Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ghastly in Weight

Lord Rama“On the strength of the good omens she has patience, but then she worries that the outcome won’t happen. ‘The groom is but a teenager and the bow is ghastly in weight, so the giver is not on the right side.’” (Janaki Mangala, 102)

dhīraja dharati saguna bala rahati so nāhina |
barū kisora dhanu ghora daiu nahiṃ dāhina ||

We see that someone is strong. They can lift heavy objects very easily. They can hold these objects in their arms for an extended period of time. Jobs requiring intense manual labor are no problem for them. They don’t get frustrated by the patience required and they don’t get intimidated by the size of the project. We keep that person in mind as our reference point for strength. All other measurements for strength in a person are made against them. But when we see something as large as a tree or a building, we know that our strong person is no match for it. For such reasons it is difficult to conceive of a God, a supreme controller. We’ve never seen anyone strong enough to hold up a tree, so how can anyone even create something as large as a planet? Therefore God must be a myth, right?

the solar systemWell, we know that the planets are suspended in the air. There is no visible fulcrum underneath. There is no rope holding the earth up. There is no visible person on whose shoulders the earth sits. As nothing stays in the air on its own, some force must exist to accomplish the task. Whether that force directly belongs to a person’s body or is an external manifestation of their energy is not really important. I can drive the car myself or I can hire someone else to drive it. Either way, someone is taking the steps necessary to get the car moving.

As another example, let’s take a computer program that does calculations. I can do complex calculations myself using pen and paper. This proves that I have the mental ability to do the calculations. A written program, which relies on a programming language, an operating system, and user input, can do the same calculations. By writing this program, I am not directly doing anything within my mind when a person needs to figure out the square root of sixty-four, but my energies are acting nonetheless. The energies in this case come from me, so they are an extension of my mental strength.

In the same way, the power of the sun, the suspension of the planets, the force of the wind, the chill in the air, and the heat in fire are all extensions of the Supreme Lord. He is the source of everything; therefore He is automatically the strongest. He holds up the planets. This is what is revealed in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. The Vedas say that a separate personality named Ananta Shesha Naga holds up the planets on his many hoods. This person, who is also known as Anantadeva, is a direct expansion of the original Personality of Godhead. He is almost like God, but not completely the same. Nevertheless, since He acts at God’s direction, He is non-different from Him in one sense. By his holding up the planets, it is as if God were holding them up.

Whether one knows that Anantadeva holds up the planets or not is not important as long as the acknowledgement of the higher authority is there. If you think the planets just hold themselves up, then you are not properly educated. Moreover, your logic doesn’t make sense. Nothing else holds itself up. The earth is not only suspended in space, but it revolves and rotates at set intervals as well. The person who discovered these patterns is certainly wise, but is not the person who created them wiser? We know that life comes from life. Everything we see around us is created by some intelligent person, so the same should apply to all aspects of the material creation.

Despite the scriptural and logical basis for these truths, we are still hesitant to believe in God. We see things that are ghoram, or ghastly, and think that no force is capable of overcoming it. In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, we see a worrying princess who thinks that God, addressed here as “the giver,” has turned against her because of a ghastly obstacle placed in front of a teenage prince. Her attitude shows that she wasn’t foolish, for she attributed the situation to God’s displeasure. He must not have favored her since the odds were so against this beautiful prince lifting up a heavy bow and winning her hand in marriage.

Sita DeviThe worrying princess is Sita Devi, who is an incarnation of God’s eternal consort. Therefore she is also His energy, technically known as the hladini-shakti, or pleasure potency. She knows that God is all-powerful and all-wealthy. In this situation, the energy known as yogamaya is acting over her to enhance the pleasure she will feel from the prince’s triumph. The prince is Lord Rama, who is an incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is automatically the strongest person, so lifting up this bow shouldn’t be a problem for Him.

We see that Sita at one moment draws patience from auspicious omens and the good qualities found in Rama, who is extraordinarily beautiful and chivalrous in every way, and the next she sees the bow and starts to worry. She describes the bow as ghoram, or ghastly, and Rama as a tender youth. Though she is acting under the influence of yogamaya, the behavior is instructive to those who are fooled by the influence of mahamaya, or the material energy. The material energy causes us to falsely identify with our body and forget the influence of God. We see something amazing in stature and think that no human being can overcome it.

Sita and RamaThis bow was so heavy that none of the other princes at the contest could even move it. Therefore it was natural to think that the bow was something like a large tree, an object impossible for a human being to move. Yet Sita’s sentiment also shows that she understands that God exists. She knows that if no one can lift the bow, it is due to God’s influence and not merely a lack of strength. The Lord is the strongest, and so He can move anything, including a planet. On this occasion, He would prove that fact by lifting a bow of a ghastly weight, winning Sita’s hand in marriage in the process.

If Rama can lift Shiva’s bow for Sita, He can move heaven and earth for anyone, provided that they desire His association. Sita only wanted to serve Rama; she didn’t want Him as a husband just to derive personal pleasure. In the same way, if we desire God’s association with an intent to serve Him eternally, He will remove all the obstacles in our path, no matter how ghastly they are in strength. That desire is best made known through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

“These good omens my future seem to save,

But bow ghastly, looks like giver wrong outcome gave.


This beautiful prince, for eyes precious gift,

How the bow of Shiva in air will He lift?”


Summit of strength in man we tend to think,

Ignoring how massive planets in air never sink.


Marvels of nature held by a higher force,

Who controls seasons and planets’ course.


In Sita’s case, knowledge of His existence shown,

Rama to lift bow and her hand in marriage to own.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Rama Navami 2013

Rama lifting the bow“As antaryami, Shri Rama knows everyone’s maladies. Raising the bow, in curiosity He is drawing the string to His ear.” (Janaki Mangala, 103)

antarajāmī rāma marama saba jāneu |
dhanu caḍhāi kautukahiṃ kāna lagi tāneu ||

Sugriva put all his faith in this one person and got everything he could want in return. Vibhishana trusted the same person and was also duly rewarded. Shabari, the boatman named Kevata, the residents of Ayodhya, King Janaka and so many others also invested full faith in the same man and were not disappointed. One time Janaka’s daughter was frantic in fear over the uncertainty of her future, over how she might miss the chance to spend the rest of her life with someone very special. Not surprisingly, faith was extended in the same person, who can hear and answer innumerable simultaneous prayers. He responded to her faith by effortlessly lifting up an object of a massive weight. On the day of Rama Navami, we celebrate His name, fame and glories.

It’s nice to have faith in someone else to do something extraordinary. It’s like knowing that the job will get done despite all the formidable obstacles present. If you can’t solve a math problem, you can at least say: “I may not be able to do it, but my friend can. He’s so smart. He’s smarter than all of you people. Watch when he sees this equation. He will put everything together in mere moments, making fools of us all.” We have the same mentality with pretty much any issue of ability, such as with alluring members of the opposite sex, making sales, cooking, and fixing cars.

Lord RamaThe Supreme Lord is the greatest at everything, so He can make any difficult task look ridiculously easy. And the exhibition of this ability is especially pleasing to those who have faith in Him. We all invest faith, regardless of whether we are religious or not. Thus religion’s uniqueness cannot come from the issue of faith.  Indeed, to think of religion only in terms of faith is a fallacy, the viewpoint of those whose knowledge has not yet been fully revealed by the Truth. We put faith in politicians, who are known to lie and disappoint us. We put faith in sports teams, who are guaranteed to lose many times over. We put faith in our friends and family, but they, like us, are destined to die.

Faith in the higher power may be invested with a similar attitude, but the difference is that the higher power never fails to deliver. In the material land there is competition over worship. The statists want the citizens to worship them instead of God:

“Put your faith in us. Why worship an imaginary figure? Tell you what, let’s take these two plants. Give one of them to us and the other leave to God. See what happens in a few weeks. Our plant will come out just fine and the one left to God will wither and die. This proves that there is no God. Either that or He doesn’t answer all of your prayers. We’ll listen to you, while He, if He exists at all, won’t.”

If faith in Him is dependent on His ability to deliver on orders, like an online retail outlet, then the faith will not last very long. Since not all orders are fulfilled, one thinks that the faith is meaningless. But in actuality sometimes not getting what we want is better for us. In fact, this is the case many times. The faith in ordinary living entities, including the godless regimes, is different because the object worshiped is not capable of doing everything. They cannot even hear all of the faith extended to them, so how could they possibly respond to everything?

Sita and her friends watching the contestWhen the faith is extended in earnest, where there is no desire for personal gain, only for the ability to serve Him more, the Supreme Lord reciprocates in the best possible way. One time there was a contest in the kingdom of Janakpur. It related to strength. A bow of a massive weight lay in the middle of an arena. It’s formidability was evident just upon sight, and its legendary stature increased as each prince approached it and failed to even move it. It soon became the greatest obstacle to the hopes of a beautiful princess.

Sita Devi, the daughter of King Janaka, saw Shri Rama at the assembly and wanted Him as a husband. This was an ancient time, the Treta Yuga, which is the second of the four time periods of creation. A wife in such a time was a faithful servant. Sita was especially pious since she was the daughter of Janaka, who was the host of the ceremony. So in hoping to have Rama as a husband, she desperately desired the opportunity to serve Him without motivation and without interruption. Indeed, through her actions after marriage she would prove to be the most chaste wife, an example of fidelity for all relationships based on trust.

Rama is God. He is the Supreme Lord in His manifestation as a warrior prince. The Supreme Lord is all-pervading. Some part of Him is always visible. If you can’t see His personal form, you can at least see His influence. One who cannot perceive the influence thinks that He doesn’t exist. In such cases, especially when there is a decline of religious practice and a sharp increase in irreligion, the Lord manifests in a personal form. Even then there is doubt over His existence, but those who have a pure heart can see Him and take further pleasure in attachment to Him. Rama is one such personal manifestation of Godhead. His body is spiritual. He doesn’t take birth, though He emerges from the womb of Queen Kausalya, one of the beloved queens of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya.

Mother Kausalya with RamaWhoever would first lift the bow would win Sita’s hand in marriage. Sita hoped that Rama would win, but she wasn’t sure of the outcome. Think of the pleasure you feel when the person you put faith in comes in to save the day. Now just imagine how much greater that pleasure is when you are not as sure of the same person getting the job done. This is sort of how the devotees feel when the Supreme Lord swoops in to save the day. On this occasion, the bow was the great obstacle, but as Goswami Tulsidas describes in his Janaki Mangala, Rama took the bow in His hands and lifted it up as if it were child’s play.

The toys for a child are not complex. They are not that heavy, either. This way the child can curiously look at the toy and do with it as they please. This bow was treated in the same way by Rama. “Hmm, what’s this? This bow looks interesting. Let me pick it up to get a further look. Hmm, there‘s a string on here. I wonder what happens if I draw this string back to my ear.” And just as the child may take their curiosity too far from time to time, Shri Rama drew the string back so far that the bow snapped in half. That object which was too heavy for even the mightiest of princes to move was easily broken by the beautiful and youthful Shri Rama.

Rama's army building a bridge with rocksRama had many similar pastimes. During a later time, after Sita would be kidnapped by the Rakshasa fiend named Ravana, it looked like Rama would have difficulty crossing over an ocean with His army. Yet through His same curiosity, triggered by the same faith extended in Him by the eager monkey-army from Kishkindha, rocks were able to float. Instead of sinking, they stayed on the surface of the water, allowing for a bridge to be made. Rama also once playfully defeated 14,000 of the greatest fighters in the world. They came to attack Him, His younger brother Lakshmana and Sita while they were in the forest. Again, all faith was put in Rama, and He responded by singlehandedly defeating the fiends sent from Lanka.

Sugriva was troubled by his brother Vali, who had driven him out of his kingdom. Vibhishana was also driven out of his kingdom by his brother. Bharata, one of Rama’s younger brothers, had the guilt of knowing that his mother had caused Rama to leave the kingdom for fourteen years, when the kingdom rightfully belonged to Rama. In all such cases, the faith extended in Rama was rewarded with the removal of the obstacles. At other times, Rama descends in different forms, but He still shows the same ability to make child’s play of a difficult situation. As Shri Krishna, He turned a massive hill into a pastime umbrella. As Lord Varaha, He lifted the earth planet with ease and saved it from a deluge. He invests similar potency in His devotees. Shri Hanuman, Rama’s greatest servant, once lifted a mountain when he was in panic over saving Lakshmana.

Hanuman lifting a mountainSimilarly, devotees of today are invested with the ability to deliver Rama’s presence through the simple sound vibration of: “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Faith in these words always delivers the best result, as Shri Rama personally arrives to show His strength. On Rama Navami, we remember that king of kings who once curiously lifted the famous bow of Shiva to make the beautiful Janaki His wife.

In Closing:

Real faith in Rama the only way,

Who made lifting of bow child’s play.


When over future put into fear’s state,

In prince of Ayodhya Janaki put all faith.


Gave to her the most desired gift,

When bow in His hands in air to lift.


Faith so many others have given the same,

Bring Him to the rescue by saying His name.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Rescuing Hand

Sita Devi's hand“Afraid of a bad outcome, she was drowning in a pain of hopelessness while looking at Rama. Then she felt twitching in the eyes and left side, which acted like a rescuing hand.” (Janaki Mangala, 101)

hota biraha sara magana dekhi raghunāthahiṃ |
pharaki bāma bhuja nayana deta janu hāthahi ||

“God, I’ve been so faithful to You for so long. If You really cared about me, You would give me some kind of indication. I’m so worried about the outcome to this particular event that I can’t even think straight. I need something to reassure me that everything will be alright. Yes, I realize that in the past I worried over such things and that later on they amounted to nothing, but for some reason I can’t think beyond the present. I need some kind of sign from You that everything will be alright.”

This sort of request is understandable, especially if we have been faithful to the “man upstairs” for a long time. Not that we offered Him our attention with a specific benefit in mind, but there is the implied understanding that if you do things the right way you won’t fall into the depths of despair. In the Vedas such depression is considered a product of the mode of ignorance, which is the lowest of the three modes of nature.

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

depressionDepression is often tied to laziness or long periods of inactivity, both of which are also in the mode of ignorance. While the three modes of nature are discussed at length in Vedic texts like the Bhagavad-gita, we can understand them very quickly using the context of doing things the right way versus the wrong way. The right way is the mode of goodness, the wrong way is the mode of ignorance. Somewhere in between, with a little right and a little wrong, is the mode of passion. When we see murders, rapes, robberies and the like reported on television, those can be likened to the mode of ignorance. This is the stuff we would consider stupid. When we see worship of a higher power, kindness to strangers, charity to those who are in need, humility, and study of the meaning of life the behaviors fall into the mode of goodness. The mode of passion is anything in between, like say for instance starting a business, playing a sport, or chasing after members of the opposite sex.

It is important to rise to the mode of goodness because goodness equates to knowledge. And isn’t it always better to be in knowledge than in ignorance? If I know how to drive a car, isn’t that better than not knowing? Perhaps there is the detriment due to the increased attention that arises from other potential passengers looking for a ride, but this in itself doesn’t make the knowledge of operating a motor vehicle harmful. The parent is superior to the child because they know what it is like to be a child and what it is like to be a parent. The teacher in the classroom is in a similar position, and therefore they are superior.

schoolTo reach the mode of goodness and stay there is not easy. Charity, sacrifice and knowledge can all fall into the three different modes. Just because I’m charitable doesn’t mean that I’m charitable in the right way. I could give guns away to criminals, condoms to promiscuous children, and cash to drunkards to buy alcohol. None of these charitable donations are good in the long run. To follow sacrifice, charity, and knowledge gathering in the mode of goodness requires attention and guidance from an authority figure. For this reason the brahmanas are considered the brains of society. A brahmana by quality is someone who lives in the mode of goodness and who can therefore guide all other members of society.

In the scene from the verse quoted above, you have a woman who lived in the mode of goodness her whole life. She never did anything the wrong way. By the book she followed the code of conduct assigned to her, and her father was the same way. But now she was in a desperate situation, feeling as if she were sinking in an ocean of despair. On this particular day her husband was to be determined. From the many princes that came to her father’s kingdom, one would be chosen as her future partner for life.

If such a thing were to happen today, a woman would understandably be upset prior to the ceremony even taking place. If you grow up with the hope of finding true love in an amorous relationship that is voluntarily entered into, the arranged marriage seems like a punishment. In Sita’s case, the culture was such that she knew her husband would be chosen for her. She was fine with that aspect of it, but now that she was in the assembly, she was able to have a look at some of the candidates.

One in particular caught her eye. It is the general belief that in a society where men and women freely intermingle, the women who are more lusty prefer male companions who are expert at seducing women. In essence, they want someone who knows what they are doing in the romance department. On the flip side, the chaste women prefer someone who is more honorable in character, someone who will protect them for a long time. No one is more chaste than Sita, who is an incarnation of the goddess of fortune, the eternal consort of the Supreme Lord. Therefore she is only attracted to pure goodness, which exists in the highest degree in Shri Rama.

Lord RamaHe was there as a participant in the contest to determine Sita’s husband. King Janaka made the vow that whoever would first lift Lord Shiva’s bow would win Sita’s hand. This meant that even though Sita now had eyes for Rama, it wasn’t guaranteed that He would marry her. He had to lift the bow, a bow which none of the other princes could even move thus far. The situation on appearance looks like ordinary lust, but in fact Sita wanted Rama as a husband. Based on her culture, she wanted to serve Him for the rest of her life. Since Rama is the same Supreme Lord that every tradition worships to some extent, her desire was above even the mode of goodness. She wanted to serve Rama not just for virtue’s sake. She would serve Him no matter what the codes of conduct called for.

When she saw the bow, she knew that it would be difficult to lift. Therefore she started to worry very much. Fearing that Rama wouldn’t win the contest, she fell into an ocean of despair. At this moment of trouble, however, a sign from above came to her in the form of involuntary movement in her eyes and left side [the word “bama” here can refer to arm or hand]. You can call this superstition if you like, but in the Vedic tradition there are specifics given as to which signs are ominous and which are auspicious. This twitching  was auspicious and it gave her hope; it acted like a hand to rescue her from the pool of despair she was drowning in.

For those who are constantly tossed around by the forces of the dark age of Kali, by regularly hearing the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” fortunate circumstances can be created rather than hoped for. This is a subtle rescuing hand that was passed on by Lord Chaitanya and His followers, and it is so wonderful because it can be created at any time, whenever one is in despair. The names reference the same Sita and Rama, the energy of God and the energetic, and so the good omens are sure to arrive.

In Closing:

“Lord, not sure if you’ve heard these prayers of mine,

Show me that You hear, give me a sign.


All this time in worship I have spent,

Let me know that for good it went.”


Some type of benefit from worship you expect,

So not strange when these sentiments to detect.


In Sita, desire only to offer her love unending,

Twitching eyes auspicious sign to her sending.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Worship in Tradition

Shiva Parvati Ganesha“Unable to say anything, with a worried heart Sita laments. Remembering Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha, she prays.” (Janaki Mangala, 100)

kahi na sakati kachu sakucati siya hiyam̐ socai |
gauri ganesa girīsahi sumiri sakocai ||

Vaishnavas are often asked: “Why don’t you worship Shiva and Parvati? Why don’t you worship Ganesha? Why do you just focus on Krishna, Vishnu, or Rama?” The short answer is that the spiritual teachers in the present age of Kali have streamlined their teachings to suit the hustle and bustle of the modern society, where one is considered fortunate just to have a firm faith in God that goes beyond looking at the Supreme Lord as an order supplier. And of course there is also the truth that with worship of the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord, all other kinds of worship are automatically satisfied. Indeed, all other worship is meant to eventually bring one to the platform of pure love for God.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.23“Men of small intelligence worship the demigods, and their fruits are limited and temporary. Those who worship the demigods go to the planets of the demigods, but My devotees ultimately reach My supreme planet.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.23)

In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna says that those with little intelligence worship the demigods. There are many gods in the Vedic tradition, but there is still only one singular leader, an original personality. He is the same person addressed in other spiritual traditions, except the details of His names, forms, and pastimes may not be disclosed fully. It is said that Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, can award liberation, material opulence, and mystic perfections very easily, but love for Him will not be granted so freely. This makes the gift of love for God that much more special, and it requires that the individual be worthy of receiving it.

The requirement for qualification explains the many rules, regulations and rituals of religious life. In the Vedic tradition there are so many rituals that span from the time of birth all the way until the last rite at death. Consciousness is constant; it is an integral aspect of the individual, who is represented by the spirit soul. This soul is what animates us. In fact, it animates all life. Thus there is a soul in an animal as well, and also a plant. There are not different kinds of individual souls; just different kinds of bodies. There is a Supreme Soul, however, who is an expansion of the original Lord. This soul is all-pervading; it exists within everyone and has a consciousness that is singular.

Vedic ritualPart of the Vedic rituals involves worship of divine figures known as devas, or demigods. But it seems that we’ve reached a contradictory point here. Part of the culture, which is millions of years old, is demigod worship, but in the sacred work that best describes the purpose of the Vedas, it is said that only the less intelligent worship the demigods. Why even have demigod worship then? Why allow the less intelligent to fall into a pattern of behavior that is not the highest worship?

Actually, the question answers itself. The less intelligent by definition will not be wise enough to follow the highest path that is pure devotion to God. But just because someone is less intelligent doesn’t mean that they can’t gather knowledge. One doesn’t have to stay unintelligent forever. After all, we are all born ignorant. We have a consciousness that carried over from the previous life, but in the present life we still require education to reawaken our dormant consciousness. If no one teaches us, we’ll stay as ignorant as the animals.

Demigod worship helps to awaken the spiritual consciousness. The less intelligent are allured by aims of temporary significance. For instance, if I’m concerned with getting married, it means that I give a lot of attention to having a life companion of the opposite sex. Yet even if I do get what I want, it doesn’t mean that life’s problems will be solved. You can be separated from your spouse and family at any moment. There are no guarantees. More importantly, the love everyone has inside of them is meant to be offered to God. Any other kind of love is a watered-down version of the pure form, which is known as prema.

Shiva Parvati GaneshaWorship of Ganesha, Shiva, Parvati, and others who are not the Supreme Lord Vishnu, who is the same Krishna, is part of a culture in families who have had the tradition for too many past generations to even count. If I am born in the United States, I know that my ancestors have lived here for at most a few hundred years. Before that, maybe they lived in Europe, and before that no one knows. Yet if I am born in India, it is highly likely that my ancestors have been in the same area for several thousands of years. The culture stays with the family for that long as well, and so it is not surprising that the demigods continue to be worshiped by those born into the Vedic tradition.

The Vaishnava spiritual masters, however, don’t recommend demigod worship and neither do they teach it to their students. Assuming the identity of a Vaishnava is the fruit of all past religious observances, from present and past lives. In other words, the Vaishnava is the most intelligent, so they don’t require allegiance to traditions reserved for the less intelligent. And because they are so wise, they don’t attempt to recreate the same level of tradition in their disciples. Instead, the sole focus is on worship of Vishnu, which means that the descendants in the chain of spiritual instruction won’t even know how to properly worship the demigods.

In the above referenced verse from the Janaki Mangala, Sita Devi, who is Lakshmi, Vishnu’s wife for eternity, is praying to Shiva, Ganesha and Parvati. Lord Shiva is the greatest Vaishnava. Though he plays the role of a demigod to those who are desirous of material rewards, he himself is only interested in worshiping the Supreme Lord. Parvati is his chaste and beautiful wife, and Ganesha is one of their sons. One could spend an entire lifetime describing the glories of that family, but just from this one incident with Sita we get an idea of how worthy of honor they are.

Sita worshiping ParvatiSita here is playing the role of the daughter of King Janaka. Janaka has drawn up a contest to see who will marry his precious daughter. The first person to lift an extremely heavy bow, which not coincidentally belonged to Lord Shiva, will get to marry Sita. Shri Rama is the favorite of everyone in the family. He hails from Ayodhya, and He happens to be an incarnation of Vishnu. Thus Vishnu and Lakshmi were about to meet in the marriage of Rama and Sita.

It is said here that Sita is so worried that she is unable to say anything. She is worried in the heart, and in that helpless state she remembers Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha. This remembrance is significant because of the powers they have. Shiva and Parvati are especially worshiped by those desirous of a good spouse, and Ganesha is known as the remover of obstacles. In this instance the weight of the bow was the obstacle, and Sita wanted that removed so that Rama would be able to win the contest. She had previously prayed to Parvati to get Rama as a husband, and Shiva was a de facto officiator of this contest through the presence of his bow.

Sita gives us an example of how to avoid the pitfalls of demigod worship while satisfying family tradition at the same time, if the situation calls for it. This event took place during the Treta Yuga, which is the second time period of creation. People were very pure during the second age, so the Vedic culture was vibrant. Through family tradition, people knew how to worship Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha. In this instance Sita prayed so that Vishnu, or God, would be successful. Thus she did not desire a temporary material reward. And what an honor it was to be worshiped by Sita. Of all the people who have walked this earth, none has a better character than her. And that wonderful person thought of Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha when she ran into trouble.

Today the Vaishnava can respond to the question of demigod worship by simply saying, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to properly worship people such as Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha. My spiritual master never taught that to me, so all I can do is offer them my respect. Since Vishnu is loved by Shiva, I know that he will be pleased by my worship of Him through the chanting of the holy names, ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare’”. And if we ever run into difficulty in our devotional service, we can always remember Shiva, Parvati and Ganesha as well, informally asking for their favor in pleasing the Supreme Lord.

In Closing:

Guru directed my thoughts to Krishna to go,

How to worship Shiva and Parvati I don’t know.


Certainly they are of character great,

Sita worshiped them when in troubled state.


Desired obstacle of heavy bow to go away,

So as her husband Shri Rama would stay.


From her worship highest honor they received,

Wish granted, Rama as husband achieved.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Protecting My Stuff

Krishna and Kamsa“The activities of the Lord are to be accepted and relished by all living entities. His activities are to attract the ordinary man towards the Lord. The Lord always acts in favor of the devotees, and therefore ordinary men who are fruitive actors or seekers of salvation may be attracted to the Lord when He acts as protector of the devotees.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.1.44 Purport)

“I’ve worked hard my whole life to accumulate this stuff, but the work doesn’t end here. I must maintain and protect the things I have worked for. Otherwise, what was the point to all that labor? My car needs insurance for protection. I have to take the car to get washed every so often. I need to change the oil on time, keep an eye on the belts and hoses, and make sure that the tires are in good shape. I admired this car for such a long time, and it took me a while to save up enough money to buy it. In order to keep enjoying it, I need to protect it.

“The same applies for my mobile phone. It can get lost very easily. I need a protection plan as insurance against theft or damage. Also, my important contacts and work email are on that phone. Therefore I need a strong passcode to get it out of lock mode. Then if I should happen to leave the phone somewhere, someone else won’t be able to use it without entering this long code.

house“I need to protect my house as well. I have homeowner’s insurance for this reason. I always need to make sure that the stuff inside the home, such as the valuables and the like, are well-protected. I’ve heard that in tough economic times such as these people are more likely to take to burglary. I have to watch out for this. Maybe I will keep a gun in the house. And I definitely need to set up a home security system.”

This desire to defend is only natural, as even the animals defend their territory when necessary. Animals also eat, sleep and mate. All four behaviors are followed by both the animal and the human being alike, but the distinction with the human being lies in strength. And not necessarily as it applies to brute physical force. The bird can fly in the air. The snake can slither into strange areas, and the elephant can crush almost any other animal. The human being’s strength lies in the area of intelligence. And that strength is only exercised fully when one takes to spiritual life.

“How can this be? Don’t stupid people believe in God also? What intelligence does it take to bow down before an imaginary figure that no one has ever seen?”

The strength in intelligence does not relate to blindly following this person or that. Intelligence is to be applied towards the spiritual science, where one learns the difference between matter and spirit. Aham brahmasmi means that I am not my body. I am inherently spirit. Therefore whatever things I have are only temporary. My position in society and my relationships have the same defect. Nothing is permanent except me, my identity. My identity is sourced in the same substance as others’; thus all the core functional units in living beings are eternally existing.

The intelligent take to spiritual life in full earnest when they recognize these differences. They are no longer fooled by the influence of the external energy, an energy which is described as maya in Sanskrit. Maya is that which is not. The beautiful woman entices you to join her for one casual night of fun, but what she doesn’t tell you is that your satisfaction level will be more or less the same afterwards. She will not remain beautiful forever, and when you have enjoyed her association once, you will want it again. All of this will cost you dearly, so much so that you’ll eventually wish that you had never met her. The woman in this instance personifies all the material objects and relationships. They are an illusion borne of contact with the material nature.

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

The winter seasonRecognizing this illusion is very difficult. One needs the help of someone else who sees it. Without such a fortunate encounter, the increased potential for intelligence in the human species is unnecessarily spent on fruitive desires, where one either strives after something, looking then to protect what they have, or wants desperately to get rid of something painful. Those who have grown weary of swinging from this pendulum of aversion and attraction then try to renounce all activity, hoping to merge into transcendence.

The Supreme Lord is the origin of matter and spirit, and His activities on the earthly plane can help either of the above mentioned groups. For the fruitive worker especially, the protection offered by God to His devotees is very appealing. As Shri Krishna, who is the original Personality of Godhead, the Lord gives protection to the devotees of Vrindavana, who surrender everything unto Him. He protects them from a torrential downpour instigated by a vengeful and slighted king of heaven. He thwarts the attacks of the enemies sent by Kamsa, the king of the neighboring town of Mathura. He helps the embattled Pandava brothers regain a kingdom that is rightfully theirs. He protects Arjuna from ignorance by delivering the Bhagavad-gita, which contains the essence of Vedic wisdom. Krishna Himself is the origin of such knowledge, and He delivered the same Gita at the beginning of the creation to the sun-god.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.1“The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku.” (Bhagavad-gita, 4.1)

Krishna protecting ArjunaAny fruitive worker who has anything they want to protect should find Krishna’s behavior appealing. “If you just surrender to Him, He’ll protect you. That’s what I get out of His pastimes, which the devotees describe as lila. Why should I not become His devotee as well? I’ve been told that just hearing of His pastimes with a non-envious attitude is as good as being with Him. And being with Him is to be in His presence, which means you automatically become the sheltered. He offers the shelter, either physically through doing things like lifting large objects or mentally through giving the wisdom from within the heart to prevent bad decisions from being made. I will be devoted to such a Lord.”

Though the motives are slightly impure in the beginning, through enough contact with Krishna, the requisite knowledge gradually gets revealed. Soon after, the attitude changes from desiring only protection for one’s own things to desiring to offer protection to Krishna Himself. Seems rather silly, as God is the supreme powerful, so why would He need anyone’s help? Regardless, the attitude is very much appreciated, and if Krishna can protect His devotees, why won’t He allow His devotees to offer Him protection? That in itself is a kind of protection offered by Him, as He keeps their devotional attitude safe and secure, free from foreign attack.

Thus through simply hearing of Krishna’s pastimes, one doesn’t even require knowledge of spirit and matter in the beginning stages. Full intelligence with respect to matter and spirit is not necessary in surrender to God. Hence His shelter is open to every single person, regardless of stature, country of origin, or gender. He provides to His devotees what they lack and maintains what they have.

In Closing:

“All this stuff so hard for me to get,

Now I must find ways for it to protect.


Insurance in case car stops to run,

For burglars in the home must keep a gun.”


With such thinking appeal in Krishna find,

How He keeps devotee’s protection in mind.


In devotion steadily purification to gain,

To protect the Lord then to be primary aim.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thinking Big

Worshiping God“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste] .” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

Bhagavad-gita, 5.18“Oh, don’t mind him, he’s only an engineer. He has just a masters degree. He’s not like the rest of us. We have our doctorates. That is why people refer to us as “doctor.” Why would we want to listen to anything he has to tell us? He’s not even smart enough to come up with a doctoral thesis. He’s content just playing with his toys used in his field of engineering. We do the hard work of coming up with these amazing theories, and then he puts in the manual labor to make those ideas a reality. If it weren’t for us, he wouldn’t have any work to do. We are therefore superior to him in all respects.”

The elitist attitude is difficult to shake, especially if you receive so much praise for whatever position of prominence you have reached. In school there are the honors classes reserved for the more intelligent students. In sports there are the positions that go to the more skilled players. In a company, there are the bosses and the management teams, which are ideally paid more because they call the shots. Yet does this really mean anything at the end of the day? Is a person inherently superior because of the position they receive? What if there were no members to fill the other positions? The person with true wisdom sees all souls equally, and in the work performed the same person understands the integral role that everyone plays.

Bhagavad-gita, 4.13“According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.13)

the four castesThe scientific division of members of society based on quality and work is nicely described in the Bhagavad-gita. If you don’t know, the Bhagavad-gita is a famous Vedic scripture. The Vedas are the books that form the origin of what is commonly referred to today as Hinduism.

“Hinduism, you say? Isn’t that the religion that discriminates based on caste? Isn’t it that you’re born into a particular caste and then can’t move out of it? Aren’t the lower castes shunned? Doesn’t Hinduism give us the untouchables?”

Surely there is discrimination within the Hindu society today, as there is in any society, but this doesn’t invalidate the original system for division described in the Bhagavad-gita. The four divisions are the brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras. Elsewhere in Vedic literature the same divisions are described by comparing them to the human body. The brahmanas are the brain, the kshatriyas the arms, the vaishyas the stomach, and the shudras the thighs and the legs.

Keeping this in mind, would we ever discriminate between these various parts on our body? Would we ever think: “Wow, our legs are so inferior to the stomach. They are useless. They exist for no reason. They are not as good as the arms or the brain.” Such thinking would be silly, and so it is also the case when we apply elitism to discriminate in society in general.

Lord KrishnaThe mention of the four societal divisions is made by Lord Krishna, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the detail behind the abstract conception of God. If you are hesitant to accept Shri Krishna, who has a beautiful body of a blackish hue, as the Supreme Lord, then at least know that these divisions are scientifically based and rooted in a higher power. And that higher power does not make distinctions between the classes. He doesn’t consider one to be inherently superior to another, at least not at the constitutional level.

Why make distinctions then if everyone is equal?

Just as a business cannot function if everyone takes up the same role, society will have great difficulty if the four orders don’t exist. If you don’t have a brain, how will the arms, stomach and legs know what to do? You can perhaps lose a leg or an arm and still survive in great difficulty, but without the brain there is no question of an existence. Thus in the material scheme the brahmana is superior, but material is not the end-game. Spiritual is what life is about, as each one of us is a spirit soul at the core.

In the same Bhagavad-gita, it is said that a learned man sees with an equal vision. He sees the tiger and the human being as equal. He won’t necessarily treat them the same, as there is no benefit to going up to talk to a tiger. But the vision is equal, which means that the learned man won’t think that the human is inherently superior. He knows that the bodies are just temporary, the result of past action in karma. As action continues to take place, new results consistently accumulate. The tiger can be a human being in the next life and the human being a tiger. Nothing is fixed in the material world. That is part of the definition of material.

Every person operating within the divisions has their value. Thus a wise person, without even needing to consult the Bhagavad-gita, appreciates the work of the so-called inferiors. Rather than looking down on them, he is so thankful that they dutifully take up their tasks. He thinks of how fortunate he is to be paired with such kind-hearted souls.

And you would be glad to hear that the Supreme Lord takes the same attitude. He is intimately related to all of us, as we are by nature spirit. He is the Supreme Spirit, so there is similarity in quality. He is the superior and we the inferior; that is always the case no matter what anyone says. As He is really superior, He has no need to flaunt His superiority. In fact, for those who love Him, He’s always trying to elevate their spirits, to lift them out of difficulty. He does not make distinctions between “big devotees” and “small devotees.”

Narasimhadeva with PrahladaPrahlada Maharaja was a helpless five-year old boy who was favored by the Supreme Lord when He appeared as a half-man/half-lion to do away with the boy’s evil father. Sudama Vipra was a brahmana but materially very poor. Shri Krishna favored him by having His wife, the goddess of fortune, provide the brahmana’s family with tremendous opulence. Maharaja Ambarisha was a powerful king, and yet Krishna favored him as well when he ran into trouble with Durvasa Muni. The king was not puffed up at all; in fact he offered everyone else the highest respect.

The more one loves Krishna, the humbler they become. The truly self-realized soul will actually never admit to anyone that they are self-realized. If they do, it is done confidentially for the purpose of maintaining the other person’s faith. Nevertheless, the self-realized soul still always thinks that others are better devotees, that they are better at pleasing Krishna. This attitude is adopted by even the biggest spiritual master, who has so many disciples across the world. If even they are humble and fully appreciative of the efforts of all, then why shouldn’t we have the same attitude?

In Closing:

“To what he says don’t mind,

Great intelligence in him not to find.


Doctorate never did he earn,

To reach our status he’ll always yearn.


Thankfully he has us around to teach,

Only then material opulence within reach.”


Such attitude in wise never to persist,

In them humility in knowledge exists.


Four divisions of society Krishna gave,

For from inactivity in ignorance to save.


Yet distinctions in devotees He does not make,

Only sincerity from them away does He take.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Human Tendencies

Krishna and Balarama with cow“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste] .” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)

Bhagavad-gita, 5.18Since time immemorial the living entity ignorant of his real constitutional position has been bewildered by the influence of the material energy. Like a mirage that gives false hope to the thirsty wanderer in the desert, the covering composed of earth, water, fire, air and ether tricks the eye of the beholder into thinking something that is incorrect. Stereotypes and prejudices based on skin color, gender and ethnicity are a common indication of this influence.

How do such prejudices begin?

Quite easily, actually. Let’s say that I live in one place my whole life. I only see people of a certain skin color. They are all I have to use to form my conclusions about human behavior. I have seen men, women and children. From the behavior of children I have figured out that they are less intelligent. I have learned that women have a strong influence over men, especially in the men who are overly desirous of amorous relationships. I have learned that conversations with women are usually different than conversations with men, particularly with respect to subject matter.

Now, let’s say that I’m exposed to a person of a different skin color. Perhaps they entered my town or I went to travel outside somewhere. Whatever that new person’s tendency is, be it good or bad, as long as it is different it will create a prejudice in me. I will think that all people of that skin color act in the same way. Obviously, I would have to be ignorant to make this conclusion, but if I have no other reference to use in my observation, it will be very easy for me to assign the same behavioral characteristics to all other members of the same race.

Prejudices of the different races and nationalities can go something like this:

“I hate black people. They are so loud and obnoxious. White people have no style; they don’t know how to dress. Asians, especially Koreans, are always hanging out together. They exclude everyone else from their cliques. Hispanics are overly sensitive; they get moody at the first joke made their way. Jewish people are so cheap; they will do anything to earn a dollar and they are never willing to part with it. People from France smell; it’s like they don’t bathe regularly over there in Europe. Indian people are frugal and always nodding their heads in that weird way. I can’t tell whether they’re agreeing or disagreeing. What is wrong with them? People from this section of India are very business-minded and people from that section are very cunning. You should beware of them.”

If you break down these stereotypes, stepping back from the situation for a moment, you see that all the complaints relate to traits that any human being can possess. Anyone can be stingy. Why should that trait be exclusive to any particular race? You may say that you have gathered enough evidence to say without reservation that such and such race is stingy, but have you yourself never been careful with your money? Have you never been hesitant to part with your hard earned cash? Also, have you never been lax on your hygiene on a given day? Have you never been loud and obnoxious?

The truly wise person, who sees with the eyes of shastra, knows that all the traits complained about by the people holding racial stereotypes belong to the material modes of nature. The spirit soul is the identifying force within each creature, and the outward tendencies are due to the material covering only. A pig acts in a certain way because of the body they have received. The same goes for a dog. You may then say that certain races have received their specific bodies from nature and that that is why they behave the way they do. But this doesn’t mean that such individuals are any different from you and me. Every spirit soul is of the same quality. In addition, as each person is an individual, they have every chance of acting in a unique way, one that others can’t predict.

Even if you are fully convinced that the viewpoint you hold of another group is true, the traits you are complaining about are rooted in the material nature, which does not represent any of us. Indeed, the very practice of holding prejudices in this way is further indication of the strength of that nature. Only the wise soul who understands the difference between spirit and matter can transcend such distinctions, both personally and with respect to judging others.

In the Bhagavad-gita it is said that a learned man sees as being equal a cat, a dog, a priest, and an elephant. They are a true pandita, or learned man, because they see the spirit soul in all creatures. They acquire this vision through study of the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India, and practice of sacrifice. The Bhagavad-gita itself is sufficient material for study. It is also known as the Gitopanishad, and it is the essence of all Vedic literature. In the Gita the speaker says that He is the object to be known through study of the Vedas.

Bhagavad-gita, 15.15“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)

Lord KrishnaKnowing Him is important because He is the origin of matter and spirit. He gives birth to the living creation through His influence. He impregnates the total material substance with living entities. The influence of the material nature is due solely to Him. The difference with Him, however, is that His body and spirit are identical. He also possesses every single trait imaginable. Those traits are spiritual; thus they are not detrimental to Him. They are also not specifically beneficial in terms of helping to reach a better condition. He is already in the best position, so He doesn’t need help from any of His traits.

From further study of His nature, we know that He is intimately tied to every living entity. Whether someone is loud or quiet, nice or mean, happy or sad, Shri Krishna is their best friend, their ever well-wisher. Through knowing Him we know ourselves, and from knowing ourselves we know others too. In devotional service, the dislike of the traits in others turns into an appreciation of how every living entity is originally a servant of God. Through chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” we can awaken our dormant love for Him and thus be properly situated in consciousness.

In Closing:

From strange person to see,

Prejudices to take birth in me.


If tendency in them even faint,

A broad brush across race to paint.


Tendencies actually exist in us all.

Flawless none of us we can call.


What I don’t like in others also in me,

With vision of shastra only to properly see.


Shri Krishna, friend to me and others alike,

Chant His holy names for future to make bright.