Saturday, May 4, 2013

Creating the Ideal Conditions

Sita and Rama“She looked as if she were travelling to the side of the self-realized Shri Rama, a lion among kings, using a chariot of desires yoked with horses of determination.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 19.7)

samīpam rājasimhasya rāmasya viditātmanaḥ |
saṅkalpahayasamyuktairyāntīmiva manorathaiḥ ||

“What is the purpose to chanting sixteen rounds over and over every day? Wouldn’t it be better to do just one round and really focus? Why do I need to avoid intoxication? If my friends and coworkers are going out to the bar at night, why can’t I have just one or two beers with them? It’s not going to do any harm. I’m not sure what the purpose to all of these rules is. It seems that I can connect with God, make Him happy, and take care of other things without being so strict.”

These concerns are certainly understandable, as strict adherence to various rituals and practices doesn’t give a visible benefit in the immediate term. The long-term benefit that isn’t so easy to spot out always takes a backseat to the immediate benefit from a quick and visible action. Yet the factor of visibility can be deceiving when making an assessment. For instance, if the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] prevents a drug from coming to market that would have led to one hundred deaths, they are lauded for their action. At the same time, when they ban a drug that could have prevented one thousand deaths, nothing is said. The first case has a visible benefit, while the second has an invisible one. The visible death later on can be directly traced to an action, whereas the invisible prevention of death is rarely investigated, if at all. In a sober assessment, though, the act of prohibiting the sale of the life-saving drug is much worse in this case. It does much more damage.

Chanting the Holy NamesSimilarly, because of the short-term benefit we think that ignoring stringent rules and regulations promoted by followers of the true occupation of the soul won’t harm us that much, but it actually will. The greatest harm done is that it prevents us from sharpening the tools necessary for ultimate success. After all, whether we chant the maha-mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” for one round a day or sixteen, there is still the desired goal of advancing in spiritual consciousness. From the observations made about a distressed queen a long time ago, we see what is needed for success and how all the underlying processes of devotional service are meant to sharpen the two necessary aspects.

In the scene in question, Sita Devi, the missing wife of Lord Rama, is going to Him even though she is separated by a lengthy physical distance. The distance was so great that the leader of the land where she currently resided thought that no one could reach him. The opening chapters of the Sundara-kanda of the Ramayana describe how arduous the journey to Lanka was for Rama’s heroic servant Shri Hanuman. Reaching Lanka wasn’t enough; Hanuman had to then search through the city for Sita, all the while remaining undetected.

Ravana, the fiend who had taken Sita away from Rama’s side through a backhanded plot, mentioned the strategic location of Lanka as a way of enticing Sita to become his queen. His basic point was: “Hey, Lanka is so far away. Even if your beloved Rama did want to come and save you, how would He ever get here? Actually, no one can reach here except me, so you shouldn’t entertain any false hopes of reunion with Him. Better to just enjoy here with me.”

The clueless Ravana wasn’t aware that Rama is the all-powerful. Rama has so much potency that those who only think of Him in a mood of love can do extraordinary things. The scene from the above referenced verse had two extraordinary characters. First there was Hanuman, who made it to Lanka despite all the odds against him. He reached Sita as well, as he was watching her from his perch in a tree. He saw Ravana approach her and try to change her mind. In this particular scene Ravana is just entering the Ashoka grove to again see if he can try to win Sita over. He sees that in her mind she is travelling to Rama.

Shri HanumanSita is the other remarkable character gifted with abilities unknown to fools like Ravana. She travelled to Rama with her mind. She used a chariot made of desires and horses made of determination. That was all that was needed. From her behavior we see the goal of bhakti-yoga practice. Bhakti-yoga is the height of all religion; it is above the sectarian designations, the rules and regulations, the reading of scriptural texts, the acceptance of this church or that. The reason it is so is because it directly addresses the needs of the soul, the identifying force within each of us. All other religious practices are meant to culminate in bhakti.

The objective is to create the sort of mind that Sita had, and that end signals a new beginning of activity. In that activity one regularly travels towards Rama, who is the Supreme Lord. He may be addressed by different names and thought of in different forms, but it is true nonetheless that God can be approached through the mind. And that approach can take place at any time, provided one has the two aforementioned attributes. The desire is the first thing and the determination is the other. Hanuman too had a desire to serve Rama, and in his determination he pleased the Lord and His wife.

All the regulations mentioned in shastra aim to create the conditions seen in Sita. Her consciousness is always pure because she is eternally Rama’s consort. She doesn’t require pious behavior or concentrated action in bhakti. She doesn’t think of Rama because it will be good for her. She doesn’t think of Him because it will impress others. She doesn’t think of Him because it is considered good. She thinks of Him because she loves Him. This love is tied to her very existence; without it she cannot be. The same goes for Hanuman.

In fact, the same goes for all of us in our constitutional position. Through contact with material nature we have been made to forget this. In our ignorance we think of genuine spiritual life as a chore, but if we have some faith in the spiritual master and the devotees who have blazed the proper trail, then certainly we can get the determination that goes along with a fervent desire necessary to travel to Rama, despite how far away from Him we think we are. Ravana couldn’t understand Sita’s mind, and so he continually tried to win her over, but she never entertains such nonsense.

In Closing:

“Why insistence on sixteen rounds to chant,

Break the rules every now and then I can’t?


To be so strict doesn’t seem right,

Why random fun to take out of sight?”


Purpose to all rules to make conditions ideal,

To think of God, His divine presence to feel.


Will and determination are needed,

In Sita both comfortably seated.


With mind swiftly to husband’s side to go,

Such amazing ability fool Ravana never to know.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Mind’s Chariot

Sita and Rama“She looked as if she were travelling to the side of the self-realized Shri Rama, a lion among kings, using a chariot of desires yoked with horses of determination.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 19.7)

samīpam rājasimhasya rāmasya viditātmanaḥ |
saṅkalpahayasamyuktairyāntīmiva manorathaiḥ ||

This section of the Ramayana transitions from Shri Hanuman’s identification of Sita Devi, the missing wife of Lord Rama, to her interactions with the fiend who brought her to Lanka against her will. Hanuman found the princess after an exhaustive search, but his plan still wasn’t complete. He was asked by Rama to find Sita and give to her a ring inscribed with His name. This way Sita would know that Hanuman was indeed her husband’s messenger. From this verse found in the Ramayana, we get an idea of what Ravana saw when he again tried to win her over.

In the preceding verses it is described that Ravana awoke to the chanting of Vedic hymns. The Vedas are the original scriptural tradition of India. The original works consist only of various hymns, with the rituals and other supporting practices applied through tradition and observation of outward practice. The Ramayana represents an extension of the Vedas, where the same original principles are taught through story form, with the stories relating to real-life historical incidents. They touch on the amazing and the unbelievable, but none of the events should be mistaken for mythology, for anytime the Supreme Lord is involved we are bound to be amazed and impressed.

Valmiki writing the RamayanaThe straight singing of Vedic hymns can be likened to ordinary piety. You do things the right way just because you know that it is right. You’re not really sure what the ultimate purpose is, but you know that there is something pious with the behavior. This is sort of the attitude involved in singing Vedic hymns when there is no devotion to the Supreme Lord. That was the condition in Lanka, where Ravana had actually committed the greatest offense at the feet of the origin of spirit and matter. Ravana nevertheless thought himself to be very pious, so he awoke to the sound of Vedic hymns.

As he left his palace for the nearby Ashoka grove, female attendants followed him. They carried wine with them, though it was the early morning hours. Even in the civilized societies today, where drinking is very common, it is still considered in poor taste to get intoxicated in the morning. Someone who prefers to make their morning coffee “Irish” is considered a drunkard, a person with a major drinking problem. The label of “drunkard” aptly applied to Ravana, as he was constantly intoxicated.

Though he had plenty of wine and so many beautiful queens, he was still infatuated with Sita. She was the forbidden woman; she was already married to someone else. Ravana could have won Sita if he had defeated her husband in a fair fight, but he was advised not to go down that route. Instead, Ravana created a ruse where he took Sita away in secret. She immediately refused his advances, and so Ravana thought that after some time had passed maybe she would change her mind.

To his dismay, he found her to be in great distress. She covered up her belly-area as soon as Ravana arrived, and she was already disheveled in appearance. This was the result of her grief. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she looked like her mind was elsewhere too. Here it is described that her mind was like a chariot made up of desires. That chariot was driven by horses made of determination, or resolve, and it travelled to the side of Shri Rama, who is self-realized and a lion among kings.

Sita DeviThe various components of the verse tell us so much. To compare the mind to a chariot of desires is not very extraordinary. We all have desires. Sometimes they are very strong, as in the case of Ravana. But desires cannot be fulfilled without action. And so the desires that make up the chariot of the mind cannot really go anywhere unless there is action to be taken. In Sita’s case, she was married to someone who is absolute. This means that His name directly represents Him. So does His presence within the mind.

If I am separated from my wife in physical distance, there is no way for me to immediately reach her. I can try to move the chariot that is my mind which is desirous of meeting her, but there is no way for that chariot to move unless my body moves. Maybe I can make a phone call or send an email, but again that requires physical contact. I cannot just think of my wife and automatically be with her.

Rama is the Supreme Lord. In some traditions He is described as the original and in others He is considered an incarnation. Nevertheless, the incarnation is the same in potency as the original, so there is actually no difference between the various factions of Vaishnavism, or devotion to the personal aspect of God. Thinking of Rama is as good as being with Him, though it may not seem the case for even the liberated soul who feels intense separation. But again, the strong lament that one is still not by Rama’s side indicates real devotion. It seems like circular logic, but one who thinks of Rama in this way, all the time, is never actually bereft of His company.

Having the desire in this instance is a great start, and though you don’t need Rama’s physical presence to be with Him, you still need a way to move the chariot. In Sita’s case, her determination pulls the cart. Without determination, the desires within the mind will remain stationary. Think of it like wanting to get up out of bed to arrive at work on time but getting distracted by the warmth of the blanket. The thoughts of the tough day ahead at work also help to keep you laying on the bed. It is only determination that can get you out, that can help pull the desires towards the intended destination.

Lord RamaSimilarly, if there is no determination in trying to be by God’s side through thinking of Him, or no desire at all, then the association will not come. We can use the individual as an example to understand this, for it is said that the personal expansion known as the Supersoul resides within every living entity. The soul identifies us and the Supersoul identifies God. The Supersoul is all-pervading and it acts like a neutral witness. We don’t see the Supersoul or realize its presence because we lack the desire to see it. Either that or we don’t have the determination necessary to reach it.

Rama’s qualities strengthen that determination. He is a lion among kings. A lion is the king of the jungle, and the king is the ruler of a community. Rama is thus the king of kings; the best protector in the world. The best protector is the greatest shelter for the restless mind. Rama is also a knower of the self; He knows His true identity. Ravana, on the other hand, only knows kama, or lust. Kama is a fire strengthened by the fuel of ignorance. Knowledge is like a large bucket of water to douse the flames of kama. One who knows the self also knows others, and thus their association is worthwhile.

Sita conveyed all of this just by her vision, and so things didn’t look very good for Ravana. He foolishly forged ahead with his ill-fated idea, consumed as he was by lust. Sita was with Rama the whole time using the chariot of the mind, and pretty soon, through the help of Hanuman the couple would be together again in physical proximity as well.

In Closing:

When separated from Rama yourself find,

Travel to Him using chariot of the mind.


Ravana employed all tactics of intimidation,

Could not phase Sita and her determination.


God is absolute, no difference in His name,

Chant it regularly for His association to gain.


Sita’s mind revealed just from her sight,

Soon with husband Rama to reunite.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Tale of Two People

Hanuman's heart“Offering obeisances to Rama and Lakshmana, the very powerful Hanuman, delighted in seeing Sita, became hidden.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 17.32)

namaskṛtvā rāmāya lakśmaṇāya ca vīryavān |
sītādarśanasamhṛṣṭo hanumān samvṛto'bhavat ||

Person 1: “I am so distressed. I can’t believe how bad things are right now. No, this is not about money. I’m doing okay. Actually, I’m pretty content with respect to possessions. I don’t need much to survive. I don’t shop online all the time or worry about my next big purchase. If I were a kid, the Christmas holiday wouldn’t be that exciting to me. I don’t need more stuff.

“I am distressed over certain situations with my family members. They aren’t in as good a shape as me. I’m worried that with what is going to happen in the future, they will be put into more distress. The future is uncertain. There is a cause for this uncertainty, and that person is hated by me. I wish they would be injured in the worst possible way. They are the greatest offender to my family members, so I don’t feel bad wishing these ill things upon them. Until some justice comes their way, I won’t feel satisfied. The whole time I will worry over the uncertainty of the future.”

Person 2: “I am not in distress. I have everything I could ever want. I have enough money. I have a beautiful wife, wonderful children, and a nice home. I came up from nothing too. I was once poor, but now I am not. I found success the old fashioned way: hard work. I delight in getting to see my family every day, and my job is also a lot of fun.

“I’ve been told that I am very beautiful. I am skilled in pretty much everything I try my hand at. I am well-known throughout the community, and if I have to go without for a few days, I can do that too. I pretty much have it all, so my life is worry-free. I am enjoying life to the fullest.”

Aspects of both of the above mentioned people were found in a devoted warrior a long time ago. He was distressed and at the same time highly blessed with personal fortunes. Through his behavior we learn who is the right person to approach and when the appropriate time for that approach is. We also learn of a great source of delight that is not dependent on any specific situation.

Shri HanumanThe person of whom we speak is Shri Hanuman. At the time of the scene mentioned in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana he was in distress. Thus he could sympathize with the first person. He was worried over the future outcome of a mission. Shri Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha, had invested His trust in Hanuman. Rama relied on Hanuman to find Sita Devi. She was Rama’s wife and had gone missing while the couple was together in the Dandaka forest.

Hanuman tried very hard, but after an exhaustive search he still hadn’t found her. He was thus worried. What would happen if he didn’t succeed? There was no one else capable. Hanuman was the only one who could leap across the ocean to the island of Lanka, where Sita had been taken. If Hanuman failed, there was no backup plan. He couldn’t call for reinforcements.

Hanuman’s personal abilities made him similar to the second person. He was highly knowledgeable. Real knowledge relates to information about the difference between matter and spirit. Such knowledge is safely tucked away in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. One is truly knowledgeable when they possess this relevant information and act upon it thusly. Hanuman’s behavior showed that both were true in his case.

“One cannot speak this way without having been well-trained in the Rig Veda, memorized the Yajur Veda, and thoroughly understood the Sama Veda.” (Lord Rama speaking to Lakshmana about Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.28)

Meeting HanumanHanuman also had beauty and strength. He heroically leaped from a mountaintop to cross the expansive ocean. He was able to do this by first expanding his size, an ability available to expert yogis, or mystics. There are eight different siddhis, or perfections, granted to dedicated yogis, and Hanuman had all of them. He wasn’t really a yogi by occupation, though. He received these abilities as boons during his childhood.

Hanuman felt tremendous delight when he saw Sita. When he was finally sure that the person he was looking at from a distance in the Ashoka grove in Lanka was Rama’s wife, he felt the need to offer obeisances to both Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana. He then remained there hidden so that no one would see him. He was assigned the task of finding Sita, not doing away with her captor.

Hanuman was in distress, and in that situation seeing Sita made him delighted. He was also materially comfortable, and even with that he felt the same pleasure from seeing Sita. This means that Sita is not an ordinary person. Her vision delights Shri Hanuman, a person of the highest character. She is also cherished by Rama, who searches after her like a thirsty man does a well.

Sita DeviThe same delight is available to us, who can see Sita in many temples dedicated to her and her husband around the world. We can see her when we think of Shri Hanuman, who is depicted in many pictures heroically serving Rama’s interests. We can see her when we chant the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Whether we are full of desires, devoid of them, or want only liberation from the cycle of birth and death, devotional service will always be to our benefit. One of the benefits is delight, which Hanuman felt when seeing Sita from a distance. From the same Vedas that Hanuman is expert in we learn that Sita and Rama are the Supreme Lord’s energy and the Supreme Lord respectively. They are not ordinary people. From Hanuman’s behavior we thus get another lesson: seeing God is not the end. He saw Rama and then faithfully took up service. He felt delight from seeing Sita and then remained hidden, awaiting his next opportunity to serve. Similarly, we can regularly visit the temples of Vishnu, another name for God, and see God and His energy, and from there be rejuvenated in our eternal occupation of serving Him. Both the prince and the pauper have something to gain from seeing Sita, who as the goddess of fortune shows how the vital spirit in all of us can be properly utilized.

In Closing:

One person daily distresses only to find,

Another person without a worry in the mind.


Hints of both in Shri Hanuman found,

Who saw Sita Devi seated on the ground.


Still, obeisance to Rama and Lakshmana paid,

Despite accomplishment, humble he stayed.


Sita alone from seeing felt so much delight,

Vision worthy of eyes of sad and happy alike.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Shri Hanuman“Offering obeisances to Rama and Lakshmana, the very powerful Hanuman, delighted in seeing Sita, became hidden.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 17.32)

namaskṛtvā rāmāya lakśmaṇāya ca vīryavān |
sītādarśanasamhṛṣṭo hanumān samvṛto'bhavat ||

If you have never heard of Shri Hanuman, this one verse is sufficient for understanding him. He possesses many wonderful qualities, with a commonly known one being his immense strength. He is depicted in pictures carrying a mountain in his hand and flying through the air from leaping. And yet this strength is always used for the right cause, which we see in the images depicting his humility, where he pays obeisance to Shri Rama, His younger brother Lakshmana, and His wife Sita Devi.

The scene of the above referenced verse from the Ramayana is the Ashoka grove in Lanka. A princess had been taken there against her will a long time ago. No one knew where she was, at least outwardly. Rama, the princess’ husband, worked with the king of Vanaras, Sugriva, to get a search party together. Hanuman was the most capable member of the searching monkeys, and he eventually made it to where Sita was.

As the verse says, Hanuman was delighted in seeing Sita. Nothing of her condition brought joy to the heart, but her mere presence was enough to give Hanuman hope and enthusiasm. The mission assigned to him was reconnaissance. The difficulty lay not only in searching but also in properly identifying the perceived object. Here he finally found a distressed princess, and through reviewing her features he was sure that she was indeed Rama’s wife.

Sita DeviHanuman’s delight is rooted in pleasing Rama. There is no other cause. Hanuman was not happy that Sita was in distress, surrounded by female ogres who regularly feasted on animal flesh, including that of human beings. He was not happy that Sita was worn thin from fasting in defiance of the advances of the evil king of Lanka, Ravana. He was not pleased that Sita had been dragged there against her will, after she was peacefully residing alongside Rama and Lakshmana in the forest of Dandaka. He was not happy that she looked disheveled, nor was he pleased that she was missing ornaments that deserved to be on her body.

He was delighted, nonetheless, because of her relation to Rama. He knew that finding her would please all the parties of importance. It would spell doom to Ravana, the fiend who deserved the punishment of death for his crime. It would spell victory for Rama’s side, for now they would learn where Sita was. It would give the distressed princess the confidence that Rama was indeed looking for her. Rama did miss her. He did worry over her night and day. He was ready to come and rescue her, though as a pious soul He was naturally unattached to sense gratification. Sita is a chaste wife, a sadharma-charini, as Rama describes her. She helps in the performance of religious duties, which Rama takes very seriously. Therefore her association to Him has nothing to do with sense gratification.

In the verse previous to this, it is said that Hanuman offered respectful obeisances to Shri Rama. Hanuman didn’t take all the credit for success. It is easy to remember God when we are in distress, when we are in need of something, or when we are inquisitive about something we can’t understand. It is not as easy when things are going well for us, especially if we have succeeded in something after working very hard. As viryavan, Hanuman is mighty, possessing immense strength. He easily could have attributed all of his success to his hard work and strength, but he still paid respect to Rama.

Rama and LakshmanaHere it is said that he paid respect to both Rama and Lakshmana. Know that there is no one in the world physically stronger than Hanuman. At the same time, know that such a person loves God and His immediate family members so much. Strength or weakness are of no concern to the origin of matter and spirit. Sincerity in devotion, with knowledge of the higher being’s authority, is what counts most. He accepts the service of materially poor souls like Sudama Vipra, who have nothing to offer but pieces of chipped rice. And He also accepts the service of the mighty Hanuman, who crosses oceans and lifts mountains to put a smile on His face.

While he has immense strength, from this verse we see that Hanuman is also not too proud to mask that strength when appropriate. It is said that he went back to hiding after being delighted at seeing Sita. He did not want anyone to see him. He also didn’t want to startle her. She had been harassed greatly by Ravana and his attendants, so he didn’t want her to think that he was part of that group. Only a person blinded by their hubris would pound their fists and cause senseless destruction without cause. The wise know when to be as gentle as a feather and when to be as hard as a thunderbolt.

Thus from this verse we see that the mightiest person is the humblest and wisest as well. If he offers respect to Sita, Rama and Lakshmana, why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we honor Hanuman every day and remember his love for God? He bravely acts through service, which is an example we can also follow through the constant chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

In Closing:

Can leap over ocean of immense length,

Shri Hanuman, of immeasurable strength.


If that he’s proud of his abilities you suspect,

Know that to Rama and Lakshmana he offers respect.


All accolades and worship to him deservedly so,

But still his dedication to God and His family go.


For his heroism and strength known as viryavan,

Best in devotion to God is Shri Hanuman.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Shri Hanuman“Seeing that woman of intoxicating eyes, Hanuman shed tears of joy and offered respectful obeisances to Shri Rama.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 17.31)

harṣajāni ca so'śrūṇi tām dṛṣṭvā madirekṣaṇām |
mumuce hanumānstatra namaścakre ca rāghavam ||

“Oh God, please help me out. I’m in a lot of trouble. I know that prayer can heal any wound. The power of prayer is immense. I will hold this special prayer ceremony to get your favor. I will gather my friends and family around to increase the volume of the prayer. I know that you can hear us. No one is kinder than you, so if you can help us this one time, we will be eternally grateful.”

It is completely understandable to turn to the Almighty when there is trouble. When there is seemingly no other hope, why would you just sit back and do nothing? The origin of matter and spirit must be able to control any outcome. If you don’t ask Him to help you, how will He know to intervene? If one is truly faithful, however, they will make the same turn when something good happens to them. This was exhibited by Shri Hanuman when he felt a happiness like no other.

The word used in the above referenced verse from the Ramayana to describe his emotion is harsha. This Sanskrit word can translate to “joy”, but it has a deeper meaning. In the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu of Shrila Rupa Gosvami, harsha is described to be the joy that comes from finally achieving the desired goal in life. Harsha is not related to any ordinary goal; the objective has to be important. The use of harsha is entirely appropriate in this regard, as Hanuman’s primary goal in life is always to please the Supreme Lord. Finding Sita accomplished that for him.

“Harsha is described in the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu. Harsha is experienced when one finally attains the desired goal of life and consequently becomes very glad. When harsha is present, the body shivers, and one’s bodily hairs stand on end. There are perspiration, tears and an outburst of passion and madness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 3.127 Purport)

Shri HanumanAs we are eternal beings, we live for an endless amount of time. This means that if we achieve the goal of pleasing God one time, we’re not prevented from getting it again. Hanuman is so wonderful that he looks to please God all the time. After He experiences harsha, he doesn’t rest on his laurels. He doesn’t consider himself to be the sole doer either. He offers respects to Rama in both times of trouble and turmoil.

He previously offered respectful obeisances to Rama, the Supreme Lord in His incarnation as a warrior prince, at the outset of his journey to find Sita, Rama’s missing wife. From reading Vedic literature it is known that Hanuman is extremely knowledgeable. Though he is in a monkey form, he is not prevented from reaching high intelligence. He also has complete mastery over the siddhis of yoga. These are mystic perfections that allow one to do amazing things.

Therefore Hanuman cannot be considered a poor person who has no recourse other than to worship God. He serves Rama with full knowledge. In the Bhagavad-gita, such a worshiper is considered to be topmost. They see things as they are [jnani] and follow only devotional service, or bhakti-yoga.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.17“Of these, the wise one who is in full knowledge in union with Me through pure devotional service is the best. For I am very dear to him, and he is dear to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.17)

Shri HanumanIn full knowledge, Hanuman worships Rama, a personal form of God. He doesn’t worship Brahman, which is the impersonal representation of the Absolute Truth. He doesn’t worship the Paramatma, or Supersoul, situated within the heart. You can’t serve Brahman or Paramatma. You can’t experience harsha in relation with these two features because they are incapable of being served. You can realize them, experience them, study them, and think about them, but you can’t serve them. Only Rama, who is also known as Vishnu and Krishna, can be served.

“Thereupon taking the ring and placing it on his head, with folded hands, that foremost and best of monkeys praised Rama's lotus feet and then departed.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 44.15)

Prior to embarking on his journey, Hanuman paid respects to Rama. He did so after accepting Rama’s ring, which was to be given to Sita, should she be located. When he was in trouble in Lanka, Hanuman again paid respects to Rama. Hanuman had searched long and hard but still hadn’t found Sita. In that distressful situation, he again prayed for Rama’s favor, to have the strength to serve Him.

“I offer my obeisances to Shri Rama, along with Lakshmana and the divine lady, the daughter of King Janaka. I offer my obeisances to Rudra, Indra, Yama, and Anila, the deity of the wind. I offer my obeisances to the moon, the sun, and the wind-gods.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 13.59)

Now that he had found Sita in this grove of Ashoka trees, Hanuman again didn’t forget Rama. The happiness he experienced, the harsha, was related to Rama’s interest, not his own. Hanuman didn’t think: “Look at all I have done. I crossed over the expansive ocean by leaping from a mountaintop. I battled wicked creatures who tried to obstruct my path. I scoured through the city of Lanka unnoticed. I searched through the inner apartments of the vile king, Ravana, the creature who took Sita away from Rama without any cause. Now I have finally found Sita. All my hard work has paid off. I’m so proud of myself.”

Shri HanumanHanuman was indeed happy with the success, but he still remembered Rama. This means that he knew that he was not solely responsible for his success. If even Hanuman gives God credit, how can any other person ever think that they should take all the credit for their good fortune? How can any sober person ever think to ignore the influence of God in their life?

Though Hanuman offered obeisances to Rama, the Lord still gives all the credit to him. Hanuman is offered prayers today, for he can grant devotion to the same Sita and Rama. In those prayers he is praised for his heroic journey to Lanka. He is honored for his bravery, perseverance, determination, kindness, and respectful attitude. He deserves all the accolades, and one can certainly experience harsha when they have found Hanuman and vowed to never let a day go by without honoring him.

In Closing:

When the goal to finally achieve,

Experience joy you cannot believe.


As harsha in Sanskrit it is known,

Relates to serving God alone.


Hanuman in Ashoka grove this feeling felt,

Upon finding Sita, of beauty the heart to melt.


When in this life Shri Hanuman found,

Harsha comes too, joy without bound.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Moral and Right

Krishna's lotus feet“The highest life of moral principles is to become a devotee of the Lord because a pure devotee of the Lord has all the good qualities of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.40 Purport)

“I understand the importance of morality. You shouldn’t tell a lie. You shouldn’t take the property of others. You should be faithful to your wife. You shouldn’t do harm to anyone else. But does morality always line up with what is right? Isn’t it better to lie in certain situations? What if someone else is in dire need of medical treatment? Isn’t it okay, then, to take someone else’s money in order to pay for that treatment? What if the moral decision leads to negative consequences? What if it gets you fired or causes your significant other to leave you? Is what is moral always what is right?”

When the morality is mentally concocted, when it is based on a theory created through mental speculation, then certainly there are holes. The principles are not always applicable. Indeed, they are likely created to create the best possible condition, with the emphasis on possible. In some situations, the principles of morality won’t work, but they are presented nevertheless because they work most of the time. Real morality, however, is not rooted in mental speculation. It is tied to inherent qualities that can never be removed.

The essential characteristics of fire are heat and light. These cannot be removed from the object. There is no machine that can remove the burning propensity of fire. At best, you can try to shield yourself from the effects of fire, but you can’t actually change the properties. The sun is the largest object of fire, and in the summertime we turn on the air conditioner to help alleviate the distress caused by the sun’s burning. In the wintertime, where the sun’s fire is missed, we use artificial sources of heat to compensate.

winterThe individual too has core properties. These are not tied to external behavioral characteristics. They are not tied to age, gender, nationality, or occupation either. These properties belong to the individual always. Just because we sit in a closed room with the air conditioner on doesn’t mean that the sun no longer exists. Similarly, just because the individual may temporarily reside in a covering that masks their internal qualities doesn’t mean that those qualities aren’t there.

The essential characteristics of the individual are eternality, knowledge and bliss. Eternality is evidenced in the fact that despite the passage of time and its effect on the body, the individual remains constant. The time between birth and death can be up to one hundred years, but the individual remains the same throughout. The distinction is only made based on time and its influence, a distinction that we ignore when there are shorter passages of time. Five minutes ago we don’t consider ourselves to be a different person, so why should there be any difference in five years or fifty years?

Knowledge is shown to some degree in the behavior of the individual. The human being needs nurturing to learn how to walk, talk, and eat, but other species can figure these things out very quickly. Some animals even start running as soon as they exit the womb. They know how to look for food right away also. Indeed, we know that the infant will eventually learn how to walk and talk, and so this shows that there is inherent knowledge at the individual level.

Mother Yashoda with KrishnaBliss always exists. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t see young children so happy. You wouldn’t see the smiling faces on grandparents when they play with their younger ones. You wouldn’t see the woman in tears from receiving a marriage proposal and you wouldn’t see the man jumping up and down when his favorite sports team wins the championship. Bliss is always there, though it may not always be evident.

Real morality addresses these three qualities at the individual level. It seeks to extract them and make them prominent, sort of like letting a fire rage in all its glory. The sun is uninhibited in its existence. Its core qualities of heat and light are on full display at all times. Thus it does not require a system of morality; it has already reached a material state of freedom.

For the living entity in the human form, freedom is limited. With morality, the ultimate objective is to find everlasting freedom. Even the sun is a living entity, and it can also reach a higher state of freedom. Its eternality, knowledge and bliss are its real essential characteristics, though we use the fire and heat properties here for comparison purposes. Eternality, knowledge and bliss don’t reveal themselves through simply telling the truth all the time and respecting the property of others. They open up when there are activities that bring one closer to their constitutional position.

In the Vedas, the spiritual science which reveals to us the qualities of the individual, real morality is known by terms such as sanatana-dharma and bhagavata-dharma. The dharma aspect addresses the system that seeks to again fully bring to life the essential characteristic. Bhagavata and sanatana further describe that system. Bhagavata refers to the Supreme Lord, who is full of opulences. Sanatana is a reference to time; it means without beginning and without end.

Narasimhadeva with PrahladaThe guiding principle of sanatana-dharma is connection to the supreme individual, the one person whose eternality, bliss and knowledge are at higher levels than anyone else’s. Whatever needs to be done to remain connected with Him, in a manner that pleases Him, is moral. Everything else is immoral. We can look to famous examples in history to see how this works. The gopis of Vrindavana abandoned their husbands to spend time with God. A young boy named Prahlada rejected his father’s words because they were against God. A younger brother named Vibhishana rejected his elder brother because he was against God. The heroic warrior Hanuman snuck into a city, searched through palaces and then set the entire place on fire. This was moral because he was working for the Supreme Lord Rama, looking for His wife Sita Devi.

The morality in these instances also wasn’t tied to any personal interest. One can’t just say, “You know, I really want this television. It will help me think of God, so let me steal it.” So many unsanctioned things are done in the name of religion, but they do not relate to sanatana-dharma, as there is no genuine service involved. The style and implementation of that service, which is indicative of real morality, is handed down in the Vedic texts and then further explained by those who follow the teachings.

The best activity of morality in the modern age is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This keeps the soul serving God through simultaneous chanting and hearing. The eternality, knowledge and bliss are components of the primary essential characteristic of the soul: devotee of the Supreme Lord. When devotion is brought out through authorized means, the activities are always moral. And since they lead to the best end of connection with God, they are always the right thing to do as well.

In Closing:

What is moral is what you should do,

But attention to what is right I have too.


With each other do both always square?

Should not over temporary results I care?


In understanding morality real,

Inherent characteristics to appeal.


Eternality, knowledge and bliss combine,

As servant of Supreme Lord individual to define.


In devotion what is moral is always what is right,

Goal to always experience God’s enchanting sight.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Whatever You Want

Hanuman worshiping Rama“There is a well-known verse spoken by Hanuman in which he says, ‘My dear Lord, if You like You can give me salvation from this material existence, or the privilege of merging into Your existence, but I do not wish any of these things. I do not want anything which diminishes my relationship with You as servant to master, even after liberation.’” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 4)

In any given scenario, the master is in the position of superiority. The servant is the inferior, and through serving the superior they get what they want. Perhaps there are different motives involved, but the conditions with respect to benefit don’t change. In the workplace, the employees serve the boss so that they can get paid. The more pleased the boss is, the more handsome the reward will be. There can even be a promotion to rise up the ranks. As there is no one superior to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, pleasing Him allows one to get whatever they want. A long time back one specific servant offered the best service, and what he asked for in return was quite telling.

Why must the superior be pleased? Aren’t we all equal?

We are equal spiritually, but there are certainly differences with respect to temporary conditions. Think about the parent-child relationship. If the child asks to be allowed to stay awake into the wee hours of the night, should the parent allow it? “You know, there is no difference between me and my son. We are both spirit souls at the core, so whatever they ask for is legitimate. It should be taken into consideration.” Such thinking is foolish, as the parent has been around much longer. They are wiser in this area, and so they should be offered the respect due the superior.

Mother Yashoda chasing KrishnaAnd through that service, the inferior party can get whatever the superior can offer. In the case of the parent, the limit of the gifts is whatever can be offered materially. Also included is the wisdom, protection and guidance of the loving parent. A good parent will be objective, not caring whether or not their child is kind to them, but there is no doubt that good behavior will endear the child to the parent. A model citizen has an easier time getting favors from the authorities in a society than does a miscreant, a person who always breaks the law.

With the Supreme Lord, you can get whatever you want if He is pleased. He is described as a “He” in the Vedas, the original scriptural tradition of India. He is the cause of all causes, the beginning of beginnings. He is the source of the material and spiritual worlds. That which is material represents His separated energy, known as the external force. The spiritual is His internal potency. We are part of the latter, but since we can choose in favor of the external energy, we are technically known as the marginal potency. By constitution we are spiritual, but through illusion we can choose to turn our back to God and try our hand at competing for supremacy. This is a mistake, as there is no way to defeat God in any area of opulence.

On the other side, if we make the decision to serve Him, He can grant any reward. This should make sense if we think about it. If He can create many universes through a simple exhalation, as it is said He does in the Shrimad Bhagavatam, then why couldn’t He give us a paltry reward? Whatever reward we ask for is paltry considering the fact that there are innumerable other spiritual fragments who are the same as us in quality. The Supreme Lord, as the Supersoul, resides within their hearts as well. Therefore if we were to compare, the collective rewards asked for by others far exceeds whatever we could want.

Unlike God, we are not all-pervading, so we can’t fathom the sum total of the desires of all other living entities. We therefore take our own interests to be very important. If we ask for a bicycle for our birthday and our parents give it to us, we think it’s a big deal. It doesn’t have to be a bike per se, but any object that we get that we think is important brings us the same happiness.

Shri HanumanIf you served God properly, if you had the opportunity to see Him, honor Him, and then courageously act for His benefit, what would you ask for in return? Would it be endless glory and fame? Would it be unimaginable wealth? Would you want to be king of the world? One of the most famous servants of all time could have gotten anything he wanted. His service was that good. He was the most courageous, following through on orders under the most trying circumstances. He faced the pressures of both time and space, and yet he passed with flying colors. Ironically enough, his service involved flying through the air, which was accomplished by leaping from a mountain peak.

This servant’s exploits are described in the Ramayana, a famous Sanskrit poem authored by Maharishi Valmiki. The poet described events prior to their enactment; such was his prescience. He became qualified to do so through rigorous austerity and constant recitation of the holy name of Rama. That name then seemingly came to life as the personality Shri Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Rama is part of the internal energy of God; considered a non-different expansion. He is the same Supersoul residing within our hearts, except He has a visible form that one can serve directly in addition to viewing with appreciation.

In simpler terms, Hanuman saw God. That vision which is elusive to even the meditational yogis and mental speculators free of sin was easily available to Hanuman, who was in a monkey form living in the forest of Kishkindha. Surely there was tremendous appreciation when Hanuman first saw Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana, but the reverence aspect was only the beginning. In the subsequent service was where he would endear himself to Rama.

“Hearing those words from Hanuman, the glorious Rama, being very happy and smiling, spoke to His brother Lakshmana, who was by His side.” (Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 3.25)

Lakshmana and Rama with HanumanAt the first meeting, Hanuman offered wonderful praise in an odd way. Hanuman was sent to see why the two princes had approached the Kishkindha forest. Sugriva’s chief minister, Shri Hanuman, masked his form so that the two brothers wouldn’t be threatened by him. Under the order to find out their purpose, Hanuman found a way to praise the two of them, finally revealing his true identity. Rama was immediately very pleased with Hanuman, and he knew that Hanuman could help Him find His missing wife Sita.

Hanuman’s first service was taking Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders and leaping back up to the mountain called Rishyamukha. This is where Sugriva and the other monkeys, known as Vanaras, stayed. There an alliance was formed between Rama and Sugriva, two parties who could use each other’s help. When it came time for Sugriva to help Rama, he sent the entire monkey army to scour the world to look for Sita. It was assumed that Hanuman would have the best chance at success, and that hunch would prove correct.

Hanuman’s difficult journey to Lanka, the place where Sita had been taken, is described in great detail in the Sundara-kanda of the Ramayana. In this way we see that Rama’s dearest servant has a large section dedicated to him in the book that is known to be about Rama. The Supreme Lord was so pleased with Hanuman’s service that He offered him anything he wanted. This was after Sita’s eventual rescue and the couple’s return to their home of Ayodhya.

From Hanuman’s service we know that no one in history has ever deserved more in gifts. We also know that no one in history can provide more than Shri Rama. Therefore if Hanuman were to be given control over the entire world, it would be understandable. Shabari, the female ascetic, got liberation from the cycle of birth and death. After pleasing Rama with hospitality in the forest she ascended to the heavenly realm to be with her spiritual guides. Sugriva and Vibhishana became kings of their respective areas. The wife of Gautama Rishi, Ahalya, returned to heaven to be with her husband just from touching Rama’s feet. We could expect Hanuman, therefore, to get something most amazing. He was also very wise, serving Rama immediately upon seeing Him, so we know that he would ask for the most valuable gift.

Shri HanumanHe felt bad asking anything from Rama, but since the Supreme Lord takes great pleasure in giving gifts to His servants, Hanuman asked for the ability to remain on earth for as long as Rama’s glories continued to be told. He wanted to remember Rama and His pastimes throughout his life. In essence, he wanted to only chant the holy name of the Lord without cessation.

Was Hanuman stupid? Did he not know that material opulence would have been better? Did he not know that Rama could have taken him back to the spiritual world?

Actually, what Hanuman received was definitely the greatest reward. It is rarely asked for because one needs intelligence in order to know its true value. It is also rarely received, for who actually pleases Rama in such a way? The interesting point is that through remembering Hanuman, through serving him by always chanting Rama’s name, the same gift can be ours. Goswami Tulsidas made the task easier for the world by authoring a wonderful poem in praise of Hanuman. Known as the Hanuman Chalisa, this poem is very popular, likely the most sung song in the history of the creation. Whether the motives of the reciters are pure or not, at least there is a connection to Hanuman, who can grant the great gift of devotion to Rama. From his own example, he proved that this was the best thing anyone could ask for. Hanuman is a devotee of the Lord, and through service to the devotee one pleases God. And by pleasing Him, whatever you could ever want arrives easily in the palm of your hand.

In Closing:

When completed the toughest task,

Gift from superior you can ask.


Whatever to their limits they will give,

In enhanced material opulence you can live.


Anything possible with you God can share,

Sovereignty over whole world if you care.


Best service from Hanuman, who to Lanka went,

Asked only for life in devotion to be spent.