Saturday, March 2, 2013

Finding a Well

Lord Rama's lotus feet“Like a thirsty man desiring to find a well, Rama desires to see her, who is endowed with character and has been harassed by Ravana.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.22)

imām tu śīla sampannām draṣṭum iccati rāghavaḥ |
rāvaṇena pramathitām prapām iva pipāsitaḥ ||

If I am thirsty and you give me a drink, it will satisfy my thirst a little bit. Eventually, though, I will need another drink. If I say to you that my thirst will only be satisfied by finding a well, it means that I am really thirsty. It also means that I’m looking for something to eliminate thirst altogether. Such was the case with Shri Rama, who adores the association of His devotees so much that it seems like He can’t live without them.

God is self-sufficient. This is part of being God. If we concoct an idea of a supreme being, one of the features we’d assign to him is the ability to live without requiring anything. We already know of such objects in nature. The sun stays in its place without requiring any external fuel source. No gas tankers drive to the sun and no electricity is pumped into it. Instead, it is the diffuser of heat and light. The diffusion takes place without cessation. The energy we get from the sun is so strong that we don’t like the nighttime, when the sun is absent from our vision. We also don’t like the cold winters, when the sun’s target rays are not as directly available to us.

The theoretical conception of a God includes the feature of self-sustainability and so does the practical truth of a God presented by the Vedas. In that scriptural tradition the original supreme being is addressed through thousands of names and features. Rama is one of His names and it means that He is the source of all transcendental pleasure. That source also gives pleasure to others through His association. From the word Rama we also get “atmarama”, which means one who is self-satisfied. The atma is the self; it is the identifying force within each living creature. A creature is considered dead when it is devoid of an atma, or soul.

Rama is also a historical personality, and in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana it is said that Rama seeks out the association of Sita Devi, His wife, like a thirsty man looking for a well. Isn’t this contradictory? Hanuman’s statement doesn’t say that Rama somewhat likes Sita’s company. It doesn’t say, “Oh, if Rama happens to run into Sita, He wouldn’t mind hanging out with her for a while. He’ll spend time with pretty much anyone, so Sita is no different in this regard.”

Sita DeviThe statement made by Hanuman is much stronger. And there is a reason provided as well. Hanuman says that Sita is endowed with high character. Also, at the moment she is being harassed by Ravana, a vile creature of cruel deeds. That combination made Rama all the more eager to find His beloved wife. If we know that our child is in school, we may not think about them so much. We understand that they are in a place of learning and that more likely than not they will eventually come home after the day is over.

If they are in trouble, however, we won’t be able to stop thinking about them. We’ll do whatever we can to find them again, and until they are found our anxiety will not rest. And if the children are dear to us, if they are kind and obedient, we will be even more worried about them. We won’t be able to think of anything else.

Shri Rama feels this way towards His most beloved devotees, and in the case of Sita the trouble was life-threatening. Therefore Shri Rama was very thirsty, and His thirst wouldn’t be satisfied until He found the well of virtuous qualities that was His dear wife. He sent His most trusted servant, Shri Hanuman, to find this life-saving well and report the location to Him. Hanuman didn’t have it easy in the search; several times he thought there was no hope. In the scene referenced above, Hanuman has finally found Sita, so automatically he remembers Rama at the same time and how desirous the Lord is of reuniting with His wife, who was taken away from His side through a backhanded plot executed by Ravana.

An important thing to remember is that Sita wanted rescue; i.e. she wanted to be with Rama again. All of us conditioned living entities are currently separated from God in terms of consciousness, but if we don’t want to reunite with Him, why will He seek us out? Why would He force us to be with Him, especially if He is self-satisfied?

We should know that if we fix ourselves up to the point that we are endowed with a wonderful character, Shri Rama will do whatever it takes to rescue us. He knows that we’re in the precarious condition where we mistakenly identify with our temporary body and think that sense pleasure is the summit of living. He already rests within our heart as the Supersoul, so He can guide us from within if we like. To reform us from without He sends His trusted messengers, who act in the same way as Hanuman. The combination of the representative and the original personality makes the rescue quite easy. The beginning step is making our desire known, and there is no easier way to do that than chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

If I’m only a little thirsty you think,

Perhaps only offer me a single drink.


If thirst much stronger you can tell,

Perhaps only satisfied from finding a well.


With Shri Rama such was the case,

Wanted to again see Sita’s lovely face.


Hanuman sent for that well of virtue to find,

When seeing Sita in grove, Rama came to mind.


As atmarama, our association Lord doesn’t need,

But turning His way His desire to rescue to feed.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Service with a Smile

Sita and Rama“Her body is of a golden color, and she always speaks with a smile. That lady who never deserved misfortune is now tolerating all kinds of suffering.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.21)

sā iyam kanaka varṇa angī nityam susmita bhāṣiṇī |
sahate yātanām etām anarthānām abhāginī ||

The retail outlet exists to turn a profit. There is no other purpose to the business. If they can’t earn a profit, they will go out of business, eliminating all the jobs and the accompanying benefits. To earn a profit, a business requires customers, and since a customer is someone who voluntarily parts with their money in exchange for a good or service, it is up to the provider to make sure that the customer is satisfied. Therefore one of the main rules of the establishment is that the customer is always right. The employees at the point of sale are also advised to give service with a smile, as kindness goes a long way. The hope, of course, is that the kind service will entice the customer to come back, as it shows that there is some concern on the part of the service provider. A famed princess a long time ago always served her beloved with a smile, which was part of her overall kind nature. And yet even she found misfortune; such are the ways of the world.

It is understandable if customers avoid your store because your employees are rude. Why would we want to go somewhere that has mean people? We work hard for our money after all, so we don’t want to give it over to someone we don’t like. Though in the end the personal makeup of the service providers shouldn’t matter, we still sometimes make financial decisions based on outward behavior.

By the same token, if we get good service somewhere, we will likely reward the establishment. If we go to a restaurant where we are treated very nicely, we might overlook the high prices and the mediocre food. This is human nature. If someone is providing service in exchange for money, they should be kind. There is no reason for animosity or rudeness in such exchanges. And the expectation is that the kindness, which is a virtue anyway, will be duly rewarded.

For the aforementioned princess, the commodity she sought was the very service of her husband. She didn’t want any personal gain. In fact, she had abandoned a life of royalty to continue to serve Him. It’s akin to the service provider making a house call. Or taking it one step further, it’s as if the service provider were to go wherever the customer wanted to meet. The retail outlet is made to be conducive to sales; it is the ideal place for transactions to occur. If the service provider were to extend their reach to other outlets, it is again done for their personal gain, i.e. to increase profits.

In this princess’ case, the extension of service was solely for the pleasure of her husband. In the above referenced verse it is said that she had a golden complexion, which is very pleasing to the eyes. She also always spoke with a smile. This made the husband, Shri Rama, very pleased with her. He loved her so much that He tried to dissuade her from going to the forest with Him. He didn’t want her to suffer in any way. He had been ordered to leave the kingdom of Ayodhya due to a fit of jealousy by His step-mother. Rama didn’t think that His wife Sita should have had to suffer for that.

Sita and RamaShe offered service with a smile because that is what pleased her husband. Why would she purposefully make life difficult for Him? And she wasn’t a dull personality either. He thoroughly enjoyed her company. She was an independent woman in the truest sense, and she chose to use her time in the wisest possible way. She served her husband, which was protocol for wives of the Vedic tradition, but it also corresponded directly with her innermost desires.

Think of the activity that gives you the most pleasure. It is that which allows you to be completely free; no inhibitions, no worries, no concerns. For every spirit soul, the maturation of consciousness brings a desire to be completely free in service to God. Every other activity with a minute amount of freedom is derived from that constitutional occupation. Sita got to practice that ideal occupation all the time, and when it looked like it would be taken away, she redoubled her efforts. She gave up the regal life in favor of the austere setting of the forest, and still she was never happier.

Hanuman remembered these qualities of Sita when he saw her from a distance in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. Her attitude was not vastly different, though the situation was. Instead of getting to serve her husband directly, she was surrounded by female ogres who feasted on animal flesh. They were attendants to the vile king of Lanka, Ravana, who wanted Sita for himself. Though she was apart from Rama, Sita did not stop thinking of Him. She would never submit to Ravana.

Hanuman did not like that Sita was now tolerating all this suffering. She never deserved misfortune. How many of us can say that in all honesty? Even if the service provider always offers a smile, there is still the underlying motive to earn a profit. Even if we are nice to others, we still have personal desires that creep up every now and then. Sita was completely innocent. She only wanted to serve her husband. She would give up or accept anything to make that happen; she was not particular.

Though she never deserved misfortune, here it was for her. It seemed puzzling to even Hanuman, but such are the ways of the Supreme Lord and His energy. The material world is a place full of miseries, which are guaranteed for everyone, regardless of their position. Though the atheists deny the existence of God, they eventually submit to the higher force known as death. And during their lifetime they abide by the more powerful forces of nature. Even their concocted theory of evolution assigns superiority to nature [natural selection].

Sita Devi in the Ashoka groveThe devotees also suffer sometimes, but the effect is different. For the devotee misfortune can bring a stronger connection to God. “How can one be more strongly connected to God than Sita? She was already in His presence and offering Him service in a sweet and gentle way.” The worship in separation is considered superior. This is the preferred style for Lord Chaitanya and His associates. To fully understand this one has to go through it, and so we see from the Ramayana that some of the strongest worship of Rama took place in separation. In this situation Sita and Hanuman are both separated from Rama, and their attachment to Him grows stronger as a result. Hanuman is carrying out Rama’s orders in trying to find Sita, and Sita is always thinking of her beloved despite the precarious situation.

Our forgetfulness of God starting from the time of birth immediately provides a precarious situation. Thankfully we have sacred texts like the Ramayana and the teachings of those who follow devotional service like Hanuman and Sita. These authority figures all agree that the best method for worshiping God in separation in the present age is the constant chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Retailer your trust hopes to earn,

So to your establishment you’ll return.


Will give service with a smile bright,

Keeping in mind that customer is always right.


Sita offered service to husband in manner the same,

Except without motivation, no favor to gain.


Service itself was pleasure’s source,

Happy even while traversing forest’s course.


Didn’t deserve Ashoka grove destination,

But worship enhanced through separation.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

What’s Needed for Service

Worship of Rama's lotus feet“Satisfied with fruits and roots, faithfully serving her husband, she feels the same supreme happiness in the forest as in a palace.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.20)

samtuṣṭā phala mūlena bhartṛ śuśrūṣaṇā parā |
yā parām bhajate prītim vane api bhavane yathā ||

A new child is born. They have entered this crazy world that you have grown accustomed to but still haven’t figured out completely. You think about their future and what their journey through life will be like. If you could only give them one piece of advice, a truth or saying to keep throughout their journey, what would it be? The Vedas give this to every living entity, advice which is perfect in every way. The advice forms the foundation for finding satisfaction in every condition subsequent to its acceptance.

What is that singular advice? “Aham brahmasmi” is the aphorism, and it means that I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of the spiritual energy known as Brahman. Seems pretty plain, no? What is this information going to do for me? Why is remembering this so important? Shouldn’t the advice be more along the lines of “always keep your chin up” or “if life hands you lemons, make lemonade?”

Actually, the root cause of every unpleasant situation in life is a misidentification. What do we mean by this? Think of trying to kick a soccer ball into the goal defended by your own team. Think of giving information that will help your opponent win an election. Think of entering a classroom in school geared to teach young children, when you are on the cusp of graduation. These conditions are incongruent due to the temporary identifications you hold.

If not knowing your temporary identity is not good, imagine then what ignorance of your permanent identity will lead to. On the other side, if you know who you really are, you will be able to cope with pretty much any situation. For instance, if there is a death in the family, using your knowledge of your identity, you can apply the same principle to the departed. “I am sad that they are gone, but I know that they are really spirit soul. As Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, the soul is immutable, unchanging, and non-decaying. It cannot be made wet, burned, or destroyed. What we see now is the destruction of the material body, which is a temporary covering. My covering too will one day be destroyed, but the soul will carry on to another body. Therefore the wise do not overly lament another’s death.”

Bhagavad-gita, 2.25"It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body." (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.25)

Knowledge of Brahman ideally culminates in devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. This is the most confidential truth revealed only to the sober human being who has exhausted all attempts at happiness through material acquisition, philosophical speculation, and mystic practice. Bhakti-yoga taken up in earnest allows one to both cope with any situation and also find pleasure in them. An example of how this works was seen with Sita Devi, a famous princess who once had to abruptly leave her home.

Sita and RamaHer husband was the prince of the Raghu dynasty. Named Rama, He was loved and adored by all, but when His step-mother succumbed to the influence of envy, He was exiled from His kingdom for fourteen years. Rama told His beloved and devoted wife Sita to stay home, but she refused to listen to Him. She went with Him to the forest and subsisted on whatever fruits and roots were available. In the forest she was as happy as she was at home.

There was a reason for this, of course, and it is provided in the above referenced verse, which is a thought from Shri Hanuman found in the Ramayana. Sita was faithfully engaged in her husband’s service in the forest. And because of this she could survive on meager food without a problem. She wasn’t on a diet or anything. She wasn’t forcefully trying to punish herself. Indeed, she didn’t feel like this was a punishment at all, as she was invigorated through pleasing her husband.

Does this mean that the secret to life is to get married and thus have someone to serve? Actually, the secret to Sita’s formula was not necessarily in the marriage arrangement but more so in the real identity of her husband. Rama is the Supreme Lord, an avatara of the original Personality of Godhead. The Sanskrit word avatara means “one who descends”, so Rama did not have an ordinary birth. His body is spiritual, so it does not go through the same changes that ours go through, and neither does it ever decay.

Service to Rama, or God, is every soul’s original occupational duty. In Sita’s case, she gets to serve God through the covenant of marriage. Indeed, she uses the duties of a wife in the Vedic tradition to her advantage. If I tell you that you are duty-bound to serve someone you love, the command will only make you happier. “So you’re telling me that I have to serve this person? Sounds good to me.” Sita used her duties as a wife as a way to persuade Rama to allow her to come to the forest with Him. She essentially exploited her position, and since it was related to serving God, the exploitation was not impious.

Shri HanumanShri Hanuman similarly serves Rama by accepting His orders. The above referenced thought came to him while looking at Sita in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. She was separated from Rama at the time, and it was Hanuman’s duty to find her. Lanka was a foreign territory to him. There wasn’t an immigration department there, but if there were they most certainly wouldn’t have allowed him in. Lanka was ruled over by the Rakshasa king Ravana, and the people and its leader were all very sinful. They feasted off human flesh and had no regard for innocent life. Sita was another man’s wife, but Ravana thought that she could be won over by force. He thought wrong.

For that child new to this earth, the secret to their success will be the holy name. By chanting it as a means of serving God, they can endure any troublesome situation and also keep the mind active. If you boil life down to its essence, it is all about having something to do. If we are financially well-off but don’t have anything to do with our time, we will be miserable. If we are not very wealthy but have a constant engagement that keeps us satisfied, we can survive on fruits and roots and still be happy. This was the case with Sita. Hanuman stayed happy even while in a hostile territory. For us, we can simply chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and thus require very little to maintain our blissful life.

In Closing:

What advice to new child will you give,

So that life to the fullest they will live?


Proper identity is required,

For in service spirit to be inspired.


For God our sacrifice is meant,

Efforts in His service well spent.


Like Sita in any situation can survive,

By chanting holy names stay alive.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beyond Scientific Measurement

Sita and Rama in the forest“Satisfied with fruits and roots, faithfully serving her husband, she feels the same supreme happiness in the forest as in a palace.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.20)

samtuṣṭā phala mūlena bhartṛ śuśrūṣaṇā parā |
yā parām bhajate prītim vane api bhavane yathā ||

This single verse from the Ramayana quoting Shri Hanuman exposes a means of measurement unknown to material science. It provides a barometer to gauge true happiness, and if we break down the components, we see that material opulence, exploitation of resources, victory over competing forces, and even long life are not the primary factors for determining superiority. “Survival of the fittest” is the key concept in the theory of evolution, but if the very definition of fitness is invalid, how can the rest of the theory hold water? True fitness is exhibited by saintly characters like Sita Devi, the beloved wife of Lord Rama.

“The whole universe was in a very hot, dense state. Then suddenly chemicals collided and we got the planets, the stars, and the many varieties of life forms. Evolution thus began, eventually leading to the current state, where the human being is the most intelligent species.” This is the basic theory, and one is not supposed to question it. They are not supposed to ask, “Who created the hot, dense state? What made the chemicals collide? If that collision created life, why can’t the whole thing be replicated? Why can’t we create even a miniature replica of the sun? Your theory doesn’t touch on the infiniteness of time and space, so how can your assertions be considered beyond fault?”

If these issues are brought up, the common response is that visible evidence exists to show the evolution of the species. But in actuality, this is more or less describing what occurs externally, after the fact. It is akin to watching a football game, analyzing what happened, and then making predictions based on that information. The predictions are not always correct. If they were, the world would be full of wealthy gamblers. The predictions are just guesses based on information that was gathered and then studied. You can make educated guesses going forward, but you don’t really know why certain things happen. You don’t know why such and such player made such and such mistake at a critical time in the game. You don’t know what went into the player’s psychological makeup and you don’t know what the many independent participants in the game were thinking. Do we even know exactly what we were thinking prior to every past decision we made?

The atheist theory is very appealing. If a bunch of chemicals collided to create the universe, should someone somehow figure out how to manipulate those chemicals in the right way, they could essentially become God. The more intelligent, i.e. those who have this valuable knowledge of exploitation, could thus become the dominant species. Again, there are several factors overlooked here. First, longevity doesn’t automatically mean fitness. A tree can live for thousands of years. Does that make it superior to the human being? And what about old age and disease? Is the pinnacle of achievement the ability to transcend disease, live without food and water, and remain generally safe for one hundred years?

Forest of treesIn the Vedas not much importance is given to visual evidence gathered after the fact. Perfect information is provided at the outset of the creation, which goes through cycles of manifestation and dissolution. The real business, that of knowing the Supreme Absolute Truth, is undertaken by the wise souls. In this endeavor material opulence is not important, and neither is full knowledge of the history of the creation. We know that today there are millions of organisms on the earth doing a variety of things. In one hundred years’ time, the same situation will exist. One hundred years ago the situation was also the same. In any time period, there are people being born, people living, and people dying.

Fitness of a species comes down to its overall level of happiness. And if that happiness is not dependent on external conditions, if it can be experienced in any situation, then the living entity has really achieved the fittest condition. Therefore the common benchmarks of a long life and material opulence have no bearing here. The measurement for real fitness is based on the way one lives with respect to consciousness.

Shri Hanuman touches upon the secret to success in life in this verse describing the history of Sita Devi. Hanuman is a historical personality and also a divine figure of the Vedic tradition. The same goes for Sita. Hanuman’s review took place many thousands of years ago in a grove of Ashoka trees, where he was perched on one of the trees looking at Sita from a distance. He had been searching for her for quite a long time, so he was pleased to have finally found her. He noticed that she was in distress, however, held captive here against her will. He remembered some of the hardships she previously endured and how they didn’t really have an effect on her.

It’s sort of like saying that a person has a disease, but they are not feeling the effects of it. Think of it like having a cold but not feeling any of the symptoms. Here it is said that Sita was satisfied with fruits and roots and was as happy in the forest as she was in a palace. She was in a royal family since birth, and in adulthood she married into royalty as well. So her whole life was spent living in palaces. She lived in the forest when her husband Rama was exiled from the kingdom of Ayodhya. He wasn’t allowed back for fourteen years, so it wasn’t like a weekend camping trip. She had to rough it fulltime, and based on Hanuman’s accounts, she managed to survive just fine.

“I shall happily reside in the forest, considering it to be just like my paternal home, paying no attention to the three worlds and only thinking of my husband's vow.”  (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 27.12)

Sita, Rama and Lakshmana in the forestSita had predicted how she would feel. Prior to leaving, Rama told Sita to stay at home, but she argued with Him, saying that she would be happier by His side. The source of her happiness is also given by Hanuman. She was faithfully engaged in the service of her husband. This is what enabled her to turn hardships into auspiciousness. This isn’t common. If we’re forced to go on a diet for a week, we have trouble. Imagine if your diet every day for fourteen years consisted of fruits and roots. Would you not be unhappy?

In Sita’s case, the pleasure of serving her husband minimized any and all pains. The universal relevance of this verse comes from the fact that her husband is the origin of the creation. He is the Supreme Lord, a non-different expansion of the original Personality of Godhead who roamed the earth to provide sacred pastimes to be cherished by devotees like Hanuman in the subsequent years.

The living entity can also please Rama and thereby feel pleasure whether living in opulence or squalor. The famous saints of the past have proved this with their behavior. Vaishnavas like Ramanuja, Chaitanya, Tulsidas, Rupa Gosvami and others were very renounced according to material estimation. They lived on practically nothing, and they didn’t feel discomfort because they were one hundred percent engaged in service to Rama, who is also addressed by other names such as Krishna and Vishnu.

The best way that service takes place in the current age is through chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” The person who chants this mantra in full humility and dependence is the fittest person, because they survive in practically any condition. Hanuman noticed this feature in Sita, and to this day he follows in the same line by always chanting the glories of the divine couple. He doesn’t need much to survive, and in that survival he shows what the good life is really like.

In Closing:

“One thing my husband you should know,

Happy I will be if to forest we go.


Just as if I were in a palace at my home,

To be in full comfort from serving You alone.”


Hanuman remembered Sita’s commitment,

His analysis for society’s betterment.


From her behavior to witness,

He gave real assessment on fitness.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Credits Of Virtue

Sita Devi“Giving up all enjoyable things, forced by affection for her husband she entered into the desolate forest, not concerned with the hardships.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.19)

sarvān bhogān parityajya bhartṛ sneha balāt kṛtā |
acintayitvā duhkhāni praviṣṭā nirjanam vanam ||

“God, I’ve done everything right. Though I didn’t always like the virtuous path, I followed it out of obligation. I went to school when I was younger. I did my homework as soon as I got home every day. I missed out on playing with the other kids because of this focus on responsibility. I did my chores as they were assigned to me by my parents. I got very good grades and then gained admission into the college of my choosing.

“There, also, I paid attention to my studies, despite all the distractions around me. I graduated on time, while many of my friends required one or two extra years to do the same. I worked right after college and I was never a slacker. I showed up at the job on time and always put in a good effort. Despite the political games at the office, I never used someone else’s laziness as an excuse to shirk my responsibilities.

“I took care of my parents and my siblings, and I even got married at the right time. I never did anything wrong and yet now I’m in so much pain. I don’t know why You brought all this hardship upon me when I’ve only done everything right my whole life. If You’re the loving God that everyone says, why does it feel like You don’t love me at all?”

This is a hypothetical scenario wherein the individual follows the book on virtue starting from childhood. They seemingly do everything right and yet they fall upon hardship at the end. The same sequence existed with a beautiful princess a long time ago, though her voluntarily accepted hardships were much greater. She didn’t even follow the virtuous path strictly out of obligation; her allegiance to dharma was due more to love for someone else. And isn’t love the essence of living? How can love, which in this case fell in line with virtue, cause so much trouble? Shri Hanuman noticed this strange pairing when seeing the princess in her later distressed condition. From his review we can get a better understanding of the nature of this world.

The princess in question is Sita Devi. Arising from the ground as a baby while her father was ploughing it for a sacrifice, she was named Sita. Her father was Janaka of Mithila, a very famous king known throughout the world for his dedication to piety. It was no surprise, then, that he got such a daughter, and when she reached an age suitable for marriage she was given over to Lord Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya.

Sita and RamaIn the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Shri Hanuman begins a brief review of some of the sacrifices Sita made while married to Rama. He says that she gave up all enjoyable things. Bhogan can also refer to a standard of living. Imagine having to become homeless overnight. You’re accustomed to the modern amenities like hot water, electricity, television, cellular telephones and the like. If you have to go without these for a day or two it might not be that bad, but imagine if you’re shut out for fourteen years. Imagine renouncing all of that for love of someone else.

This is exactly what Sita did. Though a chaste wife of the Vedic tradition, she did not follow her husband Rama into the forest because He ordered her to. On the contrary, when Rama was handed an exile punishment He insisted that Sita remain in the kingdom, where she would be safe. As an independent woman in the truest sense, Sita would not listen to her husband on this occasion, as she would not allow Him to suffer fourteen years in the forest alone. She exploited the Vedic tenets pertaining to the dedication a wife should show her husband, using it to her benefit, in essence compelling Rama to take her with Him.

The forest was desolate; no friends or relatives there. It was full of hardships, so it would be understandable if she had lamented her plight. “O woe is me. I love my husband so much that I had to follow Him to the forest, but I really hate it out here. I can’t believe how awful life is. What did I do to deserve this?” Sita actually didn’t complain at all. Material opulence was meaningless to her if it had no connection to her husband. What she did in renouncing the regal lifestyle was not ordinary. That she didn’t complain, either, made it more remarkable.

Shri Hanuman remembered all of this when he finally spotted Sita in the Ashoka grove inside of Lanka. While serving the fourteen year exile in the woods, she was kidnapped by the King of Lanka, Ravana. Hanuman was living in the forest at the time, acting as the chief minister to the Vanara king Sugriva. Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana met Hanuman and formed an alliance with Sugriva. Hanuman alone made it to Lanka to find Sita, and at this moment his search ended successfully.

Sita DeviHe couldn’t help but feel for Sita. She was now in a much worse condition. Female Rakshasas, man-eating ogres essentially, were harassing her day and night. Ravana gave her an ultimatum: either become his wife or be killed. She didn’t mind death, but she was waiting for Rama to come. His fame would increase through her rescue, and if she were to quit her body the chance for acquiring that glory would vanish.

Shri Rama, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, isn’t a glory hog. He extended an opportunity for glory to Shri Hanuman. Based on Hanuman’s status today amongst followers of the Vedic tradition, we’d have to say that Rama’s plan worked perfectly. Despite being in a position to celebrate, namely due to victory in the mission, Hanuman felt compassion for Rama’s wife. In reviewing her previous hardships, he’s essentially saying, “She did nothing wrong. She doesn’t deserve this. She’s not even attached to material opulence, so why should she have had to suffer more? Wasn’t life in the forest bad enough?”

It’s quite natural to ask these questions, as shouldn’t amassing virtuous credits be to our benefit? The issue, of course, is in assessing what is beneficial and what isn’t. The spirit soul is the identifying force within every living being. It’s in the soul’s constitution to serve, and in the ideal state that service is directed at God. One of the best ways to serve Him is to think of Him. Sometimes material opulence is an impediment to this kind of service. Through hardship the frequency of the thoughts can increase rapidly, thereby leading to a more auspicious condition.

In this sense living in a time where material opulence is abundant makes us unfortunate. The standard of living is as high as its ever been, and we see that people are still unhappy. This means that they are lacking something. Vaishnavas like Hanuman know what that is:  the connection to God. Through consulting the thoughts of Shri Hanuman on occasions such as these, we get to automatically think of God and figure out ways to think of Him more in the future. This further increases the glory of the greatest servant of Sita and Rama.

In Closing:

“My whole life I did everything right,

And now in pain I’m filled with fright.


Why not peace of mind to me give?

So that in fear no longer I’ll live.”


Real auspiciousness based on thought,

Not just material opulence brought.


Sita thought of Rama when in distress,

Devotion showed through toughest test.


Noticed by Shri Hanuman the wise,

Has compassionate heart of biggest size.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Evolved Man

Sri Isopanisad“In the cycle of evolution, the living entity changes bodies one after another. When the world was full of water, the living entity took an aquatic form. Then he passed to vegetable life, from vegetable life to worm life, from worm life to bird life, from bird life to animal life, and from animal life to the human form. The highest developed form is this human form when it is possessed of a full sense of spiritual knowledge.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shri Ishopanishad, 17 Purport)

It is said in the Vedas that one is not a true philosopher unless they disagree with another philosopher. The unique viewpoint makes the philosopher stand out, and since being a philosopher garners attention, it is not surprising to see so many different viewpoints available in the modern age, which is known as the time period of quarrel and hypocrisy. Many of the new theories focus on man itself, and how he has evolved since his primitive days. No longer is he so foolish; now he behaves in a more refined manner. But in actuality, man hasn’t changed; his nature is still the same. The truly wise are those who describe things as they always are. If there are any discoveries along the way, they are in the new avenues for describing only.

Think of the law of gravity. When it was discovered by scientists, it was a radical concept. “Wow, math can explain how all things can fall? Gravity is what keeps our feet attached to the ground? It’s what causes objects to fall when you release them? The same force that causes an apple to fall makes the moon orbit the earth? Far out.” If you think about it, though, gravity had already existed at the time of its discovery, whenever you believe that time to be. It existed long before the famed scientists ever graced the earth. It will also continue to exist well into the future. The discovery in this case was merely a way to describe something that already existed. A more noteworthy discovery would have been into gravity’s origin. Who created gravity? Why does it exist? Why do I think it is important to study?

Newton under an apple treeThe theories relating to the “evolved man” aren’t so important for the very reason that man’s tendencies have not changed since the beginning of time. There is no evolution in behavior or makeup. A man today is the same as a man from ten thousand years ago. The external conditions with respect to lifestyle and society may have changed, but the pain of separation from a paramour is equal in both instances. So is the pain of disease. Old age applies all the same, though it may be effected more quickly in the modern age. Physiologically man hasn’t changed at all, so what are we really describing when we think of the evolved man?

If you know the true purpose to an existence and the cause for birth in the material world, our current home, you understand that the so-called evolved man is actually more animal-like. An animal eats, sleeps, mates and defends. It does not ponder philosophy. It does not hanker over the release of a new smartphone. It does not get sad when its music player stops working. It doesn’t worry about mortgage payments and it doesn’t spend hours preparing its food in an oven. Rather, it eats whatever nature provides. It sleeps wherever it can find a decent temperature, and it mates with whoever is around.

The human being has a higher potential for intelligence. If that potential is used for finding new ways to eat, sleep, mate and defend, then the human being is actually inferior to the animal. Why is this? If you could satisfy your desire to eat with the meal placed in front of you or you could travel hundreds of miles away for the same meal, which option is wiser? The extra travel has a price attached to it. There are fuel costs, the wear and tear on the mode of transport, and the loss of valuable time to consider. The wise person would choose the meal that is right in front of them.

All the effort expended by the “evolved” man just to maintain a family and home is like choosing the meal that is hundreds of miles away. The animal doesn’t have to work so hard. All that intelligence in the human being is thus used for naught. Discovering gravity is wonderful, but the animal doesn’t know what gravity is and yet it gets along just fine. We do have intelligence for a reason, however. The Vedic seers know why and they kindly pass on the secret to anyone who is willing to listen with sincerity.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.20“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)

The Vedas are the ancient scriptures of India. More than just books of faith, they present spirituality as a science. Just as the law of gravity is scientific and thus applicable to all time periods, the science that describes the difference between the body and soul is not limited to a particular section of citizens. It is also not reserved exclusively for members of an ancient time period. The soul is the soul. It can reside within any kind of body. Killing the living entity is destroying the body only. Yet the body is the vehicle for the conditioned soul to gain liberation from the cycle of birth and death, wherein birth in the material land is no longer necessary. To kill the body of any living entity with a soul in it is unwise. This applies to all persons from all countries.

The “evolved man” who gives so much attention to the body is like someone worrying over how to dress a dead body. The body will be discarded eventually, so its appearance is not that important. And neither is its satisfaction in the areas of eating, sleeping, mating and defending so vital. To develop new theories about man’s ideal behavior is to ignore the presence of spirit. The new theories are based on manipulation of matter, something which already takes place in the lower species. Longevity is not a mark of superiority either, as the tree can live for thousands of years. Yet no one would consider the tree to be superior to the human being.

The Vedas come from the Supreme Absolute Truth, who presents just enough information as is required for attaining the proper objective in life. The tendencies of the human being, including his four defects, are presented. Man commits mistakes, becomes easily illusioned, cheats, and has imperfect senses. This was true ten thousand years ago and will be true ten thousand years from today. Man struggles over the nonpermanent appearance and disappearance of happiness and sadness, just as the seasons cause discomfort to the body.

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

In fact, all of the human tendencies, including the affinity towards loving relations, are described in the Vedas. The people who hold on to this information and pass it down don’t make groundbreaking discoveries in human behavior, because there is nothing new that happens. Someone gets happy over the birth of a child and someone goes into despair over the severing of a relationship. This has all happened before. The new theories on how to manipulate matter don’t offer any solutions; otherwise why would new theories constantly be created?

The Vedic teachers do find new ways to distribute the message of divine love so nicely presented in the Vedas. In fact, divine love, or bhakti-yoga, is synonymous with the Vedas. They are one and the same. Depending on time and circumstance, there are certain ways to appeal to the people. In the modern age, the preferred method of transcendental instruction is the congregational chanting of the holy names, a method inaugurated by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu some five hundred years ago.

Lord ChaitanyaHe was an expert scholar, someone who could describe one verse from scripture in eighty different ways. He could argue with Himself better than anyone could argue with Him. And yet His ultimate conclusion was always that God is everything and that everything should be used to serve Him in a loving way. He was the wisest person on earth, and He chose to spread the wisdom through the holy names, which are non-different from God. Since His time others have carried the torch, and they write new books describing the glories of God and sankirtana, or congregational chanting.

The human birth already represents an evolution. The soul gets the chance to learn about God, understand the purpose to life, and then use their abilities to serve God. The tendency to serve is what defines us; it is our dharma. The manipulation of matter for the pleasure of the senses is the perverted utilization of the service propensity. The correction occurs when one consults the Vedic teachings through someone who follows them faithfully. With the proper consciousness, the full evolution fructifies at the end of life with a return trip to the spiritual land, where everyone is blissful and full of knowledge for all of eternity.

In Closing:

Objects fall because of law of gravity,

Marvel at brand new discovery.


Yet existing always has been that force,

Will continue well into future’s course.


New theories describe man’s behavior,

Evolution in thinking to be his savior.


Yet man has felt emotions always the same,

Sadness in separation and pleasure in gain.


Vedas tell us all that we need to know,

How man acts, and where He should go.


Spiritual land is the ideal destination,

Chant holy names and complete evolution.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Person With Knowledge

Lord Krishna in Vrindavana“Whenever there is chetana, or knowledge, the personal feature comes in. In the spiritual world everything is full of knowledge, and therefore everything in the transcendental world, the land, the water, the tree, the mountain, the river, the man, the animal, the bird - everything - is of the same quality, namely chetana, and therefore everything there is individual and personal.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.38 Purport)

As soon as you speak of the Almighty as being knowledgeable, you admit the presence of a personality. A personality has an accompanying form. You may call that form subtle, invisible, unimaginably gigantic, existing behind a curtain of bright light, or what have you, but there is still a form. The personality is also distinct from other personalities, as this is how we distinguish one person from another right now. So if the Almighty is supreme, knowledgeable, and a personality, why not worship Him as such?

If you have a curiosity to learn more about the philosophy that is commonly referred to as Hinduism, the majority of the reading material you will find will focus on the Supreme Absolute Truth as a formless force known as Brahman. The philosophy can be summarized as such: “We are all Brahman, part of the singular energy. I am Brahman and so are you. The ancient sages of the past have passed on information on how to become Brahman realized, which means merging into this light of truth. There are different paths available, but they are all more or less the same. Some choose to meditate, some choose to study, and some choose to worship. If you want to worship, a process generally reserved for the less intelligent, you can pick any of five different forms: Durga, Shiva, Ganesha, Surya or Narayana. Worship them with full faith and attention and eventually you’ll get the qualities necessary for Brahman realization. Mainly, you’ll become immune to the effects of heat and cold, happiness and sadness, and birth and death. You’ll be happy in spiritual realization. This pleasure is known as Brahmananda or Brahmasukha. Then you will merge into transcendence and be forever blissful.”

Mind you, much of this is correct. Brahman is indeed real. We are all Brahman, a fact very difficult to realize. Those who know Brahman operate in the material mode of nature known as goodness, or sattva-guna. The name implies something good. We wouldn’t want to be bad, would we? Maybe if we’re trying to attract an available female being a “bad boy” would get us somewhere, but in spiritual life, where knowledge is power, it would make sense to try to be good. Indeed, the initial push towards spiritual life probably takes place to get away from bad behavior.

In the mode of passion I see the material nature as a collection of things for my personal enjoyment, which is tied to my temporary body. I still operate under some guidelines, and so I work hard to get the enjoyment that I want. In the mode of ignorance I don’t care about anything except my immediate gratification, even if what I do doesn’t actually benefit me. I sleep the day away, drink myself into oblivion, and steal from people if I have to.

Bhagavad-gita, 14.6“O sinless one, the mode of goodness, being purer than the others, is illuminating, and it frees one from all sinful reactions. Those situated in that mode develop knowledge, but they become conditioned by the concept of happiness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.6)

Krishna and ArjunaIn the Bhagavad-gita it is said that while the mode of goodness is better than passion and ignorance, one becomes conditioned by the happiness they receive. Think of it like getting rewards for doing good things. You’re still getting rewards tied to a temporary body, so you haven’t really transcended anything. In the Vedas, the scriptural works that are the origins of that which is commonly referred to as Hinduism, it is said that one in the mode of goodness goes to the heavenly planets after death. They get to enjoy there for a long time, but the enjoyment is similar to what a king experiences. They eat nice food, drink intoxicating beverages, and enjoy nicely with members of the opposite sex.

Yet we see this kind of enjoyment on earth already, and people get sick of it. There has to be more to life. There is a step beyond the Brahman realization in the mode of goodness. One should proceed further, but if their teacher only knows Brahman, they are out of luck. The Vaishnavas are devotees of the personal aspect of the Absolute Truth. The personal is the source of the impersonal. Acknowledgement of the personal’s existence is vital if one wants to tackle the root cause of the descent into the ocean of material suffering. That root cause is envy.

“Really? I was jealous of God? That is so sad. I don’t want to believe it. Why would I be jealous of Him? He’s everything and I’m nothing, so I can’t believe that I ever envied Him.”

While it may be hard to believe, just look at the situation today and assess for yourself whether or not the claim is true. If someone asks you what you’re doing on a Friday night and you tell them that you’re going to a movie or a nightclub, they won’t give you much opposition. They might ask more details about what you’re going to do there. However, if you tell them that you’re going to a religious program, some place where people will gather together to worship the Supreme Lord, the conversation will likely end. Who wants to hear about that? And the latter reaction is not due entirely to cynicism caused by fanaticism or the general negative viewpoint towards organized religion. There is envy that exists, wherein one tries to compete with the Supreme Lord for enjoyment. Think of trying to best your friend in a video game. Expand that out to the largest scale, incorporating the largest number of players, and you get the material world.

God is very kind to us. He will not take us away from the play area if we don’t want release. If our envy remains, He will keep us away from Him. Why would He want to associate with someone who doesn’t love Him? Do we purposefully seek out enemies and combatants? Perhaps a military man does so to practice their skills, but in ordinary dealings we try to be with loved ones, people who have our interests at heart.

To know God’s interests, one must know more about Him. The Vaishnavas seek to educate everyone on what God looks like, what He prefers, what His features are, where He lives, and most importantly, how one can connect with Him right now, today. As soon as there is a sincere desire to make that connection, all past mistakes are eradicated. This is nicely pointed out by the Vaishnava saint named Tulsidas.

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

Lord VishnuThe Vaishnavas in the present age descend from one of four disciplic successions. The word Vaishnava refers to a devotee of Vishnu, who is the Supreme Lord in His beautiful, four-handed form. The Vaishnava sampradayas all worship some form of Vishnu, with one line descending from Brahma worshiping Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Some of the lines worship Rama, who is the deity of choice for Goswami Tulsidas. There is the original Lord and then personal expansions, but they are all the same. We living entities are separated expansions, so we are not the same as God. In addition, the demigods, even up to the most elevated personalities, are also different from God. Therefore the previously mentioned worship of the five deities, known as the panchopasana, is not valid. The Narayana mentioned there is also not the same; He is an impersonal version reserved for the seekers of Brahmasukha.

The real Narayana is four-handed and has a body full of bliss and knowledge. Knowledge cannot belong to a stone. The deity of Narayana worshiped with the goal of merging into Brahman does not have knowledge to give to anyone. Yet the same deity worshiped with love and devotion can directly bring God’s association. This is an example of the duality present in this material world. If we are without God consciousness, everything is maya, or illusion. If we are fully immersed in God consciousness, everything can be used to keep our connection to God.

The two best names for God are Krishna and Rama, and when one worships God, they should also worship His energy. Lord Chaitanya has made the process simple for everyone. He also made worship of God accessible to everyone. Simplicity and accessibility are accounted for in His recommendation for chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” which is the call to arms for our generation and all ones yet to come. In this chanting, which is part of bhakti-yoga, the foremost occupation for the soul, the personal aspect of the Almighty is revealed, and one soon basks in His association.

In Closing:

If worship of stone you take privilege,

Know that it alone cannot have knowledge.


A personality only has chetana property,

Must know for doing worship properly.


Otherwise impersonal association only to get,

Despite however firm your devotion set.


Vaishnavas give information of God complete,

Chant His names and no longer with Him compete.