the energetic. The two together make for a wonderful sight, and their reunion on earth took place at that contest in Janaka’s kingdom. Victory was not meant to be for the rival princes, and it was guaranteed for Shri Rama. That same lifter of Shiva’s bow guarantees to protect His devotees who always chant His names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Though to Janakpur all the princes went,

To win contest of the bow weren’t meant.


Go for victory, try as hard as you will,

Defeat can come in an instant still.


Put in the effort worst,

And you still might get first.


Know that everything from God arranged,

If He wills it, outcome never can be changed.


Shiva there at the contest through his bow,

Prize of Sita Devi only to Rama would go.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Sita and Rama“That beautiful picture cannot be explained; it can only be felt. With nectar, a dumb person can only drink it, not explain its taste.” (Janaki Mangala, 87)

so chabi jāi na barani dekhi manu mānai |
sudhā pāna kari mūka ki svāda bakhānai ||

Herein we get a metaphor for how devotional service, bhakti-yoga, operates. In trying to describe the beauty, wonder, glory, fame, opulence, and power of the Supreme Lord and His energy, everyone is dumb. Being dumb is bad if there is someone else who is wiser than you, but if everyone is dumb in comparison to the highest being, then it’s not so bad. More importantly, those same glorious attributes can be experienced. Just because we can’t explain them doesn’t mean that we can’t use them for deriving pleasure.

Can a dumb person explain how nectar tastes? More importantly, would they even care about explaining it? The explanation is helpful in trying to give others an accurate assessment of the drinking experience, but the drink itself is meant to be experienced by the sense of taste. Being dumb in this context means not having the ability to communicate effectively with respect to an experience. Think of a child who tells you that what they’re eating is “yummy.” They don’t say that the salt mixes well with the sugar or that the perfect combination of spices adds an exotic flavor to the dish. They just eat and don’t worry too much about poetic ability.

The same tact is taken by the wise saints who follow bhakti-yoga as their occupational duty in life. The biggest questions in life are indeed impossible to answer. For starters, we can’t think beyond the bounds of time and space. Try to go back to the beginning of time. Now realize that there was a time before that, and a time before that. Keep going back and you’ll never reach an end, because time’s span is infinite. The same applies to space. Travel as far out as you can go, but where do you reach an end? Is there a barrier somewhere? Ah, but the barrier must have something on the other side, otherwise it wouldn’t be a barrier. Therefore space continues beyond the limits of vision.

If we can’t fully understand time and space, how can we explain them? How can we explain the Supreme Absolute Truth, that force which is beyond duality? No birth, death, old age or disease. No loss, no gain. No sadness, and no happiness. Just a fixture; a rock that is immune to the deficiencies that plague us. How are we to explain such a force? Is it a person or just an energy?

The Vedas say that the human birth is auspicious because it brings the potential for understanding these things, to some degree. This is key. We can only understand a little bit about that which is beyond our control. We can never have full knowledge. This should make sense because a force with full knowledge would never need to acquire it. If, at any point, I need to be taught something, it means that I am not perfect. If I am imperfect at any point in time, it means that I am not all-perfect.

Better it is to experience the Absolute Truth than to try to understand it esoterically. The highest experience is that which brings a transcendental taste, which means that there is enjoyment from connecting. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Goswami Tulsidas gives us an idea of what that taste is like and how it is impossible to explain.

But isn’t this verse an explanation? By describing an event from a long time ago, the poet uses words to convey a thought. Therefore he is explaining something, not just experiencing it.

Through instruction, one can lead others towards a taste. For instance, I may not be able to tell you how this nectar I’m holding tastes, but I can advise you to give it a try and see for yourself. The Vaishnava saints, the devotees of the personal aspect of the Absolute Truth, guide us towards this taste test. If we repeatedly indulge in that taste under ideal conditions, we’ll never want to give it up. And since it is the highest taste, it brings the highest pleasure.

Sita and RamaIn this instance, the taste is the vision of the Supreme Lord and His eternal consort. God is a singular entity, and so is His direct energy expansion which gives Him pleasure. Depending on the time and circumstance, they both appear on earth in different manifestations. In the Treta Yuga, God was the warrior prince Rama and His energy the princess of Videha, Sita. One time they were set to be married in King Janaka’s assembly where many princes from around the world had gathered.

The divine natures of the personalities in question were unknown to the people observing. They just drank up the visual nectar instead. They speculated about Rama and His qualities and how Sita was the perfect match for Him. They could tell that Sita and Rama had eyes for each other, and paired together the entire scene became auspicious.

The poet stops at this point, however. He can’t really explain anything more about the beauty. One has to just experience it. But how do we do that if we’re not there? This event took place thousands of years ago, so why explain it to us and then tell us that it can’t be fully explained? One of the many glorious features of the Supreme Lord is that His name carries His presence. He has many names assigned to Him based on His qualities. Rama is one such name, and Sita is a name for His energy. Hare also addresses the same Sita, and Krishna describes the same Rama in His original form of a beautiful youth with a blackish complexion, holding a flute in His hands. Thus by chanting, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” one can taste the nectar of the beauty for themselves.

One of the definitions of kirtana is “to describe.” By trying to describe the glories of God, one engages in kirtana, and through this method there is a taste as well. Though he couldn’t fully describe the beauty of the scene in question, just by trying Tulsidas tasted the nectar. He was by no means dumb; the works he authored showed his mastery over Sanskrit and various dialects of Hindi. Nevertheless, the humble souls always consider themselves dumb in relation to the Supreme Lord, and so in full humility they follow bhakti-yoga. They know that to taste transcendence is better than to try to understand it solely within the mind. Because of their attitude, the Supreme Lord guarantees that they never run out of the nectar they desire.

In Closing:

Intoxicating beverage given to the dumb,

To describe taste words come to him none.


With talking why on this time spent?

Nectar is for your thirst to quench.


Humble poet as dumb himself takes,

Accurate description of picture can’t make.


Sita and Rama, of beauty at which to marvel,

Through holy names back in time travel.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Giving Them What They Want

Sita and Rama“Sita and Rama both are looking so beautiful that the atmosphere is very nice, like a youthful king bringing to the people a vision that they want.” (Janaki Mangala, 86)

rāma sīya baya samau subhāya suhāvana |
nṛpa jobana chabi purai cahata janu āvana ||

This was a contest with spectators after all. Spectators are pleased with a spectacle, especially if it gives pleasure to their eyes. If the spectacle relates to an image that remains within the mind, giving the individual a source of pleasure going forward, then it is all the better. Such an image was created when Rama and Sita were looked at simultaneously. The pairing was perfect, and so the scene looked as if a youthful king had brought to the town a perfect image that everyone wanted.

What image did the people want? How can we tell that? Don’t desires change all the time? One second I want pizza and the next I want ice cream. One day I love playing baseball and the next I never want to play it again. This is the nature of a material existence; to hanker and lament. The mind hankers after something, and if it doesn’t get it lamentation follows. Even if you do get what you want, your hankerings will not stop. And since not all hankerings can be met, lamentation will surely follow.

The unmarried man in his youth wants to get married. “Why can’t I get a wife? I just want someone to love. I will be so faithful to her. I will treat her so well. Because of my love for her people will say that I am the best husband. Others are married, and they don’t know how lucky they are. I might just have to go it alone my whole life. I will never meet the right person.”

The seasoned veteran of marriage will have a different take. “When will I have my freedom? Every day she nags me about this and that. Wherever I go, there she is. Anytime I want to go anywhere, I have to check with her first. I can’t even sit and watch television in peace. This is my home too, you know. I should be able to feel comfortable here. These single guys have no idea how good they have it. I would kill to have that freedom again.”

Bhagavad-gita, 18.54“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)

Hankering and lamenting continue until one is Brahman realized. Brahman is the all-pervading spiritual energy, the impersonal force that ties us all together. We are all part of Brahman, which is truth. This is difficult to perceive because of the variation in outward appearance. We make classifications based on this variation, and with each differentiation we get further away from the realization of Brahman.

One way to become Brahman realized is to abandon attachment to the sense objects. Basically, deprive yourself of whatever you tell yourself you want. Limit your eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Study the Vedas, which describe the differences between matter and spirit in great detail. Stay focused on the Absolute Truth through your work, and one day you’ll become detached.

An easier way, which actually leads to a better end, is to have devotion to God directly. He is the source of Brahman, so if you connect with Him, you’ll not only see the oneness shared between all the species, you’ll also feel a higher pleasure. This was the case in Janakpur many thousands of years ago. The people of the town weren’t acknowledged Vedantists. They weren’t considered Brahman realized. On the contrary, on the surface it seemed like they were way too invested in the outcome of a single event, the marriage of the king’s daughter Sita.

Sita DeviThey wanted Sita to marry a handsome and chivalrous prince. She deserved such a husband, as she was beautiful in every way and dedicated to the rules of propriety. Her marriage event was a contest, wherein princes from around the world would try to lift an enormously heavy bow belonging to Lord Shiva. The first one to lift it would win and thus get to marry Sita.

When the people saw Shri Rama, a handsome youth accompanied by His younger brother Lakshmana and the sage Vishvamitra, they wanted Him to win. They also saw the way Rama and Sita looked at each other, and this created a wonderful atmosphere. It was the perfect setting; everything was auspicious. It looked like a young king had arranged for the picture, creating a town that was perfect.

This was not ordinary hankering within the people. A Brahman realized soul can take the next step to devotion to God, as is pointed out by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita [18.54]. Krishna is God, the Supreme Personality of Godhead in fact. Rama is the same Krishna but in a different visible manifestation. The manifestations are described in the Vedic texts; they are not concocted on a whim. People didn’t just see someone special and then proclaim them to be God. In fact, the people in Janakpur did not know Rama’s divinity. This ignorance helped their devotion, keeping it more genuine.

It should also be known that someone who reaches the platform of bhakti, or pure love for God, has already done the legwork in the past at some point. They satisfied the obligations pertaining to mundane piety, and they understood the Brahman energy as a result, even if they may not remember doing so. Therefore the hankerings of the people with respect to Sita and Rama getting married were not ordinary. They were spiritual emotions tied to a result that would never be forgotten.

That beautiful picture is still remembered to this day, showing that nothing about the event was material. Matter is dull, lifeless, and ever changing. Spirit is eternal, immutable, and imperishable. The spiritual event of Sita and Rama’s meeting is celebrated by the wonderful saints like Goswami Tulsidas, who in their storytelling carefully lead the listener to the wonderful conclusion, the blessed marriage itself.

In Closing:

How a perfect image a king can make?

What ingredients in his hands to take?


Bring perfect bride and groom if he could,

Whose love for each other all understood.


Sita and Rama prior to marriage so pretty a scene,

That a young prince had created picture it seemed.


To have them wed not a material hankering,

Memory of their blessed event forever lingering.