Saturday, March 30, 2013

Removing the Panic

Arjuna and Krishna“The Supreme Lord said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most secret wisdom, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.1)

Bhagavad-gita, 9.1“You only get one life. This is it. This is your moment. Make the most of this unique opportunity. You will never get it again. Don’t let a minute go by where you’re not enjoying life to the fullest. Why fret over this and that when the time is so short? Where you will end up later is a mystery, as is your previous location. What you can control is the right now, so don’t squander the chance.”

“Hmm, if we all get one life, why are some people better off than me? They must be living out the dream, while I am not. It’s not fair. They shouldn’t have it so good. They should let others get a taste of the good life too. We won’t be on this earth much longer, so if everyone is meant to enjoy, why not hoard as much as possible?”

The latter is a natural response to the former. If you’re told that you only have this one life to live and that you should make the most of it, how could you not be envious of others who are apparently enjoying more than you? And yet is a life lived in envy good? Should we be consumed with jealousy over what others have? They didn’t get to choose their parents, and neither did we. Should we be envious of a situation that others couldn’t control?

The wise know that a life lived in envy isn’t much fun. It’s like having a nagging thorn stuck in your side. It keeps a constant pain alive which tears at you and causes you to bleed. With that unwanted distraction, you can’t even enjoy something as simple as listening to music. You can’t relax on a warm beach or sleep in peace because of this pain.

If you are to enjoy life, it would be best to root out envy. If you could live without being threatened by where others are in their lives, you would have less distractions. Yet this envy can only be completely removed with real knowledge. The claim that this is the only life we’ll get is incorrect, and its invalidity is further underscored by the envy it creates.

Let’s look at the Vedic point of view. The Vedas are the ancient scriptures of India. Originally they are not known as such. They are known as the truth; real knowledge. That knowledge was passed on to the first created living being through the medium of the heart. He accepted that information and then acted off of it. To help others follow their occupational duty, he set up a system where the information was passed on through a chain of disciplic succession. The worthiness of the recipient is taken into account with this transfer. Just as the relay runner passes the baton to a member of his own team, the keepers of the ancient wisdom of the Vedas make sure to pass it on only to those who are on the same team, i.e. those who have the proper motivations.

Krishna speaking to ArjunaFrom this confidential information, which happens to be concisely and flawlessly revealed to a worthy recipient named Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita, we learn that the soul is the essence of identity. Every object has its essence; its defining feature. In all beings that we consider to be life, the essential ingredient is the soul. The soul also has its essence; it is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge. The first property immediately dispels the false claim that there is only one life to live.

What we deem a life is actually just a relative measurement, a chunk taken from the time continuum of the living entity. If someone asks us, “How you been?”, a clever and valid response is, “I have always remained who I am at the various points in time of my existence. In my youth I looked like a child, but I was still myself. In adolescence, I looked different, but again I was who I am. And right now I am myself, which in the future will be who I was.”

The “I” referred to here is the soul, or atma. The “I” in me is the same in quality as the “I” in you. It is the same in quality in the dog, the cat, and the cow. The distinctions we make are based only on the outer coverings to the soul. These coverings are made of matter; they are dull, lifeless, and susceptible to change at every second. Think of your own body and how it changes all the time. Just based on the passage of time, your eyes degrade to the point that you need glasses. Your joints start to wear down, your memory lessens, and your energy levels diminish. You haven’t done anything to cause this; your body just changes with time.

If I know that every being is an eternal spiritual force, what need is there to envy anyone else? Why should I worry that someone else has more money than me when I know that money is only temporary? Why should I take pleasure in someone else’s fall from grace when I know that my own fall can take place at any moment? Without knowing the soul, however, avoiding the envy that consumes many of us is nearly impossible.

When we are free of envy, we become eligible to hear the most confidential aspects of the Vedic literature. The information about the soul and its eternal nature is available to any person who is sincere in their desire to understand. Yet only one who is free of envy can understand the next vital piece of information, namely the source of the spiritual force. There especially must be a lack of envy towards God. If we envy others, why wouldn’t we envy God as well? In fact, the competition to enjoy as much as possible under the erroneous assumption that we only get one life is an indication of a subtle envy of the Supreme Lord. The more egregious versions of that envy rear their ugly head when one hears about God and then willfully ignores the instruction offered to them.

In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, reveals the king of education to Arjuna because Arjuna is not envious of Him. And that knowledge frees one from the cycle of birth and death. If you know Krishna, especially how His body is spiritual and how He appears and disappears on this earth to teach lessons and to give pleasure to the devotees, you will never have to take birth again.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.9“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)

Bhagavad-gita As It IsTaking birth is considered detrimental because at the time of birth there is ignorance that covers the otherwise knowledgeable soul. In ignorance only do ideas such as “one life” and “no God” come to be. They are concocted by the ignorant and then accepted by the ignorant. That future ignorance can be avoided by knowing God, who can only be understood when one is not envious of Him.

The entire combination of requirements can be acquired easily through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This is a direct approach towards transcendence rather than a methodical march. The benefit is that there is an immediate connection with Krishna, the universal Lord. Through His association, internal impurities gradually vanish. The knowledge of the soul is understood through concentrated action rather than sole philosophical deliberation. The envy of God lessens because chanting the names of the Lord in this way is a kind of service. Envy doesn’t survive for long in one who is humble in their service of another.

Through this service, which is known as bhakti-yoga, Krishna gradually reveals Himself. Since He is all-attractive, seeing Him more clearly only benefits the individual more. Accepting the most confidential knowledge of the Vedic literature, the soul immersed in bhakti-yoga takes it upon themselves to find other sincere souls to whom to pass on the knowledge. This is the true sign of lack of envy, as the pure devotee firmly believes that others should take the invaluable gift of devotion to God and use it to serve the Lord even better than they do.

In Closing:

If I only have one life to live,

Why to others in charity to give?


Why not as many possessions make,

Money and enjoyment endlessly take?


Envy surely to crop up at the same time,

Others’ lives more fulfilling than mine.


Only from true knowledge know,

That soul situated eternally so.


One life concept valid is not,

No need to envy what neighbor has got.


Without jealousy understand Vedic teaching,

At end supreme abode of Krishna reaching.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Decreasing Envy

Lord Krishna's lotus feet“…vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, cleanliness, freedom from envy and the passion for honor - these transcendental qualities, O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 16.3)

Bhagavad-gita, 16.3One way to determine which way of life is better is to test for the effect on the level of envy. That which increases envy would have to be considered inferior to that which doesn’t. Better still if you can decrease envy, and this is most certainly possible. The requirement is that one know the self, for without this knowledge there is doubt at every turn.

Why does doubt result from not knowing who we are?

If we don’t know our real identity, then we will think that others are in a superior position. Seeing them will stir up envy. We won’t realize that the source of identity is the same with them as it is with us. Moreover, their apparently superior position is only a relative and temporary distinction; it is not permanent. Though in ignorance we constantly doubt ourselves, we are never eternally inferior and someone else is never eternally superior.

If you really think about it, there is no reason to envy someone else. Perhaps they have millions of dollars in the bank and they don’t have to worry about landing the most beautiful partner for conjugal relations. This doesn’t mean that their life is worry-free. They still hanker after things, and they still feel the sting of defeat when they fail. If I am able to eat to my heart’s content, why should I worry that someone else has more money? If someone is apparently more knowledgeable than me, should I not be thankful to have them around? After all, if they are disseminating valuable information, the rest of society is benefited from their high level of knowledge.

Can a system of maintenance increase envy?

The materialist’s dream is to eat, sleep, mate and defend without restriction. Eat whatever meat is available, gamble as much as possible, have intoxicants without limit, and then enjoy sex life. If there is an unplanned pregnancy, you kill the child in the womb. If there are diseases, you get others to pay for your medical treatment. If the doctor makes a mistake in treatment, you sue him for everything he’s worth. If innocent animals are killed to satisfy the tongue, then so what? If you lose your mind constantly worrying about gaining a financial edge, what’s the harm? You have to do something, don’t you? Would you rather everyone be bored all the time?

These are the base animal activities, and ironically enough in the animals they don’t lead to envy. The animals aren’t knowledgeable enough to feel threatened by another animal’s accumulated gains. And neither are the animals consumed by fear over not having enough food. The human being is not so fortunate. The more one follows the path of fruitive activity without restriction, the more they envy others. In the modern industrialized world economy, the standard of living is much higher than it was only one hundred years ago. And yet with all of the accumulated gains in economics, envy rules the world. The press follows the opulent to either praise them or criticize them. If a wealthy person complains about having to pay more taxes, others will make fun of them. “What are they so worried about? They won’t be able to buy that extra yacht now? Who cares? Big deal; they should be fine with paying more. I don’t care if they have to give seventy-five percent of their salary over to the government; they have nothing to complain about.”

Envy as a tool of argument has no validity. If the same news media that salivates at the downfall of a famous athlete were to have their own shortcomings revealed to the whole world, they wouldn’t know how to handle it. The envious would never stand for someone taking three-fourths of their earnings every year, but they have no problem when it is done to someone else. The attitude is akin to watching your neighbor’s house get robbed and taking joy from it. When the neighbor complains about what happened, you tell them that they shouldn’t worry so much. The theft itself is not addressed, as envy removes all sound logic and reasoning from the brain.

If material progress increases envy, then perhaps material destitution decreases it? The problem, of course, is that no one will voluntarily give up their stuff if others are not going to follow suit. If you force the destitution, then there are still those who are exempted. This is what happens under collectivist states of totalitarian rule, where every citizen is ostensibly equally oppressed and miserable. The state, however, makes the rules, so they exempt themselves from the strict laws they impose on the rest of society. There is still envy, as those who work hard envy those who don’t. There is also envy of the people in power, for they don’t have to live by the same rules.

If we learn about the self, we learn about everyone else. In the process, envy naturally decreases. The negative emotion turns into compassion. In the Vedas we get the most concrete information about the self. The self is the spirit soul, or atma. It is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge. The rise of envy gives indication that the knowledge is covered up. Envy is a sign of ignorance, whereas universal compassion equates to real knowledge.

Every living entity, not just the human being, is a spirit soul. The differences we see are merely different compositions of the material elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. The differences internal to each person are the makeups of mind, intelligence and ego. The soul is not affected by the external covering. The covering may change to the point that it is completely destroyed, but the soul always stays intact.

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

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThere are different ways to learn the soul, or to become self-realized, and one of the ways involves fruitive activity with the results renounced for a higher purpose. Think of it like earning a million dollars in salary and living off of only a tenth of that. The rest is given away to worthy recipients. This path is known as karma-yoga, and based on the tendency for envy it is difficult to follow with full faith. Another path is jnana-yoga, where one stays renounced and studies the difference between matter and spirit with their freed up time. This is also difficult to practice in this age, for who wants to renounce things when so many things are readily available?

The easiest and most effective path is bhakti-yoga. Those who follow it get complete information about the soul. The soul is the identifying agent within each life form, and part of its inherent properties is its link to the Supreme Soul. The link reveals the similarities, and the link also indicates an ideal relationship. The individual is meant to serve the Supreme. The service must be voluntary for it to be constitutional. Forced service won’t work for too long. We can force our kids to do their homework, but it doesn’t mean that they will learn. Unless they voluntarily follow through on their obligations relating to school, they will never get anywhere.

In bhakti-yoga, I serve God through nine different methods. Hearing and chanting are the superior methods, and they can be practiced by anyone at any time. The hearing relates to God and information about Him. Chanting relates to repeating mantras that glorify Him, such as the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

“Seems a little too easy to say that bhakti-yoga gives me knowledge of myself and thus decreases my envy. How can chanting a mantra over and over again bring such wonderful things?”

Shrimati RadharaniThink about it. If you’re serving God all the time, what need do you have to be envious? Rather, if you are still envious of someone, it will be related to that person’s ability to serve God. And in that envy, rather than trying to tear that person down, you will try to reach their standard, honoring their hard work in the process. In material attachment, I am jealous of what everyone has and therefore I try to always put them down, which will make me feel better and less doubtful of myself. In pure bhakti-yoga, the same envy is spiritualized, and so I try to praise everyone else because I think that they are better at serving God than I am.

The best servant in the world thinks this way. She is the best because she is always by God’s side. He loves her the most, and she never stops thinking of Him. And yet when she sees someone else engaged in His service, she recommends that person to Him. Following bhakti-yoga earns her favor as well as His. Since no one is better than Radha and Krishna, nothing is better than devotional service to them.

In Closing:

A path of perfection one tries,

But only to envy it gives rise.


By following a genuine path,

Should decrease envy and wrath.


Not knowing myself always to doubt,

Will envy others, to think that I am without.


From bhakti-yoga real identity find,

Learn that coverings are ego and mind.


From envy to appreciation go,

And Radha to tell Krishna know.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lack of Inquisitiveness

Shri Krishna's pastimes“The scientists are eager to hear about the physical laws working in material nature. They are eager to hear through the medium of radio and television about things taking place far away from them on other planets, but they should know that the power of hearing and the instruments for hearing were given to them by the Lord for hearing about the Self, or about the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.10.22 Purport)

The young child starts with the toy blocks. “Let me take these and see what I can make with them. Perhaps if I align them properly I can make a fake building. If I put the letters together in a certain way, I can make words.” As one gets older, the size and complexity of the blocks change. There is also reverse engineering, wherein one sees a finished product and takes to studying how the component parts work. Eventually, you get through enough areas of information that you take your curiosity beyond the planet. “Travel to where no man has gone before in the never-ending quest for knowledge.”

Outer spaceWhat’s missing in all of this, of course, is the inquisitiveness into why the component parts exist in the first place. For instance, as a physician, I know how different parts of the body operate. The tongue is used for taste. The stomach takes care of digestion. The heart pumps blood equally across the parts of the body that need it. The brain is the decision-maker. When there is a disease, one or more of these aspects cease to function properly. To learn to treat diseases is to find a way to make the parts function again.

The same pattern of discovery and study takes place with all aspects of nature. I know that the sun provides heat and light, so I find a way to optimize the sun’s output. If there is something prohibiting the sunlight from entering a necessary space, I find a way to remove the obstruction. Even the birds are wise in this area, as they know to fly south for the winter. They instinctively understand that they need heat to survive, and so they will go to wherever the sun’s influence is less inhibited.

But why does the sun exist? Why are there various body parts? Why do we have the ability to hear? Why does gravity exist? Why does disease befall us? Why does old age slowly creep in? Why can’t we forever remain twenty years old, with enough energy to do whatever we want? Why does space exist? Why can’t everyone live together happily?

These questions form the subject matter of the spiritual science. Generally, the unknown is relegated to the subject of religion. As religion is equated with faith, one person’s religion is as good as another’s. Even mental speculation is afforded a seat at the table of faiths. If my faith tells me that there is no God, then that is okay. If my faith tells me that such and such personality must be surrendered to in order to avoid eternal damnation in hell, so be it. If my faith tells me to expect miracles to enhance my fame and fortune, and that to pray for good outcomes is the reason to approach the higher power, then that’s perfectly fine.

In the Vedas, which many mistakenly put into the category of faith, there is no exact equivalent for the term “religion.” The closest match is “dharma.” There are different dharmas for achieving different results, but the highest result is attaining one’s constitutional position. Since that position is eternal, so is the corresponding dharma. Hence real religion is defined as sanatana-dharma, or the eternal occupation of man.

This one term explains so much. Dharma also means an essential characteristic. Sanatana-dharma is that system which allows the individual to again bring to life their essential characteristic. That characteristic is servant.

“Well, we know many servants right now. Actually, everyone is a servant. One person serves the customers at a restaurant, and another serves the board of directors of a publicly traded company, but both are still servants. So isn’t everyone already in tune with their essential characteristic?”

The fact that everyone shows the propensity to serve only confirms the claim that everyone has an essential characteristic that is to serve. The issue is that there is only one ideal service. All others are derivatives. Think of it like having a cheap imitation of a famous painting or having a pair of glasses which distort everything that you look at. The real dharma of the soul is to be a servant of the Supreme Soul. The soul identifies the individual, and that soul is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge. The Supreme Soul is the same in quality, but the magnitude of the aforementioned attributes is much greater. The striking difference in potency automatically yields the ideal relationship. The servant is the inferior who serves the superior. Whether the servant likes this or not, whether they agree or disagree, has no bearing on the truth.

When there is disagreement, there is residence in the material world. The many varieties of manifested objects that we see, including the many machines, exist to act as temporary objects to accept service. They are illusory forms meant to distract the individual from their ideal engagement, sanatana-dharma. The pursuit of knowledge of the various mechanical pieces is itself proof of this fact. Notice how the purpose to the solar system is not addressed in the scientific endeavors. Neither is there any curiosity into why there exists a feverish hankering for sex life.

In the unblemished spiritual science that is the Vedas, the purpose of the objects is revealed. There is duality in everything. We can say that the machine known as the body exists to allow an individual to serve other masters except God. We can also say that the same body can allow one to reawaken their dormant love for God, the Supreme Lord. The two paths don’t lead to the same destination. If you want to get to New York from Boston, you can’t take the train going to Chicago. The train to Chicago will not take you to New York, despite the fact that it is a train.

Train tracksIn the same way, if the body is used only for feeding the curiosity into the mechanical pieces of the universe, the future destination is the same universe. In fact, with this line there is no way out of the universe, even after repeated births and deaths. On the other hand, when the body is used for trying to understand God and one’s relationship to Him, one gets closer to release from the material world, which is a place where full knowledge is never possible.

The easiest way to use the body properly is to hear about the Supreme Soul. Hearing is already sacrificed for so many other things, but such hearing doesn’t lead to any tangible result. If I hear about how the body works, I can at best use my knowledge to heal the sick, which may include myself. In that occupation, I can earn a living to feed myself and my family. Yet the farmer has no knowledge of the body and they still eat. Those who have no knowledge of how the body works can also live for a very long time, without needing to consult a doctor. The mendicant who survives on the fruits that fall from the trees also eats just fine. Therefore the benefits from hearing in this case are limited, not getting you anywhere truly remarkable.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.26“Some of them sacrifice the hearing process and the senses in the fire of the controlled mind, and others sacrifice the objects of the senses, such as sound, in the fire of sacrifice.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.26)

The same sacrifice for hearing topics relating to the Supreme Soul can get you knowledge of why you have ears in the first place. You can learn that as a spirit soul you have travelled through so many different species, having died in all of them. You ate, mated, and slept in those other species as well, so why should those again be the aim of this precious human form of life? You can learn that the real happiness you are after only comes through serving God, and through serving Him you automatically learn how to have compassion for your fellow man, giving them spiritual healing to truly save them.

Lord KrishnaLest you think you will be bored in sacrificing hearing in this way, know that the Supreme Lord is ultimately personal. In His original feature He is known as Krishna, which means all-attractive. If you’re with someone who is all-attractive, you won’t need to go anywhere else for happiness. The liberated souls who bask in Krishna’s association have no burning desire for material knowledge. They choose only service to Him, which is an endless engagement that allows the tools originally given by Krishna Himself to be used properly.

In Closing:

Of the universe let me learn,

Trip to outer space to earn.


Of the sun, the moon and every star,

Observe the elements, travel endlessly far.


But why do such things in first place exist?

Why on sole perception of nature to persist?


Instead, from the Vedas and teachers hear,

Learn of Him whom the gopis hold so dear.


All-attractive is He, boredom never to the mind,

In sacrifice of hearing highest wisdom to find.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Showing Weakness

Lord Krishna and mother Yashoda“When it was learned that the demon was entering Gokula in an angry mood, mother Yashoda became so anxious to protect her child that her face dried up and there were tears in her eyes. These are some of the signs of the ecstasy of dread in devotional service, caused by seeing and hearing something that is dangerous to Krishna.” (The Nectar of Devotion, 48)

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is by definition the strongest, the wisest, the most beautiful, the wealthiest, the most famous and the most renounced. He is not deficient in any category of opulence, and neither are any of these opulences removed from Him at any point in time. Therefore when He appears on earth and walks along the sacred ground of Vrindavana as a small child, He is the same Bhagavan. He does show weakness on purpose sometimes, as do His most exalted servants in the final ashrama of the varnashrama system. This intentional exhibition serves to help others advance in consciousness.

Varnashrama-dharma is a kind of equivalent for the term “religion” as it applies to the Vedic tradition. Real Hinduism is varnashrama-dharma. Varna means color, and in this context it refers to the qualitative color of the living entity. Some are born with a fair complexion while others are dark. Some will grow up to be tall while others will be short. Some will be better at understanding logic and mathematics while others will be better at fighting. These differences are colors, or varnas. The colors represent the material qualitative makeup of the individual.

Ashrama is a spiritual institution. It is like a school, but one that is not limited to material manipulation. We learn computer science so that one day we can write a program for a profit. By learning programming techniques we can perhaps write apps for phones and tablet PCs. Whatever discipline we accept and apply ourselves to, the goal is to put the information to use to earn a profit later on. Profit is not exclusive to the business owner; the workers also look for a profit, i.e. a return on their work in the form of a salary. An ashrama is not tied to profit-making, as the Vedas don’t give much importance to learning how to earn a living. A man can find shelter in a cave, food from the fruits that fall off a tree, water from a nearby river, and clothing from torn rags. These things are available for any person’s survival. The more advanced may acquire some land, take to farming, and erect a house. Years of education are not required for this. Just through being around others, accepting information from hearing and observing, suffices.

Shri Rama and brothers at the school of the guruA real ashrama teaches one that they are not their body. It is actual understanding of the fact, not something only regurgitated as an answer on a formal examination. To realize that one is spirit soul is very difficult. All of the prejudices assigned to birth mentioned in the shastras are related to the potential for this realization occurring. A “higher” birth is thus that which gives one a better chance for understanding their true identity of spirit. One who enters an ashrama and faithfully adheres to the principles within it has a great chance of advancing in consciousness, which is the opportunity uniquely afforded to the human being.

The final ashrama is known as sannyasa, and it means to completely give up all attachments. No attachment to family, especially the wife. This is important because the attachment to the wife is what creates all other attachments. If I have a wife, I need a place to live. If I need a place to live, I need money, which means I need a job. To get a job, I need skills, and to get skills I require education. In this way I become entangled.

The purpose of sannyasa isn’t only to give up attachments like these. I can swear off women and live by myself, but this doesn’t make me a sannyasi. Keeping in mind that it is an ashrama, or spiritual institution, sannyasa’s purpose is to free up one’s time for understanding God. That understanding comes through service, which is the real dharma, or essential characteristic, of the spirit soul. The dharma aspect of varnashrama refers to duties, which change depending on the circumstance. The highest duty is that which brings to life one’s essential characteristic. As we have difficulty accepting the fact that we are eternally servants of God, we follow other dharmas until we reach the final one.

The sannyasi typically wears a saffron cloth, wanders from home to home, and begs for all of his needs. By the material estimation, no one is weaker than the sannyasi. And yet he is still very powerful. The perceived weakness has a purpose. The sannyasi can very well get a job and earn for himself, but by staying renounced he allows others to serve him. In exchange for that service, he offers transcendental wisdom, which he has understood through so much rigorous study and practice. If he doesn’t do anything but think of God all the time, wouldn’t His knowledge be extremely helpful to others?

Shrila PrabhupadaThe guru, or spiritual master, similarly shows weakness from time to time. He may or may not be a sannyasi, but his intentional weakness allows others to serve him, which is the only way to gain the confidential knowledge that is freely available in sacred texts like the Bhagavad-gita. Never do we find any statements saying that one should become friends with a guru or talk to him like an equal. Everywhere the idea of service in humble submission is stressed, and if the guru is in a seemingly superior material condition, why would we want to serve him?

Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the detail behind the abstract conception of God, also shows weakness from time to time. He is not after giving transcendental knowledge so much, though He does so from time to time, like He did with Arjuna in the talk known as the Bhagavad-gita. Krishna is the object of knowledge. He is the destination for the wise souls who know Him at the time of death. His show of weakness is to bring pleasure to others. Mother Yashoda takes great delight in worrying over her foster-child, the beautiful darling of Vrindavana. Vasudeva is so energized when crossing over the Yamuna river in the middle of the night to save the newborn Krishna from the wicked King Kamsa of Mathura.

Vasudeva crossing the Yamuna with KrishnaThe deity in the temple also appears weak. Without the help of the pujari, it cannot change clothes. Without the offerings of food made with love, the deity cannot eat. Without the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” from the congregation, the deity cannot feel pleasure. Without the offering of fragrant flowers and the loving glances of those who approach the altar, the deity would be lonely.

This is the intended effect anyways, as Krishna is known as atmarama, or one who is self-satisfied. Though He is forever happy in the company of Shrimati Radharani, He shows helplessness for our benefit. His servants follow suit, as they are not obsessed with being the hero in all circumstances. Let others act as heroes on occasion, giving them the chance to serve Krishna both directly and indirectly. This intentional weakness is yet another example of the causeless mercy that can only emanate from the most compassionate person in the world.

In Closing:

The guru travelling from journey long,

How can such a person be really strong?


For food and clothing they must beg,

Without others to stand on no leg.


This is at least what we perceive,

That it’s intentional you must believe.


A chance to offer service this gives,

In divine consciousness then always to live.


Supreme Lord similar presence sometimes projects,

For their boy Yashoda and Nanda always anxious to protect.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Holi 2013

Prahlada Maharaja attacked by king's henchmen“Indignant and angry, his reddish eyes like molten copper, Hiranyakashipu said to his servants: O demons, take this boy away from me! He deserves to be killed. Kill him as soon as possible!” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.34)

Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.5.34What to do when there is no recourse? What to do when everyone you should trust has turned their back on you? What should your course of action be if even your own father hates you more than any other person in the world? A young child a long time ago faced such a predicament, and since his motives were pure, since he had knowledge on his side, he did not fear. And from that resolve, he remained safe, while others around him died of their own immorality. On the occasion of Holi we celebrate his triumph.

Who doesn’t like to have friends? Perhaps we like to have some alone time after a hard day at work. When we get home, we just want to change our clothes, lie on the couch, and do absolutely nothing. No sound, no visuals, no conversation; just nothing, the absence of activity. This brings peace for a while, but more often than not we like to have our friends and family around.

The family’s association is unique. We may not even speak with them much, but there is an unspoken love. For instance, I may not have daily conversations with my mother and father, but as long as they are around, I feel good. I know that they have my back if I get into trouble. I know that I will die for them if I have to. They feel the same way towards me. Therefore how can any other association compare?

If you have a falling out with one or more of your parents, it can have a strong adverse effect. Indeed, the modern day science of psychology focuses on childhood experiences, a time when the influence of the parents is great. So much of the diagnoses dwell on apparently traumatic events from a person’s early years and how those events shaped future mental growth. While the perceived impact may be overstated due to a lack of knowledge of how the mind, intelligence and ego cover the spirit soul, it is undoubtedly true that the association of the parents is important.

In one boy’s case, not only did his father abandon his affection for him, but he turned into a full-fledged enemy. Forget making it into adulthood so that a psychologist could blame the father for all of the child’s problems, this boy really had no chance of living much longer. The father did not just starve the boy to death. He didn’t just turn his back and then leave the boy to fend for himself. The father, named Hiranyakashipu, tried his best to kill the boy.

HiranyakashipuThis should have been an easy task. Hiranyakashipu was a king who was feared around the world. He acquired his strength through austerity, a mystery to those who don’t know about the Vedas, but a fact fully revealed to those who are fortunate enough to hear its teachings from an authorized source. Even Hiranyakashipu’s understanding of the Vedas was tainted, for he knew of tapasya but not of its true purpose. Through austerity we gain tremendous strength, and the ability to practice tapasya, which is voluntary austerity, is exclusive to the human species. The animals don’t know about diets and exercise regimens. They don’t know about the concept of “less is more.” They are forced to act on their sense impulses, wherever they may lead.

Hiranyakashipu did severe austerities and as a result was offered any material benediction of his choosing. He asked for tremendous strength which would make him immune from enemy attack. Fair enough, as who would want to be vulnerable to the lurking danger of envious rivals? Hiranyakashipu took it one step further by using his immunity to terrorize the innocent. He was the dictator’s dictator. Everyone feared him. No king on earth could defeat him.

Therefore, getting rid of a helpless five-year old boy should have been a piece of cake, no? It proved to be impossible. Everyone around him had turned their back on Prahlada except for the person he worshiped. That person is the original Personality of Godhead. He is known as Vishnu because He is all-pervading. He is known as Krishna because He is all-attractive. He is also known as Narasimha because of the unique form He eventually took to deliver Prahlada from the attacks of his father.

“Daityas, as truly as Vishnu is present in your weapons and in my body, so truly shall those weapons fail to harm me.” (Prahlada Maharaja speaking to Hiranyakashipu’s attendants, Vishnu Purana)

Prahlada MaharajaThe occasion of Holi celebrates Prahlada’s resolve in the face of the greatest adversity. Hiranyakashipu required multiple attacks on Prahlada because none of them succeeded. Basic attack with deadly weapons had no effect. Just as Vishnu was in his heart, so Vishnu was in those weapons. This is what Prahlada remarked when the king’s attendants tried to attack him. Vishnu saved the boy because the child was an innocent devotee. He did not want material wealth. He actually didn’t even want protection. The mere thought of Vishnu, with the only motivation of remaining connected with Him, was enough to provide protection. This is the ultimate occupation of the spirit soul, and it is known as bhakti-yoga, which can translate to devotional service, divine love, the sweet taste of devotion, and other similar terms.

One of the attempts on Prahlada’s life came from Hiranyakashipu’s sister Holika. She had this boon that allowed her to remain alive while in contact with fire. The king thought that if his sister took the innocent boy into a pit of fire, the boy would die and the sister would live. Vishnu, or God, is the original controller of all elements, including fire. He created its properties, and He can thus influence how it reacts with external objects. In this case, it was Prahlada who lived and Holika who died. The colors festively thrown on Holi represent her ashes.

It seems odd to throw around colors that represent ashes, but the victory of a pure devotee of the Lord, especially one so innocent as Prahlada, is always something to celebrate. He was the ostracized member of the kingdom, though he should have been the most respected leader. He remained firm in his practice of devotional service, and in the end it was he who triumphed. His father lost everything, but since he had such a wonderful son, he was given salvation by the Supreme Lord Himself. Thus the greatness of the devotee knows no limits, and on Holi we remember one of the greatest, Prahlada Maharaja.

In Closing:

By father for his devotion chastised,

In glorious kingdom became the ostracized.


When away from you all others have turned,

When by own father you have been spurned.


Stay true to path even in trouble’s face,

Find protection by His Divine Grace.


King thought he could kill his young and innocent son,

But Holika died, to Prahlada no harm was done.


His triumph Lord Vishnu secured,

Holi reminds us how Prahlada endured.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Gaura Purnima 2013

Lord Chaitanya and associates“In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the name of Krishna. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Krishna Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 11.5.32)

Shrimad Bhagavatam

Young children instinctively know that they are not supposed to play the day away in front of the television. If they indulge in video games for too long, they will get yelled at by their parents. In the odd chance that the admonishment is absent, it means that the parents are either not around or not doing their job. Later on in life, the husband hears similar harsh words if he shirks his responsibilities in favor of “fun time.” Though the culprits have reason to feel guilty in these situations, the same does not apply with genuine spiritual life. In chanting the holy names, in reading books describing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and in thinking of the sacrifices made by His servants, there is no detriment to endless engagement. Keenly aware of this, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu freely distributed the wonderful gift of bhakti-yoga to as many people as possible, teaching His disciples the same art so as to further increase the scope of distribution. Occasions such as Gaura Purnima allow us to reflect on that wonderful benevolence.

NintendoThe rebuke from the parents is understandable. They see us as young children wasting the day away in front of the television. They are in a position of authority. They understand what it takes to make sure there is enough money to have a television and video games in the first place. They know that if they followed the behavior of the children, there wouldn’t be anyone responsible around. Therefore just seeing us playing these games for an extended period can get them angry.

“Enough already. You’ve been playing for too long. Did you do your homework? If not, then do it right now. If you did it already, then read a book. Why don’t you read more? Did you know that such and such’s son scored very high on that standardized exam? You can do better, but you don’t apply yourself. Also, have you cleaned your room? I walked in there yesterday and it was a mess. You need to be more responsible. I shouldn’t have to tell you to do these things. You should know on your own.”

It is natural for a husband to see his friends less frequently after he gets married. Instead of being able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, he now has to check with someone else first. As soon as you have to ask permission, you’re inviting the chance of rejection. And if you don’t ask permission and just act unilaterally, you have to face the angry paramour later on.

“I can’t believe you spent the whole night at your friend’s place. What were you guys doing over there? There is a ton of laundry piled up here, and we still have dishes in the sink. You were supposed to call someone to fix that leak in the roof. How can you be so irresponsible? And you want to go on a road trip with your friends next week? So I will be left here all alone with the kids? No way, pal. If you do go, you might want to call here before you come back. You might want to check to see if you still have a wife.”

If all we have to rely on is mental speculation, we may eventually come to the conclusion that life is about love. The purpose to an existence is to serve someone else. Service is what makes us happiest. We can spin around the wheel of existence for a large number of times in order to eventually reach this conclusion, or we can get it immediately from the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India. Since they are so old, they are not taught in the same way in each time period. For instance, people from thousands of years ago had different frames of reference, so key concepts were explained to them in a particular way.

In the modern age, the situation is considered so degraded that the primary and most effective method of instruction is the simple sound vibration representation of the Absolute Truth. This should make sense if we think about it. Just the mere mention of religion draws scowls and frowns today. As sense gratification in fruitive activity is the ultimate aim of the non-religious person, if the same is taught within the bounds of spiritual life, the instruction is not taken seriously. “Why should I have to pray for stuff when others already get everything without praying? Why should I surrender to someone just so that I won’t go to hell in the afterlife? It doesn’t make sense for religion to be based on fear.”

maha-mantraThe holy name, of which there are many, describes the Supreme Absolute Truth. In the Vedas the name Krishna is considered the best. It means “all-attractive.” Something that is attractive is pleasing to others. There is no other purpose to attraction. In fact, something cannot be attractive unless it invites others into association. Right away, we see that saying the name Krishna creates some sort of relationship. The person identified is attractive, and so is the name. Rama is another holy name, and it means the source of all-pleasure and also one who gives pleasure to others with His association. Hare is the energy belonging to Krishna or Rama.

The maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” is the best way to hear and create the holy names. It is the best method for being introduced to genuine spiritual life. It is the best way for remaining connected in a loving relationship to the Absolute Truth. And it is also the best way to find enjoyment when on the highest platform of consciousness.

The parent is superior because they serve in a more refined manner. They are wiser than the children, and in that wisdom they know how to serve their dependents. The person on the highest platform of consciousness can be thought of as the wisest guardian. With full knowledge they can engage in serving the Absolute Truth. They do so through the aforementioned hearing and chanting. If they are so inclined, they also worship, offer prayers, become friends, and surrender everything. Any one of these processes is sufficient, but chanting and hearing are considered the most effective.

Lord Chaitanya worshiping Radha and KrishnaThe maha-mantra is the vehicle for liberation liberally distributed throughout society by Lord Chaitanya and His associates. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is the same Absolute Truth, but He appears in a more merciful outward form, one that is easily accepted into the heart. In Kali Yuga, the current age of quarrel and hypocrisy, we mistakenly overvalue wealth and prestige, and so we tend to envy others we think are superior to us in these areas. Mahaprabhu’s goal is not to create another source of envy. He appears in a very renounced garb, thereby diminishing the chance for envy. In a humble way He kindly begs everyone to say the names of Krishna and Rama. He gives Himself over to anyone who does so.

And being with Mahaprabhu is the same as being with God. He explains the confidential purports to the shastras, or scriptures, through His association. He personally arrives through His causeless mercy, an extension of which is the kind work of His followers, who travel from village to village throughout the world to distribute the holy names. Those who are more philosophically inclined are given the same association through written word. The Bhagavad-gita and the Shrimad Bhagavatam are the instructions and descriptions of God. They are the preferred works for Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, whose birth is celebrated on Gaura Purnima. On that magnificent day some five hundred years ago, the golden avatara came to show us how to live a guilt-free life, where we can indulge in service without cessation. It is in our constitution to serve, so when it is directed at God there is no reason to feel any guilt.

In Closing:

Rather live life guilt-free,

So that happy you’ll be.


Never good for too much play,

The wise guardians to us will say.


Responsibilities at home don’t shirk,

Lest be reprimanded by wife as a jerk.


In bhakti-yoga offer service without end,

Your kind sentiments to Supreme Lord send.


How to practice this ancient art Lord Chaitanya taught,

When His magnificence to this world He brought.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Minutes Seem Like Hours

Rama's lotus feet“When Rama went walking towards the bow, worry came over King Janaka and family.” (Janaki Mangala, 99)

gae subhāyam̐ rāma jaba cāpa samīpahi |
soca sahita parivāra bideha mahīpahi ||

“I know that I shouldn’t worry so much about what will happen, but I am helpless in this situation. I really want this house. My wife and I were just kicked out of our other apartment. Not a forced eviction for any wrongdoing, it’s just that the people who own it need the extra space for their family. They’ve given us a few months to find a new place, and I’d really like to buy a house this time. I don’t want to throw money away on rent anymore.

“This one house looks perfect. It is ideal for our future plans. It fits with the number of children we’d like to have. I can also do some of the renovations myself, creating rooms suited for entertainment and comfort. I can also fix things so that if there is a power outage, we will have a backup generator in place that relies on gas. This way we won’t miss a beat. Also, it will be nice knowing that I won’t get suddenly removed from my home because of someone else’s desires.

“This is all well and good, except there is competition for this new house. The people selling it really like us, but there is another bid. We’re able to match the bid, and the seller has preferred us, but still this doesn’t mean that the house is ours. As we are financing the purchase, the bank needs to give its approval. In order for that to happen, they must inspect the house. If something is not right, they will withdraw the money, which will immediately give the seller a reason to choose one of the competing bids.

“Common sense tells me that we have a pretty good chance of getting the house. More than likely, we will get it, but there is still the chance of failure. For the time being, I can’t seem to think of anything else. All of my future plans rest on this single outcome, and until that outcome is settled, my mind will not be at ease. One way or the other, I’d like to have the issue resolved. I can’t imagine living like this for much longer.”

For a famous king a long time ago, the minutes seemed like hours because of the high stakes resting on an outcome. It wasn’t a house that he was purchasing. He wasn’t waiting to hear on a job he applied for. He wasn’t anticipating an acceptance letter from the college of his choosing. There was nothing really related to his personal comfort. In fact, the worry was entirely over someone else’s future. She would not live with him afterwards, so in essence the king’s worry was rooted in love. To want more for someone else than you want for yourself is the accepted definition of love, and in this case the desire related to a suitable husband for the king’s daughter.

Sita DeviThe moment of tension wasn’t necessarily expected. King Janaka knew that his daughter might get married, for it was his idea to hold a contest to determine her husband. There was still the chance that she wouldn’t get married also. The contest required the lifting of an enormously heavy bow originally belonging to Lord Shiva. Janaka invited all the royal families from around the world to this sacred place. Because of Janaka’s character and the beauty of his daughter, the princes were eager to try to win the contest.

Many of them tried, but they all failed to even move the bow. Janaka and family did not have so much riding on the outcome then. They watched, but they weren’t overly worried. But now the situation was different. The worry was so intense that it sprung up from the competitor’s moving towards the bow alone. An outcome was soon to arrive. If this moment were likened to a college course, it would be like hearing of the final grade, seeing whether you passed or failed. Shri Rama would either lift the bow or not. The people watching would know soon enough, but worry overcame them anyway.

And why were they suddenly worried? Of all the suitors, they thought Rama was the best. Sometimes this isn’t the best way to describe a preference. If we’re shown samples of carpet to go on the floor in our living room, we might not like any of them. Out of what we’re shown, we’ll pick the one that we hate the least. That is the point to the samples after all. If we knew the exact color and style we wanted from the outset, we would just order it.

In this instance, Rama was not merely the preferred prince out of the lot. As soon as the people saw Him, they wanted Him to win the contest. In fact, some in the crowd whispered that Janaka should call off the contest and hand over the beloved daughter Sita to Rama right away. “Why take any chances? He drew up this contest to find the worthy husband for her. No one is worthier than Rama. We can tell this by looking at Him. He is obviously some kind of divine figure. We also know that His character is unmatched. As a humble youth, He has protected the religious observances of the sages living in the forest. He and His younger brother risk their lives to protect the innocent. In this way no one in society can match them in stature.”

Lord RamaJanaka too wanted Rama to win when he saw Him. Now that the moment was approaching, the anticipation was too great. The future fate of Sita Devi was on the line. Since the people loved her, if she received bad fortune they would take it worse than her. And by the same token, if something good happened to her, they would be even more elated than she would be.

As Shri Rama is the Supreme Lord, an incarnation of the original Personality of Godhead, He never fails to deliver what His devotees want. And true to form, those spectators who agonized through the suspense felt so much elation that they never forgot about that moment for the rest of their lives. The saints who heard about it immortalized it in poem and song. Goswami Tulsidas relays the event to us in his Janaki Mangala poem, which was composed thousands of years after the fact. In this way if we shift our worries over to God, concerning ourselves with His stature, fame, honor and reputation, then the agony over uncertainty ends up benefitting us immensely.

In Closing:

Agony of uncertainty in outcome,

When will the result to me come?


Without this or that I can surely go,

Either way, the outcome I really want to know.


Janaka and friends desired desperately,

For Rama to lift the bow triumphantly.


Minutes like hours they went,

In thinking of God time well spent.