Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Less I Have the More I Gain

Simple living in Krishna consciousness“A Krishna conscious person does not make much endeavor even to maintain his body. He is satisfied with gains which are obtained of their own accord. He neither begs nor borrows, but he labors honestly as far as is in his power, and is satisfied with whatever is obtained by his own honest labor. He is therefore independent in his livelihood.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.22 Purport)

If someone tells you that they feel like they gain so much more by having less, it seems like a clever play on words. To gain is to accumulate, is it not? To lose things means to decrease that which you have accumulated. Hence it is a lessening of something. How, then, are you gaining anything? In the life of the yogi, pleasure is increased the more unwanted things are removed. In life outside of yoga, more and more things are accumulated, with the pleasure steadily decreasing.

Hoarding is so commonplace in industrialized nations that they have reality television shows dedicated to the most egregious hoarders. It’s very easy to gather things when they are readily available. One day you buy a pasta making machine. The next you buy a picture frame. Perhaps the day after you buy a new jacket and some pants. You keep adding on things like this and pretty soon you run out of room in your home. You have to find a storage area in the place of residence to dump your stuff. This area also comes in handy to store the items you purchase in bulk from the popular discount club. You can buy six months’ worth of toilet paper at one time, but you need somewhere to store it.

hoardingAs more and more stuff goes into storage, you start to forget that you have it. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you go out and buy a new version. When the older version pops up unexpectedly later on, you now have double the amount that you need. Back to storage the items go. In this way so much gathers that you don’t know what to do with it. It taxes your brain just thinking about how to go about removing all the stuff. You have to sift through everything first; you don’t want to carelessly get rid of something valuable.

Lost in all the “mess” is the sobering reality that so much stuff was accumulated because each new item failed to bring happiness. In our youth we may beg our parents to buy us a certain video game, telling them that this will be the last game that we will ever want. Of course that won’t be the case. If the game were that good, perhaps we wouldn’t need anything else, but since playing games is not related to our true identity, the purchase of a single game cannot do anything to bring lasting happiness.

The life of the yogi is tied to the constitutional position of the individual. Spirit is the essence of life. If you have the essence of something, everything else really isn’t necessary. If you have a working television, whether the screen is small or large isn’t that important. If you have milk, you can make cheese and yogurt if you want, but the milk is really what’s important. Every object has its essential functional unit, and if you have it then you can start to think about enjoyment.

Yoga is the discipline that addresses the needs of the essence of identity. In yoga there is no need for so many external objects. This is because the body itself is not required for the soul’s existence. Think about it for a second. Whether you have long hair or short hair, your ability to live isn’t affected. The fact that you’re wearing pajamas or a three-piece suit has no bearing on your identity. You are alive and kicking in either case. Thus the clothes do not make you. You can live without them.

You can also live without video games, furniture, an expensive car, a lavish home, a large bank balance, and even relationships with other people. Not that you have to necessarily go without these things, but they are not vital to your existence. In yoga, the vital force is targeted, and since this is the case not much is required for survival, either physical or mental.

Hanuman in yogaThe yogi naturally loses interest in external objects. The more the yogi gives up, the happier they become. This is true because of the increased ability to practice yoga, and not necessarily the renunciation itself. I can live in an empty room and still be a miserable person. In fact, we fear being bored so much that we scramble to find things to do on long airplane flights. Who wants to sit around and do nothing all the time?

The yogi can sit in an empty room and be just fine. This is because they constantly think about God. They can also be in a room full of people and do the same. Either condition is just fine. The key is that they are no longer attached to those objects which are not conducive to yoga. Such objects are known as maya, which is a Sanskrit word that means an energy. It also means that which is not, a kind of illusion. The object in the window of the store seems to whisper to us, “Buy me and you’ll be happy.” The internal suggestion is an illusion, because if such an object could make us happy, we would have no need to buy similar objects afterwards.

The most advanced yogis are completely renounced. They usually don’t even have families. This allows them to travel freely and practice their yoga without hindrance. They teach others how to practice yoga as well. In this state, the ties are severed clean, and wherever they rest their head is home. Narada Muni is a famous example of a renounced yogi who has so much while externally having so little. He only carries around his vina, which is a stringed instrument. With it he plays music that accompanies his chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

Narada MuniWe may think that such a life is boring, but imagine if you could play your favorite game all the time. Picture being in your ideal situation. This is what the yogi has through their mind alone. It is the mind which ultimately determines happiness. We are pleased when the sun is out and dismayed when the clouds pour down rain for extended hours, but ultimately it is the influence the conditions have on the mind which determines mood. If you could convince yourself that the sun will come out again and that you will be happy, then even the depressing rain won’t get you down.

Narada Muni remains happy because he gets to glorify God through chanting His names and talking about Him with others. You can’t glorify any other person in such a way. If you love your wife that much, she will get sick of you smothering her with praise all the time. She complains that you don’t buy her flowers, but if you got her flowers every day, she would either get spoiled or stop appreciating them. She would feel uncomfortable in indebtedness.

God cannot be smothered in love. Real yoga cannot be checked by any material condition. As the yogi’s pleasure increases with the less they have, we see that yoga is superior to material action, or karma. If yoga is superior based on the pleasure index alone, it is most certainly worth giving a try. Those who follow Narada Muni today always chant the holy names of the Lord, who is the Supreme Spirit. He is not a sectarian figure worshiped through faith alone. He is scientifically described in texts like the Bhagavad-gita, which explains yoga as well. As yoga is a spiritual activity, it is open to any spiritual entity, i.e. any living being.

In Closing:

To keep acquiring things my mind is trained,

But no pleasure found, though everything gained.


Having less can actually mean more,

No worries over where objects to store.


Impediments from divine path cleared,

Towards thoughts of God mind steered.


Like Narada Muni chant holy names alone,

And in any condition happiness own.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What You Should Work For

Radha and Krishna“We are all intended to attain peace and happiness, but whatever peace and happiness we find in this material world is limited. If we but purify our existence and attain spiritual existence, we will experience unlimited peace and happiness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Elevation to Krishna Consciousness, Ch 1)

When you’re younger, if you have a good parent, they will tell you to work hard in school:

“You have to do your homework. No sitting around the house all day. I don’t care if you’ve finished all your assignments. You’re not going to play video games from morning until night. If you’re caught up, you should read ahead then. You should find some new topic and then study it. Go to the library and find a good book to read. You have to work hard now so that you’ll get ahead in the future.”

In adulthood, the same instruction likely comes from within:

“I need to keep learning new things to stay ahead in my field. I need to work hard so that I can earn a good salary. If I save up enough money, I can retire in peace. Then enjoyment will occupy all my time. I won’t have pressure anymore.”

Interestingly enough, the Vedas, the ancient scriptural texts emanating from the area today known as India, give a different purpose to work. Work is recommended; it is not to be renounced haphazardly. Yet there is an ideal purpose that has nothing to do with a temporary condition. The purpose to work is to purify one’s existence. This is a novel concept that really makes sense the more you think about it.

An object is in its best state when it is pure. The studio recording of a song is intended to be the best version of the song. In the recording process impurities can be removed. Outside noise is virtually eliminated in a recording studio. If you don’t play a certain section right, you can play it again. You can also add as many tracks as you want, creating a feel that is impossible to replicate in a live performance. The recording process is a type of purification, and so the resulting song is meant to be without flaws.

Think of your favorite food dish. Now imagine it has all sorts of other ingredients added in. The purity is diluted, is it not? The more impure it becomes, the less appealing it is to the senses. The same holds true with pretty much anything. These objects of which we speak are inanimate. They are nothing more than collections of matter manipulated by the living force. That force is much more powerful, so it would stand to reason that its purification would be the most beneficial.

How is our existence impure and how can we recognize that impurity?

The inability to recognize the impurity is itself an indication of the impurity’s presence. If confused by wording that seems to be based on circular logic, you can think of the person with the drinking problem to see how this works. They are made dumber through their intoxication, and in that ignorance they are unable to tell that they are a drunkard, a person who is attached to their alcohol. In the same way, the living entity who is covered by the material elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether cannot judge what is right and wrong without proper guidance. Authority figures show us the way when we don’t know, and so they can tell us when we are impure.

In an impure existence, I identify with my body. This is a flawed identification, because my body is always changing. If I work hard just to maintain my body or to find it satisfaction, my work isn’t put to the best possible use. I may work hard for thirty years so that I can retire, but what should I do afterwards? Do I sit in front of the television all day? Do I sit in an empty room and do nothing? I still have to work. In fact, if I don’t find something to do, I will go stir-crazy. Therefore all that hard work to reach retirement didn’t really solve my problem.

Arjuna and KrishnaOn the other side, if I purify my existence, I can put my potential for action to the best possible use. Case in point Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. He already had a pure existence through the association of His cousin Krishna, but on one occasion Arjuna fell prey to ignorance for a brief moment. He started to identify with his own body. He based the identities of others off their bodies as well. He was hesitant to commence hostilities in a grand war because the opposing party consisted of friends and family members.

Arjuna had the good sense to approach the same well-wisher Krishna for advice. Krishna told him to purify his existence through works in yoga. Work in yoga is similar to other work, except the mindset is different. One does not stay attached to the results. They are neither attached to nor repulsed by the work they perform. The whole time they think of their role in society and how they are getting closer to purification through their work. Through explicit work, Arjuna continuously purified his existence. He fought ahead as a matter of duty, and also because Krishna advised Him to.

Bhagavad-gita, 2.50“A man engaged in devotional service rids himself of both good and bad actions even in this life. Therefore strive for yoga, O Arjuna, which is the art of all work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.50)

That same Krishna advises all of us on how to purify our existence. The same wisdom that was given to Arjuna was also offered by Krishna at the beginning of the creation. He is therefore the original person, the detail behind the vague picture of a Supreme Lord. One evidence of His divinity is the ability of His recommended actions to purify an existence. In that purification, I no longer see myself as a temporary body. I identify as an eternal spiritual force, capable of action in yoga.

Chanting the Holy NamesIn the modern age, the best means of practicing yoga is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This work is not done to secure a nice house or a hefty salary. Chanting is not performed to stay healthy in the body or to avoid diseases. It is done to purify one’s existence, to shed the flawed mentalities of “I” and “Mine.” In the right mentality, the individual is confident of the fact that he is a spirit soul, part and parcel of Krishna.

The part works when it is connected to the controlling object. The arm is useless when separated from the body, but when it is connected it can do so much good. Similarly, the living entity connected to Krishna in a pure existence has endless pious work that can be done. That work is blissful, so there is never a desire for it to complete. Working towards that supreme consciousness is the real purpose to our action, and from Krishna’s instructions in the Bhagavad-gita given to Arjuna we can decipher just how to reach that state.

In Closing:

Taxes and death to arrive for sure,

Better than to work to find state pure.


Mind of Arjuna in illusion’s direction,

Dispelled through yoga of Krishna’s instruction.


Chant holy names for that yoga to employ,

Apply work to find transcendental joy.


At time of death all other fruits erased,

Only in vain after them we chased.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Try Your Hardest

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

Bhagavad-gita, 2.40“Kids, if you only take away one lesson from my life, make it this: Try your hardest. Any successful person will tell you that perseverance is key. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The difference between the successful and the unsuccessful is work. Push yourself to the limit if you have to; it’s worth it. Why live a life of regret later on? Go for it now. Commit yourself to the goal and then work towards achieving it. Don’t give up.”

This sagacious advice is commonly offered from those who are successful in their field. They are merely passing on the wisdom they gained through their own experiences. They tried both routes in life. When they didn’t work hard, they didn’t succeed. When they did put in the effort required, they reached their goals. Interestingly enough, the “work hard to achieve your goal” motto is not found in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. Indeed, it is not found in any book of higher knowledge. There is a reason for this.

The short of it is that you won’t always get what you want. Think of the people who are stricken by cancer. To the survivor we offer high praise. We refer to them as a “fighter.” They fended off the disease. They could have given up, but they didn’t. Then to the person who doesn’t make it, we say that they succumbed to the disease. But does it mean that they didn’t fight? What does it actually mean to fight off a disease that can kill you from the inside over the course of many years? Can you fight off a cold? Can you fight off a broken leg? Can you battle against a fever and win?

cribActually, all you can really do is get treatment and hope for the best. Thus the “fighting” aspect doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. In the Vedas, it is said that contact with the material nature brings four miserable aspects. The misery starts at birth. If you hear that your wife is pregnant, you will likely start preparing for the arrival of the new member of the family. You will prepare a separate room for them to stay in, and you might even buy clothes and toys. Yet in Vedic culture such preparations are not made. The time immediately following birth is considered impure.

Why is that?

Birth indicates a failure from the past life. If a new child is born, it means that in their last life they didn’t achieve the pinnacle of consciousness, wherein one thinks of God all the time. On that elevated mental platform, the spirit soul, the essence of identity, doesn’t have to take birth again. Thus the time of birth, being very traumatic for the child, is not considered auspicious. Birth is the beginning of so many new miseries.

The three other miserable aspects are old age, disease and death. Nothing can be done to stop these for one who has taken birth. Whether you work hard or not, you will grow old. Even if you eat carrots every day, exercise three times a week, and avoid fatty foods your whole life, you will still get a disease. And no matter what, every person will die. Such sobering facts shed a different light on the “striving to achieve your goals” advice.

So what does this mean, we should all sit on our butts and do nothing? We should resign ourselves to the fact that we’re going to die and thus be miserable all the time?

Though Vedic literature doesn’t mention working hard to achieve temporary goals, discussion is still there, and it touches on many positive aspects as well. Birth, old age, disease and death are miserable, but there is a way to stop them. That is the boon of the human birth. If you’re going to work hard for anything, make it that: the end of birth and death. In fact, there is no other goal worth achieving. All others are prone to defects. A star player spends upwards of twenty years in the National Hockey League and never wins a championship, while another player who isn’t very good lifts the Stanley Cup in their first season. One person does everything right their whole life and they only find misery all the time, while someone else who is sinful seems to find good fortune. Material conditions are such that what is up to me is down to you, and vice versa. Nothing is permanent and nothing is universally beneficial.

The divine realm is the exception. In one sense it isn’t an exception since it doesn’t belong to the material world. While in the material land, however, one can create their destiny in the spiritual land. Thus there is proper work to be done with due diligence. And this work isn’t rooted in blind faith, where we are compelled to surrender to a spiritual personality out of fear of eternal damnation. The work is done with knowledge, which is acquired through consulting Vedic texts themselves.

Anything which expounds on Vedic teachings can be considered an extension of the Vedas. Just by telling someone that they are not their body and that life in the material world has four primary defects, the speaker is presenting information that is Vedic literature. The source is the original scriptural tradition of the world, and since the message presented is identical to the source, it is divine.

Bhagavad-gita As It IsThe true meaning to Vedic teachings is revealed by the spiritual master, who follows the Vedic teachings as a way of life. He is already on the path towards the divine realm, but due to his kindness he hangs around in the material world to bring as many souls back with him as possible. Even if he reforms so many people, he is still eager to rescue more.

Each spirit soul is full of potential for reaching the ultimate end. The same drive to work hard for a temporary goal can be shifted towards the goal of achieving salvation, which is the end of the cycle of birth and death. In this age especially, the time and attention of the conditioned living entities are short. Therefore there is a streamlined process for paving the way to the divine realm. It is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” This opens the door to so many other blissful activities. They are divine in nature, so they continue into the afterlife. They are done whether one has a manifested form here on the earthly plane or an unmanifested form in the spiritual land, where the Supreme Lord and His eternal associates reside.

If you work hard for a material goal, you are not guaranteed of success. Think about it. If you’re not guaranteed to live a certain amount of time, how can you be guaranteed of success? You could just as well pass from this world before reaching your desired goal. Because of such a defect, the Vedas don’t recommend working hard for a temporary goal. You won’t find such recommendations, but what you will find is a strong urging to come to the spiritual way of life, where one always thinks of God. Through knowing Him one understands their own identity as spirit. As Shri Krishna promises in the Bhagavad-gita, there is no loss in following this path. Through a little sincerity, one makes so much progress that can’t be erased.

In Closing:

On body and mind disregard the toll,

Work hard in order to achieve your goal.


Why in regret later on time to waste,

When the sweetness of victory now can taste?


Such advice in the Vedas not to be found,

Ignoring imminence of death, not of logic sound.


Work on making spiritual destiny instead,

Avoid birth so that never again to be dead.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Poetic Insults

Sita's wedding“Devoted to one husband, being born into a pure family and having obtained one also, I am incapable of doing such a reproachable act, one that ought not to be done.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.4-5)

akāryam na mayā kāryamekapatnyā vigarhitam ||
kulam samprāptayā puṇyam kule mahati jātayā |

It is said that one of the qualities of a devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead is poetic ability. This should make sense, as by definition a devotee is someone connected to a person of all good qualities. In that connection, all they have to do is mention some of those good qualities and automatically their speech is sweet. It is always more pleasing to hear praise of someone than it is to hear insults and rants against their character. In devotion to God, speaking of the good qualities, or saguna, is so pleasing that the devotee is not satisfied in their description. Therefore they constantly find new ways to output their glorification, in the process further sharpening their poetic abilities. In this instance, we’re reminded of how that poetic ability can also very quickly cut at the heart of the miscreant, who is by definition an enemy of God.

The word “demon” is often used when describing enemies of the Supreme Lord. It should be noted that the original Sanskrit term is “asura.” This is translated into “demon” for our understanding, but actually the word is a basic negation of another word. The word “sura” means devotee, a person who believes in God and acts off of it. The sura is also a kind of species, one of the original to inhabit the creation. The first created living entity, Lord Brahma is a sura by quality, but with respect to race their origin is considered to be from a woman named Aditi. Most asuras, or those who are against the people of the godly nature, trace their ancestry to Diti, who is Aditi’s sister. Her descendants are specifically known as Daityas, which is a kind of asura.

“Diti and Aditi are two sisters. The sons of Aditi are called Adityas, and the sons of Diti are called Daityas. All the Adityas are devotees of the Lord, and all the Daityas are atheistic.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 10.30 Purport)

We refer to the asuras as demons because of their bad qualities. They don’t think that God exists. If they should hear of Him, they try to deprecate His qualities. In the worst cases, they openly attack Him and His supporters. This struggle between the suras and asuras has been going on since the beginning of known time. In smaller pockets derivatives of the same struggles are seen, wherein criminals battle against the law-abiding citizens. The suras are the equivalent of the good guys and the asuras the bad guys. In modern times, godlessness is so prevalent that fictional demons are often portrayed as heroes or those to be envied due to their tremendous power. There is anger at the good guys for doing away with such characters.

Ravana was an asura by quality, and by species he was a Rakshasa, which can be considered a worse kind of asura. An asura might only be an atheist, someone who doesn’t believe in God but doesn’t necessarily try to thwart the influence of the suras. A Rakshasa is more ignorant and thus they can do things like eat human flesh and kill priests. Ravana was such a character, and one time he did the reproachable deed of stealing another man’s wife behind his back. As a proud king, he should have fought for this woman openly, but he was advised against that course of action. Deep down he knew that this prince, though living in the forest at the time, would defeat him in battle.

Sita and RamaThe above referenced verse from the Ramayana is part of a series of statements made by Sita Devi to Ravana. The evil king brought Sita back to Lanka to try to make her his queen, but she refused him. He offered her the chief position. He openly declared that he would become her slave, the most henpecked husband, if she gave in. Here Sita not only rebukes him, but also informs him that by her very nature it is impossible for her to be with him.

A man cannot give birth to a child. That’s just the way it is. Nature has dictated it so. You can try as hard as you want to change the reality, but there is nothing you can do. In the same way, Sita tells Ravana that by nature she is devoted to only one husband, Shri Rama. She also mentions that her birth-family is pure, as is her family post-marriage. She uses these as justification for her position and also as a way to insult Ravana.

Sita’s birth-family traces to King Janaka of Mithila. Even during this time he was well-respected throughout the world. The events of the Ramayana occur in every cycle of the creation, and sometimes the events don’t follow the exact same sequence. In one telling, it is said that Ravana visited Janaka’s kingdom during the time of Sita’s svayamvara. This was a self-choice ceremony to determine Sita’s husband. Ravana tried to lift the bow of Lord Shiva in the assembly but failed. Rama, the eldest son of Maharaja Dasharatha, easily lifted it and thus won Sita’s hand in marriage. From this we know that Ravana had enough respect for Janaka to try to go and win his daughter’s hand in marriage.

In Vedic culture, at the time of marriage the woman is given over to the husband’s family. Lest anyone think that Sita’s link to high character would change after severing ties with her birth-family, we’re reminded here that her family after marriage was also pure. King Dasharatha of Ayodhya was just as respected as Janaka. He was from a line of kings descending from Maharaja Ikshvaku, one of the first kings on earth. Ikshvaku was the son of Manu, the father of mankind.

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)

Sita, Rama and Lakshmana leaving for the forestA single act from a prince in this line showed just how pious the family was. Dasharatha’s eldest son Rama went to the forest to keep His father’s word intact. Rama was the powerful warrior who was the only one in the assembly in Janaka’s kingdom to lift the extremely heavy bow. Thus He was not weak at all. He was so strong that Ravana was afraid to fight with Him. And yet that same Rama accepted the vanaprastha mode of life, where He wandered from place to place with His wife, surviving on very little.

Contrast this with Ravana, who lived in hedonism. He already had many beautiful wives, but that wasn’t satisfying him. Ravana had a pious father in the sage Vishrava, but his mother was a Rakshasa. Ravana adopted the lifestyle of the latter in adulthood. Thus there was no comparison between his qualities and Sita’s. They didn’t mix at all. In pointing to her family ties, Sita praised the kings in Janakpur and Ayodhya and simultaneously insulted Ravana. She basically told him, “Look at the families that I come from. You think you can match up to them at all? You think I would ever insult their legacies by giving in to you? It is simply impossible; don’t even entertain the thought.”

Sharp, cutting words such as these serve to further reveal Sita’s spotless nature to the world. They show that those who love God can tailor their poetic ability to fit the situation. Sita always has only one husband, who is the singular object of affection for the purest suras, those who transcend the material qualities through service that continues without interruption and without motivation. One who always thinks of Him and His beautiful wife, the daughter of King Janaka and the daughter-in-law of King Dasharatha, has a similar link to the purest families, which thus prevents them from doing the most reproachable deeds.

In Closing:

From pious families Sita Devi came,

In comparison Ravana in qualities lame.


First the father King Janaka did protect,

Then family of Dasharatha she did accept.


Completely pure was each line,

From them one way for virtue to define.


Ravana’s qualities with her never to mix,

Better if on own wives his mind to fix.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fulfilling Desire

Sita and Rama“Take your mind away from me and put it back on your own wives. Like a sinner asking for the highest perfection, it is not appropriate for you to pray for me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.3-4)

nivartaya mano mattaḥ svajane kriyatāṃ manaḥ ||
na māṃ prārthayituṃ yuktaṃ susiddhimiva pāpakṛt |

“I just want my son to be married. He’s reached that age where he should settle down. After having studied for so long, he now has a good job. If he gets married and starts a family, I will no longer have to worry about him. Then he will be settled and secure. Otherwise he will remain an irresponsible bachelor, with no one to take care of him. How will he cook for himself after my wife and I are gone? Who will maintain his living quarters? Where will his social interaction come from if everyone else he knows is married with children? Therefore his marriage is top priority.”

It is natural for the father of a mature son to feel this way, but from the above referenced verse from the Ramayana we see that marriage alone doesn’t suffice for quelling desire. Desire in the material sense is known as kama, and strangely enough the more one tries to satisfy it, the stronger it gets. The recipient of the cogent words from above was a king who had many wives, all of the utmost beauty. And yet he had to be reprimanded, told to keep his attention on his existing wives instead of drawing it towards someone who is already married.

“I don’t understand why people ever break up. If you meet someone and there is mutual attraction, what can go wrong after that? I’m especially puzzled by the relationships that fizzle after many years of being together. If you love someone, live with them, and maintain some type of association, why is there ever a need to break up? Do not the people involved realize that the same cycle will repeat itself in the future with a new partner? Do they not think that the new relationship will have the same vulnerabilities?”

If you really think about it, it is kind of odd that relationships sever after so many years. That is never the intention going in. No one goes into marriage thinking: “Okay, so I’m marrying this person. In twenty years’ time they will be my greatest enemy. Eventually there will come a day when I will celebrate their weekends away from home. I will be so happy to be free of their association that I will purposefully stay late at the office during the week. And after I divorce them - this person whom I love now but will hate in the future - I will have to buy them a house. Seems like I should just pick someone that I despise today, buy them a house, and be done with it.”

Obviously the hopes of the people entering the marriage are quite different. They expect to be happy in each other’s company, especially if the marriage was arranged through mutual consent. The expectation is similar in the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, and yet we still see break ups all the time. From the study of shastra, or scripture, we understand that the cause of the later tensions is the nature of desire. Material desire is known as kama, which can also be translated to lust. The purified form of kama is prema, which is the real kind of love.

Sita and Rama's weddingReal love is not dependent on any outside factor. In an amorous relationship, the perceived love is based on some type of affection received in return for service. Indeed, as soon as the flow of reciprocation stops, the relationship breaks down. In prema, there is unconditional love, offered without halt. Case in point Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama. Since she is married to the Supreme Lord in His avatara form, her love directed at Him is accurately described as prema. Despite being far away from Rama in the Ashoka grove in Lanka, where she is held captive against her will by the evil king named Ravana, she still loves Him. She certainly hopes that He arrives to come and save her, but that has no bearing on her feelings toward Him. If Rama should fully renounce her association, she will continue to love Him.

Technically, reciprocation is present in prema as well, but it is subtle. Indeed, you couldn’t love someone all the time unless there was some sort of return on your investment. The secret with prema is in the nature of the person loved. He is all-pervading, antaryami. Loving Him within the mind is as good as loving Him when He’s standing right in front of you. Offering Him a glass of water to His visible physical manifestation is as good as offering water to His deity representation or His form remembered within the mind. The same is impossible with any ordinary living entity; giving us another way to distinguish between kama and prema.

In prema you only need the name of the beloved. Rama is one of those names, and it means one who holds all transcendental pleasure. Sita feels that transcendental pleasure when serving Rama, so she cannot be enticed by any other man’s advances. Ravana foolishly thought of Rama as an ordinary living entity, and a poor one at that. At the time, Rama was living in the forest as a recluse, kicked out of His home after an order delivered by his step-mother. Rama’s decision was unfathomable to Ravana. In his life, no one told him what to do. If someone ordered him to leave somewhere, he would have that person killed. If no one else did the work for him, Ravana would fight that person himself. Thus he took Rama’s acceptance of the order to be a sign of weakness. This mistake would cost him dearly in the end.

Lord RamaIn kama not only is the name insufficient in providing pleasure, but even direct physical association for prolonged periods does little to bring satisfaction. In Ravana’s case, there was not one, but hundreds of the most beautiful princesses in the world as queens. And he still desired someone else, a woman he by the way couldn’t have. If all we know is kama, we would think that Ravana should have been happy in his opulent life in Lanka. In the sections immediately preceding this one in the Ramayana, it is described how Ravana would awake every day. Attendants would sing songs from the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, and then carry canisters filled with wine. He was fully immersed in the hedonistic lifestyle, and based on his burning desire to have Sita as his chief queen, we understand that he didn’t have his senses under control. One who is controlled by the senses is not considered very powerful, for dogs and other similar animals are the ones driven by the sense demands. The human being is supposed to be more intelligent, for they can use discrimination, choosing inaction over action when appropriate.

Inaction was appropriate here for Ravana, but despite the best counsel he would not listen. Sita here made it abundantly clear that there was no way for her to be with him. He shouldn’t have even prayed for her, for it was like a sinner asking for liberation from the cycle of birth and death. If you are impious in mind and action, why should you expect good results? If God is all-good and you are all-bad, why should you expect Him to give you the highest reward?

Interestingly enough, Ravana could have been satisfied living in opulence with his many wives. Sita here begins to tell him how. If he kept his focus on his own wives and in the process returned Sita to Rama, he would have been fine. This is because it would have been an act of service, the beginnings of a life spent in prema. In love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one can be fully renounced, living with family, or somewhere in between. In any situation, there can be love of God.

Shri HanumanOnly in service to the divine, which is known as bhakti-yoga, can the raging flames of kama be doused for good. This is because in the divine consciousness desires are purified. Rather than lead to ultimate misery, they bring all good things. Watching these proceedings from above was Shri Hanuman, the faithful servant sent by Rama to look for Sita. His whole life is spent in prema, and so he is one of the most honorable figures in the world. Ravana, on the other hand, never fulfilled his desires, including the one to have Sita as his wife. And since he rejected a life of prema offered to him on so many occasions, he ultimately found doom.

In Closing:

When son reaches mature stage in life,

Father looks to find him a good wife.


Only then will settled his life be,

From worries the good father to be free.


But from Ravana’s actions know,

That material desires not easily to go.


So many wives always by his side,

But senses within him did preside.


Towards proper action Sita tried to draw,

Ravana ignored, all this Hanuman saw.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Ravana“Take your mind away from me and put it back on your own wives. Like a sinner asking for the highest perfection, it is not appropriate for you to pray for me.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.3-4)

nivartaya mano mattaḥ svajane kriyatāṃ manaḥ ||
na māṃ prārthayituṃ yuktaṃ susiddhimiva pāpakṛt |

How you live your life matters. You can’t just do this and that and expect to find every auspicious result. Just from ordinary work alone, we see that not everything arrives right away. You graduate college and expect to have an expensive home and six-figure salary, but that isn’t the case. You can get angry about it and try to blame everyone else in the world for what you don’t have, but the fact is that you have to work to achieve things. In this instance, Sita Devi reminds us that for someone who is sinful their entire lives, asking for the highest reward, the perfection of all perfections, is not appropriate. It is quite silly, actually.

Let’s say that you’re working at an office for a company. There are other employees there as well. Let’s say that for some reason or another, you are mean to everyone. You make accusations that are false. You do this all the time because you’re not thinking clearly. You blame everyone else for your problems, so naturally any issue that arises at the office your first instinct is to find fault with someone else. While being mean is second-nature to you, others will not like it. When the time comes for hanging out after work, why would others want to invite you? If you’re not doing a good job and nobody likes you, why should you expect something favorable? Perhaps through their kind nature they may invite you on occasion, but this is the exception.  At the end of the day, your actions have consequences.

ScrewdriverIn this verse from the Ramayana, Sita Devi, the wife of Lord Rama, makes reference to a papa-krita, or someone who does sinful acts. A sinner is someone who sins. The word “sinner” may rub some the wrong way, as it seems overly judgmental. In the case of the Vedas, the sins are designated as such because of the detrimental effect they have. It’s not that the pious go around just looking for people to put down. If I take a screwdriver and turn it left to right in order to loosen up a screw, I’m obviously doing the wrong thing. In this realm my act constitutes a sin. It’s not decided as such just because of what others say. There is a real-life consequence. “Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” is the saying, which means that the way I’m doing it here is only making the screw tighter, which is the opposite of what I want.

In the larger scheme, if I want to reach a higher destination, to find a better lot in life, I should avoid the sins that are delineated in the scriptures. All those things we know to be sin are in accordance with some guiding system to better one’s situation. Sex before marriage is bad because the human being has a higher potential for intelligence. Surely there would be no reason for God to create a regulatory system that would make sex life less inhibited and more frequent. No one needs to be taught how to eat or how to have sexual relations. Yet these are mentioned in scripture anyway, meaning that the ultimate purpose to the mention is to limit the behavior.

Bhagavad-gita, 7.11“I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O Lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.11)

Sita and RamaSex life within marriage and for the purpose of procreation is not sinful. It ideally does not have a detrimental effect on the consciousness. On the other hand, illicit sex leads to so much trouble. Case in point Ravana, the recipient of these words from Sita. He was married already to many women. This was allowed in ancient Vedic culture for kings who could support and protect more than one woman. Having multiple wives itself wasn’t sinful, but here we see that Ravana still covets another woman. She is not his wife either. She belongs to Lord Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha. Rama is very generous. He will give practically anything to anyone who is surrendered to Him. Ravana could have received so many more beautiful women as wives if he wasn’t inimical towards Rama. He couldn’t have Sita, though. She is Rama’s and only Rama’s. Sita conveys that message here to Ravana by ordering that he take his mind away from her and place it back on his own wives. He was already married; he had no reason to commit sin to satisfy his desires.

The fruit of pious life is known as a siddhi, or perfection. The prefix “su” means auspicious or great, and so susiddhim means the most auspicious perfection. We can equate this with liberation, or the release from the cycle of birth and death. We are in the midst of this cycle right now, as each day passes and our body continues to die. We take birth in the next womb, and the cycle starts anew. The purpose of pious life is to gain release from the cycle. That is the highest perfection, and in the human form the spirit soul has the best chance of achieving it.

Through their behavior the sinner basically conveys the message that they don’t want the highest perfection. They may ask for it later on, but it’s a silly request, a day late and a dollar short. It’s like not studying for any of your exams all semester and then expecting to ace the final exam. It’s like eating cheese and butter all the time and expecting to have low cholesterol. It’s like taking in so many calories every day, not exercising, and expecting to lose weight.

Sita and RamaHere Sita takes the two extremes to emphatically make her point. She doesn’t mention a person who may have sinned just once. She refers to a papa-krita, which is a person of sinful deeds. She also doesn’t refer to just any siddhi. The “su” in front refers to the best perfection. In essence, she is the best perfection and Ravana the lowest sinner. You have two opposite ends of the spectrum. The distance apart is so great that it cannot even be measured.

It was stupid for Ravana to pray to have Sita as a wife, but this doesn’t mean that her association is totally off-limits. Watching these proceedings from his perch on a tree was Shri Hanuman, who is a dharma-atma, or pious soul. He is completely without sin, as evidenced by Shri Rama’s trust in him. Rama is the Supreme Lord in His avatara as a warrior prince and Hanuman is Rama’s greatest servant. As a reward for his piety, he gets to see Sita and serve her. Hanuman doesn’t have to ask for this specifically; Rama knows what will be good for him. Thus in devotional service, or bhakti-yoga, one doesn’t even have to worry about praying for this thing or that, for the very acts of chanting and hearing and serving in general bring the guiding hand of the Supreme Lord, who distributes the just rewards in all circumstances.

In Closing:

Ravana already had many wives,

With them should have been satisfied.


To take another’s wife he tried,

Laws of decency he defied.


Sita could be his wife never,

Devoted to Shri Rama forever.


Impossible to fulfill was his request,

Like sinner wanting perfection the best.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Never To Lose An Argument

Sita Devi“Being very much aggrieved, sobbing and shivering and in a poor state, the very beautiful Sita of a sweet smile, who thought of her husband alone and was fully devoted to Him, placed a piece of straw in between herself and Ravana and replied:” (Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 21.2-3)

duḥkhārtā rudatī sītā vepamānā tapasvinī |
cintayantī varāroha patimeva pativratā ||
tṛṇamantarataḥ kṛtvā pratyuvāca śucismitā |

There is no mistaking which “Sita” is referenced in this verse. In the Vedic texts it is not uncommon to find multiple people with the same name. For instance, the name Arjuna is famous to those who know Vedic literature, for he is the recipient of the profound wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita. He is also a central character of the greater storyline within the Mahabharata. He is the younger brother of King Yudhishthira and one of the sons of Kunti Devi. Yet there are still other Arjunas mentioned in the Vedas; hence there are also other names that can be used to address the great bow-warrior who was so dear to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. That Arjuna is also identified through his qualities and his famous activities. In the same way, here references are made to Sita Devi’s qualities. It’s not surprising to find mention of her chastity, as this quality more than any other is what defines her.

DSC01408[10]If I am a champion-caliber athlete, it is my dexterity in the field of play that defines me. At least this is the definition as it relates to my public persona. If I am a leader of a nation, it is my leadership that makes or breaks my success. For the wife of the Vedic tradition, it is her chastity that determines how well she handles her occupational duties. The rebellious woman is thus one who pays no attention to such matters. One who breaks out of their obligations and follows their own whims is considered a rebel. For the living spirit, the ultimate determination of character comes from how faithful one is to their ideal relationship. All other rules, regulations and identifying characteristics are derivatives of this defining feature. Interestingly enough, the relationship we speak of is the same one to which Sita was faithful.

In simpler language, we are all meant to always think of God and be faithful to Him. In Sita’s case, God is the husband and dear protector. The laws of dharma were a convenient bonus added for Sita’s pleasure. Not only did she want to serve her wonderful husband, but she was obligated to based on the laws of propriety. Under both lenses, she was faithful. Her guiding vow in life was to be faithful to her husband. In this verse from the Ramayana that vow has an added significance, as there was an outside party trying his best to break it.

That party was the king of Lanka. Named Ravana, he had taken Sita away from her husband’s side through a ruse. How can God be fooled in such a way? Actually, the celestials wanted to rid the world of Ravana, who was evil. He drank wine day and night, ate animal flesh, including of human beings, and had no regard for the property of others. Case in point his abduction of Sita, who had done nothing wrong. Rama hadn’t even crossed Ravana. The Lord was living peacefully in the woods, without any possessions. He had renounced His kingdom at the time, so there was no reason to even envy Rama. But Ravana was possessed by lust, and in that subjugated state the living entity is helpless in their actions.

A disguised Ravana approaching SitaBy taking Sita, Ravana fell into a trap that would lead to his demise. Though Sita refused him again and again, Ravana kept trying to win her over. He kept her in a grove of Ashoka trees, where she was surrounded by hideous female ogres who were ordered to harass her. Ravana used every trick of argument in the book to try to convince Sita. He told her that she was very beautiful but that a woman’s beauty doesn’t last for long. Unfortunate are the ways of nature. The woman’s beauty diminishes much more rapidly with age than does a man’s. He basically tried to scare her into thinking that if she didn’t enjoy with him now, pretty soon no one would want to enjoy with her. Why not take advantage of the opportunity while it was there?

Ravana offered her the position of chief queen and openly admitted that he would be completely henpecked. Whatever she would want, he would do. He pretty much surrendered to her. Ah, but his is not the way to surrender to the Supreme Lord’s eternal consort. Sita is meant for Rama’s enjoyment alone. Others can enjoy her association when they view her properly. A clandestine warrior was watching these proceedings from his perch in a tree, and he knew how to view Sita properly. He continues to enjoy her association within the mind to this day. The difference is that he always sees her with Rama. Therefore he is allowed to keep Sita with him at all times. Though Ravana had her in such close proximity, he couldn’t even touch her.

Sita DeviSita was in distress, sighing and crying and taking to the vows of asceticism, all because she didn’t want to have any personal enjoyment in the absence of her husband. Prior to responding to Ravana, she placed a piece of grass or straw in between. This would ward off evil spirits. Ravana was the very definition of evil, and so the straw as protection was appropriate here. The gesture was insulting at the same time. It’s almost like saying to someone, “Okay, I will respond to what you have asked, but first put this paper bag over your head. You are so disgusting that I can’t even bear to look at you. Only then will I be willing to speak.”

Hearing Ravana’s entreaties, any person would be somewhat tempted to give in. The concept of “selling your soul to the devil” has similarities to Ravana’s proposal. That is essentially what he was requesting. He was the devil in the sense that he was the greatest enemy of God. He wanted Sita to abandon all of her principles in favor of material opulence. She, of course, cannot be bought off so easily. Rama Himself once tried to sway her opinion by offering the option of material comfort in the kingdom of Ayodhya. Since it would come at the cost of His absence, Sita refused. She instead invoked every argument from shastra, or scripture, to support her position of accompanying Him. In that argument, Rama lost. And in going up against the same wise goddess, Ravana would lose as well. As no woman is more glorious than Sita, the pure-hearted souls like Hanuman never stop thinking of her.

In Closing:

Every material opulence to her to give,

As chief queen, leader of Ravana to live.


Citing influence of time he tried to sway,

Better to enjoy your beauty before it goes away.


These and other such tactics had no effect,

Her mind from her husband Rama nothing to deflect.


In between her and the fiend Ravana a piece of straw,

He a vile creature, she of fidelity to inspire awe.