Saturday, March 16, 2013

Shiva and Parvati

Shiva and Parvati's marriage“This bow is as fixed as Parvati’s mind. This bow is from Lord Shiva, who observes the vow to accept only one wife.” (Janaki Mangala, 93)

pārabatī mana sarisa acala dhanu cālaka |
hahiṃ purāri teu eka nāri brata pālaka ||

The celebration of the lifting of the heavy bow in King Janaka’s assembly travels to all spheres, touching especially those who are intimately related to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the Vedic tradition, there are many gods, but not all of them are equal. There is only one Supreme Lord, and by worshiping Him, all other gods are automatically worshiped. If they should still feel slighted, the protection granted by the original Godhead to the worshiper is perfect; a fact proved during the famous incident of the first Govardhana Puja. The most elevated of the godlike figures are so exalted that the Supreme Lord requests their direct participation in His pastimes. No one is more dear to God than Shiva and Parvati, and so it was not surprising that their names came up quite often in Janakpur during a famous event a long time ago.

With so many gods, how do we know which one is the original? Also, some take the original to be one person, while others take Him to be someone else? How do we reconcile the differences?

The Vedic literature mentions different paths to attaining enlightenment, and with each path there are also different worshipable figures. In order to tell which worshipable figure is supreme, we have to compare the destinations of the paths.

But don’t all paths lead to the same place?

Ideally, they should, but immediately they may not. The person graduating from first grade in elementary school is headed for second grade in the immediate term, while they are looking to eventually reach graduation. The person who has already reached graduation has no need for the second grade and its requisite assignments.

Radha and Krishna - prema-bhaktiDepending on which mode of material nature you are in, you will follow a certain path towards transcendental enlightenment. The ultimate end goal is pure love for God. This is the only real definition of love, and it is known by terms such as prema, bhakti, and bhava in Sanskrit. What we consider love is more like kama, or material lust. Even when we offer love to parents, siblings, or children, the affection, or sneha, is a derivative of the original prema that we possess.

And prema can only exist for one person: God. God consciousness is the original consciousness. Every other kind of consciousness is a reflection or masking of the original consciousness. The question then remains: who is God? Is He a formless energy known as Brahman? Is He the Supersoul resting within the heart? Is He an angry man who looks to punish the sinners? Is He old?

Only the Vedas provide the most complete information about God. It is impossible to fully enumerate the qualities of the Supreme Lord. This is actually a good thing, as it allows prema to be directed through channels of endless glorification. If the qualities could be fully enumerated, then one person could expound on them and shut everyone else out of the fun. When we see award shows or ceremonies honoring a specific personality, there are multiple people who offer their insight. One person doesn’t suffice for praise, as people have different viewpoints and different stories to share. In the same way, each individual can offer praise to God. If everyone in the world did this without end for the entire duration of their stay on earth, there would still be plenty left to glorify.

In the simplest definition, God is Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The word Bhagavan means one who possesses the opulences of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, wisdom and renunciation to the fullest degree and at the same time. He is the only person who possesses this feature, and so He is the only Bhagavan. Sometimes respectable personalities who are intimately related to Bhagavan in a mood of divine love are also addressed as Bhagavan, but again this is only because of their relation to the original Bhagavan. The word Bhagavan also means the most fortunate, and so that good fortune spreads to the devotees as well.

Lord ShivaLord Shiva is one person who is sometimes addressed as Bhagavan. This is because he is fully devoted to the original Bhagavan. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita, two famous Vedic texts which present wisdom so profound that every other philosophy existing past, present and future is explained, it is said that God’s original form is Lord Krishna, who is also known as Shyamasundara, the youth with a blackish complexion and a stunningly beautiful face. A direct expansion of Krishna is Lord Vishnu, who takes charge of creating this and many other universes. Then there are further expansions of Vishnu, to the point that the material world is managed by Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, and another Lord Vishnu.

All the Vishnu expansions are equivalent to one another; they are like identical candles lit from the original candle that is Krishna. Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva agree with this conclusion, so much so that they are original teachers of the philosophy known as Vaishnavism, or devotion to Vishnu. Along with the Vishnu expansions there are the avataras who descend to earth. Lord Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha, is one of the more famous incarnations, and He is the preferred form of Vishnu for Lord Shiva.

Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva are considered demigods, or elevated living entities who work at the direction of the Supreme Lord. There are other demigods as well, and each of them provides specific material benedictions to their worshipers. Just because they fulfill this role doesn’t mean that they are completely immersed in material life themselves.

Worship of Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati is prominent in the Vedic tradition. The story of their marriage is described in many Vedic texts. Parvati is the daughter of the mountain king Himavata. Her name means daughter of the mountain. In her youth Narada Muni, a celebrated spiritual master and devotee of Vishnu, told her father that her destiny was to marry Lord Shiva. In order to effect this, Parvati went into the forest and did tapasya, or austerity, for a very long time. Her resolve was tested many times, including by her parents, who did not want her to marry Shiva. One time Shiva sent his attendants to entice her in the forest. They offered her Lord Vishnu as a husband, but Parvati’s resolve was so strong that she stood by the words of Narada. Not that there was anything wrong with marrying Vishnu, but she was intent on following what her spiritual master had told her.

Goddess DurgaIn the same way Lord Shiva is dedicated to Parvati. In her previous birth she was also Shiva’s wife.  Known as Sati, she died after her husband was insulted one time. Shiva only accepts one wife, and combined the two manage the material creation. Parvati is also known as Durga, which as a word means “difficult to overcome.” Her material creation is like a fort with giant walls that are seemingly impossible to scale. Her devotees worship her so that the material creation will not be so painful to them. Durga carries a trident in her hand, which symbolizes the threefold miseries of life: those caused by the body and mind, those caused by the demigods, i.e. nature, and those caused by other living entities.

In King Janaka’s assembly a long time ago, there was a contest to see who would marry the king’s daughter Sita. So many princes from around the world came and tried, but none of them could even move the bow. The bow originally belonged to Lord Shiva, so it was special. Vishvamitra Muni, a noted brahmana of the time, asked the king if Lord Rama, who was there with His younger brother Lakshmana, could try His hand at lifting the bow.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Janaka is responding to Vishvamitra with skepticism. He compares the bow’s firmness to Parvati’s resolve, and says that the bow is originally from Lord Shiva, who observes the vow to accept only one wife. Janaka is such a pious individual that when he wants to describe something that is immovable he references Shiva and Parvati. Today Janaka is known as one of the authorities on devotional service, which is the discipline that reawakens prema, or pure love for God. Lord Shiva is also an authority on devotional service. We see that Janaka had so much respect for Shiva and Parvati, which means that any genuine Vaishnava will also have respect for the couple who is so dear to Sita and Rama.

Janaka was indeed correct in describing the bow in this way, but what wasn’t immediately known to everyone was that Rama is the very worshipable Lord of Shiva. And Parvati is devoted to Shiva, which means that she is part of a chain that worships Shri Rama. This bow was Shiva’s representative at the ceremony, and since Shiva and Parvati are one, Parvati was there as well. Rama was destined to lift that illustrious bow and win Sita’s hand in marriage. That amazing feat paid honor to Shiva and Parvati as well, showing that through worship of God all other respectable personalities are worshiped simultaneously.

In Closing:

Pain from tapasya didn’t feel,

In vow her resolve like steel.


Only Shiva as husband to accept,

All other offers she would kindly reject.


Vow towards her he also gives,

Together on mountain they live.


In Janaka’s assembly both were there,

In bow that none could lift in the air.


Rama is Shiva’s Lord, to raise bow with ease,

By this act all His votaries to please.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Eliminating the Choice

Shri Rama Darbar“O Rama, You should know that just as fish cannot survive when taken out of water, neither Sita nor I can live without You for even a moment.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 53.31)

How to describe something that is so a part of you that you wouldn’t exist without it? Is there any way to accurately convey your level of attachment to something that you can’t live without? The magnitude of this dilemma increases for the saints who follow bhakti-yoga as a way of life. As Lord Chaitanya says, the living entity is eternally a servant of Krishna, or God. The living entity’s real form is servant, Krishna-dasa. When one rejuvenates their eternal and real form, which previously lay dormant, how can the resulting feeling be properly explained to someone else?

If I say that I am a devotee of such and such personality, others will infer that there is a choice in the matter. Otherwise why even make the statement? If I say that I like pizza, it means that there is the option of not liking pizza. Maybe I like eggrolls, dumplings, burritos, or what not. It is absolutely possible that I won’t like pizza. Therefore when I tell someone that I do like it, they know that I have made the voluntary choice to eat pizza, and from that choice I have decided that I enjoy the taste.

Taste is important in bhakti-yoga as well. Bhakti-yoga is also known as bhakti-rasa, or the taste of devotion. A famous saint authored a book titled Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, which can be translated to mean “the nectar of devotion” or “the ocean made up of the nectar of the taste of devotion to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” There are different tastes in bhakti, but in general any taste that is part of devotion to God gets classified as bhakti-rasa.

The Nectar of DevotionAgain, if we enjoy a taste, it means that there is some choice made to enjoy it. Yet this is contradictory to what the person immersed in bhakti-rasa actually feels. One may chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” a few times and then move on to other things. They experience the taste for a few brief moments, but then try something else.

There is devotion in this chanting because the words in the mantra address God and His energy. Chanting this mantra is better than just repeating the word “God” over and over again. God is more of an abstract term, which means it is more prone to interpretation. In many respects it is an impersonal way of addressing the Lord, wherein one appreciates the grand nature of the Supreme Controller but still doesn’t really know anything about Him.

In his Dohavali, which is a collection of poetic couplets describing the heart of devotional service and how man should conduct himself in life, Goswami Tulsidas addresses the deficiency in only addressing the impersonal aspect of God. The impersonal aspect of the Almighty is compared to the numeral version of a number written on a financial transaction. The personal aspect is compared to the same number in its written out, word form. We write out the number on the second line of the check to make sure there is no funny business. The person receiving the check could easily add a few small marks here and there to change the intended value on the digits in the numeral version. A number one can turn into a seven, a five into eight, and so on. If you write out the same number, the chance of malfeasance is greatly diminished.

When you address God as Krishna, you know that He is a personality who is all-attractive. He has a bluish/blackish bodily complexion. It is compared to the dark raincloud about to pour down water. This is also the bodily complexion of Lord Rama, who is the same Krishna but in a different visible manifestation. Lord Vishnu also has the same bodily complexion. There are many different personal forms of the Almighty, and a wise person does not differentiate between them other than for personal preference in worship. This doesn’t mean that all beings are God or that all divine figures are the same as Krishna. Along with Krishna comes His energy, who is devoted to Him in thought, word and deed. The energy is addressed in the maha-mantra through the word “Hare.”

Tulsidas with Rama and LakshmanaFamous poets such as Tulsidas are so immersed in bhakti-rasa that they can’t live without it. It is pointless to refer to themselves as a devotee of Rama or Krishna because there is no longer a choice in the matter. It’s like telling someone over and over again that I’m the son of such and such person. There is no way I can ever be the son of anyone else. It is part of my identity within this current lifetime. I can’t choose other parents. I may live with others or I may not speak with my parents, but they are still always my parents.

The parent-child analogy is helpful here, but it is still not perfect in describing bhakti-rasa, as the child is not always obedient to the parents. The child is also expected to one day live without the guidance of the parents, who will ideally pass from this world before the child does. The Vaishnava saints, the devotees of a personal aspect of God, use other analogies to describe their devotion. In the same Dohavali, Tulsidas makes reference to the Chatak bird. This bird only drinks rainwater; nothing else. As a result, its eyes remain fixed on the dark raincloud, the one that is about to pour down rain.

This comparison is so deep that one can spend a whole lifetime studying it and still find new ways to appreciate it. As mentioned before, the dark raincloud has a color that is a direct match for Shri Rama’s complexion. Thus the Chatak, who is in this case Tulsidas, always looks at the cloud, who is Rama. It only accepts whatever the raincloud offers. If nothing comes its way, it won’t eat. If the raincloud sends something to someone else, the bird won’t take it. It only accepts whatever the raincloud offers its way. The Chatak in this sense is a pure devotee; it asks for nothing in return. Whether it rains or not, the bird will always be devoted to the raincloud.

Lord RamaThe fish out of water analogy is used quite often today, and it is so old that it can be found in the ancient Vedic text known as the Ramayana. The reference there is made by Lakshmana, Shri Rama’s younger brother. He says that neither Sita nor himself can live without Rama, just like the fish can’t survive when taken out of the water. The fish’s love for the water is so great that it will die soon after it is separated. The love for the water is what defines the fish’s existence. The devotee feels something similar, for without God in their life they can’t survive. Regardless of the situation, they try to chant the holy names as much as possible, as this is like being thrown back into the water for the fish after it has been taken out. The holy name brings God’s direct company, so one who always chants it never has to live without the Lord.

Tulsidas and other famous Vaishnava poets make other similar analogies, like to the kairava flower, which opens up at the sight of the moon. Without the moon, the kairava will not open. It refuses to do anything without its loveable object. Similarly, the devotee cannot do anything except serve God. They will not accept anyone’s mercy unless they feel it is coming from God or that it will help them in serving Him.

Such a high position is actually every person’s constitutional position. In no other relationship can the love be so strong. Love for another person can never define us because we can actually live without the other person. Love for a particular food item also doesn’t apply, as we can survive on pretty much any type of food. When we choose love of God and practice it under the authority of someone who can’t live without Him, that relationship will soon cease to be a choice.

In Closing:

“Does eating this food your religion allow?

Will doing this break your lifelong vow?


If you like pizza you say,

To not like must also be a way.”


Not the same is to the Lord pure devotion.

No desire for gain in highest emotion.


Love for water defines fish’s existence,

Needed for survival, no question of resistance.


Tulsidas and poets of bhakti the same way live,

Defined by love for God, full attention to Him they give.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I Stay Away

Narada Muni“One can change his habit by good or bad association, and one has to become intelligent enough to discriminate between good and bad. The best association is the service of the devotees of the Lord, and by that association one can become the highest qualified man by the grace of the Lord's pure devotees.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.10.41 Purport)

Regardless of the specific Vaishnava tradition you follow, you will certainly hear recommendations for avoiding the company of those who are inimical towards God. If such people are hostile towards the Supreme Personality of Godhead, if they speak ill of Him, if they are openly defiant of His will, or worse, if they say that He doesn’t exist, you should stay away from them, even if they are a close friend or family member. While the recommendation may seem harsh, if you delve a little further into the issue, you will see its purpose and its validity.

To be a Vaishnava means to believe in Vishnu, who is the personal form of the Lord. Personal relates to a person, which implies individuality. Just as my son is different from me as a person, so the Supreme Personality of Godhead is unique. He is distinguished by His features, though they are incomparable to anything we’ve ever experienced. Only with a personal God is there a relationship established. Impersonal Brahman gains no benefit from our association. The idea of merging into an all-encompassing energy also carries no interaction. As interaction is at the heart of all kinds of enjoyment, there must be a corresponding, distinct personality if religious life is meant to be our true calling.

A Vaishnava particularly believes in and serves a personal God, but for the purposes of explanation we can look at any situation where there is a belief to see the need for selectivity in association. Let’s say that you believe that your parents are great. You love your mom and dad. That is your opinion. They are nevertheless distinct people who have their own experiences in life. They thus create friends and enemies through their actions. Not everyone will like them. There is no such thing as universal appeal, as even during the divine descents there are enemies of the Supreme Lord, who is by definition all-good.

Lord Krishna with parents in VrindavanaNow let’s say that one of your close friends hates your parents. Whenever you are in their company, they speak ill of your mother and father. You make friends through sharing common experiences and interests. If you like to play tennis, you can make new friends by playing with or against other people. If you like to go to the nightclub, you can make friends by meeting people there. If you like sports, you can make friends with others who are fans of the team you like.

Friends look at each other as equals. That is what defines the relationship. When the equality changes, so too does the friendship. This notable truth is presented in the Bhagavad-gita as well. Prior to the scene in question at the outset of the work, Arjuna and Krishna were cousins and friends. At the battlefield of Kurukshetra, on the precipice of a great war, Krishna, who is the original form of the Supreme Lord and thus worshipable by all Vaishnavas, was actually acting as Arjuna’s chariot driver. He voluntarily accepted this position. One was the warrior and the other was the servant of the warrior, but in general respects they were both friends.

Bhagavad-gita, 11.41-42“I have in the past addressed You as ‘O Krishna,’ ‘O Yadava,’ ‘O my friend,’ without knowing Your glories. Please forgive whatever I may have done in madness or in love. I have dishonored You many times while relaxing or while lying on the same bed or eating together, sometimes alone and sometimes in front of many friends. Please excuse me for all my offenses.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.41-42)

When Arjuna found trouble, however, the relationship immediately changed. Arjuna was confused about how to proceed. As a warrior you have to fight in order to win. Think of it like punching someone when you’re in a boxing match. If you don’t feel like punching, how are you going to defeat the opponent? Arjuna didn’t feel like hurling his arrows with the expert marksmanship that he was known for. Since friends and family were fighting for the opposing side, he wasn’t so eager for victory. Yet he knew that the war was beginning for a reason, that all other avenues for peace had failed. Not knowing what to do, he approached Krishna for help.

The relationship then changed. Krishna became the acknowledged superior and Arjuna the student. Krishna was the spiritual master and Arjuna the disciple. As friends they couldn’t have this relationship. Even if one of your acknowledged friends starts to lecture you on something, if you are to really learn anything, you must put them in the superior position, which automatically changes the nature of the relationship. After the Bhagavad-gita was delivered and Arjuna fully accepted the instructions through his own acknowledgement, the two returned to being friends.

Krishna and ArjunaAs a friend is our equal, we must take their views and opinions as legitimate. For instance, if I like to eat at certain restaurants, my friend will want to go there with me from time to time. I must extend the same courtesy to them if I am to be considered a friend. I may detest the restaurant that they like, but if they go to my restaurant from time to time for my sake, I must do the same for them. This is how friendship works. There is automatic compromise. The other person is to be respected as an equal.

Now, in this hypothetical scenario, there is no room for compromise on the belief that my parents are great. Why on earth would I want to be around someone who holds such contempt for people that I love so much? If I remain friends with them, in the sense that I spend much time with them and compromise in all areas, I’m essentially giving legitimacy to their viewpoint. And really that should never happen; in my view there is no reason for anyone to hate my parents.

If we apply the same principle towards worship of God, we see that it is never acceptable to legitimize anyone’s hatred for the Supreme Lord. Whether they are a close friend or family member, their association should immediately be given up. Goswami Tulsidas says that one should never be around someone who is an enemy of Lord Rama, who is an incarnation of the Supreme Lord as a warrior prince. Someone may not know who Rama is, and so they may be informed, but if they are a sworn enemy of the Lord, if they speak ill of Him, why should we ever entertain their opinion?

“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)

Goswami TulsidasTo be an enemy of Rama is to be an enemy of God, who is the original proprietor of everything, the supreme enjoyer, and the best friend of every living entity. There is no reason to hate Him. It is the hostility towards Him which keeps one bound to the cycle of birth and death in a miserable and temporary land. You can only go through reincarnation over and over again if you are averse to divine love, which is the soul’s constitutional occupation.

Prahlada Maharaja was a loving son, but he didn’t listen to his father when he spoke ill of Lord Vishnu. The gopis of Vrindavana abandoned their family members during the middle of the night so that they could serve Krishna in the forest. Vibhishana gave up the company of his evil brother Ravana when the fiend had taken Rama’s wife Sita in secret. All of them were better off for having forsaken situations not conducive to divine love. Sometimes they may have ended up with no friends at all as a result of their decisions, but they still stayed with their worship of God. Such are the ways of the material world; friends come and go, but Shri Rama is there to stay.

In Closing:

I love my parents so very much,

Don’t have any sin, not even a touch.


If ill of them my friend will speak,

Their company I’ll never again keep.


If they are inimical in important belief,

Why to stay with them and invite so much grief?


Should be around enemy of Rama never,

In their company surely to be doomed forever.


Friend an equal, a person with whom to compromise,

Belief in God not for negotiation, never the thought should arise.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

No One’s Servant

Lord Krishna“Since everything is in full opulence in the Personality of Godhead and is existing in full truth, there is no duty for the Supreme Personality of Godhead to perform. One who must receive the results of work has some designated duty, but one who has nothing to achieve within the three planetary systems certainly has no duty.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.22 Purport)

“I’m so independent. No one tells me what to do. I can go wherever I want, whenever I want. I can eat at any restaurant, and I can sleep late into the night after watching television for hours. You can’t put a price on this freedom. I have the best gift in the world, and I won’t let anyone take it away from me.”

Picture the ideal scenario where a person has seemingly complete freedom. No one can get in the way of their fun. Once you have that person and situation in mind, know that even then there is strict dependency on outside forces. Though that person thinks they are not beholden to anyone, they are still a servant to so many things. This fact is applicable to every single person but one. As He is the exception, His behavior can’t be judged in the conventional method.

The quickest way to nullify the claim that one is completely independent is to point to the laws of nature. Try as hard as you may, you will feel cold when you touch ice. You will feel warm when in contact with the scorching rays of the sun. These are nature’s laws that cannot be altered. You can try not to let the weather affect you, but that is a different matter. You can try to remain inside of a climate controlled area, but this still means that you are dependent on the temperature of the surrounding environment to avoid discomfort.

Then there is sleep. You want to party all night, but you can’t. You want to get up early in the morning to go for a run, but the invisible magnet that is the bed just won’t let you get up. It is actually the influence of nature on your body acting. Despite your desires, you have to live by the rules of the nature around you. You have to sleep because of fatigue, and nothing can be done to stop the fatigue. You have to drink water to quench your thirst and eat food to curb your hunger.

In this way every single person is a servant. The wealthy business mogul has so many assistants doing their work, but they are still not independent. They must serve someone. They must also obey the laws of society. They are not to tell a lie, lest they risk public ridicule. If they take illegal drugs, they will be punished. If they fail to pay taxes, the IRS will come after them. If their wife doesn’t like them, she can call for a divorce and get half of the estate in a settlement. Thus the person who is the role model for the ambitious fruitive workers is also a servant.

The Supreme Lord, however, is not beholden to anyone. He is the origin of matter and spirit and also the controller of both. Through a simple exhalation He can generate universes containing millions of planets and living creatures. And then through an inhalation the same can merge back into Him. He can go without sleep for an endless amount of time and He can survive without any material objects feeding Him. He is also the origin and object of dharma, or religiosity. He does not need to follow any system to reach a particular goal.

“The great sage Narada heard that Lord Krishna had married 16,000 wives after He had killed the demon Narakasura, sometimes called Bhaumasura. Narada became astonished that Lord Krishna had expanded Himself into 16,000 forms and married these wives simultaneously in different palaces.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 14)

Krishna bookTheoretically this all makes sense, but the Supreme Lord doesn’t leave any room for doubt. He appears on earth from time to time to show just how He is not beholden to the rules of society. He does amazing things and then doesn’t suffer the consequences. He indeed flaunts the laws of society and only betters the condition of others. Such was the case when He married 16,108 wives while on this earth some five thousand years ago.

“Why marry so many women? Doesn’t that show that He is lusty? Doesn’t that prove that He is dependent on women to satisfy Him? If He is, doesn’t it mean that He cannot be God?”

The more appropriate question should be, “Why can’t God marry one million women?” After all, if He is the origin of matter and spirit, the person holding up all of the planets of massive weight in space, shouldn’t He be able to maintain an unlimited number of dependents? The wife is the protected and the husband the protector. The average husband has a difficult time keeping one wife safe and protected, so what to speak of sixteen thousand? Yet God as Shri Krishna can deliver an unlimited number of dependents from the greatest danger.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.40“In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.40)

To become a dependent of His is not difficult; one simply has to show a little sincerity in the endeavor known as devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. During Shri Krishna’s time, there were sixteen thousand women in particular who practiced this devotion with their minds. They couldn’t go to a temple, chant on beads, or read from scripture. This is because they were held prisoner by a king named Bhaumasura. As the beautiful youth with a blackish complexion named Krishna, God rid the world of this vile king.

Lord KrishnaThe issue remained of what to do with the captured queens. They couldn’t go home because they had been in the custody of another man. No one would marry them. They wanted Krishna as a husband, so what was the Lord to do? He is not a slave to the mundane laws of society, which frown upon polygamy. He is not beholden to the dictates of others, though sometimes He voluntarily abides by them to set a good example or to please His devotees. In this instance, Krishna immediately accepted the women as His wives. They each got their own palace and thought that Krishna was only spending time with them. Only God can do this; no one else.

As He is the origin of all rules, know for certain that anyone who accepts His protection available through devotional service will not be hamstrung by rules either. There are so many examples throughout history that attest to this. Sugriva regained a kingdom although his more powerful brother had driven him out. Vibhishana was rewarded with a kingdom though he did the sinful act of leaving his brother’s side and joining the opposition. Ajamila received the protection of the Vishnuduttas, the direct servants of the personal Supreme Lord, although he deserved punishment in the afterlife because of his acts in karma. The residents of Vrindavana were saved from a torrential rainstorm though they had no protection available. Krishna used a massive hill as an umbrella, something which is unthinkable.

We see that the surrendered souls who have managed to keep their practice steady through sincerity in devotion are free from the vices of gambling, intoxication, illicit sex and meat eating. Their routine of chanting the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” cannot be broken by any bribe or offer for a better life. While the rules of society continue to apply so much pressure in the opposite direction, persuading us to become a servant of this force and that, the devotee is content with finding any situation that allows their worship to continue. In this way they are protected by the greatest protector, who proves His existence through the steadiness of His servants.

In Closing:

Can have as many wives as He chooses,

No pious credits from this He loses.


Only this way because Krishna is supreme,

In His amazing acts on this earth it’s seen.


Nature’s laws all others must obey,

No one fully independent can say.


With Krishna, greatest fear can be gone,

With steadiness Him devotees rely upon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Make of Me What You Will

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill“Revealed knowledge may in the beginning be unbelievable because of our paradoxical desire to verify everything with our tiny brains, but the speculative means of attaining knowledge is always imperfect. The perfect knowledge propounded in the revealed scriptures is confirmed by the great acharyas, who have left ample commentations upon them; none of these acharyas has disbelieved in the shastras.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 5.14 Purport)

When you worship a personal God, there are identifiable attributes that are subject to question, review, and critical analysis. The same is not true when there is no form ascribed to the Supreme Absolute Truth. When we study those features, as they are delineated in the purportedly authorized sacred texts, we may have trouble believing that they can exist in someone. The unbelievable is easily made believable, however, when we study the attributes of the people who are devoted to such a God.

“O Lakshmana, do you rule this earth with Me. You are like My second self, so this glorious opportunity has been presented to you as well. O Saumitra, do you enjoy all the pleasures you desire and the fruits of the regal life. My life and this kingdom I covet for your sake alone.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, 4.43-44)

Rama and Lakshmana“Okay, so I’ve heard that Lord Rama was the ideal man. He was respectful to His parents throughout His life. He took care of His three younger brothers, and all three of His mothers loved Him so much. The birth mother, Kausalya, was particularly fond of Him, but this didn’t mean that Rama treated Kaikeyi or Sumitra, His father’s other queens, any differently. When Rama was older, He was magnanimous when the throne was to be passed down to Him, declaring that the honor had been presented to Lakshmana as well.

“Afterwards, the same throne was snatched away from Him at the last moment by a suddenly envious Kaikeyi. Rama took it all in stride, though. He accepted the punishment of exile without batting an eye. He even asked His wife Sita to stay home, where she would be safe. He asked Lakshmana to stay at home to take care of their father. He thus did the right thing, though neither Sita nor Lakshmana would listen to Him.

“While in exile, His wife Sita was kidnapped, and to find her He aligned with monkeys who called the wild jungle their home. He was so honored by their bravery and dedication in service to Him that He took the principal monkeys and their wives back home with Him when the exile period expired. Rama also accepted Vibhishana into His camp. Vibhishana was the brother of the fiend who kidnapped Sita. Rama easily could have told him to get lost, but such is not the nature of the Lord. He accepts anyone who surrenders to Him in earnest.

“It is My vow that if one only once seriously surrenders unto Me, saying, ‘My dear Lord, from this day I am Yours,’ and prays to Me for courage, I shall immediately award courage to that person, and he will always remain safe from that time on.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Yuddha Kand, 18.33)

“After Ravana was defeated and killed in a fair fight, Rama’s enmity with him ended. He told Vibhishana to perform the funeral rites without hesitation. Rama also reserved a special place in His heart for Hanuman, the chief of the monkeys who helped Him find Sita. Many years later, after a citizen in His kingdom complained, Rama abandoned His faultless wife. As a king He did this to remove all hints of suspicion, even though Sita had done nothing wrong. In every way Rama was pious. He set the best example anyone could.

Krishna lifting Govardhana Hill“We hear similar good things about the same Rama in His original form of Krishna. He lifted the mighty Govardhana Hill while in the body of a young child. He did this to protect the innocent residents of Vrajabhumi from a torrential rainstorm. He defeated wicked creature after wicked creature who came to Vrindavana to try to kill Him. Later on, He delivered the famous Bhagavad-gita on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to a troubled Arjuna, His cousin.

“We hear that Krishna is the best of everything, the source of all that is material and spiritual. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which means that all forms of the divine emanate from Him. He never falls down, so He is known as Achyuta. He is the husband of the goddess of fortune, so He is known as Madhava. Since He possesses the opulences of beauty, wealth, strength, fame, renunciation, and wisdom to the fullest degree and simultaneously, He is known as Bhagavan. The uncontaminated spiritual energy that is the sum collection of the individual living entities is known as Brahman, and Krishna is Parabrahman, or the superior spiritual energy.

“Hearing all of this, doesn’t it seem a little too good to be true? Wouldn’t the sober mind question some of these descriptions? How can one person be so great? Isn’t it more plausible that personalities from the past put into God whatever they wanted. They liked chivalry and bravery, so they made God a heroic bow warrior named Rama. They liked beauty, so they made God Shri Krishna. They liked high philosophy and wisdom, so they made Krishna the author of the Bhagavad-gita, which automatically incorporates Vedanta philosophy, which is known as the summit of knowledge.

“Being unhappy with their existence in this world, they created a parallel universe where everything looks the same but has a different nature. In that realm Shri Krishna lives, and everyone is eternally happy. The residents engage in His service in a variety of ways, and they never lose their transcendental bodies. Doesn’t this seem a little far out? People write fictional tales all the time, so who is to say that the Vedic seers of the past didn’t just make up all of this stuff as a way of coping with the harsh realities of birth, old age, disease and death?”

These are certainly understandable points of curiosity. People do make things up all the time, and that is a reason to be skeptical of claims others make relating to the afterlife and how one should live their life today. With science, we have observation and experiment, and in a bona fide religion you can have the same thing. Religion should be scientifically based, wherein you can test some of the hypotheses and see for yourself if they are valid.

If we take this approach with the teachings of the Vedas, many claims are validated fairly quickly. For instance, the claim that the spirit soul is not the body is easily confirmed by looking back on our own life. We are different in size today than we were when we first emerged from the womb, and yet our identity has not changed. The complete exterior covering is different, but we don’t go by a different name now. We don’t identify as someone else just because some time has passed. In this way we can see that the concept of reincarnation, which is the fancier term for describing the changing of bodies, has merits.

The Vedic assertion is that the individual spirit souls fell to this temporary and miserable world when they desired to be God. As long as that desire remains, reincarnation continues. Once the desire ceases, residence in the original, constitutional realm is granted. The more one studies human behavior, the more their eyes open to this reality that the Vedas gave us so long ago. Think of how many people you know who talk about God, think about Him, or desire to serve Him. Think of how many people would be willing to attend a gathering with you where the aim is only to love God. There is no other purpose to this hypothetical event. There is no promise of money, a beautiful spouse, a big house, or residence in a heavenly realm in the afterlife. Those things may or may not come, but the real purpose is to simply have fun in singing the glories of the Lord, whose aforementioned attributes are limitless in their brilliance. As you can obviously get more people to go to the movies with you than you can to attend this gathering, you can deduce that the desire to compete with God is very strong in the material world.

Shri HanumanYou can continue conducting experiments like these for the rest of your life and keep on increasing your faith in the words of the oldest scriptures in existence, but a much easier way to tell that Krishna is real is to study His devotees. Perhaps you don’t believe that Rama existed or that He is divine, but you can still look to Hanuman. He is Rama’s greatest servant. It is said that he has mastery over all mystic perfections. This means that he can pretty much do anything any expert yogi can do. The difference with him is that he only uses his abilities to please Rama. It’s like having a bank account reserved only for emergencies. The account can have millions of dollars in it, but you don’t care since it is only to be used when absolutely necessary. Hanuman has this fund in his mystic abilities, and he has no desire to use it for any other reason except serving Rama. Hanuman is unlike any other person who has ever walked this earth. He is unbelievable in himself, and from his existence we can confirm that Rama is real and that He is the Supreme Lord.

Hanuman is a divine figure in the body of a monkey-like human, so perhaps you’ll be tempted to discount him as a mythological character also. Not to worry, though, as we can look to Hanuman’s devotees to see the same amazing feature set. In recent times, Goswami Tulsidas was one of the more famous devotees of Hanuman. His song in praise of Hanuman is uttered daily by millions. While the motives of the reciters may not be completely pure, the purpose of the song, which is known as the Hanuman Chalisa, is not ambiguous. What better way to ensure that Hanuman gets honored by as many people as possible than to write a Sanskrit poem about him that can be sung? Tulsidas had nothing in his life starting from childhood. All he had was devotion to Rama, and through Hanuman that devotion was strengthened. Therefore, ever the grateful and respectful soul, Tulsidas made sure to properly honor Shri Hanuman with his God-given poetic ability.

Shrila PrabhupadaTulsidas was on this planet during the medieval period in India, so perhaps you want to discount the many legends associated with his life. Not to fear, though, for we can also rely on the example of Vaishnavas of more recent times. A Vaishnava is a devotee of Krishna, Rama, Vishnu, or any other non-different personal form of Godhead. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada made Krishna famous throughout the world. Prior to that Krishna was known primarily just in India, but following in the line of instruction started by Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is Krishna Himself in the external guise of a spiritual master, Shrila Prabhupada introduced Krishna to people around the world, making countless devotees in the process. In a short amount of time, starting very late in life, Prabhupada authored books, delivered lectures, and opened temples at such an alarming rate that nobody would believe it. Yet we have the documented evidence that attests to his accomplishments.

We don’t even need to rely on the example of a famous Vaishnava to see an unbelievable set of qualities in an individual. Meet any genuine devotee of the Lord and you will find someone who is kind, humble, generous, perseverant, intelligent, non-envious, dedicated, and, most of all, firmly devoted to serving God. The presence of the devotees confirms that God is real and that His association can be enjoyed within this lifetime. As the devotees serve as evidence in this regard, they are just as worshipable as the Supreme Lord. Krishna is worshiped with Radha, Rama with Sita, and Lakshmi with Narayana. Hanuman is worshiped as well, and so are countless other devoted souls who possess every virtuous quality imaginable.

In Closing:

“Supreme Lord possesses so many qualities good,

That He is the best of everything understood.


But doesn’t all seem too good to be true,

Perhaps we created Him, me and you?


This good quality and that we take,

And ideal person thus we make.”


If you want real proof the devotees see,

And know that of vice and envy one can be free.


Like Hanuman who can accomplish the amazing,

The devotional path for others trailblazing.


Prabhupada who so many books authored,

By such daunting tasks not troubled.


Evidence from visual experiment receive,

And in truth of the Vedas firmly believe.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Why Not Every Day

Lord Krishna's lotus feet“Devotees of the Supreme Lord are twenty-four hours daily engaged in glorifying the pastimes of the Supreme Lord. Their hearts and souls are constantly submerged in Krishna, and they take pleasure in discussing Him with other devotees.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 10.9 Purport)

“Hey man, how’s it going? I’m calling to let you know that we’re having a special puja at our house this Saturday. It’s an auspicious occasion, something that only comes around once a year. If you do this puja then you’re promised good health, good fortune, and safety for the upcoming year. Such and such is the beneficiary of the worship, and when they are pleased they liberally give out benedictions.

“Why don’t we hold this puja every day, you ask? Well, I mean it’s not required that it be done every day. You only have to do it once on the day prescribed for it. That’s why you should attend. We’re having a lot of people over that day, and we’ll have nice food afterwards. This is a good way to stay in touch with spiritual life, to keep yourself grounded. If we did it every day, it would lose its meaning. I don’t think you’re even allowed to hold this puja every day.”

It’s only common sense to wonder why the worship in this hypothetical scenario doesn’t take place every day. You bathe every day; at least that is the hygienic thing to do. You eat every day. You watch television every day. You go on the internet every day. Why, then, should you only worship on special occasions? Perhaps there are other ceremonies that occur more frequently, but then again, we should ask why they don’t occur all the time.

pizza pieThe day is simply a demarcation of time. It’s like taking a large pizza pie and dividing it up into eight slices. The division does nothing to change the constitution of the pizza. The slices are there to make the pie easier to eat when with others. It’s easier for the establishment to sell the pizza to individuals that way too.

Time is a much larger continuum that is impossible to fully grasp. What to speak of the full existence of the universe, we can’t even get a hold of our own time on earth. That is why we take note of the days, weeks, months and years. We celebrate our birthday as a way to recognize that a certain amount of time has passed. As time really makes no difference on who we are, why should we base our religious activities on it? Why shouldn’t we worship all the time?

The function in the above referenced scenario is known as demigod worship in the Vedas. The puja can also be likened to a yajna, or sacrifice, but in general such kinds of worship are reserved for a particular divine figure who can grant material benedictions. This last point is what automatically prevents the worship from taking place more regularly. The worship of the demigods can be compared to walking up to a vending machine, putting in coins, selecting your item of choice, and then walking away with the dispensed item. Once you have gotten what you want, what is the purpose to going back to the machine to put in more money? You don’t need another item, so the money will go to waste if you offer it to the machine, no?

If I worship a divine figure with the intent of getting good fortune in return, once that fortune arrives, I need to do something with it. I asked for it for a reason. If I want a home gym for my birthday and my parents buy it for me, will I not want to start exercising on it? During that time of exercise, what would be the point in asking the parents for another home gym? Rather, I won’t ask for anything again until I need it.

But should religious life be like this? Should it involve business transactions? I can get stuff without worshiping anyone. Indeed, this is a contributing factor to the widespread lack of God consciousness in the modern day society. With so much material opulence available, what need is there for worshiping God? If I have my tablet computer, high definition television, and fancy automobile, why do I need to waste my time with religion?

The Vedas give us demigod worship and many pujas for acquiring material opulence, so there is a legitimate purpose to them. It is better to worship for things to get them than to think that things appear on their own. If I worship someone to get material opulence, at least I have an understanding that there is a higher power. That is one step closer to the complete realization that I am not the supreme controller. I am a spirit soul, part and parcel of God, but I am not equal to Him. I am always inferior and He is always superior.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.20“Those whose minds are distorted by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.20)

If I remain stuck on demigod worship, I have not made the most out of my existence. As mentioned before, there is no purpose to going back to the vending machine once you have gotten what you want. Similarly, there is no reason to repeat the puja once you have asked for and received your specific reward. If you do want to continue worshiping, you have to change the beneficiary. Ironically enough, we can look to those who are worshiped for material opulence to understand to where we should turn.

Lord ShivaLord Shiva is one of the famous divine figures of the Vedic tradition. He is known as Ashutosha because he is easily pleased. As Goswami Tulsidas mentions in his Vinai Patrika, just by a simple offering made to Shiva people have turned from paupers into wealthy kings instantly. There is practically no limit to the material opulence that Lord Shiva will give you if he is pleased by your worship.

The wise person takes a step back and reflects for a second. “Wait, I’m getting all of this material opulence, but what about Lord Shiva? I heard that he lives on a cold mountain wearing the garb of an ascetic. He has the most beautiful and chaste wife in Parvati Devi, but he spends all his time muttering the name of Rama. He has the power to destroy the entire creation, and yet he is not interested in any kind of material activity. He gives away opulence, but he obviously doesn’t think that the opulence is very important. He must have something more valuable.”

A devotee of Lord Shiva once had a similar epiphany. It came to him after interacting with a famous Vaishnava saint. Sanatana Gosvami was living in Vrindavana. Previously he was a government minister and very wealthy. He also had a touchstone that could turn iron into gold. Yet he gave all that up in order to live a renounced life in Vrindavana. There he spent all his time worshiping Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Krishna expands into Vishnu and also Rama, who is Lord Shiva’s worshipable figure of choice.

This Shiva devotee heard that Sanatana Gosvami had previously owned the touchstone, so he went to find out where it was. Sanatana Gosvami told the devotee where to find it. He did not hesitate to give away the location. While feverishly pursuing this touchstone, the devotee began to wonder why Sanatana Gosvami didn’t want it. He eventually realized that Sanatana Gosvami had something much more valuable. He had devotion to God, which could be practiced every day. Indeed, this is the same valuable gem that Lord Shiva and other famous Vaishnavas possess.

“There is a nice story about Shrila Sanatana Gosvami. He had a touchstone with him, and this stone was left in a pile of refuse. A needy man took it, but later on wondered why the valuable stone was kept in such a neglected place. He therefore asked Sanatana Gosvami for the most valuable thing, and then he was given the holy name of the Lord.” (Teachings of Queen Kunti, 10 Purport)

Lord ChaitanyaWhen you worship God every day, not desiring any material benedictions, you are practicing bhakti-yoga. In this age Lord Chaitanya, the spiritual master of Sanatana Gosvami, has made the practice of bhakti-yoga available to everyone. One doesn’t have to attend a specific puja held only once a year. They don’t have to pay money to get this most valuable gift. They simply have to have the good fortune of meeting a Krishna devotee and hearing from them the most powerful mantra of “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Now, imagine if you were to call up your friend and say, “Hey, man, I’m having a bhakti-yoga program at my home this Saturday. For what reason, you ask? Just because; it’s fun. It’s a way to show our love for God. The worship is itself the reward. We don’t have to hold it this particular Saturday, for we worship every day by chanting the holy names, but we figure the more of a routine we can make, the better off we’ll be. If we’re supposed to love to make our lives truly worthwhile, why not love God, who is superior to the temporary manifestations effected by time and space? Isn’t it common sense to want to be happy all the time through service?”

Demigod worship, ritualistic worship to attain benedictions, cleansing rituals to remove evil spirits, and other such events will always have more patrons than bhakti-yoga programs. This is the reality, as the material world is the home for those who are averse to divine love. Nevertheless, if one just hears the holy name and then gets the itching to repeat it, even with a little discomfort in the beginning stages they can reach the point where they understand that life is meant for worshiping God without motivation and without interruption. And through the holy name that worship can go on and on, carrying forward into the next life as well.

In Closing:

“Come over to my house at end of the week,

For puja, material benedictions to seek.


Why not do the worship daily you inquire?

What is use after coveted gift acquired?


After candy from vending machine you have got,

Why again money into it will you drop?”


Real worship meant to be available to all,

Not only to specific item in hopes to call.


Sanatana Gosvami threw away his touchstone,

Higher taste in worshiping Supreme Lord alone.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Inventing Traumas

Worshiping Krishna“By tapasya only can one get the profit of human life, and not by a polished civilization of animal life. The animal does not know anything except sense gratification in the jurisdiction of eat, drink, be merry and enjoy. But the human being is made to undergo tapasya for going back to Godhead, back home.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.6 Purport)

“My generation, commonly known as the Baby Boomers, had it so easy that they had to invent their own traumas. In the two previous generations there were world wars. There was also the Great Depression. People didn’t have it easy at all. They had to grow up very quickly. They had to risk their lives to save their family and their nation. They had to struggle through poverty, not knowing where their next meal would come from.

“My generation, on the other hand, had it easy. We had the Vietnam War, but other than that there has been tremendous prosperity in the country. The hippy movement and the counterculture of the 1960s came about because of tremendous opulence. Children of parents that were financially secure didn’t know about struggles in life, so they invented their own. They came up with disorder after disorder just to make themselves feel like victims. In reality, they never had any real problems, as they inherited a safe, secure and prosperous nation from their parents.”

While this only represents a single viewpoint, it is very common to hear the World War I and World War II generations lauded for their character, while at the same time hearing the generations subsequent to them criticized for their low moral standards. There is actually a reason for the difference, as the forced austerity of the previous generations left little time for self-reflection and hankering for more and more material wealth. Survival itself was at stake, and so a minimalist lifestyle, though albeit one not specifically preferred, was sufficient for continuing on.

From studying the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, we see how it is completely understandable why the more recent generations would have to find their own dilemmas and issues. The many calls for social change today are due in large part to the economic situation, which is still considered very good despite recent downturns. “I need to matter, and since we’re not at war or struggling to put food on the table, I will matter in some other way. I will invent a disorder that I suffer from, and from there I will try to stamp out that disorder in society, raising awareness for it. I will take my identity from my sexual preference, my diet, or my ethnicity. In this way I will make myself stand out and give more attention to the work that I do.”

In previous generations, where times dictated a stricter focus on responsibility, such activism wasn’t as common. In essence, there was forced austerity. In the Vedas, there is a call for voluntarily imposed austerity. This austerity, known as tapasya, is to be practiced from the time of birth all the way up until the time of death. All of the fasts recommended in the many religions of the world are based on this concept of tapasya. The regulations to pray a certain number of times a day, to perform such and such rituals, and to recite such and such formulas are all forms of austerity.

“Why the need for self-imposed restriction? Why don’t the religious books call for endlessly searching after sense gratification? What is wrong with trying to make a lot of money? What is the harm in buying a large television to sit in the even larger living room?”

Changing bodiesTapasya’s potency can be understood through knowing the influence of the senses. The spirit soul is our identifying agent. When we say “I”, we are really referring to the soul. The hands, legs, ears, nose, and other body parts can be removed and we still can say “I.” Once the soul exits the body, however, the “I” goes somewhere else. What remains is what was, not what is.

That which surrounds the soul in the manifest world, the place we currently inhabit, is not the soul; it is not spirit. That which is not is known as maya in Sanskrit. Maya has various elements that are so powerful that they delude the real “I” into thinking in terms of “Mine.” My house, my wife, my car, my child, my arm, my leg, etc. These objects are really just temporary manifestations of the material energy that do not have any bearing on the soul.

When the “Mine” mentality is not checked, you get a situation of unending desires. If you have desires that never cease to grow, like a raging fire that you can’t put out, how will you find any peace? Real peace in this sense is not getting whatever you want, whenever you want. Rather, peace is the lack of desire, or at least a control on it.

In the Vedic system, the first austerity measure is celibacy, which is placed upon students. This principle is known as brahmacharya, and it is followed by the student until they get married, should they choose to. Even then, there is the austerity of only having sexual relations when there is the desire for progeny. In old age, the austerity is to retire from work and live very renounced. Finally, in the last stage, known as sannyasa, there is complete renunciation. There is no association with the spouse in sannyasa.

Aside from controlling desires, and thereby making one a better person in general, tapasya allows one to better focus on God. The soul represents us, and the soul’s core property is to serve. This is its dharma. There is an ideal recipient of this service as well. He is known by many names around the world, but the most common one is God. It is God who gave us the system of tapasya, which is coupled with yajna, or sacrifice, to benefit mankind. Tapasya is the restriction and yajna is the specific action, the service if you will.

Maha-mantraAs in the present age, especially in the current post-World War II period, there are unlimited desires borne of attachment to material opulence, tapasya is difficult to practice. Any mention of restriction will get you mocked and made fun of. This doesn’t mean that there is no chance at peace. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has given us the sankirtana-yajna for this age. This is the sacrifice of chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This sacrifice is so powerful that one who constantly performs it will gradually have all of their material desires removed. Whereas world wars and economic depressions were needed just to keep previous generations more grounded, through simply reciting the holy names of the Lord in a regulated fashion one can re-assume their eternal identity, servant of God. The servant of the Supreme Lord is perpetually in so much ecstasy that they have no need to invent traumas and ailments; their only affliction is love for God, which they are more than happy to suffer from.

In Closing:

World War II generation had it tough,

Growing up young in depression was rough.


Generation after inherited robust state,

Traumas and ailments left to create.


To forced austerity difference due,

Who knew that less is better for you?


Tapasya throughout life practice,

Clearer focus for God to notice.


In renunciation all good qualities to come,

With intense hankering over the trivial be done.