Saturday, March 9, 2013

Never Have to Leave

Vrindavana“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)

Bhagavad-gita, 8.16Missing in the worship of an abstract God or an impersonal energy is activity to feed the soul. The soul is the essence of identity; it is the integral animating force. Without the soul, there is no existence. This is true in both large and small creatures, as well as in the universe as a whole. Eternal activity, which subsequently provides endless happiness, is available only to those who worship a personal God. And of all the personal forms of the Lord, one is considered the best due to the nature of the playing field of its original home.

Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 18.196“In the Koran there are descriptions of fruitive activity, speculative knowledge, mystic power and union with the Supreme, but ultimately everything is refuted as the Lord's personal feature and His devotional service is established.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 18.196)

A Vaishnava is a worshiper of a personal God. Not that there are different original supreme controllers; there is still only one God. Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, during His preaching across India some five hundred years ago, showed that even the Koran espouses a belief in devotional service, which is worship of a personal God. The other famous religious texts of the world also have the same ultimate conclusion, though in the way they are presented today the prevailing belief may say otherwise. According to time and circumstance, not all details of the features of the Personality of Godhead are revealed. Nevertheless, irrespective of what information is withheld or revealed, the truths pertaining to the original person do not change.

A Vaishnava knows that there is an original Personality of Godhead and that from Him come many non-different personalities who are identical in potency. From the original also come many fragments, some more potent than others, but all of which are inferior to some degree to the original source. A Vaishnava worships either the original or one of the non-different expansions. These personalities all have identifiable features, and so one can bask in the glories of those features. Those features also lead to activities, and those activities are not of the variety of a “one-man show.” The many different plays the original person puts on have actors and actresses, which include human beings and animals alike. They play a key role in the original person’s enjoyment, and since the original person is eternal, His plays are endless.

Krishna's play in VrindavanaOn the other side, when worshiping an impersonal force, one is locked out of these blissful pastimes. The impersonal force can be known as Brahman, or the Absolute Truth. It can also be referred to by the more general term of “God.” We should worship God because He is everything. The material nature is not everything because it is temporary. Since the material nature has an illusory effect, it is known as maya, or “that which is not.” God is not maya; He is the source of it. He is that which is. He is the definition of an existence. He is the original “I.”

Bhagavad-gita, 10.8“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.8)

Worship of the material nature does not classify as genuine religiosity. The animal doesn’t know anything about God, so it is solely concerned with eating, sleeping, mating and defending. The human being following the animal is thus unintelligent. Fortunately, in the auspicious human form one has the ability to turn unintelligence into intelligence. The stupid can become wise in an instant. Once one realizes the supremacy of God and the reason for existence they immediately become wise.

When the turn is made away from maya it is still very difficult to stay true to religiosity. This is because of the itching for activity. For instance, if you tell me to worship God and I agree, what do I do next? How do I worship? What am I supposed to do with my time? Should I attend a gathering once a week and then spend the rest of the week engaged in fruitive activity? So, basically act like an animal for six days and be devoted for one? Will not the six overcome the one? But if I’m supposed to worship every day, what will that entail? How am I supposed to maintain my family if I have to worship daily?

Worshiping every day is actually quite easy, provided one takes to the path of personal worship. In impersonal worship, if it is to be legitimate, one needs to renounce material life altogether and stay dedicated in meditation and study of the difference between matter and spirit. A basic profession of faith is not enough. If it were, we could all say that we believe in God and then go our merry ways. Actually, this already occurs. There is an acknowledged belief in God and then what follows is the killing of innocent animals and children in the womb. That is not true religiosity.

In bona fide impersonal worship, one must be very renounced. They should live a simple life and focus all of their time on thinking of Brahman. A problem here is that so many are excluded based on lack of qualifications. In the Vedas it is said that women, laborers, and merchants have less intelligence. This may be off-putting to hear, but it is the factual generalization based on the assessment of whether one can understand Brahman, or the impersonal energy. The less intelligent have a lesser chance of understanding the difference between matter and spirit, and thus they are shut out from Brahman realization.

Bhagavad-gita, 9.32“O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of lower birth - women, vaishyas [merchants], as well as shudras [workers] - can approach the supreme destination.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.32)

If religion is really supposed to connect us with God, then it should be available to everyone, no? The path of personal worship is not restricted to anyone. Whether one is materially intelligent or unintelligent, a man or a woman, a laborer or a priest, they can think of God at any time. Indeed, on the highest platform of worship, not even God can stop the worship. This is seen with the gopis of Vrindavana. They worship Krishna sometimes against His wishes. Their love for Him is so strong that He cannot stop it.

Gopis of VrindavanaUnsatisfied with their method of worship, the impersonalist will sometimes delve into the scriptures of personal worship. Works like the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam and Ramayana are reserved for the personalists, the Vaishnavas. The cheating impersonalist will try to offer their own interpretations of these works, saying that they too espouse the belief that worship of Brahman is the highest. Yet nowhere in these works is such a conclusion mentioned.

With personal worship there is endless play. In his Ramacharitamanasa, Goswami Tulsidas allows the mind to swim in the lake of the deeds of Shri Rama, the Personality of Godhead in His avatara as a warrior prince. This lake is especially dear to Lord Shiva. The entire work is bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, and yet the impersonalists will try to present this book as a work on impersonalism, as will those who are envious of the famed poet. All of the Vaishnava literatures represent acts of bhakti, and they show that the mind can find endless enjoyment through worshiping a personal God. The Vaishnavas have no desire to touch the works on impersonalism because they have already found a higher taste.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that all the planets of the material world have birth and death but not His. His home is thus not material. The spiritual world is known as Vaikuntha, and it consists of many planets. The highest is known as Krishnaloka, and it is where Shri Krishna plays with His best friends. No one has to leave there. If you go to the material heaven, you will eventually have to come back down to earth, sort of like visiting a resort destination and then returning home when your vacation is over. Krishnaloka offers an endless stay, where each day is filled with fun.

One can travel there with the mind right now by hearing of Krishna’s activities as they are presented in the sacred Vedic texts. One can associate with Lord Rama and Lord Vishnu in the same way, but the impersonal path allows no such interaction. Therefore the path of personal worship is always superior; it lacks nothing.

In Closing:

With God impersonalists cannot play,

Only syllable of om they can say.


Their path requires meditation strict,

Less intelligent and women they restrict.


Personal worship not so exclusive,

Than Supreme Lord none more inclusive.


In Vrindavana land with gopis He plays,

No return for soul who with Krishna stays.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Men Are From Mars

Vyasadeva“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)

“Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Men and women are different. We’ve reached this conclusion after extensive research. The equality angle we’ve been pushing on you for so long has been bogus. There are inherent differences between the two sexes that go beyond just the physical. There are differences in emotional reactions, behavior, and mechanisms for logical thought as well. You should read more about what we’ve discovered, as this could help not only you but the whole society. We think that this evolution in research of human behavior will finally solve the problems like divorce, unrequited love, and discrimination in the workplace.”

Such stories are found in the news all the time, as media organizations need stories to fill their periodicals. If a newspaper is printed daily, it means that so many stories are required to get the attention of the readers. There is typically a “Science and Health” section, and things such as the difference or equality between the genders will be discussed there. Research is done into more than just the genders. All aspects of material life are focused on, and the idea is that with the stamp of approval of scientists, one should take the conclusions as authoritative; i.e. they should believe what they hear. A certain group of practical scientists, however, who accept the authority of ancient texts, already came up with the same conclusions, sometimes millions of years before. As such, their authority should be considered much more valuable.

Science MagazineDiscussing the different viewpoints is important because each side has a corresponding angle of vision with respect to the ultimate aim of life. Though it may not be immediately obvious, the scientific researcher is essentially telling us to worship matter. The worship in this case involves manipulation for personal enjoyment. Think of the Lego blocks that are sold to children. The box purchased from the store is a collection of differently shaped individual pieces. You can do with these pieces what you wish, but ultimately the aim is the same: create something enjoyable. The studies into the differences between the genders and species is done for the same purpose:

“Evolve to the point that you can live a long life, with plenty of material enjoyment. Learn how to manipulate all the elements around you to find the position of utmost comfort. People of the past were primitive in thought; they didn’t have this research available to them. Lacking evolved knowledge, they took to a simpler way of life. We don’t have to follow them. We can rely on advancements in science to find a better way of life.”

There are actually many valuable lessons one can take away from times past, especially from a certain set of information passed on since time immemorial. This information, which is representative of a school of thought, says that the material elements exist to bewilder the otherwise sober individual. The elements are sort of an illusion in this sense; like the bottle of whiskey obstructing our view. If we have other things to get done during the day, drinking the whiskey will not help us. But the alcoholic has grown so attached to the intoxication afforded by the whiskey that they can’t think of anything else. In this way they fall into despair, sinking in quicksand without any rescuing hand around.

This particular school of thought from ancient times says that material enjoyment is not everything. If you had everything in the world you could think of, you actually wouldn’t be satisfied. Think about it for a minute. Imagine if you won the lottery, married the person of your dreams, and had beautiful children and a sufficient number of friends. What would you do then? You’d still need to act. You’d still need to eat. You’d still need to sleep. You would have to find something to do to make your life fulfilling. And once you start acting, you would realize that the person who doesn’t win the lottery is pretty much in the same boat as you. Though they aren’t super wealthy, they have enough food to eat through the honest labor they apply. They have a spouse and children as well, so where did immense wealth really get you?

This school of thought says that the material elements should be used as little as possible with respect to personal enjoyment. The elements do exist for a purpose, though, a reformatory one at that. Instead of refining your way of manipulation, refine your way of thinking. Attach your consciousness to the origin of all life. This is the true definition of love. Offer unadulterated and unending affection to the one person who can accept it.

In evaluating the two schools of thought, the one from ancient times seems to be based on faith. It’s essentially religion, which we can’t really assess. It speaks of an original controller, or God, but we can’t see this person. The material elements are visible in front of us, so why not just take the route of material manipulation instead?

This mentality is defective because of the illusion of the material elements. A better way to assess the two schools of thought is to see how they derive their conclusions and whether those conclusions are valid. The difference between the genders mentioned previously was actually discovered by the ancient school of thought centuries ago. And it wasn’t even discovered; the information was passed on since the beginning of time, by the original person. He put forth a system of activity that would ideally bring everyone to the position of God consciousness, where they would love the Supreme Lord without end. In that discipline, the truths of the creation are accounted for, including the difference in tendencies between the species.

Since the aim of the spiritual school is different, the relevant facts are ignored by the materialists today. Yet the ultimate aim should have no bearing on the assessment. If someone tells us something that is groundbreaking today, but we know that someone else presented the same truth millions of years ago, the person making the discovery today isn’t so wise. They could have consulted the same truths and thus avoided all that research.

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThe ancient school of thought mentioned here comes from the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India. They delve into a lot more than just study of the genders. They give insight into all human behavior. They say that all human beings are born with four defects. Everyone has the propensity to cheat, to commit mistakes and to become illusioned. And everyone also has imperfect senses, which means that what you see isn’t always what you get. All living entities also eat, sleep, mate and defend. The material body is just a temporary covering that is completely discarded at the time of death. When the subsequent birth starts, a new body is provided.

The force that remains the same throughout, the essence of identity, is the soul. The soul is the same in both the man and the woman. The soul is ignored by the material scientist, as for them what is the fun in describing something that is eternal, full of bliss and knowledge, and the same in everyone, including the animals? Yet to ignore the soul is to ignore the essence of life, and thereby miss the mark with your conclusions. The Vedas don’t make this mistake, and therefore works like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, which were put to written word many thousands of years ago, are still as valuable today as they were in times past.

In Closing:

Men and women different to conclusion you’ve come,

Known to ancient Vedas, to party finally welcome.


Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam say,

Material world a field full of illusory play.


Difference in tendencies you might now uncover,

But from Krishna’s works no need for truths to discover.


The spirit soul is what really counts know,

To learn of it to Vedic literature go.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What To Wear

Sita and Rama“Indeed, for a woman, the supreme ornament, above all others, is the husband. Therefore, this lady, though worthy of decoration, does not look beautiful, as she is bereft of her husband.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.26)

bhartā nāma param nāryā bhūṣaṇam bhūṣaṇād api |
eṣā hi rahitā tena śobhana arhā na śobhate ||

“When I was younger, my mom used to pick out all my clothes. I’m not ashamed to admit that. I didn’t know any better. Whatever she gave me to wear each day is what I put on. Sometimes this would lead to problems, as when you’re in high school an easy way to make fun of another student is to say, ‘Hey, what did your mom dress you today or something? Your mommy picks out your clothes for you?’ This didn’t sit well with me, but what choice did I have?

“In college I started picking some of my own clothes. The problem was that I had no idea what I was doing. I chose what looked good to me, but that didn’t always mean that others shared my opinion. They would ask questions like, ‘Why are you wearing that sweater? It makes you look like an old man. Why are you wearing those shoes with those pants? You’re not supposed to wear sneakers with those pants. Also, you should wear a belt or at least un-tuck your shirt. You have no idea how to dress, do you?’

“In the real world, when I started working, I got to create my whole wardrobe for the first time. Not just a few shirts here and there that I picked out, I could choose whatever I wanted to wear every single day to the office. First, I just continued with what I wore in college, but again, I wanted to look good. I wanted to feel attractive, because with that feeling I would be confident. Of course I wanted to be comfortable too. Who wants to sit at a desk all day and be choked by a dress shirt and tie?

Snoopy tie“Ironically enough, several years after starting work I switched to the shirt and tie wardrobe. The problem with that was that I didn’t have any shirts or ties. I had to buy them all new. This was fun for a while. I’d collect dress shirts that I thought were nice. I had trouble getting the right size, but eventually I found a fit. Each week, I would buy a new shirt until pretty soon I had a month’s worth. Then there were the ties. I amassed a collection of over fifty pretty soon, wearing a new tie each day seemingly. People would compliment me on the ties they liked, so that always made me feel good.

“Ah, but the effect of this too wore off eventually. Pretty soon I started wearing only the shirts I really liked, and the ties were seldom put on; they were just too uncomfortable to wear for upwards of eight hours a day. Another problem was that I needed something to wear on the weekends. I still didn’t know much about fashion, so the problems from college resurfaced. Now, in my old age, I don’t really care. Whatever is comfortable will work. I guess that’s why you see old people wearing such strange outfits. They love to raise their dress shorts all the way up to their belly button and wear socks with sandals. I guess they just don’t care what they look like to other people.”

This review shows us that the clothes on the body, which are more or less ornaments, don’t stay the same throughout life. It’s also difficult to find a single item which is always beautifying. One occasion calls for this type of ornament, and another for a different type. For a woman, the situation is a little different, as they typically understand better than men what looks good and what doesn’t. Therefore when they travel somewhere, their luggage is a lot heavier. They have their hair care products and their many pairs of shoes to match their different outfits. From all the ornaments that a woman can have, Shri Hanuman accurately identified that the husband is the best one. Naturally, if you have the best husband, you will have the best ornament, and thus also have the best way to increase your external appearance.

Hanuman thought this while looking at Sita Devi from afar in the Ashoka grove in Lanka. He wasn’t a peeping criminal or anything. He was sent to find her after she had gone missing in the Dandaka forest, when she was with her beautiful husband Rama. Rama is the Supreme Lord in an incarnation as a warrior prince; at least that is the claim of the Vedas, which are the books of authority for so many since time immemorial.

Rama is a personal form of God, which means that the entity we call out to in times of trouble has features like us. He has eyes, ears, a nose, legs, arms, and a beautiful smile. These features are transcendental, however, which means that they aren’t limited in their abilities. They are also unlimited in their glories. Rama’s smile is the definition of “killer”, as it can remove the pride of the proudest individual.

“Dear Krishna, You are the killer of all the fears of the inhabitants of Vrindavana. You are the supremely powerful hero, and we know that You can kill the unnecessary pride of Your devotee as well as the pride of women like us simply by Your beautiful smile.” (Songs of the gopis, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 31)

Lord RamaAs a person, Rama, who is also known as Krishna in His original form, is all-attractive. Therefore Sita had the best husband, whom she married in a religious ceremony in her hometown of Janakpur. It was Sita’s duty to honor and serve Rama, but she gladly accepted that duty without hesitation. She served Rama because she loved Him. And herein lies the reason why the husband, especially in Sita’s case, is the best ornament for the woman.

Despite the attempts we may make at beautification, what we wear does not ultimately make us beautiful. This especially holds true with God, for whom it is said that the ornaments He wears become more beautiful as a result of contact with Him, rather than the other way around. We may wear a fancy tuxedo to a wedding, but the next day we’ll go back to being normal. We may look good in the short term, but there is actually a way to look nicer all the time.

For the devoted wife like Sita, the best way to look nice is to serve the husband. Since her husband was God, the best ornament for her was something, or in this case someone, who allowed her to serve in what is known as bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Hanuman noticed so many marks of beauty on Sita, but in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana he says that Sita, who is deserving of decoration, doesn’t look perfectly beautiful at the moment because Rama is not with her.

Shri HanumanWe can think of it like the mother with the newborn child. The mother may look disheveled from a long night spent in labor, but when she holds her new child for the first time, she is positively glowing. This is because the love she offers to the child is amazing. It may seem difficult to believe, but we’re actually all constitutionally made to give even more love to someone besides friends and family. That someone is God.

Shri Hanuman is still worshiped to this day, and he is extremely beautiful. He is in a monkey form, and he doesn’t necessarily wear the costliest ornaments. Yet he looks so beautiful because he wears the ornament of devotional love; he always acts to please Sita and Rama. If you tear open Hanuman’s chest, you will find Sita and Rama in his heart. Sita has the same attitude, and so the devotees think she looks the most beautiful when she is by the side of her all-attractive husband. We can follow Hanuman and always remain in their company by regularly reciting the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

This shirt and that I’ve tried,

On my own tastes I relied.


Dealt with changes and clothes improperly sized,

Of my tastes others made fun and criticized.


Clothes to real beauty are immaterial,

Matters not whether splendor sartorial.


Something missing in her, not looking right,

Sita without husband, an imperfect sight.


That husband best for a woman Hanuman deduced,

Without Rama, Sita’s outward beauty somewhat reduced.


When Supreme Lord’s service we have found,

Know that we’ll give off radiant beauty abound.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Looking Their Best

Sita in the Ashoka grove“Indeed, for a woman, the supreme ornament, above all others, is the husband. Therefore, this lady, though worthy of decoration, does not look beautiful, as she is bereft of her husband.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.26)

bhartā nāma param nāryā bhūṣaṇam bhūṣaṇād api |
eṣā hi rahitā tena śobhana arhā na śobhate ||

When does a person look their best? Is there a correct answer that can apply to all? Actually, there is, but it takes a discerning eye to notice a pattern first. Once you see it, you’ll realize that it is also the core ingredient to any beautiful interaction between two people. Shri Hanuman noticed it right away many thousands of years ago, and in the above referenced verse he presents it to us through the description of a wife and a husband and their relationship.

A mother holding her child. A cow feeding its calf. A child hugging its sibling. Brothers joining together to overcome obstacles. Neighbors helping their fellow neighbors dig out of the wreckage left by a hurricane. A person donating blood so that a stranger can continue to live. Paramours together in a romantic setting, tending to each other’s needs, arguing over who is more affectionate.

In all of the above scenarios there is beauty. The third party observer notices the beauty, and yet we haven’t made mention of any ornaments. The mother here may or may not be elegantly dressed. Perhaps she is wearing an evening gown, but she could even be in her pajamas. The garment of choice is not the issue; it is the relationship to her dependent. The same goes for the cow and the calf. The cow isn’t particularly beautiful on its own; it is just an animal after all. It doesn’t wear clothes. We put on clothes in the morning so that we don’t walk around naked. We obviously like to put on clothing that will make us look nice, for we know the body itself isn’t all that beautiful.

Mother Yashoda holding KrishnaShri Hanuman tells us that the supreme ornament for a woman is her husband. This is a significant declaration because women, more so than men, are known for wearing ornaments. Walk into a bachelor’s apartment and you’ll likely not find much furniture. The refrigerator is probably stocked with only beer and soda, and the rooms are more or less empty. What do they need so much stuff for anyway? If there are any hints of decoration, they are probably there to attract females, to catch their eye.

Women, on the other hand, are known for shopping. This is the stereotype, but it is rooted in truth. Prior to getting married a man may feel comfortable walking around the house in ragged clothing, but after he gets married suddenly he wears designer shirts. The change is due to the influence of the wife, who has a keener fashion sense. She takes the effort to look good herself and she wants her husband to also look good.

Hanuman says that the best ornament for a woman is a husband. If you make this declaration in public today you will surely be labeled a sexist, but discrimination between sexes is not the intent here. The husband is not merely a decoration, but rather it is the relationship to the husband that acts as the beautifying ornament. In the Vedic tradition especially, the relationship between the husband and the wife has real and lasting significance. The wife is to serve the husband, and the husband is to accept that service and offer protection. In return, they both share in the spiritual merits accumulated by the husband in his practice of dharma, or religiosity.

If the traditional wife, especially one from the time period in question, has a husband for an ornament, it means that she has someone to love. She looks most beautiful when she is offering her love to another person. This holds true for all of us actually. There is nothing more beautiful than pure love shared between two parties. The ideal husband-wife relationship is one indication of that, and since Hanuman was looking at a woman who was bereft of the company of her husband, he realized that she wasn’t as beautiful.

Sita and RamaHanuman says that Sita, the princess he found in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, was worthy of decoration. Her chastity alone made her worthy of all good things. She had never done anything wrong in her life. She accepted a husband from a contest of strength drawn up by her father, and she never had any reservations. She had three mothers-in-law in Ayodhya, and she treated all of them as if they were her own mother. Even when her husband was unkindly banished from His kingdom for fourteen years, Sita felt that the punishment extended to her as well. She accompanied her husband Rama into the forest, though she was neither asked nor expected to.

From this verse we can also understand that Hanuman saw Sita as she really is. She was in this predicament because a fiendish character had forcibly taken her away from Rama’s side when He wasn’t around. This fiend, the king of Lanka named Ravana, thought that Sita was beautiful enough to have as a wife, though she was already religiously wedded to someone else. Sita refused to give in to him, and so Ravana kept her in this secluded garden in his kingdom.

Hanuman hadn’t met Sita before, but he recognized her based on her auspicious features. The ornaments she was wearing matched those which previously fell in Kishkindha, where Hanuman was from. She also showed signs of intense grief, which meant that she was suffering from something. All of this combined to tell Hanuman that the woman in the grove was Sita. Though she was beautiful, she wasn’t as beautiful as she should have been, and this was all due to the husband being missing from the picture.

Hanuman’s eyes weren’t tainted by lust, which is what afflicted Ravana. Hanuman wanted to see Sita and Rama together, where they could act as husband and wife and enjoy each other’s company. Sita’s husband is also the best ornament because He is the most beautiful. In His original form He is known as Krishna, which as a word means “all-attractive.” Rama is the Supreme Lord, the God that we all turn to in times of trouble. He is the detail behind the abstract conception, and Sita is the definition of His pleasure potency, the energy which always acts to please Him.

Hanuman looking beautifulJust as the best ornament for a woman is her husband, a person to whom she can offer love, for all living entities the best item of beautification is the all-attractive God. He is so benevolent that He allows us to interact with Him in different transcendental mellows, or rasas. In Sita’s case the mellow is madhurya, or sweetness in conjugal relations. For Hanuman it is dasya, or acting as a servant. Whatever the preferred interaction, if we’re not established in the relationship, we aren’t looking as beautiful as we should.

The price for the ornament known as Rama’s association is sincerity. This can be paid by any person, regardless of their situation in life. We saw sincerity in both Sita and Hanuman, and so they would quickly reunite with Rama. Wherever they are, they keep Him in mind, and so the relationship never breaks. The easiest way to offer our sincerity is to chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” taking ourselves to be humbler than the grass, knowing that these names are non-different from the Lord Himself.

In Closing:

In external beauty to reside,

When husband by her side.


With woman deserving beautification,

There is no better ornamentation.


Can serve another in that state,

Chance to be with soul-mate.


For us all to serve God is the best,

Inferior are ornaments all the rest.


To be with Rama Sita Devi was meant,

In loving devotion to her Hanuman went.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I Got My Mind Set On You

Sita Devi“She sees neither the female Rakshasas nor these trees with flowers and fruits. With her heart fixed on one thing, she undoubtedly only sees Rama.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.25)

na eṣā paśyati rākṣasyo na imān puṣpa phala drumān |
ekastha hṛdayā nūnam rāmam eva anupaśyati ||

“Wouldn’t it be great to block out all the distractions, to see clearly that one thing that you want to see? I like to look at flowers, so wouldn’t it be great if I saw only flowers? Wouldn’t I be so happy if I didn’t see the tragedies reported on the news and the effects of aging on my face that are prominently displayed in the mirror each morning? Wouldn’t it be great to focus on my beloved all the time, the one person whose association pleases me the most?”

From the testimony of a famous Vanara warrior, we know that one person was able to maintain such a wonderful focus even during a time of great distress. Ironically enough, the benefits of the focus were not intentionally sought out. She was not purposefully trying to block other things out. Rather, the glorious qualities belonging to the person she contemplated on automatically created the focus. And since it was her occupational duty to serve that person with every thought, word and deed, she had no reservations in continuing in her meditation.

“Think about air. Block everything else out. Don’t worry about the package that you have to drop off at the post office tomorrow. Don’t worry about getting up early in the morning to take your car in for servicing. Suppress your anxiety over having to travel to an airport far away to pick up your relative this weekend. Don’t worry about having to make food for that gathering you’re going to in a few days. Also, pay no attention to the mountain of chores at home. Don’t worry that you haven’t cleaned your room in a while, and pretend like the packages you’ve received in the mail recently have all been opened. Block all of this out and just focus on air, which is akin to nothingness. That will give you peace of mind.”

To block out worries over distractions is good, but not to the point that the distracting elements are completely cast aside as being unimportant. For instance, if I have a chore looming in the next few days, when the time comes I need to take care of it. But prior to that, I shouldn’t let it consume me. I should stay steady in mind, as if there are no pressing engagements. No use worrying about something until it actually happens.

How to go about maintaining that steadiness is the tricky part. In the Vedic tradition there is the practice of dhyana, which belongs to the discipline of yoga. Dhyana is meditation, which is beneficial for obvious reasons. But on what or whom should you meditate? You don’t need to consult a yoga teacher to understand that certain things aren’t worth contemplating. For instance, I can’t just stare at a painting I like and block out all other thoughts. I may try this once or twice, but since the explicit purpose is to block out other thoughts, I will not succeed unless the image is divine.

Ah, so where do we go to find a divine image? Obviously the image would have to be of something glorious. If that something has limitless glories, which could be discussed endlessly, then that something could be contemplated on endlessly as well. We don’t think that something like this exists because we have yet to find it. If we had, there would be no use in worrying about meditation, as we would meditate on that object all the time.

“There [In the Padma Purana] it is said that one should always remember Lord Vishnu. This is called dhyana, or meditation-always remembering Krishna. It is said that one has to meditate with his mind fixed upon Vishnu. Padma Purana recommends that one always fix his mind on the form of Vishnu by meditation and not forget Him at any moment.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, 2)

Krishna's lotus feetThe Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, say that the best object of meditation is the transcendental form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is an original form, which is all-attractive, but there are also many non-different expansion forms. The above referenced verse from the Ramayana speaks of one of those non-different forms and how meditation on it removes the influence of the most unwanted elements of the surrounding nature.

The non-different form addressed is of Lord Rama, the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince. He has distinguishable features. His arms are long like a banyan tree, and He has other auspicious marks on His body. He is the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya, a man who never shrinks from battle and who follows dharma, or religiosity, to the letter. Rama is unbelievably beautiful, and He is grateful for any service offered to Him. He is the nicest person in the world, so why wouldn’t someone want to think of Him all the time.

In Sita’s case, she knew Rama intimately. She was married to Him for many years, so she could meditate on Rama by remembering past time spent with Him. She relied on that remembrance to keep her sanity, to keep her life force intact. This was evident to Shri Hanuman just from looking at her. He was nestled inside of leaves and flowers on a tree inside of the Ashoka grove in Lanka, sent to search for Sita after she had gone missing. The evil king of Lanka, Ravana, took Sita away in secret and tried to win her over. She refused him, and so the Rakshasa resorted to threats. He ordered his female attendants, ghoulish creatures, to harass her day and night until she capitulated.

Sita Devi in the Ashoka groveFor Sita in the Ashoka grove there were many distractions. Both the beautiful and the hideous were there. The grove had many golden trees which were full of fruits and flowers. There were also the female attendants of Ravana who tried to scare her into thinking that she would die if she didn’t give in to Ravana. Hanuman noticed all of this just as a newly arrived observer, and yet he was amazed at how Sita didn’t see any of it. Though she was in the thick of things, her heart was only fixed on one thing: Rama. Because of that focus, she indeed saw Rama all the time.

And what was the benefit to seeing Rama? Imagine if you’re never alone, if the person you cherish the most is always with you. God is the best friend to everyone, as He resides within every creature as the Supersoul. Whether we know this fact or not makes no difference to the Supreme Lord; He stays with us regardless. He will never leave our side, even if we ignore Him for millions of lifetimes. Though He is always with us, we don’t get the full benefit of His association unless we choose to look at Him.

The incarnation, or avatara, is the external manifestation of the same Supersoul. Rama is the more complete realization of God, as the Supersoul doesn’t intervene with action. To the individual, the Supersoul is a kind of impersonal representation of the personal God. Focusing on only the Supersoul is more difficult, and therefore it is part of the discipline of meditational yoga. Yet dhyana itself isn’t reserved exclusively for the yogis who make the remote woods their residence. Anyone, in any circumstance, and at any time, can focus the mind on God in the same manner that Sita did. As the personal aspect can be remembered more easily and in more situations, it is superior to the localized aspect, which is perceived to be formless.

The benefit of that remembrance for Sita was so great that it automatically blocked other things out. The enchanting grove had no influence; it did not tempt Sita into thinking that residence in Lanka with Ravana would be worthwhile. The female Rakshasas also had no influence; they couldn’t scare her into forgetting Rama and focusing on her perilous condition. Hanuman, who had practiced a similar style of meditation to help him reach Lanka, was amazed at Sita’s focus. His observations prove that one who keeps their mind set on God can overcome all obstacles thrown their way.

In Closing:

Miscreant went on wild killing spree,

Bombs from terrorist in market set free.


Stock prices wildly fluctuate,

Our minds with bad news media inundate.


How then our focus can we keep?

Over misfortune will we not weep?


From Sita, the greatest lesson away take,

How supreme focus with one person make.


Golden trees around, and ogres at her hissed,

Didn’t see them because of husband whom she missed.


As if she were living in a safe bubble,

Enemies could cause her no trouble.


To the features of Shri Rama this was due,

Hanuman saw and practiced the same too.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Consciousness My Only Friend

Sita Devi“Giving up all desires and enjoyment, devoid of the company of relatives, she maintains her body through her hope of meeting Him again.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.24)

kāma bhogaiḥ parityaktā hīnā bandhu janena ca |
dhārayati ātmano deham tat samāgama kānkṣiṇī ||

Take away everything that is enjoyable to you. Then take away everything that you could possibly desire. And finally, to top it off, take away the company of your friends and relatives. What are you left with? Isolation, boredom, sadness, despair, fear, uncertainty? Any of these terms are appropriate. You would likely wonder what your reason for living is, why you should continue to maintain the body. From looking at a princess from afar, Shri Hanuman wondered these things too, but then he quickly realized that there was a force compelling her to maintain her life. Hopeful of a meeting with her beloved husband, she stayed alive.

A book authored in the twentieth century pondered the scenario where a soldier comes back from war so badly injured that he has nothing but his consciousness as his friend. His arms and legs were blown off. His hearing and sight are gone as well. He can’t speak. All he can do is feel. To communicate, he gyrates up and down, using Morse code. In that isolated condition, he wonders if he is alive or dead. A famous heavy metal band later covered a similar frightful situation in a song.

Despite the desperate condition, we see that there is still life. The consciousness is what indicates that there is still an existence, and that consciousness is tied to the spirit soul, or that which animates us. The animating spark is what forms the subject matter of the highly philosophical, historical, and practical Vedas, which are the oldest scriptural tradition in the world. The soul is addressed in the beginning stages of instruction, where the term aham brahmasmi accurately identifies the individual as Brahman, which is the non-differentiated spiritual energy. That which animates us also animates others. It animates the trees and the animals too. The quality of the animating force is identical within each being, so the cause of the perceived differences is only external, being namely the influence of matter, which is not spirit, or Brahman.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.23“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.23)

In the Bhagavad-gita, which is also known as the Gitopanishad, it is said that the spirit soul cannot be cut up, burned, made wet, or destroyed. The hypothetical scenario of the injured warrior proves this fact, as despite all essential parts of the body leaving, the life force still remains. Even at the time of death, the soul isn’t destroyed; it simply moves on to somewhere else.

This brings us to the issue of why we should remain alive. Why should we keep the soul where it currently resides? Will not the soul be better situated somewhere else? Perhaps, but while we have consciousness right now, and while we have the ability to ponder over the meaning of our existence, we have the potential to feel the highest pleasure. And to feel pleasure is the reason to live, as no one intentionally does anything that they think will harm them in the end. The diets and exercise routines are a little strenuous in the beginning, but the end goal is still to find a pleasurable condition.

Shri Hanuman saw a princess in a difficult situation a long time ago, and what he saw speaks volumes into the nature of activity and how to fulfill the quest to find everlasting happiness. He was sent to look for a princess who had gone missing. After an extensive, dangerous and difficult search, Hanuman was blessed with a golden treasure in the form of the vision of the beautiful wife of Lord Rama. Named Sita by her father King Janaka, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Hanuman was so amazed at her beauty that he kept thinking of all that Rama had done for her previously and how all that hard work was worth it.

Sita DeviIn the above referenced verse from the Ramayana, Hanuman remarks that Sita has given up all desires and enjoyment. Presently she is in the Ashoka grove in the kingdom of Lanka, forced to stay there as a prisoner. The ruler of the land, Ravana, wanted her for himself, but she refused. Rather than return her to Rama, he kept her there, hoping to scare her into submission. It is noteworthy that Sita did not ask for any material comforts. She did not ask Ravana to give her a nice bed to sleep on. She did not ask for sumptuous food preparations or nice clothes to wear. Her single cloth was soiled due to sitting on the ground for an extended period of time, and to her this was just fine. Why would she want to look attractive for the hideous creature Ravana, who was so consumed by lust that he couldn’t see his imminent death brought on by his iniquitous deed?

“When the time for the destruction of living entities arrives, people are seen to perform activities that endanger themselves due to the influence of that all-devouring time.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 56.16)

Sita was a king’s daughter, so she grew up with family, well-wishers, and aides around her. When she married Rama, the son of King Dasharatha, her life in royalty continued. But now here she was all alone, not a single friend in sight; just enemies everywhere. Through it all, she maintained her body. Hanuman deduced that the cause of her remaining alive was her hope to one day meet Rama again. This was her only desire in life. She took His association to be the most desirable thing, that which is most enjoyable.

That association is not dependent on any factor except sincerity. One doesn’t have to be wealthy or highly knowledgeable to have Rama’s association. One doesn’t have to belong to a certain religion or be born into a certain kind of family. Moreover, one doesn’t even need all of the senses to work. Rama is the Supreme Lord, an incarnation who appears in the Treta Yuga to delight the residents of Ayodhya and other areas with His presence. One of Rama’s names is Hrishikesha, which means the master of all senses. His association can be had through sound, touch, feel, and taste, in addition to sight.

In Sita’s situation, the association came through the consciousness. This linking is known as yoga, which should be a familiar word to us. All other types of yoga are but a means to alter the consciousness for eventually connecting with God. That is the purpose to living. We have a consciousness, so why not keep it focused on the best thing? In Sita’s case, just the desire to see Rama again was good enough to make it happen. Hanuman too was far away from Rama at the time, but when he saw Sita he immediately remembered Rama as well.

At present our external conditions may not be as dire as Sita’s were, but if our consciousness is not connected to God, if we’re not in yoga, then our situation is actually more perilous. Therefore the Vaishnavas, those devoted to Rama in thought, word and deed, kindly try to teach real yoga to anyone who is willing to listen. If we have our wits about us, if we have the life force safely within the body right now, why not listen to the message, which is easily accepted through hearing the sounds of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare?”

In Closing:

“Arms, legs, hearing, speech taken away,

Landmine with me had its way.


Into this perilous condition I fell,

How that I am alive can I tell?”


Consciousness is our way to know,

That life force did not yet away go.


Like Sita, stay alive from of God thinking,

In true yoga, to the divine keep linking.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rama’s Real Treasure

Sita and Rama“Indeed, gaining her back, joy will return to Rama, like a king who regains the land of his kingdom after having lost it.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 16.23)

asyā nūnam punar lābhād rāghavaḥ prītim eṣyati |
rājā rājya paribhraṣṭaḥ punaḥ prāpya iva medinīm ||

The irony of this comparison made by Shri Hanuman is that the person in question had actually lost His kingdom already. He could ostensibly gain that kingdom back, but that wouldn’t make Him so happy at the time in question. In fact, if He gained back the company of His beautiful wife, then the joy would be similar to that experienced by any other king who had lost his kingdom and then regained it. This implies that the land of governance is not very important to Shri Rama, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. More important to Him is the association of those who love Him. This should make sense, as what use is having dull matter if you are unable to live how you really want?

Hanuman is a historical character whose heroic exploits are documented in many sacred texts of India, including the Ramayana itself. There have been many heroes throughout history, but Hanuman is extraordinary. He is still talked about and worshiped by millions to this day precisely because of the beneficiary of his work. To act in the interests of God is true unselfishness, as the only reward sought out is His pleasure; there is no desire for personal gain. Hanuman earned fame from serving Rama, but he never coveted it. From serving Rama he acquired legions of followers faithful in worshiping him, but to Hanuman the only benefit from this is the ability to further spread devotion to Rama to his followers.

Shri HanumanWe can view Hanuman’s statement in another light as well. In this particular scene, Hanuman is looking at Sita Devi, the beloved wife of Lord Rama, the prince of the Raghu dynasty. Sita and Hanuman are both in a kingdom. They are on the island of Lanka, which was ruled over at the time by the Rakshasa named Ravana. Ravana forced Sita to come to Lanka against her will. In this way he had her association and a kingdom to rule over, but there was no happiness. It’s akin to finding a treasure chest but not knowing how to open it. Whether the treasure chest is a hundred miles away in a vault or sitting in my room upstairs, it is still of no value to me if I can’t open it.

In the same way, whether Sita was far away or inside of the Ashoka grove in his kingdom, there was no way for Ravana to enjoy her company. She was devoted in thought, word and deed to her husband. She would not give even an inch to Ravana emotionally. She was utterly repulsed by him, and so he resorted to threats. Hanuman was Rama’s messenger. He was sent to find her, and after an exhaustive search, he now has finally located her. Here he reviews some of her qualities, which automatically brings his thoughts over to Rama and how happy He will be regaining her company. Only now is this a possibility since Hanuman has found her.

Though Ravana had Sita and a kingdom, there was no happiness. But for Rama regaining Sita alone would be enough to feel the pleasure of regaining an entire kingdom after it had been lost. To rule over a kingdom means to have complete jurisdiction over land and the behavior of the subjects living on it. A king pretty much gets whatever they want. It’s like having the ability to go on a shopping spree for a little kid who only wants the best toys.

From Hanuman’s statement, we see that Rama’s pleasure comes from Sita’s association. Being with her is like having a kingdom, because He gets to be with someone who loves Him. If someone loves us for real, there is nothing we can do to turn them away from us. This means that we are free to act however we wish; we don’t have to worry about impressing them. Also, since they love us unconditionally, we will naturally want to please them as well. This is especially true if we are pure of heart, and since Rama is God, no one is purer than He. When two such lovers are paired, competition ensues, and there are no losers since the goal is to please the loving party.

“There is a proverb in Sanskrit which says, ‘Disappointment gives rise to the greatest satisfaction.’ In other words, when one's sentiment or ambition becomes too great and is not fulfilled until after seemingly hopeless tribulation, that is taken as the greatest satisfaction.” (Shrila Prabhupada, The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 31)

Hanuman worshiping Sita and RamaThe joy from reunion is greater when there has been a time of separation. Indeed, Shri Hanuman here is elated from having found Sita after having failed for so long. If the journey hadn’t been so difficult, the joy at the end may not have been so pronounced. If there is separation, and especially if there is the fear that the reunion will never occur, the coveted meeting tastes that much sweeter when it arrives.

How does this verse apply to us?

Sita is Rama’s beloved. She is the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord. God is one, though He is described in different ways depending on a person’s level of realization and the spiritual tradition they follow. Even in the Vedic tradition the same Rama is known by many names through His other non-different personalities such as Vishnu and Krishna. Nevertheless, it is always the case that God takes the most pleasure from the association of His eternal consort, who is, not surprisingly, described as His pleasure potency.

God feels the same joy from associating with all of His children, provided they are willing to love Him. It was already known to Rama that Sita loved Him, and from her reaction to separation the rest of the world found out as well. From Hanuman’s work, the world was also informed of his devotion to both Sita and Rama. Not that it has to be openly declared for everyone to see, but the events documented in works like the Ramayana give us examples of devotional service, which is the soul’s constitutional occupation. These works also give us paths to follow, exalted personalities from whom we can learn valuable lessons.

As Rama feels tremendous happiness from reuniting with Sita, know for certain that the spirit soul who has been separated from God in consciousness for so long will feel a surge of happiness like no other from returning to loving service in devotion. It is the mission of mahajanas like Shri Hanuman to reawaken that devotion in others, and their main method of inspiring is the chanting of the holy names. The best mantra to chant in the modern age is “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

A king who land has lost,

Tries to recover it at any cost.


Must be able to use the land,

Otherwise useless when in your hand.


Coveted Sita’s company was feeling the same,

For Rama, who renounced kingdom of Ayodhya name.


God is one, and His devotees He likes,

Worries over them, keeps them in His sights.


Hanuman that reunion hopes to make real,

Follow him and joy from God’s love feel.