Saturday, February 23, 2013

Honesty Is My Only Excuse

Prahlada Maharaja speaking to classmates“Prahlada Maharaja continued: My dear friends born of demoniac families, the happiness perceived with reference to the sense objects by contact with the body can be obtained in any form of life, according to one's past fruitive activities. Such happiness is automatically obtained without endeavor, just as we obtain distress.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.6.3)

Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.6.3

“Oh, isn’t that cute? They must have learned that while they were in school. Or perhaps they were taught this by their elders. Their hearing is good, so they must have picked it up while listening to adults speaking about the meaning of life. This precocious child will likely grow up to be a scholar, someone very wise. His parents must be so proud of him.”

Mind you, the people observing the child who surprisingly speaks wisely won’t give much attention to his message. The child can speak the harshest language, condemning a society for ignorantly pursuing material enjoyment that has yet to provide them any happiness, but the elders won’t really listen. They won’t get angry with the child, either, as the child doesn’t know any better, right? When the same instruction is given by an adult, however, others will be offended. “How dare they speak to us that way? Who are they anyway? They should learn to be nicer. We are not all horrible people who need to be scolded in this way.” The truly wise man, who is known as a sadhu, delivers an uncompromising message in a swift way. They are honest; they will not lie to someone else’s detriment. We are indebted to them for this candidness.

Would a child ever offer the same instruction as a sadhu?

Many eons ago this is precisely what occurred. A five-year old boy, the son of a powerful king, would lecture to his classmates during recess. He wouldn’t repeat what was just heard in class from the teachers. That information was limited to ruling over a kingdom. The boys learned the four techniques of diplomacy, namely pacification, gift-giving, dividing and conquering, and using force. They learned what it takes to keep subjects happy and how to maintain your control as a leader.

Prahlada MaharajaThe young Prahlada was taught something more valuable before he ever entered school. While he was still in the womb, his mother received instruction from Narada Muni, a wise man of the caliber mentioned previously. Narada did not sugarcoat his message. He has never done that in fact. Since time immemorial he has travelled the worlds to give the message of truth and light. That message can be summarized as follows: the meaning of life is to be devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is full of a form that is knowledgeable, eternal and blissful. Any other use of the material body, whether in a human form or not, is a waste of time.

Prahlada remembered these divine instructions upon taking birth, and so when he heard materialism taught to him in school, he didn’t assign it much value. During recess he would teach his friends about the real meaning of life. It is extraordinary for this kind of information to come from the mouth of a child. The Christmas Holiday is especially important to children today, and there is a reason for this. The children get gifts during Christmas. So many movies are made to this effect, wherein Christmas for a specific child is saved when they are able to get a material gift that they particularly desired. A child has a limited vision, so they can’t foresee that they will get sick of their gifts very quickly. They don’t realize that in adulthood no material reward can provide everlasting happiness.

What to speak of children, even adults have a difficult time realizing this fact. Therefore adults take to gambling and intoxication, ways of forgetting the influence of time. Forgetfulness does nothing to change the reality, however. Only the truth will set you free, and as a young child Prahlada spoke the truth. The father, the king of the land, had a problem with Prahlada. Who would ever purposefully harm a child anyway? What can they do to implement their principles? They are powerless; they are dependent upon others for protection.

Prahlada’s honesty, especially when he was questioned about what he learned in school and what he thought was the most important thing in life, drove his father crazy. Unable to convince the boy otherwise, Hiranyakashipu, the father, tried to kill Prahlada in so many different ways. All the attempts failed. Finally, the person of whom Prahlada spoke arrived on the scene in a ferocious and strange form and killed Hiranyakashipu. The boy never wanted material rewards; just the ability to keep loving God, which included speaking of Him to others. The Supreme Lord granted the boy’s wish. This gift would be valuable not only to Prahlada but to countless future generations as well.

Indeed, the sadhus of modern times take the baton passed on by sadhus of the past like Prahlada. Sadhus are typically adults, though, so the general population may not take so kindly to their critical words. What are some examples of teachings that don’t sit well with others? If you think about it, since the sadhu is honest, pretty much all of their teachings will fly in the face of what is generally taught. The beginning truth is that the living entity in the material world is not their body. All of us are spirit on the inside, and so our body is not that important. It is like a temporary covering. Focusing on what to eat, where to travel, and what to wear is not very wise. Eating, sleeping, and dressing properly are important to remain functional, but they are not the all in all. I can eat the best food in the world and still not find happiness. Food is just food; it is only there to give me strength to maintain my life. Whether I eat broccoli or pizza shouldn’t matter at the end of the day.

The sadhu says that all living entities, not just me, are spirit souls, part of the impersonal force known as Brahman. I am Brahman and so are you. Your dog is Brahman and so is the cow. Ah, so this is where things get interesting. If the cow is Brahman, they are equal to the human beings in quality. Therefore it is not right to kill them en masse for food. The vegetables are also Brahman, and it is also true that all living entities survive off of other living entities. Nevertheless, killing a vegetable and killing a cow are not the same; otherwise meat-eaters would have no problem killing human beings for food. There is always discrimination. The vegetables are provided for the wiser human beings, who refrain from unnecessary violence. The vegetables, grains and milk are also food in the mode of goodness, which is what increases knowledge.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.26“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)

Flowers offered at Krishna's feetKnowledge in the mode of goodness does not relate to how to solve a mathematical equation or translate a language. Real knowledge is the ability to see the essential quality of all life forms and realize the changing of bodies that continues even into the afterlife through what is known as reincarnation. Real knowledge is what sadhus like Prahlada Maharaja speak of, and so it is very difficult for us to accept at the outset. Just hearing such knowledge offends us, for if we are not in the mode of goodness we will automatically not be as wise as those who are.

The uncompromising message of a sadhu, whose only excuse is honesty, is delivered not to ruffle feathers or to gain notoriety. If I care about someone I will instruct them. With a stranger I might not be so keen on providing them instruction, for I don’t know them very well. Since I don’t know them, I naturally don’t care for them as much as I do for my family members. Though it is only natural to feel this way, when in knowledge one realizes that all living entities are tied together through their link to the spiritual world. God is the Supreme Father, and all creatures are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. This extends also to the animals, who can be considered the younger siblings.

“Certainly all these words were spoken by you due to your kind-heartedness and affection for Me. I am very pleased with you, O Sita, for indeed one does not offer instructions and advice to another without caring for them.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.20)

Sita and RamaLord Rama, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord, once remarked to His wife Sita that only someone who really has affection for someone else will offer them counsel. If our child does poorly in school, we will scold them and emphatically remind them why it’s important to do better. So many other children do poorly in school, but we’re not going around and telling them that they should improve. The sadhu is like the teacher of the classroom, and so they are interested in the welfare of all the students. Whether the students like them or not, the sadhu will give it to them straight, and for this they are to be commended.

In the modern age, the true sadhu is not one who simply accepts the garb of a mendicant and begs from door to door for food. The genuine sadhu is a devotee of the Supreme Lord, and so they will use whatever means are available to get the right message out. As religiousness has declined greatly, to the point that the mere mention of God invites scowls and frowns, the simplest and most effective method for reawakening the dormant God consciousness within all of us is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” The honest devotee of the Lord practices this chanting themselves and teaches us how to make our chanting effective. Just like Prahlada Maharaja, they enthusiastically speak to us as their friend, wishing only the best for us.

In Closing:

Try to tell them other message is no use,

For the sadhu honesty their only excuse.


They will give it to us straight,

So that we’ll find enlightened state.


Like Prahlada who to his classmates spoke,

Despite ire of teachers and father provoked.


Due to their message delivery candid,

We can attain wisdom so splendid.


As their friend all others sadhus treat,

Their association thus never can be beat.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Following Your Conscience

Krishna speaking to Arjuna“He for whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anxiety, who is steady in happiness and distress, is very dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.15)

Bhagavad-gita, 12.15

When we say that someone is following their conscience, it is implied that they are using a vision that is stronger, one that sees further out. If we see that it is dark outside and think that it will never be light out again we’re not very wise. Someone with an expanded vision, one which sees the bigger picture, knows that the sun will rise again and that the darkness will eventually dissipate. The logical conclusion from this is that activities that will expand our overall vision will benefit us, and conversely anything that will keep our vision limited to the immediate vicinity, both in terms of space and time, will slowly wither away our conscience.

What do we mean by immediate vicinity?

Think of a child who follows their father on a trip to the ATM. The father steps up to the automated teller machine, takes out his card, and then places it inside of one of the slots. He next enters a series of numbers and voila, cash comes out of the machine. The child may think that this is a magical machine that gives money. “Get me some money too, dad. I want twenty dollars to go play video games. I need money to buy that new toy. What’s the big deal? Just go to the machine and take some more money out.”

This thinking comes from the visual of cause and effect within the immediate vicinity. The child sees a simple action of placing a card into a machine and then watches the result of dispensed cash. Naturally, they think this will work for anyone, interminably. The father has the expanded vision; he knows that the machine only dispenses money that was previously deposited into an account. That account also only belongs to the father. He can’t legally take money out of someone else’s account. Though he’s walking up to a machine and showing a card, it is merely another way of going up to a physical pile of cash and taking some of the cash off of it. If the child had seen that act instead, their viewpoint would be totally different.

As our consciousness develops, our conscience does as well, which means that our vision expands. When we see heinous crimes committed in society, deeds which are seemingly unthinkable for a human being to do, it is to be understood that the conscience is lacking. You can pass all the laws you want, but if someone doesn’t think beyond the immediate term, they will not hesitate to break moral codes. The teeth of legislation is in the resulting punishment for violating it. If my conscience is so blurred that I can’t see past the next five seconds, how is a threat of some future punishment going to stop me?

The question thus remains: how do we develop consciousness? Moreover, how do we prevent the conscience from withering away? Actually, we can use these questions to assess whether or not any recommended system of life is truly beneficial. If we tell someone to play sports or work hard for some personal gain, we should determine what the effect on the conscience is. It is not guaranteed that one will learn to play by the rules in such competition. The goal is to win, and if I can cheat a little bit to gain the coveted victory, what is the harm?

Knowledge is our true savior. The expanded vision is tied directly to knowledge, which gives us foresight, which is stronger than the physical sight provided by the eyes. As an example, with knowledge of the spiritual science, I know not to cause undue harm to any other creature. The obvious reason is that I will have to suffer the same harm in the future. This is only fair after all. In addition, the other creatures are just like me. They are spirit at the core, part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit. If they are not doing anything wrong, why should I bother them? There is plenty of food around for me to eat, so why should I rely on violence to satisfy my tongue and stomach?

With knowledge of the origin of the creation, I know that all property is on loan from the Creator. Each person is given their temporary allotment, and so I have no need to steal anything from anyone else. I also have no need to take credit when I don’t deserve it. If someone else does something good, shouldn’t they be praised? If I falsely take the credit, am I not a fraud? This attention may help me today, but if in the future I’m called to do the work I was praised for, I won’t be able to, which will be to my detriment.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.2“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)

Bhagavad-gita, As It IsThe highest knowledge doesn’t arrive through an accumulation of sense perceptions. It must be accepted from the authority that is the Vedas. The glorious work known as the Bhagavad-gita perfectly summarizes Vedic philosophy. It has the aforementioned knowledge pertaining to the origin of matter and spirit and the laws relating to the transmigration of the soul, or what is more commonly known as reincarnation. The action and reaction affecting the material bodies is known as karma. But more importantly, works like the Bhagavad-gita describe God, who is related to the individual. The individual is the self and God is the Superself. Realization of God automatically means realization of the self.

Self-realization offers the most expanded vision. The conscience of a self-realized person keeps them away from activities that will cause harm. Such a person refrains from meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex, which are known as the four pillars of sinful life. These four activities work best at killing the conscience, which in turn leads to so many tragedies in society that are otherwise avoidable.

Rather than impose restraint on the individual through requiring conscious avoidance of these activities, if one simply tries to understand God by hearing from the Bhagavad-gita and chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” then the proper consciousness, known as Krishna consciousness, will quickly develop. A truly God conscious person follows the best conscience, which keeps them attune to their connection to the Supreme Lord, which in turn steers them clear of unwanted behavior.

In Closing:

His father at ATM child sees,

Intrigued by cash that it frees.


“Dad, why not more money take?

I can buy toys, do it for my sake.”


Father sees with vision more expanded,

Knows that previously cash in account landed.


In life the conscience is our way to see,

Past the immediate, what the future will be.


With superior knowledge can see out the longest,

From Bhagavad-gita develop conscience the strongest.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Guilty Conscience Needs No Accuser

Shrila Prabhupada“Everyone under the spell of the mode of ignorance becomes mad, and a madman cannot understand what is what. Instead of making advancement, one becomes degraded.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 14.8 Purport)

“I can’t believe all that is happening in our society today. It seems that every week a new mass murderer goes on a rampage, killing the innocent. To make matters worse, before we can find out what his motives are, before we can question him so that we can prevent others from doing the same thing in the future, he kills himself as well. This is just terrible. We obviously need more laws on the books. We need stronger restrictions on purchasing weapons and we also need to increase the punishment associated with such crimes. Otherwise nothing will change.”

It is the natural reaction to look for increased legislation to prevent tragedies which just occurred. But if one is more honest in their assessment, they’ll realize that it is the conscience of the individual which is more of a factor when it comes to preventing violent outbursts. We can make all the laws that we want, but ultimately it is someone’s own sense of decency which prevents them from doing something harmful to someone else. Fortunately, in the ultimate discipline to guide all the decision-making in life, the conscience is protected, nurtured, and strengthened rather than slowly killed.

What do we mean by this?

First, let’s look at an example of where the conscience helps us to avoid doing something bad. Someone has dropped some money on the ground. They were just walking in front of us, so we saw the cash fall out of their pocket. When we are sober, when we have our wits about us, we know that the money doesn’t belong to us. After all, we just saw it fall from another person’s pocket. This means that just a few seconds before, the money was in their possession.

The right thing to do, which we don’t need explained to us, is to return the money to the owner. Just pick up the cash, go up to them and say, “Excuse me, you dropped this.” Our conscience speaks to us when we do something like this, but in any other course of action, we ignore the conscience. If we pick up the money and use it to purchase a gift for someone else, any gratitude we receive in return is tainted. “Oh, thank you so much. You are such a sweetheart. You bought me this gift for no reason at all. You are so thoughtful. If there were only more kind people like you in this world, we wouldn’t have as many problems as we do.”

If our conscience were still active, these words of praise would stab at us like a knife. “I don’t deserve any of this. I used someone else’s money to buy those gifts, so I’m not worthy of any praise. In fact, I should be called out for my cowardly act. I hate myself for doing this.” As they say, “a guilty conscience needs no accuser,” in this case if my conscience were active I’d eventually fess up and try to make things right. I would somehow get the money back to the person who lost it. No laws would have to be in play here. No legislation or guidance from a higher authority is required. Just my own conscience and its influence would do the trick.

The same conscience guides us in so many other areas, but what if we kill the conscience? Is this even possible? Think of intoxication. Think of drinking so much alcohol that you can’t think straight anymore. With your beer muscles, you think that you can take on that bully in the bar or smash that can of beer on your forehead. Having lost your inhibitions, you say things to people that you normally wouldn’t. You also do things that you normally wouldn’t, and your conscience is muzzled in the process. The internal voice isn’t as loud, so you don’t feel as much guilt.

Bhagavad-gita, 14.8“O son of Bharata, the mode of ignorance causes the delusion of all living entities. The result of this mode is madness, indolence and sleep, which bind the conditioned soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.8)

Intoxication isn’t the only thing that will kill the conscience. Repeated behavior in what is known as the mode of ignorance will relieve you of the burden of a guilty conscience. Murders and the like can only happen when one is fully under the sway of the mode of ignorance. In the past nefarious characters have killed and eaten innocent emissaries, stolen wives of married men, and even harassed innocent sages in the peaceful forests. We know that animals in the jungle often behave in this way, but the civilized human being is supposed to be wiser and more compassionate. There is supposed to be a developed consciousness, which is the source of the conscience.

In bhakti-yoga, a principal aim is to purify consciousness. Through a direct approach that keeps one actively engaged in loving activities throughout the day, not only are harmful activities in ignorance avoided, but one also develops an affection for all creatures, including the animals. The quintessential act of bhakti-yoga is the glorification of the Supreme Lord, and the easiest way to practice this is to chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Bhakti-yoga is considered above even the mode of goodness. Ignorance is the behavior we commonly refer to as stupid, passion is that which leads to a temporary result like a victory in sports or income from working, and goodness is that which brings real knowledge. In goodness I know that all creatures are spirit souls, parts and parcel of the non-differentiated energy known as Brahman. They have different external appearances due to the influence of the material nature, but constitutionally they are all equal. Activities in goodness involve reading the scriptures, teaching scriptural wisdom to others, performing religious sacrifices, teaching others how to perform sacrifices, and accepting charity to keep the activities going without a hitch.

In the mode of goodness one’s conscience is pure. You can think of it like having a brain that figures out right and wrong in all situations. This sharp conscience then guides one along the proper path. You won’t have to worry about being guilty over something because you instinctively know what to do and what not to do. Indeed, the law codes found in the Vedas are there more to strengthen the consciousness, which includes the conscience, than to prevent “bad” things from happening. In a world where God is easily forgotten and people have the freedom to do whatever they choose, good and bad will occur all the time. The laws of government won’t prevent much, as someone can just go back to doing bad things after serving out their punishment. Not until their conscience is active will they know not to harm others.

“So are you basically saying that the way to solve society’s problems is to worship God more? Isn’t that too simple a solution? Don’t people kill in the name of God also?”

Krishna's lotus feetBhakti-yoga is universally applicable. It is more than just a system of worship geared towards a generic God. The Supreme Lord is identified by His features, which are inexhaustible and endless. You can spend your whole life glorifying God and still not reach the end of His glories. This is a good thing, as you’ll get to continue in future lifetimes, bringing you good work to complete going forward. Since God is all-attractive, He is known as Krishna. And one who worships such a God properly has all good qualities. If someone claims to worship but then still commits heinous acts of violence, it is to be known that their worship is not legitimate; it is conducted under the modes of material nature, which means that it can’t qualify as pure bhakti. Real devotional service is without motivation and without interruption; it is pure love. And with that love the conscience stays alive and strong, preventing us from doing that which is most harmful.

In Closing:

After result of heinous crime they saw,

Pushed on for tougher preventative law.


But how legislation will the criminals scare,

When for decency they have no care?


Conscience is the real preventative force,

One lacking it takes a much different course.


Through bhakti-yoga the conscience make stronger,

Worry over impious behavior you won’t any longer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A World Full Of Robots

Radha and Krishna“God does not interfere with the little independence of the living entity. In Bhagavad-gita, the Lord has explained in all respects how one can elevate his living condition.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63 Purport)

“I hate it when people are mean to me. Why can’t everyone be nice? I try to be nice to others. I bear no malice towards anyone. I don’t hold grudges. In fact, after a few days, I forget about most things. Whether something good happened or something bad, I move on fairly quickly. Why can’t others do the same? Also, why does everyone have to drive so poorly? They don’t signal when changing lanes, don’t slow down when they’re behind me, and don’t maintain their speed when they see flashing lights on the other side of the road. It would also be nice if others didn’t chew with their mouths open. I hate that! That sound makes me cringe. It would be nice if everyone behaved the way I wanted them to.”

Naturally, the reaction to frustration is the desire to get others to behave the way that you wish. Why would you want to live in danger or discomfort? We get angry at our children precisely to get them to alter their behavior. The same naughtiness in other young children puts a smile on our face, but when we see our child we think, “Why can’t you do things right?” We also worry that they won’t learn proper values if they continue along this path.

But what if you could control everyone’s behavior? Not just the odd person who wronged you or the child who is under your care, what if you could dictate how every single person in this world acts? This means that people would be nice to you, they would give you what you want, whenever you want, and you’d never be frustrated in your efforts.

While it may be nice to ponder this idea, the reality is that the world full of robots would be terribly frightening. You wouldn’t have anyone real to go to. If you have a problem with something personal, if you wanted to share your experiences from the day, or if you just wanted someone to be by your side, the robot, the person trained to act only according to your wishes voiced at a specific time, isn’t going to provide the proper companionship. If such a thing were possible then you’d be happy just going up to a tree and talking to it.

The human being’s association is enjoyable precisely because there is some independence. Actually, that independence is tied to life. That which has the ability to act freely to some degree or another, sometimes relying on intelligence at the local level, is a life force. The lower species are considered inferior because their freedom is severely limited. The same life force is there, but the ability to act is hindered either by the lack of bodily features or the stunted growth in intelligence. The hog will jump around in stool and the tree can’t move or communicate.

The human being also has independence, and the real potential within an existence can be exhibited by them. We enjoy the company of our children because they don’t have the same inhibitions that we have. They aren’t as shy, and they haven’t lost their innocence. We don’t behave like them because we care what others think about us a lot more. The child likes to have fun in a free spirit, and it is nice for the adults to see this.

The paramour is also an independent person who voluntarily chooses to be with us. They have made the choice that we are important to them. We have made the same choice regarding their association. Since they are the same as us constitutionally, they feel the same happiness knowing that someone else loves them. If either party were forced into the relationship, brought in against their will, the feelings wouldn’t be the same.

This review helps to explain the relationship we have with God and why He would ever allow us to separate from Him. According to the Vedas, all life forms are originally with God. They are spirit souls at the core, and the origin of spirit is God, who is also known as the Supreme Spirit. One of the properties of spirit is independence, though in the expansions that are the individual spirit souls the ability to act on independence is limited. In simpler terms, the Supreme Lord, who is the most independent, makes concessions to allow for the individual spiritual fragments to act on their independence, depending on which choice they make.

This brings us to residence in the material world, the place where we witness such horrible things as death, old age and disease. These come at unexpected times too and sometimes for the people who seem to least deserve it. This is all bewildering to someone who doesn’t see with the spiritual vision. If one thinks that life begins at birth and ends at death, they will be greatly troubled by what they see in this world. Through the eyes of shastra, or scripture, however, one can see that life has its origin in life and that the origin of all life is God.

As soon as any fragment of spirit desires to separate from God, they are allowed to do so. They fall to the material world, where the Lord’s presence is hidden. This is on purpose, as the initial desire was to separate. As soon as the desire changes, as soon as it flips back in the other direction, the same Creator manipulates events in such a way that the masked presence suddenly becomes clearer. He keeps the secrets about Him and how to return to His land safely within the Vedas and other authentic spiritual traditions emanating from them. Those who know these secrets and act upon them are thus the ones who can reveal them to us.

The common complaint lodged against the Lord, who in His original form is known as Krishna because He is all-attractive, is that it was wrong for Him to allow anyone to descend to the temporary and miserable material world. “If He really loved us, He wouldn’t let us go somewhere that isn’t good for us.” But if you think about it, His consent makes sense. If we would hate living in a world full of robots who do whatever we want, all the time, why wouldn’t God dislike the same thing? And on the flip side, if we feel pleasure when someone voluntarily accepts our companionship, why wouldn’t Krishna feel the same way?

Radha and KrishnaIndeed, the most exalted servants are those who voluntarily interact with Krishna in a mood of love. In the spiritual world’s topmost planet there is every variety we see in our present land, except the influence of the nature is different. The effects of time are nonexistent, and so one can stay there forever if they like. Clever people like Vrinda Devi and Paurnamasi scheme every day on how they can arrange events so that Krishna and His friends will have the most fun. And thus sometimes through unexpected interactions, where it looks like nothing is controlled by anyone, the relevant parties meet and feel much joy.

The robot idea also doesn’t hold because what we want is not always what is best for us. Sometimes not getting what we want turns out to change our life for the better. It may seem that following real religion, which is known as bhakti-yoga, is a waste of time, but if we offer a little sincerity at first, even begrudgingly, then we can slowly realize that we are indeed full of life and its accompanying potential for action. And we can use that potential for serving God, which will give us the most pleasure at the same time.

In Closing:

To make all obey me if I had the choice,

Others to do as a say, speak with one voice.


World full of robots seems appealing,

But pleasure of association won’t be feeling.


Independence is what friendship makes,

Prefer one who choice to associate takes.


The Supreme Lord similar the Vedas say,

Of our tiny independence never He’ll get in the way.


When we choose Him to have as our friend,

All our troubles He promises to mend.


Finally a return trip to His land we’ll get,

In choosing eternal ecstasy never a regret.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Don’t Think

Worshiping Krishna“The process of devotional service-beginning with chanting and hearing-is called sadhana-bhakti. This includes the regulative principles that are intended to awaken one to devotional service.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 19.117 Purport)

“I certainly love Krishna consciousness, but I’m worried that I’m not progressing. When I chant the holy names, my mind keeps drifting elsewhere. I have trouble holding on to the sound within my mind. If I tell myself to focus while chanting, again that reminder is preventing me from hearing, which is what I’m told is most beneficial for me.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.56“One who is not disturbed in spite of the threefold miseries, who is not elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.56)

“Also, throughout the day sometimes I get angry. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that one who is neither attached to work nor repulsed by it is situated in knowledge. Someone who is equally disposed in mind, who doesn’t get too high or too low, is dear to Him. And since Krishna is all-attractive, being dear to Him is the best gift one could ask for.

“If you are dear to Him, He will always be with you. And what does that mean exactly? Krishna will be with you when you are really lonely. After you read that novel that leaves you feeling alone and sad that the association of the characters is gone until you read the same book again, Krishna will be there. When you have left the safe confines of your home to travel abroad for work or pleasure, Krishna will be there. When you are in distress and don’t know what the immediate future will bring, Krishna will be there.

Lord Krishna“Even while falling asleep, Krishna will be there for you if you are dear to Him. If He likes you, He will take residence in your consciousness. One can think of His beautiful smile, which enchants even Cupid; hence one of Krishna’s names is Madana-mohana. One can think of the flute held in His hands, which calls to attention the cows of Vrindavana when they have gone astray. The same flute invites the sweet damsels of Vrajabhumi to rendezvous in the forest in the middle of the night to enjoy singing and dancing with Krishna. That flute makes a sound that is non-different from Krishna.

“The holy names, which are of principal focus in bhakti-yoga, are meant to bring Krishna’s association. Chanting the holy names with utmost humility, keeping oneself more tolerant than the tree, is supposed to keep one dear to Krishna. But I’m having trouble staying humble. I’m having trouble remaining tolerant when others criticize me. I especially don’t like hearing anything bad about my friends or family. If I were really Krishna conscious, none of these things would affect me, because Krishna would be with me and take away my impurities. What am I to do? I can’t stop thinking about how my progress isn’t what it should be.

“I do notice some interesting behavior in others who excel in their particular fields. The batter in a baseball game seems to do the exact same thing every time they come up to bat. They dig a small area next to the plate with one foot. They open up and close the straps on their batting gloves. They wiggle the bat a certain number of times, and then they finally get into their stance when the pitch arrives. They follow the exact same routine before every pitch.

“I’ve heard that this is done to enhance performance. If you follow routines like that, you’re less likely to think of the pressure of the moment. The time spent in practice sharpens your skills. Yet the tools are just tools; they don’t mean anything unless an intelligent force properly employs them. On the biggest stage, even sometimes the best players, who have the sharpest tools to use, don’t succeed. This is all due to the mind, and so the routine helps to control the mind, eliminating negative thoughts.

Lord Krishna“In my bhakti-yoga practice, maybe I will employ the same technique. I should make my chanting of the holy names, ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,’ a routine that I try to complete at the same time every day. Maybe I can maintain the same setting too. This way I won’t be as distracted with other things. And then the rest of the day I can do other things relating to bhakti. I can read a book by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I can ponder life’s most difficult questions and think of how to answer them by relying on shastra, which is the ultimate authority. God is one after all. I wouldn’t follow this discipline if I thought it to be mere sentiment. The scientific basis for Krishna consciousness makes it valid to me. Reincarnation, the difference between matter and spirit, the need for universal brotherhood, the love that everyone wants to offer, and the unimaginable level of affection that God holds for His sons and daughters all make sense to me.

Bhagavad-gita, 8.5“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)

“I should gauge my progress, checking to see whether my service to the guru is bearing fruit, whether I’m eating less instead of more, and whether I’m becoming more enthusiastic in my practice. But more importantly, regardless of the external conditions, I will continue on, because I know that if I give up I will be disconnected from Krishna in consciousness, which takes away the benefit of being dear to Him. If I keep up the routine, trying to block out even the distraction of trying to be perfect, perhaps only then will I come close to achieving perfection, which in my case will be thinking of Krishna at the time of death.”

In Closing:

Batter steps up to the plate,

Hopes to keep mind in steady state.


Odd behavior from them seen,

Each has intricate pre-pitch routine.


Not to think too much is what they try,

Rather on their sharpened skills to rely.


In bhakti gauging progress certainly good,

From study assessment of effort understood.


But chanting and hearing should stop in no way.

Concentrated or not, with Krishna I must stay.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Requiring God’s Sanction

Ravana“Like an arrow Banasura and Ravana came to the bow and then went. Who on this earth is as heroic as them?” (Janaki Mangala, 92)

bānu bānu jimi gayau gavahiṃ dasakandharū |
ko avanī tala ina sama bīra dhurandharū ||

It’s easy to believe something if we’ve seen it happen before. Also, if what is to be seen is a derivative of other things in nature that we have witnessed, then we can also believe it. Doubt settles in when we can’t conceive of something, when something is purported to happen that is beyond our range of perception. Yet just because we are limited in this way doesn’t mean that the thing in question is impossible. This truth especially holds true with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose every personal feature is inconceivable. During a famous incident witnessed by King Janaka, the Lord showed that His strength is beyond understanding.

Perhaps you’ve seen the strong man competitions that air late at night on the cable television sports networks. These aren’t your typical games. Rather than compete in a sport with a ball and a time clock, these competitors participate in strange events that uniquely challenge their strength. In one event they may have to lift a very large sack and carry it across a field. In another event they may have to pull an automobile using only their arms. In another event they may have to pick up a large weight and hold it above their head for a certain number of seconds.

strongest man competitionIf we didn’t see these competitors successfully complete these challenges, we maybe wouldn’t believe that it was possible. What’s more, once we do see their abilities, we use them as a benchmark. If the strongest man in these competitions can pull a large truck for one hundred yards, to say that a single man could pull a truck one thousand yards would seem ridiculous. “No way any human being could do that. The world’s strongest man can only pull the car for one hundred yards, and such a person is a freak of nature. A thousand yards increases the difficulty by a factor of ten, so there’s no way such a thing is possible.”

A long time ago, the strongest man competition related to a bow. During this time, the Treta Yuga, military combat took place using primarily bows and arrows. If the fighters were removed from their chariot, they would fight with clubs and daggers, and in the absence of any physical weapons they would fight by hand. As fighting with bows and arrows was commonplace, it wasn’t all that difficult to lift up a bow and draw its string back with an arrow.

Ah, but this bow in King Janaka’s court was not ordinary. It took hundreds of men just to move into the arena. It originally belonged to Lord Shiva, a principal deity of the Vedic tradition. He is known as the destroyer. With a discharge of a large fiery weapon he destroys the entire creation when the time calls for it. That weapon is akin to the sun becoming ten times hotter. It is no wonder then that his weapon effects the destruction of the creation.

Though Lord Shiva is the destroyer and also a worshipable deity for those in the material mode of ignorance, as a person he is fully devoted to the Supreme Lord, Vishnu. Vishnu is also Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vishnu is also Rama, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord who roamed the earth during the Treta Yuga. Shiva’s bow was destined to be lifted by Lord Rama. The winner would get the hand of Janaka’s daughter Sita in marriage.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, King Janaka expresses his doubt over Rama’s ability to lift the bow. Vishvamitra Muni led the two brothers, Rama and Lakshmana, bow warriors themselves, to the contest area. After many princes had tried and failed to lift the bow, Vishvamitra asked that Rama be allowed to give it a try.

Lord ShivaTo Janaka, the ceiling of strength was seen in two powerful fighters of the time: Banasura and Ravana. Interestingly enough, both were devotees of Lord Shiva. Banasura had a thousand arms and Ravana ten heads. They were extremely powerful due to benedictions offered by Shiva. Mahadeva is only interested in devotion to Vishnu, so he quickly gives his devotees whatever they want. This way they will leave him alone. Material benedictions are limited anyway; they are not absolute in their ability to deliver desired outcomes.

Janaka saw that Banasura and Ravana came towards the bow, tried to lift it, and then went away in a flash. Their arrival and subsequent defeat was as swift as the flight of an arrow. To Janaka, there was no one on earth as heroic as those two. Ravana was feared throughout the world, and Banasura had Lord Shiva’s favor. Many years later, Banasura would fight directly with the same Rama during His time on earth as Krishna. In that fight, which is described in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, Lord Shiva would help Banasura, but to no avail. Krishna would counteract both of them, and in the end it was Shiva’s kind plea towards Krishna that saved Banasura’s life. Krishna spared the demon by deciding only to reduce his number of arms from one thousand to four.

“My dear Lord Shiva, I accept your statements, and I also accept your desire for Banasura. I know that this Banasura is the son of Bali Maharaja, and as such I cannot kill him, for that is My promise. I gave a benediction to King Prahlada that the demons who would appear in his family would never be killed by Me. Therefore, without killing this Banasura, I have simply cut off his arms to deprive him of his false prestige.” (Lord Krishna, Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 8)

That incident gave further evidence that nothing can happen without the Supreme Lord’s sanction. Even if we see tremendous ability, we should know that it is only a partial indication of the supreme strength that exists in full in God. Material affairs are of no concern to Him, as dualities pervade a life devoid of devotion to God. If there is duality, there is no universally beneficial condition. What we think to be opulence today can turn out to be a curse tomorrow, and vice versa.

Sita and Rama's marriageOn that famed day in Janakpur, Vishvamitra was right in his insistence, and Janaka and the rest of the world would see that for God lifting an extremely heavy bow is a piece of cake. He can lift thousands of bows if He needs to. Since this contest dealt with reuniting with the goddess of fortune, Sita Devi, Rama kindly showed off His supreme strength.

As the sanction of the Supreme Lord is required to receive any benediction, the wise choice would be to follow activities that spark His interest. In devotional service, bhakti-yoga, the Supreme Lord takes a direct interest, and because of this He can make something as simple as the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” deliver even the poorest and weakest person in the world. If there is sincerity and full reliance on the Supreme Lord, His strong helping hand will be too much for the material energy to overcome.

In Closing:

Limit of strength in that which we can see,

Stronger than the visibly strong there cannot be.


Banasura thousand arms and Ravana ten heads got,

Came and left bow as failures, like a swift arrow shot.


Host King Janaka saw both of them defeated,

How then strength in Rama could be seated?


God’s sanction required for having true strength,

In bhakti to save the devotee He’ll go to any length.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Questioning the Muni

Vishvamitra Muni“O best of munis, your words can shake the mountains and the earth, but this situation requires the right behavior that will be for the good of the people.” (Janaki Mangala, 91)

munibara tumhareṃ bacana merū mahi ḍolahin |
tadapi ucita ācarata pānca bhala bolahin ||

In traditional Vedic culture, the order of the parents is never to be defied. If they tell you to do something, you do it. They are the first authority figures, after all. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Even if one or both of our parents weren’t around during our upbringing, someone was, and they are thus automatically afforded respect. The same respect should be offered to the guru, or spiritual guide. Yet on some occasions we think we know better and thus doubt their words. All works out in the end only if we eventually follow through on their advice, despite our misgivings.

A famous example that illustrates this fact is the first meeting between His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. The guru is the representative of God. Since he is godly and treated on the same level as God, he is known as gurudeva. He is not God, but he is offered treatment as if he were. There is a reason for this. The respected guru unlocks the door to the spiritual kingdom, a place free of birth, old age, disease and death. The only requirement for winning the guru’s favor is humility. If you are humble and sincere in wanting to learn from them, they will open up to you. And if they are part of an authorized chain of teachers originating from the Supreme Lord, the information they offer will help you reach the ultimate destination.

Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta SarasvatiThe acharyas are the notable gurus who lead by example. Both Shrila Prabhupada and Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati are known as acharyas today, and so they are not ordinary people. They are specifically empowered by the Supreme Lord to descend to earth to rescue scores of fallen souls. Nevertheless, they go through typical life cycles, where it appears that in their youth they are ignorant, to distribute their mercy more freely to others.

In his youth Shrila Prabhupada was not yet a recognized acharya, and his fateful meeting with his future spiritual master took place when he was in his early twenties. In this first meeting, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati asked the young Prabhupada to preach about the glories of bhakti-yoga, devotional service to God, to the English speaking world. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was a recognized guru, and so his words carried tremendous weight. Basic etiquette called for following his advice. Yet the young Prabhupada was a little challenging during that first meeting, saying that the issue of India’s independence needed to be solved first. Despite his stubbornness, that initial meeting eventually led to Prabhupada taking up the cause seriously. He protested a little at first, but later on the original advice was taken so seriously that today the name of Krishna is known throughout the world.

A long time before that, during an ancient time period, a notable spiritual master named Vishvamitra gave a suggestion to a king who was hosting a contest. The contest was related to a bow. Whoever could lift it first would win the hand of the king’s daughter, Sita, in marriage. The contest saw royal families from around the world arrive in Janakpur. They wanted to win Sita and bring her into their family.

The problem, of course, was that the bow was impossible to lift. None of the powerful princes could even move it. The king, Janaka, became sad over this. To him, it looked like a forest of lotus flowers had been destroyed by a frost. Vishvamitra, who was there with two youths, Rama and Lakshmana, asked the king to give permission for the elder Rama to try to lift the bow. Vishvamitra wasn’t Janaka’s guru, but he was respected enough as a brahmana, or one in the priestly order. Rama and Lakshmana listened to his words. Those brothers had just protected Vishvamitra and other brahmanas from attacking night-rangers in the forest. If Vishvamitra had such wonderful and obedient disciples, princes from the Raghu dynasty, serving him, he must have been someone special.

Despite Vishvamitra’s position, Janaka was a little hesitant to agree to his request. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see that Janaka acknowledges the power of Vishvamitra’s words. He says that those words can shake mountains and the earth. Brahmanas during those times could curse someone just by declaring it out loud. They could have fought back against the Rakshasas attacking them in the forest by casting spells, but that would have decreased their accrued spiritual merits. That is why Vishvamitra approached the king of Ayodhya to allow Rama to come to the forest. Rama and Lakshmana were of the royal order, so they were warriors by occupation.

“By the powers gained through our performance of religious austerities, we are certainly capable of killing these Rakshasa demons. But at the same time we don’t want to waste our ascetic merits, which took such a long time to achieve, on these demons. Oh Raghava [Rama], these demons are always putting obstacles in the way, making it impossible for us to concentrate on our performance of austerity and penance. Therefore, even though we are being eaten away by the Rakshasas, we do not curse them.” (Sages speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.13-14)

Lord RamaWhile acknowledging the power of Vishvamitra’s words, Janaka also says that the words should speak of the proper behavior for the situation at hand. That behavior should be for the benefit of all the people. Essentially, Janaka thought that Vishvamitra’s advice was improper. “How was the youthful Rama going to lift an extremely heavy bow that none of the other competitors could even move? How was Rama’s failure going to please the people, who all wanted Him to win?”

This hesitancy was understandable on Janaka’s part, but eventually Vishvamitra would win out. Those words would be followed, and they would benefit everyone, as Rama is the best well-wishing friend of every living entity. As the Vedas proclaim, He is the Supreme Lord in His personal incarnation as a warrior prince. He is the worshipable deity of the brahmanas, brahmanya-devaya, so they know what He is capable of. Vishvamitra gave the right advice to Janaka, and the doubtful yet respectful king eventually followed through, and the world was better off for it.

In Closing:

With a bold declaration a saint to make,

Strong is their word, mountains can shake.


This fact Janaka did acknowledge,

But still hesitant to give Rama the privilege,

Of trying to lift the heavy bow of Shiva,

Princes’ failure caused doubt of Vishvamitra.


Understandable to question words of guru,

But success only to come when following through.


King to acquiesce, Rama given the chance,

Lifted bow, faith in muni to enhance.